Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sparkle Down: Quack Quack

And so it was a grand day to be had with the Sparkling down sparkle people of great and outer Seoul.

We joined forces at the holiest of holy meeting spots, which was in Itaewon near the glorious Cold Stone Creamery.

Our goal was to get our bellies full of roasted duck flesh at the “The Ginko Tree House” (은행나무집) in Hannam. To get there we kind of followed these directions:

Head from Itaewon station past starbucks, past the fire station and the rocky mountain tavern until you get to the Cheil building, opposite the Itaewon Hotel. Turn right (take the left hand fork, not the one going to the Flying Pan) and head down the hill, down the stairs, past Chingri (an Indian restaurant), past a pet shop, past the Thai embassy and past Soon Chung Hyang Hospital (on the left hand side).

Just past the hospital is a KB Star bank, turn left and the restaurant is a little way down the alley on the right hand side.

We followed our mighty leader, whoever that was, and finally after a taxi ride and some walking we arrived at our destination.
We were seated and awaited our roasted ducks to be served to us on golden platters (more like stainless steel).

Ah ha? What is this? A lovely picture of ducks on our placement, a gentle reminder of the fat beast for which we will feast upon.
The side dishes came rolling out, yet the anticipation for our ducks was too much to handle.

The side dishes that come with the duck are very simple and very sour: a bowl of iced water kimchi (동치미), some slices of pickled onion (양파 초절이), cabbage kimchi (배추김치), spicy pickled radish (무생채), large pieces of pickled radish (무 초절이), garlic and chili pickles (마늘 고추 초절이) and shredded scallions with red pepper flakes (부추 무침). The rational seems to be that the sour pickles will combat the fattiness of the duck; whatever the case, if you’re a vinegar fan, this is the place to go. source

And then one-by-one the steaming ducks came to our table. Rob gets his camera ready...

Oh, I am blind!! And my senses are overloaded with the scent of....
white rice, black rice, cinnamon, sultanas, pine nuts, ginko nuts, pumpkin seeds, ginseng, sunflower seeds, black beans, black sesame seeds, red dates and deer antler
....which rose out of the dish like a pixie slowly sprinkling fairy dust upon us.
We dug into the beast taking up morsels upon morsels of pure heaven.
Filled our bowls with a great quality meal.
The aftermath of our gobbling. Bones and charred flesh.

It was time to move on and go seek other pleasures that Itaewon could bring us. But if you are still interested in seeing pictures from the event check out Paul Ajosshi's captured moments.

Off we went again back to Itaewon in search of a friendly Pub to relax and dine in.

Along the way noticing some flowers blooming in the sultry afternoon air.

Wait...wait for us!
And we found ourselves at a wine tavern nearby the Smokey Saloon.
Champagne was poured and glasses clinked as we shared our tales of life in Korea and other such novelty's as Internet memes.

A luxurious 팥빙수 or patbingsu was consumed and helped soften a belly full of duck meat.

We talked and shared laughter as the afternoon drew on.
It was a light hearted and fulfilling sparkle down here on the peninsula. Both Koreans and Expats gathered together to share life and enjoy it as well. Till next time....quack...quack.

Tax Confusion Again

It's July and I didn't file a tax return or a tax statement declaring Foreign Earned Income (Form 2555). I was under the impression that I don't have to do any of this since I work for a public school. Sure I know that the IRS probably wants to know where I am and why I am not filing. But I recall before I left America filing a document telling my plans of moving.

However, though this tax thing is still haunting me. I was requested by my school to retrieve a Residency Certification document from my country. With some help I found the form 8802, filled it out to the best of knowledge and sent it in.

Well here we are today and I have received a notice stating they can't send me the document without proof that a.) I filed a tax return or b.) Reason for why I don't have to file a tax return.

I am thinking that I should show proof of option "b." considering I am under the impression that I don't have to file a tax return. But maybe I have to file the Foreign Earned Income document first.

Aghhh! I don't know.

Basically if I go with option b then I have show my pay stubs and write down the reason why I am not filing my tax return.

Update: Reading this maybe this free tax is really meant for getting out of paying Korean tax, not my home country's tax. And this certification is meant for that purpose. So it seems I am dealing with 2 seperate things here... and I now assume I have to file my tax return...somehow???

U.S. TAXES: Americans residing abroad are not exempt from filing requirements, but are, under certain conditions, entitled to exclusions on foreign-earned income. More information on overseas income and filing is available from the IRS publications "Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens Abroad" and "Overseas Filers of Form 1040." These and other Federal tax forms are available at the Embassy. source

Essentially: I have to do this all over again. Sigh

Monday, June 29, 2009

We Feel Fine

Read a lot of blogs?

There is this website out there that collects blog notes via the sentence "I feel..."

Go to this website and read thousands of others feelings.



Seoul Land

Saturday was hot, but for some reason JH and I went to Seoul Land. Since I just got my International Drivers license in the mail he let me drive from Gangnam to Seoul Land. I have been getting use to driving here in Korea more often, but I will save those details for another post.

Parking at Seoul Land was interesting, due to that it seemed they just painted the parking stalls with fresh "women only" symbols. It's part of this new campaign to make Korea safe for women. Within the expat opinion circle we think it is kind of silly. It sure was a site at the parking land to see nearly every space meant for women. I guess it is one step closer to a safer world.
Do you see that? Not a cloud in the sky.

Get on the elephant train and you are ready to go.


Get off and buy some tickets.

Enter and get the wristband.

Hmm this looks familiar like it is from Epcot Center or something?



Here's the story: We rode two rides. This one (the water flume ride) and a pirate ship that rocked back and forth. After the pirate ship I was sick and dizzy. I tried to get better but it didn't really work. I think it was a combination of the heat plus head spinning dizziness that did me in. We went home and left the rest for some other time.

I think I would like to go back to Seoul Land only on a cool day or in the evening. Also nearby is a zoo, I think that would have been nice too. I use to be a roller coaster rider when I was a kid, I guess those days are gone now.

Friday, June 26, 2009

That's Very Hot!

It's on the mouths of every kid in South Korea (or almost every). And you might have seen it on TV here.

I have seen it and I love sayin, "That's very hot!" to my kids. Makes a great connection. haha

Check it out and see why sometimes you got to love Korean silliness. This is a video of the Choco Boys who are a comedy sketch group that perform on TV and in front of a live audience.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Korean Radio

Sitting on my windowsill is a fancy radio contraption. Not only does it hook up to my iPod and sync via blue tooth with my laptop, but it connects to traditional radio waves.

Would you know it people? Korea has radio stations. Ah, maybe some of you knew this already.

From time to time I turn my radio on and see what is out there. Usually there is news broadcasting on nearly every channel. Other channels have people talking. There is an English channel...EBS FM, that JH likes to listen to in the car.

But for me when I listen to the radio I am in search of music and not the Kpop stuff. Sometimes it is pretty much hit and miss and I turn off the device after not finding anything.

As for tonight I came upon a KBS station that is broadcasting live traditional music and I became enchanted. I desperately want to know who the artist is or at least the genre. So I did a hefty google search and found the KBS radio station in English.

I still haven't pinpointed who I am listening to, but hopefully I will find it. For now I can tell it is just labeled as "Traditional music".

All in all, it is nice to listen to the radio waves out here in Korea land. I would recommend for others to go out and get a functioning radio gadget and have a try.

Chris's Trivia Part 2

Chris in South Korea has come out with his round 2 of trivia. Once again I will attempt to answer his questions without looking up the answers. Here we go:

16. Seoul is Korea's largest city, while Busan comes in second. Which cities are third, fourth, and fifth? (Cities need not necessarily be in order)

Daegu, Gyongju, it starts with a G

17. Approximately what percentage of the Korean population is agnostic / non-religious? (Count your answer correct if you're over or under by 3%)


18. Who or what is a chigwa (치과)?

I don't know. A special day or special person...uh something special.

19. Just because Korea has one of the lowest birthrates in the world doesn't mean they don't like kids. What makes a Korean child's first birthday so special?

Because of the low birth-rate. Is this the 100 day thing?

20. Who or what is a agasshi (아가씨)?
Unmarried lady

21. What are you ordering if you ask for 매운탕 (maeuntang)?
Dog meat? Something like that~?

22. Name two of the railroad lines that connect Korea via railroad. Any of the named lines that make up part the Seoul subway system do not count!
KTX doesn't count? Korail?

23. When you see a sign that says '24 시', what does that mean?
24 hours~!

24. Who or what does NET stand for?
Don't know~

25. Who or what is HBC?
mmmm don't know

26. Name three Korean newspapers / news sources published in English, without the word 'Korea' in the name.
Chosun Ilbo, Yonghap News, Joongang Daily (sp)
27. Who or what is Pascucci?
Coffee Shop

28. Jeju-do boasts Korea's tallest mountain, Hallasan. Within 50 meters, how tall is this mountain?

29. Lots of railroads criss-cross the country, and there is definitely a trade-off between speed and price. Excluding subways, name the four classes of trains.
What is with you and trains? I don't know man..umm first class, carriage, cargo...military?

30. Since we ignored subways in the last question, we'll ask about them now. As of June 2009, how many Korean cities have operating subway systems?

Looks like I need to pay attention more...again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I don't know if all of my readers know this or remember but last year I quit / got fired from my hagwon.

At that time a lot was happening. I was leaving behind a school that gave me my first experience in Korea, which was haunting. I had to move farther from Seoul, causing rifts in my relationship with my ex. And I had to immediately face a new job. While at the same time being sick as a dog.

Since then I have spent time reflecting on it and trying to find the value from that experience.

But somethings don't change no matter how much your surroundings transform.

And I don't mean to get all mushy here but I am going to be talking about myself.

You see when I worked at the hagwon not only was I having a hard time pleasing the student's parents but I didn't get along too well with my Korean coteachers.

We even had a fight.

I left that situation hoping I would end up teaching with better coteachers. What I didn't realize was that it was really myself that needed to get better.

Because of that experience I ended up not really knowing how to act or treat my new coteachers at my current public school.

Instead of being an open person willing to work on lesson planning and ask questions. I became shut in and independent. Figuring if I don't mess with the system then it won't mess with me.

Intertwined with this was also my nature to allow my mood to affect the way I do my job.

So when you combine all these things at some point life isn't going to be heading in the way you want.

Recently I have been feeling burned out and wondering what my purpose is here in Korea. But unfortunately I was feeling bitter too. Starting to blame Korea and Koreans for my lousy house. I started to feel like I needed some retribution from my Korean coworkers and coteacheres. In other words I was becoming resentful.

I tend to show my heart on my sleeve, and so my coteacher started to sense all this. Her reaction to cope with this was to give up on me.

But the other day we had a falling out and today she approached me saying she was angry at me. I knew the reason and I knew my responsibility, so later I on I told her we should spend some time to talk about.

And we did.

From 4:00 - 6:35 today we talked and talked.

She was angry and said some things. But I knew it was coming.

However, she is a patient woman and forgiving. She also believes in other people.

I shared a lot with her. More than I have with any person I have met in Korea. Although I know it was helpful to our relationship, it frightens me a little. But I have to trust other people more...by that I mean Korean people.

She shared a lot too with me, and told me how she believes that we should not blame things on the outside for our problems and attitude. That we have to look inside and makes changes from within.

All this time I have been waiting to hear about my contract. While at the same time I have been forgetting about the job.

My sight has been returned to the task at hand. And now I know that I need to focus on the job and not the conclusion of my contract, for that will come.

Sorry to share such intimate information. I don't even know if you guys read this far.

So I want to add one more thing. I feel that I came to Korea for a purpose. I think that the isolation and being engulfed in an alien culture helps one examine who they are and 'why' they are. I know this isn't true for every expat here. But for me living here sometimes feels like I am stumbling around in the dark while at the same time surrounded by a room full of mirrors.

Because of that uncanny situation I end up at times learning more about myself.

Well these are all just words. Only actions can tell us the results. Thanks for reading this sentimental blah blah stuff.

A Little Bit of Insadong

After the Illustration exhibit I met up with JH and we decided to head over to Insadong. My goal was to pick up some souvenirs to bring home to my family when I go on vacation. He parked the car in Gangnam and we took the subway the rest of the way.
Although it was rainy I still found Insadong to be its usual pleasant self. I also think that going there on a rainy day is better, due to that the crowd seemed not as heavy.
It was lunch time and we were hungry so we strolled down a side street.

This is a view looking out from the restaurant. Open windows allowed one to dine and hear the fall of rain. It was truly relaxing.

Side dishes:


Leaving the restaurant:
We strolled along the street and made our way to that shopping bazaar place. The entrance had a Dalki treat cart. Super cute!

Going along Insadong street you peek inside the shops and get a look at all the treasures. Here is one shop that sells brushes. I always want to go inside and pick one up but end up being too shy.
Towards the end of our time there we gave ourself a treat at Red Mango.
It was just a simple time out that day. But I think Insadong street is changing a little bit. It seems more brand name chain stores are moving in (including Red Mango). It's out with the old and in with the new I suppose. Before you know it the old look will be just a fading memory.
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