Little Things I’ll Miss About Korea 

In the months before I left, I started writing a list of the many things I would miss about Korea. Also a list of things I never want to forget about my life in Korea.
  1. This corner spot at this cafe, where I go only when I’m by myself
  2. Killing time by people watching
  3. Sitting outside in the sunshine when it’s fall
  4. That moment when the first student comes into the classroom and says “good morning teacher”
  5. Watching the Seoul sunrise during summer runs when the streets are empty at 5 am
  6. When the soju bottle is empty and we look at each other and without a word know that we need another one
  7. That really friendly crossing guard at work that always smiles and says good morning; he always made our day
  8. All of the hilarious things that happen in a school day; things the kids say in English, Jana coming to my classroom and messing with the kids, eating snacks together, when Jean and Jana send their kids to my class with cups of 꿀떡, 편의점runs with Allie during break time
  9. My legs feeling sore when I sit down for the morning teacher meetings
  10. When restaurant workers know our order because we’re regulars
  11. Getting service
  12. Riding the bus to visit the first city I lived in; getting 계란빵 from the best stand ever in downtown Gumi
  13. Walking to work listening to 00000 Million after 7 am yoga
  14. Walking anywhere, anytime, with both headphones blasting, and never feeling unsafe
  15. Solo hikes in the fall
  16. Going to to run with my crew every Thursday night
  17. The routine that makes me love the life I created in this city
  18. That old man who I always see running on summer mornings (who sometimes passes me cause he’s a speed demon….)
  19. The grandpa who I always see walking on the track that waves and cheers for me when I run
  20. When the soccer players accidentally kick the ball toward me while I’m running on the track and I panic that it’s gonna hit me in the face, then it doesn’t and I laugh at myself
  21. When my crew or yoga friends say “우리 크리스틴” and my heart is happy
  22. When random children (or anyone really) try to speak English to me
  23. When I zip my kids’ jackets up and for like half a second I pretend that they’re my child and I’m sending them off the school
  24. Going for evening walks by myself in the winter, wrapped in a scarf and listening to music
  25. Fighting at the restaurant about who’s gonna say 여기요
  26. Seeing my yoga teachers handing out flyers in the morning when I walk to school and getting hugs from them
  27. The way people hug at the studio
  28. Crossing the Han River on the subway and looking outside thinking that I came to this city to be a part of it but instead it became a part of me
  29. DK, our favorite chef guy at the BBQ restaurant 한남돼지집
  30. Having the fastest internet in the world
  31. Never carrying keys ever
  32. My favorite Hershey’s cone
  33. When Jana and I go on trips and get excited for our “airport sandwich” which we later discovered exists in Paris Baguette stores everywhere and not just at the airport
  34. Transportation apps that accurately live track the subways and buses and also tell you exactly what door to stand at to make your transfer the fastest possible
  35. Blending in, in a country of Asian people, and for the first time not feeling like a minority
  36. Being an invisible foreigner
  37. Going to Daegu to visit Michelle
  38. All of our favorite restaurants
  39. Random moments where I feel like I really made a life here
  40. Walking around and reading signs and advertisements even though I have no clue what they mean because just reading characters makes me feel accomplished
  41. Convenience stores actually being extremely convenient
  42. Being in situations where being a foreigner makes things so much easier / Playing that foreigner card
  43. Living in the same building as my best friends
  44. That feeling I get when I do something by myself for the first time and with no help from a Korean person
  45. Standing in a store perusing Korean snacks
  46. Getting to see the moon change phases every single night while walking home from the yoga studio
  47. Feeling like a proud New Yorker when I completely disobey crosswalk signals
  48. Bowing to every single person ever
  49. Monster pizza
  50. All the people we meet when we go out; the next day when we recap the night and laugh so hard
  51. Staycations with Michelle
  52. Heated floors
  53. Heated subway seats
  54. Awesomely cheap medical insurance
  55. Meeting Koreans who lived or studied in America and asking them what they miss, and hearing “Chipotle” as the answer
  56. Going to the grocery after school and buying basically the same exact things
  57. Costco trips and taking the wrong bus and ending up somewhere far away; aborting the mission and going to get food
  58. Crazy and hilarious taxi drivers, and taxi drivers that speak English
  59. The anxious and possibly exciting feeling every time I go to the Sinsa area that I’ll run into Sway
  60. Drinking soju at convenience store like the foreigners we are
  61. Ordering 네네치킨 and watching a movie in my cave
  62. Leaving school immediately after the last bell on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays so that I can make it to yoga class on time
  63. When we sit and have tea together after class and the people at the yoga studio discover that I’m not Korean
  64. When Jana has to buy BTS tickets and it’s the funniest thing in the world because life depends on this moment. Literally
  65. Waiting on line at Downtowner and feeling VIP when Mojito personally delivers our burgers and gives us free french fries
  66. When people visit me and I already know exactly what we’re going to do and what they’ll love
  67. When people ask to do tarot
  68. All the help from Jean and Harim when it comes to Korean stuff
  69. Walking behind Rob and looking at all the girls that stare at him in adoration of his 스몰 페이스
  70. Beerday Sunday Fundays!!!!!
  71. Waking up early and going to run races
  72. Meeting up with Margaret to eat ice cream and laugh about how we met in Korean class and bought matching pants an hour later
  73. Eating endlessly basically every meal
  74. How so many things feel like second nature after two years in Seoul
  75. Requesting music at the club (sometimes by screenshotting “Rihanna” and holding it up to the DJ booth ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ”
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So. Many. Feelings.

Goooooooood morning Nicaragua. What a pleasure it is to wake up within your borders.

We woke up on top bunks today, to the sun shining in our faces and the sounds of español as the locals greet each other a good morning outside our window.

We’ve been in Managua, Nicaragua, for 12 hours now, and I think we never want to leave. Partly because that’s how we always feel when arriving in a new city, but mostly because food.

Our first meal in Nicaragua was surreal. We exit the gated hostel, follow the receptionist’s directions and end up at El Garabato, heaven. It was serene. It was peaceful. It was relaxing. And then we read the menu. Score: There was everything our cab driver suggested we try.

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Last night we ate a late dinner at a restaurant called El Garabato. We don’t know if we were granted a preview to heaven in the form of a meal, but we think that might be what happened. We followed a path through the restaurant and discovered an incredible patio area in the back. There were Christmas lights and lanterns lining the sky. A quote on the wall that read “En Managua hay un lindo paraje que es todo un ensueño.” (“In Managua there is a beautiful place in which everything is a dream.”)

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And the only words we exchanged were a combination of the following phrases:
Whaaaaaat
Where are we
Is this real life
How did we get here

I think that was all we said in the next fifteen minutes. Then we ordered “Michelada,” Nicaragua’s national drink. The waiter brought us mugs and a bottles of Toña beer. The bottom half inch of the mug contained a mixture of salsa inglesa (Worcestershire sauce), hot sauce, lemon, tomato juice, and peppers. He poured the beer into the mugs and mixed the two around before handing them to us to drink. Kerianne likes hot sauce. Christine does not like hot sauce. Logically: Kerianne likes Michelada. Christine does not like Michelada.

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Next, we ordered something called Caballo Bayo and Queso Fundido. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that you cannot die without trying these two things, especially the first. Caballo Bayo is kind of like a weird version of a fajita. They give you tiny, chip-sized cuts of tortilla, with which you build your own delicious concoction of a baby taco with any (or if you’re like me and Kerianne, all) of the following:
– chorizo
– shredded beef
– fried pork loin
– shredded chicken
– pico de gallo
– hot pickle onions: a yellow, delicious, ridiculously spicy sauce that Kerianne almost died from tasting
– cheese
– sour cream
– cole slaw
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Queso Fundido was a whole other story. Cheese fondue with tomatoes, chorizo, and bell peppers, served with refried beans and cheese. This is all also put inside tiny tortillas.

The waiter left and we spent the next twenty minutes stuffing our faces exchanging these advanced vocabulary words:
Dude
Dude
Dude
What is this
What
Dude
Mmmmmmmm

And then we were full. Of food, of glee, of newness, of life. We knew how lucky we were, to sit there, in the center of Managua, enjoying a classic Nicaraguan meal, and to actually appreciate the meaning behind our being there. Our love for exploring cultures, cuisines, and countries brought us together to show us how important it is to travel, and to try. At one point, I looked up and Kerianne was scooping the cheese fondue and literally talking to it. “Hi guys, how are you doing?” I think I heard the cheese respond, but I don’t want to start making things up. I’ll never be sure though, I think it was all a dream.

Do you ever stop and think, “How did I even get here?” We sure did. We’re in Nicaragua and we have a long (seriously), very long gratitude list. And API tops it. If it weren’t for out crossing of paths in Austin at API Peer Mentor orientation, we wouldn’t be sitting side by side drinking Michelada, digging into Caballo Bayo and affirming our realization that life is about movement.

Wondering | Wandering,
KB & CODEA

Austin? AWESOME

I spent this last weekend in Austin, Texas attending Peer Mentor training at API (Academic Programs International), and it was probably my favorite weekend this summer–there was simply no better way to end it.

The weekend was good for three simple reasons: the people, the city, and the inspiration.

The People
How often do you get to meet someone who walked the Camino de Santiago–from France to the west coast of Spain–in 40 days?  Someone who volunteered with sea turtles on the coast of Italy and with elephants in Thailand?  Someone who came home to the U.S. after living in Madrid for one year, only to face a life-changing tragedy?  I’m gonna guess not very often.

Well, this past weekend, I met a handful of young people who are the authors of some unbelievable life stories and experiences.  My fellow Peer Mentors are confident, hard-working, diverse, and well…perfect.  Every conversation I had with each of them was moving, and each one forced me to think harder about the ways that I could be better and live my life with purpose.  And I think that’s how every conversation should be.

People should encourage and motivate each other, regardless of their differences or disagreements.  I’ve found that great differences between people can lead to more challenging connections, but also better understandings of one another.

Along with the impressive lineup of Peer Mentors, was the API staff.  They are the people who changed mine and many others’ lives by caring so much.  They recognize the fact that all people deserve good, positive things–one of those things being a study abroad experience.  They do everything they can to make it happen, and the best part is: they want to, and they love to.  I can honestly say that I have never felt so loved by a group of people who hardly even know me.  Dare I say, that kind of love feels just as good as the love I receive from the people who’ve known me since birth.

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(This is a screenshot of a video of the API staff saying congratulations to my team for winning the scavenger hunt.  Aren’t they the cutest?)

In addition to my new API family, were the strangers I met.  They were all so kind, friendly, helpful, and my favorite, happy.  We met a woman at the hotel room while we were waiting in the lobby and she saw us adoring her kids from far away and she came over, introduced them, and asked us about what we were doing, and she was so excited to be reminded of her time abroad in Chile.  And that was the best feeling–reminding someone of their international education.

Texans are happy people.  And I like that.

The City
Let me just say.  I want Austin to be kept weird for ever and for always.  It’s a great city and I can’t imagine a better word than “weird” to describe it.  On our first day we separated into teams and did a scavenger hunt around the city and despite the 100 degree weather, it was a great way to get to know the city.  The Capitol is really pretty and an awesome thing to see at the end of Congress St.  On top of the Capitol there are six flags, one of each of the countries that have had some rule over the state of Texas.  The phrase “Six Flags Over Texas” is what they use to describe this, and FUN FACT that’s where the theme park Six Flags got its name.  You’re welcome.

Further down Congress St. there are fun stores, candy/chocolate shops, outdoor jewelry markets, thrift stores, and most importantly, cowboy boot stores.  It’s such a great, happy atmosphere!  And in case you are wondering, yes I did have an ice cream cone in this city as well.

ALSO, there’s a famous graffiti’d wall that says “i love you so much”.  Unfortunately, I had no idea that was in Austin!  I follow Shwayze on Instagram, and he posted this picture the other day:

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And I am SO sad that I didn’t know he was in the city at the same time I was.  I’ve been a big Shwayze fan forEVER and it would have been awesome to see him there but I guess this just means I have to go back to Austin next time he’s in town…

The nightlife in Austin is a college student’s dream.  6ixth Street (literally the street) is closed down because there are just hundreds of people bar hopping and getting weird.  There’s just no room for cars at night.  It was rowdy enough as it was–I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like during the school year with thousands of students living in the city.

It’s also a city for very active people.  There are trails along the rivers for biking, walking, and running, and there’s paddle boarding, kayaking, river tubing etc.  It’s refreshing to see so many active people no matter what time of day or week it is.

And finally, what is a whole new delicious world in Austin (and Texas in general) is the FOOD.  #OhEmGee the FOOD.  WHERE DO I BEGIN?

Well, I hate to get you excited and take it back but I’m going to do it anyway because I’ll be posting a (Sense)Story Perception blog about food in Austin very soon.  So.  I’m sorry about that.  Kind of.

The Inspiration
If there is anything I came home with from this trip, it is a giant super-size burst of LIFE.  This sleepless weekend inspired me to come back home (or go anywhere and everywhere in the world…) and tell everyone I meet for the rest of my life that they need to go abroad and study or work or volunteer, or just GO.  Sitting in that conference room every day and listening to each other speak about travels and adventures made my travel bug bite unbearably itchy.  And that is my favorite feeling.  I hope to hold on to it every single day.

I guess inspiration and travel go hand in hand.  Just as quickly as you go somewhere, you return–in the same way that inspiration comes and goes.  And in another sense, itchy travel bug bites are actually the inspiration inside all of us, waiting to be passed on to someone else.  There is gold in everyone (you can all thank Brittany Boehr for that piece of wisdom) and it is our job to find it.  Why?  Because, well, we can.

This weekend went by a little too fast.  But then again, so does life.  Thank you to everyone at API and all of the PMs for believing in me and each other, and for inspiring me to be better.

“The only magic I still believe in is love.”

A night in New York City

Some pictures from Friday night in New York City with my family:

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Having enough

Tonight I will be going to New York City with an organization called the Midnight Run to deliver clothing and food to the homeless.  I participated in this Run last semester at Hofstra University and it was one of the most enlightening and humbling experiences I have ever had.

It’s not often that I get to have direct interaction with homeless people in the streets of New York City.  Sure, I see them all the time, but very rarely do I get the opportunity to approach them with clothing to give.

Throughout the semester we’ve been collecting clothing, food, and monetary donations from the Hofstra community to help our cause.  We received an overwhelming amount of donations and I am so much more excited to make this trip tonight because we have so much to offer.  Last night, we were sorting through bins and bins filled with hundreds of donated clothing items, accessories, shoes, toiletries, food, etc.  and I was surprised at the quality of some of the donated clothing.

There were brand new men’s dress shirts from Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, Hugo Boss, and other brand-name retailers.  There was a woman’s gown and brand new semiformal dresses, fancy work tops, business suits, and new pairs of shoes.  Winter coats, beautiful leather jackets, North Face jackets, brand new Armani socks, and clothes from popular stores like H&M, Forever 21, and Ann Taylor Loft that were definitely purchased within the last few years.

All of these were being donated–implying that they are no longer wanted.  I know that may not be the case for every one of those items, but it seems to me that no one is conscious about money and quantity because we never feel like we have enough of anything.  Money, clothes, shoes, whatever it is.  Maybe some people don’t recognize how fortunate they are to be able to donate clothes that still have the price tags on them just because they don’t want them anymore.

I thought about the millions of purchases made just within the last week what with Thanksgiving sales, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday deals.  I can almost guarantee that next semester when the Midnight Run committee asks for donations, people will be donating unworn clothes that they purchased this weekend just because they were on sale.

All I wish is that more people open their eyes to bad habits we’ve developed in this consumer culture of ours.  We clearly don’t need to be purchasing so much STUFF because sometimes we end up donating them even before we use them.  Since I started making my own money and paying for expenses on my own, I’ve developed a greater understanding of the reasons its important to stay simple.

Make purchases that you need instead of purchases that you might want.  Treat yourselves to clothes once in a while but don’t get to caught up in it.  Who are you trying to impress anyway?

You have more than enough and more than you know.

Undress the Stress: Day 37

In retrospect I think I had more stressful moments during the day than I noticed.

  • Financial Aid.  So my financial situation with my study abroad program still isn’t 100% resolved but there is nothing I can do about it.  Different departments throughout campus are involved in updating the statement and they are all running on their own schedules, so it would be impossible to tell when the official balance will be posted.
  • Visa Application.  I had to go to the Financial Aid office to ask them to write a letter to the Spanish consulate as part of my visa application and since my financial aid statement has not been updated by my university yet, we had trouble with the contents of the letter.  I’m going to the consulate tomorrow and after struggling to get this letter, I finally have all of the materials for my application so that’s a huge relief for me.  WHEW.
  • Time.  In general I just felt stressed about time today.  It goes too fast sometimes.   I had about eight things on my to-do list for the day and they all had to be done in such a specific order so it was even more difficult because of that.  I had phone calls to make, e-mails to send, meetings to attend, etc. etc.  Now that the day’s over, I’m enjoying looking back and knowing that I got a lot done.
  • Papers.  Over the weekend and the last few days, I wrote a 12-page paper, a 5-page paper, three 2-page papers, and a 3-page article.  In case you’re too lazy to do the addition, that equals 26 pages of writing.   Once again, in retrospect I’m really enjoying looking back and seeing how much I got done.  That’s 26 less pages I’ll have to write for the rest of this semester.
  • Donation sorting.  So tomorrow night I’m going into the city with the Midnight Run again and tonight we spent the night sorting through all of the clothing donations, which was an INSANE amount.  I’m talking several bins full of clothing.  And that doesn’t include the number of bins with all of the toiletry/food donations.  Anyways, it took about four hours to sort the clothing by style and size, and then to box all of them.  I’m in charge of the men’s shirts (sweaters/sweatshirts/fleeces, polos, and dress shirts) and my pile was so overwhelming and enormous.  At the end of the night I had about ten boxes full of organized clothing that I am so excited to hand out tomorrow!  So although I was plenty stressed while doing it, I knew that it was for a wonderful cause and that I would be reward for all of my labor tomorrow night.

Another time/stress management lesson we learned in my stress management class is to make A, B, and C To-Do Lists.

Your ‘A List’ should be a list of priorities and time-sensitive errands and responsibilities.  This is the list you check first and foremost.

The ‘B List’ is a list of things that also need to be done, but not necessarily on a specific or immediate deadline.

Finally, the things on the ‘C List’ are things you want to do if you can and if you find the time, preferably after the previous two lists are finished.

This class is always pleasantly surprising to me because I find that many of the lessons and tricks we learn to manage our stress are things that I already do.  I stretch and meditate as part of my morning routine, I am generally assertive (middle ground between passive and aggressive), and my life is held together by my to-do list.  It truly is the little things that help relieve us of our big worries.

Help your body, help your mind, make a list.  That’s what I learned today.

Undress the Stress: Days 31-34

Yet another busy weekend that prevented me from posting!  I hate writing these in long form…

Wednesday (Day 31) was quite a buildup of stress.  It started out with no stress at all because all I did was watch Alias for hours while waiting to be picked up to go home for the holiday.

Here’s the beautiful drive home overlooking NYC:

When I got home, I guess I was  a little stressed because I was VERY behind on sleep.  And then I was stressed because I didn’t have a car since my brother was using it for the day.  I ordered about 10 pies to bring home for family and friends for the holiday weekend, and I had plans to be picked up at 8 pm that night and I had no time to make the deliveries by the time I got the car back at 6.  So I was running around town like a crazy person delivering pies and saying hello to friends and their families, all under the stress of needing to be ready to go out by 8 pm.  We ended up leaving at 8:30 so I had a little bit more time, which was perfect.  But the level of stress I was feeling was NOT okay and I wanted to be on time so that I wouldn’t ruin anyone’s plans.

Here’s the night I ended up having:

Totally kidding, it was so much fun!  I just tend to make that face a lot.  It was so, SO wonderful to see old friends.

I had a successful Thanksgiving Eve if I do say so myself.

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I’d say Day 32 was a below-average day of stress.  The morning was eventful because I FINALLY purchased my flight to Spain for next semester and I am so excited about it!  It was a little stressful because my mom and I kept going back and forth in deciding whether or not to buy it.  It was at one of the lowest prices we’ve seen in the last few weeks, and last summer when we went to Italy we foolishly waited thinking the prices could continue to go down…and they never did.  So this time we decided to go for it.

Except now I keep checking the prices just to make sure they’re not going down…I can’t help it!

I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with people that you love.  I spent the day eating, laughing, and loving with my family and it really couldn’t have been better.

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Day 33 was more sad than it was stressful.  I had to go back to school and I was sad because I would miss out on the weekend at home with all my friends, and I felt like I was home for such a short amount of time.  Right before we were about to leave, my mom said to just call out of work and stay home and there are no words to describe how tempted I was.  But I neeeed to money.  And I know it’s horrible–my mom even went off on a rant about greed and how money isn’t everything.  But I want to travel so much next semester and unfortunately I need money to do that.  So I’m sacrificing just this weekend to make a little extra to save for next semester and I know it will be worth it when I’m traveling.

Here’s a friend’s analysis of…well…my life.

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Day 34 was about 1% stressful.  I’ve just been on campus working, which basically means I do nothing.  I’ve watched episodes of Alias and Modern Family, and I did some homework.  Go me!

The 1% of stress came from me trying to find public transportation routes from New York to Roanoke, VA and it’s just not working.  The only conclusion I’ve come to after attempting to research this is that Roanoke might be the hardest place in the country to get to.  If anyone knows how to get there, or if you want to buy me a plane ticket, hit me up.