I’m full of sigh tonight

I’m also on my way out the door to meet some friends for goodbyes over somek.

May you sigh over your weekly dose of TOP! Until next time…

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It’s moving time

So bring over your whiskey and beer.

I’ve been thinking about this little blog o’ mine lately and I want to make changes. My ultimate goal is to be a full-time writer. I want to travel and work from around the world. I want to create something that better represents me as a writer, traveler, food-lover and sometimes photographer.

Right now I’ve got a decent blog going as a daily outlet for writing of all sorts, but I’ve never done anything to make it profitable. As my other freelance work is starting to pick up, it’s starting to feel like this blog isn’t worth my time financially.

I love you, little blog. I don’t want to leave you over a silly thing like money so I’m going to try and make you work for me. Just a little.

This means I will be purchasing a domain or two and selling some ad space. I plan to make a few additions, other than ads, to the site too. I hope you like them!

For now I plan on keeping the name of the blog the same. The City of Salt will always be my first metropolis love. (Admit it! You totally laughed when I called SLC a metropolis. Gwen chan nae oh.)

If you have any suggestions, ideas or just want to share your thoughts on the blog, please comment away.

Ack! I almost forgot I plan on launching the new site around March 7-ish. There now we both have a deadline. Phew.

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Korean food blog love

I’ve been in a Korean food funk lately.

Unless I’m eating kim bap, bibim bap, kimchi jiggae, bulgogi or galbi tang, I’m probably not eating Korean food. (There’s a lot of eggs and toast going on over here.) I miss cooking so much, I stare at these blogs and drool. I think it’s time I get inspired to get cooking or at least expand my food horizons when ordering Korean food.

Korean Food is no longer updated, but has a great archive of recipes and information on traditional Korean food. I’ve got more than one idea for future food adventures from this site.

Maangchi pretty much has me praying I end up in New York so I could take an amazing Korean cooking lesson in English. Also her measurements are in American, not metric, so I can actually visualize the recipe before I try it out.

Life in Korea has a little food section that I adore. Every recipe leaves me inspired to try it out in my own little kitchen.

Korean Food Recipe doesn’t seem to update very often, but there are a few easy to follow, easy to do recipes I would love to try. I’m especially excited about the sesame leaf kimchi. I know I’m going to love that one.

Digging through the archives of My Korean Kitchen is also promising some tasty recipes and future food experiences to come. I’m a little sad to say this blog is also now defunct. Is there some sort of three year blogging curse no one’s warned me about?

I hope you feel inspired to try out a few Korean dishes too. Good luck in your kitchen.

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Everything is…dyslexic

I have dyslexia.

It’s a new thing for me this confusing letters and directions. I don’t have this problem most of the time. Just whenever I leave my house.

You see, I’m reading-challenged in hangeul. I do just fine in English–throw any text my way and I will read the shit out of it. My pronunciation may not always be perfect, but I’m perfectly sure of each letter I am looking at.

The same cannot be said for 한굴. My biggest problem letters are ㄴ,ㄱ, ㅗ, ㅜ, ㅂand ㅁ. Individually the look clear and distinct, easy to tell apart, but mix in a couple other lines and suddenly I’m not sure if I should say “n”, “g”, “u”, “o”, “b” or “m.” (I’m not even going to go into other waysㄱ and ㅂcan change their sounds.)

The painfully slow way in which I carefully work through each syllable block of hangeul stresses me out. I get especially nervous when I’m somehow reading in front of someone, even my youngest students.

It’s like a switch goes off in my head that suddenly I cannot do this. I cannot read letters that I haven’t been poring over since I was three. When I’m alone walking down the street, I make a game of reading the signs I see, much like I did when I was seven years-old. It seems to be helping slowly. The trouble is I’m now learning that much like Roman letters affect one another depending on the order they appear in a word, so can Korean letters.

For example take the word “pomegranate.” In English the word is pronounced “pom-i-gran-it” neatly ignoring that rule about how e after a consonant makes a vowel say it’s name.

The word for pomegranate in Korean is 삭류. I look at that and I want to say “sak-ru.” But I’m pretty far from being correct. The actual pronunciation is closer to “seongu.” So even though I thought I could read Korean a little bit, I’m starting to feel like I can’t at all because even when I do read the syllables I say them wrong, not recognizing how the letters affect one another. Recognizing I know a language at a less than kindergarten level only acknowledges that in Korean I am illiterate.

In my American life, I am far from illiterate. I would venture to say people may even describe me as articulate, well-read and intelligent.

In my Korean life, I am babo (바보). Often I am a fool for not knowing the most basic Korean. I want to learn Korean. However  I struggle  to increase my knowledge. I’ve hit a brick wall when it comes to learning on my own. Unfortunately there are no Korean classes offered at the universities in Chungju.

The worst moments come when I am overwhelmed by the amount of Korean  I don’t know–someone talks too fast, the sentence is too long or the conversation too detailed–my brain just stops. The panic sets in and it’s all over. I know it’s bad when I stop trying to fill in the Korean I don’t know with Spanish or Konglish.

I may only be dyslexic in one language, but is sure makes the simple things in life, like ordering lunch, more difficult.

Any suggestions for how I can “cure” my dyslexia?

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Career, travel and cocktail dreams

The future has been on my mind a lot lately.

Several of my waygook friends are on their way out of Chungju, gone from Korea and on to the next stage of their lives. It’s got me thinking about how I have absolutely no clue what comes next.

Initially I thought I would pursue career goals after a “gap-year” of teaching, but I love living in a foreign country. I’m not sure I want to give that up.

Korea is a good place to be, but I could go somewhere else.

Increasingly I feel like no matter where I go, even Salt Lake City, will require I start all over–new friends, new apartment, new job, new everything. If I have to start all over again, it may as well be in a different country, right?

When I think about jobs that I want, I focus on things related to my major like television and film production or journalism. However many of these jobs require experience. My own experience seems limited and too closely tied to my university to really count for much in the pile of resumes companies must receive. I do not have the “real world” experience it seems most employers are looking for.

In the meantime, the evidence is piling up that I am apparently unemployable. I’ve been applying for jobs since January. I have applied for over 30 positions at various companies around the US. I clearly indicate I will be available for employment in July or as early as two months from now. I’m always willing to relocate, even at my own expense. And I do my best to sale myself as an amazing rock star production assistant who is organized, flexible and capable.

So far I’ve heard from no one. I can’t get a job. Anywhere.

I even got rejected from a blogging job where I would blog for FREE! I got rejected for a non-paying job. How is that possible? Do you know how shitty that makes me feel?

That kind of success rate has me thinking I don’t want to go back to the US and join the struggling economy.

By comparison getting another teaching job seems so easy. It took just two interviews and a couple of months for me to get a teaching job in South Korea. Sure I don’t like teaching. I hope to never face another classroom again as a teacher after this contract ends. But it seems schools are hiring ESL teachers at every turn and with a year of experience in the US and in Korea almost anyone would hire me. The only trouble is I can feel the ulcer forming already when I think of a future including classrooms, students and white boards.

My dream is to freelance full-time. I’m constantly pursuing new freelance work, however it seems highly unlikely I would be able to pay my student loans and cost of living from this revenue. As I currently struggle to meet my goal of $500 a month. (Just so we’re clear my student loan payment alone is $800 a month.)

This is the point where I always come back to working in the restaurant business. The only solution I can think of is to try and get a job waiting tables in the UK, New Zealand, Australia or somewhere else. Even then, I’m not sure that’s something I want so much as it’s the only plausible next step I can think of.


There are only two things I know for sure; I’m going to keep writing and I will go home for a visit.

What would you do next? Any suggestions or advice?

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1,2,3…Coke, soju, beer

Cojinganmek (구징안픽) is the cocktail of Korean goddesses.

It’s disgustingly good and far too easy to throw back too many before you realize what one shot of soju, one shot of beer and a shot of coke can do to your liver.

This lovely cocktail is just as much fun to make as it is to drink too. (Here in South Korea, I love getting to play bartender pouring a round for everyone as most drinks are served by the bottle.)

In a small beer glass, place one shot glass. Fill the shot glass about three-quarters full with Coke or Pepsi, both are commonly referred to as cola in the ROK.

Place a second shot glass in the first glass of coke. Fill it about three-quarters full with your favorite soju. Currently I have a preference for “original,” but the choice is yours. Generally the bar will be stocked with more than one kind of soju, all you have to do is ask to try out the local variations.

Finally top the glass with a shot of beer. The glass should be fairly full and layered in light brown, clear and dark brown liquids going down. It’s a surprisingly fancy lookin’ drink for less than 7,000 won a round.

Now it’s time to discover just why this drink is called cojinganmek or first bad things then good things come.

Pound that bad boy down. The first sip of beer and soju is tough to take. It’s harsh on the throat and rough going down. You will definitely feel the booze in your belly.

Then magically the cola hits. Sweet, cool and refreshing. A surprisingly perfect finish to a mekju overload.

This is without doubt my favorite and cheapest cocktail for a night out in South Korea.

Thanks, Brian and Jamie, for introducing the sweet awesomeness to me.

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How not to be THAT American tourist

Everyone once in awhile as I’m on my travelin’ way through countries and cities I’d only ever dreamed of visiting and sometimes never heard of I’m confronted with an embarrassing truth. Americans are the worst tourists. Ever.

I’ve gotten used to feeling like a pelican among a flock of doves, but when I hear a fellow American loudly complain I shudder in horror. I can’t flee the latest crime scene of Americanism fast enough. I feel disheartened to know we share the same home country and the same accent. Ss my fellow Americans make it clear they are less than pleased with how things are done in country that is NOT America, I feel as though all eyes turn to me.

“Why don’t you ask him to shut up? What’s wrong with Americans? Why are you so loud, rude and obnoxious?” I can feel the crowd wondering as they gaze at me hoping their ignorance of the angry shouting person will shut them down.

My most recent encounter with American Tourist X gave me cause to reflect on just what Americans can do to avoid the embarrassment of being the tourist everyone loves to hate.

1. Shut the fuck up

I know this is shocking, but you are in a foreign country. So things are going to be, I don’t know, foreign. Generally this means things will be different than what you are used to. Conversely things can also be surprisingly similar. If you aren’t already aware the rest of the world is not a black hole, so stop commenting on how awful or awesome everything is. The world is the way it is, just sit quietly and soak it in.

2. Stop complaining

Most often loudness seems to accompany whining. Just stop. Remember what Thumper says, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say nothin’ at all.” That’s right! A damn rabbit knows better than you do. Be polite to your host country, no matter how rough your travel day is please keep your complaints to a minimum and at a quiet decible. Indoor voices are still in style even if you are an adult.

3. Ask intelligent questions

Do some research, ask questions that people are happy to answer, instead of frustrated to answer. It seems most people are happy to help a visitor understand their country, but make some effort. Try to understand that their country, culture and language are different. If you have  basic understanding of the world you are walking in, you can only gain a deeper appreciation for the places you go, the people you meet and the things you see.

4. Stop acting like the world should really care what you are thinking every .2 seconds

Weird thing about Asia, for most people English is their second or third language. All that talking loudly–complaining, praising or otherwise–is bound to be understood by a surprising number of people. I’m just going to guess they are much more concerned about their lives than your travels.

Please keep your thinking outloud to a minimum or reserve it for your companions, the entire tour group, bus or subway does not need to know what’s going through your brain every moment.

5. Stop judging

For god’s sake stop judging everyone and everything. Most Koreans speak English as a second language and even if they don’t it’s generally clear from your tone and body language that there is no way Korea will ever be as good as America. Save the judgment calls when you are in the comfort of your own armchair, not for when you are asking directions to the nearest hotel.

There are some positives and negatives in every country the world over. The world isn’t perfect. You will find things that upset you and things that amaze you, but as you are traveling through a foreign land it’s wise to keep your opinions about the good, the bad and the ugly to yourself and a few friends.

Finally when you are traveling, think like Aristotle and remember the Golden Rule, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”

Remember that summer you worked in a shit-hole restaurant serving ungrateful tourists who treated you like crap? Oh wait. It wasn’t the tourists? It was the high school kids? Yeah, don’t be that person. Stop acting like a whiny, self-absorbed teenager when you travel and act like a goddamn adult.

Be polite. Be quiet. Show respect for the culture, country and people you are visiting so that when they visit your country, you don’t have to deal with asshats on cell phones shouting about how small and dirty people are.

Hopefully most of you are wonderfully nice people who never have an off day and generally treat the country you are visiting just as nicely as you treat your homeland.

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