Sunday, December 30, 2012

tim burton exhibit at the seoul museum of art.

recently, the seoul museum of art opened an exhibit featuring tim burton. i'm not a huge tim burton fan, but i can respect his creativity and i genuinely like some of his films. the bit we'd managed to find online about the exhibit said it featured his art and various items from his films, so that alone sounded pretty cool. friends were also intrigued by the exhibit, so one saturday, we made our way into seoul to check it out.

(sidenote: for some reason, most of my photos seem to have come out a little blurry. which is unfortunate. well done, iphone.)

the facade of the museum was completely tim burton-ed. 

since it was a saturday, there was quite a line just to pick up tickets. then, there was an additional wait time inside the museum -- we had to take tickets with numbers and they called in groups of about 100 at a time. we waited about thirty minutes for our numbers to be called up. 

according to the brochure we were given, there are over 860 pieces in the show and about 85% are from burton's own collection, with the rest on loan from various studios and private collections.

photos weren't allowed inside the galleries, unfortunately, because there was quite a bit i would have liked to photograph. quite a lot of the rooms were entirely his drawings through the years -- old pencil sketches, drawings from art classes, doodles in the margins of school papers and on napkins... it was pretty damn cool. his characters and art are often a little too grotesque and ugly for me, but it was interesting to see how he had been drawing many of his well-known characters for years and trace their evolution.

outside the entrance to one of the galleries. i promise i was having more fun than this picture suggests.

here are examples of some of his drawings that were featured inside the galleries. for all of his creepy-weird art, i have to say that he does make use of color nicely. 

this was one piece that i really liked in particular, called "romeo and juliet." there's something very maurice sendak about it, but also a fair amount of tim burton weird. 

after going through the galleries of his art, the last sections of the museum were dedicated to his films. they featured props, conceptual sketches/art, and models of different characters. in the "nightmare before christmas" section, for example, they had an entire case of small jack skellington heads showing a variety of expressions. 

this section was also a no photography zone, but i managed to sneak a couple (of even more blurry, due to sneaky stealth mode photo taking) photos, because this is probably my favorite tim burton film...

"edward scissorhands" topiary! (well, a replica.)

the closest i will probably ever get to johnny depp. (and so blurry.)

overall, it was a pretty neat exhibit. one thing that did detract from the whole experience was it was a saturday, and therefore extremely crowded. i remember being pleased that i'm taller than most of this country because i was able to see over heads to look at the art. in most of the rooms, everyone was moving along in a (painfully slow) single-file line, so i bypassed the crowd and moved around behind them at my leisure. so, i recommend not going on a weekend, or just getting there very early. 

the seoul museum of art is located near the subway station for city hall:
-from line one (blue), go out of exit one.
-from line two (green), go out of exit ten, eleven, or twelve.
the museum is located behind deoksugung (palace) -- if you're facing the entrance to the palace nearest to the above subway station exits, walk down the road that runs along the left of the palace wall. the museum will be on your left after about five minutes. 

the entrance fee is 12,000 and the exhibit runs through april 14, 2013. 

for information about the museum's operating hours, visit their website here. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

a real thanksgiving!

this wasn't the first thanksgiving i've spent in korea. during my first week here, aka the training week from hell, i grabbed thanksgiving dinner with a couple of my training classmates. since we'd been in the country for about five days and didn't know where anything was, we had something very spicy and very korean that was full of sea creatures. it was delicious, and it was a nice first thanksgiving in korea, but we definitely missed the traditional thanksgiving spread from home.

this year, my head instructor, will, and his wife, joanna, welcomed us into their gorgeous home to take over their (huge, western-style, oven-equipped!) kitchen and put together a full thanksgiving meal for everyone. of course we all jumped at this chance. they've had us all over for dinner before, once on cinco de mayo, aka when we realized joanna is an amazing cook, and again a couple months ago, for a potluck extravaganza.

joanna and analeece pieced together a menu -- everyone had an idea of what to bring, all thinking of things they love from home. they even tracked down a turkey at costco! i volunteered to bring cranberry salad, since i know for a fact that the family recipe i have is way better than that canned cranberry stuff, and a pecan pie. also, since it's a staple for my family back home, i decided to bring green stuff, which everyone found absolutely bewildering when i described it, but they promised to taste it regardless. (green stuff, as my family calls it, is basically a version of this, which a simple google search proves is not that unusual, thankyouverymuch, skeptics.)

why is the celery so big. who needs all those leaves, korea? 

things i am thankful for: electric mixers. whipping cream by hand is no fun.

red stuff and green stuff! all ready to go the night before! 

we all had to work on actual thanksgiving, so we scheduled our celebration for the following saturday. since i was on the pie baking committee, and we wanted to try to have those done before the turkey went in, i was up bright and early. sarah, analeece, and i headed over to will and joanna's around 9:45am so we could get as much done as possible before people started coming over around 3 or 4. 

will and joanna brined the turkey overnight, and the only container that was big enough? a trashcan. 

yes, please. 

pumpkin pie ready for the oven!

so, as we were getting pie stuff ready, we were facing an unexpected problem: we only had one pie pan, which was already occupied by the above pumpkin pie. joanna bought the pie pan here in korea, so surely we could find a couple more, right? no. nowhere. at all. will was sent out on the mission to find more pie pans. i'm pretty sure he checked three places, in addition to the two stores they'd checked earlier in the week. we even had eleanor check the grocery store near our apartments. not a single pie pan to be found. 

we decided to pause the pie-making for a bit while we looked up options and waited on the pumpkin pie that was occupying the single pie pan to be done. however, problem number two soon hit us: the pie wasn't cooking right. really, it wasn't cooking much at all. so we gave it more time... and more time... yet the filling was still jiggly. we checked the recipe again. everything had been done correctly. finally, it had firmed up a little, but it was officially time for the turkey to go in, so it had to come out. 

now the other pies had no choice but to be baked after the turkey. this was no problem, really, as it only took us a few seconds to rearrange the cooking schedule. this also gave us time to solve the pie pan problem: skillets! the internet told us it was possible. so we decided to give it a go. we also had no other options. 

while the turkey cooked, we started getting everything else ready and people started arriving to help with the other dishes. 

sarah working on stuffing, which was delicious. 

getting an apple pie ready to go into the oven as soon as the turkey was done. 

so many cooks in the kitchen.

ricer! gettin' mashed potatoes ready. 

will was busy documenting.

the thanksgiving feast! turkey, two kinds of stuffing, mashed potatoes plus gravy, green bean casserole, home-baked rolls, cranberry salad, green stuff, olives... all of it. 

after-dinner digestion time. 

while everyone relaxed and digested their dinner, it was time to get back to work on pies. my pecan was all ready to be mixed and poured into a shell, and the apple was nearly done baking.

the skillets = success! not a bad back-up plan at all. the pies came out perfect. 

my pecan pie tasted just like my mom's. it changed lives that night, guys. it was gooood. 

pecan, pumpkin (which was still a little funky, but had firmed up when it cooled), apple, AND a cheesecake. AND there was another pumpkin in the oven -- which came out perfectly this time. 

just as thanksgiving should be: with people curled up on couches, unable to move. 

ready to abandon all attempts to stay conscious. 

tried a panoramic of the group playing cranium. not sure what happened to joanna's body or will's arm. 

to quote eleanor's facebook status from the day after, "there is no such thing as a friendly game of cranium when everyone is drunk and everyone is a teacher." turns out we are a pretty competitive group. (also, another glitchy panoramic, this time hitting brianna's face. -_- )

so, thanksgiving in korea was a great success! it was fun hanging out and cooking all day, and then it was even more fun eating good food with a group of great friends. oh, and:

my tiny little fridge, filled up with leftovers. i ate turkey sandwiches with stuffing, red stuff, green stuff, and pie for like five days after our thanksgiving party. i think leftovers are my favorite part of thanksgiving, so i was pretty damn pleased.

now to plan christmas festivities... 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy One Year Anniversary, Zannah & Korea!

This weekend marks one year in Korea. I left Oklahoma on the 18th of November and arrived in Korea on the 19th. One whole year. Dang.

It's odd to sit and think about this past year because it doesn't feel like much time has passed at all. The days and weeks fly by, making this anniversary seem... strange. I'm not sure what it is about the nature of my life here, but I honestly have no idea where the time has gone. Maybe it's working late hours... Or the fact that most weekends are so packed full of running around Seoul, going to festivals and shopping and seeing friends and eating good food. It seems like as soon as a week begins, it's already ending, and I'm sitting there thinking, "Where the hell did this week go?"

I've seen on Facebook that a number of people I trained with are going home soon, with the end of this term marking the completion of their contracts. Since I don't know how this past year has gone by already, I can't fathom leaving Korea at this point in my life.

As many of you know, I've signed another contract with my school. With this new contract, I'll be here through August of 2014, with a three month break at the end of February to mid-May 2012 so I can go home for a visit. After that... I have no idea what I'll be doing. And that's fine. Maybe I'll stay in Korea longer. Maybe I'll come home. Maybe I'll go teach in a different country. Maybe I'll go back to school. But as of now, I couldn't be happier. Korea has been an incredible experience so far, and I think the fact that this year has passed so quickly is just further evidence that this is the right place for me right now. Clearly, I'm enjoying my time here.

My job is still great -- I do really love teaching and trying it out here has made me more certain that it's a career I want to pursue back home. I'm exceptionally lucky because I work for and with good people, which is a large part of why I'm resigning at my particular school. I enjoy the classes I teach and the daily challenges that come from teaching ESL. I know this job is, in many ways, much easier than a teaching job back home, but I still feel like I'm learning and growing from this experience.

Living in Korea in general has been so much better than I'd anticipated. Before coming here, everyone I talked to assured me I would love it. Various blogs that I read said wonderful things about living here. Even with all of that, I don't think I was really ready for how much I would fall in love with this country. The people, the culture, the food, the fashion, the travel... It's amazing. And I feel like I've barely seen or done anything this past year! My Korea to-do list is still intimidatingly lengthy.

My first weekend here, I caught a little bit of the Seoul Lantern Festival, and last night, I returned to the same spot to see this year's lantern display. It felt funny, being there again almost exactly one year later. Last year, I barely remember the festival because that first weekend (and following week) was such a stressed-emotional-jetlagged haze. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and had no idea where I was. This time was the complete opposite, and it was a nice feeling.

I've been thinking about this blog entry for the past week or so, trying to figure out what I wanted to say about the completion of my first year here. Basically, it comes down to: Korea is awesome, living here is awesome, so I'm really happy that I'm staying longer. (But also really excited to come home for a visit soon, duh.) The end.

ps. Quite a few blog entries in draft-mode right now that will be posted soon, such as:

  • Everything Has Faces: A Photo Essay
  • How-to: Eat Korean Food, Volume Two
  • Observations About South Korea, Volume Four
  • Dear Korea, Sometimes You Baffle Me
  • How-to: Eat Korean Junk Food (An Expert's Advice)
  • Surviving the Holiday Blues

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

how-to: eat korean food, volume one.

since arriving in korea, i've gotten numerous questions from family and friends about korean food. do i like it? what's delicious? what's my favorite? what's the best thing to get at a korean restaurant?

so, since i'm one of those instagramming iphone assholes users that loves taking pictures of her food, it didn't take long for me to compile a short list of some of my favorite dishes.

these are just a few of the items that i eat fairly regularly, so expect more installments of this how-to later on as i eat more and take more pictures.

김밥 - gimbap/kimbap
this is one of my staples here in korea. it's the roll on the right side of this picture, and it's delicious. basically, it's rice and other ingredients like radish, egg, spam, kimchi, tuna, mayo, etc. rolled up in seaweed and sliced. very cheap, too -- usually a little over $2 for a roll that fills you up pretty well. i eat this quite a lot -- there's a gimbap house in the bottom floor of my work building and the ladies that work there know what i want as soon as i walk in.

만두 - mandu
this is another go-to meal for me. my students have huffed and puffed when i've mentioned my love for mandu because "teacha! that is not korean! dumplings are chinese!" yeah, whatever. it's cheap and it tastes good. my favorite is the mandu with the meat inside, though the kimchi ones aren't bad either. you can find these boiled, grilled, fried, or steamed, and with a variety of fillings. i've managed to actually burn myself out on dumplings a little... i can still eat a few, but i can't put away an entire order of eight like i used to... still, so delicious. 

잡채 - japchae
i've been on a big japchae kick for the past week or two. according to wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, the cellophane noodles are made from sweet potatoes. with the noodles will be a bunch of stir fried veggies and sometimes also meat. the sauce is delicious and a little spicy. usually also comes with rice, which mixes nicely with the noodles and sauce. 

파전 - pajeon
oh, pajeon. you are so good. this is sort of like a giant pancake, made from eggs and flour, but then with things mixed in. like green onions. and shrimp. and kimchi. then you dip it in some soy sauce and it makes your mouth happy. 

비빔밥 - bibimbap
another easy, go-to dish. it's basically rice with any or all of the following: egg, lettuce/green leafy things of some variety, beef, dried seaweed, radish, mushrooms... then the red pepper paste on top. you mix it all really well with a spoon and then eat! filling, cheap, and you can order it pretty much anywhere you go. 

고기구이 - gogigui (korean bbq)
i had korean barbecue once before i left home, and it was nothing like how they actually do it here. here you order the cut of meat you want and then they bring it to you. sometimes it's already nice and sliced, sometimes you have to use tongs and scissors to cut it into smaller pieces. then you put it on the grill in the middle of your table and cook it. from there, you can dip it in sauce, put it in a lettuce wrap with some other tasty things (like onions, kimchi, garlic, etc.), or just eat it as it is. 

만두 순두부 - mandu sundubu
dubu is tofu, and according to what i just read on wikipedia, the "sun" bit comes from how the tofu is prepared, and this tofu is "pure" or something, meaning it's got the highest moisture content of all fresh tofus. sure. anyway, this is perhaps my favorite thing to eat here. so much so that i've eaten it the past two days... there is a standing "tofu soup monday" thing at work -- it's what we do. it's a little spicy, but mostly savory and delicious. the soup is served boiling hot, which is perfect since you're supposed to immediately crack an egg into it. you also get a hot bowl of rice. in an empty bowl, mix some rice and soup together and enjoy. sundubu has many varieties -- meat, seafood, curry. i just almost always get the mandu one because, as i mentioned, i love dumplings. this soup is perfect for cold or rainy days especially. it's filling, warming, and just satisfying. 

now, we need to move on to the side dishes for a bit. because ohmigod, i love the side dishes in this country. there are so many! and they just keep refilling them!! it's amazing and probably my favorite part of eating in a restaurant here.

the unnaturally yellow stuff is a radish. it's okay... not the kind of radish i'm particularly fond of, so i usually skip eating that bit. plus it's just... too yellow. at the top is some kind of kimchi-like dish with cucumbers, to the left is something spinach-y (i think? i don't remember), and at the bottom is some glorious kimchi. (more on kimchi later.) 

a whole fish. minus the head and tail. at this point, i'm a professional at using chopsticks to tear into one of these and pull out all the bits of tasty meat. 

김 - gim/kim
seaweed! dried and delicious when you dip it in soy sauce. 

김치 - kimchi
when i think about a future without kimchi in my daily life, i get really depressed. i've grown so accustomed to getting a dish of this at every restaurant that i'm actually extremely disappointed (and a little annoyed) when i don't get kimchi with a meal. kimchi, for those who don't know, is usually fermented cabbage, made spicy by red chili pepper and other spices. i've also had kimchi versions of other veggies like cucumber, green onions, and radish. i was on the fence about kimchi before moving here -- didn't love it, didn't hate it, but now i'm obsessed with it. and when i get it at a restaurant here, they just keep bringing me more as long as i'm eating it! and it's good for you! not only is it full of vitamins, but it also has bacteria that boosts your immune system and might also stop you from developing cancer! (this is what the kids tell me, at least. and wikipedia.) i don't know what i'll do without kimchi in my life. 

and, to go with all of this food, when we don't want to drink water, we will get a bottle of:

막걸리 - makgeolli
makgeolli is delicious. and deceptively strong. this "rice wine" is made from fermented rice and wheat. it's thick, creamy, and you drink it out of small bowls. a couple weekends ago we went to a makgeolli house in seoul, where we tried all kinds of fancy flavored makgeolli (mango, honey), as well as some that was very old and had been served to some famous person or another. there's a spot nearby to my area of incheon that does a wonderful pineapple makgeolli mixture that goes nicely with some pajeon. 

aaaaand last, but not least, DESSERT.

빙수 - bingsu
i am so in love with this it's not even funny. pictured above is the only kind of bingsu i've tried, actually, because any time i think about getting a different kind, i look at all the delicious fruit on top of this particular one and i just can't resist. bingsu is a popular summer dessert here, being served at nearly every coffee shop, but also on the summer menus at the likes of burger king and kfc. on the bottom is a layer of shaved ice, then on top you can get any combination of: cream, fruit, green tea flavored-something, azuki beans (which makes it the popular patbingsu), bits of rice cakes, flakes of cereal or chocolate, little candies, ice cream -- it's amazing. now, this berry bingsu that i'm in love with is about $9, which i can only imagine comes from the pricey fruit sitting on top, but it's worth it when i'm feeling like a fancy dessert on a hot summer night. 

that's all i've got for this installment, but i'm already making a list for the next entry. i even got some
of my students to help me -- they made a list of about a dozen korean dishes that i need to try, apparently, so i intend to do just that. and then i'll blog about it.