Bon Anniversaire, Korea.

1 03 2012

That’s not the same as saying “Bon voyage!”

Nope, you’re stuck with me for another year.

Tuesday was my one year anniversary of living in Korea. Time sure moved quickly. It doesn’t really seem like it’s been a year yet. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had four seasons in a year since 2009. Plus, being from the Oregon Coast, having four distinct, changing seasons is a new thing to me anyway.

As many of you know, I have a really tough time identifying the amount time that passed since I did something. “The other day” can literally mean months ago. And after mentioning something to a friend of mine that allegedly happened “a while back,” we discovered that “a while” means well over a year. That something was getting ditched for Halloween (in 2010 mind you,) and subsequently buying some vino and watching multiple episodes of 30 Rock, timed perfectly with a friend on the other end of the phone doing the same thing. Good times a while back.

But seriously, I got here yesterday. And it was a good day.

So here are a few photos of some of the things I did. (In no particular order)

On the bike trip in Gyeongju

Busan's Jalgalchi Seafood market sells octopus sashimi so fresh, it still moves.

The teachers' retreat included sashimi, drunken fireworks, and karaoke with the principal in Gangwon-do.

Mychaela and I at the Namsan Tower's lock deck.

Foreigner soccer game: Cheap tickets + free beer/food = serious debauchery.

We bought tickets to go to NK... but we couldn't actually go there.

All time favorite restaurant in the Googs.

Chris and I wandered around Seoul for years looking for this tiny owl museum. Worth it just for the quirkiness!

Never try to put on Daylin's glasses. They're terrible! But Muuido is awesome!!

At Orientation, we were the cool kids. Clearly. (Beware of the creeper)

Beautiful cherry blossoms! And I used to think Trombley was amazing. WOW.

The boys later developed the no-pants rule. Noraebangs get pretty intense!!

You've seen this one before. NYE was a blast!

Lauren and I were eating ice cream on an art instillation in Haeundae. Some guy wanted to take a picture. We obliged.

Dart Bar. All day, erry day. Complete with crazy shirts.

Or randomly running into college friends at MudFest. Great times with Val and friends!

We're in a motorcycle gang. We rented bikes and rode by the river while some idiots abused themselves playing paintball.

Girls night in Hongdae!! Always fun times!

To offset the cost of veggies, I grew my own last year and just started new sprouts! Stoked for peppers and broccoli!

Why Laura asked me to pick up this bike, and why that guy looks so stoked, I'm still not sure. Hongdae is the only explanation.

Spent the afternoon perusing Gyeongbukgung with Chris. That day, he also got a photo my my first-ever, completely Korean conversation with a guy selling fans. I need to go back and get a fan. They were gorgeous.

Orientation got pretty elitist at one point. We were the "Suji 6" (even though I don't live in Suji) and then Dorian jumped in.

Sports day is possibly my favorite school day of the year. This fall, we get sports day AND school festival. I'm excited!!

Deceptive flowers are stinky. Checking out the traditional houses in Gyeongju.

On the train of sparkly socks headed to Busan, which then brings us to the Philippines! Such a blast with Lauren!

Quite possibly my favorite picture of me with my students. On the Double Rock and Roll at Everland. What a crazy day!

So those are just a few of the highlights of this year in Korea. There were highs and lows, complications and smooth sailing days. Friends have come and gone and need to come back. There are some people that need to leave. There were students whom I can’t stand and those I want to adopt. Icky kimchi and delicious kimchi. (I make the delicious kind.)

Either way, my life is so good.

Wine in Korea is “meh” at best. Watch as we try to find the best of “meh!”

22 02 2012

So Jessica and I decided that we were going to take advantage of all the wine sales going on lately. Emart and HomePlus have been selling a bunch of red wines at a pretty good price over the last few months. From what I’ve read in Korean magazines, wine is a fairly new thing, except for Korean plum wine and raspberry wine, which are very unique flavors and for many, an acquired taste that demands more than your standard bottle of decent wine… such is my case.

This project was slightly inspired by my friend Sara, my distaste for sickeningly sweet red wine (which somehow always gets served at staff dinners…), and my desire to find a palatable red wine at a price that doesn’t rival the Gangnam clubs. Those are pricey. Jessica call the wines we’re testing out “won conscious wines.”

Tonight’s agenda brings us a wine that I found at Emart for a whopping 8,900 won. This is about $10.

Tasty first try! We recommend this one!

We stocked up last time we went shopping, so we have a lineup of wines that we know absolutely nothing about. This one is a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile, 2010, and delicious.

I prefer medium dry wines, not too sweet, fairly rich, but none of that “earthy” crap. I don’t want to feel like I just drank dirt. If my tongue gets dried out, you’re doing it wrong. This one does it right. None of the dry linger, earthy nonsense. Just smooth tasty, slightly fruity, goodness.


(Thanks Jessica for your input. Those were fancy pants, which quickly became sweatpants, by the way.)

Tonight's agenda included not only wine, but also dress up and make-overs, hence the lipstick. 🙂

Anyway. Jess gives it a 9 our of 10, and I’d give it an 8.5. Either way, we’d drink it under most circumstances. Cheers!

Guess what? It’s cold.

17 02 2012
Photo credit goes to Roooooommate.

These earmuffs were made from lace. Better keep that fabric on the flossy stuff. It doesn't keep you warm.

Aaaaaand COLD = Winter.

Winter = Holidays.

Holidays = Story time.

I’m currently in bed wearing sweats, wool-ish giraffe socks, a dozen layers, a scarf and a hat. I’m underneath 3 comforters and still chilly. It’s only right that it’s snowing outside and my heater is struggling more to heat up now than I do in the mornings. Seriously, getting out of my massive nest of warm blankets and pillows with hot water nalgenes is an epic battle that can only rival the fight scenes of 300... just in slowER motion and not so gory. (PS, I seriously couldn’t help myself on that link.)

Anyway, I haven’t really updated on holiday shenanigans. You should be used to that since I’ve failed as a blogger since I haven’t done too much out of the normal Korea routine. I don’t have a single photo of Thanksgiving. My memory card was full and all my pictures from the spring magically got deleted… so I was nervous. There are people just as bad as me, because there isn’t a single one on facebook either. Moving on. There was lots of wine, lots of people, lots of firewood and lots of fun. Karaoke, cooking, card games, bonfires, and a game that used lots of adjectives and adverbs to describe a few choice body parts. We made it all the way to Y and them for some reason everybody stood up and yelled “good game!” and left for bed. Xenophobic? Zesty? Come on people! Still fun though!

And here it's snowing!!

The weekend after Thanksgiving was Rubber Seoul, which is a fundraiser for an AIDS/HIV education and prevention group. We got to see a whole bunch of live shows at the bars in Hongdae, and that was a lot of fun. Dancing and general silliness ensued. A certain somebody that isn’t me ran into not one, but two of the guys she was seeing while out dancing. Not awkward at all. Hysterical, actually. On a more normal note, one of the bands we saw was Angry Bear, and they had a pretty good show at Gogo’s 2.  Check them out here.

The weekend after that was also amazing. SANTACON 2011.
I got to see my Thanksgiving cooking partner in crime, Kita.  We were a tad slow coming from Gugal (What else is new?) and we missed the mass transit migration of Santas en masse. We rallied in Hongdae at the Ho Bar III, aka “Ho Ho Ho!” There were drinks, dancing Santas, and a generally fun pub crawl. I proudly taught the bartenders at Shamrock how to make Washington apple martinis. Yum.

Rooommate and I at Santacon


We thought it was a brilliant idea to purchase RED red lipstick... hilarity ensued. (This is Kita, btw!)

After SantaCon, we had an awesome Christmas. I traveled yet again with When in Korea and cooked a delicious dinner. Met a slew of new awesome people. It was too cold to play any games outside, but there was a white elephant exchange, and norae-cabin. So much fun singing Christmas carols and ABBA songs.

I also enjoyed photobombing pictures. 🙂

New Years Eve was also pretty exciting. We went to COEX mall in Seoul, where there was a fancy wine buffet. We got classy. I wore a dress and heels that haven’t been touched since they got unpacked last February. More cool new friends and silly stories. Lauren, Kayla and I missed midnight fireworks by missing the subway and having to take the next one. Oops. We hit the karaoke place for several hours and rode the first trains home in the morning. Such a fun night!

The hooligans of NYE.


Even classy pictures get photobombed. I got to play with Andy's fancy camera. Here's one of Lauren.


Why is this always my candid photo face? I'm like my mom in the regard that I can never take a normal candid. Seriously.


Well, here’s to 2012 and another year in Korea!

Let’s be honest…

23 11 2011

I’m a terrible blogger.

I haven’t written since August, even though I promised I’d post pictures and whatnot from the Philippines.

My bad.

So since the last time we saw our heroine, many people have come and gone from Gugal, crazy stuff has happened, and some life plans have been changed.

I didn’t talk about Boryeong Mud Festival from July, how Laura fell off a bus and broke her legs.

Stuck in bed for weeks at a time = everybody brings pizza.

I didn’t talk about Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) and the trip to Busan for Mychaela’s Korean birthday…

Me on Chuseok in front of the bridge at Gwanganli Beach, Busan


And I haven’t mentioned the ridiculous clothes that Korea sells…

Why is it that the only things I can wear in Korea are hideous and/or prison uniforms?


So the fall was pretty slow in my neck of the woods, so there’s not really much to update through September/October. November has been fun so far. But cold. Oh, so cold.

I swear once I find my pictures (the spring/summer folder is mysteriously gone…) I’ll post on facebook. But there are 3 computers (2 of which are in Korean) and a hard drive that might have them hiding… “I’ll put them somewhere safe where I won’t forget!”

Right. Because when you’re Dani, that always works out in your favor.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Spend some time with my family and give them lots of love for me!

Nothing like being underwater on a hot day…

27 06 2011

Legit swimming pools: they’re really hard to find. Monsoon season hit my beloved little city last week and I think it may have decided to take it easy today. Right now, Yongin is hot and muggy, and it feels like the tropical rainforest… just minus the trees, animals and delicious fruit. As stuffy as it is, it makes me want to hit up a pool like no other.

A few weeks ago, Laura, Jessica and I decided to check out the pool at the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon, Seoul. It was one of the only pools we could find, plus it was on the roof of a tall building, so there was going to be some sun in order. Not to mention that Itaewon is Little America, so there wouldn’t be a lot of criticism of swim wear like there is everywhere else. Also, it was an Adjumma free zone. No perms, track suits or flying elbows to be found.

It was pretty pricey to get in at W16,000, but it was a nice hot day so it was worth it. It was pretty hilarious for people watching. You have the Korean body builder guys in Speedos workin’ on their fitness, the Korean girls wearing bikinis, but covered in a shirt, hat and sunglasses under an umbrella, and then you have the Waygooks. We’re all shapes and sizes, and if we’re by a pool, we’re getting tan and just maybe a little drunk.

Believe me, with some of the people there, the beer in hand rule applied BIG TIME. It was hilarious to see some of these people. Lots of US military guys and an international slow-pitch softball team from St. Louis. They gave Laura a lot of crap for her STL tattoo on her arm, which was a funny story in and of itself. The funniest part of my day (mostly because it wasn’t directed at me) was the um, ridiculously well-endowed Marine in a poor choice of swimwear who caught Jessica checking him out. Once he noticed her, he proceeded to follow her like a puppy and hit on her for most of the afternoon.

“You’re so hot. Your eyes are so exotic.” Blah blah blah. (Please push play on the link.)
“Yeah, and I’m smart. And rich. Really rich.”

Was she provoking him or directly making fun of his failed attempts? I think a little of both. Either way, it was funny to me and Laura.

Back to serious matters. Two things from that trip that I didn’t understand. 1) Why on Earth would a man wear a flossy little G-string to a pool? and 2) If you’re going to pay $16 to go to a pool, why don’t you get in the pool? Maybe it’s me being the aquatic type, but I didn’t get it. Although I was really glad that Mr. Flossy of G-string fame steered clear of the water…


Jessica and Laura at the Hamilton Hotel pool

Naked Culture Shock

22 03 2011

A couple weeks ago, Mychaela planned on coming to visit and stay for the weekend. She has a really nice apartment in a high-rise that has a roof with a killer view of her neighborhood. As we’ve discovered here in Yongin, I can’t exactly say the same for my living situation. There are a few major pros and cons, but there is one huge difference that I’m perfectly okay with: I live in a real neighborhood. The kind where you get to know your neighbors and know which students from your school live nearby. The kind where there’s a neighborhood cat and the new baby next door whom you can hear so clearly sometimes it was as if she were in the room. The kind of neighborhood that has apartments that are visited by religious missionaries… but more on that later.

Friday night, we had planned on meeting at Bojeong Metro station at 7:30, then come back to my apartment to drop off her wonderful gift (A PILLOW!!!). Friday night traversing Seoul by subway apparently takes 3 hours, not the 2 hours it took me on a Sunday night. Mychaela finally walked through the gates at 8:54 PM, just 6 minutes before I was ready to leave the station and go home. While waiting, I had been chatting with an older Korean gentleman who appeared to be waiting for someone as well, speaking English really well. He said that he worked with US soldiers during the Korean War and became a teacher afterward. His daughter lived in Philadelphia, teaching Korean at a school there. “You two would be great friends, but you seem to have traded places.”

Bicycle chain heart: North Seoul Tower

We got back to my apartment to realize that we were both exhausted from a trip much longer than expected. We got dinner at an Italian place and had a Korean beer in a “German Beer Garden.” (False advertisement!! They only had Cass, which is the Korean version of Coors.) We crashed at my place and got up to make plans for Saturday and all its wonder. We had planned to go into Seoul later in the day so that we wouldn’t spend 10 hours walking around. The irony of that statement would later come back to bite us.

We grabbed lunch at my favorite cafe, Coffee Verdi, and saw a few of my students. They’re still in the “She’s a real person who exists outside of school” realization phase. We caught the bus to Ori station, where we decided that traffic was so bad that we’d just take the subway. First destination was to Seoul Station, where Lonely Planet says it should be a 15-20 minute walk from the station to the tower. Lonely Planet lies. [I feel like I should edit those books for a living. I could re-write the Indonesian version with a little help from my Fulbright and Indonesian friends. That book was a mess.] That short walk was actually about an hour from the station to the tower. For the distance and the fact that it was 90% stairs, we made really good time. The view was worth it! We got to the tower around sunset, which was the one thing LP got right. Transitions in major cities are always really cool to see. That was always my favorite thing about Jakarta: seeing the sun go down and the lights turn on. Flashy.

Photo Island view of Seoul


Locks of Love at North Seoul Tower

The North Seoul Tower is known for its locks on the fence. Couples in Korea see this as their Mecca. The migrate toward it, hike up the hill, sign their lock and latch it to the fence. Some messages are really heartfelt, others are friendly, others have Bart Simpson on them. There are strange benches, which at first I thought would be weird to sit on, as it would look like you broke the bench, but in reality, they were designed so that when a couple would sit on them, they would inevitably lean together, inducing snuggle.

After it got dark, we walked down the hill on the road that has the buses we apparently didn’t know about. We checked out the Namdaemun street market, which is a 24 hour market up and down the streets of the neighborhood. Fake bags, ginseng gift shops, fake sunglasses, delicious food, and a boatload of optical shops and camera stores. Once I save up, that DSLR will be mine. Oh yes, she will be mine.

The chaos that is Myeong-Dong

I had heard the week before that there would be a fundraiser for a women’s rights group in Itaewon, the multicultural hub of Seoul. The fundraiser was to have a burlesque show and dancing. It could be fun, and if not, the money goes to single moms. (I really don’t mean that in a stripper joke sort of way, either.) Turns out, every single foreigner in Korea had heard about this show. The place was packed and we all had to get pretty up close and personal, and unfortunately that included with the drunk US Army guy with the bottle of Cuervo who incessantly shouted, “I LOVE VAGINAAAAAA!!!!” All in all, it was pretty fun. My favorite act was a girl with a hula hoop. She killed it. Check out the video of Betty Hoops:

I really appreciated her friends’ comments after her performance. “Where did she learn to do that?” “It’s a Northwest thing. Everybody can do something awesome like that here.” Haha, we do all have really random hidden talents!

Borrowed flash at the Burlesque show

Borrowed flash at the Burlesque show

After the show, everybody performed a mass exodus from Bedlam out into the streets of Itaewon. It was about 11:30, so Mychaela and I figured it would be time to head back towards home. We get on the subway, and when we were supposed to transfer to the line that would take us home, we ran into a terrible dead end. The station was closed, we couldn’t transfer, and the train we were on definitely left already. Yaksu station. What the hell is in Yaksu? Nothing. A taxi from there would cost us $50 to get home. A dingy hotel would set us back at least $40.

Then it dawned on me. Audra’s suggestion. “If stranded, find a jimjilbang.” A jimjilbang is basically a spa, but open 24 hours, and you can sleep there. Game on. Now, we just had to find one. We walked around for about an hour trying to find one. It wasn’t too cold, my feet were fine, and I really didn’t mind. The logo for a jimjilbang is basically a soup bowl with three wavy steam things coming out the top. I feel like I’ve seen it as a ramen noodle logo before. After talking with a random Korean man at about 1:30, he showed us in the way of one of the nearly sacred, gender-segregated, traditional public bath houses. We wandered some more and finally found it.

steamy hot soup? or a hot tub?

steamy hot soup? or a hot tub?

We checked in at about 2:15 AM. We were given what looked like a cross between prison inmate uniforms and the robes of a Buddhist monk. Orange and stretchy. After walking in to the ladies’ section, we were immediately faced with about 4 stark naked, middle aged Korean women. They must have seen our obvious looks of confusion, since they instantly tried to help us out of our shoes and show us to our lockers. Once we got our inmate robes on, we wandered around, checking the place out. A giant tub with two women scrubbing the life out of the skin of another. A mother and her 20-something daughter sitting on the ledge of another, hotter pool, chatting as if it were time for afternoon coffee, not really noticing that it was 3 AM, or that they and everyone else around them were naked or nearly so. No wonder it’s such a lively tradition. You have a pure and simple goal: Relax and get clean.

Downstairs, there was a large common room with about 40 sleeping mats and foam blocks for pillows. At first, we didn’t see any women. I was a little apprehensive to sleep in a “common area” that was clearly composed only of men. As I loitered and stalled to try and convince Mychaela to sleep in the “cave” between the floors where I saw women sleeping on mats, another woman walked in, sat down near the TV, and made herself at home. We decided it was a legit common room, and not just a place for the boys to hang out and watch the boob tube. We claimed our territory and crashed. And by that, I mean me. I crashed. Mychaela doesn’t really sleep anyway. I, on the other hand, can sleep anywhere, anytime, and under nearly any circumstance…

…except when the guy on the next mat down tries to snuggle with my feet. I had been dreaming that something fish-like was trying to bite my feet, and when his hand grabbed my foot, I’m pretty sure I kicked him in the face. Fight or flight reaction? Definitely. In my dream, I was swimming away. Mychaela was awake at the time and watched the whole thing. I guess it was hilarious. Creeper-sleeper probably didn’t think so.

We made it back to Yongin at about 9 AM, where we immediately crashed, yet again. Just a short nap, right? Well, you might know me and my napping habits; they’re just like my ability to sleep anywhere. They can never be short naps. Around noon, a knock at my door woke us up. I looked like a slob in a ratty t-shirt, so I threw on my peacoat to class it up a little bit. At the door was one of my students and her family, who were going door to door passing out Jehovah Witness magazines. My hair was, well, morning hair. If you know me, you know the terror that is. They didn’t run away frightened by the sketchy fuzz ball waygook (foreigner) when she opened the door, so I’d say they’re good people.

Free Hugs Korea: Way less sketchy than Warped Tour.

Time to explore my area a little more. I’ve spent a lot of time in Seoul for the weekends, which is spendy, but really cool. Here’s to checking out Yongin and the outskirts! Cheers!

Is this for safety or being realistic? (Please see any K-drama show if you don't get it.)

What happens when you get on a bus with only an incredibly vague idea of where you’re going.

14 03 2011

My first weekend, last weekend, in South Korea was fairly low key. Friday was weird at best. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink water for nearly 24 hours. The no food thing was fine, but I was thirsty all day and after talking to students in each class, I was raspy and sounded like I had emphysema. As soon as I was finished, Mrs. Lee and I went out for dinner at Jokumeon, a restaurant that serves traditional Korean food in courses. All I wanted was water. Tea and soup were decent substitutes. Delicious substitutes for water. Come visit me and I’ll take you there and you can eat all the delicious food. So good.

Yay words

Yay words

Saturday was a day of intense cleaning and grocery shopping. My cupboards were starting to be bare, so I got groceries which were the cheapest option for everything, but still ridiculously expensive. Thankfully my friends Audra and Clayton gave me basically everything they had left in their kitchen cupboards when they moved out. I guess that’s slight compensation for the fact that my school still hasn’t paid me for my relocation allowance, which would really help with, you know, relocation expenses. That has to wait until I get my Alien Registration Card, which is going to be here nearly a month after said relocation. Can I blame this on it being Asia? Other GEPIK teachers already received theirs, but it seems that my school’s administrators can’t transfer that just yet. Somehow they waste that much in a day in paper that I reuse in my lessons, but I can’t get that in cold, hard, won. I get to wait.

Mychaela and I tried to make plans for Sunday, but since I have no real reliable way of communicating, I went to my school Saturday at about 1 PM to use the internet under the guise of “preparing Monday’s lessons” (printing, etc.) I tried to find her online so I could give directions, and thankfully she showed up on skype. Unfortunately, that was just as all the other teachers were leaving. I had a key, so Mrs. Lee and Esther told me to lock the door on my way out. Administrators were going to be there in a meeting for a couple more hours, so I was safe, in theory. In theory. Twenty minutes later, I was on my way out, locked the office door behind me (for which I didn’t have a key), and headed for the main doors.


Staff parking door. Locked.

Cafeteria door. Locked.

Oh no. I was locked in the school, locked out of my the offices, and had no phone. Oh. No.

I ran back to the administrators office, hoping to find the alleged meeting. Nothing. And the door was locked. Oh no. I ran up and down the halls and the stairs and was almost panicking. I started to feel like I did when Carrie and I were trapped in her room when the bedroom doorknob broke and she failed at throwing the keys over the fence to her co-teacher. (Luckily, her co-teacher was able to climb over the pointy wrought-iron fence like a champ.) Luckily, I found one of the weekend janitors cleaning the floor in a 4th floor classroom. I seriously speak zero Korean. I can read and write more than anything, but that didn’t help me at all at the time. I had to try and visually demonstrate the fact that I was locked in the school. It involved my keys and a lot of head shaking and some movement/terrible dance to indicate that I really wanted to go home. I had plans on Sunday and I didn’t want to stay in my school over night, especially with its constant state of freezing temperatures. Finally he mumbled something and shuffled out the door and down the stairs with me following like a puppy that really needed to go outside. Ahh, freedom.

Insadong-gil Market

Insadong-gil Market

Before the freakout fiasco of being locked in my school, I made plans with Mychaela to meet at Anguk Station in Seoul near Insadong-gil, a famous street which houses a weekend market and dozens of art galleries. It is home to delicious street food, humorous bilingual demonstrations of how to make honey candy that looks like one of Lady Gaga’s wigs, over-priced oleh-oleh style trinkets and a shop that has the most adorable bags (the designer has a love of red-headed girls and Audrey Hepburn. I feel like we could be BFFs.)

Youk Shim Won

Youk Shim Won

looks like my little sister :)

looks like my little sister :

After a fun lunch at a bento joint, we got coffee and mapped out our plans for the rest of the day. Turns out, I really wanted to see Mychaela’s neighborhood and her school… and go to RotiBoy. As it turns out, her apartment is exponentially nicer than mine, and by that I mean it’s clean, has real flooring, and everything works. The one advantage I have is my oven, which I hope to use soon. We walked over to her school, passed a restaurant called “Dino Meat” and nearly got ran over by a motorcycle on the sidewalk. (Seriously, the roadway was free and clear. Why must you ride on the sidewalk made of track materials?) Her understanding when she signed her contract was that she would be teaching 2nd grade. Wrong! She’s teaching 5th and 6th grade. (I’m teaching 2nd grade, which translates to the 2nd grade in the middle school, which is actually 8th grade in the Western world. Flip!) Her apartment may be nicer than mine, but at least I’m teaching kids at an age I was expecting!

After a quick tour, we walked back towards the Daehwa metro stop. We searched for a while but couldn’t seem to find my beloved Malaysian bakery. I smelled it before I saw it. When we got there, we were told the best thing you could possibly be told. “It will be about 5 minutes before they are ready.” Yay! Delicious, buttery, hot-as-hell-but-I-can’t-stop-eating-it, coffee-glazed BUNS. I made a fan out of Mychaela. I got one to go for breakfast the next day, and I was so excited to test out my oven on it.

Silahkan, RrRRRRRoti Boy!

Silahkan, RrRRRRRoti Boy!

I hopped onto the Line 3 train headed south to go home. I was so glad that I got on at the end of the line, because just two stops closer to Seoul and the car was packed with chatty, iPhone wielding, Korean people/sardines. I was also really glad that I had my book. (Currently reading “Freakonomics” and finding it to be a really interesting read. Mom should read the chapter about information hoarders!)



Because tonight was awesome.

19 02 2011

because she's rad.

I love my sister. She better get her passport and come visit me! Bug her EVERY DAY until she does!

My Toes are Back in Business: Story of a last minute mountain climb

21 12 2010

It’s only 8 months later, and my last toe is back to normal, FINALLY, but I figured I’d share with you a story of an adventure of epic proportions. It’s about experiencing a religious holiday in a foreign country without any religious ties. This story isn’t exactly about Jesus and the resurrection. Easter weekend wasn’t exactly full of colored eggs and rabbits. But there were volcanoes, racial slurs and clownfish.

One town to the next was like night and day. It some cases, it actually was.

Literally the night before, Carrie and I decided that we were going to climb Lombok’s Gunung Rinjani. We ran to Royal, got flights, food and headlamps, and went back to school, packed, taught, then caught a plane. Now, those of you who know me will know that I’m determined, strong willed, and am always looking for something that challenges me, but I’m not exactly the kind that seeks out mountains to climb. This time, I did.

For her first time on a motorbike, she didn't do so bad!

We flew to Mataram and took a taxi up to Sengigi Beach. We decided to stay the night, rent motorbikes and then head up the coast and into the mountains to Senaru. Senaru is the closest base camp for hiking to the giant crater of Rinjani, which is still a very active volcano. So active, in fact, that the new dome that is building up inside the crater/lake spews lava. Sweet, huh?

Beautiful coastlines all around the island

View from Senaru, our basecamp

Well, we got to where we would leave from, crashed for the afternoon and left at about 11:30 PM. We would be climbing all night to get to the rim for sunrise. Read that again. We climbed a mountain. IN THE DARK. Surprisingly, I didn’t do too bad. I didn’t die, and I didn’t run out of water on the way up. That part was on the way down. We climbed through jungle and that was actually the easier part. When we started getting closer to the top, there was a lot of volcanic ash-dirt. Powdery, soft dirt that rolls right out from under your feet as you’re climbing and decending. I crashed a few times going up and even more on the way down. We made it to the top of the crater at about 7 AM.

I almost made it to the top for sunrise, maybe next time.

Trail down into the crater. No thank you, I can see the lava from here. I'm good.

As far as we could go. Now to go back down...

Back down the mountain

View from Gili Trawangan. View of Lombok's Gunung Rinjani, which we climbed the night before.

After hauling it back down the easiest part of the mountain, we were about 2 hours from the bottom when it started really raining. The trail started running out from under us and down the mountain. Tripping over roots and branches through the densest part of the forest made me switch into rock-hopper mode, and I basically hopped down the last few miles of jungle covered mountain. This is why my toes got destroyed. I wouldn’t know it until a few weeks later when 4 of my toenails fell off.

Yep. Fell off.

When we got back to Senaru, I took off the wet, stinky clothes, tried to take a shower, and discovered that there was no water to our cabin at that time. I was so tired, by that time I didn’t really care and slept. All afternoon and into the evening. We chatted and planned out our plan of attack on getting the motorbikes back to Senggigi and getting us through the chaos at Bangsal and out to Gili Air or Gili Meno. I despise few places, but this is definitely one of them. Lonely Planet refers to the harbor as a “gauntlet,” and though most of the book is wrong for the rest of the country, it was VERY, very right in that regard. After more much-needed sleep, our sore bodies rolled out of bed and stiffly loaded up the bikes.

Back down to the Coast

We made our way from Senaru, down from the highlands through the most beautiful farm land back to the coast, rode back to Senggigi, returned the bikes and found a ride to Bangsal. I hate that place. Instantly you’re surrounded by people trying to sell you a jank ticket, or telling you that you “can’t go to the island today, you must rent a hotel room and come back tomorrow, blah blah blah.” Once we got to the ticket booth, we tried to buy our tickets to one of the smaller Gilis. No luck. The boats had already gone for the day, but we could still go to Gili Trawangan, the party island. We were so sore that as soon as one of us mentioned massages and laying by the beach, we didn’t fight it. It was just 10,000 Rupiah, or about $1.00, so we just went with it. Found a place, showered, and went out in search of a massage. Our room was hot and kind of creepy. There were strange cat paintings and the largest Cicak I’ve EVER seen. It was more like a Komodo Dragon than a gecko.

Why the cat paintings? Indos don't even have cats like that! I guess we'll never know?

Massages, good food and plenty of beach time and snorkeling just couldn’t go off without a slight hitch though. There was one guy who constantly harassed us as we walked around the island. Racial slurs, sexist comments and other just really vulgar things that constantly spewed from this guy’s mouth really got on our nerves, and we ended up speaking with a couple of the hotel managers who gave the guy a citation. Didn’t really help the situation much though. The Gili Islands don’t have police on them, so it’s up to local citizens and business leaders to maintain order in a place where every bar sells “Magic Mushrooms,” guaranteeing a trip to the moon and back.

Transport? Transport? Transport? Transport? No thank you.

“No transport needed?” Well THANK GOD, because all the guys who are chanting it every 5 feet are getting annoying.

Just kidding.

As I promised…

27 11 2010

Recently I tinkered with a few recipes until they were PERFECT. Some cookie recipes are dry, others puff up too much, some burn easily, some are just too specific for a cookie that just isn’t worth the effort (ex: butter that is half melted then whipped, let cool in the refridgerator for 2 hours blah blah blah). Well, I’ve figured it out. Easy.

Dani's newly famous cookies

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups flour, slightly heaping
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • White/milk/dark/peanut butter chips/M&Ms/toffee bits to your heart’s content.

Set out the butter while you’re getting everything out so it has some time to soften. I put my butter/sugar bowl in the sink with hot water to speed up the process while I mix the dry ingredients.

Mix the flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder completely.

Once the butter is on the softer side, cream it together with the sugar. It takes some muscle to make it fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat it together. Slowly mix in the dry powder ingredients.

Now the fun part! My family all love different things in their cookies. Sharon’s son Jared inspired the Heath bar toffee, and those are my favorite. I (ballpark) split this recipe into 4 parts so that everybody gets what they want. (I’m nice like that.)

Each part gets about 2/3 to 3/4 cup to “oh we’ll just finish off the bag” of the chips/goodies. Mix them in to your liking.

Bake on an UNGREASED cookie sheet at 350° for 9 minutes. They’ll look undercooked, but that’s the best part. Let them sit for about 2 minutes before moving them off the sheet to cool, if you can wait that long.

Enjoy! Please let me know what you put in and how you liked them!

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