Buddha´s Birthday in Busan 부산


We´ve had a long haul with no days off….we had one at the end of February, but during March and April, there was not one day off. Finally, this last weekend, we got a 3 day weekend and I took the opportunity to go to Busan which I´ve been wanting to do since I arrived.

Busan is one of the biggest cities in Korea and is located right on the bottom tip, a skip and a jump from Japan. Busan has a thriving fishing industry and a handful of white sandy beaches creating a more relaxing, laid back vibe compared with bustling, frenetic Seoul.

We left Friday morning and took a five hour train ride from Suwon station. When we arrived, we took a cab to Gwangalli beach where our motel was located. We sprung for an ¨ocean view¨, and it was worth the few extra won.

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After settling in, Chris and I took a long stroll down the beach at twilight and met up with Rachel who was staying in Haundae in a hostel. We had a great time walking along the waterfront, the city lights sparkling on the water. Couples holding hands interspersed with teenagers lighting off fireworks on the beach made for a fun, light hearted if not romantic mood. We wandered into a mini Theme Park and squealed like 10 year olds (or…wait, maybe just me) on the Pirate Ship.

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After a tasty feast of marinated galbi, and of course, beer and soju, we meandered into a bar for over priced cocktails just in time to witness a marriage proposal right behind the bar. Oh, how romantic!

A few drinks in, we stumbled to the beach to light off fireworks….responsibly, of course. More squealing, stumbling, and some explosions later, we decided to call it a night.

Saturday morning Rachel and I headed to Yonggungsa Temple (용궁사) which was worth the long, sweaty and crowded 45 minute bus ride. Located right on the ocean, with the waves crashing onto the rocks, sits this gorgeous Buddhist Temple which was adorned in colored lanterns to celebrate Buddha´s Birthday. Although packed with tourists, it was a great experience. The colored lanterns were stunning.

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After the Temple visit, we found our way back to Haundae beach, which is the larger of the two beaches and better for swimming. Although we didn´t get the heat or sunlight we were hoping for, relaxing on the beach was very sastisfying and I did my best to breath in the ocean air as much as possible before returning to dusty, smoggy Seoul.

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We ended our trip with dinner out at a nice Italian place and some drinks at a bar on the beach.

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I was sad to leave Busan but happy to have gotten the chance to visit and I had a great time. It was nice to see a different side of Korea, especially a slightly less hectic and crowded city.

Now to buckle down and prep for open class at the end of the month….yikes.

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Dak Galbi (Spicy Chicken Galbi)


One of my favorite Korean dishes to date, and there are a lot, is dak galbi (닭갈비), or  spicy chicken galbi. Galbi essentially just means ¨cooked on the grill¨. Most beef galbi is just marinated strips of meat grilled and dipped in gochujang. Dak Galbi, however, comes with veggies, rice cakes (tteokbokki), and a tasty sauce.

If you wanted to make this at home, you might have a little bit of a hard time finding rice cakes and gochujang, but everything else is pretty easy to find. I took this fantastic recipe: http://www.beyondkimchee.com/dak-galbi/  and changed a few things to suit my tastes.

You are going to want to cook this in a big, heavy pot. Something that can take higher heat. I was fortunate enough to be left this cool, stone rice-cooking pot which works perfect, butI thick a sturdy skillet or cast iron skillet would be fine.

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Ingredients

1 lb (450g) boneless, skinless chicken thigh, diced
1/2 lb (250g) Korean rice cake sticks
1/4-1/2 cabbage, diced
8-10 perilla leaves, sliced
1/2 large onion, sliced
1 medium sweet potato, sliced into 1/4″ thick wedges
2 tablespoon grape seed or canola oil
2-4 tablespoon water
more perilla leaves and toasted sesame seeds to garnish

Sauce:

3 tablespoon Korean chili paste
2 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoon Korean chili flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ginger powder
2 tablespoon rice wine (or just white white!)
3 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
dashes of pepper

Instructions:

  1. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Toss the chicken pieces with 1/2 the sauce and mix. Set aside.
  2. Soak rice cakes in hot water until ready to use and drain.
  3. Drizzle oil in a cast iron skillet, spread the chicken and top with vegetables (only 1/2 the amount of perilla leaves) and rice cakes.Make sure to put the sweet potatoes and carrots closer to the bottom so that they cook faster. Drizzle the remaining sauce over and bring the skillet over med-high heat.
  4. When you hear the loud sizzling noise from the skillet, toss to coat everything with the sauce. Continue to cook for about 2 minutes. Add the water to create steam to cook and reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook, about 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. When chickens are cooked through and potatoes are tender, add the rest of the perilla leaves and heat through. Everything should be slightly browned at this stage.Toss gently so that you don’t break the potatoes.
  6. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and garnish with more perilla leaves. Serve hot.

A few quick words of advice: Eat all the rice cakes while they are HOT. They do not stay soft when they get cold. They get hard and chewy and terrible. Also, cut your sweet potatoes in thin strips or circles so that they can cook all the way through.

The mix of sweet potatoes, soft cabbage, and tangy, spicy chicken is a perfect flavor combination and a complete meal in one dish.

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This week was Tommy´s Birthday. He is so cute it hurts me a little.

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5 Little Monkeys


I thought a quick update was due as there have been a few events in the last month of so.

First, I got a new student named Andrew. My five little monkeys have now become six. Andrew seems sweet. Quiet and shy, but nice and a good worker. His energy is much lower than the others, but I´m happy he is a sweet boy and following along with the group. He is absolutely IN LOVE with Lucia.

I had my first Open Class rehearsal last week. It was fine, albeit stressful, like most things that would appear to be fun end up being a huge production at work. For those of you who are not familiar, Open Class is essentially a class that the parents watch. But, since everything has to be perfect and error free, we have to rehearse this particular class, like a performance. Particular games are chosen and the kids have to do a lot more repeating than usual. It is a lot for us teachers to remember. We are also not allowed to tell the children why we are rehearsing, which is very confusing for them. The whole thing is totally insane.

But hey, just got to get it over with and try and do a good job and then there are no more highly stressful events until my contract ends.

We did have a field trip last Friday which was a lot of fun. We went to this park/outdoor garden with a museum. There were hundreds of other kindergarten students there as well, all dressed in their matching uniforms and backpacks. I had a great time spending some one on one time with my kids and felt overwhelmed by the affection and love they showed me. At lunchtime, many of the children brought lunches for me to eat, which included beautiful homemade kimbap. The kids like to feed it me me and giggle, ¨Teacher, eat!¨ Apparently it is a sign of respect for the oldest person to eat first. They all wanted me to eat the lunches they bought.

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The only real sad part of the trip was that the kids were never really allowed to play. They did a lot of walking in herded lines, stopping and starting. The kids were antsy—there was no big field to run in, and they did NOT let them play on the jungle gym! Totally nuts. Still, it was a lot of fun and definitely some bonding time for the kids and I.

(Beautiful homemade kimbap/inari fromm Tommy´s mom)

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We also have a song contest this Friday….none of us are ready. Crossing my fingers on that one.

The weather has been gorgeous. Mid to upper 60s and sunny. It´s been painful being indoors but I plan on spending the whole weekend doing outdoor activities if possible.

In yoga class, the instructor, who I love, is this cool 40-year-old woman who is fit and amazing looking. She likes to push me to do more, and also like to hit my stomach and yell ¨panja!¨ which means suck in. One time, she told me I looked skinnier—-what´s not to like?

Otherwise, I´m just starting to dig into applying for grad school and also planning my summer vacation to Tokyo, followed by S.E. Asia in September for 3 weeks. Starting in June my life will start to get quite a bit busier as I prepare to make the transition from being a full-time Kindergarten teacher into being a backpacker and then starting my new life back home. Hard to believe I only have about 4 months left in my contract!