Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Home, sweet home . . . away from home

This child of the corn has returned to Seoul after a week's worth of Midwestern hospitality, fatty American food, open roads, and lots of love from family and friends. I'll write later about my impressions of home, ten months removed, but for now I'm happy to report my return to Korea and KBS. My two homes couldn't be more different, but I love them both! Take a look at the dichotomy and tell me if you'd be culture shocked!

My home in rural Illinois

My apartment complex in Gwangmyeong City (near Seoul)

A highway near my home in Illinois

A busy Seoul street (Namdaemun)

Dinner with my Mom, sister-in-law Yoko, and brother Josh in Illinois

Korean BBQ in central Seoul with Yoko, Josh, and friend Jessica

Friday, July 18, 2008

Feeling special

I depart Seoul Friday evening for a quick trip back to the American heartland. During what's sure to be a whirlwind week, I'll meet with family and friends at the annual Rhodes summer party, stand up as a bridesmaid in a good friend's wedding, and celebrate my 26th birthday. I've been humbled in the last week by the folks in Seoul who have gone out of their way to acknowledge my upcoming birthday before my departure. Especially on the lonely days of expat life when I feel like those who love and care about me the most are a world away, the efforts and affection from my friends here in Korea are appreciated tenfold. Thanks, guys!

Matt and Hoon surprised me with a cake last weekend, along with a very special birthday card. Sorry I don't have a picture of us, Matt!

Birthday lunch with Sophia, Mr. Chae, and KBS World Radio star Sue Park

My Arabic service colleague, Yossry, surprised me Thursday afternoon with this beautiful (and delicious) birthday cake. Thank you, Yossry!

I'm tremendously anxious to reunite with my friends and family in Illinois, but it's very heartwarming to know that when I return to Seoul, I'll be among even more good friends . . . and a year older!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Koreans have some good knees. I'm always amazed at how easily--and frequently--Koreans choose a squat for leisurely rest. It seems they can hold the position for indefinite periods of time, too. If I squat for more than two minutes, the look on my face is far from the content, relaxed demeanor of the nimble Koreans around me. And as you'll see in the photos, age appears to have no bearing on squatting ability or endurance. I'm truly in awe.

Squatting in Gangneung, Gangwondo

Squatting on the sidelines of a protest in Yeouido, Seoul

Squat while you work in Gangneung, Gangwondo

Squatting at Seoraksan National Park

Squatting on a mountain

Friday, July 11, 2008

UI journies in Seoul

My school spirit was in high swing yesterday when I received a visit from another fellow Illini. Jenny Lee, a Korea native and senior at the University of Illinois, came to KBS Thursday to check out the life and times of a KBS World Radio staffer. Jenny is going through the same program I completed at U of I and was connected to me through one of our professors.

Jenny spent the afternoon with me at work and then took KBS editor/anchor Luke and me out for Korean barbecue.

Luke and I wowed Jenny with our voracious American appetites! Jenny and I wowed Luke with our Midwestern loquaciousness . . . "You Illinois girls can talk!"

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Discovering Korea with Matt Kelley!

Last weekend I tagged along with intrepid Discovering Korea discoverer/writer/host, Matt Kelley, for an east coast excursion. We headed to the northeastern province of Gangwon where we enjoyed magnificent views and some steep climbs at Korea's most famous mountain, Seoraksan, and hot-n-sunny weather on Sokcho and Gyeongpo beaches. Although Korea's in the midst of monsoon season, the weather was perfect for our outdoorsy activities. Temperatures were on the brutal side of hot, but we found respite in mountain streams and cool ocean waters. Matt will bring you all the details in an upcoming edition of Discovering Korea.

Matt and Abby at Gwongeumseong Fortress, Seoraksan National Park

Gwongeumseong Fortress, Seoraksan Natoinal Park
Seoraksan National Park

Biseondae's cool waters and granite platform offer a refreshing and relaxing break from mountain trekking

Hoon and Abby cooling off in the waters of Biseondae

Half-way up a strenuous climb to Geumgang cave. Hoon's face is priceless.

View down from Geumgang cave, Seoraksan National Park

Sinheungsa Buddhist temple, Seoraksan National Park

Korean temples are known for the bright, intricate painting under the eaves

For about $10 you can sign a tile that will be used for temple roofs

Sokcho Beach, Sokcho

Yummy seafood BBQ in Seorak

Sunrise seen from Naksan Temple, Yangyang

"Sky is the Limit" observatory in Yangyang

Abby and Matt on the "Sky is the Limit" observatory in Yangyang

Barbed wire lines much of the east coast, protecting South Korea from North Korean spies

Gyeongpo Beach from our speedy boat ride (forgive the poor photo quality!)

After our exhilarating boat ride along Gyeongpo Beach

Delicious dakgalbi (spicy chicken, veggies, and rice cake) in Gangneung. Our aprons said, "Country Cats". In my case, it's not far from the truth.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ah, this is jangma

I was starting to think jangma (장 마), the monsoon season, was a national illusion. During this alleged deluge, Korea is said to receive fifty percent of its annual rainfall in a span of 30-40 days. Although I'd been warned weeks ago that Seoul would be gray and soggy for several weeks straight, the onset of official jangma saw bright, sunny skies, pleasantly warm temperatures, and not a raindrop in sight. The sun worshiper in me was bracing for Seasonal Affective Disorder, which I've self-diagnosed, and was administering mental pep talks to encourage cheeriness despite the weather. I staged umbrellas at home, at the office, and inside my handbag so as not to be caught off-guard by Mother Nature. Still, a week or so into jangma, no rain. Just when I thought I was experiencing a fortuitous anomaly--a Korea summer with no jangma--the skies opened up and my beloved sun tucked behind the clouds for two straight days. Yet, as I write this, the sun is making a ephemeral appearance between bouts of the wet stuff. My Arabic service counterpart, Yossry, and I can only surmise that it's Mother Nature's way of pleasing both of us. He loves rain and I wish it would just go away!

Umbrellas line the hallways of KBS

A marvelous invention, if you ask me. Plastic bags for your rain-soaked umbrellas.

KBS welcomes another upbeat American!

KBS World Radio added a new voice (and copy editor) to its service this week. Luke Micono, a Colorado native and South Korean resident for 2.5 years, has joined our team as an English service editor and anchor. Most recently, Luke worked in Incheon (famous for Incheon International Airport) as an English language instructor. He's a University of Northern Colorado alum with a double-major degree in journalism and political science. I'm looking forward to having discussions about both disciplines as we ride the city bus to and from KBS! Welcome aboard, Luke!