Birthday Notebook
For my birthday this year, Janelle gave me this darling little notebook that is as sturdy as a Moleskine, but as pretty as a party dress.

Birthday Notebook

It is perfectly functional with its secret back cover pocket for storing snapshots & business cards, the elastic closure with that delicious “snap!”, and the reporter style, extra-long shape reminiscent of the grocery list pads my grandmother always kept in her kitchen. While I typically do not like my pages lined, this one is divine for making shopping lists, to do lists and where I spent my money lists. I like lists. I am really good at making them, so this notebook just gives me plenty of extra practice.

Radiant Floor Heating
This is how Korea is heated. Through the floor. When you get out of bed in the morning, the floor is warmer than your toes. When you have cramps, you can lay on the floor on a blanket and suddenly you are laying on a giant hot water bottle.

Radiant Floor Heating

All I have to say is this: New England, get with the program. Korea is way older than you and is totally hooked up. There is absolutely no reason I had to suffer through the better part of my 35 years. This shit has been in place since before I was born. What is the hold up?

Kim
Kim is the nori of Korean food. Only better. Because this seaweed is seasoned with sesame oil, a tiny bit of salt, cut into pieces the size of an iPod and put into handy little on-the-go packs. It is sprinkled on top of many dishes, but I like it best when served with warm rice and pickled radish to make tiny little rice-seaweed-radish tacos. Which they are not. They are not tacos. But humor me. This is as close as I’ll get to a taco for a long time.

Kim

I have long been obsessed with kim since my dear friend Mary would come visit me in Massachusetts from Queens with a trunkload of the stuff, packed by her mother, with a cooler full of banchan and kimchi. Not because you can’t get Korean food in Massachusetts, but because if Koreans could travel with a small kitchen they would.

2,900 Won Umbrella
That’s Korean for $3.00 Umbrella. It is big. Really big. Like Poke-People-in-the-Eye Big. And it’s green. My favorite green of the moment, in fact.

March

Being the kind of gal who is never prepared for a rainstorm — whose umbrella is in her car when she is in the house, whose 2nd umbrella is in the house when she’s in the car — it is so efficient to have one small apartment and one giant green umbrella. I know it’s just an umbrella, not the Second Coming of Christ or an X-Box or anything, but to me it is the confirmation that I am once again a pedestrian in a walking city and that I never, ever drive anywhere. And to me, that is a glorious thing.

Skype
Heaven Sent. Sent Straight from Heaven Above. This is the Second Coming. Skype is totally not an umbrella.

Skype

I have been chatting on Skype with long-distance, overseas friends for a good long while now but did not have a full appreciation for this amazing service until I became that overseas friend. Just the very idea that for $35 a year I have a Boston-area phone number which friends can call and talk to me in Korea is enough for me to offer up my first-born child to Skype if they want it. That I can call a friend’s cell phone in Seoul or business contacts in Boston, all from my computer, astounds me. And if that’s not enough, the outgoing calling rates are so inexpensive that nearly 3 hours of various business calls to the States have totalled $1.72

Top that, Sprint.

“Slip Into Your Skin” by Patrick Watson
Montreal’s Patrick Watson slaaaays me and this track off his stunning Close to Paradise is no exception. It has been my personal soundtrack since settling into my tiny Seoul apartment, making my heart swell with each breath of his plaintive vocals and lyrical piano.

Patrick Watson

I cannot say much more than this song already says on its own:
Be a blanket for my bones
Be a place that I call home
Slipped into your skin and spent the night

There. That’s all there is to say.

Mornings at Tom n Tom’s
Seoul is littered with Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s and over-crowded Starbucks, but there is not one for miles from my apartment. I spent the first three weeks in Korea wishing I had a nice place to go in the mornings to sit and simply breathe in the activity around me.

Mornings at Tom's

Two weeks ago, I finally found it. My neighborhood branch of this Korean coffee chain is complete with tall windows, comfortable soft chairs, a large collection of Asian fashion magazines, a decent latte and something no Starbucks ever has: warm pretzels. It is my new favorite spot to sit and write letters over a cup of tea & the murmur of Korean conversation.

Sunjeonggwa

Sunjeonggwa

At the end of a meal in many Korean restaurants, they will offer you coffee or Sunjeonggwa. Since I don’t understand how people can caffeinate after 10 am and still sleep, I choose the latter. And I choose well because this sweet cinnamon ginger punch made with persimmon juice is an exceptional digestive and the perfect refreshing end to a spicy, hearty meal.

The 38th Parallel
Having spent the better part of my years on the colder 42nd Parallel of the Earth’s latitudes, and several years hovering at various locations around and about the much warmer 30th Parallel, it is nice to be somewhere in the middle.

38th Parallel

Don’t ask me again come July when the humidity of the monsoon season will have my hair in a disastrous condition. But for now, when the cherry blossoms and magnolias are on the verge of blooming in Seoul and Boston is still a frozen shell of the city it once was, I am happy with being 4º south.

My Mega Class
Students not pictured for obvious reasons, this class is my absolute favorite. Young enough to still be adorably cute, without zits or uncomfortable half-staches, but bright enough and a strong enough command of English to be at this higher level reading class. It is actually a pleasant experience to teach this class.

Mega Class

Plus, they all bring me chocolates.

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