Tag Archives: Korea

Things I’ve Collected in my Travels- SOL#26

As a traveler, I collect lots of things. Most of these are memories, stories, new friends, and photographs. But I also collect art. Whenever I visit somewhere new, I’m on the hunt for something that calls out to me, begging me to bring it home and be a constant reminder of my time in that special place. Here are some of my favorite pieces that I’ve collected over the past few years.

Walking barefoot through the temples of Bagan, Myanmar, I came across this unique piece of art, a sand painting of monks. Instantly I was drawn to the texture and uniqueness of the piece, and the monks were definitely a part of the Myanmar culture that I would remember long after I returned home.

I found this gem in Seoul, South Korea, as I sifted through some antiques in a little shop in Insadong. Initially looking for an antique Buddha or teapot, the shop owner showed me this 100-year-old writer’s notebook. While I can’t read a word in it, it’s such a treasure to have a piece of someone’s writing.

This picture captures a few pieces. The umbrella lamp was a recent purchase from my second trip to Myanmar. I was drawn to the brightly-colored umbrellas on display in the little shop in town. Shaggers and I stopped in for a look, but kept moving. Later that night, we saw the shop again, only this time, the umbrellas were lit up, casting a lovely glow. I wanted one! But again, I resisted. I didn’t need more stuff, I told myself. At dinner, Shaggers said I should just go get it; that I would regret it if I didn’t. She was right. I dashed down the street and picked it up, happy I did.

After living in Shanghai for two years, I realized I didn’t have any art from China yet. Jody, a friend of mine from back home, was visiting. As we walked around Tianzifang, we came across an art gallery. The artist was there, and he talked with us about his artwork and his techniques. The paper-cut doll was so beautiful, I had to take it. I love that I have a contemporary piece of traditional Chinese artwork.

Last summer, Melissa M. and I traveled to Greece, a beautiful place that I can’t wait to return to, and while we were there, we took a trip to Santorini. If you haven’t yet been, I highly recommend it. Its picturesque views, traditional blue and white domes, and unbelievable natural beauty make it so memorable. As we meandered through the tight pathways cut into the side of the mountainous island, we happened into a shop with paintings of Santorini. This one, with the vibrant colors and the peaceful view, called my name. I love remembering our special time every time I see it on the wall.

Also last summer, I visited Rome. I was on my way to Greece from London, and I was blessed with an 18-hour stopover in Rome. Making the most of it, I spent the day roaming around the city. Walking along the river at dusk, I came across a man selling his water color paintings of everyday Roman life. This one, of a doorway, caught my eye. I’m not sure what I loved about it, but it made me happy, so I supported this local artist and bought it up right away!

My trip to Egypt was one of the most amazing trips I have ever taken. As you can imagine, we saw loads of hieroglyphics while we were there. I loved the ancient artwork, and took countless photos of walls full of stories told through pictures. What I was most drawn to, though, were the ankhs, or keys of life. There was just something about them that displayed beauty and symmetry and life. While in Abu Simbel, we visited a shop that sold handmade pieces made of stone. I didn’t have any intention of purchasing anything, but when I laid eyes on this ankh, I knew I had to add it to my collection. Not only was it an ankh, but it was handmade and it was a beautiful color. I absolutely love it!

These last two pieces are also from Myanmar. While I generally stick to purchasing one piece per country, I simply couldn’t resist picking up more than that in Myanmar! The watercolor painting of sunset at U Bein Bridge was a gem I found on my most recent trip to Myanmar. Shaggers and I headed out on the back of some motorbikes from Mandalay to the bridge to catch the sunset. Missing it by a few minutes, we decided that we’d walk the length of it anyway, since we were already there. On our way across the bridge, we passed by a shop selling paintings. My eyes were instantly drawn to this piece, and while I stopped to gaze at it for a bit, I moved on. Reaching the end, the sun had completely set, and we turned around to head back. Mentioning to Shaggers that I should have bought that picture, she said we should stop by on our way. Noticing that most of the shops we had passed earlier were already closed up, I thought my window of opportunity had closed. Nearing the end of the bridge, we found them putting everything away, ready to head home for the day. Luckily they let me look through the paintings until I found the one I had wanted. Now it is mine! Once I frame it, I’ll display it in my home.

The other piece, the wooden carving of a long neck lady, was picked up on my first trip to Myanmar in Inle Lake. Stopping into a shop on the lake, I was taken aback by the native people who adorn themselves with gold plates around their neck, stretching them more and more each year. They were simply beautiful. As I walked around, this carving stood out out to me, and I loved the profile.

I love that I am brought back back to my travels as I look around my apartment at the beautiful pieces I have (and will continue to) collected over the years. When I’m old and grey, I will be able to share my stories with others and recall these wonderful memories.

The World Through My Eyes… SOL#25

IMG_0555The World Through My Eyes…

The United States is family, friends, good food, and home.

England is not sure the first time, but oh so much better the second.

Germany is meeting people in awkward places and my first taste of independence.

Fiji is adventure and pristine, so-beautiful-you-think-they’re-photoshopped beaches.

Australia is where my heart is happiest, oh and hot accents that make me weak in the knees.

China is weird smells, craziness, ‘The Bridge,’ and my second home.

Hong Kong is civilized China and home to my favorites Shaggers and Jeezy.

The Philippines is beautiful people and juicy mangoes.

Malaysia is lime juice and getting lost.

Vietnam is “beep! beep!” and night markets.

South Korea is my favorite salad, used bookstore love, and meeting my SOL friend.

Macau is long immigration lines, casinos, and Portuguese architecture.

Cambodia is explorations, biting fish, and begging children.

Thailand is tuk tuks, sketchy trains, and golden roofs.

Japan is confusion and sushi and where did my friends go?

Egypt is camel-exchange proposals, koshari, and the call to prayer.

Nepal is roaming cows, do-anything-to-help-you people, rice fields, and peace.

Italy is the kindness of strangers, gelato, and cobblestone streets.

Greece is baklava and feta, blue and white domes, and restful relaxation.

Scotland is rain and beautiful buildings and more rain.

Ireland is old castles, lush green, and Dirty Dancing.

Myanmar is long boats, temples, daily tea leaf salads, and love.

IMG_3889

The Importance of Place Value- SOL

We had received a warning prior to coming to Seoul to avoid taxis whenever possible because they were really expensive. With that in mind, we’d resolved to getting around on foot or by bus or metro. After walking all day, we were tired and cold and just wanted to get back to our hotel. Once we finished dinner, we decided that just this once we’d take a cab. Linnea rode in the front so she could give directions, and I rode in back. We arrived at our destination in about ten minutes.

“How much is it?” I asked. No response. Linnea didn’t seem to hear me, so I craned my neck to look at the meter. I saw a 37, but couldn’t see the rest. Since most of what we’ve bought was in the thousands, I assumed it was 37,000 Won. Quickly converting the amount into USD, I realized that our ten minute cab ride had cost us about 34 dollars!
Handing Linnea 20,000 Won, my share of the fare, I said, “Wow, that was SO expensive! Way more than I had expected!”
“I know. The meter started really high.”
“How much was it when we got in?” I questioned.
“I’ll tell you later,” she replied, which I took as a cue to be quiet about it since she didn’t want to talk about it while we were in the cab. After exiting the taxi, I asked again about where the meter started. “It started at 2,400,” Linnea told me.
“How the heck did it reach 37,000?!?”
“Jennifer, it was 3,700. That’s a little expensive, but not that bad.” “Really? But I paid 20,000. Where’s the change?”
“Oh no, we only got a few coins back. I only paid 2,000. I’m sorry. I just assumed you’d given me 2,000. I didn’t check it; I just handed it over. I felt like he was rushing me to get out,” Linnea said with a sympathetic look.
“Of course he was rushing us out. He just got the biggest tip ever!” “The money here all looks the same. I’m sorry.”
“Its fine. It’s not your fault,” I grumble, “I should have been more careful. I couldn’t see the zeroes and just assumed it was thousands. Next time, we’re going to take our time and make sure we give the right amount.”

In the grand scheme of things, paying an extra 20 dollars isn’t that big of a deal, but at the time, it’s a real bummer! 

One More Week!- SOL

One week from today I’ll be boarding a plane bound for Seoul! Linner and I are heading to Seoul for Spring Break, and I couldn’t be more excited! She and I traveled to Malaysia last year on Spring Break, and she’s an awesome travel buddy and friend, so I’m looking forward to the fun and craziness that is bound to happen in Korea. The above photo was taken last Spring Break, and you can bet we’ll have lots more pictures from this trip. Here’s a list of things we are planning on doing:

*Touring Mt. Namsan
*Taking photos from the Seoul Tower
*Shopping and sightseeing on Insa-dong Street
*Taking a walking tour of lots of palaces…I love the architecture! *Visiting the National Museum of Korea and the National Museum of Contemporary Art
*Visiting Bugaksan Seonggwak-gil, a fortress with a great view of Seoul
*A Korean dance show
*Tasting some Korean street food, namely Hotteok
*Shopping…I want to bring back a little piece of Korean art *Nightlife! 🙂
*Visiting the 38th Parallel
*Eating at Outback Steakhouse…I am craving a Bloomin’ Onion! And yes, I do realize that this is pretty lame to travel to Korea to eat at an American chain restaurant, but since I’m living in Shanghai where I don’t have Outback, it’s allowed.

Any other suggestions for sites/must-do’s in Seoul are very welcome! 

Special Visits in Seoul- SOL

Each time I visit a new country, I’m excited to explore my new surroundings and go on various adventures, but usually I venture out alone or with my travel companion. It’s rare to visit a new place and see some familiar faces. Last week, when I vacationed in Seoul for Spring Break, I was fortunate enough to meet up with some very special people. Two of my former students, who I taught last year at RBIS in Shanghai, recently moved back to South Korea. They heard that I would be coming to Seoul, and emailed me right away with an invitation to see them while I was in town. The second special visit was someone I’d only met online, through the SOLSC this past month. Jee Young wrote a list slice with her bucket list of things she’d like to do before she leaves Korea, and I commented that I would be visiting Seoul soon. Through a series of comments and emails, we were able to connect and eventually meet in real life!

On Wednesday, I met up with Jong Hun and Ji-Won, my students, along with Jong Hun’s brother and mom. They were so excited to be skipping school to hang out with their old teacher! After taking the hour-long bus ride out to their hometown, they took us to a Korean Folk Village, which reminded me of Mount Vernon, only the Korean version. The village was full of old Korean homes and farms, complete with traditional Korean games and performances. I had a blast learning about such a unique culture! My favorite part was the dance/percussion performance. We stopped off at a Korean restaurant for Bi Bim Bop before heading off to Everland, a local amusement park. Everland reminded me of Six Flags Astroworld, an amusement park I used to go to as a young girl.

On Thursday, Jee Young invited us to go see The Hunger Games with her and a group of her friends. I couldn’t have been more excited! For one, I was able to meet Jee Young, and for two, I was able to see the movie on the big screen! I’m a HUGE Hunger Games fan, and since I live in China where we only get about 10 foreign films a year, I was disappointed that I would have to watch it on DVD at my house for the first time. A movie like that deserves to be seen on the big

screen! I absolutely loved the movie, and I can’t wait for the next one! I really enjoyed meeting Jee Young and her friends; they were all so welcoming and kind.

On Friday, our last full day in Seoul, Jee Young showed us around the Myeong Dong area, a winding maze of shopping and street food. If I lived in Seoul, I would develop a serious shopping addiction! As we walked from store to store, I was amazed by the variety of options available; a girl could really get used to this! Jee Young introduced us to Hotteok, a pancake filled with brown sugar and cinnamon (I think), and it was really good. After our shopping adventures, she took us to the elevator that would take us to the Seoul Tower, where we would later experience phenomenal views of the city at night.

Thanks Jee Young for your hospitality and generosity! If you’re ever in Shanghai, I’ll show you around! 🙂