Brief Snack Update

17 Jul

I just got back from a short weekend in Seoul and am exhausted (it’s 3am) but felt this couldn’t wait……

Whilst waiting for my bus back to Pohang I found myself oogling the tasty delights found in the food court in the basement of Shinsagae Department Store (not even an hour after enjoying a Japanese/Thai/Italian feast).I happened to follow my nose to this creperie where my eyes gazed upon what has to be the most redonkulous crepes of all time.

Chocolate ice cream, banana, whip, chocolate drizzle and a slice of tiramisu

Strawberry ice cream, strawberries, whip, strawberry drizzle and cheesecake

Long story short, if I lived in Seoul the only position of employment waiting for me when I got back to Toronto would be as a body double for Jabba the Hut (I heard it pays well actually….)

xoxo

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Shauna Teacher Gets Schooled: Summer Inferno Edition

14 Jul

So it’s been about 3 months since I’ve started my all-Korean tennis lessons and I’m still at it *pats self on back*. Korean summers are notoriously humid, and according to my boss today was one of the hottest days yet this summer (it looks like it was about 30 °C with about 80% humidity,which to be fair is not is not unheard of back home) In order to compensate for the inferno in which I would be practicing, I showed up in this:

In lieu of an actual photo of me in my tennis gear I felt this would suffice as she is clearly a fair representation of both my physique and talent

However, my Korean classmates, many of whom are at least 15-20 years my senior and far more skilled, showed but in an outfit looking something like this (I really wanted to take a picture of my class and post it here, but whenever I take candid pictures of people I feel obnoxious and so was too shy to do so):

Fine they don’t show up in a du rag, but they honestly have this du rag-like contraption that velcros onto their cap that I couldn’t find a picture of, so the sporty du rag had to suffice.  

One would think that my choice is clearly the more comfortable attire for playing tennis in a heart only found in 5-alarm fires, but alas this is how I looked by the end of class…….

Me at the end of class (no I did not transform into a man-note the sweat drenched clothing, not the discrepancy in gender)

……while my Korean counterparts looked dry and invigorated. Really really, one man actually pointed it out and started to make fun of me (harumph!).  The only logical conclusion that can be drawn here is that Koreans are magical. Or at least their sweat glands are (or that I have a glandular disorder…).

xoxo

Recipe for Disaster: Bulgogi 불고기

11 Jul

I love food. And though this is a claim made by many, my devotion to food is simply on a different plane – I get food, I connect with it. But I have been a neglectful partner in this relationship, as unless unwrapping a burger counts, I can’t cook. I would speculate that my lack of this basic living skill is due in part to my addicton to eating out and to the fact that I am completely domestically disabled (also known in medical circles as laziness). It’s not that I am a bad cook, I just simply do not understand the first thing about cooking.(like that sharpe metal thingy…knife…. is that pronounced with a hard k or what??)  And so I’ve come to admit that I can no longer claim to be a true foodie if I continue avoid the scary fire machine like the black plague. Fine I’ve  embelished a little, I know it’s called a stove, but the most I can do with said appliance is boil an egg.

When I came to Korea I swore on all that is good and tasty that I would make it my mission to learn how to cook. I even stomped over to the book store to purchase a Korean cook book written in English:

Not surprisingly, the only role the book has fulfilled during the four months following it’s purchase  is that of a dust trap. And so as a last attempt to motivate myself to become aquatinted with the kitchen, I’ve decided to start a new weekly installment aptly entitled Recipe for Disaster. And as you may have noticed I’ve also added it as a new page to the blog. My hope here is to empower as many fellow kitchen cretins as possible. I guarantee that if I can execute a recipe, then anyone can(really really).

For my first go I decided to make with what an adult student claimed to be the easiest to make, and happens to be one of Korea’s most popular dishes,  Bulgogi 불고기. The name is Korean for fire meat, which is because it is commonly grilled over an open flame. Unfortunately, due to lack of hardware, I had to opt for the likely less yummy method of making it in a pan.

So here we go(please excuse the crappy photoshoping that is being used as a diversion for the crappy photography).

WHAT YOU NEED

(For those shopping in Korea I’ve included some ingredient names in Hangul)

1 lb (450 g) beef (though you can use lean, because you will need to slice it so thin, fat and lean streaked is suggested. If you are purchasing this in Korea, ask one of the women in the meat section for Bulgogi beef and they will direct you to the right cut. If not, you can apparently ask the butcher to prepare it for you this way)

2-3 Tbsp soy sauce (Jinganjang, 진간장)

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp seasame oil (Chamgireum, 참기름)

1 Tbsp seasame salt  (Kkaesogeum, 깨소금)

A dash of black pepper

4 coarsley chopped green onions, both white and green parts

1 coarsely chopped onion (this wasn’t in the book, but the bulgogi I’ve eaten has had onions in it  so..)

3 minced cloves of garlic

1 Tsp of minced fresh ginger (Saenggang, 생강. Should you peel it?-yes)

2 Tbsp of water or rice wine (I used water as it was more convenient, but rice wine is recommended. Rice wine: Cheongju, 청주)

Optional: 1 Fuji apple, peeled, chopped and then blended in a processor (I didn’t use it for this go around, but have had it suggested to me since, so next time I’ll give it a go)

WHAT TO DO

  1. Slice beef as thin as possible. Cut it into bite size pieces (not too small, but a size that can comfortably enter your mouth in one go…according to the book this size is 3″ long)
  2. Place the rest of your ingredients into a bowl. This concoction will be your marinade.
  3. Place your thinly sliced beef into your bowl of marinade. Use your hands to Swedish massage the marinade into the beef-make sure your beef is thoroughly covered in marinade.
  4. Place the bowl in the fridge for anywhere between 1-8 hrs (I left mine for 2 hrs due to time constraints). The longer you marinate the beef, the more flavourful it will taste,  however, if you do plan on letting it sit overnight you should use a little less soy sauce to ensure the beef doesn’t become too salty.
  5. Heat an oil covered pan. Once hot, place the contents of your bowl into the pan. Cook on high heat for about 3-5 min. Use your tongs to flip over the meat to ensure that both sides are well cooked. Your bulgogi should be well done, but because the cut is thin it will cook fast, so make sure it doesn’t burn.
  6. Wooooo You’re done! Bulgogi is traditionally served straight from the pan and with a bowl of rice.
My finished product
Not bad! It tasted authentic and I am still alive to tell the tale. All in all a successful mission.  Next time I will try to capture some exciting ‘action shots’ to better illustrate how I get from the ingredient phase to the final product.
And for another week I my kitchen stays safely in one piece….
xoxo

The Pog Formerly Known as Baji

10 Jul

When I first welcomed Baji into my humble abode (emphasis on humble) I promised the students that they would be given the opportunity to rename him. I considered this to be quite ingenious as it served me on multiple dimensions; first it allowed me to relinquished the responsibility of naming him myself (my previous two pets were named Angel and Star, so take from that what you will), second it provided me with a cost effective incentive for the children outside of the usual candy and stickers, and finally it justified any moral repercussions the name change would cause, such as his resulting identity crisis and a pile up of psychiatry bills(the little man doesn’t even realize he has a name, so said moral repercussions are a bit of an embellishment)

It took a while to decide how to orchestrate this as it had to be devised so each of my 60-odd  students were given a fair chance without ending up with 60-odd names. And so during the past month I held small contests where the winners would choose a name to placed on the short list. This is what they came up with:

Nara

Polly

Lioge (err I have no idea where they were going with this one) 

Coma (I didn’t have the heart to explain to a five year old what a coma was)

Pipi

Bolton (Micheal Bolton….Bolton, Ontario ??)

Spike

Cactus

Sonic

Master Windu (as per suggested by Master Jedi)

Dochi (Hedgehog in Korean is goseumdochi 고슴도치 thus dochi for short)

Heart

Hedgie

So though there were some strange ones in there (like who/what/where/why/how on earth is a lioge??), I was pleasantly surprised by the wit of some,  like spike and cactus. Well done little ones, well done. (that sounded rather maniacal….)  This past week I had the students vote for their fave. The results are in and the winner is (drum roll, ect) ……

And so there it is. Baji is now Dochi and can add identity crisis to his growing list of stressors. And so I leave you with a photo montage of the endearingly mischievous living,breathing(huffing?) stress ball that is Baj..erm I mean Dochi. To give a bit of background, these were taken in the bowels of  torture chamber that was my apartment last weekend once my air con blew out. Hedgehogs are rather finicky about everything temperature – their environment should never be too hot or too cold(if Dochi ran things I’d be fashioning him a mini air purifier/dehumidifier to be put in his cage while I manually fan him). Leaving a hedgehog in too low of a temperature is actually quite serious; the cold can induce a state of hibernation that the domesticated animal is not accustomed to, which can be quite dangerous….and sometimes fatal. Too hot, however, simply leads to loads of laughs for me.

Woo freedom!

Coooooool a plastic thing for me to hide in

Whew…..wow it’s rather toasty in here

This kinda heat is illegal….my giant is inhumane…..*SPLAT*

Nein! Must….take…advantage…..of……freedom……………..

Oh eff that! *melts to the floor*

I totally get you Ba…Dochi

xoxo

The Killer Bee and Me

20 Jun

….aka The Reason I’m Blowin’ This Popsicle Stand

An unfortunately familiar wave of procrastination is what led me to commence packing and laundering in the wee hours of the morning, just hours prior to my Seoul trip in early May. As I was folding the final round of clothing, what I perceived to be a giant black fluff flew off my dress. And then it flew higher. And higher. And higher. And higher. Until it flew so high that it reached my ceiling light, at which point I deduced that this fluff was no fluff at all, but a flying savage beast whose sole purpose was to pirate whatever sleeping hours I could have hoped to have salvaged at this point. To protect myself from the terror imposed by the brute perched on my lamp shade, I quarantined myself in my laundry room. This safe zone is from where with once tired eyes, now wide as saucers, I deduced that my foe was in fact a bee the size of bird. Okay maybe a baby bird…..err a fetal bird. In all honestly, no embellishments, the monster was at least 2 inches long and quite stocky. Let’s just say if I owned a DSLR camera that my work would be currently gracing the pages of National Geographic.

As my writing of this post would prove, I did eventually make it out my laundry room; with my boss as my champion, swooping in and trapping the devil in a tupperware container completely unfazed (though likely rolling her eyes throughout). The ease to which I was rescued left me completely mortified, but not surprised, as just about any insect larger than an ant can induce in me a fit of panic.

However, while dining with a friend last week, a familiar fiend buzzed into the joint, leaving my friend genuinely shaken(at least slightly). Which brings us to tonight, when said friend told me that he was convinced that we had in fact encountered the Asian Giant Hornet (seen above). Wikipedia had the following to say about it’s sting:

The stinger of the Asian giant hornet is about 6 mm (¼ in) in length,[3] and injects an especially potent venom that contains, like many bee and wasp venoms, a cytolytic peptide (specifically, a mastoparan) that can damage tissue by stimulatingphospholipase[disambiguation needed] action,[4] in addition to its own intrinsic phospholipase.[5] Masato Ono, an entomologist at Tamagawa University near Tokyo, described the sensation as feeling “like a hot nail being driven into his leg.”[3]

An allergic human stung by the giant hornet may die from an allergic reaction to the venom, but the venom contains a neurotoxin called mandaratoxin (MDTX),[6] a single-chain polypeptide with a molecular weight of approximately 20,000 u,[7] which can be lethal even to people who are not allergic if the dose is sufficient. Each year in Japan, the human death toll caused by Asian giant hornet stings exceeds that of all other venomous and non-venomous wild animals combined, including wild bears and venomous snakes.

The giant hornet’s sting reportedly kills around 40 people annually in Japan, which one could argue is rather minute in the scheme of things, but its certainly higher than that of the the common centipede, my ex-greatest foe (said friend also informed me of a poisonous centipede….let’s just eternal sunshine that conversation).

So it’s likely that I am over exaggerating the encounter slightly and am not in fact being stalked by killer bees, however, that won’t wont stop me from taking the precautionary measure of donning this outfit for the duration of the summer…

errr just joking(??)

xoxo

Taxi Driver: Matchmaker Edition

11 Jun

So I just walked away from a mildly awkward Taxi ride. It started with a bang…..

*BANG* That’s the sound of me smacking my head on the frame of the vehicle. Old hat, seeing as the number of times I’ve hit my head during my three month stay here is already well into the double digits. Nothing to do with the locale though, seeing as I basically dropped myself on my head as a child…

Taxi Driver: Oh sorry! So sorry!(it was quite clear that the blow was not his fault in the slightest, but in true humble Korean fashion…)

We get the usual -“Are you American? No?”- sorting out I’m Canadian – business out-of-the-way(not that I find the mistake particularly bothersome), so then we casually move onto the next most logical topic…

TD: Are you single?

The clear answer in this situation, albeit a lie, is no, but because I have a mental handicap where I lose the ability to lie when it will save me from awkward situations my answer is… 

Me: Yes.

TD: How old are you?

Me: 25

TD: I have a son, he is 23. Marriage, ok?

Me: *nervous laughter* No no.

TD: Ha ok. *motions to head* Head ? *grimace* Sorry so sorry!

Me: No no. No problem.

TD: I have a son, he is 23. Meet tomorrow, ok?

Me: *nervous laughter* No no. I am very busy (doing nothing)

TD: Ok. My son, 23, meet this week, ok?

Me: *nervous laughter* No no. I am very VERY busy (still doing nothing)

TD: Ha ok. You are very beautiful. *motions to head* Head ? *grimace* Sorry so sorry!

Me: No no no. No problem.

TD: I have a son, he is 23. Face good, so gentle! Ok?

Me: It is so sad then that I am so very old! (not really a lie as I don’t think I’d want to date a 23 year old)

TD: Ha ok. You are very beautiful. *motions to head* Head ? *grimace* Sorry so sorry!

Me: No no no no. No problem.

TD: I have a son, he is 23. Churchee! Goes to Catholic church. Ok?

At this point I want to holler,” I don’t care how wholesome and gentle your toddler son is! I don’t ride taxis to pick up!”. But I humbly admit that much like his toddler son, I am gentle(maybe we really are a match made in heaven), and so recycled the reply…

Me: It is so sad then that I am so very old!

TD: Oh! Ok, ok. Me, I am 55. ok?

Luckily by this point I am at my doorstep, so the awkwardness must come to an end. But before I leave the vehicle you wouldn’t guess what he says…

TD: *motions to head* Head ? *grimace* Sorry so sorry!

Who knows, I may have just passed up the baby love of my life.

xoxo

강 아지 똥: Doggy Poo Story

11 Jun

Near the end of this past week I discovered the following posted in the stairwell leading up to my Hagwon…..

And incase you couldn’t quite decipher the title….

The star of the show

Critically Aclaimed

Incase you are still confused, this is a poster advertising the upcoming run of the popular children’s play Doggy Poo Story(강 아지 똥).  Considering my only other encounter with a heart warming story about poo is starring Mr.Hanky, I found(find?) the whole thing- from the person with in the fuzzy poo costume with smears on their face to the ernest, glowing reviews from the critics- to be just a tad bizarre.

I decided to vaguely inquire about the production with my boss. She was completly unfazed and told me that it was based on a famous Korean children’s story. And deriving from the light research I’ve done it can be concluded that she is in fact correct.  Apparently the book won a Korean children’s literary award in 1968 and has even been adapted as an English animated short film.  According to to a customer on Amazon.com, the following is the heartwarming plot of said  story,

Doggy Poo is just that, and from the time he is ‘born,’ we find him questioning his purpose in life, to anyone or thing that will listen, including a hen, a bird (sparrow?) and a friendly pile of dirt. Much like Hans Christian Andersen’s ugly duckling, our lead character’s appearance (and seeming lack of purpose) causes him to be rejected, pecked and made fun of. But when all seems just about lost, a friendly girl weed grows up next to him and tells and tells Doggy Poo that she needs him for fertilizer in order to become a beautiful flower. And so he finds his purpose in life, and happiness in the process.

So maybe the story’s a heartwarmer, but I think I’m a bit too immature to appreciate it…..

xoxo