A Little Light Reading

….as you anxiously await the multi-part “Living in Songdo” series:

This article from the NYT about the Korean (and Japanesse) bathing and beauty culture is SPOT ON.  Fortunately, as a foreigner, I get to reap the benefits and watch/participate with amusement and wonder, without being subjected to the standards Korean women face.

I also just learned about Mok Bang.  This is an extremely popular Korean trend where people live-broadcast themselves eating.  Just eating.  And viewers watch along and donate money to that person.  I learned about this from a post on Facebook before school one morning and was completely incredulous.  I asked the students about it and they were totally blase and all, “yeah.  Of course.  Mok bang.”  They could not understand my incredulity.  At all.

I have lived here for three years and I had not heard of this before.  What else is there?  I have to wonder.

And that concludes your Korean cultural lesson for the day.


How Many Ways Might I Procrastinate?

Many.  Many ways.

It’s final exam grading/narrative report writing/all the other grading you had to do time here at Chadwick International.  Also known as hell week.  Also known as the most wonderful time of the year.  Total sarcasm, people.  Maybe I do it to myself–my exam, by principle, is not multiple guess.  I maybe could have begun narratives sooner.  But here we are.  So in between bouts of productive work, how am I putting off the pain?

Face-Timing with my Dad who recently retired:  Steve’s Auto Service Changes Hands   Woohoo, Dad!  Living the dream!

Reading about strange Korean wonkiness:  Jawbones as Office Decor.   By the way, this is not a joke.  This happened/happens and only begins to scratch the surface of the bizarre Korean plastic surgery epidemic.  Yeah, I called it an epidemic.

Learning about the wonders of Bloglovin, a newish, not so new blog reader tool.  Follow me there!:  www.bloglovin.com

Looking at live cam pictures of Niseko, Japan, where we will be skiing in a mere few days:  Niseko Live Cam

Reading and watching the latest from North Korea:  Frontline/North Korea   This is a really incredible documentary that you should watch.  It always amazes me that we are so close.

Reading my daily trail and ultra-running info source.

Laughing out loud:  The Bloggess   Jenny Lawson is pure genius.

I am additionally wasting time on home decor and design blogs, beauty blogs, pictures of cats, and learning all about Esther the Wonder Pig.

Can you really blame me?  There is so much awesome stuff out there on the interwebs!  Not so much awesome stuff here in the home office, where this stack of grading glares maliciously in my general direction.  Maybe I’ll go for a run….

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Found Another One

on layver in Tokyo we find the strangest flavor yet: Rum Raisin!


The Unbearable Awesomeness of Regional Japanese Kit-Kat Flavors

Since our move to Korea, we’ve been to Japan 4 times, and in January we go for our 5th trip.  This makes me an expert on this current topic.  I could tell you about how great the skiing is (it’s great), or about how good the food is (it’s good), or about how interesting the culture is (it’s very interesting), but today I’m going to tell you about Kit-Kat.    What’s really cool about Japan is that there is so much to do and see.  Every region is unique, fascinating, and worth visiting.  Take a look at the guidebook at your local library–it’s huge.  And it’s not a huge country.  As a side-note, I have noticed that this is good measure of how cool a country will be.  There is a secret algorithm by which you can divide the square mileage of a country by the weight of it’s Lonely Planet to determine whether not you should visit and exactly how many times.

Out of 5 trips, 3 were/are purely ski trips and 2 were tourism/sight-seeing, Fuji-hiking sorts of trips.  Every trip was to a different region of Japan.  Whenever we go to a new country, I’m always looking for what’s different and while I’m not a foodie, I think that you can tell a lot about a people by what kind of packaged-processed food you can find.  So I pay attention to that:  flavors of potato chips, candy, ice cream flavors, etc.  And because I loved Kit-Kat when I was little, I picked up pretty quickly that Japan had a couple of different flavors.  Everywhere, we saw dark chocolate, strawberry and green tea flavors.  Fun, right?  I assumed this was it until we were leaving the country after that first trip.  We were on the Northern tip of the main island, in Aomori.  We found hot chili pepper Kit Kat.  Wow.  That was a find.  I figured, at the time, you could get them anywhere–just maybe at specialty stores or something.

By our third trip, while in Kyoto, I began to realize that the Kit Kat flavors vary by region–and now, by season.  Fun! We tried in vain to find the chili pepper variety, but have never seen those little babies again.  Kyoto has my favorite variety.  They are white chocolate with the famous, Kyoto wafer-cookie crumbled up into the chocolate.  The cookie is like a cross between a graham cracker and those yummy cinnamon biscuits from some random country in Europe that come individually wrapped.  You know the ones.  The package is red?……

Since this realization, I have been mildly obsessed with discovering the varieties of the region I’m in.   Near Mt. Fuji, there were mango flavored Kit Kats.  They also, of course, had special commemorative Mt. Fuji  Kit Kats in a Fuji-shaped box.  Those were blueberry cheesecake flavor.  On the Izu peninsula, we had wasabi flavored Kit Kat which are just as awesome as they sound, and for Halloween, we found pumpkin flavored ones (see picture below).  How awesome is that?  I know:  awesome.

I really love this about Japan.  I like a lot of things about the culture, one of those being the attention to detail.  And while Kit Kat is owned by Nestle, scourge of the 3rd world and evil corporation, even that gigantic conglomerate will let tiny batches of this candy be made and sold by region.  I love it that the Izu peninsula is the only place where you can get Wasabi Kit Kat.  And so I continue to search.

We will go to Sapporo this winter for a ski trip.  I’m *almost* equally excited to discover the regional flavor.

photo (1)


After a crazy few weeks at work, we had our first holiday–ahhhhhhh!  We took a week-long break for the Korean Chusok holiday which is much like our Thanksgiving.  Our last Friday at school, I received my glorious, wonderful, stupendous, fantastic, beautiful, cool new iphone!  If you’ve owned one of these things for many years and are feeling rather ho-hum about the whole thing, just go down to the next paragraph.  I am in love with this little beauty.  I am only just beginning to discover what it can do!  I have gone from an ancient flip phone with no camera or anything, to the wave of the future!  And it even has an orange case!

So now that we’re normal, I’m able to capture some fun stuff as we happen upon it.  Again, wow!  I love this thing!  And so we began our week off with a weekend exploring Chinatown Incheon and Seoul.

First, to get there, we have to take the subway.  The subway here rocks.  It’s clean, efficient, and SUPER easy to use.  Even for gringos like us.  But what I really love about the subway is all the public service announcements everywhere.  They have the best videos of “poor use” of the escalator to try to teach people to stand on the right and pass on the left.  Mostly, they’re just funny.  And people are obviously NOT taking the lessons to heart.  Inside the subway are fun little diagrams for the do’s and don’ts.  Don’ts include things like pushing, talking loudly on your cellphone, taking up too much space, ignoring the elderly, and PDA.

The PDA one is hilarious.  If you look closely, it seems to suggest that you should not engage in PDA because it makes others sad, ill, and embarrassed.  I’m guessing the person on the left is embarrassed while the passenger on the right is crying and holding his stomach.  Thoughts?  Special note:  the PDA couple is even wearing couple shirts–a strange Korean phenomenon!

Another great discovery that weekend was the Kitty Cafe.  There are many in Seoul, but we had no idea where they were.  We stumbled out of the subway with a group of friends looking for a bar and instead we found a large mascot pointing the way to my own little slice of heaven.  Behold, the cat cafe, where you can play with about 8-12 gorgeous pure-breed cats, while you sip a latte.  I was in love.

If that wasn’t enough, they brought out a little pig named Spam.  He totally stole the show, but I love the kitties the most.

With this new-fangled contraption, the sky is truly the limit for what I might be able to capture in this crazy new world.  I wonder what I’ll stumble upon this week?

Well Someone Has Pictures

New Songdo City photo credit: Tim Henkels

My husband, Tim, went to the Songdo Good Market this past weekend.  On his way around town, he took some photos.  It gives you a much better idea of what the city looks like.  You can see his post and pictures here.  You’ll notice that the streets are relatively empty.  It’s true, there’s no traffic yet.  You’ll notice there’s lots of green stuff.  Indeed, we have a lot of trees.  But I’m worried we don’t have tree people.  You can tell the trees have been implanted and are too close together.  Some have died, and many blow over in the typhoons even though they’re anchored quite well.  We’ve also noticed there seems to be a lack of weed eaters in this city.  The weekend before school opened, there were tons of workers outside pulling the weeds by hand!  And we are talking about a giant of a school complex.  So after quite the rainy summer, New Songdo City is very green, but not very manicured!

I will try to take my camera to work tomorrow for some glimpses of the place where we spend most of our time right now.  In the meantime, enjoy Tim’s reflections and photos.


Songdo: City of Mystery


We are moving to a brand new city.  So new, in fact, that it doesn’t officially open until 2015.  However, there is housing, there are parks, our school is open, there are restaurants….The one thing that is lacking is information.  And this is the thing that really baffles me and part of why I want to do this blog in a new way.  People love to blog.  But I can’t find a single good blog from an English speaker in Songdo.  Restaurants love to self-promote.  They sort of have to, right?  But while I have found a few names of places and can locate them on a Google map, these places do not have websites.  Is that odd or is it just me?    Every time I find a single post from someone’s single visit to the city, it was 2 or 3 years ago.  There is nothing current.  I also find this odd.  Before we got our housing information, I knew the name of the development and combed the web for any mention of it.  I found none, but our school sent us a direct link to their website.  So I have to wonder, do these things actually exist and is this a matter of the rest of the world not having access to them because the city isn’t open so these sites are blocked from searches?  A total enigma.

And so it is my hope that when I arrive in New Songdo City and begin to document what we find there, that others will have access to that information.

So far, I have found out from Facebook that there is a group of expat runners who meet regularly and I intend to meet them and run when I arrive.  I know that there is a social group and they post events and that is how I learned some names and locations of various bars and cafes.  But knowing the names is not enough.  I suppose you must either have the website link in-hand (which isn’t posted anywhere) or it’s uncool to have a website for your business in Korea.  Either way, I am at a loss.  And so is anyone else about to move there.

There’s plenty of general articles about the city from various news sources here.  Sounds cool, huh?  Wish I could find out if there’s a grocery store!