Tag Archives: birthday

A Splendid Salad at Seven Springs in Seoul

If buffet chain restaurants were a flock of teenage girls, Seven Springs would be the Queen Bee demonstrating the supreme art of  smörgåsbord dining in Seoul, Korea.

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I ventured to one of Seven Springs’ Seoul locations recently. When a friend mentioned she wanted to go to a buffet restaurant for her birthday dinner I laughed and asked where we were really going. She was excited for this particular salad buffet in Hongdae, and because it wasn’t my birthday I went along with the green meal idea and made my way out of Exit 8 at Hongdae Station and found the veggie oasis.

I quickly ate my words, along with a mountain of deliciousness.

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Seven Springs is glorious. It boasts a passion for seasonal, local, homemade, and environment-friendly food. This is not just another picked-over buffet with cheap fried food and soggy pizza. The food is healthy, fresh and the vegetables are actually delivered every morning to the different restaurant locations.

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You can order meat and other things for the table to share, but I recommend just going with the standard salad bar. There are separate lunch and dinner prices. I admit the prices are a bit steep, but I think the food’s taste and quality are worth the money spent. The salad bar option also includes hot food items (think: baked pumpkin, pastas, honey bbq chicken, corn on the cob, pizza, and more) appetizers, dessert (think: ice cream, green tea cake, and yogurt parfait), drinks (think: mint and lemon infused water, berry, and non-alcoholic mojito concoctions to quench your thirst).

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I piled my plate high with some strange combinations. I jumped for joy when I spotted capers (CAPERS!), green olives, various leafy greens, homemade salad dressings, avocado (the real deal), bowls of walnuts and almonds, and corn on the cob.

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I recommend Seven Springs for vegetarians in Korea, but I also think anyone who needs a green fix or appreciates fresh food will leave this place smiling and planning a second Seoul Salad Soiree.

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So Long, Farewell: It hurts when friends leave Korea.

 

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I won’t lie, last week in Korea was rough. I should have been elated for the upcoming weekend forecast of warm weather and birthday celebrations for yours truly, but my heart was a little crushed. A handful of fellow teachers departed or began preparations for the journey home. Each time someone leaves I realize how much they’ve influenced my time abroad. I mean, come on, they basically made it.

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Before moving to Korea I was worried most about encountering loneliness while abroad. But after saying goodbye to my mother at the airport in Boston I was only really ‘alone’ for a brief flight to NYC. In NYC I met another teacher headed to Korea and we bonded over packing stresses and teaching applications until our plane began its slow descent into Seoul. I hadn’t known this girl for more than a day, but we already had so much in common. We were doing this ‘teaching in Korea’ thing and we were anxiously enthusiastic to finally get to it.

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My fellow plane buddy and I recruited a few other wide-eyed soon-to-be-teachers from our flight and we together conquered customs and baggage claim. Although my new friends soon departed for different parts of Korea, I continue to check-in with them on Facebook and I luckily ran into one of them this past summer at Korea Burn, Korea’s ultimate hippie soiree. We hugged and chatted like we had known each other for ages. As cliche as it sounds, we had started the journey as English teachers together in NYC and it was nice to know we both were excelling at the expat ESL life in Korea.

After the airport I joined 50+ other newbie teachers in Seoul and we trained together for the week. There were no awkward first conversations. We were all here to start a life of teaching and living in Korea and that fact was the only necessary key to unlock friendly conversation. I instantly realized I had more in common with these people than I did with most I encountered everyday back in Boston. After a week of late study nights, new foods and embarrassing attempts to figure out the Seoul Subway, we were separated and sent to our new schools scattered across Korea. And yet, although we have settled down in our respective Korean cities, we still keep in touch. I traveled to Busan this past June to visit training friends. I love running into others in Seoul. And we all laugh at comedic teaching moments we share with each other using social media.

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So, even before I arrived in my city I had a handful of close ‘Korea friends’ and loneliness was a distant worry. And then I met my Uijeongbu family. Sometimes we laugh about how we all met each other. Sometimes the details are fuzzy. Korean friendships are different. They are fast. They are necessary. They are void of awkward introductions and pleasantries. Upon meeting the fellow teachers in my city we did not hesitate to share phone numbers and weekend plans. We each had jumped head-first into a new life in Korea and we needed each other. We ignored our differences in age, life experience and nationality. It was quite refreshing.

These friends became my family. We have celebrated holidays, birthdays and Friday nights together for the past year and time has flown. I haven’t had much time to feel lonely. My friends helped make Korea home and each has helped to make me feel confident about where I am at this point in life and also enthusiastic about what the future holds. They get me, and this understanding is rooted in the shared itch we all had at some point in the recent past to travel, teach and live abroad.

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Although abroad friendships are quickly created, they also change in the same manner. Living abroad is not permanent for many and teaching contracts have end dates. So, earlier this month I said goodbye to a dynamic couple who were always eager to coordinate social outings, religiously brought home-baked goodies to the bar and loved to laugh. Last Monday I painfully said goodbye to one of my closest friends in Uijeongbu. I can’t think of much we didn’t experience together in Korea. We arrived at the same time, bonded over a misspelled salad sign that read ‘Crap Salad’ at an expat dinner and stuck together for the rest of the year. Friday I helped a neighbor and dear friend carry her bags to the bus stop and endured another goodbye hug. Now I have a few weeks to prepare for the April departure of a friend who has been a constant source of laughs, optimism and honest and intelligent advice throughout this hectic year.

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I know these friendships will continue and flourish in the years to come. I will be in Korea for a bit longer, but we will stay in touch and I am excited to visit each of them and learn more about their post-Korea adventures. I know I am lucky to have friends in crazy area codes, but for now I’m letting myself miss them, because in doing that I am able to truly see just how much they mean to me. Thank you friends, you know who you are. 😉 ^^

“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” – Robert Southey

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Filed under arrival, cuter in korea, departure, travel, uijeongbu

“Call Me Maybe, Teacher?” -Phone Teaching with Korean Students-

Tonight I skipped out of work with a smile plastered across my face. I stayed an extra hour and missed my 9pm yoga class because I needed to call a long list of students and administer Phone Teaching. I call all of my students once a month and have a mini conversation with them while their proud parents listen (hopefully) in the background and come away from the call impressed (hopefully) with their child’s English skills. I practice for the monthly calls at the beginning of each class. The students groan when I pick up my fake phone, I usually use the projector remote, and dial ‘their number’ with a series of animated beep sounds and exaggerated button pushing actions. All of my students have mastered the standard conversation greeting and can convey how they are feeling. Common responses include, “I am very good today.” or “I am super happy.” Most will remember to politely ask the same of Teacher (me) and I praise them for doing so. Those who sit silently with blank stares after answering my first question are quickly reminded when I paint a disappointed look on my face. “And you, Teacher?” They quickly stumble to correct their mistake.

The rest of the conversation casually moves past the greeting to simple questions about today’s date, weather, birthdays, lunch time delicacies, favorite movies and seasons, daily fashion (“What are you wearing today?”) or lesson related questions. We chat for about 3 minutes or until I have completely stumped the child and I can sense his or her anxiety through the phone line.

I’ve never been a great phone person. I couldn’t understand the girls in middle school who could chat for hours on the phone. I am always stumbling over my words and talking too fast when I should be listening. I prefer to text about a plan and then meet and talk in person. Or Skype. During my first few months in Korea I dreaded the teaching calls. First there were the dreaded parent answers and immediate hang-ups. The parents would answer in Korean and I would quickly mention my name and school and ask to speak to their ‘Justin’ or ‘Amy’. Some parents wouldn’t recognize their child’s given English name or would be confused by my new foreign voice and I would hear the dial tone before I reached a student. When I did hear a child’s quiet “Hello…” on the other line sometimes the conversation would do downhill from there and I would be left to ask and answer my own questions while the student nervously listened.

Most students are eager to say their goodbyes and get back to whatever I interrupted them from in the first place, but some have come to gain confidence as the conversation proceeds and I have trouble finding the appropriate place to squeeze in my closing, “Great job, I will see you in class tomorrow!” Tonight one student warned me, as soon as he found his way to the phone, that our call would not follow standard procedure. The boy’s heavy breathing told me he had raced from his room to the family phone. Before I could jump in and guide the conversation he loudly interrupted my thoughts, “Hello Devan Teacher. How are you today?” I was speechless and immensely proud all at the same moment. He caught me off guard and I let him lead the conversation for a minute or so before I took back the reigns, although it wasn’t before he told me, “Devan Teacher, I have much time tonight for talk.” 8 minutes later I managed to say goodbye.

The monthly phone conversations have become a fantastic tool for measuring the increasing levels of confidence and understanding in my classroom. Many of my 7-year-olds are far from mastering English and my Korean is pathetic, but we have come to understand each other. I sometimes still hear the occasional annoyed sigh from a student as a parent hands her the phone, but for the most part my students know the routine. They know what I will ask and more importantly they know me. They know my personality on the phone. They understand my silence when I am waiting for them to expand their answer. They gladly accept my clues and helpful jump-starts (“The weather today is…”) when they are stumped. And most importantly, together we have mastered the most critical phone skill: having a sense of humor. My students have picked up on my sarcastic tendencies in the classroom and many have learned to laugh during our monthly calls. I left work tonight smiling  not because a student aced a phone call with perfect English, but because he outright failed to tell me his birthday day and month. The call had started like all the others. He mastered the greeting, told me about the rainy, cold and cloudy day that we had experienced and informed me of his kimchi (surprise!), rice (surprise!) and soup intake at lunchtime. Everything was moving along as expected until I asked the 4th question. “Can you tell me when your birthday is?” I asked routinely. “TEACHERRRRRR. YOU KNOW IT.  IT’S ON THE BIRTHDAY BOARD!” There was a moment of silence and then he broke into a fit of laughter and I did the same. “That is true,” I answered when my giggles had subsided. “Let’s move on.”

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Buddha, please forgive me for the late birthday wishes.

Happy LATE Birthday Buddha! Here is my first photo post – a few months late – from the Lotus Lantern Festival. The festival is held in honor of Buddha’s birthday, and although Seoul and Korea celebrate for the entire month of May, the festival’s biggest weekend this year was May 18-20 and included a lantern-full parade on Saturday night (see the video below). The lantern lighting symbolizes a promise and devotion to performing good deeds and is meant to bring light to dark parts of the world. This year’s festival theme was: “Peace to our mind. Happiness to our world.” Enjoy a few pictures from the weekend in Seoul.

Many people walked in the parade with matching lanterns to distinguish groups.

A few lanterns from the parade including an astronaut lantern, why not?

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This is one of my favorites. These monks were trying to organize for a photo but they were all having too much fun being social and couldn’t stand still.

Lanterns lanterns everywhere… Where do they go after the birthday party is over?

Lanterns decorated the river walkway in downtown Seoul.

Remember:

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ARC: so official

hunger games <3
hunger games ❤

This past week I found myself feeling a tad jealous of my friends and family back home in New England soaking in the unseasonably warm weather. As if missing the HUNGER GAMES PREMIERE wasn’t enough (I have to wait until next month)!!! I felt the most resentment when I was running against fiercely cold wind and the sky began to spit snow on Saturday. I’m not a fan of the cold or snow, so I was very lucky to have such a mild winter. My months in NH before Korea were snow-less, except of course for a freak small snow storm on Halloween weekend. Since arriving in Korea I have experienced a few cold days, but nothing extreme. The weather has been pretty predictable spring weather…what the weather should be in NE. I guess I will just have to deal with all the annoying Facebook statuses for now: “BBQ and drinks outside!”, “I just got a sunburn during my lunch break!” and “Heading to the beach!”. I did discover that my apartment building has a great roof-deck this weekend – I am pumped to soak in the sun as soon as possible. Enjoy your short-lived tans New Englanders!!

I received my ARC (Alien Registration Card) this week – so I am OFFICIAL! It’s nice to have an ID to carry around. Most of my friends from training had to wait until they got their ARCs to set up a bank account or purchase a cell phone. I was lucky and was able to do both of these things without one.

I finished my 4th week of teaching on Friday and completed mini report cards for each student I teach. My time in the classroom has flown by, but it was interesting to look back and realize how much we have accomplished in the past few weeks. Many of my students have become much more confident in their English abilities. A few were so shy and it was a struggle to get them to utter a few words of English in week 1. Now they are raising their hands and are so eager to read or answer questions out-loud in class. Of course it didn’t hurt that I encouraged the “points” system. During class I have all of the student names on the white board and each time they earn a point for doing something fantastic I mark it next to their name. If they earn a certain amount of points during class they can collect official paper points from me at the end of class. They can use the points to buy snacks and candy from the school. It is amazing how much these students value their points. If someone acts up during class I simply erase one of their points on the board and the student quickly ceases any disruptive behavior.

I went into Seoul on Saturday with a new friend I met in Uijeongbu. We met up with 2 of my college friends for dinner and then headed back home early around 11pm to avoid the subway shut-down. If you go out in Seoul you have to either head home early at 11pm or stay out until 5:30am when the subway re-opens (or pay for an expensive cab). Every time I venture into Seoul I gain a bit more confidence in my subway navigation skills. It’s great to know if I want to I can get myself into Seoul and home again no problem. I have also mastered a few of the buses in my town. I can get from my apartment to downtown Uijeongbu or to the subway station. I still have a lot to learn of course…

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Lastly, here is an excerpt from an article about Obama’s trip to the DMZ today. He was in my backyard (kind of):

CAMP BONIFAS, South Korea (Reuters) – President Barack Obama peered across South Korea’s tense border with the North on Sunday in a show of solidarity with U.S. ally Seoul and a message of resolve to Pyongyang’s new young ruler in his country’s nuclear standoff with the West.

Arriving on the eve of a global summit on nuclear security hosted by South Korea, Obama flew by helicopter to a U.S. base on the edge of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) as a solemn North Korea came to a halt to mark the 100th day after “dear leader” Kim Jong-il’s death.

“You guys are at freedom’s frontier,” Obama told about 50 troops crammed into the Camp Bonifas mess at one of the world’s most heavily fortified frontiers.

“The contrast between South Korea and North Korea could not be clearer, could not be starker, both in terms of freedom and in terms of prosperity.”

He spent about 10 minutes on a viewing platform at the DMZ, talking with some of the soldiers on guard as the flags of the United States, South Korea and the United Nations flapped loudly in the brisk, cold wind.

(http://news.yahoo.com/obama-visits-tense-korean-border-ahead-nuclear-summit-024028940.html)

 

 

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