Monday, December 1, 2014

Ajumma Status: Kimjang

A few weeks ago, the Seoul Kimchi Festival was held and of course since it's been part of my bucket list, I signed up to make some kimchi! My friend and I arrived promptly at 10am excited to get messy and slather red pepper paste on some cabbage. 
When we arrived and signed in, we were quickly told that we would have our very own translator! Say whaaaa, me? I get a personal translator? That's a first! I think because we were the ONLY foreigners haha least for this class. We were also given a goodie bag with some equipment to turn ourselves into professional ajumma-kimchi-making chefs.
tada! >>>>>>

The class was taught by this lady, the Kimchi Master, who apparently is famous for her kimchi recipes. We thought she was famous especially because a bunch of camera crews wanted to get a shot of her. I've asked around and yes, some people do know her. Anyways, this is the reason why we were the only foreigners; all the ajummas wanted the secret kimchi recipe. Mmmm we should've signed up for the beginners class instead haha.
Each table was set up with all the ingredients and some other equipment we would need. I was expecting to start making it right away, but ugh, the famous lady went on and on for about 40 minutes about the recipe. The only reason I minded waiting impatiently was because I had a wee too much wine the night before and my stomach was not doing too well, especially with the strong smell of sea food. Forty minutes later the Kimchi Master left and her assistant started giving us the step by step instructions. It was a bit confusing because the translator kept messing up and everybody was doing it differently. I kept looking around to follow the steps that everybody was doing (as I am a visual learner), but it was all different! At one point I gave up and just started mixing whatever I wanted. I do what I want!
As we were making our kimchi, like I said, we were the only foreigners, so we had a bunch of camera crew people getting close and personal with our kimchi. They kept asking as us to say "I love kimchi" in Korean and kept asking what we were going to cook with it, I said "kimchi quesadillas and kimchi jiggae." One lady would not go away with her damn camera, and kept asking me to repeat "I love kimchi" over and over because I was not saying it with the fake exaggerated enthusiasm that she wanted. Again, I wouldn't have minded all the attention, but I was hungover and in a bitchy mood. But anyways, you may see a clip of me fake-smiling and saying how much I love kimchi on Korean TV.

And here's my kimchi! Delicious for my first time I gotta brag hehe. And yes, I did make kimchi quesadillas and kimchi jiggae later that week, yum! 

1950's inspired kimchi-making mural

And though I didn't necessarily make the kimchi from scratch, I will cross it off my list, boom! It counts.

A shot of the kimchi-making ladies who were working non-stop.

In other news, today we had our first snow here in Seoul. The temperatures have quickly gone from high 40's last week to low 30's this week. Brrr. 

Stay warm.


Monday, November 17, 2014

100 yeeeeaaaah booooooooooiiiiiiiii !!!

Made it! ....and it's not even December, ha! In your face procrastinating me!

To make it to the BIG 100, it's all about food. Yes, I am a puerca!

97. Stinky fruit called ginkgo. Imagine it's mid autumn. You're walking down a nice lane with some beautiful trees. A cool breeze hits your face and you smile. And then, you smell vomit.  Ugh.

It's a tree that bears something called the ginkgo nut. It's a small yellow-orangeish little thing that when it falls to the ground and rots, it emits the most awful smell. Well, to me it is. I am very sensitive to anything that smells like vomit, like papaya, big ew! When I first smelled it, I had nooooo idea where the smell was coming from; I even looked around for the vomit. I think I then saw a post from another person asking what the smell was, and someone told them it was the ginkgo fruit.

There are a ton of these trees everywhere in Korea, even here in the big city. Apparently they also exist in some U.S. cities, but I've definitely have not seen them in San Diego.

When I went to the Jisan Rock Festival in 2012, I saw some harmonies picking up the fruit from the ground and off the trees. I didn't understand why, but then I found out that inside the fruit there's a little nut that people eat. I'm still not sure how it's prepared, but if it smells the same after it's prepared, I would not try it in a million years. Sorry, gagging is just not something I enjoy. But I am still interested in how it's prepared, so if you have any insight, shoot!

98. Gogoma (sweet potato). I've talked before about sweet potato lattes, yum! But in Korea, gogoma is everywhere! ...and it's delicious!

Gogoma chips.
Gogoma pizza.
nuf said.

99. Cheonwon waffles. In a hurry? On a budget? Need a snack? Want something sweet? All these questions can be answered by this delicious treat that will only cost you 1,000 won (about .90 cents). Usually inside subway stations you can find stands that sell them. They will always be made ahead of time, but they warm them up, so it doesn't take long to get one. Most places will offer two flavors: vanilla and strawberry, both with a layer of some honey-type spread; I always have ttalgi. However, if you're lucky, you may run into a stand that also has ice cream waffles for the same price!! Helloooooooooo sweet darling, come to momma!
talgi waple 와플 (yes, you have to say it like this otherwise the ajummas won't understand you)
And trust me, it fills you up enough to get you through your next meal. They're especially irresistible because the stands also sell manjoo, a little bread filled with custard. Since they make those almost non-stop all the time, the smell of fresh bread will always make you hungry. 


100. Tteokbokki. My all time favorite street snack! Rice cakes bathed in a spicy red sauce. So simple. Two very basic ingredients. Magic! ...sometimes fishcakes are added, but I don't care for those too much.

Tteokpoki is a common street food found almost anywhere and it's eaten on the spot. Most stands will sell a small bowl of it for 1,500won. 

My favorite is this mom n' pop's stand near my house. They sell a huge portion of it for only 3,000 won. Though it's not meant to be a meal, I make it one. How? I bring it home, and I add either shrimp or tuna and top it off with cheese. Serve with a side salad and red wine, yuuuuum!!!
My homemade(ish) tteokbokki with an omelet and side salad

I sometimes also make it a home though not from scratch. I buy the rice cakes and boil them. Drain and then add the sauce; my favorite one is the Ottogi brand sold anywhere. Easy peasy!

Damn, this is why I avoid writing about food, I'm hungry now!

Peace! ...gonna make some dinner.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Skipped Item

Was looking over the list on my phone where I keep it, and I noticed that I totally skipped #85, yikes! So here it is.

85. Poop.
Yes, poop culture, say what? There's such a thing? Yup! 

Exhibition A: The Toilet Museum
Located in Suwon, it is definitely one of the most bizarre museums. It's not creepy or anything, it's actually very colorful and lively looking's just that it's dedicated to toilets and poop. They even have a little swirly poopy mascot ...can't remember the name though. 

The museum itself is in the shape of a toilet. Outside there are a few statues of people 'going' and some old school outhouses. 

In many languages

Exhibition B: The Poop Bread 
....with red bean filling! YUM!

Exhibition C: This article explains much better what I would've liked to have said. Be sure to click on the video link for 'poop wine' to get a niiiiiice visual of people drinking the stuff. 

Lastly, Exhibition D: my own experience working with Korean children. Every time I asked my students to draw or write something, there was always a student, usually a boy, who would use poop in their sentences or in some way part of the drawings. At first, it made me mad and would ask the students to rewrite/draw. But I slowly noticed that they meant no harm, so eventually I just let it. See a picture in this post from when I taught a winter camp.

Also, every once in a while, I would hear ransom d-d-o-n-g's (spelling it out in English) throughout the halls. I didn't understand what they were saying, but for sure I knew what they were spelling. I also had a little second grader who taught me how to draw the word ddong in like a symbol type shape; I sadly don't remember how to draw it.

So yeah, if you get a souvenir from me in the shape of a swirly poop, don't complain, have fun with it. 


Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I looooooove Harto's MDK. Ever since I started watching her videos, I wanted to try doing something similar but I obviously didn't want to do it alone. Thank goodness my friends also knew about it and were the ones to suggest we should do it, yay!!

With the help of OB Gold Lager and makgeolli, we started cooking ...and this was the result, enjoy!

And Happy Peppero Day.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Meowlloween !!

Yep, these munchkins also celebrate.

Meet Ron Meowsley and Catbat (in Spanish his name works much better, Miaurcielago jejejeje)

Hobak was supposed to be Harry Potter originally, but he was not having it with the glasses I made :(. 


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Celebrating witches, ghosts, and slutty costumes in Korea

This is my fourth Halloween while living in Korea. Let me first start saying that I LOVE Halloween!! Yes, I love the costumes, love the decorations, love anything pumpkin, love trick-or-treating (I wish I could still do it and ask for candy), and just love the eerie atmosphere of it. The only thing I will never do is go to a haunted house just for fun, hells to the na! I've barely been able to go through the kiddie ones at Sea World that I know I would sh*t my pants in a real one. 

Anyways, some of my favorite memories from childhood are actually from Halloween in Mexico when my family and I would go out for triki-triki, yup, that's what we say in Spanish. I remember spending hours in the streets and then coming back home with HUGE bags filled with goodies. The smell of pedos-de-bruja (not sure how to describe it, kind of like stinkbombs but a little different) that the older kids would set off in the streets still lingers in my nose. 

When I came to Korea, I obviously had no idea how it was celebrated here. As October rolled in, I didn't see any decorations; everything seemed normal. Actually, and sadly, my first two Halloweens sucked. I was still living in Pohang, so of course it was only the foreigners who dressed up and went to the ONE bar we had. To me, it just didn't feel like Halloween, so I decided to be a Debbie Downer and stay in. 

2012: This is my first official costume in Korea that I wore to work, what am I? 
Last Halloween was my first in Seoul, at last!! Even though it's not celebrated by everyone, there are more foreigners, so the spirit of Halloween is felt a bit more. No pumpkin patches, or spooky decorations, but hey, beggars can't be choosers.

I actually dressed up twice last year. First, I attended my first Rocky Horror Shown (yay!), so some friends and I decided to dress up. This was a borrowed last minute costume, so it was whatevs. 

    Peter Pan!

On Halloween day, my real costume was, um er, let's just say I threw together what I could find. There aren't many Halloween stores in Seoul, and the ones that do sell stuff have veeeery limited options. 

what am I?

This year my costume was something I came up with when I went home this summer ...ok, actually it was my sister who got the idea. We were browsing through a cheap clothing store when I pulled out a dress. I immediately started laughing and said, "Who would wear this?!?" And my sister then said, "That could totally be your costume, a Rubik's Cube!" And that was that. Add a headband with a Daiso fake Rubik's cube and put some Rubik's cube inspired makeup on, and voilà!  

Since Halloween is on a Friday this year, bars here much rather celebrate it on a Saturday, so this last Saturday all the foreigner bars, at least in Itaewon, had their Halloween events. Since it was also a friend's birthday, we said why not? and got dressed up. 

Something surprising happened though, I won a costume contest!!! Whaaa?? I KNOW! 

When we got to the bar, a girl came up to me in the bathroom and said she was a judge for the contest. She said that if I stayed til 1am, I might have a shot at winning. It took me by surprise, but I said ok. I of course thought had no chance cuz there were some other cool costumes around. 

When it was time for the contest, I was thinking maaayyybee I could win third place. Third place was announced, not me. Second place was announced, not me. By then I was thinking it was over for me. Then first place was announced, not me! A girl who made a cupcake costume won it. It was actually a very cute costume. But when she was called, people started yelling out that she had gone home. Apparently she had gotten quite drunk so went home . Then, I guess I was the next best thing hahahaha. So they called me up, I won!!! Buuuuut this other girl started yelling that it wasn't fair, that my costume sucked. I honestly felt a little embarrassed. What was I supposed to do when my name had been called up?

The judges then asked us to wait again while they talked. By then I was just thinking, give me a drink as a prize and I'm good. 

A judge pulled me aside and asked if I was willing to share my first place prize with another person, Amy Winehouse. I said of course because he was someone I knew, and because to be honest, since I wasn't expecting anything, well, something is always better than nothing.  So here we are, we took home each 225,000won !! 

....guess who's gonna have his balls cut off with this money? Hahahaha is ok Gomi, your brother Hobak can explain the process. 

Now Halloween is this Friday, and we are all dressing up again! Round 2! 

 ...maybe I can win some more money xD


Oooh and wait!! I forgot to mention this year's altar for Dia de los Muertos. I'm so excited cuz I finally was able to get some proper pan de muerto, yay!!! Thank you Tamales en Corea!! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cat lady ....not Crazy

Maybe to some ....maybe to my mom I might be hahahaha ....she already raised concerned for me having too many cats. I promise people, this little cutie is the last one!

Meet 곰이 (Bear) 

He's originally from Daejeon where he was found on the streets.  I'm thinking he's about 6 weeks now, but for sure he's a September baby, yay!!

Ever since I rescued Hobak, I regretted not rescuing him along with one of his siblings. Though I am home quite a bit, I still thought Hobak needed company when I'm away. He's a very energetic and talkative cat, so I thought him and another kitten would be a great match. Funny how I had said I wanted to rescue a kitten -emphasis on the singular a- and now I have two.

A few weeks ago I pet sat two small kittens, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to see how Hobak would get along with other cats. I was hoping for the best, but actually it went terribly at first. Hobak was not having it. He hissed and growled anytime they were around, so I had to keep them separated. However, by day 4, Hobak was actually being nicer ...ish. Anyways, since I noticed that with time he would be ok with it, I decided right away to rescue Gomi (I had seen his picture before, and instantly fell in love).

It's been almost two weeks now since he came home with me. Hobak has made progress and is even doing some mommy duties (grooming especially since Gomi is still too small). They still have fights which now both start, but Hobak I think doesn't know yet how rough he can be  with Gomi. I hope soon they'll be able to be in the same room without me being around to supervise. now I have two cuddle buddies for winter :D


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Almost there!!

I just realized that September is almost over meaning that the end of the year is drawing near, and I had promised myself to get to 100 items on The List by December 31st. So here a few more items to broaden your Korean culture knowledge. 

92. Spitting in public... by women. Well, I've only seen halmonis (older grannies) and young middle school girls do it. Men do it too of course, and though it's still gross, I guess it's something I'm used to seeing. I have absolutely no clue as to why some women do it though. I'm a girl, and I've never felt the need to spit in public just because. The times I've had to spit is because there was something unpleasant in my mouth, but that's been rare.

I know we women do not produce loogies we need to get rid of, or at least not as much, so what in the world are they spitting out? This actually led me to wonder about why men spit, a phenomenon that's still not clear apparently. Some articles mention that in China men and women spit in public as well, so could this be a regional thing? Who knows. I just can't help making an "Ew" face every time I see women do it. 

93. I thought this would be appropriate since it was just my birthday: the last four digits of your cell phone number.  Why talk about these numbers? Because in Korea, a lot of people have their birthday on there. For example, my number  is 010-****-0922. My birthday is September 22nd which you can clearly see on my cell number. 

When you go get a cell phone, the sales people try their best to  get a number with your birthday. Lucky me, there was one. Funny thing: my first birthday here, I got a lot of random messages in Korean wishing me a Happy Birthday. Sorry previous owner!

94. Today it rained, so I was finally able to get a picture of the umbrella bag dispensers. This is such a smart idea to prevent huge puddles of water inside the subway when it rains. 

As you come into the subway, just slip your umbrella inside one of the slots (left side for small umbrellas, right for big ones), pull towards you, and voilà your umbrella is inside a bag to prevent it from dripping water. 

95. This is one brings back memories from the 90s. Do you remember platform shoes with thick straps? Spice Girls style? Well they are still around here:

(A lovely student kindly agreed to let me take a picture of her shoes)

These are very popular especially among younger girls, like my students. I've seen all colors and styles, but the ones that make me giggle are some silver ones: "Yo I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want, so tell me what you want, what you really really want."

I wonder if this fashion trend is going on somewhere else. Let me know!

96. Last but not least, acne band aids. When I first saw them, I was a little intrigued. I knew they were covering acne, but I couldn't understand why wear something sooooo obvious as opposed to just letting their acne show.  Anyways, so I asked  a friend, and she told me that these little band aids actually (sometimes) have medication in them to help heal acne faster. 

You can purchase these at any Olive Young or pharmacy ...and no, you will not see me trying these any time soon, I'll stick to my spot gel treatment thing. 

That's all for today! Yay, I'm at 96, only 4 more to go!! Woot woot!!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Viva México!

September 16th for me means just as much as July 4th. I unfortunately haven't been able to properly give el grito for a few years now, especially being now that I'm in Korea. 

Enter my new friend who recently started doing an internship at the Mexican Embassy in Korea. She told me about an event that the Embassy holds to celebrate the Mexican Independence Day. Since she said that there would be unlimited Mexican food and drinks, of course I told her to get me an invite ASAP! 

And here it is! Boom!

It was held this past Monday. If you know me well, you know I don't like to go out during the week, but I had to make an exeption for this event; unlimited margaritas, duh!!!

It was held at the Lotte Hotel. Unfortunately, when I got there, a lot of the yummy Mexican food was gone, grrrr!!! But I did get to have some sushi and arroz con leche. 

And there was still plenty of Tecate and Tijuana beer!!

Anyways, it was good to once again sing the Mexican anthem, see an escolta and yes, give 'el grito', Viva México ca...!!!!!!

I also met some great people, who knew there were that many Mexicans in Seoul.

I even met my tocaya! It's sooooo rare to run into another Selene (same spelling even!). Who knew I'd meet another Selene in Korea. 

See ya next year when I'll for sure get there earlier to be able to eat Mexican food :P


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Babies, lots of babies!

Where to start? This summer has been amazing! Bittersweet too, actually, but yes, overall awesome. I was finally able to go home after two years and have a sunny summer, yes Korea I'm talking to you! It was so exciting to see my family, friends, and eat all the yummy food Murrica has to offer. 

It was also great to do lots of activities including a trip to Grand Rapids, MI and Chicago, IL where Team America had a little reunion for Jared's wedding! In the picture below are also three other former expats, it was so cool to see them all! well as FlaCa, yay!! ...of course we had to wear our couple ajumma pants to a Sox game (second MLB game in Murrica) hehehe.

Other activities ...

Went to see the LA Doyers! ...Third MLB game

Went to my favorite amusement park, Magic Mountain!

Hiked up to a potato chip.

Took my little cousins to the happiest place on earth! 

Went kayaking with my sisters. A little scary I gotta say, but will definitely be trying it again.

I also did the Neon Run with my sister. Wore tutus and all!

Vegas with my sibling was absolutely amazing! much fun!

Lastly, what definitely stands out the most is all the beautiful babies I got to meet. This is the part I hate about being away; I miss out on important events such as witnessing the future generation grow up. It breaks my heart that I don't get to see these tiny humans become their own little selves. I unfortunately did not get to meet all the babies I wanted to meet. Yes, there are that many!! So here they are the ones I did meet in no particular order, except for the first one hehe.

Alex! My little bodoque! This little guy is the cutest baby evah! OK, I'm a little biased 'cause he's my nephew, but seriously, never have I ever met a baby this giggly and risueño (beaming?) as him! My brother and sister-in-law came to pick me up at the airport, and let me tell you I am sure this little guy knew who I was! As I greeted him, he was all giggles and smiles! 

Got him a Pororo backpack and hat hehehe.

It was really cute to see my parents interact with their first grandchild, ha! Abuelitos!!

Another cute baby, Niah! Look at those big bright eyes!

Then we have cute little Noah who had his first birthday party! ...and his little bro is on his way, yay! (belly not pictured here)

And then there's cutie patootie, Gianluca. Funny thing, I met his sister Juliette (in pink) two years ago when I went back to the States for my sister's wedding.

I also got to meet my namesake, Selene Valentina, but I didn't get a picture because it was late at night and my uncle was just leaving my house as I was arriving :(. 

And lastly, this little mosha peshosha, Zyanya, whose birth I was supposed to be there for, but my BFF decided to pop a week and a half early while I was in Chicago, booo. 

Isn't she gorgeous?!? I could just look at her sleep forever. 

And although it was great being around all of them, I'm still thinking the following: 

Don't get me wrong, being a parent is a beautiful thing and an adventure in itself, but umm, my werito Hobak is enough for now.

Well now it's back to business and start the semester all fresh, bring it on!

Oh and let the Korean adventures being hehe.