If you’re thinking of rest stops like the ones in the southwestern deserts of the US with pit toilets and, if you’re lucky a vending machine, then the rest stops in Korea are like a dream come true! This is just one of the many strange and interesting differences between our countries. Not EVERY rest stop is so posh, but most have big clean bathrooms, food courts where you can get a good hot meal, a few convenience stores, a place for coffee, street food of all types and usually a place that sell CDs & tapes.

These little potatoes are my favorite snack and I only ever see then at the rest stops! They are sprinkled with sugar and are delish!

This is just a quick tour of the bathrooms. Who doesn’t want a clean bathroom with a nice little forest after a long trip?

And a little tour around:




Oh, to be!

Oiedo Island, Korea July 2011

Beginning with an early 8 am departure from Daegu, my friend Young-eun (영은) and I set out for a day in Seoul. I almost didn’t make the train. . . but that’s another story. On the KTX, it’s less than 2 hours to Seoul and we arrived before many shops and things were open. First stop: Changdeokgung Palace.

The clay figures are spirit guards.

In the “woman’s quarters”

After we had spent what seemed like a dignified amount of time traipsing around and absorbing a little history, it became very important that we move on to the bigger and better aim of the trip: eating good food! Young-eun’s husband is from Seoul and kept calling and sending recommendations for good lunch spots. We eagerly set off from the palace in the direction of a good meal.

Only to be delayed by crazy old streets that didn’t go where we thought they would.

But, we did get to see some interesting things like this:

This the East/West Design Center, tucked away in a quiet old neighborhood. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the building is stacked vertically. What you see is the traditional building and then to the left is a modern, glass extension.

We also discovered some really interesting small galleries. I bought some fantastic rice earrings! I also shared with Young-eun the phraze, “I’m a sucker for. . . ” In this case, “I’m a sucker for interesting jewelry made by young artists.”

A REALLY cool bench!

And finally, LUNCH!

After eating we explored another near-by area, stumbling into a couple exhibition openings, bargaining for more jewelry, looking at many paintings and finally resting in the subway. I cannot fully explain here how much walking we did!

Only 11,000 km from NYC!


And then finally to 홍대 (Hong-dae), a university neighborhood. At this point I was too tired to take pictures any more so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that this was a great neighborhood. It was young and trendy with lots of people, music, food, etc. The morning was full of Korean history and the afternoon/evening was a good picture of modern Korea. For dinner we decided on a quick and cheap option, 라면 (Ramyun- the Korean version of Ramen) after our lunch splurge.

What you CANNOT tell from this photo is how spicy this was! In my year in Korea, this was the first time I had to give up on my food. I tried to temper it with rice, then with mandoo (steamed dumplings), but eventually I threw in the towel and left with red, burning lips.

Hmmm, feelin’ a little loopy.

After this I headed back to the train station and caught the 9 pm KTX back to Daegu. It was a fabulous day exploring a few neighborhoods in Seoul and hanging out with a new friend, but I was glad to get home to my small city of 3 million people. Can you believe that? 3 million people can feel small.


What did I do with my last week of vacation? I went to Jeju-do with a group of kids from my church for a discipleship camp!

Jeju-do, an island located south of the Korean peninsula is considered one of the most picturesque areas of Korea. . . sort of the Korean “Hawaii”, with many vacationers, honeymooners and school kids. It was beautiful and warm enough to be a LOVELY break from the cold of Daegu.

waiting in the Daegu airport for our flight

I had 11 kids in my group (7 boys and 4 girls) and they were SUPER fun! We were the “A” team and the first thing I taught them was the expression “A-okay”.

our first morning was beautiful so we had one of our classes outside. here are some of the kids in my group doing their Bible lesson.

check out the beautiful water!

in Jeju there are women who dive for shellfish without the use of any oxygen. many of them are elderly and can hold their breath underwater for several minutes. this is the closest I got to one of these divers 🙂

view from the mountain.

One of the kids commented, “it looks just like a map”. So true!

my group- A team-  aren’t they cute??

picking tangerines! they were SO delicious. (don’t be mislead by the expressionless faces- these 2 boys are silly, funny and full of life! they just don’t smile for pictures, as is the Korean way.)

Jae-young– another one of the trip leaders, our trusty photographer and a sweet new friend.

Christina and I

Sung-ah, always wanting to be in EVERY photo!

Mark (the other native English speaker) another trip leader and some of the kids at the botanic gardens.

Pastor Daniel, our wonderful leader, with a bunch of kids! All smiles, all the time!

The trip was really exhausting, but really fun! As we studied some of the Old Testament stories together, stories of Moses and Jacob, I was impressed by how much the Lord takes care of his people. It makes no difference if those people are the Israelites in the OT, Americans, or Koreans of today, we can ALL be God’s people. As I am continuing to adjust to living life cross-culturally it was a sweet lesson for me.

When we weren’t learning about God or traveling around the island on a big bus, we were eating (oh my gosh, did we eat!) or playing or practicing our dramas (we learned lines, made costumes and performed!).

That, friends, is how I spent my last week of vacation!

In the beginning of February I went to Changsha, China to visit my cousins!! It was a great trip!!

Drew and Rachel, with their son, Titus, have lived in Changsha for the last year and they were AMAZING hosts.

bubble tea!

There was a slide down the mountain! It was so fun we did it twice.

This is at a small park where Mao briefly lived when he was young.

Delicious food!

I visited the embroidery center of the Hunan Province.

Yup, that is an entire pig!

Titus and I

I was in Changsha the week before the Chinese (lunar) New Year and the city was full of red lanterns like these. The weather was really cold and damp, but something about the lanterns made everything feel a little better.

I said before I left that what I really wanted to do was not see all of China (not EVEN possible in a week) or even all of Changsha, but to just learn a little about the country/city through the eyes of my cousins. Some days we didn’t do more than just a trip to the market, but other days were busier, as evidenced in the photos. It was great and good way for me to see a new place!!

Korea vs. China– from my observations, some of the differences

  • small (K) vs. big (C)
  • ethnically homogeneous vs. ethnically diverse (there are MANY people and language groups in China)
  • some western foods available vs. many western foods available (this was a surprise to me)
  • in-floor heating vs. no indoor heat (thankfully the apartments where Drew and Rachel live DO have heat)
  • lots of coffee vs. no coffee
  • food is mostly steamed or stewed vs. food is mostly cooked in oil
  • many English translations vs. no much translation
  • public transportation is clean vs. public transportation is dirty
  • Americans can visit any time vs. Americans must pay big $ for a visa to enter

Korea and China– some of the similarities

  • washing machines without center posts + hang dry
  • squatty toilets + don’t flush the toilet paper
  • I am a minority/foreigner
  • public transportation is good and reliable + taxis are cheap
  • McDonalds and KFC

Don’t you want to go too? If you have the chance I highly recommend it!

In December in Daegu there were  lights on a couple trees on campus, a decorated Christmas tree in every subway station, some holiday displays in the stores, but NO publicly played Christmas music. I asked about it and was told that it was outlawed a couple years ago.

“What, no Christmas music?”

I didn’t realize how much I associate music with the holiday season. As December began I quickly realized that I would have to take matters into my own hands. Thanks to a reminder from my sister I listened to the KBCO Holiday channel on-line, and thanks to an e-mail link from a friend I discovered NPRs Christmas playlist. Between the on-line music and my own stash I was still able to envelope myself in the sounds of the seasons (as long as I was home or in my office), but I missed hearing it as I walked downtown or in the stores.

Like the lack of music, Christmas in Korea was a very quiet season, so different from the craziness of the season in the U.S. Then in addition, December was a very busy month at work: planning my classes for the Spring semester, guiding all my students in their final projects, lots of end-of-the-year parties, and piles of grading. I didn’t really forget about Christmas, but I almost did. Somewhere around the 17th I realized that I didn’t have any plans. I tried not to be depressed, I tried to be brave, but I couldn’t help it. For the first time in my LIFE I had no plans for Christmas!! Could it be true?

After a few days of sad prayers, the Lord answered me with an invitation from my friends Heather and Kevin. They live in another city in Korea and although we didn’t really know each other before, we were part of the same (fabulous) church in Savannah. It was so nice to spend a few days with them and get out of town. Although I wasn’t traveling to see my own family, the 3 hour train trip put me in the Christmas mood.

Their real-life Christmas tree!

At my house I had the cutest little Charlie Brown tree. I really thought I took a picture of it, but now that I’m going back through my photos I can’t find it.  Anyway, when I walked into their house on Christmas Eve, I was surprised and so excited to see a real tree!!

Kevin & Heather playing

I made them some place-mats.

On Christmas day in Korea it was Christmas Eve in the U.S. which was perfect since usually the biggest family gathering and celebration happens then. All my family had traveled to be with our extended family in Minneapolis. As thankful as I was to be with friends, I was still really missing my family. With skype I was able to join them, sisters, cousins, parents, aunts, uncles, grandma, for about an hour as they sang carols and read the Christmas story. Sometimes I was just in the room and other times I got to talk with people. I cried a lot when I heard them singing and cried when I saw their faces, and I cried even more when they let me make a song request, partly because I was sad and partly because I was so happy to be able to “be” there. Alongside with another cousin who lives in China, we were all in the same room together. Isn’t that cool?

I stole this photo from my sisters FB page. I’m there on the left 🙂

It was good for me to join with them for a little bit and helped me to feel connected when the reality of the distance should have meant we were disconnected. When I hung up I felt happy to have shared in the celebration of Christmas with my family and free to get back to my life in Korea.


As much as Christmas was void of many of the traditions I know and love, but it still was wonderful. A friend gave me a list of advent readings and as I read the prophesies of the Messiah, through the story of Jesus’ birth, and finished with His death and resurrection, I was acutely aware of what I really celebrated in Christmas. It was sweet. I have heard many people say this before, but I’ll go ahead and say it again: without the noise of the season, it was much easier to reflect on the wonderful gift of Jesus!

Before I end this post, I have to mention the Pepakakor. In my family these Swedish gingerbread cookies are an essential flavor of Christmas. You wouldn’t have Thanksgiving without turkey, you wouldn’t have Valentine’s Day without chocolate, and you definitely wouldn’t have Christmas without Pepakakor. Since I don’t have an oven, I had resigned myself to their absence. . . but then, a friend with an oven invited me to make Christmas cookies with her. Oh the joy, oh the surprise!

Here they are in all their goodness. We didn’t have any cookie cutters so we just used a glass to make the circles. I ate a bunch, brought some with me to Kevin and Heather’s house and am saving a few in the freezer for a future date.


As I just re-read this post, I am really struck by the number of people who gave me the gift of friendship this Christmas. Friends reminded me how to get Christmas music in Korea, a friend helped me to bake my favorite cookies, friends invited me to stay with them for Christmas, a friend gave me a list of advent readings, and there are parts of the story that I didn’t even recount (like all the friends who sent me gifts).  It is easy for me to feel isolated and alone here, but by writing this, the Lord just gently reminded me that I am not.

I am a delinquent blogger at best and there are many things to say but I’ll start back in November. While my cousin, Paul, was visiting for Thanksgiving we made a day trip to Busan. It is only about an hour train ride from Daegu, on the East coast of Korea. Busan is a big city and a big port,  and it felt very different from where I live.

As close as it is, I haven’t been to visit more than passing through on my way to Japan (in September). The day was really about fish, both dead and alive. We spent a good part of the day at the biggest fish market in Korea and then finished with a trip to the acquarium.

sea slugs, ewww.

It’s kimchi-makin’ season.

View from the tower.


These are cranes like those in the Savannah port that I’ve always thought of as “the dinosaurs”.  They are “same-same” at what I know from home. This is one phrase that I’ve assumed since living in Korea. I don’t know if there is something in the Korean language that this translates from, but it is used QUITE frequently when comparing one thing to another. It’s a phrase that’s kind of a joke to those of us native English speakers. And one of those things that even though I know it’s not correct, I use anyway because the Korean English speakers use it and understand it.

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