Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Photo Essay

If you have time, check out this beautiful photo essay about Korean adoption by Jeanne Madderman. The pictures tell the stories better than words ever could.

The photos of the birth mothers, especially, are heartbreaking.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Minor Celeb Status

Okay, the headline was just a joke, but since I was part of the first adoptee group to become dual citizens there was a lot of press at the event. Not kidding, these guys were sprinting around the room trying to capture every.single.moment. One guy was absolutely pouring sweat.

Anyway, here are links to some of the coverage:
  • Korea Times: A picture of the group and the article's in English too.
  • Kyunghyang: A small local newspaper (in Korean, but there's a pic)
  • MBC News clip: It's in Korean and mostly features a married couple who got dual citizenship together, but there's a quick little part where I shake hands with the Ministry of Justice and bow. ^^

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sisters Night

Last night Mark and SangKwun both had prior appointments, so ChungPing and I had a "sisters night." First, we gorged ourselves on shabu shabu. Seriously. I think we still had half a pot of veggies of meat, plus noodles and rice to cook when we both started feeling full. We both said we sort of wished Mark was with us because he always eats a lot. Haha.

Then, we came back home, attempted to watch a little Korean TV, and mostly just gossiped. I managed to snap a pic of her... cutest pregnant lady ever award!


I have to say, I've really been enjoying evenings like this with ChungPing. Even though we can't speak a common language and I don't see her as often as I'd like, she's truly become like a sister to me. I can be myself around her and we can talk about everything from her feelings about the baby, plans for the future, ex-boyfriends, and what our husbands do that make us mad. Also, when she's in town and goes shopping, she almost always picks me up a thing or two to add to my wardrobe and dispenses all sorts of advice about how I should wear it. Can't get much more sisterly than that!!!!

Cooking class

Last week for our Sogang field trip, everyone in Level 4 went to a cooking class in 홍대.

The place was really cool and we got to prepare 안동찜닭 (chicken and veggies in a spicy soy based sauce), 해물 파전 (seafood and green onion pancakes), and 김밥 (Korean version of sushi rolls).

When we arrived, we put on aprons. The cooking area was really nice and there were tables with ingredients for each class. There were a total of 6 Level 4 classes.

Here I am with my classmate Chika. She is Japanese and actually loves cooking so much that she is currently enrolled in 2 cooking classes. After she finishes up at Sogang, she heads to cooking school. Needless to say, she was invaluable as we sliced, diced, sauteed...


The ingredients were mostly all laid out for us, we just had to cut them up and cook them.


Here's the seafood plate. It's kind of odd, because when I first came here I couldn't stand squid, but little by little it's grown on me. I am still not at the point of eating dried and buttered squid as a snack at the movies, but in various dishes it's actually pretty good.


We added the cut up seafood to this green onion batter.


Then we fried them, and TA DAAAA... 해물 파전! This is seriously one of my favorite things to eat lately with 막걸리 (Korean rice wine).


We also rolled up some 김밥. Mine is on the far right. These Korean rolls are filled with rice, carrots, cucumbers, sesame leaves, picked radishes, crab sticks, and more. Amazing.


And finally, here's the 안동찜닭 cooking.


And here's our final product! The best part of the day was that we could eat our creations together with our class. The place also provided us with kimchi (because what is a meal without it), and oranges.


And before we left, we were all given a recipe (in Korean no less) so we can try to make some of these dishes on our own. Any requests?

Ellen's Birthday

I think I've mentioned it before, but there are two girls here that I've gotten really close to while living over here: Kerry and Ellen. We worked with them last year, but since we left Poly we've become much closer.

These girls have been majorly significant in making me feel more accepted in Korea. This is a country where the natives tend to hold the foreigners at an arm's distance. But Kerry and Ellen have never treated us like outsiders. They invited us out with their friends, helped us with any language difficulties, and basically have just been the sweetest, most caring (not to mention fun) friends we could hope to find. Besides my birth family, these two are going to be the hardest people to leave when we head Stateside. We've talked about them visiting us in the US, so I'm really, really hoping that actually happens.

Last week was Ellen's birthday and she turned the dreaded 3-0. (Actually it wasn't so bad since it's Korean age 30... so according to my age counting system she's only 29. But I digress.) So we decided to go to a cute little place in Itaewon, Bungalow, for margaritas and cake.

Since Ellen is obsessed with coffee, we got her a coffee cup shaped cappuccino cake.


And here are the girls... (Mark came too, but was our photographer.)


As always, I was grateful for a super-fun night spent with my favorite people.
Love you Kerry and Ellen!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dual identity!

It's official... I'm a dual citizen! Here's the write-up (in English) from the Korea Herald. I'm going to do a post about the ceremony and everything... eventually.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Baby Blabber

In August, Mark and I will be the extremely excited Aunt and Uncle of an adorable Chinese-Korean NIECE!!!!!!!!!!! Can't wait!

Pretty sure she'll be the best dressed baby on the planet. Crossing my fingers that she also has a full head of dark hair -- I love that. ^^

Oh and I need to get a picture of ChungPing. Once I do I'll post it on here. Hands down cutest pregnant lady I've ever seen.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Who says you can't find big shoes in Korea?????


Taken in Myeongdong on a studying Sunday. :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pieces of Korea in the Lou

So one of my fears about returning back to the States is that I won't really have a chance to use the Korean skills I've acquired this past year and will promptly forget Every.Single.Thing. After all the blood, sweat, and tears it's taken me to get the level I am now, that would be the worst thing imaginable.

Also while I'm excited to be much, much geographically closer to friends and family, I'm pretty sure I'm going to go through some major withdrawal missing this country I've called home and come to love these past two years. So, this evening I decided to do a little investigating to see if I could still find little pieces of Korea in the middle of the Midwest.

And my search wasn't fruitless! I found....
  • St. Louis Korean-English Organization: This was a major shocker. This is a not-for-profit group that sponsors meet-ups, has English and Korean tutoring, and more. Um, sign me up yesterday. Oh, and interesting that they're looking for a marketing director.... ^^
  • Noraebangs: These are the infamous Korean private karaoke rooms where Mark and I have spent many, many evenings. And it so happens that there are TWO in West County. Oh, and they serve soju... It may be a haul, but I have a feeling that the road trip will be necessary at some point.
  • Patbingsu: Patbingsu is an amazing mixture of shaved ice, fruit, and red beans that makes me so happy in the summer. And amazingly enough, there is a Korean bakery in Chesterfield that serves it! Step aside Ted Drewes...
These little gems were found in about 10 minutes flat, so there must be even more that I'm not aware of... Next on the hunt, a hairstylist who knows how to cut (and maybe color) Asian hair... and possibly can even maintain my magic straight perm without charging me everything in my bank account plus my first born child...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring in the Concrete Jungle

Spring has officially come to Seoul! Temperatures are in the 60s and I'm even debating taking our winter coats to the dry-cleaner.

I could get used to this city life in the concrete jungle, because the lack of trees and flowers means no allergies!!!! Last year around this time in St. Louis I was completely falling apart.

I may be alone in this, but I'll take acid rain and yellow dust any day over springtime allergies. :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Terrible Horrible No-Good Very Bad Morning

Yesterday may go down as one of the major low points in Korea.

To back up from the beginning... I got an email from the man who is doing a lot of work for the dual citizenship campaign claiming that I had failed to renew my F4 visa so I am illegally in Korea. If I'm illegally here, I can't get dual citizenship.

I double checked my visa in my passport and the final date was November 2011. Still time left. But then he asked me to check my alien registration card. Uh oh... the date on there read January 2011... No biggie, I'll just go to the Immigration Office, explain my confusion, we'll all have a good laugh, the visa will be extended, and everything will be just fine.

So yesterday Mark met me in Anguk and off we went. I explained to the first guy how I confused the visa expiration date with the final re-entry date and he told me that since I was late there would be a fine. Not ideal, but do-able. It was my mistake after all. So he led me down the hall to the "Offence Office." (And that's not a typo, that's how it was written.) He showed me where to go and told me once I have that taken care of to return to him. And that's where all hell broke loose.

The "Offence office" man took my paperwork, consulted some sort of a chart and proceeded to tell me that the fine was $500. $500!!!!!! Apparently if you over-stay the visa for less than 90 days the fine is $100. But after 90 days it jumps to $500 and goes up from there. And I happened to learn of my mistake a few days too late. I was 3 days past the 90 day mark. 3 FREAKING DAYS!

I tried to explain to him (in Korean no less) the misunderstanding, that it was an honest mistake (I wasn't really trying to pull anything sneaky), and that I'm a Korean student and don't have that type of money.

He didn't budge and kind of yelled at me in Korean. Then he said really loudly in English "NO EXCEPTIONS."

So then Mark started getting fired up and told him that we're NOT paying, I'm adopted, came here to learn about the culture and the language and this is ridiculous. At this point Mark may or may not have also dropped an f-bomb. ^^ Then this oh-so-kind government official decided to switch to English and said, "You are not Korean. You CHOSE to give up your citizenship so this is your problem." Um, excuse me??? Didn't realize way back my birth family fell on hard times and had to send me abroad that I had a choice in any of this.

So we went back and forth for about 10 minutes and finally realized we weren't going to win this battle. So we asked how we should pay the fine. And he said, that it's too "difficult" for him, so we need to go to a bank and pay it. And until we do, he's keeping my passport and alien registration card.

So off we went in the rain to the bank. The first bank didn't have a global ATM, so we were sent to another bank. The next bank's internet was down, so the ATM's weren't working... so we were sent to another bank where we were finally able to withdraw the money and pay the &#(% fine.

Finally we went back to the office, retrieved my stuff, and got the very, very expensive little stamp on the back of my F4 card confirming I had extended my visa.

Ugh. What an awful day. And it makes it worse that pretty much every Korean I talked to has been shocked about the way that the "Offence office" worker spoke to us and said that if we had a Korean with us, we probably wouldn't have had to pay (that much at least). They said normally in Korea if you argue, you don't have to pay or you can at least get your fine lessened. But since we're foreigners they assume 1) we're rich and 2) since we can't speak the language well, they can push us around.

So yesterday, I learned a very expensive lesson. So for anyone else living in Korea, look at the date on your Alien Registration Card and whatever you do, make sure you renew it on time.