Category: barbecue

Finding the allure

It’s a curious thing, indeed, that even the most mundane things can seem interesting to us when we are abroad.  I’ve often noticed this phenomenon in my many travels – every restaurant, historical site, performance, or even ice cream shop or cafe can be charming and alluring when you’re in another country.  But then, I get back to the states, and I forget that intrigue, that child-like fascination with every experience that comes my way.

I didn’t really realize that I had lost this interest, until I started hanging out with foreign friends here in Atlanta.  And all of a sudden their thirst to experience everything that Atlanta had to offer, their passion to understand as many facets of this culture as they possibly could, and their desire for new experiences was totally putting me to shame.

So for the past few weeks, in the middle of my crazy busy schedule, I’ve been trying to sit back and find some of that interest, that allure, that intrigue, from my own culture – the one that I’m most likely to take for granted.  Here’s a few of the highlights from the month of October.

I went to a fantastical restaurant called Dante’s Down the Hatch with some friends.  It’s a fondue restaurant, which is already cool enough in itself – I had never had fondue before.  But then, on top of that, the entire restaurant looks like the inside of a massive ship – hence the name, I suppose.  You could walk through the “ship’s” walkways and into the galley and such while you were waiting for your delicious fondue to arrive.  Definitely a multi-sensory experience!!

Dante’s Down the Hatch

Fondue!!!  Yummmm

I went to a ballroom competition in mid-October.  At this point I had actually gotten rather burnt out on dancing, so it was a nice change to sit back and just watch it.  Plus, the styles were completely different from what I’m used to, so that was fun, too.  Was definitely a memorable evening…

For fall break, my family mixed it up some and came to visit me, instead of the other way around!  What a joy it was to be able to host them, instead of being the one hosted.  Mom and I cooked a nice dinner (it was the first time that she had cooked something in my kitchen! :]), and then Chris and Julia came over to eat with all of us.  The only person missing was dad, but he was there in spirit! 🙂  I’m looking forward to many more visits like that….it blessed me in so many ways!

My sister is really the cutest ever.  The end.

I love seeing my family at home in my home!

Sleepover!!!

I went to a Korean barbecue place with some friends from school.  I was soooooo excited before going – it was the first time I had eaten Korean food since I came back!  But I have to admit, I was sorely disappointed.  It was expensive, and honestly not very good, and they didn’t even let us grill it ourselves, which is half of the fun of Korean barbecue!  Lame.  I guess living in Korea has spoiled me. I should have known better – I didn’t eat American food in Korea, because they can’t make it the “right” way; why would I have thought that Americans can do Korean food any better??  Ahh well, live and learn, it was still an experience :).  The hunt continues for an authentic Korean food place!!

I was telling them what everything at the table was.  It was fun playing tour guide… 
Had an interesting Friday night a few weeks ago.  The Fernbank museum of natural history was having a salsa and bachata night – in the middle of the museum.  So I dragged my friend Fernando along – we actually met at a dance, so it was fitting that he come with me – and then met some other friends from the Tech salsa club there.  It was really cool, with DJs and dancers and drinks all spread out amid the museum exhibits and such.  I can’t say that I’ve ever danced under a dinosaur before, lol.  Now I can check that off of my list!  Not that it was actually on my list to begin with….but if it was, it’s been checked off now! 😉

Dancing with dinosaurs!!
The shell was as big as I was!!
This past week was really a momentous week in my life.  I went to TWO different sporting events – in a single week!  For someone who’s never in her entire life been to either a professional basketball or football game, going to one of each in a single week was quite a feat!  What can I say, I’m trying hard to find the allure of my own culture… 😉
So the first game I went to was an Atlanta Hawks basketball game.  Two German friends of mine, Theresa and Carston, had an extra ticket, and so they invited me to come along.  We went to Johnny Rockets first for dinner, and then headed over to the game.  I was a little underwhelmed.  Perhaps it’s because it was a pre-season game, so the crowd wasn’t as into it as they would normally be, but I wasn’t particularly impressed.  I had a good time with my friends though, and the mascot was certainly fun to watch ;).
Carston, Theresa, and me and Johnny Rockets
Beautiful shot of Atlanta’s skyline! 🙂
My second sporting event was GA Tech’s homecoming football game.  I figured if I was going to go to a football game, a homecoming game was a good day to go.  The pre-game festivities for this one were much more impressive than at the basketball game – there was a tailgate with my department before the game, and also a parade and great halftime performance.  But at least the Hawks won the game.  GA Tech lost 40-17, so that put a bit of a damper on the festivities.  However, I really feel no personal attachement to the team at all (don’t tell any of my fellow Tech students!), so it didn’t bother me that much.  I just went and admired the general atmosphere.  So I can now say that I’ve been to a football game; I don’t see myself ever going again, though.  It’s not that it wasn’t fun – it’s just that I can think of tons of alternative activities to do that I would enjoy more :).  Anyway, off to the books for me now!  I shall try to be more diligent in writing over the next month!

My first tailgate!!

Buzz, GA Tech’s mascot.  He kind of creeps me out, lol

She’s juggling torches!!  Made me think of my dad… 🙂

Bachata, babies, and badminton

I had quite an eventful weekend.  So eventful, in fact, that it’s taken me until Thursday to recover enough so that I could write about it.  Anyway, here goes nothing!

My weekend started on Friday night, with a trip to Pohang.  Alejandro, who I had met at church the previous Sunday, invited me to go dancing with him at a latin club in Pohang….and of course, I said yes!  When the rubber hit the road, I actually almost didn’t go, because it was raining really hard, and I didn’t want to make the 40 minute trip to Pohang in the rain.  But I decided to go anyway, and I’m sooooo glad that I did.  After some miscommunications about where to meet, Alejandro finally found me at the bus terminal, and we headed over there together, followed shortly by friends of ours, as well.

My oh my oh my.  What an evening that was.  The grand total of amigos was 3 guys, and me.  So between them, and the other random Koreans who kept asking me to dance, I hardly sat down all night.  The dance was still going strong, but I finally had to tear myself away so that I could catch the last bus back to Gyeongju.  Latin dancing is not my favorite style….but in a pinch, it will certainly do, and it’s definitely a blast when you’re dancing with guys who know what they’re doing :).

The picture’s blurry, but you get the idea….we were having a blast

My 3 men <3  - from left to right, Prophet, Alejandro, and Erik 

Soooo, I got back to Gyeongju around 1:00 am, passed out into my bed….and then was up again by 7:00 the next morning.  I had promised to go observe my friend Henly’s Saturday “Happy English camp” for elementary kids.  They were so little!  After a year of high schoolers, they looked like babies to me, lol.  But anyway, I had to leave by 8:15, so I dragged myself out of bed and got there just in time to help setting up.

Our table to display the kids’ cupcakes

This was where the plan went to pieces.  The plan, according to Henly, was that I would just come and obverse his class, and then afterwards we would meet the rest of the worship team and practice for worship on Sunday.  The plan, in his own words, was that I would be able to “take a rest” and not worry about anything until practice started.  What actually happened was this: I sat in the back of the class as he prepared to start class.  Then he asked me what a good song / intro would be to use with a bunch of elementary kids.  Uh, oh.  I hadn’t thought about that.  Strike one.  Then he started playing “If you’re happy and you know it”….and made me get up in front of the class and sing and dance for the kids.  Strike two.  After I scurried back to my seat once the song ended, I lasted about 10 minutes before the entire class was in total mayhem.  The kids were yelling, confused, and wild, not listening to Henly at all.  Strike three.

This was right before the mass chaos started

Finally, I couldn’t take the chaos, and got up and helped Henly out with crowd control and explaining directions and such.  I guess it was fun…..some of the kids were really adorable :).  But overall it was just total insanity….definitely not what I signed up for, lol.  I told Henly that he owed me some ice cream….and maybe a steak dinner, too.  Hehehe….

So happy English camp finally ended, we practiced for church the next day, and I was able to go home and get some sleep to catch up from the night before.  Which was good, because I needed all of the energy I could get for Sunday.  The church leaders had been announcing for a few weeks that we would have a “church picnic” – and today was the big day.  So, silly me, I had a very light breakfast, because I assumed that we would be eating lunch right after church.

Worshipping the Lord under a canopy of lush green vines….beautiful 

Ha.  You’d think I would have learned by now that things are never prompt in Korea.  What actually happened was that we played sports all afternoon, and then had an early dinner together.  Kickball….soccer…..basketball….volleyball….badminton….it was like 5 hours of non-stop sports.  And I played them allll.  I was literally shaking from hunger by the time we finally ate….but it was so worth it.  I had a blast.  It was so lovely to be able to spend some fellowship time with my church family outside of the 4 walls of church.  Plus, I’ve been dying to get active again.  Was definitely the highlight of my week, although over the next few days my body payed me back for punishing it so severely on Sunday, lol.

And there you have it!  Alejandro stayed late after the “picnic” ended, and I showed him around Gyeongju some.  He left, I passed out in bed, and then faced another week of classes!  I was tired, especially on Monday and Tuesday, but it was great….some of my students I haven’t taught for a month, for one reason or another, and I so enjoyed teaching them again.  I’ve missed them soooo much.  Heading to Seoul tomorrow, for my last weekend trip while in Korea!  I’ll update you as soon as I can! 🙂

Love, love, love my church family here <3 <3 <3

Cambodia

My second layover in Kuala Lumpur was just about as long as the first one.  However, since this time it was in the middle of the night, I decided to just find a place to sleep and not do any sightseeing.  I looked online and found that there was actually a hotel in the KL airport, so I booked a night there and thought that that was that.  But when I arrived in the airport from India, I found out that this hotel is not accesible from the lost-cost carrier terminal….my terminal.  But, no sweat, there was a hotel just a few minutes away from the terminal, technically still on the airport grounds.  They even offered a shuttle service!  So I walked to the shuttle…and that’s where my problems started.  The shuttle was full, so the driver told me that I should walk.  Somehow, I doubted the wisdom of his scheme to tell a single girl to go walking by herself in the the middle of the night in an airport in Asia, but I was super tired, so I just silently walked the hotel.  All I wanted was a bed to sleep in.  But alas, the universe had other plans.  I arrived at the hotel to find that they were completely booked.  So I slogged back to the airport, by this time thoroughly prepared to spend the night sleeping on a chair in the airport.However, as I was getting settled on my little chair, I happened to glance over and noticed a sign for the airport’s “premium lounge.”  I initially balked at the price, but then I decided that a safe place to sleep and a shower were more important, so I bit the bullet and paid the price.  But it was so worth it in the end.  I had such a limited time in Cambodia, that I would not have been able to enjoy it if I had been sleep deprived and grumpy the whole time.  As it was, I got a shower, had reliable internet for a while (and even got to talk to my mother while I was there, woot!), took a shower, got some sleep, AND had breakfast.  Definitely worth the money.

My hostel in Cambodia was as wonderful as the first hostel in India was horrible.  They were there waiting for me at the airport (in a TUK-TUK, no less!!), and took me to the hostel free of charge.  The main lobby area of the hostel is also an outside restaurant / hangout area.  It is covered with hanging plants, and cool quite nooks to sequester yourself in, and flowers, and gentle water rippling in the background.  Upon checking in, I was greeted with an incredibly friendly staff who made the arrangements for any sort of excursion that I wanted.  They even greeted me with a fruity drink, to refresh me from my travels!  Walking into the room, I was greeted by a huge bed (which also happened to be the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in…ever), a modern bathroom….and flowers!  They had scented jasmine flowers strewn all over the room!  I had been in Cambodia less than an hour, and was already in love with it.

My hostel

I was determined to make the most of my extremely limited time there, so I dropped my stuff off and immediately headed out again.  I felt as safe in Cambodia as I felt unsafe in India, and decided to go exploring on my own for a while.  I hired a tuk-tuk to take me to the arts district, and then let him go so I could meander home on my own.  So I walked through a place called Artisans of Angkor, which takes young artisans from all over the country and gives them a year of training in their craft, so that they can make a living doing it.  Pretty cool place….

Walking home, I got asked by several drivers if I needed a ride.  But the beautiful thing about Cambodia is that they respected my answer when I said no.  In India, people would follow you for blocks and blocks, entreating you to to buy their products the entire time, no matter how strenuously you denied their offers.  But in Cambodia, they asked once, and if you said no, they backed off and let you be.  It was a wonderful thing.

In the afternoon, I went on a boat cruise down the Tongle Sap lake.  The ride lasted about 4 hours, with a few stops mid-way.  The main ride took us through a huge floating village in the middle of the lake.  It was fascinating to see these people living completely, constantly on the water.  I wonder if they ever yearned to be on land for a change of scenery, like I sometimes yearn to be on the water.  There were other people on the tour with me, mostly from France.  My one semester of college French allowed me to make some small talk with them, but I was really wishing that I knew a bit more.  But it was still a blast.  Being on the water, with the cool breezes ruffling through my hair, was so incredibly relaxing.  I could have stayed there all day.  The only thing that I didn’t like was the snake children.  Cambodian women have a habit of putting snakes (non-poisonous ones, I hope!) around their small children’s necks (we’re talking, like 3 and 4 year olds).  Then then paddle around in small boats when the tourists show up, and anytime someone wants to take a picture of their child, they extract a small sum from them.  I’m not sure exactly what it was, but something about that particular practice really really bothered me.

We stopped at a crocodile farm – they creeped me out!!
This is what they did with the crocodiles….

But anyway, Cambodia was a wonderful experience, so let’s move on to happier things! 🙂  My hostel is owned and operated by a lovely Australian couple.  Twice a week, they offer an all-you-can-eat Australian bar-b-que.  So that’s where I found myself Tuesday evening.  Boy I tell you what, when they said all-you-can-eat, they meant it.  There were chicken kabobs, and beef kabobs, and vegetarian kabobs, and all sorts of grilled meats, and sausages, and salads, and potatoes, and fruits, and breads….it was amazing.  I went to bed one very happy puppy that evening.

The next day I headed out to see Angkor Wat, the largest temple in the entire world.  I was planning on getting up early and watching the sunrise….but my bed was far too comfortable.  So I missed the sunrise, and I’m entirely ok with that….the bed was worth it :).  I was on a different tour with different people this time, some of who also spoke a foreign language.  Except this time, they spoke Spanish…and I was in heaven!  There was a Taiwanese couple who spoke fluent English, a lady from Colorado named Carolyne (more on her later!), and a couple from Madrid, Spain.  She spoke a little bit of English, but he spoke none at all, and so the three of us talked in Spanish almost the entire day.  It was amazing…I had forgotten just how much I love Spanish – speaking it, hearing it, everything.  Reminiscing about Spain was just an added bonus :).

Angkor Wat in all its splendour
The whole group having a Khmer picnic lunch!
There was a wedding at Angkor wat while we were there 🙂
The steps to the top – it was a 70/100 slope!!

So anyway, we spent the whole day on a walking tour through the temples of Angkor.  It was really cool at first, but I have to admit, by the end of the day, they were all starting to look the same.  The other American in the group, Carolyne, was in her 70’s, and she finally called it quits when we got to the last temple, and waited for us while in the van while we were walking.  Honestly, I wanted to do the exact same thing, but I refused to be outdone by middle-aged people, and so my stubbornness won out and I persevered :).  But regardless of our age difference, Carolyne and I really hit it off on the tour, and she invited me back to her hotel when it ended to go swimming.  As sore as I was from all of that walking, I gladly took her up on her offer.  So I went swimming in my jean shorts and t-shirt (I hadn’t brought a bathing suit), and we just talked for a couple of hours.  She’s a fascinating woman.  She’s a French and art teacher, and has lived for extended periods with her husband working as a teacher all over the world.  Now that he’s gone, she travels the world on her own seeing as many things and meeting as many people as she can before she dies.  I want to be like her when I grow up :).

I had to cut our visit short, however, because I had a dance to go to!  Cambodia is famous for their traditional style of dance, Aspera dancing, and my wonderful hostel had arranged for me to go to an Aspera show in the evening.  The performance was in a big buffet-style hall, and because I was a party of one I got seated alone at a small table right near the front.  The view was great, but the seating was rather lonely.  But that was quickly rectified.  A woman was walking by me as I was getting settled, and she happened to say, “Oh, you’re here alone?  Me too!”  So I invited her to join me, and she accepted, and we had a wonderful talk.  Liliana was just as fascinating as Carolyne was.  She was born in Columbia, but moved away when she was 18, and now lives in Switzerland.  So in the end, I got the best of both worlds – a great view, and also someone to share it with :).

My meal at the Aspera restaurant – it was soooo yummy
Aspera dancing!!!

And that was it.  That was the entirety of my stay in Cambodia.  I took a Tuk-tuk to the airport early the next morning, bought a coconut for breakfast (which, suffice it to say, undoubtedly put me on cloud nine), and headed back to Kuala Lumpur.  Even the airport was lovely this time, with a huge Lunar New Year’s celebration going through the terminals while I was there.  One of the flight attendants gave me 2 oranges…which became my dinner that night :).  Cambodia was the epitome of relaxation and rest, with the warmth of the sun rivaled only by the warmth of the people, and I can say with ease that I most certainly want to return there sometime in the near-ish future.

My coconut!!!  It’s been years since I’ve had one…I was sooo happy 🙂
Lunar new year celebration in the KL airport