Category: cooking

Depth of life

For those of you who know me, it will surprise you to hear that I have not been dancing much lately.  I still can’t help but tap my toes whenever a catchy song comes on the radio, and I’m often walking with a swing in my step, swaying along to the music inside my head.  But when it comes to social dancing, I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately.  I did go to a big dance event in Atlanta in October – and I placed 2nd in the competition that I entered!! – but other than that, I haven’t really done much dancing at all since May.

Me with Mike, my 2nd-place partner in the Strictly Swing competition

Me with Mike, my 2nd-place partner in the Strictly Swing competition

But I am ok with that.  I know that the funk will pass and I will love it just as much as I used to; but until then, I’ve been busy filling my time with plenty of other exciting things.  Michael has planned a few very exciting dates – a couple of my favorites were seeing Cirque du Soleil while they were in town (which was incredible, even though they didn’t let us take any pictures :[ ), and taking a ride on the giant Ferris Wheel that overlooks much of downtown Atlanta.  I don’t think I believe him when he says that his date ideas are boring :).

The only picture I got at Cirque du Soleil before they made us put our cameras away...

The only picture I got at Cirque du Soleil before they made us put our cameras away…

My friend Jess has made a yardsaling convert out of me.  If you know how much I hate to shop, you will understand that this is a very big statement.  But there’s something exciting about hunting down deals, about finding a treasure in the middle of a bunch of trash.  Perhaps I should take up dumpster diving as a hobby… 😉  But, despite my newfound affinity for yardsaling (I don’t think I’m converted quite enough to be able to say that I have an affinity for dumpster diving yet ;]), I haven’t been able to go very often.  My weekends have been taken up by other things – things like traveling, writing, seeing friends, or sometimes just baking yummy goods.

One of my recent personal culinary victories was making homemade challah bread.  Challah bread is a sweet ceremonial Jewish bread that takes hours and hours to make.  It’s not particularly difficult (except braiding the dough so that it bakes into a nice pretty pattern is somewhat challenging), but it has to rise 3 separate times, each time for several hours.  So, all in all, it takes close to half a day to make.  ANYWAY, I have this memory of making challah bread in our old house with my mom.  I don’t remember the occasion – it must have been over 10 years ago at this point.  All I remember is the sweet time that I got to spend with my mother.  Ever since then, I have wanted to make it again, but never had a sufficient reason to invest all of that time into it.

So when an older couple from my church invited me over to their house to celebrate Sukkot, the Jewish festival of the tabernacle, and specifically asked me to bring challah bread, I jumped at the opportunity.  It took me 2 days to make it, but seeing her face when I arrived was totally worth it.  She had been expecting me to just pick up french bread, since no supermarket sells challah bread.  Her genuine joy and excitement when I walked in with a homemade loaf was more than enough payment for any extra effort required on my part.

My challah bread - it came out beautifully!

My challah bread – it came out beautifully!

A curious thing has been happening to me in Atlanta.  I still yearn for adventures in other countries and cities.  But I am also learning that depth of life matters just as much as breadth, if not more.   I am beginning to experience relational profundity that I could never dream to have by spending a few weeks or even months in a foreign country.  I am learning so much about myself and God and people in general.  Some of it is hard, tough, ugly, painful stuff.  Life gets messy when you get that close to someone.  But I would much rather experience these things and grow from them, than to stay in my own blissful bubble of relational ignorance and bankruptcy.  I do still yearn for adventures.  But I am learning, as my roots are growing  (at least for now) here in Atlanta, that adventures are even more exciting when you have dear people that you love and care for to share them with.  And that is a truly thrilling thought.

Fried tomatoes and hidden corn

It’s incredible how quickly time flies by.  It seems like updated this only a few days ago, but lo and behold, the time stamps tell me that it was nearly 2 months ago.  Yikes.  Well, if the craziness of my life can be reflected by the number of tabs I have open on my computer (actually a pretty accurate measure), it’s no wonder it’s taken me so long to sit down and write for pleasure.  Last week I hit an all-time record of 62 tabs open simultaneously.  Don’t judge, haha :).

What an eventful few weeks I’ve had!  I was surprised twice, by both my mother AND my father, with unexpected visits in Atlanta.  Dad was just in the area for work that day, so we had dinner together before he headed back down south.  And Mom actually stayed the night with me!  We went to a play, and made fried green tomatoes together, and just talked and laughed.  It was incredible.  I rarely get to spend one-on-one time with mom without other people or activities distracting us, and I treasure that weekend very much.

My first time trying fried green tomatoes.  They were super yummy!  We made them because we were going to watch the movie that night…

…but we ended up going into town to see a play instead! 🙂

Last weekend I went to a big dance event, the Atlanta Swing Classic.  It was such a blast!  I entered the competition and made alternate for finals.  It was a little disappointing since I was hoping to make finals outright, but also rather encouraging since I had mostly terrible partners, but still managed to do pretty well.  I went to lots of workshops, met lots of new people, yada yada yada….the usual excitement that can be found at one of these events :).  This time I also picked up a few of the pro dancers from the airport, so I was able to get some one-on-one time with them, which was awesome.  I so wish that I could afford to go to more dance events!  If you’re stymied for Christmas or birthday ideas, donations to my travel and dance fund are always appreciated!! 😉

I’ve also spent some time getting to know my dance community outside of actual dance events.  I went to a birthday dinner a few weeks ago, and just last weekend a handful of dancers went to a corn maze, about an hour north of the city.  They were both so much fun!  It’s incredible to feel not just like I know these people through dance, and we’re very friendly to each other when we see each other once a week, but rather that I’m actually a part of a community.  It’s also a novel experience, for sure, but wonderful.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world – or even, shockingly enough, for the chance to see the whole world :).

Not a dance friend, but still a friend…Sunny came over one night and we made a Korean meal 🙂

This was the map of the corn maze!!  It took us forever to figure it out, but once we did we rocked it!!

If you’ve never been to a corn maze before, though….take heed.  Don’t wear heels.  I had never been, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  In my mind, I was thinking, “It’s going to be cold…you need to wear something that will keep your feet warm.”  Unfortunately, the only high-topped shoes I own are 3.5 inch heeled boots.  So I traipsed around the entire maze in those things.  Hahaha.  I felt somewhat foolish…but also a bit fierce.  Mostly I just felt pain, though…especially the next day :).  Consider yourself warned!!

I had 2 other big trips within the past few weeks, but I think that those merit their own entry, so keep an eye out for more to come soon!

Spring Break 2013

Much has happened in the nearly two months that Sinbad has been silent.  Two of my roommates moved out, leaving only 3 of us left in the house.  I’ve ramped up my dancing, visited friends and relatives, gone to a few plays and performances, gone to a wedding, and many other things, as well.  However, in the interest of keeping a somewhat logical progression to my thoughts, I’m going to stick to Spring Break for this entry…subsequent events will hopefully follow shortly!

Lina Maria, my sweet roommate from Columbia!  Both she and Amanda moved out to do mission work in the Amazon Rainforest 

I had all sorts of grandiose plans for Spring Break this year – I was going to go to the beach, going to go visit friends in either Texas or Oregon, going to go to Costa Rica….but then, I ended up scrapping all of them and going home to study for a week.  Being in grad school is no joke, man…I spent at least 6 hours every day studying, and still had tons to do when I returned.

But that’s not to say that I didn’t have any fun.  The highlight of the week was definitely Passover.  Every year, my family celebrates the feast of Passover, the festival that God commanded the Israelites to celebrate, in remembrance of His delivering them from their Egyptian captors.  It’s one of my favorite days of the entire year, and it was made doubly special this year because I had missed it last year when I was in Korea.

There were a few things this year that made it especially wonderful.  One of our guests brought her harp and played for us during the meal.  I had never seen – nor heard – a harp in person before, and it was absolutely mesmerizing.  My good friend Rachel’s father, Mr. Jim, was also in town, and he was able to join us for most of the ceremony.  It was great to see one of my many adopted fathers :).  The last special thing was that my sweet friend Elizabeth was able to come down with me.  She spent the weekend with us, and then drove back up to Atlanta, while I stayed longer and took a bus back the next weekend.  It was so special to see her interacting with my family – she fit right in, and we really had a blast.  The only bad thing about the weekend was that it went by way too quickly.

Cooking up a storm!

Elizabeth fit right in!! 🙂

A stolen moment between Hope and Elizabeth 🙂
Passover!!

I also got to “babysit” Matt and Hope (which, at their ages, really just means hang out with them), while Josh went to his first Spring Formal!  Hard to believe he’ll be starting high school in the fall!!  Mom and Dad went too, as chaperones – the three of them got all dressed up and went dancing, and we had pizza and a movie, and I think that everyone enjoyed themselves.

We also spent a lot of time in the kitchen over Spring break – mostly cooking with mom and baking with Hope and Elizabeth.  Matt, Hope and I also took a shot at making pysanky, traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs.  They were sooooo time consuming, but looked pretty darn cool at the end!

Best pineapple-upside down cake we’ve ever made!!

Making pysanky!

It’s a very complicated endeavor…

But the results are incredible!

Josh tried to fix the stove.  Somehow he ended up behind it.

Oh, and also, my mother is famous!!  She has a regular spot on the local TV station, and I got to go and watch her in action. It was so much fun!  So, even though I was mostly working that week, I did get to do some fun stuff too, and the investment in school was worth it for the easier schedule that I had once I returned to Atlanta.  Spring semester 2013 catching up part 2 coming shortly!

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… 🙂

Picnics, Pizza, and Pals

I seem to have finally been cured of my previously insatiable wanderlust.  While I spent nearly every weekend last semester traveling, this semester I don’t want to go anywhere at all.  Even my upcoming trip to Jeju Island, one of the most beautiful islands in the world, I’m looking at with more than a little bit of trepidation.  After going all over Korea and southeast Asia, it seems that both my wallet and my sleep patterns have had quite enough moving for a while.

But then again, perhaps I don’t want to travel simply because I like where I am.  I’m finally finding fun hobbies and wonderful friends….and of course, I love my host family :).  My host sister came to church with me on Sunday – that was cool.  And then we made dinner in the evening for my host parents – this one was an even bigger hit than the fajitas!  We made a chicken / pepper / bean / corn / green pumpkin / whatever else I could find concoction that was really really tasty, if I do say so myself.  In between church and dinner, I went out to lunch with some people from church.  We went and got Korean pizza (have you ever had sweet potatoes on your pizza before??), and talked and laughed – mostly in Konglish, with a little bit of Chinese thrown in there, just for kicks – and overall just had a great time.  I love my friends here <3.

From Left to right: Jeong-min, Hyo-jeong (both Korean), Pan, Lin (both Chinese), and me :]

Speaking of friends, Saturday was also a lovely day with friends.  In the morning, I had Korean class with Si-yeon – she bought me lunch at this superrrrr yummy Japanese noodle place.  Then in the afternoon, I met up with my Uzbekistanian friends for a picnic – they brought the fruit, I brought the drinks and kimbap.  At the kimbap restaurant, I ran into another foreign teacher here, also named Lauren, and I invited her to come along.

So the four of us trooped out to the royal tombs to eat – it sounds morbid, but it’s really not.  They’re just big hills dotted all over the city; make for lovely walking and picnic places.  So yeah, we found a nice spot, and had a lovely afternoon picnicing….I was so excited!  It’s been years since I’ve had a picnic, and I was literally giddy, lol.  Afterwards we were going to go take sticker pictures together, but the place was closed, so instead we elected to go to a coffee shop and buy something to warm us up – it was so windy outside!!

Aziz, Stan, and Lauren², having a picnic in the park 🙂

Our photos have been forever “Koreanized” by the eternal peace sign 😀

Stan and Lauren

Stan and Lauren…again 🙂

Me ‘n Aziz

<3 <3 <3 

So that was my weekend.  Additional noteworthy highlights include playing badminton with my host family – in the house (don’t worry, we were gentle, lol), and the taxi driver who gave me a Lolli-pop and a mix CD just because, totally brightening my really crappy day.  All in all, quite a lovely 2 1/2 days.  My following week has been comparatively lovely, too – much less stressful than the previous weeks.  As I had hoped, with the projects dying down at work, so has the stress.  Four days in Jeju start in a day and a half!

My angel taxi driver.  Please note the totally tricked out dashboard and CDs glued to the ceiling.  I just had to snap a picture 🙂

Cheonan and Suwon

I went to Cheonan this weekend to visit my friend Dianna, who taught at my school last year.  It was definitely a long weekend – I spent about 9 hours total on a bus – but it was a lot of fun, too.  So I got there around noon, and after eating lunch with Dianna, the two of us went with another Fulbrighter, Phebe, to see the ancient fortress in Suwon, about an hour away.  Phebe was really excited because the fortress wall is listed as a cultural heritage site or something like that – she kept reminding us that “We’re seeing so much culture!!”  For Dianna and I, who both have extensive experience with Gyeongju, the most historical city in all of Korea, her comments were a little bit laughable.  But it was still a beautiful wall, and I really enjoyed seeing it.  We got there during the day, and stayed until the sun went down, so we got to see the whole range of lighting.  So Dianna took hundreds and hundreds of pictures, and Phebe and I had lots of bonding time to get to know each other :).Sunday morning Dianna and I got up, made breakfast in her apartment, and then headed to church.  It was a great service, uplifting and encouraging, and I always love meeting new people! 🙂  We went to lunch with some of Dianna’s friends from church, plus a newcomer, Ronnie, from Zimbabwe.  ‘Twas a lovely afternoon, indeed.

After getting back from church, Dianna and I made a chocolate pudding in her rice cooker, played a board game while we waited for it to finish, and then I headed back to Gyeongju.  It was, all in all, far too short of a weekend, but I enjoyed it.  One more weekend of traveling, and then hopefully I’ll be done until the end of the semester! 🙂

The fortress during the day….
….and at night
The city of Suwon
I have no idea who they are.  I just thought it was cute 🙂
Dianna, me, Phebe
Some cool, weird-looking statue in the middle of the city.  That’s the extent of my knowledge 🙂
They plant cabbage like flowers.  They do it in Gyeongju, too.  Still trying to figure that one out….
Baking!!
Whisking with chopsticks….gotta love Korea 🙂