Sunday, December 27, 2015

Busan: Oden Cooking Class and Korean Okonomiyaki

Busan city lights by Haeundae Beach

Just about an hour and half south of Pohang is one of Korea's most interesting cities, Busan. It's a port city with a very international atmosphere, where you can find plenty of foreign food and culture existing side by side with Korean life. It's considered Korea's second largest city and you can really feel that as you travel around it by taxi or metro- it's an expansive place, with a lot of unique neighborhoods to explore and plenty of interesting sights just outside the city as well.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Oeosa Temple

Oeosa Temple, south of Pohang

In my last post I talked about one of the two famous temples near Pohang, Bogyeongsa, located to the north of the city. The other famous temple, which is in the south, is Oeosa (pronounced kind of like "Oh-oh-sah"). Oeosa is also about an hour or more bus ride from Pohang (the buses that go there don't run frequently, thus the long travel time) but it's very close to the city by car (probably about 20-30 minutes).

Oeosa is a little smaller than Bogyeongsa and feels older as well. While both temples are crowded with tourists, Oeosa gives an impression of being a little more quiet and peaceful, probably because it's located right on the edge of a beautiful lake.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Seoraksan and Korean Public Bath Houses

Fall colors at Seoraksan mountain
There was a long weekend in October, so we took the opportunity to travel up north to South Korea's most famous mountain, Seoraksan. We caught a bus from Pohang to the city of Sokcho (about 6 hours north on the eastern coast) and spent the night in a jimjilbang (찜질방),which is a public bath house. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Korean Food Adventures

Before I knew anything about Korea, I knew it's food. I started eating Korean food in college, mainly because the suburb of Portland that I lived in then had Japanese and Korean stores and restaurants on every corner. Korean food is amazing and diverse - there are so many interesting dishes and flavors, which vary from region to region, and even though I'd been eating it for years before actually coming to Korea, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface.

For those who've never tried it, don't be intimated to do so: not all Korean food is spicy, though a lot of it is, and while some things are pretty exotic to foreigners, there are plenty of dishes that most westerners would enjoy if they tried them.

Here are some of the fun foods I've encountered since I've arrived:

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Chuseok and camping in Okgye Valley

Photo from here

In September we had a long weekend for the Korean Thanksgiving holiday, called Chuseok. Although it's actually a harvest festival, it reminded me of Obon in Japan, in that it's a day for remembering or praying to your ancestors. The two holidays have a few similarities, but in general Chuseok traditions are pretty different from Japanese Obon festivals. For Chuseok, Koreans go to visit their parents and grandparents, and children are supposed to bow to their elders. We even spent a morning at my school teaching the kids about the significance of Chuseok and how they should bow to their grandparents. The kids and some adults as well get all dressed up in traditional clothes called hanbok - you can see examples in the photo above.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Let the wild rumpus start!

Me (on the left) as a Wild Thing and a couple of terrifying dolls in the reception area of my school - keep in mind, I teach 2-7 year olds...

My school is really, really into celebrating Halloween and their philosophy when it comes to the holiday is to basically make the children cry as much as possible. It was seriously scary in there - the decorations were really creepy, there were cobwebs everywhere so that everyone taller than 4 feet had to run around hunch-backed all day, and they let me show The Nightmare Before Christmas to small children.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Hello from Korea!

These first two months in Korea have been so busy, I feel like the time has just flown by. It's hard to believe that I only left Chile at the beginning of September. But I've already settled into life here pretty well and I'm really enjoying living in Pohang.

Pohang is a small-ish coastal city about two hours north of Busan on the east coast. Life here is a lot more relaxed than in the bigger cities and the foreigner community is one of the friendliest that I've ever encountered. People here are so helpful, and there are a lot of great resources for newcomers like me, such as the Facebook groups Pohang Legends and Pohang Bazaar. Although I've only been here two months, I've already made a lot of friends and been able to do some traveling.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fiestas Patrias in Santiago and Pichilemu

The 18th of September is to Chile what the 4th of July is to the U.S. In historical terms, it marks the anniversary of the birth of Chile's first governing body, which eventually led to them becoming independent. Culturally, it means a month long celebration and lots of patriotic displays everywhere you go. In Spanish "18" is "dieciocho" so most people simply refer to the holiday as "the dieciocho".

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Moving to South Korea: practical considerations

In my last post I talked about the ways you have to prepare yourself mentally for moving to a foreign country. Now for the more practical things you can do to prepare. The links and resources below are for people preparing to go to South Korea like me; but for those of you preparing to move to other countries, there are plenty of similar resources to these - and many of them are available online for free. Try checking out sites like the World Mentoring Academy or Youtube, or talking with a local embassy, before spending lots of money on language courses or travel guides.

Culture, History and General Information

Eat Your Kimchi, a fun way to learn about life and culture in Korea

Friday, August 21, 2015

Preparing for life in another country

As I explained in my previous post, I have just accepted a job in Korea and will be arriving there in a few weeks. I'm really excited about the new experience I'm about to have and I can't wait to discover what life in Korea will be like.

Every time I go back to the states to visit my family, I run into people who are amazed by my country-hopping lifestyle. "Isn't it scary living somewhere where you don't speak the language?" "What do you do if you can't communicate with someone?" "HOW can you live THERE?"

I think this is how people imagine my daily life in Japan...
... But the reality looked more like this, a lot more mundane than you might expect.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Next Adventure

Pohang, South Korea - Photo from here
These last two years in Chile have been a wonderful experience for me, both personally and professionally. I've really learned a lot from living here and have met so many awesome people. But as much as I've enjoyed it, it's time now for me to do something new.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Latin American Music

While there is some really great music from Latin America, to be 100% honest I don't listen to it all that much. But there are a few artists that I've discovered while living here in Chile that I really love, and listening to their music is a great way to practice Spanish. It's also a fun way to learn more about Latin American culture, since music is such a big part of life here. So here you can find some of my recommendations:

Ana Tijoux

I have to start off with Ana Tijoux because she is by far my favorite Spanish-language artist that I've discovered so far.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Best hikes in and around Santiago

One of the best things about living in Chile is that you are never far from the mountains, the ocean and good hiking trails. Santiago has some great hikes nearby, which offer you a refreshing escape from the smoggy crowded city. Below are some of my favorites:

El Morado

Difficulty: medium (16km, about 6-8 hours round trip)
Access: car or bus (bus is quite long and difficult, check the "more info" link for directions).

This is easily one of the best hikes that you can get to from Santiago.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Travels in the north: La Serena and Coquimbo

One part of Chile that I haven't been able to travel to very much is the north; unfortunately, the farthest north I've gone so far is La Serena, which is about a 5 hour bus ride from Santiago on the coast. I would love to go to the Atacama desert one day, but whenever vacation time comes around I always find myself heading south.

But we did make it as far as La Serena and it's neighboring city, Coquimbo, last year and it was a great trip. Near Santiago on the coast are two cities, one of which I've blogged about before: Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. While both are nice places to visit, people tend to prefer one or the other. Most tourists like Valparaiso better, because it's more interesting from a foreigner's perspective. It has colorful graffiti art everywhere, crooked staircases crawling up its numerous hills, and a lot of great food and nightlife. But many Chileans I've talked to seem to prefer Viña, mainly because it's cleaner and safer than Valpo (Valparaiso's nickname). And Viña also has good nightlife and food, plus it's got beaches as well.

The crooked, colorful streets of Valparaiso

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eating healthy: Shopping in the ferias

While Chile does have some interesting and delicious food, its not exactly known for its cuisine. Unfortunately there is an over-abundance of unhealthy food here, such as:

  • Empanadas: baked or fried pies filled with meat, cheese and the occasional vegetable. 
    I like empanadas as much as anyone, but they do leave you feeling like you just swallowed a brick sometimes.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Patagonia and Middle South Travel Photos

If you're interested in seeing more photos of my travels through the south this past year, check out some of the Picasa albums I've put together for them.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

El Chalten Hiking: Mount Fitz Roy

Laguna de Los Tres, El Chalten
When people think of hiking in Patagonia, many people think of the Torres del Paine in Chile, but Argentina has just as much to offer in the little town of El Chalten. It's most famous peak is Mount Fitz Roy, which on clear days can be seen as you drive into town from the highway.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Torres del Paine: Hiking the W Circuit

One of the best parts of our travels through Patagonia in February was doing the "W" in the Torres del Paine National Park. It really is worth the hype- the views are constantly spectacular, no matter where you are in the park, and while the crowds can leave you feeling claustrophobic at times, one benefit is the opportunity to meet interesting travelers from every corner of the globe.

There are two main options for long hikes in the park: the "W" or the "O" circuits.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


This past February Anna and I spent about 3 weeks traveling through Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia. It was really a dream come true for me, as I've been wanting to go there ever since I first thought of coming to Chile. And for any serious hiker or outdoor sports fan, it's like paradise.

Hiking in the Torres del Paine National Park, in Chilean Patagonia
We flew from Santiago to Punta Arenas and the very next day caught a bus to the little town of Puerto Natales, a bit farther north and next to the border with Argentina.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Travels through the middle south in Chile

Last year during January and February Anna's mom came to visit us and we took a trip to the "middle south" region of Chile. We started in the city of Valdivia, about a 12 hour bus ride from Santiago. Valdivia is a nice little city, famous for its good beer - there is a big Kunstmann brewery in town where you can do tours - and for its fish market on the river, where sea lions hang out begging for scraps.

Valdivia's fish market

The "stray dogs" at the fish market
From Valdivia we took a bus out to a national park nearby. It has a beautiful rain forest overlooking the coast, with short but pretty trails along the crest of the hills.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Life in Chile, 2 years later....

It's been a very long time since I last wrote in this blog. A combination of factors caused me to stop writing, the biggest two being the long working hours here and the slow internet connection. But my two year "Chile aniversario" is coming up this week, and it's made me think about my time here.

So what have I been doing these last two years? Mostly working and traveling whenever I got the chance. As I said, working hours here are long- especially during the first 6 months when I was working for an institute. Life as an institute teacher means strange hours- you teach mostly business professionals, so classes can be spread out throughout the day from very early in the morning to very late at night. It's an exhausting schedule, but on the plus side you do get to meet a lot of interesting people. I taught classes at a big newspaper office, the national TV channel, to business executives, etc.

But I was lucky to find a job teaching general English at a university soon after arriving, and that's what I've been doing ever since.