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korea

    First Taste of Beondegi

    So… I ate a bug in Korea. Beondegi to be specific.

    We’ve been in Korea for about six months and we’ve really enjoyed the local food. Eating is one of our favorite pastimes, and we like trying new things. Even when we’re a little skeptical.

    We traveled southeast to Gyeongju the first weekend of February with some friends for Lunar New Year. (More on that soon!) While we were out one day, we walked by street food vendors. One lady was selling beondegi (번데기). I had no intentions of ever eating this food, but… when everyone was trying it, might as well?

     

    Boiled silkworm larvae

     

    What is beondegi?
    Beondegi is boiled and seasoned silkworm pupae. (Pupae is the stage between the larva and adult form when the bug is in the chrysalis stage.) Korean people eat beondegi as a snack, though I wouldn’t call it the most loved or popular food of choice. We often see food vendors with a long line of customers, but I never see a line at beondegi pots. According to earthexcursion.com: “Beondegi came to rise as a much needed source of protein during the Korean War because protein was scare, as well as many other macro nutrients.” I think we paid ₩2000 for a small paper cup (about $1.65 USD). It was MORE than enough.

    How did it taste?
    …Not as bad as I thought it would. It was a little bit fishy and nutty to me. Some of our friends thought they tasted similar to boiled peanuts. It was a little crunchy and a little chewy. Thinking about what I was chewing was the worst part.

     

    Beondegi seller

     

    Cup of beondegi

     

    Here’s a video of our first beondegi experience:

     

     

    And if I’m ever hankering for more (yeah right), I can always find a can of it at the grocery store:

     

    Beondegi can

     

     

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    Birthday In My Birth City

    I turned 28 on the last day of January. This was the first year I celebrated my birthday in my birth city. I now live just seven miles from the place I was born.

    A couple of weeks ago David and I tried to find it. The address I had from my adoption paperwork didn’t quite work with today’s streets (in 봉천동 관악구). We thought we may have found it but couldn’t be sure. We didn’t know enough Korean to find out how long the hospital had been in business.

    I was born at 33 weeks and weighed 2 pounds, 11 ounces. My 20-year-old unwed birth mother could not pay the incubator fees, hadn’t heard from the father in a while, and chose to put me up for adoption. As we were walking around the neighborhood, I thought how scared she must have been to be alone and in labor so early. I’m thankful for her bravery to choose life.

     

    Leah holding baby photo in front of hospital

     

    Even more, I’m thankful for my family who chose me, love me, and call me theirs… And for a Heavenly Father who orchestrated it all.

    I never intended for Korea to be a place of pilgrimage. And I wouldn’t have believed it if you told me I’d be living here one day. Finding more information about my roots is not a void I am trying to fill. However, while I’m here – why not? I filled out some inquiry paperwork for the Korean side of the adoption, and we’ll see what (if anything) comes back.

    I’m still figuring out my place and purpose here, but I am grateful for the adventure!

     

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    A Gracious Gift

    As I was getting ready for bed on Thursday, I went to take off my earrings and realized one was missing. The earrings were a telkari pair from Turkey, and I was incredibly disappointed. I had been all over Seoul that day, including a museum 40 mins away. I had no idea when the earring had fallen off.

    I messaged a friend whose house I had visited that evening, but she did not find it anywhere. I also emailed the museum in case someone had turned it into the lost and found. David offered that we could look on our street, but it was dark and the earring could have been anywhere.

    I knew I shouldn’t have been upset over it; there are people sick and hungry and in danger. But still, I prayed and asked God that He might let me find it.

    There was one more place to check. The next morning, I headed toward a neighborhood restaurant we ate dinner at the night before. As I walked, I kept my eyes on the streets, which I knew was a long shot in itself. Though Korea is generally clean, there’s always trash scattered on the roads.

     

    Seoul street view

     

    At the restaurant, I plugged my question into Google Translate and showed the lady at the counter, but she shook her head no.

    I had resigned to the fact that it was gone.

    And then, as I was walking across the street to the grocery store (when I wasn’t even looking anymore) a flash of silver caught my eye. It was an earring hook – MY earring hook! And not too far from from the hook was the other part of the earring! It was broken and scuffed and has been run over and stepped on, but it was mine and I had found it.

     

    Lost earring... found!

     

    On the many, winding streets of Seoul I had traveled the day before, I found my earring. What a gracious gift from Him! The night I lost the earring, I had been a part of a discussion about how we should live our lives with the expectation of gifts from our Heavenly Father. Oh me of little faith. Forgive me of my unbelief!

    How much greater God rejoices when I return to Him with all my brokenness, dirtiness, scuffs, and sin.

     

    Telkari Turkish earrings

     

    And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” –Luke 15:8–10

     

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    Our 2015

    I’m know I’m a little late on the train to the new-year/year-in-review stuff, but it’s still January, so I say it still counts. It’s fun to take a look at all we’ve done and where we’ve been in the past year. We experienced a great deal of change and transition in the last 12 months. Here’s a glimpse at what we were up to in 2015:

     

    January
    We traveled back to Turkey after spending the holidays in Michigan. I broke my arm (first broken bone ever!) and had surgery. I spent January and the next several months in recovery and physical therapy.

     

    Titanium plate, radius bone

     

    February
    We seriously considered the possibility of moving to Korea and David had a phone interview. We had fun with our students during Spirit Week and I wrapped up the elementary cheerleading season. David and I started a no-poo hair care regimen (stopped using shampoo and conditioner products).

     

    Elementary cheerleaders

     

    March
    We officially decided to move to Korea for the 2015–2016 school year. David ran a half marathon in Antalya. We traveled for Spring Break and spent a few days in Paris (1, 2, 3, 4).

     

    Us with the Eiffel Tower

     

    April
    We spent the rest of our Spring Break exploring Italy: Venice, Florence, and Rome. Back in Turkey, I started taking language lessons from a sweet Korean mom.

     

    Leah and David by a Venice canal

     

    May
    We took an incredible trip to Northeastern Turkey with friends and saw Ottoman bridges. We also spent a few hours in the country of Georgia! May was a busy time as the end of the school year came to a close.

     

    Ottoman bridge

     

    June
    June was a fun, crazy, and emotional month. I traveled to the southern coast with the senior class and spent time in Kalkan and on a boat cruise. We said far too many goodbyes – to our students, our church, our community, our friends (that became family), and the country we came to love so dearly. David’s parents and two of his brothers came to visit and we toured them all around Turkey (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). We celebrated our fourth anniversary.

     

    At Ikiz Restaurant for dinner

     

    July
    After we packed all that we could into seven suitcases, we flew to the States for three weeks. We visited Michigan and Arkansas and got to see my mom’s new house for the first time! We arrived in Korea July 22. David began training and orientations at the school.

     

    Gyeongbokgung guard

     

    August
    David’s first day of school was August 10. I said goodbye to my 19-year-old cat named Blue. David started assistant coaching the high school cross country team.

     

    David's classroom

     

    September
    I started taking Korean language classes. We experienced our first Korean jjimjilbang (bathhouse). We took our first trip outside of Seoul to Sokcho and climbed Ulsanbawi.

     

    Celebrating making it to the top of Ulsanbawi

     

    October
    David’s cross country coaching season ended. A friend from David’s hometown (who currently teaches in Japan) came to visit. We continued to adjust to school and life in Korea. David started an online grad school class.

     

    Eating bingsu with a friend.

     

    November
    I volunteered on a school retreat in Daecheon and made over 300 pancakes. I also started an online portraits shop. We traveled with a school group to Suncheon Bay and Yeosu.

     

    Travel group

     

    December
    David finished his first semester teaching in Korea! He also wrapped up his grad school class. We flew to the States for our three week Christmas break.

     

    Christmas 2015 with Grandma and Grandpa

     

    What a year it has been! Through it all, Lord has been steadfast and gracious. It’s encouraging to look back and consider all the ways He guided, directed, and provided. I look forward to all that 2016 holds!

     

    Check out our other year end posts here:
    » 2014 Year in Review
    » 2012 Year Infograph

     

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    Suncheon Bay and Yeosu

    David’s school has a working relationship the Korea Foreign Schools Foundation. This group is so very generous and offers cultural trips to teachers twice a year! We were so excited when we found out we made it on the list for the trip over Thanksgiving weekend. It was a quick trip; we left Friday morning and returned Saturday evening. The foundation organized everything – transportation, lodging, and food. It was nice to just be along for the ride!

    We left Seoul on the KTX speed train. Some of our friends clocked the train at the top speed of 184 mph! Even though the snow didn’t stick in Seoul on Thanksgiving, we passed fields and mountains loaded with snow. Just 2.5 hours later, we arrived in Suncheon Bay (순천만).

     

    Snowy trees

     

    After a delicious Korean BBQ lunch, we spent a short 30 minutes at the Suncheon Open Film Set, the largest film site in Korea.  The place consisted of three villages representing the 1950s to the 1970s. I haven’t seen any Korean dramas or movies yet, so I didn’t recognize any of the sets.

     

    Film village

     

    Next, we took the tour bus to Suncheon Bay Ecological Park (순천만자연생태공원). This wetland preserve had the largest reedbed in Korea, mudflats, and plenty of wildlife, including the rare hooded crane. We took a ferry boat ride and hiked around the grounds.

     

    Suncheon ferry ride view

     

    We spotted a couple of otters! You can see the back of one in the middle of this photo:

     

    Otter and birds

     

    The tour guide said reeds like this are used to make a special type of broom that lasts 30 years. Suncheon Bay is a government protected area, so I don’t know if these particular reeds are used or not:

     

    Suncheon Bay reed fields

     

    Boardwalk among reeds

     

    David and Leah in Suncheon

     

    Suncheon Ecological Park view

     

    David in Suncheon Park

     

    The foundation put us up in an incredible hotel in Yeosu (여수) called The MVL (which stands for Most Valuable Life). The rooms had gorgeous views of the bay. We thought one feature was funny… the bathroom had a curtain that opened like a window to the room. The purpose was so you could watch the sun rise and set as you bathe.

     

    MVL hotel

     

    MVL room view

     

    MVL bathroom window

     

    We had dinner and breakfast at the hotel. The buffets were to die for. Soups, Korean food, sushi, seafood, pastries, fruit… We ate so. much. food. Here was the first (of probably three) of my breakfast plates:

     

    MVL breakfast

     

    After checking out of the hotel, we loaded our bags on the bus and then walked to the Yeosu Maritime Cable Cars (여수 해상케이블카). This attraction opened in December 2014. We rode in the special “crystal” cars that had glass bottoms. The views were beautiful as we traveled over the Dadohae Marine National Park and Dolsandaegyo Bridge.

     

    Yeosu Cable Car

     

    Cable car clear floor

     

    Cable car ride

     

    After our cable car rides, we walked to Odongdo Island (오동도). We had less than an hour there. The weather was much warmer in Yeosu and the greenery was beautiful.

     

    Odongdo island

     

    Dragon cave:

     

    Odongdo Island dragon cave

     

    This is called a turtle ship, a Korean warship. The ship was loaded with spikes and cannons. Both cannons and flames were fired from the dragon’s mouth:

     

    Odongdo Island turtle ship

     

    After another huge lunch, we headed to the train station to return to Seoul. We had a wonderful time with our 23 friends! Thank you, KFS Foundation!!!

     

    Travel group

     

    • For more information on the Suncheon area, visit www.suncheon.go.kr.
    • For more information on the Yeosu area, visit www.ystour.kr/en/main.jsp.

     

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    Fall Colors in Seoul

    We hadn’t seen a truly colorful fall since we lived in Virginia. I think it made me appreciate this fall even more. The trees started changing at the beginning of October and have been showing off ever since. I’ve loved the reds, yellows, oranges, and everything inbetween.

     

    Fall colors in Seoul

     

    Bush burning with fall colors

     

    There are sycamore trees near the school that dropped leaves larger than our heads!

     

    Leah with Sycamore leaf face

     

    We went walking one evening and I took in the most wonderful breath of musty fallen leaves. It was like being home in the woods. However, we’ve encountered a new smell in Korea: the pungent ginkgo berries. They litter the ground and make our shoes smell like vomit. I think they drop earlier in the season, so there are not as many on the ground now. We heard the city hired some 400 workers to harvest the berries before they dropped because they upset and annoyed people.

     

    Ginkgo berries

     

    Colorful trees line a Seoul road

     

    We are a short walk from Namsan Park, which is so great. It’s an appreciated escape in the big city. The leaves are stunning right now!

     

    Ginkgo leaves and fence shadows

     

    Bright red leaves

     

    Colors in Namsan Park

     

    Burning red tree

     

    Yellow in Namsan Park

     

    Gingko yellow tree

     

    Have you ever seen magenta berries like these? I’m not sure what kind of plant this is!

     

    Purple berries

     

    Red berries

     

    This was on my walk to the school. It was like the leaves knew how to organize themselves:

     

    Red leaves and yellow leaves

     

    Red-orange leaf against blue concrete

     

    David brought home a rainbow of leaves one day:

     

    Gradient found leaves

     

    I hope you’ve had a colorful fall, too!

     

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