Monday, September 30, 2013

Canada or Bust

A fall storm that brought record breaking rainfall to the area did not stop Ian and me from heading north to Canada for my birthday. It's my first birthday back in America and as the date approached I wanted to do something noteworthy. At first I figured I would go to an area which is famous for it's waterfalls, here in Washington. But then my mind thought bigger and a trip to Vancouver was planned.

The drive up to the border took us through some mountainous areas of northern Washington and then finally the border crossing was revealed. Crossing into Canada was exciting and even more so when you drive off and notice little things that are different. Such as signs in kilometers (I had to change my odometer to match it) and other such differences.

Our stay was in the downtown area of Vancouver also known as the Financial District. We stayed at a small hostel called the St. Clair Hostel and Hotel, which had a nautical theme.

This was my first time staying in a hostel and I would say it meets your basic needs. The shared bathroom was probably the hardest to get used to, but it also served it's purpose. Our first day in Vancouver was kind of haphazard as we both were tired from the drive and I had a little cold. So we looked around a bit, had Korean for lunch and I picked up a cake for later.

What I liked about Vancouver is that it felt like a real city with buildings densely aligned along the streets and also cheap food available at nearly every corner. The options for Asian food were outstanding and I am very much impressed that Vancouver is an international city. I was actually thinking of going to the college there but didn't want to be on a visa again. However, I can tell there must be ESL jobs up there so might consider it in the future.

After dinner I took out the cake I bought, put in my candles and made my wish. 31 was definitely a transformative year with my decision to leave Korea and head back to America. Now that those days are over I can hope that 32 will be filled not just with study, but with renewal of spirit and the building of a bright future.

~More to come from my 2nd day in Vancouver. :)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Golden Gardens

Last weekend we noticed the sun peaking through and warm air around us. So we decided to head to Golden Gardens park in Ballard. Here we enjoyed a nice walk on the beach next to the Puget Sound and admired the clouds.

It was really nice to get out and enjoy this kind of scenery as the temperatures have dropped and cloudy skies are very much present these days. This week begins my 3rd Quarter as a graduate student here in Seattle. I must say time sure does feel like it's flying by and I have just about 1.5 more years till I graduate.

I would say that I feel more settled here in Seattle and back in America, in general. Sure there are times when I feel economic strain or that local politics rubs me the wrong way. But I have to say I don't really miss being cramped into my old apartment in Seoul, seeing lots and lots of people everywhere I went and feeling suffocated by the dense urban landscape. With that said I do miss parts of Korea sometimes, but it doesn't get me down as before.

Also knowing that there is still so much to explore and do here in the Pacific Northwest that I can't help but get excited thinking and planning when I'll get out there. So in some sense I do feel like I'm at a turning point, but school is picking up again and that will keep me distracted for a while.

Monday, September 23, 2013

First Chuseok Away from Chuseok Land

I'll be honest, Chuseok for foreigners in Korea was that time of the year where you could do something locally (culturally) or get away from Korea. It gave you several days off from work and emptied out Seoul so you could pretend you lived in an average city. I was fortunate to experience Chuseok with some of my Korean ex's and got that traditional feeling.

When Chuseok came around last week (and weekend) I felt the need to celebrate in some form. So I went to Kimchi Bistro (a small restaurant) and had my fill of good Korean food.

Already I've been to several Korean restaurants in the area, and there have been ones that come very close and those that really put Korean food to shame. Kimchi Bistro is now by far the best Korean restaurant I have been to here in Seattle. Why? You see that pot of soup in the picture on the left bottom corner? It burnt my mouth when I tried to eat it, and actually that is pretty close to what usually always happened in Korea. The jiggae has to be piping boiling hot, coming right off the stove when served. Also this jiggae wasn't weak! It had the right punch to it and correct amount of veggies and seafood in it. I also ordered bulgolgi which you can see there in the center. That too had a pretty authentic taste to it, although I was expecting it to come out in a small pot with rice. Ah well! 

Korean food is still expensive here in America, for some reason. I'm guessing due to the price of ingredients or that they want to be competitive? Either way I think I might make a trip to the huge Korean supermarket nearby and stock up on ingredients to make my own K-food at home. 

So yes, I missed out on Chuseok this year in Korea but I'm going to get all my American holidays back for the first time. Halloween is coming and I'm already excited to just be here and see the pumpkins in the store and racks of candy for sale. Then there will be my first Thanksgiving in what feels like eons! Hopefully my boyfriend's family will do something and I can go to that, if not at least all the ingredients will be easily and cheaply at hand. 

Happy Chuseok to those people out there!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Washington Park Arboretum

When I see two sun symbols on my weekly weather forecast, I can't help but recognize the need to go out and enjoy it. That's what I did yesterday by exploring one of the many parks here in Seattle. I went to the Washington Park Arboretum which is home to several trails, a Japanese garden and a collection of diverse plants.

I guess I started myself off on the end that doesn't touch the water as I didn't even know there was a part where you could walk through the marsh or wet field near the lake. I'll have to start at that end next time.

Despite not knowing the full extent of the park I enjoyed what I saw anyways. I mostly walked on one of the paths then sat down at a bench, soaked in the sun and did some relaxing.

As the rain comes, and it's a guaranteed, I'll look back fondly on these sunny days. But I know I'll have places I could go to get out of the rain that are enjoyable (cafes, museums, libraries).

By the way, I think Tom had a good summer with plenty of sunshine pouring in from the window to soak up in. The following pictures are of him hunting down a fly in my room.

My little Tom has grown!

Monday, September 16, 2013

September Breeze

September has brought in wind, clouds and rain to the Seattle area. The cooling down is somewhat welcomed after weeks of warm and sometimes hot weather. However, I will say that my first summer in Seattle was really good and looking back not only was the weather great but the activities I took part in were really fun.

Last week I subbed the whole time for a teacher. This helped me understand better the business of teaching multiple adult classes in a day to a multi-cultured student body. Thankfully, the class load wasn't too difficult. There were only two group classes and the rest were private tutors (one of which didn't show up till the last day). Also the levels were mostly beginner, except for the conversation class. I mostly enjoyed teaching the conversation class because it prompted students to speak more than the teacher. However, I really wish I had planned for this one more instead of planning as much as I did for the Level 1. Yet, I did get in some planning but I think I could of thought of more activities or prompts for the conversation class. All in all, I feel more confident subbing at that school and also see blossoming in me the ability to teach and understand grammar. Small steps...

This is my last week before the Fall Quarter begins and then it's back to studying and writing. I think I am going to try and find a nice cafe or library to study in, as studying all the time at home can get kind of tedious. Plus hot decaffeinated chai can be really yummy.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Henry Art Galley at UW

One of the artists I remember learning about in my first ever contemporary art class in college was James Turrell. His concept of creating spaces by allowing small light to enter through the rough really captivated me. If anything art should pass on an experience to someone and his work attempts that.

Well I'm actually pretty tired right now cause I'm subbing for a whole week here and waking up earlier than I should. So I'll just share the lovely photos and make a flub here and there.

So I was really happy to see a James Turrell piece at the Henry Art Gallery at the UW campus. It wasn't a particularly bright day but still the space inside was illuminated by the small amount sky light above.

The room was a rotund oval with a smooth wooden bench to sit on and gaze up at the opening on the ceiling. The warm and cool colors really helped make a calming effect and the clean lines of the room let you relax even more.

As I looked up at the oval opening above and my eyes adjusted, I couldn't help but think I was seeing shifting colors. Not sure if this was an optical illusion or an effect from clouds passing by.

The rest of the gallery was nice, except I wasn't allowed to take photos. I saw some watercolor pieces that were contemporary and really liked them. Otherwise I had a good time at this small gallery on the UW campus.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Giving a Presentation at WAESOL in Oct.

A while back I joined the WAESOL organization (Washington state affiliate of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) and then I thought, "Well what am I going to do with this membership?" So I looked into their meetings and turns out they are having a conference in October. Looking further I noticed they were accepting proposals for presentations.

In this part of their site they had several choices for giving a presentation. Everything from full on lectures to mini ones. I chose one of the smaller ones called "Teacher Tips!" and submitted a proposal:

"Incorporating math as a subject in language learning can be fun and rewarding. This session will show some engaging math topics and exercises that can be incorporated into your lessons."

Obviously I chose to talk about math in ESL, because it's what I taught back in Korea for the last 2 years. So I felt like I would be able to talk about it and also share something useful. However, I didn't really think my proposal would go through, considering it's not a strict ESL topic. So I was surprised to read the email that said I was accepted and I'm now working on putting together the presentation.

In my presentation I am going to make sure I explain key reasons why math would be good for ESL learners and also share some of the projects I did with my students. All the while I want to make sure I show that the point to using math as a subject in ESL is to get students to use English in creative and new ways.

I don't know how many people will show up to my presentation, which will be just 20 to 25 minutes. It's the kind of conference where there are many presentations going on and you can pick and choose what to go and see. However, I am pleased to be doing this for many reasons most of which are that I get to tack it on my resume. Hurrah!

Monday, September 2, 2013

PAX Seattle: Gamer's Delight

Do I play video games? Not really. Actually the last time I probably played a game all the way through was in high school or when I had my first iPod touch. Otherwise why on earth would I go to a video gaming convention? The answer is that my bf is a gamer and I figured this would be fun to experience with him. In the end, it was fun but a bit overwhelming. It really is a big industry and there really are a lot of people enjoying it. 

So even though I didn't actually play any games at PAX, I found that the indie games were interesting to look at and the table top gaming area a much needed refuge. 

Do I wish I played video games after wondering through the land of it? Eh, not really. I recall when I did play video games is that I usually would get to a point where I couldn't advance, no mater how hard I tried. I would get frustrated and give up on the game. So in some sense I'm not keen to endure that again. However, I wouldn't mind finding a game to play that doesn't involve a lot of killing or extreme strategy but one that is beautiful to look at and has a unique gameplay. I'm sure it's out there. 

Otherwise, with Grad school I doubt I would even have time for games...oh well. But I do have time for table top gaming (boardgames), which I find to be really enjoyable and a good way to socialize. So there's that!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Daejon Park in Seattle

It seems that Seattle has about 400 parks and I didn't even know that one close to where I live was in place to represent Seattle as a sister city of Daejon, South Korea. Now, I actually never went to Daejon but usually passed by it on my way south to Busan. A little bit south of where I live (Central District) is Beacon Hill. I haven't really been around this area too much, usually driving past it on my way back from someplace.

Located in Daejon park is a Korean pavilion built that is practically a direct replica of what you would find in Korea. Indeed, these pavilions were all over Korea in parks, on top of mountains and in neighborhoods.

It did have that "Korean" feel to it and I sat down and enjoyed the scenery, which was muddled a bit by the nearby freeway. But I was pleased to see the decoration was painted on as sometimes in Korea they were just applied stickers.

Supposedly Seattle has many sister cities and this is just one of them. If you want more information on the history and other elements of the park go here.

The rest of the park was quite nice with a long stretch of green space, trees and some art installations.

Some of this art is part of the project Art Interruptions going on this year. But what was really nice was a spot where you could see downtown Seattle.

I might return to this park someday, but geared up with kimbop and Korean rice drinks to celebrate the sister city feel. Otherwise I can mark it off on the list of parks to visit here in Seattle.