Saturday, December 31, 2011

happy arbitrary, man-made date change!


I'm not really into celebrating New Year's Eve - in fact, I spent last night as I've spend most New Year's Eves... curled up in bed with a cat and a book (or my Kindle in this case). 2011 wasn't a bad year. High points? Ukraine and the successful maneuvering of a house out to my mom's land. Low points? Koala. Cylon. Not enjoying my time in Seoul.

My goals for the coming year? 

1. Finish up the last two months of my contract with the minimum amount of stress possible (given that it's kind of a high-stress place and all).

2. Get myself, my cat, and my stuff safely back to the US. 

3. Relax, decompress, de-stress. Taking early-March through late August off sounds ideal. I am literally counting the days. 43 more work days, 69 days 'til I'm back in the US.

4. Start grad school. (I've already heard back from one of the 5 schools to which I applied, saying that I've been accepted, so this is definitely a go - all that remains to be seen is where I'll be going. I should hear from the other four this month, and then I should hear about funding...)

gross, gross, gross.

I've been having really horrific headaches recently. I've had headaches my entire life, but this has been worse than usual. I'd been thinking possible causes were stress or the absurdly dry Seoul winter air. They actually got worse when I finally turned on the floor heat and started sleeping on the floor - which I thought was kind of odd, as normally I feel *better* when I sleep on the floor (my back adores the hard floor; soft mattresses are the enemy).

Today I noticed a small black patch on the wall, coming up from behind the headboard of my bed. I scooted the bed away from the wall and was immediately disgusted by the nasty mold growing all over the wall. In a panic I moved my bookshelf and wardrobe away from their respective walls, and the grossed-out feeling continued. My apartment had apparently become a prime greenhouse for not just onions, but various varieties of mold.

The walls in this place sweat when it's cold outside and the heat's on inside. The walls are made of concrete, covered with wallpaper on the inside. Where headboards, bookcases, and wardrobes press against it, mold apparently multiplied like mad.

Left: back of bookshelf
Right: behind the bed

Left: back of wardrobe
Right: behind the wardrobe

Now my apartment is mold-free and reeking of cleaning products. Let's hope it stays gone for the next 70 days (and now that I'm aware that this occurs, I've moved the bed, bookcase and wardrobe so they don't directly touch the walls, and I will be checking behind them regularly). I really hope this has been the cause of my headaches, as it would be nice for them to actually go away for 2012. Also, in case you didn't catch that... Charlie and I are leaving Korea in 70 days!

Friday, December 30, 2011

the accidental onion

An onion in the very back of my fridge started to sprout. I'd planned on eating it, but the little blighter had put up shoots in the cold dark corner of my refrigerator; eating it seemed wrong somehow. 
I figured it could do with some (relative) warmth and sunlight,
so I set it atop my fridge.

A couple weeks later, the thing was flourishing.

So I decided to plant it:
Unfortunately, all I had was a too small tupperware dish. 
(In my world, cats are way easier than plants).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

So, you wanna help animals?


Today a friend of mine sent me a link to an online store run by an animal rescue program. He was interested in buying some of the products from the store, but wanted to know if I'd heard of the organization, and if it was legit. My answer to my friend was that if what he was really looking for were the products (and the stuff this site was selling was pretty nifty and right up his alley), then it wouldn't hurt him to go ahead and buy the stuff - and maybe some of the money would indeed end up helping the animals. However, as the goods in question would've been pricey to produce, the amount per item that would actually go to helping animals would probably be rather low. As such, if his main goal was to help animals, he'd be better off going to a local animal shelter/rescue and donating to them directly. I've actually been thinking about this all day, and figured it was worth a post.

A lot of people want to help animals. Not everyone can take in large numbers of animals - but just because you can't have a ginormous four-legged menagerie doesn't mean you don't want to help out. So, what should you do? What shouldn't you do?

Donate to a local animal shelter or rescue. 
Many caring and well-meaning folks donate every year to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Don't do this. If you really, truly want to help animals, do not donate to HSUS. Contrary to popular belief, they do not fund and rarely ever assist local animal shelters. You have an organization in your town with the words "humane society" in its name? It's just a name; they do not receive money from HSUS. I used to work at a small local animal shelter that had "humane society" in its name - it was a high-kill pound that received $0/year from HSUS... and nearly every day I heard at least one local resident mention how they regularly donated to HSUS. These people were always shocked to learn that we received nothing from HSUS. Find out what animal shelters and rescues are located in your area and donate to them directly. (For more information on the misleading fundraising techniques of HSUS, click here.)

Do your research.
Everybody loves a big fat check, but just because you want that check to go towards vet care doesn't mean it isn't going to go towards the boss's vacation fund. Yes, I'm cynical. I've also seen a scam artists use their "rescues" as a way to live high on the hog. Be careful. Do your research; google is a wonderful tool. In addition to googling - if it's a local organization, go and visit! Check it out, see if they're doing what they claim to be doing. Get to know the people working there, the people running the place, the animals. There are many, many wonderful animal rescue organizations out there; just be sure you're giving to one of the good guys. 

Don't (necessarily) just cut a check.
If you're concerned that your donations may or may not go directly to the animals, there are other options to just forking over dough. If an organization is asking for money to cover vet care, ask for the veterinarian's information. Provide the money to the vet clinic directly. If the organization needs money to cover food costs, contact a local pet-food store and set up an account to be used for animal food only. You can also donate things: food, blankets, beds, cages, bowls... but before you buy, ask the organization what they need. They might have more pet food than they eat through before it goes bad, but be desperately in need of winter blankets. Or they might have a year's supply of cat food and only a week's supply of dog food. You never know until you ask.

Buying Products? 
Lots of organizations (and this goes for ALL charities, not just animal-related ones) sell things to raise money. It's a great way to convince people to part with their cash, and a lot of the things sold by these organizations are pretty awesome... but these things take money to produce. A $10 t-shirt might only net the organization $2. If it's a super awesome t-shirt that you really want, buy it! But if you just want to help the organization, simply give them the $10 (or see above and below for other options).

If you have the time and want to help, this is a great thing to do. This helps the animals and the staff - and it will give you an idea of whether or not this is a place you want to donate your hard earned cash to. Depending on the organization, volunteering can include cleaning (sweeping, raking, cleaning cages/pens, laundry), socializing with the animals, grooming animals, feeding animals, walking dogs, yard work, fund raising, construction, transportation, fostering, web design, and more. Again, you never know what kind of help a place needs until you ask. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A memorial to Koala and Songi

It's been a rough couple of days.

You know my friend G lives in Daegu - she and her family are the people I spent Christmas weekend with. I've known G since I was 8. We're from the same hometown. We grew up together. I first met her Yorkie, Songi, back in 2004 when I was in Korea with the US government. I've played with Songi countless times over the years, and I've pet-sat quite a few times, too. I didn't see much of Songi this past weekend, as she wasn't feeling well. I learned from G Sunday night after I'd returned to Seoul that it had turned into something serious. I awoke Monday morning to an email that Songi had died in the night. 

Songi, 2007

Songi 2010

I cried. I hugged Charlie. I sent an email to my mom, telling her about Songi, and saying that I was glad to have the day off from work, so I could spend it in bed snuggling with Charlie, but oh, how it made me miss Koala. 

Koala was my baby. You know I'm a cat lady. I've never had anything against dogs - in fact, I like most dogs. It's just that I'm a cat person. Except for when I first met Koala and fell totally in love. I'd have brought her with me to Korea, except that she was so happy spending all day with her 8 canine friends, and would've been miserable in a tiny Korean apartment. I've missed her terribly.

I awoke this morning to a response from my mom. Koala had died. The timing could not have been more surreal.

Koala had a rough start to life. She was born in December 2008, and came into my life in January 2009. She was almost dead. A dog had attacked her, had bitten her in the head and neck. She'd been dumped in a parking lot. When she was first spotted, she was walking in circles. Then she collapsed. She was weak, dehydrated, couldn't stand or eat or drink. She had a few seizures. I stayed up with her all night, giving her water and chicken broth via syringe. And she lived.

Koala when I first saw her.

Cleaned up and feeling better, but resting

Due to some issues I won't get into here, she wasn't vaccinated right away. She came down with parvo. An enormous vet bill (and some fantastic work by my local vet that was worth every penny) later, she had fully recovered.

Koala at the vet's, being treated for parvo.

Bringing her home from the vet

Koala was never the smartest dog. She was absurdly funny looking. She often ran in circles. Periodically she would have seizures, but never seemed to feel any ill effects afterwards. But that's the only thing that could explain her sudden death, on her porch, untouched by the other dogs.

Koala, summer 2009

Koala and her two puppy friends, Marlee and Piglet could not fetch worth a damn. But soooo cute. Piglet (the tiniest one in the video) grew into a behemoth - and we were able to find her a home. Mom still has Marlee.

Perfect portrait :-)

Koala, July 2010, shortly before I moved back to Korea

Koala playing with her new friend, Wolfie, summer 2011

My last picture of Koala, taken when I was home late this summer.

I'll miss her.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


I got up early Saturday morning, pleased to discover that my headache was (mostly) gone. I grabbed my stuff and set off for the train station - and was quite pleasantly surprised to wander outside to discover that we'd had quite a bit of snowfall in the night. In fact, there was a good deal of snow blanketing the peninsula nearly all the way down to Daegu, although Daegu itself was above freezing and free of snow.

The snow on my street

Somewhere just south of Seoul

This is not fog; it was actually a blizzard. Somewhere between Seoul and Daejeon.

I had a lovely weekend with G, YM, and Baby S, and I saw Seth (Charlie's former cat-sitter) and met several new people as well. A couple photographs of the weekend are below. The full set of photographs (probably of interest only to people who know me and my friends) can be seen by CLICKING HERE. Enjoy! :-)
YM, G, and Baby S

Me and Baby S, followed by tons of photos of Baby S hamming it up for the camera.



The full set of photos can be seen here :-)

Friday, December 23, 2011

headaches, shabu-shabu, and hello kitty

Somehow - miracle of miracles in this workaholic country - I managed to finagle a four-day holiday weekend out of my employer. I'm planning on spending Saturday and Sunday down in Daegu with G and her family, and planned to spend both today and Monday relaxing and puttering about Seoul.

Late Thursday afternoon, I started to get a headache. This is nothing new - I've had problems with headaches my entire life. Within an hour of returning home after work, it had evolved into a full-blown migraine. This isn't anything too surprising either, although I no longer get migraines nearly as often as I used to. During my late teens and early twenties, I used to get one or two a month. Now it's more like one or two a year - far preferable, except for when one comes pounding into my head at the start of my minuscule vacation. After a miserable night, the migraine sauntered off in the morning, leaving it's relative the Very Bad Headache in its place. The Very Bad Headach apparently decided that my head was a pretty awesome place to chill, and it stuck around until early evening, when it passed off the duty of torturing Anonymity to its friend Minor Headache. Yep, over 24 hours later and I am still headachy. I've consumed an unhealthy amount of OTC pain relievers in the hope that something would rid me of this nastiness, but to no particular avail. I'm hoping that Minor Headache will have skeedaddled by the time I get around to boarding the train for Daegu tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed!

I'd planned to meet my friend S for a late lunch on Saturday (S is a high school buddy of mine who just so happens to be stationed in Korea with the USAF). Well, I did meet up with him, although I suspect I was *not* the most companionable of companions, as I'd brought the Very Bad Headache along with me. S and I decided to go to the Fresh Shabu Dining restaurant in Hongdae, where we'd been before and where we knew the food was super-awesome. Headache or no headache, a girl needs to eat. I'm a huge fan of shabu-shabu, a Japanese dish involving veggies, mushrooms, noodles, and thin slices of meat boiled into a tasty stew at your table. This restaurant offers a bit of a twist on the traditional shabu-shabu goodness. You can choose two different soup broths and cook two different soups at the same time in a dual-partition yin-yang shaped pot:

The two broths

Veggies and mushrooms added

And lastly, with the meat added

This stuff is absolutely wonderful, and it certainly perked me up, even if it didn't drive the headache away. 

After lunch, I wasn't really up for doing much of anything, so S and I went to the Hello Kitty Cafe. It's very, very, very pepto-pink inside and full of Hello Kitty knick-knacks, products, and decor. We got some coffee and enjoyed the bizarre ambiance and squealing girls taking copious photos of themselves in front of various Hello Kitty displays until my head couldn't really take it any more. (FYI - they won't take your order until you've placed your shit on a table and staked claim to your space. Unfortunately, we didn't discover this until we stood in line for 10 minutes to order only to have the cashier eye our winter coats and bags then point disinterestedly at a small sign on the cash register saying that we needed to do so. Oi.)



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Let it snow, let it snow, let it... oh. Maybe not.

It snowed a tad last night. It even stuck around for a bit, but had melted away by about 10 or so. We had occasional flurried throughout the day, but nothing much.

To make up for the lack of snow, I present Attack Cat Charlie:


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

seen on the subway, part 3

There used to be some signs on the subway that looked like this:

Don't lean on the doors.

They were recently replaced with some new signs.
Don't have an erection while leaning on the subway door.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Kim Jong-Il is dead! This song popped into my head the instant I heard the news this morning, and it's been singing in my head all day. The news spread rapidly through my office, and I'm pretty sure not much work got done over the next hour, as we all sat and refreshed news sites over and over looking for updates. The atmosphere was almost joyous - but this momentous occasion was marred somewhat by the thought that well... Kim Jong-Il was the devil we knew. He threatened to turn Seoul into a sea of fire on numerous occasions, but he never actually did it. Will his successor show similar restraint? This concern was discussed at length among my coworkers - many of whom are either working at my company as interns in lieu of active duty military service, or who are military reservists. The South Korean military has been placed on alert - just in case.

Kim Jong-Il named his 20-something son, Kim Jong Un as his official successor last year, but he's young and inexperienced. Will the old guard follow him? If so, what kind of leader will he make? If not, what kind of power struggle will ensue? Will the people rise up, or will they meekly suffer a new dictator? At this point, it's impossible to predict what will happen.

I'd say I'll keep you posted, but getting accurate news out of North Korea is pretty damn near impossible in the best of times.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Updating my mom's website :-)

Click on the picture to check it out!


*Being a cat lady is genetic :-)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Traditional vs. Modern - Gangnam and Bongeunsa

Despite the below freezing temperatures of Saturday morning, the day was gorgeous, and I decided not to let it go to waste. I decided to take the absurdly long subway trip to the opposite end of Seoul (well, to Gangnam anyway, which is an absurdly long subway trip from Hongdae) for the purpose of visiting Bongeunsa, a Buddhist temple founded in 794, and since enveloped by one of the most modern areas of Seoul. It's located just across the street from the frightening (to me anyway) COEX Mall and the South Korean World Trade Center Complex. It's a great area for photographs, especially if you're looking to juxtapose modern with traditional. Only a few of the photographs I took are shown below; to see the complete set of photographs, CLICK HERE.

There were quite a few silver spheres. The one on the right was part of a monument to the 2010 G20 meeting, which was held in Seoul.

The building on the left is the Trade Center Tower; the one on the right is part of the overall complex.

Elephant outside Bongeunsa

Unfortunately, one of the main sections of the temple was closed for refurbishment. Luckily, the complex was large enough that there was still plenty to photograph.



(Right: well fed but feral temple cat)


To see the complete set of photographs, CLICK HERE.

stereotypical shock value korean food and noraebang post

I'm not a particularly big fan of seafood. Being from the American South, I prefer my seafood battered and deep-fried on the rare occasion that I eat any. However, as I've been popping in and out of South Korea since 2001, I've had plenty of occasions to eat a variety of seafood that is decidedly neither battered nor deep-fried. I now actually enjoy various fish products that I once would have found abhorrent, and I've even braved a variety of foods that even a year ago I would have refused to try. For many of my readers here in Korea this might be a typical reaction, and as such nothing in this post will come as much of a surprise. I'm posting this mainly for those of my readers who have never been to Korea, and never had such an experience.

We had another hwaeshik (회식) on Friday night. This time went much better than last time, as I insisted on taking the subway to our destination. This hwaeshik was a going away party for our intern, as it was her last day. (Sadly, this means I'm back to being the only chick in the department. Oi.) We went to 마차회집, a seafood restaurant in Mapo, which put a lot of effort into attractive displays of the various raw seafood products they served. I was also introduced to the Korean version of the Irish Car Bomb - a shot of soju in a glass of Hite. Oi. Anyhow, here are some photos and videos from the evening:

Toasting our former intern with Soju + Hite

Snail. I really do not like the texture.

Goldfish. Haha.

Sea Anemone. Again - not a fan of the texture; too crunchy.

I don't know enough about octopi nervous systems to understand how the legs continue wriggling after being disconnected from the body, but there they are. I even tried a piece, and it wasn't bad - although again, not a texture that I'm a particular fan of. And I was rather paranoid that it might suction itself onto the back of my throat. (I'd actually picked up a piece with my fingers, and it wrapped itself around my index finger and suctioned on, so I'd say that's a valid concern; I chomped it the instant it went into my mouth.)

True to hwaeshik form, we went to a noraebang (singing room) afterwards. You haven't lived until you've seen your coworkers boozily belt out The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

If not for sits...

As I'm trying to save money, I'm doing my best to keep the heat off in my apartment. For those of you who don't know much about Korea - in Korea, the heating systems are built into the floor. Floor heat is a wonderful thing, but boy does it knock your gas bill up. Thus far, I've been running it from about 4am-8am max, although it also hasn't gotten all that cold yet. Or at least I don't think so. Charlie, on the other hand, was apparently built for warmer weather. She is way more snuggly now than she is when it's warm out. If I'm at my desk, she's in my lap. If I'm in bed, she's under the covers, snuggled up tight against me. If I get up before the crack of dawn to turn on the floor heat, she abandons me as soon as it gets toasty down there. And if the floor heat's off and I'm not home, seated, or in bed... she sits on my laptop. I've caught her in the middle of writing a lengthy gibberish email to a friend, and surely she must spend some time checking out the lolcats:

funny pictures of cats with captions

lolcats funny cat pictures

if its not for sits ys it made of warm


if its not for sits  wai is it made of warms?

Yeah. I think we may also have discovered why the Evil Blue Screen of Death has been popping up all of the sudden.