Friday, December 3, 2010

Virtual Apartment Tour

We realize that this post is long overdue, and perhaps not useful given we only have a week left here, but we thought you all might enjoy a taste of our home-life over the past year. So, here's a photo tour of our quaint apartment in the city.

We live in a one room apartment on the 19th floor of a huge apartment building. There are about nine sky-scraping apartment buildings in our complex alone.
When we say "one" bedroom, we really mean it. Our space is one large room, complete with a living area, kitchen area (pictured above), dining room table, and a bed. Our front door is the gray thing in the background on the left-hand side.

The only separate room is the shower and toilet (thank goodness these have their own room!).

Any guesses what this thing is?!? If you said a washer/dryer combination machine, you are too smart! It sits underneath our stovetop in the kitchen. You can wash dishes, cook spaghetti, and get a load of laundry finished without moving your feet. Now try to figure out how to wash that dirty load of jeans...

That's our home! It's small, but it's cozy, and it's all we needed for our first year of marriage. Living here has really put into perspective just how simply we have been able to live. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The beginning of the end

We are less than two weeks away from leaving our first home, first real job (for me at least) and many other "firsts" we have experienced living abroad and being newly-weds. Along with this comes the first time to move out of an apartment, and boy does stuff accumulate over the period of one year....especially in a foreign country! Neither of us are pack rats, but we tend to hang on to things more over here. You just never know when you might need that special thing that special person gave you on that special day, or you might not be able to locate that thing ever again. Needless to say, we are doing some much needed winter cleaning. We have already shipped home (yes, via a large boat) 3 boxes of "stuff" and believe you me, there is still more! We are doing a bit of traveling before heading back stateside, and we prefer to carry light luggage (with plenty of room for more goodies!). Therefore our trips to the local post office will continue, as well as the relationship we have developed with the employees there.
Here's a bit more information about the places we'll go (Oh, the Places You'll Go....I miss Dr. Seuss):
Our first stop is Malaysia. Unfortunately, we are not spending much time here at all. It's really just an over night layover, but with plenty of time to try some delicious Malay food, see the beautiful Twin Towers lit up at night, and catch up with an old high school exchange student. The next morning we are on a plane to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. We'll spend a few nights there and travel to Siem Reap to see Angkor War (the largest religious site in the world).
From there, we fly to Bangkok, Thailand where we will meet up with some special guests. The Mueller's and Kenney's are spending the holidays in South East Asia! Mark, Neysa, Meaghan and Jerry and us will enjoy some time in Thailand's capital, then head north to Chiang Mai. We have lots of exciting plans for this city, but we'll save that for a post-trip post. Here's one spoiler though--I signed the women up for a traditional Thai cooking class, so by the time we're back in Texas, we *should* know how to make some delicious dishes!
After almost two weeks of traveling, we'll part ways (the Mueller's are continuing on to Vietnam) and hop a plane to Dallas and be home for the holidays.

There are so, so many things we are excited about in our near future. Until then, we must focus on packing boxes and suitcases (I must say, I'm glad I married an Eagle Scout, they tend to be very handy about these things).

Oh, and we are very safe here in Busan. As you can see by the map, we are as far away as possible to the recent shelling and military action from North Korea.

Please continue to pray for this nation and the people and leadership in both the North and the South.

We love you all!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fall in Busan

It's Fall here, and it's wonderful! The trees are gorgeous and the weather is perfect! We went hiking this past weekend and got some great shots...
...of foliage that is!
Can you find Loren snapping shots with the locals?

Well it's that time already...we are packing up to head back stateside. Our one year teaching contract is quickly coming to an end. While there are a ton of things we are excited about getting back home to (e.g. family, our dog, hunting, Mexican no specific order) we will also miss the life here (easy and affordable transportation, working together in the same environment, our church family and so much more!).

Here's a few things as of lately:

Busan Fireworks Festival
Over 2 million people come to this annual event and crowd the beaches of Gwangalli. We were fortunate to have great "seats" to the show at the top of our friend's apartment building.
We also walked in a 5K along Haeundae beach for diabetes with one of our co-teachers. Here's Loren with his two new friends.
Our English academy threw a Halloween party for our elementary age students. If you want a good laugh, try explaining this "tradition" to Koreans. As you can see in the picture, some kiddos got the idea and even dressed-up for the event!
One of my favorite and sweet students :) He's showing off his well-deserved stickers.
We finally caught a Lotte Giants baseball game! Unfortunately, this was their last game of the season. The bit of absurdity you may notice is the equivalent of a "rally-cap" during the seventh inning. These "hats" also double as a trash bag (it wasn't only us, everyone in the stadium had them on their heads!). Smart and resourceful idea, Busan!
The delightful dish you see in the photo below is the Korean dessert "Pot Bing Su". It is a combination of sweet red beans, shaved ice, fruit, cereal and ice cream. Don't judge just yet...while this concoction might sound appalling and disgusting, it's actually quite delicious!
We'll leave you with this cool photo of the city lights from the top of our apartment building.
Love you and miss you all...we'll be seeing everyone soon!

Monday, October 4, 2010


First of all, our apologies for letting our blog be dormant for so long! We would like to say we've been incredibly busy everyday for the past few months, but that's not completely true. We are still throughly enjoying our time here in Korea and we have learned a lot about life, love, and culture. It has been an incredible experience in our lives and we have no regrets!

So here's some things that have been going on lately....

We were able to travel and see a bit more of Asia when we went to the Philippines. There are over 7,000 islands comprising this country (bet you didn't know that!) and we stayed on the popular island, Boracay. It's relatively new when it comes to tourism hot spots. It was only in the 70's when, it is said, a foreign movie crew accidentally "discovered" this island paradise. It has been rapidly developing as a tourist destination ever since. Needless to say, this was one of the most gorgeous places we have seen on Earth! Here is a photo of the sunset that welcomed us the first night.

OK, now back in Busan....The seasons have changed, finally! And we couldn't be more pleased with this pleasant fall weather. We were told before coming to Busan that there are four distinct seasons and we have felt it for sure this time. After a few days of hot and sticky rain, the cool made it's presence known and fall had arrived.

Also, The Head's made a visit to Kimchi-land! We were so so blessed to have BOTH of our families make the trip to Asia. Thankfully Korea had a national holiday (Chuseok), which is like American Thanksgiving, so we had a few days off work to enjoy with Jim and Tammy (Loren's parents). We began our journey in one of the largest cities in the world and the capital of Korea, Seoul. We hit a few tourist hot-spots like palaces and museums, but the highlight of the trip for everyone was visiting the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). Also known as the 38th parallel, this border between the north and the south was created in 1953. It is 250 kilometers long (miles? no thanks, we only use metric now) and 4 kilometers wide. It is the most heavily militarized border in the world. We went with the USO tour where we had a wonderful English-speaking Korean guide who was passionate about the reunification between the once united peninsula. Once we arrived at the DMZ we were greeted by US soldiers, which was a very comforting feeling. The tour showed us the Joint Security Area (JSA) where they rarely hold meetings with both countries, Kijong-dong (Propaganda village) which is a North Korean city that is a desolate town established only for looks, and through one of the four known infiltration tunnels the North dug in attempt to attack the South. Here we are at the JSA in the DMZ. Loren is standing in South Korea, Alaina is standing in North Korea.
Being able to throw a rock into North Korea put things in to perspective even more. Living as expats in the south we are keenly aware of the miserable lives lived in the North. If you're interested in the issue, or even you're confused why we feel for these forgotten people, just search for any documentary made about the North. It will open your eyes.

After our couple days in the capital, we hopped a train to our home city....Busan! We were there for less than a day then went to the beautiful island south of Korea, Jeju, to get the most out of our vacation days. We rented a car in Jeju and Loren drove the entire island wonderfully, which is impressive considering neither of us have touched a steering wheel in 10 months. We saw the sunrise over a volcanic crater, an old folk village, a tropical temple, visited the coastal city of Seogwipo and saw the only waterfall in Asia to fall directly into the ocean. We even put the car in neutral to experience "Mystery Road" where things roll uphill. Jeju is one of God's magnificent designs and we were happy to experience it with Loren's parents. The photo below is at the top of a volcanic crater.
One of the many waterfalls on the island. This one flows into the Yellow Sea.
And here is a tropical temple (Yakcheonsa) built only 10 years ago on Jeju island. Or as Jim would say, "Where the surfer monks live."

We returned to our home city (Busan) for a packed weekend of sightseeing and fun! We took the Head's all over the city and they finally were able to meet the students and teachers we have been talking about all year. They even got to meet our church family here!

We were sad to see them leave, but we knew that after they left we only had a little while before we could be reunited again. So the countdown has begun! We have just over two more months here teaching. We plan to travel a bit after our contract and be home for the holidays!

We miss and love you all. Thanks for stopping by our blog :) Have a great day (or night, depending on where you are in this beautiful world)!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


It’s summertime in Korea, and it’s beginning to feel like it! Everything is turning from the flowers and trees to the sweaty, smelly kiddos who run in to our classrooms. June welcomed us with new schedules at school and blessed us with more great friends at I.C.C. (our church here).
Here are some photos and stories as of lately:

We went to the wedding of a friend’s friend. One of our co-teachers had a friend getting married, so we decided to tag along (it was totally okay and not weird, no worries). It was different from western weddings; Interesting, to say the least! Here we are with the beautiful bride in the "Bride's Room" before the wedding. Koreans have the reception part right…buffet of steak, sushi and desserts!

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated a little differently over here…May 5th is also a national holiday in Korea, but not for independence. It’s called Children’s Day, where every child in the city is spoiled by their parents and grandparents. We celebrated our day off by heading to the beach with some other friends from Texas. We enjoyed Mexican food and even a small bowl of guacamole! Happy Children’s Day!

We had the opportunity to “bless” another couple at our church last month. A “blessing” is between two couples in our married couples Bible study. We all draw names and take another couple to do something fun! The Head’s took the Lett’s and their adorable 2 year old son to the Busan Aquarium for the afternoon. What cool creatures they have in this place!

In May we went to a kite festival on a beach way south of the city called Dadaepo. It was really cool. Amateurs and professionals flew kites of all sizes (some even made sounds when they flew!). Good thing it was super windy that day! It was the perfect day for a kite festival.

There are tons of festivals in Busan. It seems like every weekend we have the chance to experience something new and cultural. Here we are at the Sand Festival on Haeundae Beach in Busan. Hauendae is the most popular tourist and vacation spot in Korea (on the mainland).

Busan International Motor Show (BIMOS) is a huge event put on every year by the automobile industry. There were cars from economical to luxury, and smart cars to huge tour buses.

Alaina has a job at the local English radio station. She teaches a children’s program called “Power Phonics Corner” every weekday. It’s 90.5 Busan eFM if youre interested in tuning in!

Another national holiday fell in May, buddha’s birthday. While of course we did not celebrate this event, we did enjoy the beautiful lanterns the city decorated with.

Beomeosa Temple

The Busan Museum of Modern Art currently has an exhibit of “Monet to Picasso” from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Many artists were represented including Rodin, Gauguin, Van Gogh and of course Monet and Picasso.

It's election time here in Korea, which means one thing: lots of dancing and singing to the candidates official songs. The supporters ride around in trucks playing loud music from the back with choreographed dance moves. We decided (if we could vote) to choose the best dance crew for city elections.

Oh! We bought bikes, too!

We call this...."Yoga Turtle".

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Seoul and the Family

Sorry it's been so long since our last post. We had had a busy past month! We are so blessed that Alaina's father, mother, and grandmother came from Texas to visit us in Korea! It was a wonderful, fun-filled trip. We met them in Seoul for the weekend, then headed to the city of Gyeongju, then finally home to Busan. Everyday was action-packed: We began our tour at the Korean War Museum in Seoul. There were tons of exhibits on the history of Korea and the wars in its past. Alaina's grandfather (Mueller) was a medical doctor in Korea during the Korean War, so it was extremely interesting to see the different exhibits and read about his role during the war.

The Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom in Seoul mid-April, so it was great timing to see these beautiful trees.

The Han River separates the northern part of Seoul with the southern (newer) part of the city. We took a river boat cruise in the afternoon down the Han River. It was interesting to see the perspective from the river, but it was cold and windy, so we were ready to get off the boat after the hour cruise. You can see the Han River in the background.

On Sunday, we visited Myeong-dong Cathedral and attended one of their Korean masses.

We did a lot of shopping in Seoul! Every area we toured had a market of some kind. Here we are at Insadong. It is famous for its quaint tea shops and cobblestone streets. The area was dotted with food vendors and jewelry sellers.

This area is called Bukchon Hanok Village. Many of the traditional style of houses are preserved here with residents still living in them.

There is a stream that flows through Seoul. Cheonggye runs for 10km long and has nice sidewalks on each side of the stream (much like the Riverwalk in San Antonio). One night, we caught an interesting light show created by lasers projected off mist.

There are many different religions in Korea. It is easily divide in to 3 parts--Buddhist, Christian and other. There are Buddhist temples throughout the city and tucked into the mountains. We visited Jogyesa Temple in the middle of the city. No, we did not bow down or worship the fat, gold buddha.

Seoul Tower stands tall on a mountain in the city. It is visible from most parts of the city. We took a cable car up the mountain at night to catch beautiful views of the city. You could see lights for miles in every direction!

Here mom stands on a bench at the top of the mountain near the tower. Behind her are thousands of locks on a fence. Each lock has names or phrases on it. You write your name or wish on the lock and hook it on the fence (for luck or "lovers").
There are many palaces in Seoul. Here we are at Gyeongbokgung Palace. First constructed in 1394 and reconstructed in 1867, it was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. The name of the palace, Gyeongbokgung, translates in English as "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven." It was almost destroyed by the Japanese government in the early 20th century. Today, about 40 percent of the original number of palace buildings still stand or are being reconstructed.

Our final day in Seoul we went on a tour of Cheong Wa Dae ("The Blue House"). It is the equivalent of America's White House. The Blue House consists of the Main Office Hall, the Presidential Residence, the State Reception House, Press Hall, and the Secretariat Buildings. The entire complex covers approximately 250,000 . (About 62 acres) Since the tour was in Korean, they provided us with an audio tour in English as we walked around the extremely secure grounds with guards.
After our tour of the Blue House, we hoped on a train and left Seoul for the ancient city of Gyeongju. It was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla (57 BC – 935 AD) which ruled most of the Korean Peninsula between the 7th and 9th centuries. Many archaeological sites and cultural properties from this period remain in the city. Gyeongju is often referred to as "the museum without walls". The tombs of the kings from the Silla Dynasty were built here (the grassy hills in the background).
Some of the tombs allow visitors to enter. Here is the entrance of one of the tombs.
This is another palace in Gyeongju. Behind us in Anapji Pond, where it is said that the king did much of his meditation and relaxation. Gyeongju was a very peaceful city, aside from the hundreds of school children we ran in to on field trips!
We headed back to Busan after a couple days in Gyeongju. Our first stop was at an ammunition plant. This company makes all of the ammunition for the Korean military, as well as many of the bullets we buy for sport hunting. Cool!

Here we are enjoying a popular Korean meal called "Samgupsal". They provide each table with huge pieces of bacon-like meat like you cook on the grill in the middle of your table. You have many different sauces and extras you can add to your meat before wrapping it in a lettuce leaf. Yum!
Busan is a coastal city, so we are surrounded by beaches. We spent the afternoon at a popular beach, Gwangalli. God gave us a beautiful weekend to enjoy strolling the beach!

We took our family to the famous Jalgalchi Fish Market (for more photos of this, see the earlier post). The bottom level of the fish market is all live, fresh catches of any fish or sea creature you can imagine! We picked out our lunch and watched as they took our choices up to the second level which is full of small restaurants that will cook your meal right there. Our selection included flounder, crab and prawns. Talk about fresh food!
One of Alaina's co-teachers joined us for a day at the market. He brought his beautiful daughter, Hana, along. Nana and Hana enjoyed some bonding time together :)
Hana really loves yogurt!

Busan has it's own tower, yet it is not at the stature of Seoul's tower. Busan Tower soars up 120 meters high standing on a 69-meter high hilltop. This observation tower gives an awesome bird's-eye view of the entire city of Busan including islands and ships dotted in the distant seas.

We had a great time with our family here and feel so blessed that they made this long journey to see us. If anyone is interested in coming to Korea, please let us know. We love having visitors!!