Sunday, December 29, 2013


2013 is nearing its end, and what a weird year it's been!

I was organizing my planner for 2014 by perusing my 2013 planner and fishing out pertinent events and dates, and it was a rather interesting way to look back on my year and see what's happened. Per month, this was my 2013:

I spent the holidays with my family, in brisk (for California) weather, only to return to shiver-inducing cold back in Korea. Brrrr!
LAX (Los Angeles) to ICN (Seoul / Incheon).
박수건달 ("The Gangster Shaman"): Pretty funny, a little touching, and good fun, as long as you understand some of the more Korean / Confucian motivations behind some of the characters.
7번방의 선물 ("Miracle in Cell No. 7"): Though I cried buckets, even through the tears, I could feel how the movie was just contorting itself into a crying jag-inducing sobfest. Not a film that I would re-watch.

Cold. Ilsan is prone to bone-chilling winds, and my bones? They were thoroughly chilled. I did get to go on a lovely little trip with the staff of the film I had worked on (courtesy of the production company, as the movie did really well in the box office!). I warmed my chilled bones in Malaysia, cooked my chilled bones in the boiling humidity of Singapore, then ... had to come back to frigid Korea.
ICN to KUL (Kuala Lumpur) to SIN (Singapore), then back to ICN.
베를린 ("The Berlin File"): Frankly, I wanted to re-watch this movie with English subtitles. The North Korean dialect was tough for me to decipher (my Korean friends said they didn't understand a lot of it, either) and the plot was a little hazy and confusing. I didn't dislike the film, just wanted to watch it again with English subtitles. Though I haven't watched it again, and haven't even tried to find English subtitles, so ... there you go.
"A Good Day to Die Hard": Fun! I like Bruce Willis (I was oddly really riveted by him and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "Looper"). The only thing about this one was that I found Jai Courtney's American accent a little off at times, which was distracting. He's adorable, though.
"Chinese Zodiac" (a.k.a. "CZ12"): My co-workers and I went to the Korean opening of this film, as we had worked on it. It was nice to see Jackie Chan, the producers, and the cast and crew that were able to come to Korea. I can't really comment on movies that I've worked on because I get so numb to them by the time post-production's over.

This was the month that I booked a trainer for three months. He put me through my paces thrice weekly, at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. Looking back on it, I miss him and my regular exercise- it did make me feel better. I need to find a good place here in Seoul...
Three girlfriends and I went to Busan (부산) to visit another girlfriend and to see the cherry blossoms. It was full of fun, food, not as much booze as one might think, and hysterical laughter as only a group of women can produce. One of the girls is married now, another's getting married next year, and it feels like the group is drifting apart. Aww...
Busan (부산)
사이코메트리 ("Psychometry" or "The Gifted Hands"): Terrible. Just ... terrible. Waste of good-looking actors. Ugh.
"Oz The Great and Powerful": Great visual effects (yay, Sony!) but not a spectacular movie. It's a good movie to turn on while doing other things (I constantly have movies or TV shows on while I work, putter around, clean the house, what have you).

This was a busy month! My mother arrived from L.A., staying with me for a while before moseying on down to Jeonju (전주), our hometown.
A co-worker of mine got married, so a bunch of us carpooled all the way down to Daejeon (대전) to go to the wedding ... only we got stuck in traffic (as did a lot of other guests) so we missed the ceremony and ended up just eating lunch, seeing a bunch of people we hadn't seen in a while, and then getting back into the car for the long ride back to Ilsan.
Several friends got together and we all went to EulWangRi (also spelled EurWangRi, what a ridiculously tough name to spell in English! 을왕리) Beach, which, don't let the pictures on that website fool you, is a crap beach. It was fun because it was a trip with a bunch of friends, but the beach portion was laughably bad. I taught my buddies how to play soju pong (beer pong with soju! higher proof = more fun!) and we (they) had lots of raw fish, which I had lots of raw beef (beef tartare is delicious in Korea).
I also went on a quick trip to Hong Kong for the film awards (we lost), which was a nice few days away from work obligations.
Daejeon (대전)
EulWangRi (을왕리)
ICN to HKG (Hong Kong), back to ICN
"G.I. Joe: Retaliation": A surprisingly fun movie. I'm partial to loud, obnoxious action movies (courtesy of my dad), and this was loud and obnoxious, but it had enough heart and oomph for me to have fun.
"The Host": Eh. I haven't watched or read the "Twilight" series, but I imagine this is what they'd be like- overly angsty, overly romanticized. I could see my fourteen-year-old self really liking this movie, but 31-year-old me wasn't very impressed.
"Song for Marion": I watched a matinee with my mom, and we both cried. It was a great little film, touching and well acted (Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave were amazing) and a perfect movie to watch with Mom.

May was the first anniversary of my maternal grandfather's death (we celebrate death anniversaries in Korea), and for the first time, my entire nuclear family gathered in Korea. My dad arrived, followed by my sister, who had had a tough few weeks following the illness and death of her furry firstborn, Gouda. I miss his fuzzy little face with his teeny little rubbery tongue.
My sister and I traveled together to Jeonju, where a lot of our family met up to celebrate my grandfather's life. It was bittersweet. It was also a lot of fun, for our family to be in Korea together for the first time since my sister and I were in elementary school!
Jeonju (전주)
"Star Trek Into Darkness": Great movie, as it should be, on a $190 million production budget. Nothing much to say about it, just ... Star Trek, J.J. Abrams, etc., etc.

My birthday was a bit of a blur, but I was happy my sister was with me to celebrate. Yay! The sister left for L.A. first, then Dad, then Mom. It was very quiet to be home alone after months with people around.
"Man of Steel": I thought that I had really enjoyed this film, but I haven't re-watched it, which makes me think that I didn't really like it all that much. Hmm. Henry Cavill was lovely, but needs to watch his British accent slipping into his American.

I got a week off of work this month, so went on a quick trip to Tokyo. All I remember from the whirlwind visit (my first to Japan!) is that it was almost unbearably hot and humid. Sticky and gross. I didn't know Japan was so much more humid than Korea, something I will not be forgetting anytime soon!
It's traditional for Koreans to escape the heat of the cities during the sweltering summers, so off we went to CheongPyeong (청평). It was fun, though it rained (why, Korea, why?? hot rain is so icky!), so we ended up indoors much of the time (I still managed to get sunburned, though).
Perhaps the heat is why so many movies premiere in the summertime? I was actually surprised at how many films I watched in July!
ICN to NRT (Narita / Tokyo), back to ICN
CheongPyeong (청평)
"World War Z": It was good, though I seem to recall that I got bored in the second act. I was wholly back into the action by the third act, though!
"Pacific Rim": I've never watched "Sons of Anarchy," on which I hear he's great, but Charlie Humman was terrible in this movie. Idris Elba, Charlie Day, and Burn Gorman almost saved it for me, but then Rinko Kikuchi and Robert Kazinsky hammered the last nail into the coffin. This movie, though, is great for re-watching (see March's "Oz the Great and Powerful").
"RED 2": Brian Lee (Byung-Hun Lee, 이병헌) was fantastic. I love that they gave the stereotypical Asian villain a twist. Anthony Hopkins was great, as well. It was a fun movie, which I enjoyed more than the first installation.
"The Wolverine": Hugh Jackman with epic sideburns, a wifebeater, and a snarly growl. Exactly what I expected, with more samurai swords and neon pink hair than anticipated.

It was my last day at my first company in Korea. I wish I could say it was touching or bittersweet, but it really wasn't. I think it was past time for me to have taken my leave, so I did it with minimal fuss. I remain on good terms with the people there, but I believe I made the right decision.
I moved to Seoul (Gangnam) this month, which turned out to be quite a simple affair. Movers in Korea are fantastic! The guy had the truck loaded up and ready to go in the blink of an eye, and then had the truck unloaded and was off before I could even offer him a beverage.
I watched a lot of Korean movies this month! Unusual for me, but they were the ones that seemed watch-worthy.
설국열차 ("Snowpiercer"): Solid. I liked it, mostly because Tilda Swinton is astoundingly, disturbingly wonderful. I thought it was a good film, and especially good considering what a tough time the Korean director had in directing his English-speaking actors.
숨바꼭질 ("Hide and Seek"): No. Just ... no. I will never be watching this one again. First of all, I didn't know it was a scary movie, so it doubly scared me. Second of all, even while I was scared witless, I could see where the plot was going and that annoyed me.
감기 ("The Flu"): Good, but way too similar to "Contagion," which, in turn, was very similar to "Outbreak." I like "Outbreak" best of the three- Dustin Hoffman was awesome and Morgan Freeman reliably Morgan Freeman-y.

I started working at my second company in Korea while adjusting to living in Seoul, which is surprisingly different from living in Ilsan. I'm always a little down in September because my father, mother, and sister all have birthdays this month and I wasn't there to celebrate with them.
"Elysium": I had the weirdest sense of deja vu when I watched this movie. I don't know why; I don't know what other movie it reminded me of, just that I felt that I had watched it before. I think perhaps the utopian environment reminded me of "Aeon Flux," while Matt Damon's exoskeleton reminded me of lots of other films. Not to say I didn't like it- I did! It was fun, had a good message, and I liked Jodie Foster's coolly evil character.
관상 ("The Face Reader"): Lee Jong-Suk (이종석) was a horrible casting choice. The kid is cute, I'll give him that, but he looks like he came straight out of a Seoul plastic surgery handbook, which is to say, he doesn't belong in the Joseon Dynasty. And while Jo Jung-Suk (조정석), who doesn't look exactly as Joseon as he could, compensated with superior acting skills, the kid just doesn't have the chops to be convincing. I was distracted by him in every scene in which he appeared (him, and his oddly shaped nose). It would've been an okay movie otherwise, but man, I had a tough time with that one character-- it was a small but important role.

I was off to Busan, at the last minute, for BIFF (Busan International Film Festival). I got to see a close girlfriend, become better friends with a co-worker (who was in Busan, her hometown, for vacation), and meet some people that I rarely get to see. I love the KTX!
Busan (부산)
"Gravity": Beautifully shot, natural 3D, and amazing sound (I watched this in a sound-enhanced theatre, which I think is called SOUNDX or something like that). I loved this film, but it was energy-sapping to watch. I was exhausted afterward!

Off I went to AFM (American Film Market), marking the longest I've gone without going back to L.A. (10 long months). It was an okay film market, but I really appreciated that I got to take a week off afterwards to be with my family before coming back to Korea. I didn't do much in L.A.; I barely had enough time to decompress a bit, hang out with the family and cats, and eat lots of food that I can't get in Korea before I had to get back on a plane. Sigh.
ICN to LAX, back to ICN
"Thor: The Dark World": Exactly what I expected. Christopher Eccelston was great, as usual. Natalie Portman continues to confuse me in these Thor movies. Her character's so ... ungrounded. Tom Hiddleston seems to have so much fun playing Loki, it comes across so clearly. Good fun- it felt like a summer movie, though the weather outside told me that it's winter!

Two weddings this month (!) and one company-wide year-end dinner. One bout of tonsillitis down, one sinus-congesting cold in progress, and two more days (including today) left in the year. Whew. I'm ready to be healthy again, though I have a feeling it won't happen until the weather warms up (it hit -12 degrees Celsius this past weekend, which has to be illegal).
"About Time": Unexpectedly touching little British film. I had no idea Domhnall Gleeson was such a dorkily charming guy, having only seen him as Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter films and a tweaked out nerd in "Dredd." It was predictable but still sweet, and Bill Nighy still amazes me with his ability to overact and yet be poignant. Very nice and worth re-watching, once I can get my hands on it.

24 movies (more Korean films than I've ever watched before!), 9 flights, a long overdue family reunion in Korea, countless glasses of soju, and much laughter and tears have gone into this year.

Though I am turning 33 by Korean age reckoning in just two days (eek!), I am grateful, for I feel like I am more centered, mature, and balanced than I have ever been.

I have learned to take things in stride (a little more, at any rate), I have more confidence, I have figured out that I need to at least try to let the little things go, and I am (mostly) at peace with myself, shortcomings and all.

This must be what it feels like to be a grown-up!

Though I miss my family terribly (including the cat), I find myself thinking of Korea as home. I don't know what 2014 holds for me; I don't even know when I'm going back to the US or if I'll even go back at all (perhaps I'll be offered an exciting new job in an exciting new country??), but I'm okay with it. Not knowing is part of the fun, which I am finally coming to appreciate.

So thanks, 2013, for all the memories! Here's hoping 2014 is bigger and better and funner and sweeter!


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

메리 크리스마스!

Merry Christmas!!

It's already the morning of the 26th here, which means I am at the office, still full from all the Mexican food I devoured very late at night last night.

For some reason, I thought that perhaps Christmas day would feel more Christmassy ... but it didn't. The forecast called for the possibility of snow last night, for which I was pretty dang excited, but no snow. Boooo.

Still, if one looks, one can see signs of Christmas in Korea. It's odd because stores and restaurants are all open Christmas Eve and Christmas, and it doesn't feel any different from any other days. I realized how much emphasis Americans place on Christmas- usually, when walking into a restaurant near Christmastime, Americans will greet customers will "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" or something of that nature. Koreans are the same. Some of them are wearing Santa hats or antlers, but their behavior and demeanor are exactly the same.

Anyway, despite it all, I sought out and found sparkly lights (though someone ought to tell Koreans that proper Christmas trees shouldn't be purple!) and some Christmas spirit. Along with Arctic weather.

Though I'm still a little sad that I'm not with my family, I wasn't as disconsolate and inconsolable as I thought I would be (frankly, I thought I would be a blubbering mess!), even if I did get a little teary-eyed when I FaceTimed with my family on Christmas Day (Korean time). 

I'm fighting to stay healthy and not succumb to the tickle in my throat, which is proving tough, what with the weather and all (high of 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the next week, ugh). 

Regardless, merry, merry Christmas!!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Shopping

It's very weird not being in LA in December. And what's weirder is that it's now December 23 here in Korea, but I'm not getting that Christmassy feeling, despite the cold wintry weather. I think I need my family, my mother's wreaths and garlands and red ornaments, my father's outdoor Christmas lights edging the roof, my sister's purchasing of obscene amounts of butter, and the insistent meowing of the cat, fat with her winter coat, to feel appropriately Christmassy. Even when it snows (it's been snowing on and off for a few weeks, but nothing that sticks for long), it doesn't feel as Christmassy as it does being in LA, walking around in flip-flops, drinking iced coffee.

Despite my somewhat depressed Christmas spirit, I went out and saw some Christmassy sights and did a little Christmassy window shopping (eye shopping in Konglish, which sounds disturbing to me- shopping for eyes??). I'm proud of myself for going out when it's been so dang cold that I fear my nose and ears will fall off due to frostbite before winter's over.

This is the crosswalk between The Galleria East and West (Korean site, English site here). The Galleria's a department store in the Apgujeong neighborhood (압구정) of the Gangnam District (강남) in Seoul. The Galleria's on Apgujeong Rodeo street (oh, Korea, really?), a very posh street in the already very posh Apgu area.

I really liked the lights and the Christmas tree-shaped stack of Christmas presents. Though the Galleria in Apgujeong is "luxury," selling designer brands and such, their food court and grocery store make me feel like I'm back home, so I love it. Their grocery store (in the basement of Galleria East) carries a lot of stuff that I can't find anywhere else, or have to travel very long distances to find. Some of the things I buy here are Sriracha sauce, tortillas, flavored salts, pasta in shapes other than spaghetti, chutney (for a country that pickles and jars vegetables like crazy, Koreans don't make chutney at all), cheese (REAL cheese! Stinky cheese!), charcuterie ... the list goes on and on. Yes, because it's the Galleria (the branch in Apgu is actually divided into and called Luxury Hall East and Luxury Hall West), prices are marked up disturbingly high, but that's supply and demand. The food court is generally bustling, but not nearly as loud as in other department stores. I think the acoustics were well-planned in the Galleria. And the food court has a Vato's Tacos, which is nice.

One of my favorite dishes is naeng-myeon (냉면, also spelled naeng-myun), which, seeing as how it's an average of about 25 degrees Fahrenheit lately, is not a good idea. But I was craving naeng-myeon, so as a nod to the cold weather, I had it with grilled skirt steak (is it still called skirt steak if it's from a pig?). This is a really delicious combination, which sounds weird but tastes good and is pretty dang addictive. Yummy.

This was at SeoRae (서래 갈매기살, website's in Korean and English), a chain of skirt steak (skirt meat?) restaurants. They sell other cuts of meat (pork and beef), of course, but I quite like the skirt. One of my favorite ways to eat steak in L.A. was skirt steak, Argentinian-style. It's not the same as Korean-style grill-your-own-meat, of course, but it's still good.

Coffee (yes, mine is iced, even in this weather!) at Willium Cafe (links to a Korean blog with nice photos), close to my office. It's tucked away and quiet, and has teddy bears that live there. Aww. I'm a sucker for a cute teddy bear, though I don't like owning them, as their fur seems like dust traps to me. (I'm so not a romantic soul...)

A very odd thing lately is that I sometimes forget that I'm in Korea. I don't know why, I don't know how, but I sometimes think I'm in LA, and that I can just get in my car and zip to my parents' house. Perhaps the cold is addling my brain.

Anyway, hello from Korea and happy Christmas Eve Eve!


Thursday, December 12, 2013


Wow, has it been a long time since I posted!

Korean winters have always kicked my butt, but this winter is particularly cold- it was apparently -8.9 degrees Celsius this morning (Korean link). That's 16 degrees Fahrenheit. O__O I went out with only two layers on over the past weekend, and I'm getting my punishment- a cruel cold (flu?) that came with a fever, swollen lymph nodes, a throat so scratchy and painful that I want to pull it out of myself, and the inability to breathe. Fun, huh?

I miss my family constantly, but even more so during the holidays. It's starting to feel all kinds of Christmassy, with a huge downpour of snow yesterday (snow! snow! snow!), so I'm really missing the fam.

Anyway, what I really wanted to share was some work by Jee Young Lee (이지영):

Two of my favorites, but there are a lot more to see here (English) and here (Korean). And she doesn't use Photoshop! That blew my mind- things are so easy to fix in post now (post-production, for you non-film people) that I feel like we've become lazy photographers and lazy filmmakers. I know that I have. I don't concern myself much with lighting or shadows because I know those things can be addressed later. Terrible.

So I'll try to post more, since I've been seeing lots of Korean-style Christmassy things (some of which are hilarious) and am going to spend my first holiday season in this country (scary).

The cold / flu is getting gradually better, so crossing my fingers on that...


Monday, November 04, 2013

Self-Manicure (셀프 매니큐어)

Ah, Korea. Always so fun with the Konglish. Like "self-manicure," for instance.

"Self" in Korea means self-service. If there's a sign in a restaurant that "water is self," it means that you need to go get your water yourself- serve yourself.

"Self-manicure," of course, means a manicure that you've given yourself. "Self-manicure" just sounds fancier, like an actual thing, though of course it's not. Here's my self-manicure, at any rate:

Yes, my nails are terribly long. I'm not good at shaping my own nails, so I always relied on my semi-regular manicures when I lived in Ilsan. I haven't found a nail salon in Seoul (frankly, I haven't looked), so my nails are their natural shape, rather than the rounded square shape that I prefer (the squoval!).

Supplies used:

Butter London Nail Foundation Flawless Base Coat
Olive Young nail polish
Etude House lace nail stickers (sorry, I couldn't find a link on the American Etude House site)
Butter London Hardwear P.D. Quick Top Coat

I like the black lace stickers (click on the link above), but they were out when I bought these. I'll have to go back and see if the black ones are available sometime.

I don't like Etude House's cosmetics all that much, but these nail stickers are pretty awesome. I applied two coats of base (I love how silky and semi-matte Butter London's basecoat looks!), dried them completely, applied two thin layers of the Olive Young polish, waited until my nails were mostly dried but not cured, then stuck the lace stickers on.

The stickers are super sticky, so be careful if you use them! Especially if your nails aren't completely dried, in which case, you won't be able to reposition the stickers without wrecking your manicure. I used tweezers to get the stickers unstuck and position them over my nails.

I've seen that most people cut the stickers before trying to put them on their nails, but that makes for a lot of sticker that you'll have to throw away once you trim the excess, so I didn't cut the stickers down to size first. I just peeled them about halfway off the backing, lined up the end, stuck the sticker on, and then trimmed to fit my nail. It worked out pretty well and I didn't end up throwing away any excess, so I'm counting that as a win.

Because I've heard that these stickers tend to peel off if a top coat isn't applied, I slapped on my Butter London topcoat. I've had some issues with this topcoat- it dries quickly, which is great, and seems to set well and set hard, which I like, but it tends to leave the tips of nails with weird matte splotches. I have no idea why, but I'm assuming it's because my nails are super dry or the topcoat is really drying. After the topcoat's dried a bit-- not cured, but not tacky-- I put on cuticle oil all over my cuticles AND nails. That solves the matte spots on my nails and hydrates my cuticles.

So there's my self-manicure! I find that I tend toward neutral colors when my nails are this long (excessively long) because anything bright, dark, or too flashy makes my nails look huge.

Who knows, since I'm too lazy to find a nail salon in Seoul, maybe I'll keep giving myself self-manicures. Though I only have a few bottles of nail polish, so it'll be the same colors over and over again with different stickers!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gangnam Style

You bet I titled this post "Gangnam Style"-- I live in Gangnam (강남) now, so I'm allowed to be totally cheesy ... right?

It's been quite a while since I've moved, but between adjusting to the new company, adjusting to the new (tiny) apartment, and adjusting to the (awful) shift to cold weather, I'm a little discombobulated lately!

Really itty-bitty, right?? It's positively tiny, this apartment. I've rotated the bed and I brought with me my table and two chairs that I had bought while I was in Ilsan, so it's even more crowded than these photos. Whew.

The good news is, it's super close to work. I can't live far away from work, because I don't enjoy commuting (who does?). I don't have a family, so I don't need to worry about schools or my husband's office, I don't have much stuff (the moving guy took one look at my packed-up apartment in Ilsan and was really happy because I have so little stuff!); this is really the ideal time in my life to move around, try new things, live in new places.

I've realized now that I live in Seoul that when I lived in Ilsan, I really never wanted to leave Ilsan. It was so annoying to travel out to Seoul or farther. Ilsan had everything I needed, and I do still miss the convenience of living there at times. I do like that Seoul has more of a variety of things, and though I might have to trek a bit farther, I can find whatever I need (and then some) in this weird and vast city.

One of the few good things about the weather getting colder (it's down to about 5 degrees Celsius at night now!) is the foliage. People keep telling me that autumn is getting shorter and shorter in Korea, and I believe it- the gap between humid summer and windy, cold winter seems to be about a week. Maybe less.

The foliage isn't as majestic as it's been in the past (according to my friends, since I've never really been able to go see the autumnal landscape in Korea before), but I still appreciate the bits and pieces that I can see. I love these colors!

I'm off to LA next week for AFM, followed by a week of meeting up family and friends (or possibly snuggling with the cat (I miss her so! Her and her whiny meows!) and not leaving my parents' house, who knows) before I come back to the wintry wonderland of Korea...

It's Halloween! And unless I hoof it over to Itaewon (이태원), there are no costumes or candy for me. Ah, Korea, you celebrate things like Pepero Day (빼빼로 데이) but Halloween gets a pass?? Really? Sigh.


Monday, September 30, 2013

63 Seaworld

I'm a Seoul girl now!

It was a whirlwind rush and dash, but I am now ensconced in a teeny-tiny Seoul apartment that is mercifully close (walking distance) to the new office. I think the apartment (officetel) is about half the size of my Ilsan place. Since I'm only contracted to be in Korea until the end of 2013, I'll either be moving out of the country or will find another apartment if I continue to live in Korea (much to my mother's chagrin).

It's been gray and gloomy and a bit rainy here, so lots of indoor activities-- I've got my second wind in Korea, since I moved to a new place. I guess I was getting a little too settled down in Ilsan. 

One recent exploration was the 63 Building (63 빌딩), so named because it has (surprise!) 63 floors above ground. We went to see the aquarium, which is, oddly enough, in one of the basement levels. 

The aquarium is called 63 Seaworld, which is ... yeah, nothing like San Diego's Sea World (which I love, of course). It was fun enough, but even with a leisurely strolling speed and frequent stops for picture taking, it only took about an hour to get through the whole aquarium. It's a good afternoon diversion, sure, but it's not an all-day affair, like Sea World.

We also went up to the 60th floor (I think it was the 60th ... might have been the 59th??) to see the art exhibit, which is really just an excuse to see the breathtaking view of nighttime Seoul. I really need to transfer pictures and am just being really lazy at the moment. Moving and such has taken it all out of me.

I'm pretty tired and need a haircut, manicure, and pedicure really badly, but haven't found places in Seoul to try, but exploring and having adventures is a big part of what I find so fun about Korea. Seoul, I'm ready for what you have to throw at me!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Original Pancake House, Seoul

Original Pancake House
523-20 Sinsa-Dong, Gangnam-Gu, Seoul

Telephone: 02.511.7481

서울시 강남구 신시동 523-20

Monday - Friday: 11 am to 10 pm
Saturday - Sunday: 8 am to 10 pm

The Original Pancake House is a restaurant chain that started in Portland, Oregon, which obviously prides itself on its pancakes. It's located in Sinsa-dong (sometimes spelled Shinsa-dong), a dong* in Seoul.

I was in Seoul and have been missing American food something fierce, so a friend took pity on me and took me to have breakfast for dinner, which I always love. I have a strange love affair with eggs, I must say- my best friend hates eggs and refers to them as dead baby chickens, but even that didn't make me love eggs any less.

Wow, weird tangent. This is what happens when I blog so infrequently that I forget how to keep my train of though focused. The Original Pancake House is located just off Garosugil ("Garosu" (가로수) means tree-lined and "gil" (길) means street, which is appropriate because Garosugil is lined with gingko trees; I can't wait to go in the autumn when the gingko trees are all golden and pretty!). It's a bit hidden, but plenty of people were there when we stopped by.

I might have gotten a little carried away when I ordered (my buddy let me order, seeing as how he had no idea what to get), but we somehow still managed to eat everything on the table. The spirit of the food was American, but the execution was Korean- no pools of grease on the plates, the food arranged prettily, overly-attentive servers- very Korean.

An Italian omelette, which had garlic, onions, bell peppers, and ham wrapped around a ton of melty, oozy, gooey mozzarella cheese and topped with olives and marinara sauce. It was really good, though way too buttery for my taste. I guess they used butter to cook this thing rather than olive oil.

As you can see, the omelette was ginormous. There had to be at least six eggs in it, if not eight!

At the edge of the photo are buttermilk pancakes, the traditional Original Pancake House staple. They were good ... I'm not a huge pancake fan, they're just ... cooked bread. I don't know. I don't love them, I don't hate them, they're just pancakes. These were fine, they were cooked well, and I used them as a delivery system for butter and syrup.

Salami hash with two over medium eggs. I've never seen hash made of salami before, just corned beef. It tasted a lot like corned beef hash. I like corned beef hash, so I liked this salami hash, but I wished there were more crispy bits. I like my hash fried a bit more, I suppose. Those crisped, charred bits are the best, but Koreans like perfectly formed hash, I suppose. The eggs were lovely- again with my love affair with eggs!

Potato pancakes. Really much too buttery! I know there's no such thing as too much butter, but there was too much butter here. They need to cook these things in a mix of butter and oil so it's less buttery. It was a shame, because these were otherwise really good. They came with a small dish of sour cream, which cut the butteriness a bit and which I appreciated because I really love sour cream. (The Korean friend was doubtful about the charms of sour cream, which meant more for me!)

Overall, thumbs up to the Original Pancake House for giving me my American grub fix while in Korea. Yum!

There are some big changes afoot for me. I'll be relocating from Ilsan to Seoul, to the Gangnam neighborhood (yes, "Gangnam Style"). I'm going to think of it as an opportunity to explore a whole new neighborhood in Korea. More Gangnam posts to come!

*dong (동), is not pronounced the way it's spelled. The "do" portion is pronounced like the beginning of "dough"-- Korean is such a tough language to Romanize! Dongs are neighborhoods here in Korea, usually about the size of five city blocks. They're the smallest administrative divisions and are used in conversation to refer to location. In LA, when someone asked where a new restaurant was, we'd either use the neighborhood- Mar Vista- or cross streets- Overland and Venice. In Korea, dongs are used in the same way. Whew. Enough Korean geography for now!


Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Birthday, Sister!

It's my baby sister's birthday!

In continuing my tradition of having a meal on behalf of my birthday'ed family members, here's what I think my sister would have enjoyed had she been in Korea with me (rather than in Brazil on business):

Octopus! 쭈꾸미, which is rather small octopi that, in this case, is cooked in a spicy (spicy!!) sauce with bean sprouts (콩나물), which my sister loves. Yum.

After the octopus, the remaining sauce and bits of octopus are fried up with rice and dried laver and chives, and it's delicious. And there's a little happy face made of octopus pieces!

So, sister of mine, hope you're having a happy birthday in Brazil with plenty of cheese and some cake!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, 아빠!

I'm behind on blogging! There have been a lot of developments, which is why ... not a good excuse, but an excuse all the same. Ah, well.

My father's birthday is the 18th (yes, after my mother's birthday on the 5th and my sister's upcoming birthday on the 23rd, which makes me the only person in my nuclear family with a birthday outside of September), which happens to be the first day of the Chuseok holiday here in Korea. 

Chuseok is pretty much Korean Thanksgiving, and this year, it very fortuitously falls on Thursday, which means that including the weekend, it's a lovely five-day weekend! Hooray!

Anyway. In celebration of Dad's birthday, two of his favorite things- pork and soju:

I miss my family! Hopefully, I get to go to LA in the winter ... we'll see. For now, happy birthday, 아빠!


Thursday, September 05, 2013

Happy Birthday, 엄마!!

It's my mother's birthday today! She's on vacation with Dad; they are the cutest couple that I know. And speaking of cute, how cute was my mother when she was a baby?!

엄마, 생신 축하축하~~! 환갑을 재미있게 보내세요! ㅋㅋ

Though I miss my family constantly, technology is amazing- my mother texts me even while on a trip, my sister and I use Kakaotalk regularly, and we all e-mail each other. Thank goodness for that, or I wouldn't be able to stay in Korea!

Happy birthday to my mommy and her many, many birthdays still to come!


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Korean Lesson: 멘붕

In the two years since I've come to Korea, my Korean has improved dramatically. I don't have many foreign friends here, so I hang out with only native Koreans. 

Yes, I use English at work quite a bit, but it's still only about 10 - 20% of my workday (unless I'm on set or a business trip, of course). Because I work with mostly Koreans, I use Korean much more than English even at the office. 

While I will never fully grasp the Korean language (there's too many Chinese characters still used, I don't have the historical cultural context, etc.), I'm getting pretty good. It helps that my parents always made us speak in Korean at home, knowing full well that we'd be educated solely in English (thanks, parents!) except for those three years of French classes (my French is awful).

So I thought, since I've been a bad blogger lately, that a quick and easy thing to blog about would be Korean. I'll jot down some Korean phrases, words, etc. that I think are fun or useful or whatever. I'll try it out and see if it works, anyhow. 

Let me preface this by saying that Korean pronunciation and American English pronunciation are WORLDS apart. It is not easy for an American to learn to speak Korean, and vice versa. I am very lucky that I spoke Korean at home from babyhood, because it means that my American accent is pretty much nonexistent when I'm speaking in Korean. 

So the pronunciations that I'm going to use are what my American ears hear when people say these Korean words. They won't look anything like what a Korean-English dictionary would say, because I am not a romanization scholar or expert. First lesson!

멘붕 pronounced mehn-boohng, is a contraction (Koreans love shortening words and phrases) of:

멘탈붕괴 (mehn-tahl boohng-gweh)

멘탈 is a transliteration of the English "mental," as in mental state.
붕괴 is a Korean word that means "collapse" or "disintegration" or "ruin." 

These words combined portray a state of mental shock or mental collapse. For instance:

Amy: What's wrong with Colin?
          Colin 왜저래?
Ben: His girlfriend just broke up with him ... via text message.
          여자친구가 금방 문자 보냈데 헤어지자고.
Amy: Oh, man, he must be [in a state of] 멘붕.
          아이고, 멘붕이겠네.

Koreans will say that a person is 멘붕, 멘붕 is about to come upon someone, and on and on. This is a word to be used in casual settings (not in a meeting with CEOs and VPs, for instance) and among friends. It's slang, so some older people will not understand it. It's very widely used among people in their 30's and younger, and perhaps by 40-somethings, as well.

Korean is a fascinating language, as I'm sure all languages are. If I had the time and means, I would try to learn more languages-- language and food seem to contain all cultural aspects of any given society. For now, I'm going to cram as much Korean into my brain as I can while trying not to lose any of the English in there!


Friday, July 19, 2013

Korean-Style Dating

I have been in Korea for just about two years. Where does the time go?! It's been a whirlwind that has, at times, caught me by surprise and left me wounded, but has exhilarated and excited me at other times.

I'm still in Korea ... and honestly, I don't know when I'll be moving away (which my mother hates to hear me say). I like it here, and, more importantly, I've adjusted to the point where I'm very comfortable here. It's different from the comfort I have in LA; neither is better or worse, just different.

Anyway. The point of this post was to talk about the hilarity of Korean dating. Not me dating Koreans, that would be a different kind of hilarity altogether; this is about two Koreans that I know that are dating.

The girl, a good friend of mine, is a few years younger than me and worked under me during our last film. The boy (the man) was our superior during said project, and is fifteen years older than her.

Now, fifteen years is a big difference, I think, even by lax American standards. It's quite a shocker in Korea, let me tell you. What makes it an even bigger issue is that, though they have both left the company (before admitting to us all that they are dating), he was pretty much at the top of the food chain while she was near the very bottom. It would be like the CEO dating an intern, in America.

What charmed me completely was something I've heard all my life but never really given all that much thought to: titles based on relationships.

While in English, we say brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Koreans have specific titles for specific relationships. For instance, if I were married, my husband would call my younger sister 처제 (cheo-jae) but he would call my older sister 처형 (cheo-hyung). There are, as you can imagine, a plethora of titles. It gets very confusing, but it is fun.

Because I'm better friends with the girl in this couple, I would be called "older sister-in-law" by her boyfriend (they're not married, but they're getting there), even though he's much older than me. Likewise, though his guy friends (and ex-co-workers) are older than her and have teased her and called her by her name for years, they would call her "older sister-in-law"- and actually have started to do that already, albeit in a gently mocking way.

It's such a little thing, really, but it makes me realize that it's these little things that give me a better sense of culture and history. These titles aren't absolutely necessary anymore; they're a holdover from ye olden days and that's what tickles my fancy.

I need to do more research before I can even begin to know all the different titles, but for now, I know what I need to call my friend's boyfriend (제부, jae-bu or jae-boo) and what he needs to call me (처형).

Korea, for now, you charm me.

(This will only last until monsoon season begins in earnest, at which point Korea will be dead to me.)


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

31 Baskin-Robbins

It was my birthday yesterday. I turned 31.

Koreans call 31 their Baskin-Robbins year for obvious reasons. I'm not actually 31 in Korea, because of Korean age reckoning, but I'm 31 in America, so I'm going with it!

A few of the friends that I've become very close to are on vacation, so I was a little bit sad about not having them there last night. It was still fun, of course!
At the office, my officemates got me a cake from A Twosome Place, which was eaten in about four minutes flat. (Those little white spots on the cake are where the candles were.)
A co-worker that I've known for seven or eight years (we worked together way back in the day in LA!) took me for a coffee in the afternoon, and I really liked the sleeve- a new Cath Kidston design. These cabbage rose designs are all the rage lately in Korea, which my sister is loving.
While I was in Jeonju (전주) for a week, some of my work friends found a new pork place. They serve enormous chunks of pork, as pictured above, which are cut into manageable little slices once there's a nice crust on the exterior. It was really quite good!
Someone suggested that we go to a noraebang (노래방, karaoke) after dinner, so off we went for drinking and eating and singing and dancing like fools. They bought me (another) cake- this one was ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins, separated into nine squares of different flavors. There's something for everyone, yum!

Bending the candles is a weird trend in Korea ... I don't know, I guess Koreans just want to do something different? 

A few people that were there were really good singers! I love Koreans and their sudden shedding of inhibitions after imbibing some meat and alcohol. 

I managed to get even the two non-singers to both sing a song; pouting and asking them to do it for me on my birthday works successfully!
We threw the boys away (we were about half boys, half girls) and they went off to do their manly thing. Koreans tend to separate by gender a lot more than Americans do, which I used to find weird. Now it seems ... normal. Somewhat natural, given that each gender has its own characteristics and interests. 

The girls went to a Japanese place to have little nibbles and a few more drinks. 
Salmon sashimi salad and skewers of eggplant, beef, and chicken. Very good. We lingered over the food while chatting and giggling like only girls can do. 

All in all, it was a fun, low-key birthday.

I want to stop aging for a while, though. Just, like ... five, six years....


Thursday, May 30, 2013


It's been a crazy month. My entire nuclear family is in Korea right now!
My sister was the last to arrive. I met her at the airport and we came directly to Jeonju (전주), where we've been ever since.
Leaving Jeonju tomorrow (frankly, I miss the city) after a lot of time spent with our extended family.
Just got back today from a quick trip to Jiri Mountain (지리산), where our parents honeymooned 32 years ago. ^_^


Thursday, May 02, 2013

Traditional Korean Meal (한정식)

It's been a strange year so far for me.

I'm not really sure why, but the settled feeling that I used to have here in Korea has abated and become something more like the restlessness I used to feel when I was in Albuquerque. The huge difference being, of course, that I am much happier in Korea than I was in Albuquerque.

So ... until my unsettledness calms itself down, I'll probably be quite moody.

While my brain twists itself into knots, I'll post some stuff that doesn't require heavy thinking.

한정식 (han-jeong-shik) literally means Korean table d'hôte. It varies from province to province and from restaurant to restaurant because it originated from royal feasts, which means that it's been adapted quite a lot to fit in better with the modern times. There aren't many restaurants that can handle dozens of side dishes. Some restaurants do serve up to thirty or so dishes, sometimes in courses, sometimes all at once.

In the photo above are small bowls (or handleless cups) of broth, on the left, and black sesame porridge, for lack of a better word. They may seem too small to be much use, but with the amount of food one usually gets in a hanjeongshik meal, one or two bites of each dish is plenty.
I love these rice containers! I don't know why, but I've always loved them. They're made of wood and stone, as you can see, and keep the rice piping hot.
Once the rice is scooped out of the stone container, tea or broth is poured over the small amount of rice that is thinly spread against the stone. Because Koreans generally eat very glutinous short-grain rice, cooking in the stone results in the outermost layer of rice sticking and, if cooked properly, charring slightly. The tea is poured in, softening the stuck-on rice and making it delicious. The action of softening charred rice with tea gives this flavor that I can't really describe. It's smoky and yummy and just ... a carb-load of deliciousness.

I like to eat this dish (called 누룽지, noo-roong-ji, which means "scorched") after the meal, as a sort of dessert. The lid is shut over the tea and rice to facilitate the swelling and unsticking of the rice and also to keep the whole thing warm. So good. I generally don't eat much of the actual white rice but eat a lot of the nooroongji.
This actually isn't a huge spread for hanjeongshik, it's quite a small version. Plenty of food for two people, as you can see.

I did go to a proper hanjeongshik restaurant in Jeonju, my hometown, which is famous for its food, but that was a couple years ago. If I manage to go back there again, I'll take proper photos and such.

I'm trying to be better about blogging; pictures are really the annoying thing. I have so many that I pretty much don't want to deal with them. Even if I don't edit the pictures (I didn't touch the ones in this post, I'm so lazy), just choosing the ones I want to use is quite time-consuming.

So. More picking and choosing photos so I can blog a little more frequently. Maybe...


Saturday, April 27, 2013


Have been running about like a crazy person, plus my mom's here! It's been a hectic couple of weeks, what with the Hong Kong trip and Mom staying with me a few days.

Still,  managed to get away on Friday after work with some people. We went to Eulwangli (을왕리) for a night, visited the teeny beach, fed the seagulls a ton of shrimp crackers (새우깡), and even managed a full day yesterday, after having gone to sleep at 6 a.m. as the sun was rising.

One of the most memorable things we did was visit the DMZ and peek over the barbed wire to North Korea.

I will have to put my thoughts in order someday to write about how South Koreans view North Korea, but needless to say, it's complicated.

I'm pooped and planning on a relaxing day spent in sweats!


Sunday, March 31, 2013

벚꽃 (Cherry Blossoms)

More soon, but just got back from Busan and am exhausted. It was a packed weekend with good girlfriends and a metric ton of food!


Friday, March 29, 2013

Death by DOMS

Did you know that there's an actual name for muscle pain and aches brought on by exercise or over-exertion? It's called DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness. I don't know why it's called delayed, because my DOMS isn't delayed at all- it's always right on schedule, usually starting just as I begin working out.

My (sadistic) trainer tells me that this is normal, because he hasn't really let me ease into exercising- he's pretty much always testing my limits and making sure I'm dying by the end of every session. I suppose that's what I pay him for, but I haven't had a pain-free day since I started working out. Granted, the pain hasn't been in an isolated area, but it's still pain!

Last week, the DOMS didn't get to me until Tuesday, the day after my first session. I was exhausted by about 11 p.m. on Monday, but my body didn't tell me it was hurting until I tried to get up on Tuesday and I couldn't. My legs were like overcooked spaghetti.

Wednesday's session was spent focusing on my core, and my abs started to hurt about ten minutes into all the core-strengthening nonsense. Thursday was a disaster (though I didn't have a session), because my legs still hurt, but added to that was my entire core area. I couldn't walk, laugh, yawn, stretch, or sit without pain. I hobbled around the office, with people repeatedly asking me if I'd been injured.

Friday was torture, focusing on chest, back, and arms. I'm still in pain and can't hyper extend my arms. Then, to make matters worse, I went bowling on Friday night. By the time we went bowling, we'd been drinking steadily for a few hours, so I was all giddy and unable to feel pain. I definitely felt the pain from the workout and from bowling when I woke up on Saturday and couldn't roll out of bed.

It's Friday here in Korea, so I've survived two weeks. I don't know how I'm going to get through this ... insanity that I've paid for through the end of June, but ... I'm stubborn.

Burpees, by the way, are easier in Korea than in the U.S. I've only ever seen the super hard burpees in the U.S, which I found out today are not the "normal" kind. Thank goodness for the small things, like less-hellish burpees.

I know my trainer's doing his job, but as I'm not a morning person, I'm already tired and cranky by the time I get to my sessions between 7:00 and 7:30. Poor kid's at the gym by 6:00 to open, so I guess I shouldn't complain. He tried to convince me to start my sessions at 6:00 and I laughed at him. As if that's ever going to happen.

This week, at least, the DOMS is not quite as bad as last week. I can walk this week without anyone asking if I'm injured, so hooray! Though, cussedly, I feel like perhaps the personal training isn't working anymore because I'm not in as much pain. What is up with that?


Going to Busan (부산) tomorrow for the weekend with the girls.

Phone is dying. Both my phones! My American one and my Korean one. What a pain in the butt.

Been watching "Absolutely Fabulous" this week and it's hilarious. Jennifer Saunders is an awesome writer. Joanna Lumley's Patsy Stone is like Karen Walker, only BETTER.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

National Geographic Tumblr

First of all, I completely forgot about St. Patrick's Day this year! What the heck ... I used to remember it without even trying up until this year.

This year, no green. No Guinness. No Irish car bombs. No shamrocks.

When I realized today (the 19th) that I completely forgot about (a marketing ploy of a holiday that is) St. Patty's, I was a little sad, just because it made me realize that I'm losing my American-ness a little bit at a time.

Second of all, I stumbled upon this awesome Tumblr:

There are some amazing photographs!

This is absolutely my favorite. The expression on the trainer's face, the expression on the lion's face, the fact that a man is carrying that lion like he's a spoiled pet, the tigers in the back ... I just love it. I've never been to a real circus (Cirque du Soleil doesn't count, after all), and never really had the desire to, but this photo makes me want to jump in a DeLorean and go to one of these old time-y circuses.
I know that "ye olden days" are not as amazing that I think they are; the past is always tinged with romance simply because it's gone. Still, look at those parasols! I don't want a time machine to go back and win the lottery, I want a time machine so I can go lounge, sunblock-less, in scenes like this. (Which, honestly, I wouldn't be able to do, as it was a (more) racist time back then and I wouldn't be welcomed into a place like this.)
Aww. Alexander Graham Bell with his wife Mabel. They are so cute, even if Mabel seems to be trapped inside someone's geometry homework. It's just a sweet picture, and I love how affectionate they obviously are towards one another.
This is just cute, and I love kitties. That one on the left with his scared ears has the best stripes! Poor grouper has no idea what's going on, and I doubt the cats know that this grouper turns into a delicious dinner. Plain ol' cute, this one.

There are tons more on the website, these were just a few that grabbed me.

On a completely unrelated topic, I'm so sore that I can barely walk today. I have another session tomorrow morning, which I'm already dreading, because if I can't walk, how can I do lunges and squats and suspension training?

Oy vey....


Monday, March 18, 2013


Wow, I'm a terrible blogger lately.

Actually, I'm a terrible everything lately. My apartment is a wreck, my complexion hates me, my sleep cycle's all wiggly... is it because the weather's changing? (And it definitely is, here in Korea, where the seasons are very definite.) Or is it just me, going through a strange phase?

So. I decided to blog today because I need to be held accountable, and forcing myself to put it all out there in public (to all three people that read my blog) should, hopefully, keep me somewhat responsible. Motivated, even (ha).

I signed up for personal training sessions, and today was my first hellish experience.

Okay, it's not totally hellish. I mean, it's not that bad. It's ... hard. I got super nauseous after about ten minutes and went to throw up, but I had to nothing to throw up. One of the bad things about not eating breakfast, I suppose.

My trainer's really young and really, really tall, which is a bit disconcerting, but he's nice enough and tough enough when he needs to be. He put me through my paces for an hour and a half this morning and really wanted to keep me there for another who-knows-how-long to force me on a treadmill, but I fled, pleading meetings at work (I lied).

I was punished for lying to my trainer, though, because at lunchtime, a couple friends wanted to go ride bikes at Lake Park, so I dragged my sore, achy self off for a 5 km bike ride.

I may collapse tonight and not be able to move tomorrow.

My next session's on Wednesday. As long as I can move by Wednesday morning ... I'll be ... okay. So that my trainer can, again, make me insanely achy and sore. At which point, I'm sure someone will want to ride bikes or go do yoga or something else to make me even more achy and sore.

It's never really been a New Year's resolution of mine to get fit or lose weight, and I think part of that (a large part) is due to my complete lack of motivation. I don't know what motivated me to sign up for this in Korea, where personal trainers are quite expensive, but I'm glad. No amount of money is too much for good health.

I know that I'm not healthy, and I'm turning 31 (ugh!) this year. It's really now or never. I don't want to have a heart attack at 40, or be put on blood pressure medication at 35. I want to be able to play with my future children without throwing out my back or having to catch my breath after five minutes. Hell, I want to be able to play with my grandchildren.

There are so many things about Korea's prevailing culture of superficiality that I don't like at all-- judging everyone by their looks, everybody getting plastic surgery, putting beauty before health, etc., etc.-- but if that superficiality is why I've decided to start taking care of myself, then it's not all bad. It would be a different thing if I weighed 110 pounds and decided I was "fat" by Korean standards so started dieting to lose more weight. But I weight substantially more than 110 pounds (which my trainer told me is my goal weight, which is ... crazy), and I'm stressing my joints, my heart, my lungs, my entire body with the extra weight I'm carrying around.

I really thought hitting thirty would be a turning point; that's when everyone suddenly realizes they're not young anymore, right? I don't know why it took me almost a year after my thirtieth birthday, but no matter how it had to come about, I'm glad I've taken this first step.

Now for the next bajillion steps that my sadistic trainer's going to put me through....


Sunday, March 03, 2013


Got back from Malaysia and Singapore early on Thursday morning.

Malaysia was hot, humid, and nature-y. We stayed in Kuala Lumpur a couple nights, then Melaka a couple nights.

Then off we went to Singapore. Where it was hot, humid, and clean. Wow, is Singapore clean! I really appreciated the cleanliness- no debris on the streets, no gum stuck to sidewalks.

More later, as I have photos on my little point-and-shoot, but since I have a horrid cold (I get them about every month or so during the winter in Korea), I'm out of commission for a little while.

Time for more citrus tea and cold medicine...

(The photo above is using the panaroma feature on iPhones, and one of the few pictures I have on my phone from this trip, as my stupid phone is only 16 stupid gigabytes so I'm out of stupid memory. Stupid.)


Thursday, February 21, 2013


I know it's super late, but better late than never? I hope?

2012 was a crazy year for me. I've never traveled more. I spent the entire year living (well, paying rent) in a foreign country (Korea). I turned thirty (eep!). So here's my quick recap of 2012:

I began the year in LA at my parents' house. January was pretty quiet, actually-- the calm before the storm, in a way. At the end of the month was when I first met the producer of "Chinese Zodiac" (or CZ12), a film that would shape my entire year.

I'd been in Beijing before, but the trip last February was the first time I met Jackie Chan. He was more serious in person than he is in photographs or films, but I was glad to make his acquaintance, especially since his film would be the one that I would be working on for the rest of the year.

My first trip to Hong Kong! The above shot was taken at a hotel; I'm pretty sure it was the Grand Hyatt, right on Victoria Harbour, where we met someone for coffee one day. We were in March for a quick shoot (principal photography was completed before we came onto the movie, so we only participated during re-shoots, which started last March), and the schedule happened to coincide with Hong Kong Filmart, which our CEO was attending. So we met up with everyone that was in Hong Kong, managed to shoot despite the cloudy weather we encountered, and saw a little bit of Hong Kong in between.

After a quick trip to Beijing in the beginning of April, we were off for some serious re-shoots, globe-hopping like crazy. 
From Korea, we flew to Hong Kong for a layover (and to meet up with the Hong Kong crew), then flew to Australia.
In Australia, we took a lot of puddle jumpers, shooting sky-diving in Mission Beach and source photography at Somerset Dam. We flew in and out of three airports in Oz (Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney), mixing in a trip to Vanuatu for a nice ashy shoot on two different volcanoes.
I spent one night in my apartment in Korea in the month of April, which I found both delighting and an awful waste of money.

May brought more travel. After a night in my apartment, onwards to Europe! After a layover in Helsinki, we arrived in Latvia, where we stayed for a couple weeks.
Back to Korea for a couple weeks before going to LA to take care of some things and to see my family. It was a very brief time to re-charge my batteries before I trekked back to Korea...
...Just in time to make it for my grandfather's funeral. Needless to say, May was tough.

Because of my grandfather, my parents both came to Korea and were in the country on my birthday. They were in my hometown, though, while I was up in Ilsan, working like crazy.
I turned 30 with bitterness and sadness because of my grandfather and because of aging.
Another quick trip to Beijing in June, where it was miserably muggy and smoggy, as shown in the photo above. Ugh, Beijing in the summer is really not good.

I didn't travel in July! My goal of getting on a plane at least once a month fizzled in July.
July was mostly about staying inside air-conditioning, which meant watching a lot of movies. Drinking a lot of grapefruit ade, which I love, and eating lots of popcorn.
My parents bought a house in California in July, which I was a little sad about- I hadn't gotten to participate in the house hunting, the driving around to discover new neighborhoods, all that fun stuff. On the other hand, I didn't have to pack and move, so... yeah.

August was my first fun trip with friends in Korea! We went to 속초 (SokCho) and had a couple of fun days in relatively great summery weather (it was alternately too humid and too windy, oddly) and for the first time, I felt like I had true friends in Korea that I will stay in touch with after I leave this country.
August was also when I visited Bangkok for the first time for a business trip. Bangkok in August, unlike SokCho, was consistently hot and humid. I baked when I was outdoors, I froze when I was indoors. We got lost in a night market. It was an experience I'm glad to have had.

The weather in Korea continued to be hot, but a friend and I still hoofed to Lotte World before we went to watch "Man of La Mancha." Let me tell you, watching a play (well, musical) translated into Korean is weird. "The Impossible Dream" in Korean just doesn't have the same impact.

Ah, Bangkok. You with your giant flies that sit calmly on my bitter melon.
Then back to LA for AFM (American Film Market) and to see my family a little. And work nutty hours because I had to work during Korean business hours.

Back to Korea in November, where it was COLD. Ah, winter, bless you for skipping over LA, but why are you so brutal on Korea??
My sister came to visit, and despite the weather, we managed to have fun and eat tons of food while she was here.

I ended the year the way I started it, at my parents' house in LA.

My 2012 was, by turns, busy, boring, eventful, stale, depressing, and exhilarating. Here's hoping for more-- and perhaps more happiness-- this year.

Traveling in 2013 picks up tomorrow, when I'm off to Malaysia for four days, then a couple days in Singapore. Weather forecast says cloudy, hot, humid, and rainy...