Thursday, April 22, 2010

Singin' in the Rain

The weather has been warming up quite a bit this week, which has been nice for the most part (it has been a pretty long and dreary winter here).  But a downside to the warmer weather is the pollution in Seoul has become much more noticeable.  With the cold bite of winter gone the air seems thicker and hazier, and the smells of car exhaust and city dust hang everywhere like an invisible fog.

Fortunately we have the rain.  I've never appreciated rain so much before.  Even a light drizzle makes the air seem clean again, as if it's gone through a quick wash and rinse.  We had a few hours of rain earlier tonight so I open our window to let a little breeze trickle into our apartment.  It's invigorating, and fills the room quickly.  It feels like taking a cool air-shower.  Outside, I hear the buses and taxis splashing across the pavement in waves, clearer than before -- but their smell is gone, swept away into the city's storm drains.  All I can smell now is the crisp, night air after a light rain storm.

It's enough to make me wanna sing.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring has arrived

We went to Changgyeong Palace last weekend and a lot of the blossoms were out. While the nights are still cold, the weather is starting to turn for the better. (Though I hear it's been a lot warmer in Chicago than here lately!)

Mike added a new flickr feature to the blog on the left. You can look through photos he recently posted of our life in Korea, including some of us making hanji lanterns in our Korean language class. Hanji is a type of Korean traditional paper made of mulberry bark.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ode to Peanut Butter and Jelly

One of the stranger things that has happened to me since moving to Seoul is a newly acquired taste for certain things American.  One of these is the peanut butter and jelly sandwich (apparently, peanut butter was originally created by Native Americans).  Now, my whole life, I was never much of a PB&J guy.  I had my fair share, of course, but I guess you could say I enjoyed the finer things that can be found between two pieces of white bread: tuna salad, turkey breast, roast beef, deli-sliced ham.  The problem is, in Korea, all of the above (excluding tuna) are either tough to find and/or extremely expensive.  Sure, plenty of bakeries and coffee shops here make and sell "sandwiches" that might be good enough for the locals, but they ain't foolin' me (though they have fooled my digestive tract a few times -- to gut-wrenching proportions).

Enter peanut butter.  It used to be I could go a year, maybe even two, without touching the stuff.  I actually grew up in a home where we kept the peanut butter in the fridge we used it so rarely, and I did the same when I started living on my own.  It was like that half-empty jar of pickles that sat way in the back of the fridge, having been needed once for some picnic or barbeque but soon forgotten, only to be discovered again past its expiration date and thrown out.  That was peanut butter.

But after a few months of living here, I began to have inexplicable cravings for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  It started with one.  Then another.  And then another.  I would see peanut butter jars empty faster than I'd ever seen before; there would be days when I'd lay out two slices of bread and realize, "Oh, no," we were out.  It's now come to the point where I eat, on average, one PB&J a week.  I have no idea how that compares to most adults, but it seems like a lot.  I don't care.  I love them.  Nissa and I have finally started to keep the peanut butter out on the shelf because I have realized why it must be kept at room temperature.  The days of cursing at demented slices of bread are behind me.

I guess a good, old peanut butter and jelly sandwich is one of those tastes of home I never thought I would miss.  The fact is, you can find almost any kind of food in Seoul today, whether it be hamburgers, pizza, or even tacos.  But they're all just little off.  Whether it be a fried egg on your burger, corn on your pizza, or a weird creamy dressing on your enchiladas -- I mean, they all taste OK, but not quite right.  A homemade PB&J, though -- that pretty much tastes the same every time.  The way it should.