Lokhee & Anthony’s Wedding!

Kitty and Santa recently had the honor of attending their friend Lockhee’s traditional Korean wedding.  They were quite excited about attending the ceremony, as they knew it would be much different from the western weddings they were use to.

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The wedding was at a beautiful outside venue and the weather couldn’t have been better.  The ceremony began with a little traditional Korean music and dancing, followed by the bride being brought down the aisle in a small ham (pronounced hum) that was carried by four friends of the groom.

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Once at the alter, the bride and groom took their first bow together.

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Following the processions at the alter, there was more dancing, the belly dancers being Kitty and Santa’s favorite.  During the last dance Kitty spotted something out of her peripheral, as she turned to look a little Korean lady had a hot-floured rice cake next to her mouth.  When she went to ask what she was being fed the lady shoved it right in with a smile and said, “Cake!”  Kitty went to warn the other guests around her but couldn’t even swallow the large ball of rice in her mouth.  She saw Santa was next and stood there helplessly as she received the same treatment Kitty had.  Santa had a mustache of flour and was bent over choking as she tried to quietly consume her rice cake.

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They managed to swallow just in time to hear that the bride and groom would both be tossing a chicken into the audience, if you were to catch one of the birds they would be bring you luck.  Let’s just say Kitty and Santa headed towards the back of the small crowd as they saw the birds fly into the air.  Two lucky men in the audience did somehow grab a hold of the birds and went home the lucky winners.

 

 

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Following the ceremony there were drinks, dinner, and more dancing (whats a party without dancing?).  The bride and groom changed into western wear and read their vows, before a few members of their families gave speeches.  The night was capped off with some sparklers and a ride to the bar for a little after party.

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All in all it was a great experience, and a beautiful wedding.  They are so happy they were able to help celebrate the marriage of their new friends Anthony and Lokhee!

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Buddha’s Birthday Bachlorette in Busan

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Kitty, Santa and Krissy packed their bags and headed to the beaches of Korea to celebrate the long weekend. Buddha’s Birthday is recognized as a national holiday in SK, so they decided there was no better time to give Krissy one last girls weekend away before she ties the knot with her fiance in August!! The weekend was off to a hilarious start when they boarded their bus in Gwangju to find they were not the only english speaking travelers with plans to enjoy the beach. It was like being back at home; they could understand all the conversations that  surrounded them and they didn’t like it one bit. After about 30 minutes of taking in the English chatter, they all began to realize what was going on. Did that man behind us just say “Gather around my lords, we have council members to impose. Right now we will discuss our wizards internal fairy rights?!” They started to listen closely as they realized the group behind them were absolutely serious and they were not playing a game. This was real life to them. Kitty and Santa had heard about these fantasy role-playing games called Dungeons & Dragons, but never in their lives had they come across a group of 15 wizards, lords, fairies and warlockes. Four hours on the bus with this talk, and Kitty and Santa felt like they had been in a real life video game. “Will’s outside, but he’s invisible. Lets grab our royal weapons and head to the streets!!” Kitty, Santa and Krissy agreed with the wizards as they jumped off the bus kicking and punching the air. It was time to hit the streets running!!

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The three gal wolf pack checked into their love motel, got ready and met some of Krissy’s friends at their favorite Indian restaurant. After dinner they went back to their hotel to enjoy some Jameson and dress Krissy up in the bachelorette gear Kitty’s Mom so very nicely sent them. It included (but was not limited to) a sparkly sash, bling bling rings, mustaches, beads, buttons, glow sticks and shot glasses. Everything necessary for a  successful night out. The girls headed to Wolfhounds, a fabulous Irish pub that became their home for the next three days. They danced and sang to some classics like: ‘Nsync and B*witched.  Over the course of the night the wolf pack doubled, and even tripled in number.  With vocals like these, they aren’t sure how anyone could stay away.

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The following morning they weren’t feeling too shabby.  The weather in Busan didn’t exactly make them want to run to the beach, so they picked up some Starbucks and decided to walk around a bit.  They came across Kitty’s favorite fair game, and she couldn’t pass it up without trying her luck.  Krissy also decided she needed to take a stab at it.  Although the carney caught them stealing some extra darts, they ended up winning three hand-made shell necklaces.  They ran away with their dollar store jewels, like three of their excited kindergarten students.

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Just down the street Kitty spotted last nights stomping grounds, “Hey, why don’t we go to Wolfhounds and grab some good food.”  They all agreed they were pretty hungry, and headed in to find a table.  As they waited to order, they decided having an afternoon cocktail wouldn’t be such a bad way to kick off day 2.  As they ordered their drinks and a few appetizers, Kitty spotted something that she hadn’t seen in Korea before.…GOLDSCHLAGER.  Kitty couldn’t resist ordering a round for the wolf pack; she knew Krissy would enjoy the golden delicious treat.  Once it hit Krissy’s lips she was in love.  Let’s just say this round led to a few more, and again, the wolf pack began to grow.  They started playing darts, dancing, and Kitty even got her hair did!  Their table was seated next to a lonely ‘lost and found’ box, and they ended up finding some props to wear for that day’s festivities.  It was a long day at the pub, but one they will most definitely never forget.

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The following morning they weren’t feeling as fantastic as they had the day before.  They showered up, grabbed their props, and headed for the subway.  As usual, Kitty and Santa were cutting it quite close.  While Krissy and Kitty grabbed some food, they sent Santa to hold the bus.  Santa was standing in the bus door with one foot on the ground waving to the bus driver to wait just a few more minutes. Luckily, Kitty and Krissy made it before take off time, except the bus Santa was holding was a bus to Seoul….not Gwangju.  They muttered some “mian haeyos” (I’m sorries) as they ran off the bus, and managed to jump on the Gwangju bus before it peeled out of the parking lot.  As they all reclined in their seats for a much-needed nap, they were thrilled to see and hear that there weren’t any  wizards, lords or warlocks on this ride.  Kitty and Santa had never been happier to be surrounded by Koreans.

Although they didn’t see much of the beach in Busan, it was a great weekend celebrating Krissy’s last fling before the ring!! Congrats to their wonderful friends, they will most definitely be missed in South Korea when they leave in July!!

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Springing South Korea

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Kitty and Santa spent the last 2 years of their lives on the tropical beaches of San Diego. When they made the move to South Korea not only did they experience culture shock, but the winter weather also brought on a period of hibernation like the Chicago bears they were raised to be. Since the weather has now turned and the flowers have bloomed, Kitty and Santa have come out of their cave and wasted no time frolicking about Korea. Here are some of their spring highlights!

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Gwangju 10K

Kitty decided that it might be fun for the duo to partake in a race while here in Korea.  After a bit of online research, and some translating by Kitty’s elementary students, they had signed up to run a 10K on April 21st.  With a little convincing, their friend Krissy signed up to run as well!  Santa and Kitty didn’t take the training too seriously, as they weren’t planning on winning.  And Krissy, well her training consisted of shopping and dancing at the bar on Saturday nights.

On race day, they had planned on meeting Krissy on the corner so they could catch a cab to the starting line together.  When Kitty and Santa arrived that morning, Krissy was nowhere in sight.  Santa started freaking out, as she always likes to be at least an hour early to EVERYTHING.  They started to walk towards her apartment, but turned around in fear she might have taken a different route and that they’d miss her.  As they neared the corner again, they spotted Krissy who was enjoying a breakfast of champions: Oreos and chocolate milk!

After a nerve racking 15-minute wait, they finally were able to flag down a cab.  They pulled out the race map in hopes that the cab driver would know where they were suppose to go.  He got a bit angry, but in the end they arrived at the starting line with about 20 minutes to spare.  Krissy, Kitty, and Santa all started the race together, but ended up getting separated during their run.  They reunited at the finish line where they were presented with medals, chocolate pies, and sweet bread (not the normal fruit and fuel they were use to receiving post run).  After snapping a few pictures with every Korean fan, they felt as though they had won the race.  Success! One more thing off Kitty and Santa’s Korean Bucket list!

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Shopping in Seoul

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Kitty and Santa hadn’t been to Seoul since they celebrated Kitty’s 26th year of birth in the fall.  This also means that they hadn’t been shopping since November.  In Gwang Ju they have a lot of small boutiques and places to shop downtown, but here in Korea the majority of clothing is one size fits all, or FREE size.  Seems a bit weird, but everyone here is pretty small.  Free size might work for most Koreans, but not for Kitty and Santa.  Their friends Krissy and Kivi also wanted to get up to Seoul, so they decided to all take the KTX train together the weekend following their big race.

This was everyone’s first time taking the train in Korea, and it was a really enjoyable experience for all.  They arrived around noon on that Saturday, and Kitty and Santa found themselves back at the scene of the crime, the Seoul Subway! As Krissy and Kivi tried to figure out what line they needed to take, Santa and Kitty got a snack and decided that after the mix up they experienced the last time they wouldn’t be putting in their two cents.  Fifteen minutes later they jumped on a line that took them directly to their love motel (love motel is how they refer to cheap motels here in Korea).  As Krissy and Kivi would say, it was actually quite nice!  They dropped off their luggage and hit the streets for a day of shopping.  After spending over three hours in the five-floor Forever XI, they decided it was time to get back to the motel and freshen up.  Krissy’s childhood friend and husband are currently living in Seoul, and invited them all over for drinks before dinner.  They enjoyed some Lithuanian sprites and snacks, before heading out to a Thai Chinese fusion restaurant.  After a family style dinner, they headed to an Irish pub for darts and Jameson.  They spent the rest of the night bar hopping, dancing and taking firework shots before ending up eating Doners at 3 am.  According to Santa, Doners is a snack she once enjoyed while visiting her sister in Germany many years ago.  Kivi really enjoyed the Doners, and went back for seconds, thirds, and maybe even a fourth.  The night become a blur after the food coma but they woke up in their beds feeling well rested!

The next morning they enjoyed a breakfast at a cute French restaurant in a quiet neighborhood, before jumping back on the train to Gwang Ju.  Kitty and Santa enjoyed their weekend away in the big crowded city, but it’s always nice to come home to Gwangju!

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Bamboo Forest and Festival

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Kitty and Santa set off for yet another weekend adventure. This time they headed to Damyang for the traditional bamboo festival.They tasted some wonderful traditional teas, cookies and bamboo flavored ice cream. Hiked through the famous bamboo forest, purchased some local bamboo goods and hung out with some bamboo wearing festival dancers. Just 45 minutes outside of Gwangju, this day trip was well worth the wons!

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Mt. Wolchulsan National Park

Santa was looking to get a feel for some real Korean hiking, so while Kitty spent the day studying for her online grad school classes Santa took the bus with a friend to Mt. Wolchulsan National Park. She was told by her friend (an experienced outdoorsmen kind of guy) that it would be a long hike but not to worry. He would provide all the snacks, water and necessities one might need while climbing a mountain. She left around 7:00 AM and returned dirty and tired at 7:00 PM. A full days work but it’s not every day one can proclaim that they climbed a mountain…and hiked an entire national park! It might have been one of her favorite days in Korea so far. Go Santa GO!

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Gokseong Train Village 

One of the many perks of living in Korea is the fact that it is so small, so seeing a lot of the country on day trips is possible. Kitty and Santa decided to hit up Gokseong Train Village on a sunny Saturday afternoon to ride their famous rail bikes around the town’s mountain base. They brought along some snacks, a bottle of wine, two dixies, and of course their cameras for documentation purposes. Kitty and Santa arrived at the bus’s final destination but didn’t see the village they were expecting. After a game of charades with the bus driver they finally were able to get the point across “RAIL BIKES”. The bus driver showed them to a taxi who drove them 15 minutes into the middle of no where. He pointed to a small building next to an old railroad track and said “rail bike, good bye”. Kitty and Santa shrugged, threw him some won tons, and got out of the cab.

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They approached the ticket counter where they asked for a two seater rail bike. The ticket lady crossed her arms and shook them violently, a korean term  they were familiar with, NO. A young Korean with excellent English skills stepped in to translate. “Did you make a reservation?” Kitty and Santa looked at each other and than made a big X with their forarms. “Noo.” Apparently it was necessary in order to ride the rail. Kitty and Santa stood there in contemplation. They didn’t know whether they should wait for another taxi to take them to this village or go on the trek without a mode of transportation…”I mean if we follow the train tracks I don’t think we will get lost…do you?” Kitty asked. The Koreans standing around them thought it would be too far for Kitty and Santa to walk, but they pointed the girls in the right direction and shook their heads as they watched Kitty and Santa disappear.

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It wasn’t long before Kitty and Santa busted into the wine as they followed the tracks winding through the beautiful Korean landscape. They sang some old rail road songs, screamed and jumped around when they crossed paths with a large snake, had a few panic attacks when crossing bridges (it was pretty close to being in the movie Stand by Me…), laughed hysterically and talked for hours about how weird it is that they live in Korea.

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One pretty important question kept coming about, especially when crossing the bridges…do trains actually ride on this rail still? The first time it came up they both laughed it off. Of course NOT, this rail was now for bikes only, and they would have plenty of time to jump out of the way when they saw them coming.  They both laughed and then became very silent…”do you hear that?” Kitty would ask over and over again. Santa kept turning to look behind her, expecting a large freight train to be there. Well, about an hour into the trip there was no mistaking the sound of a bustling steam engine heading their way. Its horn was bellowing and smoke came clouding out the front. Santa screamed and jumped into the ditch, not even thinking about the snakes. Kitty jumped to the side. Santa wanted to go further into the woods afraid the train would take them out. They were happy when they realized this train was full of tourists and it was moving like an authentically slow locomotive.

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After hours of walking they finally stumbled upon the train village. They were greeted with cold beers, carnival rides and amazing locals. Kitty and Santa enjoyed the town for an hour before trying to head back to Gwangju. A few Koreans near by spotted Kitty and Santa scratching their heads wondering when the next train back would be. “Last train to Gwangju is finished. You can ride with us, we take you back.” Kitty and Santa were so happy to have met such wonderful people. They chatted with the young newlyweds all the way back to Gwangju. The day couldn’t have gone any better…Oh Korea!

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 -Sometimes it’s not about the destination but journey that should be appreciated- 

Cooking Class

Kitty and Santa’s fellow teachers Krissy and Kivi are always poking fun at the meals they regularly prepare for themselves: spam and eggs, grilled spam and cheese, spam and rice, PB&J, popcorn, and anything smothered in Sriracha…what more do they need?  They feel as though they are hitting up all the major food groups at some point in their day.  I mean SPAM? It isn’t just ham!

Krissy and Kivi are always talking about the delicious dishes they are enjoying every evening, and Kitty and Santa had begun to grow curious. Krissy decided to invite them over and give them a little lesson on preparing some down home South African Cooking. Without reservation they accepted the invite. For years back in high school they had attended Sue’s cooking class, so this wasn’t their first rodeo.

They showed up late Saturday afternoon with a garden salad, a bottle of Jameson, and a few loaves of bread.  Mind you if Kitty and Santa had stayed home this is probably what they would have been eating for dinner.  Krissy had all the ingredients laid out and they wasted no time getting started. She informed them that they would be learning how to make Bunny Chow. Kitty got excited thinking it sounded like Puppy Chow, but was quick to find out that Bunny Chow was not the sweet snack she was picturing in her head. This particular dish was Indian, and something both of their families had been cooking for years.  Krissy started chopping while Kitty started snacking, and Santa began taking notes. Korean kitchens are quite small, so they had to take turns peering over Krissy’s shoulder.  A dash of this, a pinch of that; a delicious aroma filled their little Korean villa.  (During their class they also were informed that the correct term for their residence here in Korea is villa, not apartment).  After letting their curry concoction simmer for a little over a half hour it was time to dish it up. Kivi took the loaves of bread, cut and took out the center of each one. Krissy then poured the curry into the hole that was created and topped it with garnish. Kitty and Santa rolled up their sleeves and began to dig in. It tasted just as delicious as it smelled. Success!  Now if only it goes this smoothly when they are preparing it in their own kitchen. Keep your fingers crossed and Kitty and Santa might be dishing up Bunny Chow for you when they make it back to the states!

Cute little Korean Kitchen

Cute little Korean Kitchen

Our contribution....Garden Salad:)

Our contribution….Garden Salad:)

Kivi doing work!

Kivi doing work!

 

Bunny Chow

Bunny Chow

 

 

 

VIVA Las ‘Graduation Day’ Vegas

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When kitty and Santa started their jobs at VIVA English Academy they were confused as to why this Korean school would use the word VIVA, a spanish word, to describe their English kindergarten. Perhaps they were aware of the popular phrase that Kitty and Santa had come to love over the years “Viva Las Vegas”. Well, 6 months into their jobs and Kitty and Santa finally came to realize that VIVA Las Vegas was a large inspiration for the school.

Graduation day. A day in the USA that parents and grandparents love. Families come together to celebrate and honor loved ones for their wonderful accomplishments. Middle school, high school, college and even kindergartens hold this special day so when Kitty and Santa heard that they would be hosting 2 days of graduations they were excited and proud to watch their baby geniuses walk on stage and get their diplomas.

Side note: In most Korean private schools the school year ends around February 25th. Korean children then take a holiday that lasts 1 to 2 days. Yes, we said days. Not a summer, not weeks, not months. The children got a good extra 48 hours tact onto their weekend before they resumed classes the following Monday. Just another reason Kitty and Santa appreciate a good ol’ American summer.

They found out a few months prior that their classes would be doing a full play on stage in front of parents along with some English speeches. They worked hard everyday preparing materials with their kids. The Korean co-teachers would drill the children for their lines, correcting the 6 and 7 year olds posture and making sure every high note was hit during dance rehearsals for row, row, row your boat. Kitty and Santa praised each child for their efforts but feared the co-teachers high volumes of stress as they darted around the room beating the desks with a wooden sticks to the tempo of each movement. They scolded the kids and even Kitty and Santa in Korean, instructing everyone to try harder and give more to their performances.

The day finally came. Kitty and Santa watched as their littles one, dressed in caps and gowns, were awarded their certificate of graduation. This ceremony was met with a long Korean speech from a woman people only know as ‘the General’. The General is the cute little old lady who owns the school and is incredibly feared by all. Next was the Korean national anthem and then the kids would be up to do their plays and speeches. Kitty and Santa followed their classes downstairs for what they thought would be a last minute prep before the kids were back on stage.

As soon as they entered the class room children started ripping their clothes off and the co-teachers ran in circles screaming commands in Korean. Kitty and Santa stood pressed up against the classroom wall trying hard not to get hit by a flying shoe. They slowly began to realize that this graduation day was not going to be like the 25 minutes of cuteness and photo ops like the ones back home. This was going to be a full on VIVA Las Vegas performance. A show with verity and color and 15 costume changes. A show that would put Celion Dion to shame and make Circus de Soleil look do-able by a group of 6 and 7 year olds. This was no ordinary show – this was a Korean VIVA Las Vegas English graduation ceremony.

They stood in shock as the co-teachers dressed the children in flashy bright outfits and taped microphones to their faces. Santa eyes grew big as she saw some of her boys dressed in fairy dresses and belly shirts, it was a very proud and confusing moment for her. “This is what the kids were going to be wearing for the little red riding hood play? A little much, don’t you think Kitty?” asked Santa. Kitty stared in disbelief. A co-teacher ran past them and Kitty got her attention “Teacher, time for play now?” she asked. The co-teacher looked at her in shock “No teacher. Time for DANCE.”

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Kitty and Santa went back upstairs to try to understand the entertainment selection while waiting for their turn to go to the stage with their class. They had spent everyday for the past 2 months rehearsing for what now appeared to be a tiny portion of this production. When did these kids have time to learn all of these dances? Within this 3 hours they witnessed their little ones spin around the stage in a ballet recitale. A hip hop dance off. They rang cow bells to twinkle twinkle little star. Played the chelo like Pablo Casals. Pounded on cajon box drums like professional street artists. Dressed like swedish goat farmers in a swiss bell recitale. Danced around stage with African drums. Performed a full English play. Blew out some whimsical music from their recorders. Gave English speeches on lemons, Santa Clause, science, how to make a delicious Spam sandwich and much much more. Kitty and Santa were exhausted after 2 days of watching these shows so they couldn’t imagine how the children felt. The little ones walked away from VIVA with so much more than an English education….we hope to see them again one day…. strolling around the Las Vegas Blvd.

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Flightless

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Bird-wiser anyone?? The first night out in South Korea Kitty, Santa and a friend were waiting in line at a bar when a poster caught Santa’s eye. Open auditions with the Gwangju Performance Project! “Wow that would be cool” she thought, but continued on with her night without taking notes. The next morning much to her surprise she found the poster stuffed in her purse. Not remembering how it got there she decided it was a sign and she had to attend.

Kitty has always been Santa’s number one fan when it comes to her dream of becoming an actress and wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip through the cracks. Not even a whole week in SK yet and there they were figuring out the bus system. Everything was in Korean so they mapped out how many right turns the bus would take before they had to get off at their stop. They finally made it downtown when the torrential downpour began. There wasn’t an obstacle that was going to stop them from getting to this audition. They made it and 2 weeks later Santa was offered the part as “Francine” in the play Flightless.

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Flightless was locally written by Zac Cates.

Flightless is a heavy-handed propaganda play written for the National Socialist Audubon Society, promoting Flight Supremacy. To quote their glorious leader, Adolphin: “If you can’t fly, you might as well die”.

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The play was apart of a six act show and ran 2 weekends. It was an amazing experience and Santa was so happy to have met and worked with all of the talented people involved. Juggling school, a social life and rehearsals was a lot to take on for the first 3 months in Korea but it truly made Santa feel right at home. She’s excited for the next project in SK and to continue her work back in the states next year!

BIG thanks to the very talented director, Travis Major and the amazing producer & stage manager, Gail Elgersma.

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“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.” – Stella Adler

A Place to Call Home

As many of you know Kitty and Santa didn’t have the easiest transition when it came to their living arrangements here in Korea. They started off in a one bedroom with rather small furniture, no storage space, and a location just about as close to the school as you can get. AKA Boss lady once asked them if they went to bed early the night before because she saw that their apartment lights were off when she left the office at 9 PM. Little awkward.

After a month they were excited to finally be moving into a two bedroom apartment. The excitement quickly turned to disappointment when they found quite a bit of mold hanging under a few layers of wallpaper. And by a few layers they mean a dozen layers of wallpaper, it almost looked like they were trying to fix the major mold issue by covering it up? Smart. They immediately alerted their supervisor and were informed that they would be moving as soon as possible. Since moving to SK Kitty and Santa also learned that “as soon as possible” to Koreans meant at least a month.  Another month passed. Kitty’s allergies were through the roof anytime they were inside the apartment and Santa was sleeping on a couch in the kitchen, which was now their living room, which was also basically in the bathroom, which reeked of kimchi. Are you following? The apartment was cramped but being the good sports that they are they made light of the situation.

Finally, Kitty and Santa’s boss let them know they had found them a new place. They couldn’t help themselves and started dreaming of what this new castle in the sky would look like. Their standards of what “really nice” is has changed quit a bit since moving from their favorite beach front apartment in San Diego just a few short months ago.

To Kitty and Santa, really nice now means: mold free, a bathroom where they dont have to take a shower over the toilet (yes, they have been doing this), a kitchen that isn’t their living room, a fridge that isn’t college size, hot water, a couch that allows them to sit off the ground, a closet, a microwave and if they were lucky… wallpaper that wasn’t a hideous blend of Asian floral. Well it looked like they won the Korean Lotto because when they arrived at their new place they were pleasantly surprised. They got almost everything they asked for…the Asian floral couldn’t be avoided but they are more than happy to call this place their home for the next 10 months!

Their mini kitchen…no oven but they have a toaster oven!! Not sure how this will help them with thanksgiving this year but they are still thankful.

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Where Kitty and Santa relax after a long days work. 3 chairs for a coffee table, blankets, electronics, clock set to Chicago time…their tanning light on full blast to keep them warm. Living the dream, right? It’s an adventure : )

In Korea, there is no difference between the shower and the bathroom. That shower head you see hooked up to the sink is how they get clean. There was no avoiding this situation because its just how things are done here but they were happy to get more room in this bathroom. No more getting clean over the toilet.

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The Asian floral wallpaper they cant seem to escape.

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