Tuesday, March 29, 2011


The South Korean equivalent to "Disney World" is Everland.  With tons of rides, characters in plush costumes and the usual awe and wonderment that accompanies a quality amusement park, it is the stuff dreams are made of.  Or so my students tell me.

While it is one of my goals of living in Korea to venture to Everland and see what all the fuss is about, this particular goal was not accomplished last weekend.  Over the weekend I found my own Everland. My own place that is accompanies with awe and wonder.  What can top a "Disney World-esque" park?  One word.  In capital letters.  COSTCO.  

After  nearly 14 months of living in Korea, I was finally taken to the holy mecca of COSTCO by a few of my fabulous girlfriends.  With products I have only dreamed about, I was quite literally a kid in a gigantic candy store.  Walking in I was reminded of growing up in the 'burbs of Indianapolis and going to Sams Club with my mother to stock up for the week.  With everything in bulk, it always seemed like quite the steal.  300oz of mustard for $3.20?  Well, I probably won't be able to use it all but it's so cheap that I feel obligated to take advantage of this amazing deal.  This was my general mentality during our 2+hour excursion into the happy land of COSTCO.  If any of the girls were pondering whether or not they really needed that oversized item, all they would have to do is look at me, see my exuberant childlike nod and toss it into the cart.  

I was able to control myself at COSTCO, though it took some effort, and spend far less than I thought.  Included in my haul was Febreeze, cleaning wipes to try and battle the upcoming beach months, flaxseed for smoothies, multivitamins and a huge towel (naturally in red) for the beachside days coming soon.  My next COSTCO trip is in the works and I now have a more realistic view of what I can find.  Hopefully by then my extreme ADD will be in control and I can be allowed free reign of the store instead of being that tiny child that has to be in sight of his mother at all times for fear of what he will throw into the cart.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


My dad is someone who likes structure, tradition and routine.  Like clockwork, he is up every morning before the sun even thinks about rising to get that cup of coffee and his bowl of honey bunches of oats.  He reads the paper, fills his green metal thermos, kisses my mother and is out the door.  He is a man of routine.

My dad is also a man of few words.  He doesn't feel the need to say something in 10 words that can easily be said in 3.  I'm sure if you have had even the most casual of conversations, you know about his dream of someday having a secluded cabin in the Black Hills of his home state, South Dakota.  He loves our family.  With a burning passion.  He also is a big fan of  Harley Davidsons.  The list goes on and on.  Throughout my life, I learned all of this and more by just watching him.  He may not have realized it, but I was paying attention.  I watched how he talked to his friends.  Our family.  Strangers on the street.  I learned more about him this way than any combination of conversations.  I learned alot about how to treat the people around me by using what I learned from my dad. By simply following his example.

Now, I told you that story to tell you another.  The vast majority of Koreans hate the Japanese.  The current population hates the Japanese because their fathers hated the Japanese.  And because THEIR fathers hated the Japanese.  Get the picture?  When the earthquake shook the country and the tsunami ravaged the towns, there were Koreans that rejoiced.  According to my students, the people of Japan are finally getting what they deserve.  Here is a direct quote from one of my students.  "The Japans are bad people.  This is God.  He is happy."   Keep in mind that the majority of my students are around 5 years old.  Clearly they did not come to this conclusion on their own.  They didn't get it from me.  They got this from their parents.

We don't realize how much of what we say or do is soaked up by those around us.  Even now at the age of almost 25, I still don't like asparagus because my dad doesn't like it.  I think the hills of South Dakota are beautiful because my dad always reveled in its beauty and untold adventure.  Flannel shirts will forever make me think of Norm Abram and the New Yankee Workshop.  I still drink Folgers coffee when I am at home because I remember my dad and of those cups of coffee enjoyed at daybreak.

Life is about tradition.  Life is about routine.  The children I teach day in and day out have been routinely taught that the Japanese are bad people and that this tragedy is what they deserve.  My dad's morning routine involves coffee and cereal.  There are some Korean children whose routine involves being taught that the people of an entire country are disposable.  I sincerely hope that the next generation begins to bridge the gap with the Japanese people and begin to think of them as neighbors, instead of the enemy.  

It's unreal to think how different routines can be...

[Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.  There are many Koreans who will never forgive Japan for the egregious crimes in the past.  However, it has been said that many Koreans would be willing to forgive Japan if it vows to never repeat the tragic history they share.  If you want to know more about the history behind why Korea and Japan have such an aversion to eachother click here.  While it did help me understand why both sides are so rigid in their beliefs, it made me more concretely believe that some routines or traditions do not need to be passed along to the next generations.]

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ugly Duck

I am not artistically inclined.  The best form of art I can manage is a doodle on the cramped edged of a paper placemat.  I'm a doodler, not an artist.  Even though I have NEVER been able to draw, paint or sculpt with any great finesse, as a child I thought my "art" was fabulous.

When I was in second grade, I made my mother a clay duck.  It took me until the final minute to finally finish and do the best job I could.  I remember coming home and being embarrassed by the uneven wings.  The crooked bill.  The less than stellar painting skills of an 8 year old.  When I presented that misfit clay duck to my mother, I may as well have given her a handful of diamonds.  I can still remember her face lighting up as if she just received a rare gift.  Every single piece of art that I ever gave her was met with the same joy.  

Whether it was a painting of a dinosaur or the meticiulous drawing of a wasp that took me the majority of science class, through the eyes of my mother I was Picasso.  Da Vinci.  Van Gough.  She kept every single painting or clay art project I ever gave her.  Kept, not because they were masterpieces, but because they were made by me.  

This little trip down memory lane comes from the art projects I do with my kids at school.  I see their parents reactions and I am disappointed that I don't see their faces light up as mine did.  They see the "art" as little more than pieces of paper to clutter an already cluttered house.  The "sculptures" as just another thing from school to create more chaos in their organized living room.  I have been to the houses of my kids and even though there were toys galore and more clothes than they could ever wear, I was hard pressed to find very many of the crafts or paintings made at school.

Almost 17 years after I gave that ugly duck to my mother, it is still kept in her china cabinet.  Kept alongside other creations from my sisters as well as pieces of a more intrinsitic value.  

Growing up I knew I wasn't an artist.  I knew that sculpting or painting wasn't something I was good at or really even enjoyed.  What I did know was that my mother would have supported me if I did.  She would  have been the first in line to see my gallery opening of ugly ducks with ill-proportioned bodies if it made me happy.

Thank you Mom for always making me feel like the Picasso of the Comer household.  

Wordless Wednesday: A Pohang St.Patty's

As you all know, last week included St. Patrick's Day.  Here are just a few pictures of my all little kids enjoying all things green.

Sunny, with his new shamrock

With my little Wendy

Lia showing off her face painting skills

Little Mattie

With little Sam

All of the morning kiddos in their face painted glory

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oh Korea

This is what awaited me when arriving home tonight.  He was sitting directly in front of my keypad (naturally) and had clearly peed his pants.  In a huge way.

Only in Korea...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Cooking Class

Here are a few pictures from a recent cooking experience at Kids College.  We somewhat successfully made cereal bars.  Yes, even simple cereal bars can sometimes be difficult for me.  With our combined cooking skill set we were able to make some quite delicious concoctions that consisted of peanut butter, lots of sugar, cereal and more sugar.  With those ingredients how can it NOT taste amazing?!

Everything you need to make sweet treats

Makeshift kitchen



My little Anna

It sort of stayed together...

It may not look all that delicious but the kids loved it!

The finished product.  Yum!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Aunt Jean

While there are countless perks to living in Korea, being on the other side of the world when a close family member is rushed to the hospital is most definitely one of the downsides.  I woke up today to a facebook status update about my Aunt Jean being in the hospital for an aneurysm. What a way to wake up.

Since recovering from the intial shock that my beloved Aunt Jean was in the hospital, I immediately reached for my imaginary phone (yes, I am refering to skype)  and called my mom.  She has lost so many brothers during the past few years that I just couldn't imagine her losing another close member of our family.  This time, a sister.  All I wanted to do was rush home and be with her, even though I knew that it was completely unnecessary and impossible.  I also knew that even if the impossible were to happen and I got home to her, there would be absolutely nothing I could do.  I couldn't fix my aunt.  I couldn't make my mom stress any less.  I can't cook, so I couldn't even make the comfort food most people do in these situations.

I spent my day on edge, waiting for more information and praying as hard as I could.  She is improving by the hour and is almost breathing on her own now.  Please send a prayer to whoever you call God for my Aunt Jean for a rapid recovery.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

TILT Cruisers and Crab

[Another big thank you to Emily for taking pictures during our scooter trip!]

The weather is finally getting warmer here in Pohang.  During the day it almost feels like spring.  When the blossoms finally make their appearance it will finally look like the spring weather we are all so desperate for.

I spent my Sunday with a bunch of other proud scooter owners going up and down the coast.  We have dubbed ourselves the "TILT Cruisers" and are already planning trips for the upcoming summer.  We spent this recent Sunday driving to Odo Beach (one of the best ocean views in Korea) and to Yeongduk for a crab festival.  I finally understand why my father has been jonesing for a motorcycle all these years.  There is just something about being on the open road with just you, the road and the breathtaking scenery.  Dad, I finally understand.

The majority of the TILT Cruisers

The lady riders posing for a picture overlooking the view of Odo Beach

The boys

We spend the majority of our day exploring the beaches and the amazing crab at the festival.  For my first riding trip that was longer than a casual 15 minute ride to the bus station, I think I did rather well.  I'm still fine tuning my skills but I have been assured they will only improve with continued riding.  After an amazing full day of riding I can only wait with anticipation for the upcoming summer and all the adventures to be had.

Keep on the lookout for the upcoming excursions.

The crabs just waiting to go for their steam

Teagan was so utterly happy about all the crab about to be devoured

An amazing rice, crab and seaweed combination


Teddy and I showing off our face point at the festival

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Andong, Beerball, Ryan Kracht

[A big thank you to Emily for taking pictures during our Andong excursion]

As you know,  I am the o so proud owner of a new scooter.  Since my last post I have mastered (ok, semi-mastered) all of the basics of riding a scooter.  My first big test was riding it to the bus terminal on Saturday with one of my best girlfriends, Emily.  She has me convinced that I could do it and she was right!  Easy as pie.  Oh, pie. Delicious apple pie.  Ok, back on track.

We ended up driving to the terminal to meet up with my coworkers, Lia and Brendan.  We spent the afternoon in Andong, a small folk village a few hours away.  I went there last fall but it was such a peaceful place that I wanted to see it again and bring some new friends along for the experience.  The quiet mood of the village coupled with all of the souvenir treasures made the day quite a success.

Sometimes I don't always show my cultural side.

The markers for the village

While Lia and Brendan stayed for an extra few hours to soak in as much culture as humanly possible, Emily and I decided we were cultured out and went back to Pohang for a little beerball action.  That's right folks.  Beerball is back.  

Unfortunately we only made it for the last part of the game but it was still quite eventful nonetheless.  Combining a huge group of foreigners together with alcohol and America's favorite past-time is sure to be entertaining.  Beerball ended with the American team (yes, we know that it wasn't exactly fair to put all of the Americans on one team and the rest of the foreigners on the other) winning.  Clearly we had just a bit of an advantage.

The evening wound up at TILT for yet another farewell party.  Ryan Kracht, one of the coolest kids in Pohang, is finally done with his time here and is headed back to Michigan.  Your amazing mustaches, permed faux hawked hair and unparalleled storytelling ability will be missed sir. 

Ryan, the man mustaches are made of

Enjoy America sir.  Eat some cheese for me.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Financial Milestone

A financial milestone has been reached.  I just paid the last and final payment on my credit card(s).  I am completely free of any and all credit card debt.  Imagine me doing the "I have no credit card debt" dance.   While compared to others I know I was on the shallow end of the debt pool when it came to the shiny plastic card of convenience, I am finally out of that pool for good.  It took the better part of a year to rid myself of that particular debt and now that it's done I feel like I am 10lbs lighter.  Oh, if only it were that easy.

My next goal is to pay off at least ONE of my private students loans that were taken out during college.  My goal is to have at least one of them paid off before I leave Korea in November.

If I can get rid of my credit card debt I can rid myself of one teeny tiny (well not so teeny) student loan right?


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Scooter Success

Today was an awesome day.  I got an amazing apple pie from the mother of one of my devil children and I got a scooter.  Yes, I know that they seem a little unequal on the levels of awesomeness but try not having a proper pie of any sort for a year and tell me what you think.

Back to items of the vrroom vrooom variety.  This little gem is my new love. Brand new and easy to handle.  Tomorrow after work I will begin the process of learning the basics of riding a scooter.  Watch out Pohang.  I've just gone mobile.

Lenten Resolutions

Lent has arrived in Korea and even though I have been less than devout in being a practicing Catholic, i'm going to give Lent a shot for the first time in more years than I care to remember.

This year I am giving up a few things and making a commitment to a few others.  I figure writing it down on here will keep me accountable.  What am I giving up and/or committing to this year you may ask?  Well here we go.

1.  Gossip  less.  I am not huge on gossip to begin with but taking it out of the equation entirely will help me really focus on the important things and people in my life.
2.  Work out 5x per week. The ladies of Pohang have started a daily 6am workout regime.  It will absolutely suck but for 40 days I can hack it.  I hope I can anyways.
3.  No fried foods.  While this won't be the hardest thing I am giving up it will definitely test my willpower.  I don't exactly crave this kind of food but when I have a few beers in me, french fries become almost irresistible.  Let's see how much willpower I actually have.
4.  Try something new at least once a week.  Whether it be a different food.  Meeting a new person.  Trying out a new store.  Going to a new city.  I want to see the beauty of Korea and I have done a less than stellar job of doing that over the past year.
5.  Be as frugal as possible without it affecting my daily life.  I make a pretty decent living while teaching here in Korea but I don't have all that much to show for it.  Sure I don't have anymore credit card debt and i'm making a dent in my student loans...but that's about it.  This is the 40 days for me to really see where my money is going. Do I really need that $11 package of tortillas?  That 4th drink at the bar when we all know that the 3rd one was more than enough?  That $8 taxi when a $1 bus will suffice?  It's all about cutting corners and figuring out what I really NEED not WANT.

Well, those are it.  My long-time-coming Lenten resolutions.  Say a little prayer for me if you think about it.  I've got a feeling i'm going to need it.

Wordless Wednesday: Pohang Steelers

This wordless Wednesday is devoted to the season opener for the Pohang Steelers.  They are the city's soccer team and going to games is a huge lure for the foreigner crowd.  Who doesn't love drinking, eating chicken and screaming your guts out for your team?  I know we sure do.

Completely excited for the game to begin

Confetti and streamers are highly conducive to soccer playing

Posing in between goals

With my "Auntie" Tanya

The Korean soldiers have a huge turnout for each and every game

After the game the boys went for a scooter ride and allowed
me to tag along.  Thanks Teagan!

On our way to BURGER KING after the game.  That's right...BURGER KING!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kids College Kids: Super Powers

[I've decided to make a post every so often that is dedicated to the weird rambles that my kids say on a daily basis.  It will be entitled "Kids College Kids."  When you see these get ready for entertainment.  Think of it as the Korean version of "Kids Say the Darndest Thing."]

While discussing superheros in my class today my 5 year olds decided that my super powers would be as follows: flying, lazers shooting out of my eyes and mouth, hair that goes down to the floor and powerful thighs.

Where they learned the words "powerful" or "thigh" is far beyond me.

The little ones who have a superhero for a teacher

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lessons Learned

[I know that this post is uncharacteristically vague but it is something that has been in my thoughts recently.  When thoughts are repeatedly in the forefront of my mind, it is usually my brain's way of telling me to write it down.  Figure it out.  Solve it.  Most of the time I shut down and don't listen to my better judgement when it comes to getting things off my chest.  Today I did and here's what I wrote.]

Sometimes it takes something small to make you realize that you were wrong.  Wrong in how you treated someone.  Wrong in how you presented yourself.  A simple comment.  A passing glance.  Life is about making mistakes and learning from them.  I continue to learn from mine every single day.

I realize that during the past few months I have been wrong in how I have treated certain people in my town.  A certain person in particular.  Not that I have been mean but I have been impassibly indifferent.  Somehow I allowed the fact that I have been here for as long as I have to overcrowd my ability to see beyond the face value of a friend.  To not overlook them if they had a flaw that didn't match up to my expectations.  Somehow today, I woke up and realized what a bitch i've been.  How selfish, self absorbed, closed off and just generally unwelcoming i've been.  What a sobering realization that was.

Even though I know you can't turn back time (even though Cher seems to think you can) I wish in this instance that I could.  Even though the person in question has no idea that i've had this realization, to you I am sorry.  If given the chance, I will try and do my best at being a friend to you instead of someone who is as indifferent as I have been.

What lesson did I learn today?  Life is too short to feel anything but happiness.  Anything but feeling the sense of friendship and adventure that is so easily accessible here.   Consider that lesson learned.

Friday, March 4, 2011

What If?

When I was thinking about how to begin this post, I was thinking about how another life altering decision has been made and how to properly tell it.  Tell it to remember how i'm feeling after finally figuring out the opening scene for the next act of my life.  Tell it to explain to those I care about just what i'm doing next.  Just what shenanegans I was going to pull this time.  It was when finally sitting down to write that I realized just how "life-altering" our choices, actions and decisions can be.

You realize that you could play the "what if" game for the rest of your life.  What if I wouldn't have gone to Ball State?  What if I would have lived in a different dormitory?  Taken different classes?  Had a different major?  What if I wouldn't have come to Korea?  Those "what ifs" make you step back and realize that even though the phrase "everything happens for a reason" is a bit cliche, it's true.  The steps you take and the moments you make are what makes life as unique as you are.

After reading a blog that one of my good friends suggested, a specific quote in a recent post resonated with me.  She says,"We all get attached to goals, to performance, to success and we end up over-committing, trying to please everyone and sometimes forgetting to just please ourselves.  Yes, life is short, but it is what it is.  We all need to slow down, to just be happy where we are for a minute, to breathe, to take in our surroundings, to be grateful for the gifts we have been given.  Life isn't about crossing your goals off your list, it is about loving every minute you are alive."     

She's right.  My life isn't about crossing yet another item off a list.  Figuring out the next step in my life.  Rushing to continue the process of growing up.  Thank you whoever you are for reminding me to enjoy the process of finding myself.  Whether it be in Korea, at grad school or another continent entirely.  Somehow in this process of living I forgot that i'm on a journey that at the end of the day only I have to be happy with. It's mine.  It's my journey and it will be what I make of it.  What I choose it to be.

While the next chapter of my life is yet to be planned, the next few pages finally are.  I have decided to go back to school when I come stateside this fall.  After two years away from the education that inspired me to be a teacher, I am finally ready to go back to school and inspire myself again.  I have hope that I will find the right school for me and prepare myself for the future that I know is somewhere ahead of me.

I still have yet to choose the schools to apply to or take the ever-intimidating GRE (sort of a graduate student's version of the SAT) but I still have time.  I have scheduled the appointment to take the test here in Korea this coming June and will hopefully garner a high enough score to get me into the school of my choice.  The next few months will be an interesting balance of studying and continuing to tackle life each day at a time.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Upcoming Adventures

[Happy 27th Birthday Mike.  I wish I could be there to celebrate with you but know that sometime in the next few years we'll do it up right together.]

It's been awhile since I have posted anything on here with something more to say than just a casual Wordless Wednesday or snow-filled pictures.  Somehow it's March already and  the weather is beginning to shake off that winter coat it's had on for the past few months.  Beach time is around the corner and I can hardly restrain myself from riding my bike beachside and waiting for the sun to finally reach us here in Pohang.  If you see me down there with my tank top on trying to tan my legs, just leave me.  I'll learn my lesson when I get another cold from Mother Nature, who just can't seem to make up her mind on day-to-day weather.

In all seriousness, the past few weeks have been a bit dreary.  I have said goodbye to some amazing friends, cutesy little kids at Kids College, gotten sick repeatedly (from the cutesy kids at Kids College) and had a horrible bout of homesickness that I felt would never pass.  Boo hoo.  Whine Whine.  Sniff Sniff.  Clearly my life could be o so much worse.

What lies in store for me during the next few weeks?  Well quite a few little adventures.  I will be going to Jeju Island for a weekend getaway with some friends due to the outrageously slashed flights found for less than $25 round trip.  I will also be going to the Jindo Sea-Parting Festival as well to part those seas like Moses.  I'll let you just think about the locations "Jeju" and "Jindo" until I actually go on the little excursion so as to prime you for the explanations at a later date.

Keep reading...the next few posts could be intriguing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Until Then, Not Goodbye

I know I have been a bit lazy in keeping this up to date recently.  I promise the next one will have the sustenance and more importantly, the Koreanisms, that keeps my loyal readers coming back for more.  Until then, here's a wordless Wednesday that is devoted to some amazing people that have recently left Pohang.  To Raechal, Kevin and Tim:  You helped to make my first year in Korea an amazing one.  I wish you the best and hope that during our travels we meet again soon.

My dear Raechal.  We came to Korea at the same time and now you're  leaving to
back home.  We got to experience Japan together.  Words don't even express
how much I will miss you. 

The theme of Raechal's part was centered around the way Koreans dress.

Kevin Osborne.  Unfortunately, we started to get closer the weeks leading
up to his departure.  

Three great friends doing Noraebong on Kevin's last night.

A few of the original JSD crew:  Kory, Nick Kelly, Myself and Tim

Tim's last night in town consisted of dinner at his favorite duck place with
all his favorite people. 

The friendship I have with Tim is not traditional, so why should our last picture
be?  To Tim, you are a big reason why my first year was so amazing.  Thank you for all the memories
including (but not limited to) Deokjeok Island, Geoje Island, Daegu Nights, Sandcastle festival,
Thailand and all the random nights in between.  I know we'll meet again.  Until then.