Galleries

Three Peaks in Three Weeks

Last year my partner and I challenged ourselves to climb South Korea’s three highest mountain ranges in three consecutive weekends. We not only climbed the mountains (san’s) but also reached the highest peaks (bong’s) in each range: Dongneunbong at Hallasan, Cheonhwangbong in Jirisan, and Daecheongbong in Seoraksan.

Seoraksan Saturday, 9/19/15

Seoraksan
View from the base of Seoraksan

The Daecheongbong Peak Course is 16 kilometers (9.94 miles) that averages approximately 11 hours and 20 minutes to complete (Obviously, we are better than average ๐Ÿ™‚ ). We hiked the majority of the mountain quickly, crossing falling rivers, stone carvings, watching mountain climbers scale sheer rock faces, and almost being turned away at a guard post (we got a late start), but checked into a lodge 3/4 of the way as night fell.

The lodges on Korean mountains are not the typical lodges that come to mind. They are small, cramped, and lack privacy. They are typically one room buildings full of giant bunk beds without mattresses (or maybe that is only for us peasants). One slab of plywood held approximately six people which increase the chance of sleeping next to someone who snores (myself included). Thankfully, since I was one who contributed to the harmony of snarls and wheezes, I slept quite well.

Sunday, 9/20/15

Whatever sleep we did enjoy was short-lived because if we wanted to reach the peak by sunrise, we had to start hiking at 2:30 in the morning! However, watching the vibrant sunrise at 1,708 meters (5,604 feet) made the lack of sleep and early morning climb worth the extra hustle. As we waited for the sun to rise above the ocean and clouds we munched away on snacks and watched the rocks around us fill with other early risers.

Hallasan Monday, 9/28/15

Crater Peak
Crater Peak

The next mountain on the list was South Korea’s highest mountain, Hallasan, on Jeju Island. The 9.6 kilometers (5.97 miles) up Seongpanak Trail to Dongneunbong at 1,950 meters (6,398 feet) took us six hours both ways. At the peak we ate our snacks amongst the other hikers, were offered chocolate, and my partner even got told to put a shirt on in the process of changing out of his sweaty top! We struggled with the lineup or lack thereof to get our pictures with the engraved rock with the name of the peak, but barely got them before being crowded out by courteous and patient locals. The beginning and end of the trail was at such a gradual incline that on the way down we were able to get competitive and race past the stares of the Koreans (foreigners are weird). Next to the parking lot was a UNESCO information center where we were able to purchase tacky certificates for successfully hiking South Korea’s highest mountain (we’re so cool).

The conditions could not have been better; the tail end of the summer meant the weather was warm, the sky clear, and thanks to the proximity to the ocean, a slight breeze. We congratulated ourselves on a great day at a “Monkey Bar” complete with slides, jump ropes, ball pits, games and buckets (and straws) of alcohol (in moderation).

Jirisan Sunday, 10/4/15

Cheonhwangbong at Jirisan
Cheonhwangbong at Jirisan

Jirisan was our final hike! We took the Chilseon Valley Course, 9.7 kilometers (6 miles), to Cheonhwangbong at 1,915 meters (6,283 feet). The hike is estimated to take ten to twelve hours round trip, but we managed to complete it in approximately seven to eight hours (estimating be damned)!

As we pushed our way to the top, my partner’s stomach began to bother him. He almost gave up, but when I offered to leave him behind he became so determined that he carried me the rest of the way (A few days later, we found out his appendix had burst!). Upon reaching the peak we ate our snacks waiting for an opportunity to get our picture with the peakstone but alas, it was too crowded. We met our third companion at the bottom and enjoyed a cup of ramyeon before driving back home, flushed with our completion of a three week uphill battle with Korea’s highest peaks.

Overview

Initially, we considered hiking Korea’s three highest mountain ranges in three consecutive weekends to be an ambitious plan, but luckily it was logistically completely possible. The mountains are in opposite corners of the country (one on an island) and it just seemed destined to fail when my partner fell ill in the days leading up to the last hike. Thankfully we are young, in good enough shape (damn sweets), are able to enjoy time off from work, are both stubborn and as obstinate as the mountains themselves, and took some time to plan it all out. ย Similar to many things in life, this was a small lesson in overcoming obstacles in geography and our own inner naysayers to complete a challenge and rise to the occasion.

Vegan Gluten Free Pumpkin Cupcakes

It is that time of the year again when everyone is craving pumpkin! I am not a huge fan of pumpkin, but I have made this pumpkin cupcake for multiple events and birthdays throughout the month of October and it has always been a hit!

What I love about this recipe is that it is VEGAN and GLUTEN FREE. Once I started traveling, I met individuals with many different dietary needs either due to religion, personal preference, or allergies. Due to these conflicting dietary needs, it can be challenging to make something that everyone can enjoy. The solution I found? Making something that is vegan and gluten free! I have yet to find someone who will turn this dessert down!

Let me add that Pinterest is my best friend when it comes to new recipes. I combine or add my own twists to multiple recipes I pin on Pinterest. When it comes to cooking, I am quite creative, but whenever I bake, I lack creativity!

I DO NOT claim this recipe as my own. Pinterest led me to Shannon’s, a vegan blogger, website theglowingfridge.com. I omitted and added a couple ingredients she used, but, in general, this is basically her recipe. I am happy I found her website because, like I said, this dessert has always been a hit!

I was also quite pleased how easy it was to make!

Medjooled DatesBefore you begin making the crust, you need to soak 1 cup of medjooled dates in warm water for 10 minutes. Be sure to remove the pits from the dates. ๐Ÿ™‚

Rolled OatsWhile the dates are soaking, measure and process 1 1/4 cup of rolled oats in a food processor (my processor is already dirty because this was my second batch…I told you this dessert was a hit!).

Oats and Pumpkin SpiceWhen the rolled oats have been processed, add 1 to 1 1/2 tsp of pumpkin spice into the processor (the pumpkin spice depends on how much you love the pumpkin flavor!). Process until it is evenly mixed in the oats.

Soaked Medjooled DatesRemember those medjooled dates that were soaking? Now it is time to drain the water and add the dates to the processed oats and pumpkin spice mixture!
It is not photographed, but you also need to add in approximately 2 tbs of agave or any other sweetener like maple syrup (If I ever felt like the mixture was too dry or not mixing well, I added in more agave).
Side note: My processor is quite small. I had difficulties mixing in the dates. As a result, I removed half of the oat mixture and half of the dates. As I processed the dates and oat mixture together, I slowly added the potions I set aside.

Date and Oat MixtureProcess the date, agave, and oat mixture until it is nice and sticky! It should look like this! ๐Ÿ™‚

Crust and Pumpkin FillingBefore you make the filling, you need to form the date and oat mixture into the crusts! Scoop out approximately 2 tbs of the mix into a cupcake pan. My pan is made out of a material that allows me to bend and invert the pan. If you do not have a pan like this, be sure to line the pan with the paper cupcake wrappers or line the pans with plastic wrap.

Once the molds are made, freeze them for approximately 15 minutes. If you freeze them longer it is fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, in the top part of this photo you see coconut cream, agave (or maple syrup), and pumpkin puree (I had to make my own pumpkin puree because South Korea does not sell it in the cans…this was better anyways! The puree was sweeter than what you get from a can.).

In the processor, mix 1 cup of the pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup coconut cream, and 2 tbs of agave. At one point I felt the mixture was too thin, so I just added in more pumpkin puree to thicken it up. ๐Ÿ™‚

Pumpkin CupcakesOnce the filling is complete, remove the cupcake pan from the freezer and add the filling into the crust! To decorate the dessert, you can add cacao bits or anything else you want to the top!

Side note: If you want this dessert to be 100% vegan, yet you do not have cacao bits then it is okay! If you decide to use chocolate chips then either get dark chocolate OR vegan chocolate chips. I buy vegan, semi-sweet chocolate chips from Costco. It uses vanilla powder instead of milk products to give it the semi-sweet flavor.

Finally, put the desserts in the freezer for another 15 minutes until the filling solidifies. You can also keep the desserts in the freezer until you are ready to serve them!

Pumpkin CupcakesENJOY!

Vegan Gluten Free Pumpkin Cupcake

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Difficulty Level: Easy
Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients
1 cup soaked medjooled dates
11/4 rolled oates
1 – 11/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
2 tablespoons agave (maple syrup) for crust

1 cup pumpkin purรฉe
1/4 cup coconut cream
2 tablespoons agave (maple syrup) for filling

Cacao nibs

Instructions
1. Soak 1 cup of medjooled dates in warm water for 10 minutes.

2. Process 1 1/4 cup of rolled oats and 1 -1 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice in a food processor.

3. Add and process soaked (drained) medjooled dates and 2 tbs agave.

4. Once the crust mixture is nice and sticky, scoop out approximately 2 tbs of mixture into one cupcake mole. Form the sticky mixture until you create the crust which should look like a miniature bowl. Do this until you have created approximately 6 crusts.

5. Freeze cupcake crusts for approximately 15 minutes.

6. In the food processor mixย 1 cup of the pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup coconut cream, and 2 tbs of agave.

7. Remove cupcake crusts and fill them with the pumpkin filling you just created!

8. Top cupcakes with cacao bits or any topping of your desire!

9. Freeze for 15 minutes so the filling can solidify.

10. Enjoy and try not to eat them all in one sitting! ๐Ÿ˜›

 

A Weekend in Seoul

I am deeply sorry, as my last post was nearly a month ago! This last month was my first month teaching, but now that my life has finally settled down (because I have my time management figured out), I will be making regular, weekly posts! I have quite a few topics to reflect on, so I will post each reflection once a week until I have brought everyone up-to-date!

The following post is an insert of my journal which I recorded on September 7th while spending my first weekend in Seoul:

As I sit in a cafe, sipping on Korean tea and eating traditional dessert, I reflect on my weekend. David (my college friend) and I decided to head up to Seoul for his last weekend in South Korea (David had been traveling Asia all summer and one of is stops was South Korea to visit me). We arrived to Seoul late Friday night after taking the bullet train. The bullet train got up to 300 kilometers per hour! That night we stayed at Bong House…my first hostel! It was great! I will be staying at more hostels throughout my travels. As for Saturday, Dave and I went to Gangnam to walk around, shop, and dance…Gangnam style. ๐Ÿ˜‰ This was Dave’s last day in Asia and I am very happy he ended his trip by staying with me…for three weeks! It was great to have someone to explore with!

The next day, I had the whole day all to myself because David left for the United States early that morning. This was the first time in three weeks that I was alone! I decided to spend the day at Insadong (์ธ์‚ฌ๋™). This area of Seoul is filled with people and shops selling traditional Korean souvenirs. While there, I finally purchased my first pair of chopsticks and gifts for family members.

Now…I am relaxing as I write this entry. The theme in this Insadong cafe is amazing. At each table is a notebook/journal that people may write in. Every entry is torn from the journals and placed under glass table toppers at each booth, or hung on the wall. There are hundreds of entries! Everyone is able to leave their mark at this cafe.

I admire all of these entries. I began to think about how I need to leave a mark everywhere I go and with everyone I meet. Individuals never know how much of a lasting effect they can leave. It is my goal to always leave a positive, lasting impression with everyone I meet and everywhere I go! I am excited to leave my mark these next two years in South Korea. Hopefully one day I will be the effects that it made on other individuals. ๐Ÿ™‚

The following photos are from my time in Seoul. There is no particular order to these photos. I would like some of them to be closer to one another because some photos have explanations in the captions. I guess you will just have to look at them all! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Yeoncheonbong Peak Reflection

The following is an insert of what I wrote on top of Yeoncheonbong Peak:

Today marks the first day of many solo hikes. As I sit on the top of Yeoncheonbong Peak, 756 meters above sea level, I gaze out at the mountain peaks that sporadically vanish into the foggy mist above. Although this summit is not the highest on this particular range, it is just as beautiful. If anything, it is better. I have been sitting on the highest point of the Yeoncheonbong Peak for approximately 30 minutes now and I have only seen two other people. It is so peaceful. What makes this view exquisite is the absence of trees which allows me to see everything surrounding the mountain.

These mountains, or any mountains, will cease to exhaust me. To see the small wonders in this world causes an individual realize that there is always more to see. Whether these wonders are beautiful or not, it is worth experiencing. These new experiences cause an individual to realize how miniscule his or her life is in this world.

In this world we have become so materialistic. We have become fixated on having the biggest house, newest technology, or most expensive clothes or jewelry. What does that do for an individual internally? Instead of using our resources to satisfy our acquisitive nature towards items, we should use our resources to better ourselves mentally or spiritually. If more individuals were to do this we may better understand and appreciate the world.

This hike cost me $3.75 in transportation and $2 in entrance fees. Six dollars cannot buy me the most popular apparel or newest item on the market, but instead it gave me an enduring view. The path I took to reach the precipice was rocky and challenging. I had to push myself up the mountain to view the land below from a different perspective. Although the path chosen was difficult, I would take this experience I received when reaching my destination over any materialistic item any day.

A Night Out

Saturday night, my friend and I decided to take a trip to Daejeon Station which is an area that has a decent shopping selection. We ended up spending a few hours there walking up and down the streets where people sold seafood, knick-knacks, food, and pets! Afterwards we made our way to a college area and went to a bar, Santa Claus. This bar gives English speakers a taste of home because it is an English bar that is open and is filled with Englishย music, a foosball table, and a pool table!

Additionally, my friend met a very friendly couple who latched onto him quickly. They ended their long night of conversing by walking down the street embracing their new friendship through some lovely hand holding. ๐Ÿ™‚

Korean’s are so adorable.

Mama and Sons: French Toast

My first American-ish meal! A friend told me about this restaurant, Mama and Sons, that is located a block away from my work. I am so glad he told me about this place! I ordered french toast and it is the best french toast I have ever had. I need to learn how to make this heavenly meal! This meal was basically a stuffed french toast. Inside was cheese, peppers, onions, meat, and some red sauce. It may sound odd, but do not judge until you try it!

My mouth is already watering thinking about it. Yep…going to go eat it now! ๐Ÿ™‚

Soju

Soju is another staple drink in South Korea. I had to try it because it is very popular in this country. Unfortunately, I believe it is disgusting! I am not a vodka lover and this drink tasteย similar toย vodka minus the lingering taste vodka leaves. Also, with the soju came a slab of baked eggs with vegetables. I do not see how Koreans can eat so much! They order food with every drink!

Why Travel?

As I approached the windows my eyes became fixated on the endless, illuminating lights of the city. These lights paved the roads, enhanced the beauty of the cityโ€™s architecture, and illuminated the life below. It was at that moment, standing on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower, 1,000 feet above the city of Chicago, when I realized that there was more to see in life. Through traveling I come to understand life by exposing myself to new cultures. The most efficient way to experience new cultures is to develop relationships with individuals around the world, and I may do so by utilizing my passion for teaching.

Prior to my departure and following my arrival to South Korea, people would ask why. Friends and family members continue to ask me where my desire to teach and live overseas derive from. My answer is quite clear and after living in South Korea for two weeks, my surroundings and experiences support my claim and desire to leave the United States.

According to Dr. James P. Comer, founder and chairman of the School Development Program at Yale University, โ€œno significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.โ€ A great aspect about building these relationships is that it can be done while learning. Students and new friends are able to disclose information about their lives, beliefs, and interests. Individuals are able to build relationships when they disclose mutual or different experiences about their lives. Through deliberation, learning is not a linear process; instead everyone learns from one another, which is the foundation for my passion for teaching.

I was raised in rural Nebraska with a low population of Caucasian farmers. As a result, I experienced little diversity and only knew one way of life. As a teenager, I wanted to leave Nebraska and see the world. I desired to experience a new way of life, customs, and scripts of a new group of people. It is not until one fully immerses him or herself into another individual’s “raw” culture that he or she can truly understand, empathize, and appreciate another person’s way of life. The most intriguing part of a culture is to understand how it was developed and understand the mannerisms of its people. By doing so, one needs to understand the culture’s history. Korea has a much richer and broader culture because it has a much longer history compared to the fledging United States.

Korea offers ample opportunities for me to learn and experience a new culture. It is my aspiration to experience the South Korean culture through my passion for teaching. My philosophy of teaching through deliberation will assist with my desire to learn more about the culture. As stated, through deliberation individuals, including the teacher, share interests, values, and experiences about their way of life with one another. If I am immersed in the South Korean culture, not only will I have the opportunity to make a difference in South Korea, but South Korea can make a difference in my life by helping me grow and become more culturally competent.

Since my new life in South Korea began, I have had the opportunity to complete my first mountain hike. My day at Gyeryongsan National Park was spent hiking 9.8 kilometers (6.1 miles) up two peaks. The first peak, Gwaneumbong Peak, was 816 meters (2,677 feet) above sea level. After my first summit, I made it to the second peak, Sambulbong, at 775 meters (2,543 feet). While descending the mountain I came across a Buddhist temple that filled the mountain side with soothing music. This hike reassured me that my decision to leave the United States is what I need for this new chapter in my life. After reaching the first summit, I sat on the precipice of the mountain, 2,677 feet above Daejeon City…my new home. As the valleys and mountains intersected one another, I experienced the same emotion that the view from the Hancock Tower elicited. I am exactly where I am meant to be. Observing how the mountains fade off in the distance, I admired this enticing sight. This is only the outer layer of South Korea. Its “cover” has captured attention. I am now ready to turn the pages and penetrate deeper into what makes this culture beautiful.

To truly understand life, one cannot simply expose him or herself to the outer beauty of a culture. Instead, it is necessary for one to delve deeper into the culture’s history and mannerisms. As I stood on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower, I had never been exposed to so much beauty. I found this entrancing and life changing not because of the view, but because everything around me was new. My new view in Korea has drastically changed from illuminating lights to a city surrounded by rolling mountains. I am now being exposed to a new way of life…a new culture.