Monday, April 30, 2012

Thoughts about LIving Off Grid

It's interesting that most people think of living off grid as strange or extreme.  It saddens me to think about how difficult it is to truly live the, "American Dream".  Despite the state of the economy, many brave individuals have proven that living this way is not only healthier, smarter and better for the environment, but also that it is very doable on a small budget. Unfortunately, there are many unbelievably ridiculous obstacles preventing others, who so desire, from living self-sufficient lives. 

I recently watched Garbage Warriors, the documentary featuring architect Michael Reynolds' three year journey through off-grid earth-ship pioneering hell and back. 

It's very long but well worth it.  You can watch the documentary here.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Eating Mild in South Korea

Korean Food is Spicy!  It's not Mexican food spicy, it's not Indian food spicy, it's not even Thai spicy but it's hot!  So, how can one with very low tolerance for spicy food survive in South Korea?  Well, Korea has a little secret- you can actually find milder cuisine.  Here are a few Korean dishes, some spicy, some not.

Bulgogi (Korean Style bbq beef) with rice and veggies, dumplings,naemyeong (cold noodle soup), sweet pickled radish and kimchi.  Except for the Kimchi, not spicy at all.

Department and Super Store Cuisine. This is what the plastic food looks like in the window.

This is what it actually looks like when you get it.
One of my favorites-kimbap (pretty much like Japanese sushi roll)- Unless you make a special request for it, not spicy.

Chum Chi (Tuna/Mayo)  Kimbap
This is absolutely wonderful! I love having this meal in the winter and/or when I'm feeling a little homesick.  It's almost like my grandfather's hearty chicken and dumpling stew. but without the dumplings and carrots. This dish can be ordered as mild as you like it. If you're at all interested in maintaining the use of your tongue and taste buds,  make sure you say, Waygookin (foreigner) mild not Korean mild.  Yeah, I learned that the hard way.

Black Chicken Soup-Mild without the noodles.

The same stew as above but made the traditional Korean way.  See the heat?  Can you feel it?
Korean Black Chicken Soup
The Korean sweet potato is served up in many ways. Here it's fried, honeyed and topped with almond slices and sprinkled with black sesame. 

Korean Sweet Potato
Korea is known for it's varied inexpensive street food.  You can find Dokkbokki (spicy rice noodle) almost everywhere.  I once actually came across one that I could eat without scorching my tongue but my stomach's rebuttal was very stern and unforgiving.
VERY SPICY! Dokkboki.
One of my favorite side dishes in a very mildly twangy steamed broccoli.

Korean-style broccoli
Very Delicious Ginseng Hen in a Crock- Mild too.

Sides- Salad, garlic, radish kimchi, white kimchi, pickled radish, peppers, soybean paste
Pickled Eggplant

Spicy Sesame Leaves (I can't eat this one)
Spicy Shredded Radish (Too spicy for me)

Bulgogi cooking at the table

The Yummy Chicken Soup again with the noodles but without all the spice.
The Waffle. Koreans love their sugary waffles topped with ice-cream.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Resting in South Korea

My favorite place to take a break in Seoul is P.J. Hotel.  The hotel is located in Seoul with easy access by taxi or bus to many interesting attractions.  I usually just go there for a break- when I need a little time away from it all to think, write, read, shop and/or luxuriate in a nice bath.  The only thing that's missing is room service.  I honestly can't believe that they are lacking in this area.  Shame, shame, shame.

Anywho, I decided to post some pics from some of my South Korea hotel and hostel stays. 

                          PJ Hotel in Seoul near Myeondong

This hotel is a little difficult to locate but it's well worth the journey. (Don't waste your time with the subway. Taxi rides in Seoul are inexpensive) Print the map in Korean and hand it to the taxi driver and let him worry about getting you there. It's a lot better than getting lost down all those smelly side streets.  Once you've had a chance to wander around, then ride the subway.

As with any hotel, the rates at P.J. vary depending on the season, day, demand, etc.
Rooms can be as much as $340 per night for a double.  The room pictured below is the most expensive aside from the penthouse suites.  I never spend this much but I get to stay in the nice suites because I look for deals and always book online through  third-party websites. My advice to you, shop around as there is usually a better deal but be savy enough to know when it's as good as it's going to get and make your move.

Pros:  Clean, spacious, extraordinarily comfortable beds, complimentary tea and kettle, nice traditional options, very friendly staff. Oh, and there's free wifi in the room.

Cons:  As mentioned above, there is no room service. The place is a tad difficult to locate.  The immediate area looks a little grungy (especially at night) with all the long side streets, smelly stalls and wet sidewalks but once you get past all that, it's a nice place to stay.

Entrance to PJ. Hotel, South Korea

PJ Hotel Powder Area

Entrance to Sleeping/Living Area

My favorite Suite. I simply melt in these beds.

Large, flat screen tv w/HD.  I have no idea why anyone would need two but, that's how many you'll find in this suite.

                             Samjung Hotel in Seoul-Gangnam 

There are many expensive hotels in the vicinity. However, Samjung offers an affordable and comfortable opportunity to stay in the area without paying out the nose.

Pros:  Great location, clean and comfortable rooms, good customer service, room service available. Business center. Restaurants, shopping and attractions in walking distance as a few short taxi rides.  The staff is very helpful with recommendations.

Cons: No wifi in the room.

Samjung Hotel Lobby
View from the room.

Room was tight but alright.  These are no P.J. beds but I slept well.

Samjung at night

Gangnam Shopping Area
Love motel or bust.  You haven't experienced all that true Korea has to offer until you've stayed in the infamous LOVE MOTEL.  Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to book a room for more than a few hours. :D  Also, it is possible to book a room for purposes other than a hook-up.  Some of the love motels, call themselves motels while others hide under the guise of a hotel.  Believe me, there isn't much of a difference in the two. However, if you can rent a room for only a few hours, it is NOT your typical hotel.  If the entrance is hidden, it's not your typical hotel.  If by chance, your find complimentary scented condoms in your bathroom, it is not your typical hotel.  If the hallways are dark and the rooms are decorated with murals and there's only a tiny box on the wall in which light struggles to peek through, this is not your typical hotel room.  They have a very odd feel about them however, many of them are quite clean (here I attempt to keep my very active imagination at bay) and accommodating; suitable for a night or two during a short sightseeing outing.  However, spending an entire day in one of these rooms could be quite depressing, given the limited sunlight.

                      Daelim Hotel in Daejeon, South Korea

If you're spending time in Daejeon, this is a good place to stay that's very close to all the action.  There are shops, restaurants, cafes, clubs, cinema, etc.  Only a short walk to Downtown Daejeon which is host to a very lively night life.

Pros: Clean, spacious, affordable, friendly and helpful staff, free breakfast buffet, two desks and computers with free internet in the room, business center in the lobby.  Also, there is a tea and kettle in the room as well as complimentary basic toiletries.

Cons:  No wifi, breakfast buffet not so appetizing. It has that Love Motel feeling about it but, it's not so bad.


Hallway leading to room

Closest thing to a double room

Lobby/Business Center-Computers located on the wall.
Daejeon at night



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Simple Beauty-A Visual Meditation

When I was a child and I heard the elders say, "It's the simple things in life that matter" and "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", I knew exactly what that meant to me.  I think of the the dog that I had for my very own for almost a whole month before he was sent to live with someone else.  I think of the floor to ceiling windows of our near downtown apartment in which I stood staring out at the night sky of the Chicago downtown skyline, It was full of twinkling lights and stars so bright that at times it was  difficult to distinguish them from the reflections of the lights bouncing off  of  Lake Michigan.  I also think of the dirty boy who worked with the horses in the hidden stable across the street- a stable, with horses, right there, in the middle of the city! I think about hopscotches draw in thick chalk on the neighborhood sidewalk and I remember that melting cherry popsicle as it blurred the lines between squares 2 and 3 while the wooden sticks that once held the cold confection together slowly transformed into building pieces for my new jewelry box.

That was then and this is now. However, life's simple beauties still prevail in every corner of the Earth if you only pay attention.  This is what I call, visual meditation because when you focus on the wonderful, yet simple things in life; in nature, it's almost impossible to simultaneously worry about  anything.  Try it:

          (All photos the property of KopperRose)