Saturday, December 31, 2011

Little Giraffe: a book inspired by my students, travels, and neice

Over the course of the past year, I endured Korea, through the good and the bad. I made friends, taught English, and rediscovered my passion for teaching and making art. During my summer vacation, I started working on my own Eric Carle style book. I had been inspired by my students' books and had rediscovered an interest in creating my own children's book.

Based on my family and travels, the story Little Giraffe chronicles Little Giraffe's quest for pieces to an unknown object. She travels to many places I have been to and loved.

Little Giraffe
by Kimberly Cochrane
Little Giraffe

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Homemade Absolut Anise - check!

Operation Absolut Anise was a success, after a week and a half of sitting, it is passable as pastis, though not quite as milky colored when water is added.

The process was fairly simple and hands off, and I am pleasantly surprised by the results.

Hopefully, in another week, my homemade pastis (which is illegal in France, apparently) will be able to transport my tastebuds back to Marseille.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Absolut Anise

Day Nine?? Smells wonderful. Tomorrow will be another test sip.
Day Six
Day Five
Day Four
Day Three
Day Two
Day One
The beginning of homemade pastis (or maybe just anise infused vodka). 

Buy a bottle of vodka. 
Crush some anise seed. 
Put crushed anise seed in bottle.
Let sit for at least a week.

If you would like a little more background on "Why?!" please read my post: Pastis and Rosé.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pastis and Rosé

During my two week escape to Marseille in June, I fell in love with pastis and rosé. Pastis is a Marseillaise aperitif that tastes like anise. Rosé is a pink colored wine and is a lovely alternative to a red wine in the summer because you drink it chilled or on ice. If you like wine, you will probably like rosé, especially if it comes from Marseille. If you like black licorice, you will probably like pastis. Not only does pastis taste good, as an aperitif, it boasts the ability to aid digestion. Best consumed before eating a big meal, with a few savory snacks, pastis gets things going, and rosé keeps it going.

Thus when I returned to Korea, from my dream in the south of France, I had in tow a bottle of pastis, two bottles of rosé and two bottles of red wine, along with cheese, of course!

The wine was gone in less than two weeks. I kept two bottles of wine, one rosé and one red, at home for my own consumption, and I took two bottles, one rosé and one red, to school to share with my Korean coworkers. I had promised them wine as a thank you, and I delivered.

Little did I know, most Koreans do not like real, good wine. They want sweet wine. So their first response to both bottles of wine was a funny look on their faces and a comment about how dry and not sweet it was. I tried to accept their tastes calmly and talk to them about what I knew about wines, but I almost freaked out when one of my coworkers said, "This would be better with cider."

Cider is basically a lemon-lime type soda.

That was the end of sharing things that I truly love with my coworkers.

The cheese was gone in a few weeks. I did not share it with my coworkers, even though it went fabulously with the wine, mainly because they were stronger cheeses and Korean taste is accustomed to Kraft Singles style cheese.

The pastis I kept to myself, and I tried to make it last as long as possible. Slowly but surely, my attempt to conserve this lovely aperitif turned into a nightly ritual. My schedule did not allow for a leisurely two or three hour French lunch in the middle of the day, so I settled on a bit of popcorn and pastis while winding down before bed.

My empty bottle of pastis

After almost two months of nursing the bottle of pastis, I had finished it. It was a sad day, and I am convinced that my digestive tract is still trying to survive without it. So, while in Seoul, when we found a French restaurant, my first question to the waiter was ... "Do you have pastis?"

And they did.

While the aperitif part of our meal was a bit rushed, I still enjoyed the pastis. A taste of heaven.

I am now on the hunt for a bottle of Marseillaise pastis to share with my family when I return to the States. While I'm not certain I will be able to find it here in Korea, I am crossing my fingers that somehow, somewhere, I can at least order it on the internet in America.

The rest of my dream will just have to wait until January.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Seoul is to Korea as ... ______ is to ______

... Moscow is to Russia.
... Boise is to Idaho.

After eleven months in Korea, I finally made it to Seoul. It's not really Korea. People speak English. There's a huge variety of foreign food, not just the regular pasta and waffles. And the number of foreigners is astounding.

Before visiting, I was skeptical. I knew it would be a huge city, with lots of people, and whenever I thought of this in comparison to the lovely, closer option of Busan, I ALWAYS opted for the beach. So, when I finally made it to Seoul, I was pleasantly surprised.

Ulsan, marked in the white circle, is where I am located. Busan (the blue circle) is the second largest city in South Korea and boasts a few lovely beaches. Seoul (the yellow star) is "really" far away.

I had low expectations for Seoul. I thought of a crowded, overpopulated mess of people. I lived in Moscow for nearly two years. I knew what a city was like. But as with all things in life, you do not really know it until you try it.

One of the best discoveries in Seoul, was a design museum / cafe combination in Hongdae. While it can be a bit tricky to find the first time, it is well worth the journey. aA Cafe is a simple, modernist style building full of custom furniture and designed like an old warehouse, brewery, or art school. The large windows let in as much light as possible, and the feeling of the exterior and interior made me think of Frank Lloyd Wright's work and a smattering of other modernist architecture and interior design that I was briefly exposed to at University.

Sitting in aA Cafe

Unlike (or the same as) similar places in America, I do not think this place was EVER anything other than what it is now, but that does not lessen it's charm or character. The ambiance is created by lofty ceilings, huge hanging lights, brick walls, and mismatch furniture. The knowledge that there is a museum directly underneath the cafe, which houses a variety of "antiques" and modern creations, and the assumption that there is a studio above the cafe where people create beautiful, yet simple, furniture contribute to the illusion that Korea, full of it's nearly formulaic glitter and cuteness, has been left far behind.

Part of the museum ... no sitting here.

Rivaling the discovery of aA Cafe, away from the noise and chaos of the city, the Han River provides a calm that cannot be found in the overcrowded shopping districts. The old river stretches off into the distance and allows for windsurfers, jet skiers, and sail boaters to enjoy a lovely Sunday afternoon. A paved path runs along the river and connects the various districts of Seoul in a non commercial space. Young and old, families, couples, and a variety of others utilize this path. As I walked along the river near Itaewon toward the 63 Building, enjoying my solitude and the peace and quiet, a realization dawned. Unlike Ulsan's Taewha River path, the path along the Han lacks speakers. There is NO K-Pop blaring. There is NO classical music. There is absolutely NO manufactured, constant sound, and the effect is refreshing. In the stretches of path away from bridges, the main sounds that could be heard were the river, crickets, and cars and trains in the distance.

Before arriving in Seoul, my expectations were low if not nonexistent. I knew it would be a city. I knew it would be different from Ulsan because there would be a variety of foreign food, though I had no idea the extent of that variety - Itaewon boasts everything from Mexican to Thai to French to Arabic and more. I knew at times I would feel claustrophobic because of the shear number of people, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. A lovely cosmopolitan change from the more conservative and isolated areas of Korea, Seoul has character, and I would highly recommend it, in small doses, for anyone living in Korea.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Art class in Ulsan: Eric Carle Style books

Surprisingly, the end of the Summer Art Class came faster than I expected.

Halfway through the class, the girls asked if they were JUST making a book. They had seen the work of the Winter Art Class and were a bit disappointed by how few projects we were tackling, but as they began to see their stories and books take shape, all their reservations disappeared.

The girls did an excellent job, especially considering the lag in the middle of the course, when they weren't quite sure what they were working toward. During this class, I wanted to avoid giving too much direction, so I didn't have a finished book for the students to look at, at all. In retrospect a bit more direction, perhaps with an "empty" book, might have been a happy middle ground. It would have provided motivation, but it also might have taken away the surprise at the end!

After much work in class, and hours spent at home binding the books, the Eric Carle style, illustrated books are finished!

Here are the results:

Lena's book: Caterpillar's Story
One day there lived a caterpillar. The caterpillar wanted to be a butterfly.
So the caterpillar ate many leaves.
But the caterpillar just got bigger and bigger.
The caterpillar was sad.
So, the caterpillar visited a butterfly. The caterpillar asked, and the butterfly answered.
"Go to the branch." The caterpillar listened. She went to the branch.
At last the caterpillar changed into a butterfly.
At last the caterpillar changed into a butterfly.
About the author.

Emma's book: The Ladybug's Adventure

One day, the ladybug lived in a leaf, but the ladybug didn't eat anything. So the ladybug was hungry, and she found some food with friends.
First the ladybug found an apple at the fruit store. The ladybug said, "Umm ... It's yummy!" but they were still hungry.
The ladybugs found a leaf in the woods. "Yuck!" The leaf was so bad!

And the leaf was next to the honey. "Wow, this is sweet!" They ate the honey and ate snacks too.

So the ladybug was full.
The ladybug said, "Oh! I am a happy ladybug!"
About the author.

Ana's book: Bunny Has Many Friends

One day, there was a bunny. The bunny didn't have friends and the bunny wanted friends.
But, it had only one friend. It was a squirrel. One day the bunny visited the bird's house.
The bunny said to the bird, "I want to be friends with you." So the bird said, "I don't want to be your friend because you can't fly."
So, the bunny was sad, but the bunny didn't cry.
And the bunny went to the squirrel's house. "Hello, squirrel. I don't have any friends."
The bunny was very sad, so the bunny wept.
The bunny grew, and now the bunny is a rabbit, so now the bunny has four friends.
Two squirrels and two birds. The rabbit was so happy!
About the author.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Art class in Ulsan: Eric Carle Style Illustrations

As stated previously, Korean students study ALL the time. Even during break they go to academy or sign up for extra classes at their school. For me this has resulted in the wonderful benefit of an art class. (See Art class in Ulsan for pictures and information about the winter art class with four boys.)

The summer art class has taken a different turn entirely. This is partly due to higher expectations of the students involved and partly due to their longer attention spans and increased patience. What started as a seemingly simple idea to create books, has evolved into a full out course on Eric Carle style illustrations.

With the help of Eric Carle's website and a slideshow on his books, I introduced my students to the concept of creating illustrations and making stories in the style of Eric Carle. We did not have access to his actual books. Yet it all worked out for the best.

Based on Carle's illustrations, I had the students brainstorm and discuss what they thought the stories were about. I discovered that this opened a door to the creative process. They couldn't copy the stories because the stories weren't there to copy! Many students, especially studious Korean girls, want to do everything "perfectly", but in art nothing is right or wrong. Not having an "answer" available created a bit of confusion at first, but they have begun an awesome journey toward original stories.

After the students decided on a main character and worked on their stories a bit, we painted tissue paper.

The students were a bit surprised at what happened to the table underneath their tissue paper, but it was easily wiped off.

At home, I was lazy and didn't wipe between each piece of tissue paper. This is the result.

Unfortunately the time allowed in class for painting tissue paper wasn't quite enough, so I went home and painted MORE tissue paper because of our time constraints.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

They come in all sizes: a wishbone the size of a quarter

After eight months, I have finally made it full circle and am following up on my comparison of chicken in the States in Russia and FINALLY in Korea. While I have been eating chicken for eight months, and more than likely I bought my first whole chicken after less than a month of being here, my observation comes about mainly because I found a wishbone for the first time in my life.

Wishbones bring a certain air of nostalgia with them (for me anyway).

I remember playing tug-of-war with my sister over the wishbone as a kid.

After the chicken was cut into parts, we would wait, eagerly anticipating that fateful moment which would determine whose wish came true. Of course, because the wishbone had to dry and get brittle, so it would break and not bend, usually by the time it was dry enough, we had forgotten about it.

But eventually, one evening, after dinner and after the dishes were finished, someone would find the dried-out, ripe wishbone on the window seal behind the sink. Suddenly, we would remember that we had a potential wish coming.

My sister would grab one side of the wishbone, and I would grab the other. Then, we would pull. Most of the time this was a quick process. The wishbone would snap in two. As a result, one of us would get the larger part as well as our wish, but when we were very young or if the wishbone came from a particularly hearty chicken or we didn’t wait quite long enough, it could be a struggle.

Occasionally, wishes must be earned.

Despite the nostalgia, many of my wishbone memories involve wishing and tug-of-war, not the wishbone directly after it came out of the chicken. I think some part of me knew it was like a human’s collarbone, and it would be located at the top of the breast. Yet, I had never deliberately looked for the wishbone. I realized for the first time the other day, that I had never found one AND I wasn’t one hundred percent certain of its location. My theory, and I was right, was that I usually cut it in half in the process of extracting the breast meat.

Today, tired of eating eggs and not quite in the mood to splurge on beef as I did, for the first time, last Friday, I eyed the chicken.

In the supermarket near my apartment there is a whole section for chicken. Categorized shelves display different sizes, cuts, and seasonings. Despite myriad options, or perhaps because of them, I grabbed the least expensive chicken. When I picked it up, I realized, even for Russian chicken standards this one would be considered small. Yet, it sat on the shelf next to enormous beast chicken and even rooster!

Thinking I had picked a decent chicken, I got it home, and started cutting it apart. Unfortunately, small does not mean active. Chicken in Korea comes in literally all shapes, sizes, and fat contents. Perhaps if I could understand the Korean I can sound out, then I would be able to discern between sedentary chickens and chickens who got to “run around like chickens with their heads cut off”.

As I cut the chicken, I remembered that I wanted to find the wishbone and searched briefly before finding it. Unless my memory of wishbones is faulty, I now have evidence for how small this chicken was. And in discovering the location of the wishbone, I now have an objective way to measure the size of chickens throughout the world …

Specimen 1: Chicken from MegaMart in Ulsan, Korea. Purchased 18 May 2011.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A deer? In Ulsan?: Ulsan Grand Park rediscovered

As a girl from Idaho, a fairly sparsely populated region of the world, I have certain expectations about what “nature” should be like. But travelling outside of my part of the States has proven that many of these expectations are unrealistic for the majority people living in or near big cities.

Taking my experiences, I previously had quite low expectations for nature in Korea. Nature and “wilderness” equaled a well beaten path, people not too far in front of or behind you, and wildlife that hardly ever showed its face … except magpies, pigeons, bugs, etc., that are used to the presence of humans. So, this morning brought me a pleasant surprise.

I woke up with an itch to get outside, lay on the beach, and draw. Unfortunately, the weather was not about to let that happen.

I woke up to hazy skies, a bit of wind, and about 16 degrees Celsius instead of the previous day’s 25. Disappointed, I dragged myself out of bed, and thought of alternative plans.

I could go to a coffee shop.

I could stay home.


Maybe I could go to the park?

Finally, I left the house and went to the bus stop. The first bus I saw made my decision for me. It was a bus that took me straight to the entrance of Ulsan’s Grand Park.

My plan? Go to the amphitheater in the park and draw.

When I arrived at the park, despite it being mostly empty, there was a couple walking in front of me with a similar idea … only they planned to have a picnic. They went directly to the location I had chosen in my mind.

Disappointed, but realizing it might be better, I headed off the paved path and into the woods. Not ten steps in, I passed a hiker, so I thought the experience would be as devoid of wildlife as my previous Korean ventures into the “woods.”

But another ten steps in, I startled a deer.

Stunned, I just stopped.

Looking up at the hill, I confirmed what I saw.

The deer, just as stunned, had stopped a bit up the hill.

A deer? In Ulsan? Wow.

My hopes were up, and I continued along the path.

Not two steps later, I heard and saw a woodpecker on a tree directly in front of me. After he caught sight of me, he moved behind the small tree, but he was curiously playing peek-a-boo. As much as I wanted to catch sight of him, he seemed to want to get a glimpse of me.

As I watched the woodpecker, a tufted eared squirrel started yelling obscenities and ran up a tree, while another across the way made a claim on the bark of a dead tree. Gnawing and scratching, tugging and pulling to collect bark … for what? I’m not sure.

Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris coreae, Photo © Tim Edelsten

I was amazed and blown away.

I had seen more wildlife in five minutes than I had in the eight months previous.

I realized that while I had been observing all of this occur around me, I hadn’t seen anyone else. Even more amazingly, this little haven was not far off the paved, overly-manicured park path.

It seems, weekday mornings are the best time to explore Korean “wilderness.”

I had ventured onto Grand Park’s hiking trails before, but on that trek I hadn’t seen any wildlife, aside from the usual bugs and magpies. It was a legitimate hike, but on a Sunday, the trail abounded with people.

I was annoyed by the old man walking behind me with a speaker blaring news. I grumbled to myself, “Haven’t you ever heard of headphones?!”

After being unable to outrun the sound, I slowed to let the man pass and try to get some quiet and hear some birds.

But I ran into another person and another.

And another.

Yes, I am still in Korea.

There was no tricking myself that Sunday.

This morning was different, though brief. The forest was quiet and filled with the racket of wildlife.

As I was leaving, I heard a rustle in the bushes and turned to see a green snake, with a splash of red. As I stopped and turned, another deer bolted into the forest, and I heard a cuckoo call out, though it took me a minute to realize it.

While there was no way I could possibly belief myself to be in Idaho (the wildlife looked much too different, as did the greenery) my brief walk this morning was quite pleasant and incredibly convenient.