5 months for a beach

Born in Florida (The Sunshine State)

Lived in Hawai’i (The Aloha/Rainbow State)

Worked in Thailand (hot a fuuuuuuuuu**)

Currently working in Korea (what’s that white stuff falling from the sky and freezing my skin off?)

– – – – Sad fact: I have been to the beach twice since I have come to Korea—–

The first time on the beach was in Busan back in September during Chuseok. Unfortunately it was so windy that I ended up getting a microdermabrasion treatment courtesy of Mother Nature.

The second time was this past weekend during the frigid month of February. This month has seen more snow in Ulsan than in the last 20 years (allegedly).

Sunday was a beautiful day and my PIA (partner in adventures), Ashley, and I headed to Ilsan Beach. It’s pretty much ‘the’ beach of Ulsan. It’s an hour bus ride away but probably only 30-40 min in a car/on a motorbike. The sun was shining, the temperature was cool, and there was a slight breeze blowing my stray strands into my mouth. Then we got off the bus and suddenly it was a double jacket kind of wind. 

We grabbed a coffee and headed onto the beach. It was a nice, small bay-ish inlet. Upon arrival we were greeted by a Korean totem-pole who seemed to mock our double-jacket response to the weather:


There was thick and coarse sand-colored sand with multi-shaded rocks littering the beach. Along with the litter. But it wasn’t as bad as some beaches I have seen. Children were playing, dogs wearing sweaters and bunny-outfits were frolicking in the sand. It was cold, but it was refreshing. If Superman gets recharged by the Sun, Floridians get recharged by the beach (and sun and summer and margaritas and flipflops).


We walked along the beach and I collected a beautiful shell. Then we headed to the end of the beach and Ash subtly throws in, “Get ready to walk some stairs.” Um what? There was no mention of stairs. . .



So we walked the stairs, stopping now and then to cater to our slightly pathetic asthmatic issues. Halfway up we found a nice rest stop with a beautiful view OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And we kept going. and going. and (think energizer bunny). Then we finally reached the top and a beautiful park was overlooking the bay! There were multiple walking paths and a children’s play area. The trees up here were magnificent!



And then the first totem pole’s cousins made fun of us for taking so long to get up there:



And we walked. And we sang about what we saw. To christmas songs… because we are weird. And that’s what makes us awesome! fa la la la la     la la la laaaaa

then we walked to the viewpoint area. More stairs, up high, really cold, really really windy. But beautiful. We looked at the ocean and were serenaded by some sweet Korean Kenny G sounding guy from the other side of the other beach. We took a lot of pictures, and saw cats that live on the rocks like crazy mountain lion descendants:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrazy people were climbing the rocks. And by crazy people… i really only am displaying my jealousy and not being mentally able to handle doing things that they did… i could barely climb the rock I took the picture from… thanks mom for that fear of heights crap!!


Anyway, it was beautiful and cold and windy and finally the music got to us.

We walked along a rocky beach, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

slowly climbing stairs … enchanted by this serenading saxophone… it was like karaoke being sung by a reed instrument… I was lured up the stairs onto a cliff like Christine Daae being lured by the Phantom. .. and I literally walked like it (Ashley can confirm this).

We watched the krazy Korean playing the saxophone for a song or two. Then we walked along a mysterious road to what we only hoped would be the entrance… and then we came upon the greatest child’s playground toy ever…It was


a see saw. But it was a 6 person see saw!! WHATS!!!! Amaze-balls.







We had found the children’s play area… which meant we were back at the beginning. Then we ate some dope Indian food after walking through a 3-story Daiso and went home and passed the F out.


Overall, for having gone to a beach without requiring a bathing suit and leaving paler than when I arrived, it was a pretty good time.



I’m not sure what has possessed me to acquire these movies recently, but i have been on a 90s kick! I have watched some seriously CGI deficient movies and have loved them more than I did before. In particular, last night I watched Mortal Kombat.

That shit cray!! Foreal?? Scorpion is still my favorite. That thing coming out of his sliced hand freaks me the f* out!! However, still my favorite guy. “Get over here!!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled  a Scorpion when someone is walking away… except that i don’t have anything coming out of my hand. Sadly.
I am realizing while writing this that I think Zimbio is to blame. They’ve had those AWESOME quizzes recently for ’90s boyfriend’ ’90s tv show’ this that and the other. . .((( i’m proud to say I took the Michael Jackson song quiz and got ‘Scream’ – not man in the mirror, but i dont think it was an option))).

Zach Morris is my Bayside guy and Will Smith is my 90s boyfriend lol. Of course I got ‘Amber’ for the Clueless quiz… and yes I totally watched the movie after having taken that quiz. Not that I needed to, I practically know the entire movie.

Which got me onto the Brady Bunch movies. Freakin’ hilarious if you haven’t watched them recently. My friends seemed to think I was crazy for cracking up while watching Spice World: the Spice Girls Movie. That movie has EVERYTHING in it. Car chases, bridge jumps, babies, motorboats, aliens, boot camps, scary stories, and is ENTIRELY tracked by Spice Girl songs!! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not crazy, but that movie was hilarious.

I’ve obtained Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion and I will be watching that sometime this week. Unless I’m in japan… which is in like, 2 days!! <3!!

The Art of Couchsurfing.org



I’m getting pretty excited. I’ve lived a few places that are not easily accessed by friends from home…if I’m lucky I get 1-2 visitors each year. This year, I’m pleased to announce that my friend, Art, is coming for a visit!! Next Thursday we are going to Japan for a few days. Then, of course I have to work and he will get to have all this fun, and then on the weekend, we can go explore somewhere else!!

Have I mentioned how I met Art? I met him through a wonderful networking website called Couchsurfing.org. Couchsurfing allows travelers to visit places and crash on someone’s couch! Sometimes you get a bed, sometimes you get the floor, more than likely you get some form a sofa or couch. Like-minded travelers open up their homes to you for a few nights so you can explore their city. Free of charge. Typically you do something in return, like buy them drinks or dinner. I normally give a massage or clean their house a bit. I also still buy dinner. I have been surfing couches since 2010…technically 2008 but the first person I was to stay with in Germany told my friend and I the day before that there’d be a 60$ charge for each of us per night… that’s not how it works. #asshole

Anyway, I have surfed couches in Austin, Maldives, Hong Kong, Chicago, and Colorado. If you’re not comfortable staying with someone, or they aren’t comfortable staying with you, you can still meet up and have a dandy time.
That’s how I met my friend Brett. I met another couchsurfer and we were headed to Barton Springs in Austin. As we sat on the grass enjoying the sun and sights, I heard this melodic voice accompanying a guitar. I looked back and saw this dark guy with long hair playing the guitar…”Hippies” i thought. But he sang so beautifully. I looked around for this Brett guy who I was supposed to meet up with. I checked my messages and didn’t see any responses. Suddenly the music stopped and the guy started walking over to us. He sat down next to us … it was him. Brett was that angelic sounding hippie. The other CSer left eventually, but Brett and I chatted for hours. We walked through a park along Barton Springs. We made up poems and songs together. It was incredible. This was back in 2010. I’m happy to say we’re still friends and I follow his music career online. Look up Brett Randell.. he’s amazing.
I also surfed the couch of a guy named Matt in Hong Kong. He was from Texas and also had an artistic ability. He was fashionable and appreciated art like no other. He had his own shoe line too. He showed me some great places in Hong Kong. Places I wouldn’t know to go to. I also got to crash a PR event on the roof of the Ritz overlooking the city. We went on a junkboat for a day and saw the skyline light up as the sun fell ((which is my favorite part of cities)). It was so great, that I went back and surfed again for New Years Eve 2013. He has been on a crazy travel adventure and I have followed his journeys via online.
This past summer was a friend’s wedding.. she was like my big sister. There was a chance i wouldn’t make it to her wedding… so I wasn’t going to miss her Bachelorette party for the world. Of course it was in Chicago. I had a great weekend there but wanted to stay an extra day. I had contacted Art via Couchsurfing and was guaranteed a place to crash. I spent the day at the Taste of Chicago, met with two childhood friends for a couple of beers, and Art appeared. He stayed for a beer also and drove me back to his apartment. We chatted and instantly bonded over travel stories. His love for Tokyo was like my love for Hong Kong. I told him there was a possibility I would be in Korea for the next year and he asked if he could come visit if he had the chance. “Of course!” He took me to an unknown breakfast place called Stax and we had the most incredible bacon-chocolate chip pancakes. Yes.. they exist..and yes..they are the greatest pancakes ever. Then he took me to see a view of the chicago skyline from a private residence that he had access to (sneaky!). We drove around Chicago and I got to see famous sites that would have taken me days to find otherwise. We went to a sweet neighborhood where there were strange thrift stores and boutiques. We walked around and joked all day with all the items we found in stores. He was by-far one of the most generous people I have met in my travels.
He messaged me a few months ago and said he had a few weeks off and wanted to come visit. Originally we were going to Taiwan but the tickets ended up costing way more than we expected, so we agreed to visit Japan. He loves Tokyo enough that he could go again without being phased. So, he will be here next week for about 2 weeks. We will go to Tokyo, maybe Seoul, and he will hopefully get to see a bunch of Korea that I couldn’t. I’m really excited to host him. … speaking of which.. I need to clean my apartment.
Have a great weekend, world!


PS – if you’re traveling on a budget, or just want to meet cool people, sign up with couchsurfing.org

Paint happy!

I really love art. I love all sorts of art. I like to draw and paint. I enjoy coloring and decorating. I have fun with arts and crafts. I even enjoy making my food look like art (and then i have to reheat it).


Anyway, it saddens me to say I have not painted anything for at least 6 months. I used to have so much inspiration. Mind you,  I lived in, on, or near a beach before. But even in cities I find such beauty to be inspired by. I don’t know if it’s the teaching that has kept me from producing art or if it’s the cold weather? I have had severe writer’s block too! Well, I write, but I haven’t written outside of my blogs in ages. My poor diary thinks I hate it. And I should have filled my ‘I cant sleep’ book by now.. but instead I just lay there.

Maybe I need to get out more.

Luckily, an awesome aussie here who produces RIDICULOUSLY GOOD paintings had me join an art group on facebook with a daily art ‘challenge’. In the past few days, I have drawn, written, and crafted. Yesterday I bought a 20 pack of paint … I cant wait to crack it open. If the weather wasn’t shit, I would go outside and paint. But seriously..snow? Rain? cold? what was i thinking?


Korean students are rarely creative. They often just copy plots or pictures from the internet instead of using their imagination. I wonder if this is rubbing off on me. My often vivid imagination seems to just stay a blur. Maybe a weekend adventure is needed. I do technically live close to the coast.


Let’s see what I can do, hey? Time to get paint happy


Korean Education: A Student’s Perspective

My (unofficial) gifted class likes to be challenged. So I have them write an essay each month about a ‘hot’ topic. I let them decide topics usually just to see what they’re interested in writing about. They have written about their opinion on a reunification of North and South Koreas, the anti-gay propaganda in Russia, and this last month, they wrote about Korean Education from their perspective. One of my students wrote an unbelievable essay. I went through it and only changed a few grammatical errors (punctuation mostly), but no content of the article has been compromised. And for the sake that he is still a minor (and I dont know the law on naming students publicly in Korea) only the first initial of his English name is being used.


Korean Education Must be Changed


          Nowadays, Korean students are spending a lot of time studying. This may help the improvement of students’ grades, but it doesn’t allow much time for other activities. Also, compared to other countries such as Finland and U.S.A, we have lower student achievements despite the amount of time we spend studying. For this, I think Korean education should be changed. I have two reasons to support my opinion.

First of all, our education is not supportive of the students who are really intelligent and need advanced education. For example, I heard from my mother that she knows a girl who is a genius. All of the people who meet her and talk to her agree that she will go to a better high school and university for higher education. But her family is poor and there is no economic support for her. This makes it impossible for her to get an advanced education, which will allow her to go to a formal high school. On the contrary, my friend’s cousin lives in America. His report card were always straight A’s, so the government supported him with a higher education (gifted) program which led him to become a college student in one of the Ivy League schools. When I compare these two students’ lives, I realize that our education program is not helpful for those who can really help our nation develop in the future.

In addition, our studying methods are too inefficient. In most of the schools in Korea, there are no discussions about what we learn and no other activities to improve our understandings. Teachers just read textbooks and dictate them to students. Although many educators say that this kind of method is wrong and must be changed, the government is not recognizing the importance of change. Moreover, they believe that it is highly productive for students. They say they can prove it by showing the education rank, and we are in the Top 10. But, when we think more carefully, we can easily realize that other countries, like Finland, are better despite the students studying for only five hours. Compared to the average twelve hours of studying in Korea, our education is not efficient. And I know why this contradiction happens in our nation. We don’t have time to think about our future life. If the students could have the opportunity, many students will easily improve their performances with less amount of time. For instance, students who are good at playing sports will train themselves to have a career associated with sports. Students who are looking to become a diplomat will study a foreign language harder. By doing these activities, students can find improvement while enjoying their studies.

I know adults make efforts to improve our academic performances, and I would ask them to change Korean education to support the students with higher IQs, academically and economically. Also, they need to have a discussion about the new education method. It won’t be hard since there are lots of precedents that teach us which method we must not use, or the method that must be used. When we all realize that education is one of the few methods to develop our nation, we will see the need to have a better education system. A better education system means better student performance, it’s more likely to get an advanced education from other nations, and more successful men and women will develop our country to become a strong nation. I do believe that our education must be changed, and it’ll promise a better future for hard-working Korean students.

True Love

We all have that relative who isn’t blood related, a friend of the family who you call “Uncle” or “Aunt.”

I lost one of mine this past week. I met him when I was very young. Too young to really remember. I recall being around him, I recall his house and family. But I may have been 5 years old? It’s that age where you remember smells and tastes but not necessarily the faces.

I met him in South Africa. Uncle Richard was one of my mother’s oldest friends. He was like a brother to her. His family looked at my mother as an unofficial adopted member of the family. Then my mother moved to the US and kept in touch. I heard the stories as all children do. Rolling their eyes and uninterested… but the stories managed to seep in. He was someone my mother loved. He was someone who loved my mother. 

We were loved by him by default. He didn’t need to see us every year. He didn’t need to phone once in a while. My mother kept him up to date.

On September 27, 2012, I sent Uncle Richard an email. It was the first personal correspondence I had attempted since I was 5. He had been diagnosed with cancer and it seemed to be the time to reach out. 

I sent a simple email with greetings, condolences on the diagnosis, and a hope to hear back. And he did. He signed it “I LOVE YOU SHANNI. ALWAYS”. He signed every email with it. We sent updates to each other on email anywhere from daily to monthly. He never failed to tell me he loved me. How can a man who hasn’t seen or heard from the child of his ‘sister’ love someone? I don’t know how to explain it. But I felt it. It’s one of the few times that I actually FELT love through an emotionless form of communication. I can’t say impersonal because it was personal. I sent him pictures of the family and he said how much I look like my mother. I asked to video chat but he did not want me to see him in the state that he was in. He kept me up to date on his chemotherapy and physical therapy. There was a worrisome period where he didn’t respond. He had lost feeling in his hand and was unable to type. I’m thankful he was able to again later. 

About 2 weeks ago, I decided to try and Facetime him. For a blip of a second, his face appeared before disconnecting. It was so old and worn. I mentioned it to my mother. A week later, my mother said she had just Facetimed (a verb?) with him and I should try it as well. He was really sick. Now is the time, she said. So I waited a few minutes and decided to try. He answered and I got to see his face for an entire two minutes. It was a bad time… he was coughing really badly, so he handed off the phone to his niece… “Speak to your cousin” he said. I hadn’t seen her in 20 years but she was so beautiful. We chatted for a few minutes and promised to keep in touch. All I heard was his coughing in the background. She told me to call back in a day. I was headed to the States though, so I figured I would Facetime him with my mother. What a treat that would be for him. 

I got home on Sunday. On Monday my mother told me he was in bad condition. He was slipping in and out of consciousness. Tuesday he was in a coma. And Wednesday, Jan 29th, he was gone. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t get to see his face again. 

It was expected. It always is with cancer. But it doesn’t matter. When it happens, when they’re gone, it still hits hard. It’s like a small piece of your heart twists off. It’s not gone, but only slightly mangled. 

Why would I cry over a man I barely knew? I cried and will cry because he showed me true love. He showed me a love so powerful that it could be felt through an email. I could only imagine the power if I had the chance to hug him. I know he is at peace now. I know he watches over his family and my family. But I sent him one last email anyway, fully aware that he will never see it and I will never get a reply. 

Rest in Peace, Uncle Richard. 

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