Language lessons

I finally broke out of my “next week, next week” procrastination mode and signed up for Mandarin Chinese classes. I’ve known about my move to Shanghai since November 2017, and kept telling myself I’ll sign up for classes “next week”. Here I am in July 2018 and, well, I’m in my first week of italki classes.

And looking back at studying Korean – I’m not fluent in Korean, but I’m alright and according to the Korean language board, have the equivalent of TOPIK 5. I don’t believe in those charts about x hours required, because:

They say that for Korean, that takes around 2,000 hours of study. I took a grand total of 380 hours of Korean classes. Levels 2, 3, 4 were 100 hours each. Level 5 was 50 hours. Each class hour was actually 50 minutes of class time, followed by a 10 minute break. And I only attended 80% of my classes because that’s what the minimum attendance requirement was. It’s hard to do a Monday-Friday 9-5, followed by classes from 9-6 on Saturday or Sunday. For Level 2, I had classes from 9-6 on both Saturday and Sunday, with an hourlong commute before and after!

… I attended 100% of my classes for Level 2, come to think of it.

I did a bit of homework and studying outside of class. Randomly chatting to coworkers in Korean. And living in Korea, but does that really count because I’m quite the house mouse?

I’m hoping the same works for Mandarin Chinese. The same words with slightly different pronunciations is throwing me off, though. I’m not sure if that makes it easier or harder.


Lone Digger

Most of Caravan Palace’s songs seem to be a rehash of the same song, but, whatever. I like Lone Digger. Also, I don’t know what’s up with the weird stripper/barfight music video.

Microchip implant

I went to the vet today – twice – to get a microchip implanted in each of my two cats. There was no way I could carry both, so, two trips! There’s a vet right next to my apartment, but the closest vet that does microchips is quite some distance away. Far away enough for a walk to be annoying, close enough that a taxi would seem silly.

The microchip was 35,000 won. And I have two cats, so my total was 70,000 won. I’m glad that’s over with!

And then, to register the microchips. I looked through the list of companies supported by And of all the free registries, I liked the most, much more professional. Unfortunately, it only supports American phone numbers and addresses. I’m a perpetual expat that needs to be able to input non-American phone numbers and addresses. My cats are now registered at

In other news, South Korea is currently playing against Sweden in their first game (I think) of this World Cup round. I’m going to follow the game by analyzing the amount of yelling I hear coming from outside my window. I have to say, 9 pm games are much better than the previous World Cup’s 6 am games or something like that.

Seoul Station

I was in the Seoul Station area this weekend, to apply for my visa to China. Some interesting things:


The fertility center displaying their cryovats, right across from the entrance to the China Visa Center. There’s a joke in here somewhere …


And then I walked across the Seoullo 7017 skygarden, to get to Seoul Station from Seoul Square. I was surprised at the amount of homeless people outside Seoul Station. I’d been outside the old Seoul Station once or twice before, and it was deserted then. Now I’m wondering, did I go at an odd time before, because surely I must have noticed … ? No? I don’t know.

The reason I went to Seoul Station was to go to the 하이마트 electronics center inside Lotte Mart. Annoyingly, I’m in the market for a laptop. I hate laptops. FYI, their prices are so much higher than buying online, in addition to displaying a limited and slightly outdated selection. I had a bit of a tech-head chat with one of the sales guys hanging around the laptop section, and it turns out that the sales staff do not get any sort of commission! They are solely there to assist. I thought that was nice. And then he had to go and say, “Wow, it’s so interesting talking to you; most women are not interested in these kinds of things.”


And a piano at the skygarden. I tested it out and was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was in tune! The outdoor weather can’t be great conditions for a piano, though.

Amsterdam Centraal

All the news are saying that Anthony Bourdain died today.

A long time ago, in a train station in Amsterdam, I kind of crossed paths with him. I didn’t say hi or fangirl because (a) I was in a train that was about to depart, and he was on the platform, and (b) he was working. The film crew repeatedly filmed him going up and down the stairs with a (clearly empty) suitcase, again and again. And then along the platform, again and again, until they got their shot.

At the time, I thought this guy was world-famous. But nobody in that train station seemed to notice or care. In that moment, I realized: Oh shit, he’s only big on American TV! Looking back at it, No Reservations was only on its second season, and Youtube wasn’t a verb yet.

Of all the food and travel shows out there, I think his was by far the best. It’s the adventures of an Everyman who happens to know a lot about cooking, going around and trying out new things, and being open to it.

Adventures in cooking Malaysian food

I’m not Muslim, but all the talk in Malaysia about param (apparently a new thing … pasar ramadan) has me hungry for all the food I used to eat there.

Here’s a snapshot of my adventures in making kuih lapis here in Korea. The only ingredients I had to special-order online was tapioca flour. I also bought a small bottle of pandan extract when I went to Malaysia earlier this year, and I used that. I don’t know if it’s possible to buy pandan extract or (frozen?) pandan leaves in Korea. Somewhere online, I’m sure.

I followed this kuih lapis recipe, including the reduction of sugar to 280 g. Tastes just right! 400 g of sugar must be a bit crazy. I think I added a 1.5 teaspoons of pandan extract.

First of all, rainbow kuih lapis! I have a food coloring set, but it only has red, blue, yellow, and green. And because my K-12 education never once mentioned color wheels, I had to pull up a photo of a color wheel online, to figure out what combination of colors to mix. Haha! Don’t worry, I’m not that helpless. I only needed it to figure out the red/blue balance of indigo and violet. It’s not easy for some of us, okay!?

And after that, I repeatedly had to recite ROY G BIV in reverse, because the first layer I poured in was V.

The rainbow kuih lapis looked great and tasted authentic, but the layers wouldn’t peel! My mother later told me that between steamings, the pot lid should be removed (while continuing to boil) for a minute or so until the layer has visibly set. Pour in next layer, cover with lid.


I had some leftovers because my pan was only a 6 inch round pan. So, I decided to use the typical Korean 떡 (tteok) rice cake colors of white, pink, and green. It actually looks quite Malaysian, too.

And I did remove the pot lid between steamings, and yes, it’s now possible to peel off the separate layers. I’m ready to open for business! (or not…)

And then I attempted chicken rendang, except that I used maybe too much turmeric (super yellow!), and I didn’t have any lengkuas or serai. I didn’t have any cili padi, so I dumped in some bottled sos cili padi – same thing, no? As for kerisik, hey, I have shredded coconut. Just pan-fry it in a dry pan until it browns, right?

After eating it, I realized I actually made a standard curry, not rendang. Haha! Don’t know why that didn’t occur to me earlier.

Mac and cheese burger

For this past week, I didn’t have any food ready for breakfast at home. So, before going to work, I ended up dropping by 7-11 to buy whatever 2,000 won burger struck my fancy.

This one’s the “Mac and Deep Cheese Burger”, which tasted vaguely jalapeno cheese-esque. There was way too much sauce and it got kind of gross towards the end. I skipped lunch because I still felt full and kind of grossed out.

Considering a 2DS

I’ve been considering a portable gaming device (other than my phone), and the 2DS crossed my mind. I had a DS Lite in college and playing Space Invaders Extreme between classes was THE BEST THING EVER.

Not that I want to get a game console just to play Space Invaders…

Anyway, back in the day, my Space Invaders gaming machine was a pretty awesome champagne gold Zelda edition. Turns out, they have a Zelda edition for the 2DS. Hey, maybe check that out, right?


It’s super green. I’m not getting it. It gives me John Deere farming vibes.


Dirty Computer

It’s only April, and I’m convinced that Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer album is going to be my favorite album this year.

Here’s the visual portion of the album.