Sunday, March 31, 2013

YEAR OF THE WOLF New Book Trailer!

Thank you all for your continued support of the Changeling Sisters series! Movies get trailers, so why not books? Check out the trailer for YEAR OF THE WOLF below:

Monday, March 25, 2013

So You've Arrived in South Korea. Now what?

YOU'VE DONE IT. You've board the plane and jetted to the far side of the world. Your thoughts are consumed with loved ones you've had to bid farewell to, and the students you will meet. Probably the last thing on your mind are those pesky details, like, say, where you'll score a full set of bed sheets or a reasonable cell phone plan. Depending on your teaching contract, you'll be expected to grab a couple of hours of sleep and arrive, fresh and early, at 8:00 in the morning, ready to teach. That being said, here's a quick guide to your new life's utilitarian needs, so you can focus more on lesson plans, and less on where the hell you recharge your T-card. 

The Arrival Store

This very handy online store offers full English speaking services, and has some of the best cell phone plans I've ever seen. Depending on who your company liaison is (mine was Adventure Teaching based in Vancouver, CA) you can pre-order your cellphone ahead of time, and have it ready and waiting for you with your greeter at the airport. I only paid 32,000 won a month, and was free to end my contract at any time. (roughly $32/month). They have an office in Hanam Si, and have always been extremely quick and efficient.

Feel free to browse their other products. Some of the Arrival Store's other "Must-Haves" are helpful like converters or the cleaning kit, but the vast majority you can bring from home or find at local department stores once you gain your footing. They don't charge for international check-on luggage yet!

E-Mart/Lotte Department Store/local market

Immediately upon arriving, find the local subway station or bus stop. Chances are an E-Mart or Lotte Department Store will be close by, which are two of the biggest have-everything chains in South Korea.  But make sure to check out your local market for the best prices on fruits/veggies.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of


"T-money," which stands for "Transportation," is the ultimate rechargeable card to be used when paying for buses or subway rides. For the bus, simply scan your card once upon entering and once more upon exiting. You can buy a T-money card in any subway station, or they are available/rechargeable at convenience stores with the T-Money logo on their window. Subway stations have rechargeable d0-it-yourself booths (select the English-speaking option). 

Photo courtesy of

South Korea Bus System Guide:

Green Bus: Local/City

Red Bus: Express City Buses/Regional

Purple Bus: Airport 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Taming the Feral Cat: Mango

AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER, an adorable little creature will waltz unexpectedly into your life, proceed to wreak havoc, jeopardize your relationship with your landlord, and take all the money you were saving up for...something. In time, you realize you can't imagine life without them.

Meet Mango

Feral cats are everywhere on Oahu. They gather in large colonies in the parking lots after dark, and you can feel all of the luminous eyes watching you as you drive by. It's anyone's guess how Mango found her way from the lot behind Foodland to our neighborhood, but one day, she was there, a skin-and-bones bundle with a striking tortoiseshell coat. She rubbed against the fishing poles and made herself comfortable under the barbeque stand. But the minute she saw us, she was gone in a flash of black fur. 

It was for the best, of course. We had a "no pets rule" in our housing contract. However, the kitten chose to show up while our landlords were away on vacation. She slunk back into our enclosure the next day, certainly not looking any healthier. We left a can of tuna out. Stray or lost pet? Looks like we had committed ourselves to find out. 

My boyfriend and I often argue about who won her trust first, but it look only a couple more bowls of food before I had the distinct honor of being approached. The little kitten mewed, climbed onto my lap, and sniffed my nose. I felt in danger of becoming attached. Since the mangoes were just beginning to ripen to rosy red, "Mango" became her name. And our landlords were due home the next day.

Honesty is the best policy, but it's equally all about timing. When we picked our landlords up from the airport, they were exhausted from an international flight. When to drop the bomb? The moment we pulled into the driveway, little Mango began crying for us. I'd been dreading this moment, of course. Tortoiseshell cats are extremely famous for their "tortitude," a unique personality that includes a most vocal set of lungs. My boyfriend began whistling equally loudly as we helped them unpack, and no one seemed to notice. However, I could already see her black tail darting amongst the bushes, so we managed to pull our landlord Steve* away from his family and broke the news. That was when Mango decided to make her grand entrance. Being incredibly adorable won her some favors, and we agreed to amend our contract, as long as Mango remained an outdoors cat. On Oahu, that's not much of a hardship. When we discovered that Mango had no microchip and no one was looking for her, we officially adopted her.

Mango decided to celebrate by fracturing her leg. 

When I wasn't woken up at 6:00 am by Mango's unceasing cries of "Feed me! Feed me!", a bad feeling settled over me. It only grew worse as two nights passed, and there was no sign of our adopted stray. We searched the neighborhood and put up signs, while all the while trying to fight off the grim feeling that we had found something wonderful only to lose it too soon. I carry memories from childhood of cats going missing and staying that way, so I had a sinking feeling of how this was all going to end. The situation was made even odder by our landlady, who came home early from work one day to find a man poking around the bushes of our yard. He asked if she had seen a "black cat." I have to give our landlady credit; she bravely said, "No! Black cat is mine!" and chased him off. Now we didn't know what to think; was Mango in another house somewhere? 

Two weeks later, I heard a soft, plaintive cry at two in the morning. I flung open the door and there was Mango, limping out of the bushes. She couldn't put any weight on her back leg, but pulled herself so purposefully toward us, confident that the two recent college graduates with student debt and entry level jobs could save her. Thanks, cat. 

We were going to do exactly that. 

The vet gave us the good and the bad news: thankfully, she hadn't broken her leg. She'd fractured it. Because of her young age, there was a good chance that the bone would heal fully. She wouldn't need surgery. She would, however, need to wear a splint and stay in a quiet, dry place for the next two months.

Yeah. You try making a kitten sit still. To give you a visual, we have a little furnished "shed" attached to the studio that was allotted to be her "house." However, Mango refused to remain passively indoors. She learned how to walk on that bright purple cast frighteningly fast; give her an inch, and she'd be off, loping at an odd gait because one leg was higher than the other. The first time she pulled that, our landlord and his daughter chased after her as she made her escape through their backyard; she evaded both of them and disappeared. 

"She'll come back when she's hungry," we told ourselves. "Preferably with the cast on." In fact, the cast was still on when she came back, whining desperately for food, but the bandages were a disaster. The look on the vet's face when we brought her back said it all, and we got another stern lecture about how we needed to keep her "secluded." Only one-and-a-half more months to go. Mango would claw her way to the top shelves of the shed and meow, her face pressed against the top window. I felt like a cruel prison warden. Of course, she'd always "done her business" outside. There's no time like teaching a cat how to use a litter box like when she has a huge clunky cast on. 

She never gave us any trouble when we took her to the vet. Her trust was refreshing. Soon, she stopped trying to escape. The x-rays were promising. When we finally saw the last x-ray two months later, we all breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of new, whole bone, not a fracture in sight. We could take the splint off. Now she just had to wear one of those big white cones to keep her from licking the matted fur of her back leg until it healed, as well as undergo daily massages to regain her muscle strengthbut she was free! Ordeal over, bank account lighter, family happy.

Now I'm pleased to say that Mango has filled out and has a beautiful glossy coat that reminds me of a sun bear's. She's still loud, but has learned that there is a time and a place for that (not at six in the morning). She also sticks by her territory. No more roaming. The craziness seems to be toned down, too: no more wandering on the neighbor's rooftop, although she does like to scare me by waltzing along our thin stone wall, nine feet up in the air. And no more attacking dogsshe picked up a bad habit of stalking passerby walking their dogs, waited until they got close, and then exploded from the bushes in a hissing mass of black fur. (Pomeranians, beware!) Now she spends her days lounging in our backyard, content with chasing geckos and playing with anything that wiggles funny. We're so thankful she came back to us. In honor of such a unique and funny personality, I decided to give Mango her own blog post.

*Names have been changed for the sake of privacy. 
Disclaimer: The above is depicted as fiction, not fact. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

So you've heard of this song. Have you also heard of...

1. Mirrors by Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake scored another hit with "Suit & Tie," but his second song in the most recent Saturday Night Live was a memorable performance as well


2. Radioactive by Imagine Dragons

Get to the chorus and you'll be sold. Yes, I first heard this song on a commercial for Assassin's Creed III. 

3. Higher Than the Clouds by Anuhea

Older song, but wonderfully sweet and fun to sing along to

4. Dream Girl by SHINee

The Korean pop band SHINee has always been fresh and strong, and their latest song is no exception.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Jeju Island 제주도 Part II

IN THE EVENINGS, we liked to head out to Jungmun Resort, a bustling playground of museums, restaurants,  and of course, the luxurious Lotte Hotel. The company Lotte seems to be doing extremely well. Not only do they have some of the biggest clothing department stores/grocery chains on the mainland, but they have their own hotels, too? Pillars, chandeliers,  outdoor pools, and secluded paths curve down to the white sand Jungmun Beach, making the Lotte Hotel a nice stop--just to marvel at the sheer decadence of it all. The waves were huge when we visited, and lifeguards made sure you didn't venture too far past the wave break. Experienced surfers received the green light, however, and could be seen enjoying the waves about a ten-minute paddle out. 

The Jeju Museum of War History and Peace marks both a solemn chapter in the island's history and a promise for a brighter future. Movies and artifacts originating from the Japanese Occupation, which lasted from the beginning of the 20th century until the end of World War II, immortalize the victories and sacrifices of Jeju men and women during those dark days. Visitors can climb a hill to a historic overlook and venture deep into an old tunnel system, in which you might meet a replica of a Japanese soldier or two. 

Venturing deeper into Jeju's history, we took a stroll through the renowned Ssangyong Cave in the lush Hallim Park on the western side of the island. "Ssang Yong" means "Twin Dragons," so named for the uncanny depiction of "scales" and "tails" intertwining on the cavern above our heads. Here's a peek at the uniquely patterned ceiling (Although I can't knock on my Nikon camera, as it has lasted far longer than any iPod, laptop, or phone I've ever owned, it might be time for an upgrade):

Our short window of vacation time drew to a close, just as we were getting comfortable with bus routes. One of Jeju's greatest treasures is all of the unique treats you stumble upon by accident--from obstacle courses, to green tea swiss rolls and lattes, to receiving a special three-legged crow pin from an archery master. My personal favorite was an unnamed lagoon we happened to come across, sandwiched between the roaring ocean and a waterfall. Despite the light rain, it was a beautiful spot to dive in and explore. Spontaneity is awesome. 

On our final day, we bused all the way out to Seong San Ilchulbong, one of the three UNESCO world heritage sites. It's nicknamed the "Castle Sunrise Mount," a striking natural butte on the northeastern side of Jeju Island, just across from U-do. Rain and gray clouds were there to greet us, but despite the weather, throngs of people hiked past a horse pasture and up slick rocks to the very top. Although we couldn't see far out, we could see below, where an unusual little fishing hut had been set up overlooking the bay. 

This was the hang-out spot for local haenyeo (해녀), the famous sea women, who don only black wet suits (no oxygen tanks) and plunge deep into the cool coastal waters, hunting for abalone, conch, sea urchins, and other delectable sea fare. Often well over age 50, these grandmothers have not only wrestled with octopi, but are part of a unique matriarchal tradition that has challenged Confuscian patriarchy, carried out diving missions for their island during World War II, and provided for their families. Today, new conflicts threaten their lifestyle, in the form of naval base construction, a resurgence of increased fishing competition amidst the boom of tourism, and a younger generation that focuses on careers that don't cross paths with literal sharks. How this will change the haenyeo way of life is too soon to tell, but one thing's for sure--these ladies aren't going down without a fight. 

And boy, do they know how to whip up some fine marine cuisine. Until next time, Jeju!

* The above is depicted as fiction, not fact.