About tonyagarrick

Southern wife, mom of 2 teenage boys and 1 beautiful little girl, middle school teacher, expat. My loves: reading, laughing, the beach, coffee and Coke, nature, newness, education, art, travel. Do not love: seafood, lies, boredom, scary stuff. This blog is about our family and our adventures through life, wherever that may lead. Current home: South Korea

Things That Make Seoul Home

These are many things that I love about living in Korea.

I love having seasons. I’ve mentioned this before, but I really do. Four seasons that are predictable, almost to the exact date that they’re supposed to change. The scenery is great, too. Cherry blossoms, mountains, the Han river. That reminds me that I still haven’t been on a dinner cruise yet. I’ll add that to my short list.

Coffee shops and bakeries everywhere! Of course, this isn’t great for diet goals, but still, quite convenient. I caused the convenient store attendant much stress because I filled my cup with coffee BEFORE adding the powdered creamer. He was in quite the dilemma, not knowing if I could add it afterward. I convinced him that it would be fine. I was right! This conversation happened with about 3 Korean words from me and 3 English words from him, lots of gestures and facial expressions and carrying on in our native languages.

Transportation. I haven’t had any problems using public transportation. No taxi issues that weren’t caused by my lack of Korean language skills, no major incidents on subways that weren’t my fault because I’m directionally challenged and a scheduling system for buses and subways that runs like clockwork. Once on the subway, it takes about 7 minutes to get to the station right below the school. However, I did recently realize that I need to learn how to exit a bus a bit more gracefully. I’m tall, there was a pole in the way, I kneed myself in the chin…and then I got off.

Walking around the city. Seoul is made for walking. Sidewalks everywhere, so when I walk down to get coffee, I don’t feel quite as guilty about it. I do want to venture out more into the many (huge) parks and explore those areas, too. That’s also on my list of goals for the year. (You know how people choose words for the year to keep them inspired and motivated? My word is MORE. More on that another day…)

Art classes. I’ve been to many painting parties and a few art sessions that are geared more toward teaching you how to draw, paint, etc. It’s quite therapeutic for me and I usually go with friends. (It’s cheaper than therapy!)

Safety. It’s just safe here. I feel fine walking by myself, letting the kids take taxis and subways home. Granted, I’m rarely out after midnight with the partiers, but I haven’t had any concerns worth mentioning. It can be an odd feeling when you go to another country and have to hold onto your belongings so as not to be pick pocketed. That is not a concern here.

Restaurants galore. You can find fast food, casual dining, fancy restaurants (or so I’ve heard!) from everywhere. Thai food, Vietnamese, American, Chinese (that’s not really Chinese), Mexican (again, not really Mexican), Korean food of all kinds, Baskin Robbins, Krispy Kreme…you know, the essentials. There are even ramen restaurants.

Tied to restaurants is the amazing delivery services! This was fairly new when we moved here, but now we’re pros at using it. Order and pay online, have it delivered within the hour. Yes, it can get out of hand if we aren’t careful.

A great airport and the ability to travel during breaks. You can find short and long trips whenever you want to get out of the city. Also, there are several tour companies within Seoul that will take you places near the city. That’s pretty convenient since I would have no idea where to go strawberry picking or ice fishing, otherwise.

The Olympics being hosted here next month. That’s probably the only time we’ll have the chance to experience any Olympic games, so it should be fun. We’re planning on going to 1 hockey game. No clue who’s playing.

Smaller list of not so favorite things:

There isn’t a lot of available parking, stores don’t stock all of the items we need so we have to go to multiple shops, forgetting my bag for shopping.  Being expected to don my winter duds as soon as the calendar says it’s time. I’m from the South and I prefer not to wear coats until I’m freezing. Thanks.  This isn’t a bad list. When we moved here, it was longer, but we’ve adjusted pretty well and can navigate the city enough to shop and watch movies, eat dinner out or go to the mall with very little hassle. Stores are stocking a lot more Western food items, too, so that’s been helpful, along with being more familiar with Korean brands. I still don’t like the underground shopping, though. It tends to be a bit crowded for me.

So, there you go. I have a lot to be grateful for! If you come visit, I’ll let you choose the coffee shop…bring your walking shoes.


Breaktime! Christmastime! Vacation time!

December in Seoul is COLD! Shorter days, freezing temps…a Southern girl’s dream!

The first semester is coming to a close. YIPPEEEE! This school year has been going well, but it’s time for a break. Students and teachers everywhere are rejoicing!

We’ll be going to Italy for winter break! Usually, I would prefer a warmer climate for Christmas, but this year, we’re opting for a different type of vacation. We’re wanting to travel to a variety of places as a family of 5. Caleb loves art and we’re looking forward to going to museums and seeing a whole other piece of the world.  The younger two are excited about the pizza and pasta. If we could only avoid jetlag.

Most of our presents will be opened before we leave and we’ll actually celebrate Christmas in Italy. Jacob insists that we have a few traditions upheld while on our trip, so we’ll see how that works out! I’m packing stockings, hot chocolate and candy…

Merry Christmas!

Hi, October

It’s already October, the best month of the year! Overnight, our weather changed from warm to very chilly, but I refuse to wear a jacket, like a true Southerner.

Our middle school will have their annual Week Without Walls trip soon. I’ll go with 8th grade this year. Should be fun!

Caleb will be going on a soccer trip soon to Malaysia. I might be jealous.

Julianna takes ballet and basketball at school and loves both. That’s a good representation of her personality. She also wishes I was Korean. I get it. It’s hard being different when you look like someone who should speak Korean and have a Korean family.

I still love my middle school students. They’re just a fun group! I’ve always enjoyed being around teenagers, including my own two.  Jacob is a funny 13.75 year old. Caleb is our pseudo-adult, like always. He’s our creative soul who questions why. It’s hard to give answers when you question why, yourself.

Why are people not interested in life outside of themselves?

Why don’t people think for themselves?

Why should I conform to something I can’t agree with?

Why are people scared of truth?

Those questions do not have simple answers.



Korea, Year 3

Junior year, 8th and 2nd grade are all off to a good start. Some of my students stay with me for more than 1 year, but I also have several new students, so we’re all still getting acquainted. It can take a bit for middle schoolers to open up. I’m teaching some electives this year, too, and those have been fun. I love middle school students; they’re so fun to be around and funny!

Year 3 has started off better than 1 and 2 since everything is more familiar to us. We know where to shop, how to get around and how to use online delivery for dinner! Perks of living in a big city;)

We’re wrapping up summer (boooo!) and seeing signs of fall (yayy!). The weather has been nice, making our very frequent walks to our coffee shops (yes, we have to go to 2) very enjoyable.

Sean stays very busy in his new role, and teaching is pretty time consuming, too, but we love it. It’s easy to feel the stress of work, but we also have a lot to be thankful for.  I get a lot of joy out of seeing my students make progress. Our own kids are pretty fun, too.

These are a few pictures from around town:





Surprisingly, he had to ask for more ketchup.



The elusive teen boy…he’s my fave 11th grader.




He’s moving on to 8th grade! Jacob is a pro at being a middle schooler. His favorite classes were Bible, Pre-Algebra and Social Studies. He liked chapel and his small group, too. If we can get him to stop carrying everything in his bookbag, I’ll be happy.

A few 7th-grade highlights 

Week Without Walls in Korea (ziplining, lots of outdoor activities, traditional Korean food, etc.)

Everland (amusement park)

Skiing over Christmas break

Turning 13 in Hong Kong

The New York City Subway System is the largest subway system in the world, with 468 train stations and 26 subway lines. That's one massive subway system!




First Grade Success!

Julianna has completed first grade! Her teacher was the sweetest and her TA was great, too. As her speech/language skills improved, naturally, other areas became easier for her, too. She has an amazing speech and language therapist, along with a support teacher that helps with reading and writing.

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This year, she took ballet, sports, and swimming during after school activities. She loved all 3! She enjoyed her Korean class, art, music, recess, and Math. Also, she memorized her Bible verse for their Spring program and quoted it perfectly.  First grade went by so fast!



Another Day In The Life

For those who may wonder what our life looks like here…

Most days are hurried and loud and tiring and loud again.  Very fancy!

Our typical weekday includes going to school at 7:20. You would think I might be a morning person by now, but nope. Not happening. Coffee or not.

School, work, after school meetings, practice and activities…

We may or may not eat at home. There are so many restaurants around! I’m excited about the new dumpling shop near our house.

We can eat for around 15,000 won or $13ish. Yippee! 

Homework, bedtime…rinse and repeat.

On weekends we like to venture out and 4 of us like to try new foods. There are noodles or rice most places so I don’t starve-don’t worry;)

Occasionally, I paint with friends- quite therapeutic!

My “Congratulations” similar-to-Tiramisu birthday cake! Yum!

Birthday scarf❤️

Kid Pics

It’s freezing now so we don’t drive the scooter but drive our tiny car instead. Parking can be pretty scarce so we use public transportation, too. We’re used to a lot of things about the city but grocery shopping is still a process. Another reason why I’m thankful for our new dumpling shop! And endless coffee shops!

The biggest difference for us is city vs. suburbs. Otherwise, our lives in Seoul are strikingly similar to everywhere else we’ve lived. People are people everywhere and we all want the same things!

Thanksgiving to the New Year

Thanksgiving was spent in Hong Kong this year. Workshops, meetings and sightseeing. Jacob turned 13!

McD’s birthday breakfast (notice the green bottle in the corner…free shampoo with combo!)

Hong Kong at night

…Christmas concert, ballet and basketball


The flu visited us over Christmas break-ho, ho, ho! We had a low key break in Seoul and enjoyed the down time. Movies, staying up late, video games, and a quick ski trip kept us entertained.

2017!!! Happy Year of the Rooster

Back To School 

One week back and I’m exhausted. Julianna turns 7 on the 16th and Caleb will be 16 in February. Ahhh! We’re in the 2nd half of our 2nd year in Korea. Do I want time to slow down? I’m not sure. I love watching my kids grow up.

“Always in motion is the future.” -Yoda

Friday at the Han and other nonsense

There is a seasonal night market that happens on weekends along a section of the Han River. We went there tonight, along with thousands of other people. Food trucks, a few musical acts, street food…think fair atmosphere. 

A fun part of being in a big crowd outdoors is the people (of all ages) whizzing by on scooters (the little kid kind and the motorized kind), bikes and segues, and also seeing some extreme couple matching (of all ages). Couples, friends and families picnic along the river (it’s massive) and bring food, buy it or call and have chicken delivered right to their location. There were, at least, 200 people in line for shrimp skewers. The burger and nacho trucks were wildly popular, too.  And that’s why I ate empanadas along the Han.

So many chicken restaurant flyers!

  We had major issues attempting this selfie. The lighting was bad and this was snapped mid argument.   
  Julianna took a nap right before dinner. The options were chicken meatballs, skewers of chicken, fish cakes and right out of the frame was pupae, which smells as nasty as it sounds. I’ll never be able to tell you what it tastes like, but Caleb can.  
This is the ridiculousness that we bring with us daily. I proudly ordered my coffee in Korean and it only took twice as long as it should. The vendor was super nice and turns out, completely fluent in English. (Sadly, Julianna did not have a coffee to show.)

 But she did get this very special magic wand!   

A very diligent attempt at reading the menu. I’m not sure why Jacob’s hair is sticking out either.

Fun fact: There are a few “letters” that are interchangeable. P/B, T/D, L/R.  

Fall is arriving just in time for Chuseok! The weather was beautiful tonight. The kids are out of school for a full week and we are all ready for the break.

On that note, I’ll leave you with some reggae from the night market… 

Take care!❤️