Saturday, June 7, 2008

The end is near...

As many of you know, I'm moving to Minnesota to be closer to my family. I've loved every minute I've spent in Washington and I cannot express how much I'm going to miss all the friends I've made here. I thought I'd share some photos of all the fun I've had during my last few months on the West Coast... :o)

Kari, myself and Carly before dinner at the Space Needle
Myself, Kari and Carly with Puget Sound in the background Enjoying dinner with the beautiful skyline as our backdrop
One more trip to the Observation Deck after dinner
Jamie, Andrea, Carly and myself at a Memorial Day weekend BBQ
Myself and Carly at Slim's Last Chance (dive bar) in South Seattle Spontaneous shenanigans at a park in Seattle Lindsey and Kari, myself and Carly on Kari's last night in Washington Lindsey, myself and Carly at a random house party in Seattle Kari, Carly and I celebrating Carly's 27th birthday at Masa in Tacoma
Jamie and I before going to a bonfire in Puyallup/SpanawayKari and I having a martini at 21 Commerce in Tacoma
Me standing on the Chihuly Glass Bridge with my Alma Mater in the background!
Kari and I at Slim's Last Chance (dive bar) in South Seattle
Kari and I at Cowgirls, Inc. in Seattle
Myself, Kari and Carly enjoying ourselves at Chopstix (dueling piano bar) in Tacoma My favorite Washington ladies!!! We had a classy night of celebrating my graduation and farewell. Kari, Carly and myself at the Mariners vs. Red Sox game at Safeco Field Me at Lake Tapps
Carly and I at the Mariners vs. Angels game at Safeco Field
Lunch with my friend Bernie Kari and I enjoying a night in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood Carly, myself and Kari celebrating Kari's 23rd birthday at Chopstix (dueling piano bar) in Seattle

Links to more pictures from South Korea

I don't know why I didn't post this sooner, but if you want to see the entire journey in South Korea, the following links will take you there!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Namsangol Traditional Village

Seoul Tower

James Blunt Concert in Seoul, South Korea

South Korea Vacation! ~Part IV~

It's a little late, but I have to update ya'll on the final day and a half in Korea. Here goes...

Friday night, Jake came home from work and around 10:30 we met up with a few of his students at a store near Pagoda Tower in Gangnam. We walked down a side street and went to an underground restaurant called Angus. We shared a few pitchers of beer and some sausage and popcorn. It was a funky place with lots of young people chatting with their friends over drinks and food. The two girl students we were with had to leave early, but the three guy students stayed for awhile and we talked until shortly after midnight. All of these students are planning on going to universities in the U.S. later this year. One of the guys was on a Korean quiz show and finished in first place, a true genius! He will be attending school in Michigan. Another student will be going to school at Penn State, and the other is going to school in Michigan. They all spoke English very well and should have no problem getting comfortable in the States.

Following the beer and snacks, Jake and I decided to go for a little late night walk up to the park we went to on my first day in Seoul. I played on the kids' equipment and took some fun pictures. After 20 minutes or so, we walked home and called it a night.

On Saturday morning, we woke up around 10:00 and sat around in our PJs for two hours. After getting ready for the day, we went out around 1:00 and got lunch at a little restaurant about 90 seconds from Jake's front door. We had beef soup, jasmine rice, and little "fish cake" that reminded me of tofu. We also has a kimchi/veggie pancake like the tasty potato-friend kimchi from the "Just One More" place (the place with the plastic chairs) from a few nights prior. After lunch, we walked to Starbucks (one of many) in Gangnam so I could get a mug with the Korean alphabet as a gift for someone back home.

We returned to his apartment and Jake took a nap for about two hours while I played Solitaire. At 4:00, we took the subway from Gangnam back to COEX Mall so I could get a couple more gifts for friends. Jake and I then went upstairs near an exhibition hall to a restaurant called O'Kims Brauhaus for beer and dinner (lasagna). Mi Yeon got off work (at the jewelry fair at COEX) and met us around 6:00.

Soon after, the three of us hopped in a cab and went to Olympic Park for the James Blunt concert. After picking up my ticket at will call, we went in and found our seats. Jake and Mi Yeon were in the third row, while I was off to the side and in the "upper" level - but as it was, the venue was fairly small compared to the convention centers that I'm used to in the States. An American couple was sitting behind me and two American ladies were sitting ahead of me. I didn't speak to any of them, but I still had a good time in my own little world. Oh, side note... Koreans do not need to be contained at concerts. They all sat quietly and patiently before the show, and once it started, they continued to sit politely and clapped and sang to the songs. James Blunt was only on stage a little more than an hour, but he played three encore songs. It was a fun concert.

Afterwards, I met Jake and Mi Yeon outside and we walked through Olympic Park to the main entrance. It was a nice, cool night and Olympic Park was a beautiful, quiet escape from the city. We took more pictures at the entrance and ate a late night snack at Lotteria, a fast food burger joint. They had burgers, I had the equivalent of a strawberry McFlurry. :o)

We then took a short taxi ride to Mi Yeon's bus stop, said a quick goodbye, and watched the bus pull away. Jake and I bought subway tickets for 1000 won each (my pass was out of money, and Jake lost his pass somewhere between the bus stop and the subway station). We returned to Gangnam and then to Jake's apartment. I organized and packed my belongings and we went to bed around 11:30.

On Sunday, I woke up at 6:00 and showered/got ready. We were out the door promptly at 7:00. Jake stopped at the 7-eleven for a Cider (7-up) and then we were at the bus stop at Gangnam at 7:10. We ran across the street in order to flag down the bus I was about to catch. After a quick goodbye, I was on my way. For 9000 won, the bus took me directly to Incheon International Airport on an island just west of Seoul.

Once at the airport, I checked in and got breakfast at Paris Baguette (2 croissants and a peach iced tea, I was hungry!). My flight left Incheon shortly after 11:00am and we arrived in Tokyo for a layover. After going through security, I bought a Diet Pepsi and a snack (called Pocky) and waited for about half an hour before boarding the plane again. From Tokyo to Seattle, the flight was only about half full. I traded seats with a young boy so he could sit next to his father. I talked with his father for awhile at the beginning of the flight, a nice guy who owns an electronics company in Beijing. Then, after I watched Atonement on the airplane TV, I nodded off. Thankfully, the seat next to me was open so I was able to have a little extra elbow room. We arrived in Seattle at 8:25am on Sunday (which is essentially three hours BEFORE we left Seoul). I was randomly selected to be questioned and searched upon entering the U.S., but I had nothing to hide so I was out of the airport by 9:00.

The jet-lag was brutal upon arriving home, but it's a small price to pay when you get to enjoy the experiences that create memories that will last a lifetime. I had such a great time exploring a foreign city/country. I did a lot of thinking about my future and how much I love the adventure that traveling brings. I plan on continuing to take trips to uncharted territories, it's the best way for me to learn not only more about the world, but more about myself as well.

Life is too short to work day-to-day. Stability is good, and it's nice to have some place to call home. But you never truly realize how precious your own life can be until you experience life elsewhere and out of your typical element. I hope you've enjoyed reading my stories and seeing my pictures. Maybe this will inspire you to take a trip to Seoul, or some other place you've never been. Be adventurous, be brave, and remember to always see the best in any and every situation. It may be the only chance you've got to experience something so unique. Take it in, and enjoy the ride.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Vacation in South Korea ~ Part III


Today was a much easier day than yesterday, thank goodness! After I finished my daily newsletter to all of you last night, Jake's girlfriend Mi Yeon came over. She had just finished working and had an interview for another position in this neighborhood so she stuck around to hang out for a little while. I told her all about my day and how tired I was, and it was fun to talk to someone after having been quiet all day. She taught me how to say a few things in Korean. I learned "I love you" / "thank you" / "dream" / "cute" / "brother" / "sister" / "mother" / "father" / "honey" / and "lol" (laugh out loud, internet slang). It was pretty funny and she said my pronunciation is very good. She laughed and told me how cute I was when I spoke Korean. We laughed so long my cheeks hurt! Jake came home at 10:00 and we all chatted for awhile. Around 10:45, Jake and I took Mi Yeon to her bus stop (which is actually a 15-minute subway ride away) to see her off. Once Jake and I got back to Gangnam, we stopped by a restaurant and got "take out" dumplings. Ten kimchi, ten meat/veggie. They were quite tasty and we enjoyed them while watching Family Guy at Jake's apartment. I fell asleep quite easily after such a long day!!

Today, we woke up around 9:45 and got ready for the day. Around 11:45 we left to go to the bakery and the bank. I bought a croissant for 700 won and enjoyed it later in the day. We went to three banks but the ATMs were not working with my foreign ATM card so instead Jake said I should try either a 7-eleven or at the subway and those should work just fine. And with that, I was on my own again. I went to Gangnam Station and was able to withdraw some cash from the ATM there.

I then ventured to COEX Mall which is only three stops away from Gangnam, but in the opposite direction from the subway trips I'd taken the two days before. When I arrived at COEX Mall, I went to the Hyundai Department Store. Holy moly, 10 stories of brand-name goods. Coach, Armani Exchange, DKNY, Juicy Couture, Ralph Lauren, Nike, Adidas, Columbia, and so many others. I didn't buy anything but instead just ate my croissant on the top floor at a seating area near a roof-top garden area. I wandered back down to the main level of the department store and walked down some random hallways which led me to "the mall" portion of the facility. It is the most confusing set-up for a mall I've ever experienced. Winding hallways that branch off in all different directions... Then there's an aquarium, a gigantic book store and a "megabox" (17-screen movie theater) in the middle of it all. Not to mention all sorts of other things you'd never expect to see in a mall - like five or six (or more?) food courts. I was hungry and the only thing I could understand at the food court was "Sbarro" pizza. Hungry for a slice of home, I had a piece of cheese pizza and a Coke before actually finding the stores I wanted to shop at. Lots of little jewelry stores and tons of trendy clothing stores too. Plenty of electronics stores, but those didn't interest me. :o) I think I managed to hit every store that looked interesting, so I left around 4:00 and headed back to Gangnam.

Since dinner wouldn't be until 5:00, I decided to have a "snack" upon returning to Gangnam...another scoop of home in the form of Coldstone ice cream. I knew I was about to eat dinner, but I didn't know what else to do, and Coldstone had been staring at me every time I walked by so I figured it was just a "home food" day and I gave in. I played a little Solitaire on my iPod, and at 4:45 I went to Pagoda Tower across the street. Jake met me in the lobby and told me that his students wanted to join us for dinner. Cool! So the two of us and four girls and one guy from his class all went to a little alley restaurant for some veggie/tofu soup, kimchi, pork and rice for 5,000 won. It was good, but now I'm totally full. Jake had all of his students introduce themselves to me, and then I told them a little bit about myself. One thing they all "oohed" and "ahhed" about: my eyes. Everyone here has brown/black eyes, so green eyes are totally cool to them. They all looked at me very closely and Jake told them that sometimes our eyes change color a little bit depending on the mood we're in. They were amazed! :o) As we ate, I also told them that I had learned some Korean words the night before. I practiced a little with them, saying "cute" and "really" (the first word Jake and Mi Yeon taught me), and "thank you". When we finished dinner, I told them I had a nice time with them and wished them well with their English studies. We all parted, Jake returned to school, and I walked back to his apartment.

I've been back for about an hour and I think I'll watch another episode or two of Family Guy before Jake gets home. After work we're going to go out and eat/drink since it's Friday night. It should be pretty fun! Tomorrow, I think Jake and I are going to the Buddhist temple near COEX Mall, and then the James Blunt concert tomorrow night with Mi Yeon. Then early on Sunday morning I am heading to the airport, for it's home sweet home!

This may be the last chance I get to e-mail you all since we'll be out tomorrow night at the time I normally write. So until next time, it's been real, and it's been fun....and most of all, it's been really fun! Take care!