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!

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=18441&l=dc68a&id=760059314
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=21599&l=06861&id=760059314
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=21802&l=c339a&id=760059314

Monday, April 28, 2008

Namsangol Traditional Village












Seoul Tower



































































James Blunt Concert in Seoul, South Korea










video

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

Hey-o!

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!

Love,
Elizabeth

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Vacation in South Korea ~ Part II

Hi!

Wow, I'm surprised I am able to use an exclamation mark after today... I'm exhausted!

I met Jake last night at 10:00 when he was done working and we walked to a little market a few blocks away to get milk and red peppers. We wandered back to Jake's apartment and Jake made dinner: chicken, rice, sauteed veggies. While he was cooking, he said, "Man, it would be nice to have some beer right now." I then responded, "Well, I could make that happen..." He sent me on a journey two blocks from his place to a little corner store to buy two cans of beer for 3,200 won. It was breezy and cool last night but at least it wasn't raining! We enjoyed dinner and called it a night.

Today, we woke up around 9:00 and Jake had to finish grading exams from yesterday. I looked through a Seoul travel book and my city map and Jake suggested that I spend the day going to Seoul Tower. But of course! He left for work around 12:00 and I proceeded to shower and get ready for the day's adventures. I wore a t-shirt and jeans but put a jacket and long-sleeved shirt in my bag in case I got cold. It was totally bright and sunny today, but not as warm as a few days ago.

I hopped the subway at Gangnam Station, transferred at Seoul National University of Education, and hopped off at Chungmuro (just a few stops shy of where I was yesterday at Insadong). Once I was above ground, I wandered a block and found Namsangol (The Village of Traditional Houses). I took a lot of pictures, but I had a hard time reading the signs as they were mostly in Korean. I'll have to do a little reading on this place when I have some energy. There were many school children there as well as some tourists. The flowers were in bloom and they smelled delightful. There was a stream wandering from one end of the village to the other as well. On loud speakers in the village was some ancient traditional Korean music. It was a very serene place and (to be honest) I wish I would have been out and about earlier in the day so I could have spent more time there!

Jake mentioned that there should be some trails leading from the village to Seoul Tower (which is in Namsan Park). I looked but could not find any...so I wandered back outside the village and tried to follow street signs for Namsan Park... What a mess! The sidewalks/crosswalks did not allow for pedestrians to go the same way as cars, so I had to go down to a subway station in order to "cross the street" and find an alley to walk up which, 45 minutes later, got me to the Cable Car at Namsan Park. I was hot, relieved, and excited to sit down. I paid 5,500 won for a one-way ticket in the Cable Car. It was a short (3 minute) ride and I was glad I decided to take this little journey.

I reached the top and was amazed to find a small park-like atmosphere at the top of the peak. There were vendors selling ice cream and refreshments, trees with benches beneath them, and even a restaurant for those who wished to spend a few hours up there. The views of Seoul were beautiful...with the exception of all the smog. Jake told me that on a clear day like today, I would probably be able to see the ocean. Well, I looked...and again, couldn't find it. Off in the distance I was able to see mountains outside of Seoul but still relatively close to the city. The booming metropolis below was silent from Seoul Tower. The wind was a bit cold, but the sunshine and the "fresh air" from the top of Namsan Park were definitely worth it. One thing I noticed was that on the fences at the lookout points, people had placed padlocks with Korean writing on them. A lot of them were sets of two, so I imagine it was a "couples" activity to go to Seoul Tower and mark that you had been there. I took pictures and wanted to relax, but I figured that if I wanted to get to Namdaemun Market, I'd better get going.

I walked down a road that I thought was leading me right to the market, but upon reaching the bottom, I realized I had accidentally taken the path that led the opposite direction. I had walked to the National Theater, oops! Confused and staring at a map of the park, a young Korean man (probably in his mid-20s) approached me and asked if he could help me. I told him where I wanted to go, and he looked at me and told me that I should hike up to Seoul Tower and take the cable car down the other side. I laughed and told him I had just come from there and was not about to hike a mile and a half back up the hill just to take the cable car back down. Ha! He walked with me for a few minutes and we talked a bit. He works for Hyundai in the export division. He asked why I was in Seoul and I told him: visiting a friend who teaches English at Pagoda Tower in Gangnam. He replied by saying that he lives in Gangnam, too. Small world. :o) Anyway, he was very polite and pointed me in a direction that would lead me to a subway station at Dongguk University (near the original subway I took to Chungmuro). I thanked him (very much!!) and continued on my way.

I reached Dongguk University and hopped the subway to Chungmuro again (one stop away) and transferred to the Blue Line (4) to Hoehyeon, the stop at which Namdaemun Market is located. Upon arrival, I found myself lost in another crazy market filled with food, clothes, and gifts. I wandered in the market for a little over an hour and only bought one thing besides a slice of pineapple for 1000 won. Around 6:15, all the clothing/gift vendors started closing up shop and the food vendors set up tables with umbrellas. The aroma was awesome. I took a few pictures at the market but my camera battery was about dead so I couldn't take as many as I would have liked to. Around 6:30 I was getting cold so I decided to head back to Gangnam... I didn't feel like putting on my long sleeves because I knew I'd take them off again as soon as I reached "home".

After a few transfers on the subway and unbelievable crowds at 7:00 on a Thursday night, I arrived back at Jake's place around 7:30. I'm starving and my feet are tired of walking so I am going to lay low for another hour and a half before meeting Jake at 10:00 at his hagwon (school). The plan is to eat street food for dinner and enjoy the city lights and hoards of people as best we can.

This was another long one, sorry...but imagine how I feel after having done all of this in just one afternoon! Not to mention the language barrier and the fact that I was totally unfamiliar with where I was. :o) One more day of "alone-time" tomorrow. I wonder what kind of mischief I'll get into...hmm!! Since I didn't go to Jake's school today, I'll probably get to see it tomorrow at some point. I imagine that tomorrow night will be a blast since it's the weekend! As for Saturday, not sure of the day-time plans, but at night we're going to see James Blunt at Olympic Park.

I hope this finds you well, and I'll keep you up to date as much as I can!

All the best from Seoul,
Elizabeth

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Vacation in South Korea ~ Part I

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I MADE IT!!!

Here's the scoop so far... I had a layover in Tokyo but there was a delay taking off from Seattle and so by the time we got to Tokyo it was too late to continue on to Seoul. It was only 7:00pm local time, but the airport closes at night (what?!?) and flights do not leave after the airport closes. So, I took a van to another airport about an hour away with a few other travelers. The airline put me (and the others) up in a hotel for the night. I called Jake to let him know what had happened and went down to the restaurant to eat dinner. By the time I got to bed, it was almost midnight Tokyo time, which meant I had been up for about 27 hours straight. Let's just say the bed felt AWESOME. I woke up at 5:30am to shower and get ready and make it to my gate. After taking another short shuttle to another terminal, I finally left Tokyo this morning at 9:30am and got to Seoul around 11:00. And to top it off, I didn't even arrive at Incheon airport as originally planned. Instead, I was on Japan Air Lines (a 747, huge!) which flies into Gimpo airport, so the instructions Jake had given me totally didn't work out. Oh well. :o)

Flying into Seoul was quite the experience - it is a HUGE city (between 25-30 million people) and the smog was the worst I've ever seen. Upon going through customs, I stepped outside into 80 degrees of humidity and hazy sunshine. I took a city bus into the center of the city for 3000 won (about $3) which lasted about an hour, hopped off, asked a random guy if he spoke English and he helped me out tremendously! He called my friend Jake and they spoke for a minute or two. Then the stranger led me back outside to find a taxi to take me to my next stop. I thought he'd just tell the driver where to go and then take off, but he got in the taxi with me and walked me to the place where I met Jake. He wouldn't even let me pay for the taxi. Strangers can be very nice in foreign countries!

Jake and I walked a few blocks to his apartment and dropped off my stuff. We then ventured out for a walk (more like a hike up steep hills) to a park overlooking the city of Seoul. From there, we walked down into the "financial district" (sort of?) to pick up a few shirts that Jake had custom made for only $40 each. We walked back to the neighborhood of Gangnam (where he lives) and he showed me the place he works in Pagoda Tower. Gangnam Station (the bus/transit area) reminded me slightly of Times Square - lots of people, stores, food/street vendors, etc. We then went to an underground bar for a beer and a break from the hustle and bustle. Around 4:00 we headed back to Jake's place and hung out for awhile until Mi Yeon (Jake's girlfriend) got here. The three of us walked two or three blocks (I used "blocks" lightly, as they are all narrow alleys filled with shops and people) to a small Korean restaurant and had boiled chicken for dinner. It was good, but spicy! I developed a cold the day before I left Seattle so the food tonight totally cleared up my nostrils, haha! Oh, and the chopsticks here are heavy (made of some sort of metal)! I guess they were traditional, so Mi Yeon kindly asked the waiter for some lighter (wooden) ones. Then the three of us came back to Jake's. I'm exhausted from such a long day with only a few hours of sleep. Jake, Mi Yeon, and one other girl went out for awhile, but I'm calling it a night.

Tomorrow we will do some sight-seeing and go to Jake's host-family's home for dinner. After that, who knows?! While Jake is working this week, Mi Yeon is going to take me shopping and out to eat (everything is done around food here, even more so than in the U.S.). I'll try to give an update in a few days. I only took one picture today of me and the stranger in the taxi. I'll take more as the trip goes on, but today was just a little overwhelming. Besides, the blonde/curly hair already makes me look like enough of a tourist, the last thing I need is a camera! Haha!

I hope all is well on that side of the Pacific! Take care, talk soon.

Love,
Elizabeth


Monday, April 21, 2008

Greetings (again) from Seoul!

Sunday (day 2) was a long day. We woke up around 9:45 and showered/got ready for the day...only to find out that my blow drier will not even work with an adapter here...lovely! Those of you who know my hair know how important the blow drier is to me. Anyway, it's humid here so luckily my hair dried okay on its own. :o)

We left Jake's place around 11:30 and hopped on a bus to Downtown (central) Seoul. We arrived at Gyeongbokgung Palace and paid 3000 won to walk through the grounds. We took lots of pictures and totally felt like tourists, but that's what it's all about! It was hot and humid, but not too uncomfortable. The breeze was perfect! After completing our walk of Gyeongbokgung Palace, we exited near the Blue House - which is essentially Korea's White House. We did not stop for pictures, as there wasn't much to see. But the walk from here to the place we ate lunch was beautiful, so we took a few pictures along the way. Our lunch at Sixty Two Teastory consisted of a Belgian waffle with bananas and kiwis, blueberry/raspberry syrup, and one scoop of vanilla ice cream and one scoop of green tea ice cream. It was delightful and I actually got to use the "cuisine" setting on my camera, haha! We just talked and people-watched from our balcony table for over an hour, enjoying the sunshine in the meantime.

We then walked through some little market streets and made our way to Insadong, one of the biggest tourist shopping markets in Seoul. So, Jake and I took this opportunity to be total tourists! We stopped in a little museum/market thing where live music and lots of people made it truly evident that we weren't in the United States. We then made our way to Cheonggyecheon stream which is in the same area we began our adventure and walked along the stream for awhile. We stopped to soak our feet in the cool water and it was a nice break from all the hustle and bustle of the city. Following our stream walk, we walked a few blocks to City Hall for a few more pictures.

Around 5:30, we hopped on the subway to Gil-dong, the neighborhood in which Jake's homestay family lives. We met Mi Yeon at the subway station upon arriving and walked a few blocks to the final destination, a top-floor apartment with roof access and fresh air. His mother and father welcomed us and we enjoyed a delicious traditional Korean meal on the rooftop of the building. We ate pork (bacon-like) with yang-pa (a Korean sliced green onion) and a red sauce made of beans (but it reminded me of peanut sauce), all wrapped up in sesame leaf and a lettuce-like leaf. We also had two-year-old kimchi, white rice, rice wine, home-made red wine, and rice cakes (which are sticky, sweet, chewy, filling little rice patty things). It was all so good, but we left feeling extremely full. It was a lot of fun and definitely something I will never forget!!

After dinner, Jake and I took a bus with Mi Yeon to another bus station where she caught the bus home. This was near Lotte World, another popular tourist area in Seoul (amusement park, near Olympic Park as well). Jake and I hopped on the subway back to Gangnam Station and arrived back home around 10:30pm. We went to sleep around 11:30 and I slept like a log!

Today we woke up around 10:00, hung out, and Jake left for work at 11:30. I then showered and got ready for the day again... I'm about to head out to the main street of Gangnam to do a little window shopping. I am a little nervous to head out alone, but I think it'll get easier as the week goes on. I may also try to find my way back to the park we went to on Saturday to take a few pictures of the city. It's overcast but nice out. I am meeting Jake at 5:00 for dinner at a Japanese restaurant, and then who knows what I'll do the rest of the night! Mi Yeon will probably meet up with me on Tues/Wed or Thurs/Fri for some REAL Korean bargain hunting. :o)

Hope all is well for you back in the States, and I'll write more when I get a chance!

Love,
Elizabeth


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Annyeong haseyo! (That's Korean for "hello")

Last time I wrote, I was about to head out in Gangnam by myself. I left Jake's place and started walking up a ton of hills in search of the park we went to my first day here. Let's just say the streets don't exactly go in a grid-pattern, and I can't read Korean, so I got a little lost. I wandered my way back down to the busy streets and after about 45 minutes, I eventually made it back to Gangnam Station, yay! I only knew where I was once I saw Pagoda Tower (where Jake works). I sat and people-watched for about half an hour, wrote in my journal, and decided that my feet hurt a little too much to continue on in the shoes I had on... I came back to Jake's and changed shoes, but then decided to hang out for a little while until I met him for dinner at 5:00.

We went to a small Japanese restaurant and I had some breaded pork/fried rice sort of dish, and some Japanese noodles with thinly sliced squid skin (or something like that...it was "fishy"). It was good, but the noodles were a little difficult to eat with chopsticks. :o)

After dinner, Jake returned to work and I walked in and out of several stores along the huge, wide street. The fashion (or lack thereof?) here is a little odd, but I did manage to find a cute shirt at a trendy store for 19,900 won (about $19). After I hit the stores on street level, I went "down-under" to the subway shopping area at Gangnam Station. WOW, what a madhouse! It's a crazy underground market with CHEAP clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc. Any bargain shopper's dream! Holy cow, it was hot down there though. I felt sticky and sweaty as it was, and then once I got into some of these shops crowded with people and goods, I thought I was going to fall over from heat exhaustion. I looked at shoes and clothes, sunglasses and purses. A middle-aged man who worked for Samsung gave me his business card and was trying to practice his English on me...but I had no clue what he was saying. The only thing I understood was, "Different feel," which to me, sounded like, "difern freer"... Not trying to be mean, just honest! I smiled and nodded, and when he (finally) left me alone, I said, "Thank you." I also tried on a cute pair of shoes, and the woman working at the shop gave me the biggest size she had (which was a 250, whatever that means) and it felt like I was trying to squeeze my 9.5 size foot into a size 8 shoe. It was horribly uncomfortable. I highly doubt I'll be able to find any shoes here that will fit my monster-sized feet!

After navigating the underground market and trying to figure out how the heck to get back to where I was at street level, I decided that my senses had been overloaded and I headed back towards Jake's place. I did stop to take a couple pictures of Gangnam (the street) on my way. I also stopped in a 7-Eleven for some 2%...no, not milk. It's similar to berry flavored water in the States. I have been extremely thirsty here and I think the reason I'm realizing it is because you cannot drink the faucet water. The water itself is not what worries people, rather the condition of the pipes is what they are weary of. I came back to Jake's around 9:00 and laid down to read a book and wait for him to get home. I fell asleep in less than 10 minutes! When Jake got home and woke me up, we decided to make Korean Ramen for the "late night dinner" and had a beer (piss water!)... We watched Family Guy and Futurama and went to bed. I traded Jake, I slept on the (hard wood) floor and gave him his bed. It doesn't seem like a long day, but boy was it!

Today we woke up at 10:00, I took a shower... Pause, side note... You must turn on the water heater here prior to taking a shower. I did so, but I guess it has to warm up for like 20 minutes so my shower was ice cold. Total bummer. I never did get fully submerged, it was more like a sponge bath. Oh well, it felt good to wash my hair. Play, back to the day. Mi Yeon came over and we walked with Jake to the bank so he could pay his bills. The way to pay bills here is like going to an ATM and depositing money, except you deposit a receipt and it automatically debits your account. Strange. We walked Jake to work and then had to walk all the way back to his apartment (about 10 minutes away) because I forgot my buss pass in my other bag from yesterday. Stupid me.

Let me say here that the weather was not cold, but it sprinkled all day. People do not wear jackets, but instead, everyone carries an umbrella. It made me think of Seattle - where no one carries umbrellas except tourists. :o)

Mi Yeon and I took a bus to Dongdaemun Market, which is a mix of wholesale and retail shopping areas combined with traditional markets and street stalls...all in high-rise shopping malls. Tons of clothing, purses (knock-offs), accessories, shoes... It was a bit overwhelming! We had lunch across the street at a small restaurant and I took more pictures of our food since I had no clue exactly what it was. We had sushi rolls, some fried/BBQ'd pork, and a vegetarian rice dish. Tipping is not practiced here, and yelling across the restaurant is expected when you need your server's attention. Funny!!

We hopped on another bus and went to the oldest traditional market in Seoul. This market makes Pike Place look extremely clean, friendly, and overall, silly. Crowded with people and goods, it is not a place where tourists visit. I will have to ask Mi Yeon the name of it because I have no idea what it was called. Anyway, it was insane! Words cannot even do it justice. I did get a couple of pictures. The one part I'd like to forget, however, was the part that Mi Yeon and I saw dog...like you'd see pork or beef...cut open, bones and flesh displayed for customers. The only way I knew it was dog was because the body was still primarily in tact and I could see paws. :o( Disgusting, and sad. We also saw chicken feet, octopus, silkworm (got a picture!), eel, and lots of other random items. Not to mention all the spices, beans, fruits, and vegetables that lined the crowded alleys... A very colorful place, indeed.

We then took another bus back to Downtown Seoul and walked through a trendy shopping area with several American stores. Nike, LaCoste, Ralph Lauren, Adidas, etc. We found ourselves in another side alley and that's where we had our pictures taken by the photo booth. :o) After that, we ended up at LotteWorld. This place had Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, and all sorts of expensive stores inside. I told Mi Yeon I had never even seen a Chanel store in the U.S.! Clearly, everything was too expensive for us, so around 4:25 we headed back to Gangnam to meet Jake for dinner. He only had a little time, so we went to a French pastry shop down the street. I had a shrimp and broccoli calzone and a chocolate pastry for dessert. Yummy! Jake returned to work, and Mi Yeon went home to spend time with her sister. It is now 6:20pm and I'm back at Jake's for a little rest. Since I've been out and about in the rain all day, I decided to relax for awhile since Jake and I will be going out for our late night dinner when he gets home from work shortly after 10:00.

WOW, this was a long update!! Sorry to keep you reading for so long...and I didn't even get to tell you about the funny conversations that Mi Yeon and I had all afternoon! Some things are lost in translation, and they're actually funnier that way. :o) Enough said. More to come later on...

Peace & Love,
E.D.B.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hello!

I will try to keep this one short. :o) Last night when Jake got home we walked a few blocks to "The Plastic Chair Restaurant" as the Americans (foreigners) call it, or "Just One More" as it is actually named in Korean. We had potato/fried kimchi, dumpling and clam soup, and a pitcher of beer. Jake and I enjoyed good conversation and the food was awesome (especially the kimchi!!)...it was a nice way to wrap up the day. We went for a little walk after we ate (it was raining, but it was nice to walk off some of the food we had just devoured)... We arrived back at his place sometime around 12:30 or 1:00am and watched the first half of a Heroes episode (first episode from season 2) that Jake downloaded. We were both tired though so we went to bed and will finish watching it tonight.

Today was "test day" at work for Jake, so he said his day was going to be pretty boring since all his students would be taking the exam. He has to have all the tests graded and the scores online by tomorrow, though, so I imagine we'll be staying in tonight so he can work on getting that done. For me, the day was an adventure. Jake gave me instructions on which subways to ride and I headed back to Insadong, the "tourist" market in downtown Seoul. Timid, I grabbed an umbrella and headed down the street to Gangnam Station (the one with the underground market that's really hot inside all the shops...the one where the guy tried practicing his English on me the other day)... :o) I hopped on the Green Line (2) toward Seoul National University of Education, the next stop. I got off and then transferred to the Orange Line (3) which took me twelve more stops to Anguk, the stop at which Insadong is located. I walked down one side of the street, window shopping and going in shops with neat things. I watched some Koreans make some weird sort of honey/powdered sugar thing but didn't really feel like eating any so I kept walking. I came to Starbucks and decided to get a Green Tea frappuccino and a berry scone. By this time it was nearly 3:00 and I hadn't had anything to eat yet so it was a good little respite, and a reminder of home too. I people watched for awhile, but continued on in search of goodies...I even found a few gifts for those who shall remain nameless! The sun peeked out from behind the clouds, but it was still cool outside. Around 5:45 I decided to head back to Gangnam Station to browse more of the underground market. It was fun, and I found a few things that surprised me... The main thing was a 1987 MN Twins American League Championship t-shirt with a necklace for 5,000 won ($5). Naturally, I had to buy it. I've seen several people wearing MN Twins stuff and it just wouldn't have been right for me to leave that shirt on the rack. I also bought a pair of sunglasses for 9,900 won (about $10). They look a little silly, but they're all the rage here in Korea. :o) I began getting tired of walking, so I went to the French pastry shop that we had dinner at last night and I bought a sausage thing (difficult to describe) and a cheesecake-like dessert pastry. I then stopped in 7-eleven to get some "Cider" (7-up in the States) before heading back to Jake's place. It's now just after 7:00pm and I'm going to relax for a bit before meeting Jake at the hagwon (school) around 10:00. We might grab a quick bite to eat on the way back home, otherwise I thought I'd just give him some company for the walk.

Tomorrow I will probably go to school with Jake. He said that usually after a test he lets his students watch a movie (in English) as a reward for all their studying and a listening exercise too. I'll keep the updates coming! Hope you're all doing well. :o)

Peace out,
Elizabeth

Cheonggyecheon & City Hall ~ Seoul, South Korea ~ 04.20.08