Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Live from Seoul

Hello everyone I am proudly blogging from Seoul, the soul of Asia (I thought I would steal it from the many billboards I saw it on). And after the ten miles of walking and 3 plus hours on the railway system I must say I am spent! However, I thought I would show you some pictures so you could experience our day with us. First of all we woke up early to grab a train from Jecheon to Seoul, and it actually was quite fun. It was snowing and I was telling Amy how nostalgic it was, and she just gave me that your crazy look. But it was beautiful heres a bit of what we saw from our very seats.

We even saw a Costco which put an extra big smile on our faces, because we knew the myths were true.

The train ride was great but than we got to Seoul and it got real confusing real fast. However, we jumped right in the 10 subways and found our way to our hotel pretty quickly. I would take credit, but Amy might abuse me if I do.

When we arrived at our hotel we were wowed! It is beautiful and right in the Coex mall, which is a monstrous mall. Also, the bathroom is bigger than our entire apartment, and the shower is bigger than our entire bathroom.

The view is also amazing it definitely has the big city feel.

But after a quick tour of the Coex I convinced Amy, or rather coerced her to check out the downtown area. She was really worn out from the fish flu, but suddenly motivated by my suggestion to buy her things. So we stumbled our way downtown and I was very excited til I exited the subway and felt the life slip out of my body. The cold was so brutal it took much of the joy out of our downtown exploration. We explored a temple, a design expo, checked out the Lotte Department store, grabbed a krispy kreme doughnut, ate at CPK, and shopped an underground market.

I think the most interesting thing of the night would be the Lotte Department Store. Koreans must have some serious cash, because there department stores are unbelievable. And the majority of them are wearing the designer names. I have never seen so many expensive clothes in my whole entire life, and the wild thing was that the place was jammed. After the wow factor wore off Amy and I ran for the cheap market downstairs. And yes I did not lead Amy astray, she got some killer boots. But its time for bed now, because tomorrow is New Years Eve, and we'll be braving the cold to see some fireworks!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


So today we spend most of the day prepping for our big trip to Seoul. We leave tomorrow morning and are just working out some of the quirks. Everyone will be happy to know that our camera is fully charged and ready to go. But today was pretty mundane.

Amy is still shaking the fish flu though it seems to be weakening and I had some more American delight in the form of hot dogs tonight. I have been hesitant to try this hot dog joint which I have observed several times while in Korea. Simply because I have no idea what is in them, nor was I that desperate. But tonight I realized that I needed to widen my food consumption to broader borders, and so I caved. I had the cheese dog and it tasted just like a dog from home, along with some lovely french fries. Heres a picture of a different dog and the fries to make you jealous. And with that I will say goodnight and tomorrow we will give you a peak at Seoul.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Thoughts of fish, fish fighting back, and Christmas a little different

I think its assumed that if you travel half way around the globe, things are bound to be a bit different. However, sometimes you come upon things that go against the very pinnacle of your perception of normal. Christmas day was full of such experiences, but first let me share some Christmas cheer.

We spent Christmas Eve shedding our Christmas blues with Ian and Casey. Ian slaved over the burner making some creamy noodle delight with fried potatoes and garlic bread. We than showed our appreciation by binging on the bountiful starch which was provided. Than we dug into our Christmas cake from Dunkin Doughnuts, which got stunning reviews! And finally we ended the night with Elf and if you didn't look outside or use your nose, you might just think we were back home.

The next morning was Christmas, and we got up to open the gifts we both said we weren't going to get each other. Amy discovered that one of her gifts was hiding under the sink, because it didn't fit in her stocking or the only box I had left, and I discovered that paper is also a good wrapping source. Our gifts weren't expensive, but it was so much fun and we both were full of Christmas cheer.

Later on Mr. Lee and his wife picked us up for a trip to the east coast, and even a walk on the beach. We were excited to get out and its always really fun to see new sights. However, our camera eluded us once again. This time we were trying so hard to have it charged, but we forgot to take it with us in the rush. But I will take great delight in sharing with you what we did.

Once we arrived in Gangnung we were shocked by the amount of fish everywhere. I mean I understand that this is a coastal town, but there were streets of fish and dried fish, and even live fish swimming in tanks waiting to be killed. It was amazing, but this was just the beginning. We drove to a restaurant right on the ocean and Mr. Lee picked out the fish we would be eating. Now please understand these fish were still in big tanks swimming, and the guy would take a net and scoop them out to see if they were good enough. For some reason it got to me, I just wasn't used to looking my fish in the eye before I ate him. I felt so bad, when I saw fishes swimming I think of them as my friend, but these poor fishies would be my food.

But there was no time for contemplation, because soon they were brought out on a large platter along with cuttle fish, squid, steamed crab, and the 10 other dishes they bring out with every dinner. I asked Amy if this was sushi and she said, "Oh no its not." So with great confidence I picked some up and began to chew, when I realized that these were raw fish. Amy actually ate a piece of the squid which grabbed her tongue with its tentacles, I mean I think I just went to a happy place at this point. The fish had no taste, but the texture was so revolting and it was so hard to chew, and I was miserable. After a few pieces, and these pieces were a good 3 inches, I stumbled upon the steamed crab, and stuck with that for the rest of the meal.

I felt bad, because I feel like this was a big deal for Koreans, especially those who live in the mountains, but I was overwhelmed and really quite shocked by what was happening. I have never had raw fish, nor did I ever want to have anything raw, nor did I ever want to eat raw fish for Christmas! But everything calmed down a bit, and I realized this was part of moving to Korea. Just a little shocking, because I had no idea of what was coming.

After our lunch we went to a pier and strolled around the beach a bit, and I even took a dip in the ocean, well if your foot counts. I love the beach and I think Mr. Lee said it best, "When I am here my mind is very wide, but when I go home it is very narrow." The water in Korea is crystal clear by the way, I cannot wait til its warm enough to swim, because the beach is only 2 hours away and gorgeous!

Lastly, we strolled on through the official fish market which was unbelievable. It was like third world country market, with fish in tanks everywhere. I saw octopus, squid, eels, blow fish, every kind of fish in the ocean, and more. The market had very narrow walkways and all the way fish were flipping water on you, I think its because they were mad. The octopuses were also very reckless and the kept trying to get out of there bowls, and the squids jumped and sprayed ink. It was like a very smelly, very in your face aquarium. Unless of course you saw them hacking up the fish, but you can't say the fish weren't fresh.

Finally, we grabbed some fish and dried fish and headed home. On the way we thanked Mr. Lee for taking us with him and he explained to us that everyone at his school was his family, and it was so good to hear that. It explained alot about him, and I couldn't help to think about what a contrast this was compared to business at home. It put the heart back in business, something that makes working seem like less of a burden.

At home Amy complained of stomach pains and I thought nothing of it until later the next morning when I heard the effects of the fish fighting back. Lets just call it the fish flu. Amy has been sick for two days since, last night she posted a 101 temperature and I was so worried we were going to have to go to the hospital. But after many prayers its seeming to wither today. I'm glad I opted for crab is all I am going to say.

Oh and the most exciting part of this whole blog is that I finally got my Dominos pizza and last night I had Pizza Hut. Both used sauce on there pizza, and oh that non spicy sauce has never tasted so good!

Before I leave, I have to say that we did have a white Christmas after all, and just one word of wisdom. If your hungry and your eyeing a fish, and the fish is giving you the eye. Run as fast as you can!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve: and a dose of perspective

Wow, I can hardly believe we're on the verge of spending out first Christmas away from home; away from any and everything we've ever known including our friends and family. Actually that's not completely true, the few people we have gotten to know here have been such a blessing to us in so many ways and they probably don't even know it. We are sooo grateful to have found friends and for a boss who truly has a kind heart.

These evening we (Ben, Ian, Casey, and I) are going to be watching Elf to try and get this holiday started off on the right foot. Nobody does it better then Buddy the Elf! Yea, this morning was very bittersweet for me and Ben a little too, but definitely more so for me. I woke up and all Ben said was, "It's Christmas Eve!!!" and I burst into tears. I didn't think such a joyous occasion could bring me to tears, but it did. It was the emotion of it all, the realization that WE are the ones missing this year. I was used to not having all my family together under one roof at one time or another but this was very different, it's me thats not home. It all took me by surprise this morning when I started thinking about how we are missing family gatherings, the food, the fun, the memories. It was overwhelming.

It was then that my dearest Benjamin decided that we needed to do something... we needed a little retail therapy. We were hoping and wishing anything from home would arrive in time but understandably nothing made it. So Ben scurried me out of bed and headed to E-Mart. We agreed to fill each others stockings so we'd have a little something to open on Christmas morning and hopefully give us a little something to look forward too. Ben also picked up a tree we'd been eying. I hesitate to call it a Christmas tree but it is serving that purpose at the moment. It's basically a large black stem with lots of twigs coming off it but the really kool part is that it has those fabulous blue sparkely LED lights all over the branches. It just glows and its sooo pretty! We were just dying to find some Christmas lights and there were none to be found in time. We saw this tree yesterday when we made our first venture to the new E-Mart. Today it was on sale and was begging to be brought home with us so we gave in... our homemade tree was just not getting the job done. Check out these pics...

The homemade one. Yes, this "tree" was made of red and green balloons and a trunk of paper I colored brown and taped to the wall. It needed and upgrade for sure.

The upgrade...

A few more fun pics as it evolved into evening, the lights look better when it's dark out. I couldn't fit all of Ben's stocking stuffers in his stocking so I tucked them under the tree. I wrapped them with some white paper and stickers.

I love the glow it casts on everything, its not bright but its evokes a nice mood.

Here are the paper things I made, there were not as many as I had hoped but it still added to our Christmas decor.

I even made a paper chain (like we all did in kindergarten) to countdown until Christmas, then New Years.

I cut up an egg carton and re-named it a votive holder. Egg cartons have made several useful containers for me including a jewelry holder and change separator.

Luke 2:9-11
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

With all that said we'll say Merry Christmas and good night. We wish you a wonderful day filled with warmth, family, friends, food, and fun. And don't forget to read THE Christmas story, thats what this is all REALLY about anyway.

Love you all and missing you all soooo much!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Ok, so that title was totally lame-o but it totally describes what I felt today! We got up early today and went to the brand new E-Mart in town. The Grand Opening was on Monday and it caused quite the commotion in town good and bad. Most people are happy and excited about it because you can go there and find all you need groceries, home stuff, clothing, gifts, a hair salon, a nursery for your kids while you shop, nail salon, Baskin Robbins (with some incredible stuff they don't have in the States!), and even a traditional tea house. Tem de tudo (they have everything) as we say in Portuguese ; ) I would put it way above a Walmart, more Target quality and fashion in clothing, shoes were actually kinda lame, but the grocery section has everything and good sales if you can stand the product girls dressed in bright red and yellow airline uniforms. They have a mini-office depot and a mini-best buy section with any and all electronics including appliances of all kinds (except a waffle maker we were sooo hoping to get).

It sounds so shallow but walking in there felt like Christmas, the materialistic kind of course, but Christmasy nonetheless. Everything was so shiny, Christmas music playing in Konglish, and everyone had a smile on their face. Everything was spotless, literally, the floor not a scratch, perfectly placed product on the shelves and the people in charge of each section wore white gloves so as to keep items finger-print free and ease of dusting.

We wandered all 3 huge floors, the top 2 floors are parking.

This is the NEW E-Mart in Jecheon! We took a cab, it cost us just under $4 (x2 and its not super cheap transportation but if you shop and have stuff to carry home its too far to walk so the cab is definitely worth it.)

These are the fun escalators that run in between the floors. First off to get a cart you put a 100 won coin into the cart handle at the front door (it returns it when you put it back and they click together, a great system if you ask me, no carts left in the parking lot etc.) The cart wheels have grooves and they click into place on the escalator so you don't have to hold the cart or even push it up. It would be very tough with such a steep incline after you start filling it up with groceries and stuff. It's actually kinda fun to ride up and down,and yes, ok we did go all the way up to the 5th floor fulling knowing there was nothing but parking, just to see the view from the top.

The next couples shots are a few random funny things we saw and a few things we bought...

I thought these were too cute, donut tape rolls! Each color was a different flavor, not sure if they actually smelled. They actually look more like Life Savers instead of donuts.

Hilarious! Only in Korea would someone ever come up with a strange way of wearing a tie! So fun as they say here (they don't always understand fun and funny mean different things).

This candy I've seen a few different places, who names an edible product that! There is also weird flavored gum here like cookies and cream, YUK! its just wrong.

Let's play a game of guess how much this is:

Adorable, pink, polka-dot, Amy-size slippers in a normal section which is practically impossible to find = priceless...actual cost: about $6 USD

A super cute classic black purse = priceless... actual cost: about $9 USD

Fun, bright colored plastic cups, Ben not being able to shatter them = priceless actual cost: about $2 USD
*Side note: Got the mugs at Home Plus the other day, so cute and reminds me of my cute kitchen colors at home!

We found a few things from home we desperately missed! Lets hope they taste the same, the Kit Kat bar package says "International Recipe" on it, what does that mean?!!?!?!

We got this as a gift for Director Lee and his wife. It is their 25th anniversary today and he has mentioned it a lot lately and Ben was finally able to get the date out of him. We just wanted to take the opportunity to get them a little something to show them how much we've appreciated their kindness and generosity to us and to really say congrats because we all know that being married for 25 years these days is an incredible feat. He always tells us he is going to get a silver medal and in 25 more years a gold medal! So we gave them a "silver" bag of "kisses" hahaha stupidness implied, he is really a very funny guy and we knew he would get and appreciate it. I also happened to bring an anniversary card in my stash from home that was PERFECT so together it was our little gift to them. Apparently he REALLY liked it because he called me while he was still at school this evening to say thank-you and tell me how surprised his wife was to receive a gift, it was sooo cute! It tickled me pink to be able to show them in a little way we thought of them. I guess its just those little things that mean the most sometimes, I know for me its true so when I get a chance to do it for others its all the more special. It's the love language thing I think.

This filled my afternoon, making peanut brittle with some of the organically grown peanuts Jennifer's dad gave us. mmm it tastes soooo good to have something homemade especially during the holidays!

Here's the final product...who knew you could make really good brittle in a microwave!

Well thats about it for today... the next few days should be fun, we honestly have no idea what we're doing on Christmas day we're just kinda going with the flow and "Que, sera, sera!". My lovely husband priceline negotiated us a fabulous 2 night stay in a 5-star hotel (for dirt cheap) in Seoul for New Years. He's always making my wishes come true! I'm soooo excited we're going to be in Seoul, South Korea and get to experience the new year in a HUGE vibrant city and hopefully see an incredible fireworks show too!