Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snow in Seoul!

We woke up the other morning to a dusting of snow. This is the view from our apartment. All of this meant that Kwang had to take the subway to work since the roads would be a mess and the city buses would be delayed. Considering that it is crucial for Kwang to be at work before his boss, checking the weather in the morning is a critical factor these days.

Here's a view of Boramae Park in the winter. It's school vacation time so there were lots of children having snowball fights and building snowmen. 

If you look closely at the little pagoda you'll see a huddle of men still gambling, playing games and probably drinking soju to stay warm.

It may have snowed, but people are still walking the track with vigor. A little snow won't stop these retirees' exercise routine.

The way home to our apartment.

I Ate Blowfish and Survived!

If prepared incorrectly blowfish (or swell fish as it's often referred to) can be deadly. I had mentioned to my friend Younyoung that I was interested in trying some new Korean food since Kwang and I have gotten into a food routine lately. She went to college with a girl whose family owns a blowfish restaurant so she took me there. Blowfish like the ones above, were swimming around in tanks in the restaurant. If they are scared or irritated they puff up very quickly though unfortunately we did not see this transformation during our lunch.

We ate four different blowfish dishes. The first was a salad made with blowfish skin. The skin was really tender and the salad came with a great spicy dressing. The dish above was called blowfish bulgogi. Bulgogi is typically beef sauteed with a sweet, spicy sauce, however in this case blowfish was substituted for the beef. It was really delicious especially when everything cooked for awhile and the sauce began to caramelize. There were lots of wood ear mushrooms that soaked up the flavor of the sauce.

Next came tempura style blowfish. Really you can't go wrong with anything that been tempura-ed. Yes, that's a new word and I was lucky to have some pumpkin slices (my favorite) mixed in with the blowfish.

The last dish was a simple, yet delicious blowfish soup. There were large chunks of the fish along with bean sprouts and green onions. After all of the spiciness and tempura this style of blowfish was cleansing and pure. A large table of business men sat next to us and each ordered this soup. Thank you Younyoung for taking me here!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wade Kids Academy Celebrates Christmas

Friday was a festive Christmas Eve at my school. We wrote Christmas cards for parents, sang Christmas songs,  made Santa candles and ate spaghetti (the true highlight!!). These girls helped celebrate by wearing very popular reindeer horn headbands to school. 

This is our 5 year old class (really they are 4 years old in western terms). Each class had a caroling contest. The best girl and boy each got a special present. Lucky for Chloe she was the only girl that day. 

All of the girls in the 7 year old class looked very festive for Christmas.

My lucky co-worker Michael was chosen as this year's Santa. The children's parents had sent in a present for each them so that Santa could give them something special.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Cakes

Christmas cakes seem to be all the rage in Korea at the moment. This was Dunken Donuts' cake display today. There are so many cute cakes. I like the one that looks like a teacup. I really wish they offered a cake made out of donut layers, now that would be delicious.

These were Baskin Robbins' ice cream cakes. They also look cute though it's freezing outside right now and the thought of eating ice cream gives me goose bumps.

Kwang's boss sent him home with this cake. I guess instead of a Christmas ham you get a Christmas chocolate cake here in Korea. The little cookies and figurines are pretty cute. 

Here's the hard working man himself. All cakes in Korea come with candles, little matches and sometimes even party poppers. This one also came with sparkling grape juice that my kids at school referred to as champagne. 
This man has many tricks.

Earlier that day one of my elementary students had bought this cake to celebrate the last day of class before vacation. Needless to say I was a little caked out by the time Kwang came home with his.

Couple Sweatshirts

Matching couple sweatshirts are huge here. So imagine my surprise and joy when I found one in my Christmas stocking from Kwang. 
Why Boston? Or more like why not Boston! Finally I can show my USA pride though it's not exactly hard to hide here since my foreignness is rather apparent. 

Here's a close up which really helps show the other special part about these sweatshirts. Never heard of Massachubatts, eh?? A quick Wikipedia search claims that Boston was established in 1630. Who do you trust Wikipedia or this sweatshirt...that's right Massachubatts doesn't lie.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Confession of a Deliquent Blogger

Before I knew it it's already the 20th and I've only touched my blog once this month, yikes! I blame Christmas shopping and my 4 jobs. However, I couldn't hold back posting this picture. How I love taking ridiculous pictures with anime characters.

Favorite Fruit and Vegetable Stand

 This is one of my favorite fruit and vegetable stands. They sell everything by the plastic basket so it's really easy to tell how much something costs. You can find everything there; peppers, bananas, persimmon, apples, oranges, cucumbers, potatoes...I could go on. 

When you figure out what you want all you have to do is bring your baskets up to this guy. He then puts everything into plastic bags. He also might strike a deal with you. Last time I bought $4 worth of oranges and red peppers and he asked me if I wanted a huge bunch of banana for $1 to make it an even $5 bucks. I was like yes please!

Here are some apples and tomatoes in baskets. It's practically like the farmers market though it's pretty typical to find one of these little stands on most corners in Seoul. 

Juk, Juk and more Juk

Juk is to Korea as chicken noodle soup is to the United States. Juk is the answer to all ailments here in Korea. Have a stuffy nose, eat juk. Feel like you're coming down with the flu, eat juk. Your stomach is upset, eat juk. I admit it is a soothing bowl of goodness, though I stay strong to my sleeve of saltines, 7-Up and buttered toast when really feeling under the weather.

The juk restaurant we went to was called "Juk Story". It's a chain that's pretty easy to find around Seoul. On the wall they had these inspirational words to say about juk. To best describe juk it's a thick rice porridge. It often has different types of seafood in it as well as vegetables, meat and occasionally cheese (Kwang cringed when I ordered juk with cheese). 

Here is Kwang's juk. He ordered the oyster and mushroom juk. Every order comes with little side dishes of regular kimchi, white kimchi, marinated shredded beef, and a red chili paste root vegetable concoction.

Here's a close up of the juk. On top they put ground sesame seeds and finely chopped dried seaweed. You then stir it all together. 

Here's my chicken and cheese juk. I usually don't find juk that flavorful, but this type was incredibly delicious. There were big chucks of broccoli in with the rice and shredded chicken. This is sort of the non-traditional flavor adapted for Korea's changing taste. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lotteria's Lady Burger

The Korean fast food chain Lotteria has a new burger out, the "Lady Burger". That's right it's only for ladies and apparently there are no rules here on discrimination as the ad claims the burger is just for women. What makes it a "lady" burger...well, well, well...the burger actually has pieces of rice cake in it and not the type of rice cakes you get back in the US. Rather these are thick chewy pieces of rice that has been make from mashing regular rice together to make a cylindrical cake. I suppose I need to dare Kwang to go and try and order one.

Here's the commercial to get a better idea.

This company also makes a diet burger that has rice patties instead of a bun. When I visit Lotteria I usually opt for the shrimp burger because it truly is delicious with big chunks of shrimp visible with every bite. It seems I have many other items to add to my list of dinner possibilities.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Show Girls of G-Star

A booth wouldn't be complete with out some show girls. This is very common when marketing products in Asia. These were the girls working at Razer's booth. I think they had some of the coolest outfits in the entire convention.

These ladies were packing heat. Keep in mind I was the only woman spectator taking pictures. 
These ladies had a wall of photographers waiting in line to take pictures.

Yet again, I guess it doesn't get old and it draws in the crowd. 

This was towards the end of the day and the booth was closed so the women created a barrier into the exhibit. 

Umm...where can I get one of these headbands??

This booth employed so many show girls.  At the end of the day they lined the parameter of the booth and bowed to everyone in thanks. It was impressive.

G-Star Video Game Convention

Kwang had to help man a booth for Razer at G-Star which is Korea's exclusive video game convention. It took place in Busan so I took the bus on down to meet him there. On Sunday morning the crowd had already started to line up outside the convention center. Thank goodness I had a VIP pass!

This is Razer's booth. People could come and test out their products, play Starcraft and get free Razer removable tattoos of the tri-snake logo. The black and electric green logo really attracted the crowd.

Have a question? This good man will help you out. He was very proud to be part of the team.

Here are some of Razer's newest products that were on display. 

Engagement Ring(s)

It's official! Kwang and I are engaged. As usual we are not exactly doing everything in the traditional way. In Korea many couples exchange promise rings. These are rings that both the bride and groom wear before getting married. There is a section of Seoul that specializes in these coordinating rings and when I say coordinating I mean coordinating. If the bride gets some bling so does the groom. As much as I would have liked for Kwang to sport some sparkles we didn't go that route. We had been looking for something that represented Korea and found this ring set. The rings are made by a Korean designer and when placed on top of each other create a chrysanthemum flower. It reminds me of our differences and yet our ability to fit together. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

North Korea Attacks

Tuesday afternoon while I was working at school we got word that there had a been an attack on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. This area has been a hot bed of tension as it lies near the boarder. In the past disputes had occurred between military ships on the open sea, never on S. Korean soil. In March the Cheonan, a S. Korean ship, sank in this area due to a missile strike that was later identified by an international investigation to be of N. Korean origin.

A picture from after the attack. Heavy artillery was used against the island. 

It was discovered today that there were two civilians casualties from yesterday's events. When talking with my adult students about the situation some were quite open and frank about their opinions and why N. Korea had attacked. Others refused to have a discussion because in their minds there was nothing to discuss. The attack happened and it was meant to provoke. South Koreans have worked so hard rebuilding their country from the rubble of the Korean War. When I look around Seoul I try to think how to paint a picture of this city that's filled with skyscrapers, people who work 60 hour weeks, modern art,  schools on every corner, and an impressive infrastructure that accommodates the 11 million people that live here. You can get cell phone reception on the subway here, you can't even do that in New York City. Hell, why would I want to talk on the phone when I can watch TV or the baseball game on my commute home.  It's an  economically strong country that proudly boasts about paying off their debt early to the IMF after the Asian Economic Crisis of 1997. To engage in war would shatter the foundation they've built. However, to be bullied around continuously poises the blatant threat.   

The attack happened about 90 miles away from Seoul.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

We May Not Have an Oven, But Don't Feel Too Bad for Us!

Since most apartments or houses do not come with an oven, Korea has adapted by have delicious bakeries located on practically every corner. Kwang and I have started the habit that on Sundays we go to the bakery and get pastries and lattes. Well it's usually me who gets out of bed to walk the short trek over to the shop, but it's well worth it. Anything filled with apple, raspberry, or cream cheese is sure to make it into our Sunday breakfast routine.

Pepero Day 11/11

Pepero Day in Korea is when children, girlfriends or boyfriends give pepero, chocolate dipped bread stick snacks, to their loved ones on November 11th. The date 11/11 looks just like these skinny cute snacks. I've been told that the holiday originated in Busan where school girls gave pepero to their friends with inspiration that their bodies would mimic the ultra slender snack. Sort of ironic consider it's a cracker dipped in chocolate.  Let's be honest, it's a made up holiday in which Lotte, the manufacturer of pepero, set out to gain more sales. And that they do with pepero day making up around 60% of their yearly sales.

I decided to indulge and buy some pepero for Kwang and my kindergarten students. I tried to sneak the big box on the right into Kwang's messenger bag so that he would have to embarrassingly share with his co-workers, but he caught me.

This was the typical scene outside of convenient stores around Korea on 11/11. There were pepero gift baskets, pepero bouquets and finally my favorite pepero stuffed animals.

Besides plain chocolate dipped there are other varieties such as chocolate dipped with almonds or peanuts. There is also a naked pepero that is a bread stick filled with chocolate.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Korean Wedding #2

My co-worker Katie got married a couple of weeks ago. Before entering the wedding hall there are lots of pictures the couple had taken together. They usually picture the couple in pre-canned romantic or humorous poises. The cheesier the better is typically the norm. I think this one is pretty cute.

This photo montage was really funny. I'm thinking Kwang and I will be opting out on this type of photo shoot though it's entertaining to image what type of pictures we potentially could take. 

Their ceremony was quite grandiose with these two ladies in their power blue outfits stealing the show with their swords. I don't believe this has anything to do with military service. It was a great way to spice up the ceremony though. 
One of the more modern traditions in a Korean ceremony is to have friends of the bride and groom sing to couple. These friends do not have to be professionals and often times this point is blatantly obvious. These sweet singers had to restart the music due to nerves. I would be shaking in my shoes if I had to sing up there. 

At the end of this ceremony the couple and their families cut the cake together. I though this was a nice gesture of family unity. They also drank champagne and did a toast with the rest of the guests.  Afterward everyone made a beeline to the buffet. Every dish imaginable was served at this wedding, fresh sushi, noodle soup, marinated and grilled meat, assorted Korean dishes, 6 different kinds of kimchi, even some slightly western dishes. I was ecstatic to find salmon with capers and horseradish on the table.