Saturday, March 27, 2010

An Afternoon at the Park: Beers Included

There is a big park right near our apartment. There are soccer fields, a climbing wall, outdoor exercise equipment, badminton court and lots of stuff for kids to do. We were walking by the kids area and found one parent indulging in beers while watching his kids play.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Don't Stack Rice Bowls

When Kwang and I were done with dinner one night, I started to stack the rice bowls as to help out the waitress. Well my attempts at helpfulness were well intended, but culturally wrong. In Korea stacking rice bowls is bad luck. Not stacking the bowls means that rice will be plentiful for the future.

For the Vermonters Out There: Stacked Wood, Not Just for Warmth

Oh the pain my mother used to put us through, stacking wood and chucking it in the basement. However, apparently stacked wood an aesthetic style at cafes here in Seoul. They use it to line the perimeter of the cafe. Me, I was like where's the wood fireplace? I need a hot toddy and yes, it is still bitter cold here.

The US Needs More Robots, Don't You Agree?

I found this robot wandering aimlessly around the movie theater lobby. It was bumping into people, shaking hands, and spreading some sort of advertisement jargon I'm sure. I almost chased it to the stairs when I saw it's face, those eyes, that cute puckering mouth, and not to mention those rosy cheeks. Instead of a pet I'm thinking a robot will do.


There are so many waffle vendors here. Mostly they have carts in the subway station where the smell of waffles permeates the underground tunnels. This vendor was selling waffles with either vanilla, strawberry or chocolate faux whipped cream. There is a waffle vendor fairly near my apartment and I just so happen to be the owner of a big bottle of VT maple syrup. Yes, this is the only food item I coveted enough to bring to S. Korea. Honestly, I thought it was going to be a present, but screw that, it's mine. And one day I'm going to be that crazy westerner and will bring my bottle of "liquid gold" to the waffle cart. I'll slyly whip it out of my purse and deliciousness will commence.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

MIM Comes to Seoul

Kwang and I had the pleasure of meeting up with part-time students from our graduate program who were on the Asia trip portion of the MIM. It was so good to see familiar faces, really a treat. Here we are near the stream that runs through Seoul.

Fascinating Parking Garage

This building struck me as a very strange from the start. It's tall, narrow, and has no windows. Upon further inspection I found out that it was a parking garage. The cars pull in and then are lifted up to the various levels almost like a ferris wheel. Kwang used to work at one of these. The structure seems too narrow though to rotate the cars around. It makes me wonder what the system looks like inside.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Photo Booth Ridiculousness

Yep, Kwang and I wandered into the photo booth last weekend. Well actually it was a photo booth store, complete with wigs and photoshop tools that added bling after the fact. You could pick an assortment of backgrounds that gave suggestions for poses. One of the backgrounds featured all of these brightly colored icecream top looking swirlies. Kwang informed me that those were pictures of poo and sure enough the examples were squatting in strange positions. Sad to say that background did not make the cut.

My First Piece of Fan Mail

Chloe, one of my students in the 7 year old advanced class, gave me my first piece of fan mail. I'm pretty impressed I'm rocking the side pony tail in her rendition of me. I also ran into Chloe at Dunkin' Donuts last Friday before school. She was very excited to introduce me to her Mom. Yep, Seoul runs on Dunkin', which makes me a very happy American come Friday when I am craving a bagel with cream cheese. Please note one of my doughnut options was garlic....I gladly passed on that one.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Neon Lights Mix with a Classic

These fabulous neon decorated carriages line the bridges that cross the small river in downtown Seoul. Kwang claims there is no "downtown" in Seoul, but I'm putting a label on this particular area because it's what made me love Seoul so much the first time. Not only are the carriages elaborated decorated with neon lights, but the driver plays a faux horse ney to alert the on coming cars. It's a terrifying sound, but effective. I feel like these carriages should be in a modern art music somewhere. They are gawdy, kitschy, relics of a modern day Seoul.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hmmm What's Going on Here?

While spending a Saturday afternoon out and about, Kwang and I came across truck after truck piled high with gas tanks. With very part of the city we visited there was the random gas tank truck. They didn't move either went the sun went down. It seemed as if they were permanently parked in their spots. Very strange. It seems like a lot of gas for BBQ's that are often powered by charcoal. Hmmmm...

So Much Stinky Squid

While Kwang and I lived in Portland he would buy dried cuttlefish, toast it over the oven burner, and then shred it in little pieces as a tasty beer drinking treat. I would always joke that it's stinky squid time. However, that experience doesn't even compare to the different types of strange dried seafood you can get on the street in Seoul. Look at the length of that octopus leg. That's got to be tough. Perhaps I'll venture out for a taste of that next time we drink beers. It's got to be just a tad chewy.

Not Many Takers in this Not So Touchy Feeling Country

Yep, free hugs were highly advertised in Insadong, a famous handicraft area of Seoul. However, I can't say they had many takers in a culture where public display of affection are not the norm. Kwang dared me to partake, but I just blushed and made him take the picture.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Clean Feet are Important

For the mere cost of 10,000 won (about $8) you too can have the dead skin on your feet eaten away by tiny fish. If there is any incentive to come visit me this is it! A stop at this establishment is sure to be on my tour of Seoul.

The Subway in Seoul

I have about a 40 minute commute on the subway each morning. I've learned some important things about this commute. First off, if the train is full don't get on it. There is a reason why people are very nicely standing in a line behind these pairs of feet. It's because the jammed packed train will come, some people will get on, but then the most remarkable event will occur. A completely empty train will pull up only minutes after the jammed packed one has left. If you are one of the first 6 people in line, there's a good chance you will get a seat. However, beware of the sections that are allotted for the elderly (see symbol above to the left of the feet). You will be shunned if you sit in this section, even if there are not elderly people on the train.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

If Only We Could Rescue Them All

There is a pet store right near our apartment. I walk by it everyday on my way to the subway. People love small toy dogs here and apparently they also like dying their dogs hair. The white dog with highlighter colored ears and the dress on really has no dignity. Also to note there's a restaurant a block away that serves dog. Yikes on that juxtaposition.

My Favorite Ice Cream Treat

Corn is pronounced ox-su-su in Korean. I love this ice cream treat. The outside shell is made of a wafer or cake cone that is molded to look like an ear of corn. Inside the ear of corn is a thin layer of chocolate that surrounds vanilla ice cream. The ice cream has little pieces of real corn in it as well as gummy corn pieces.

Foil Wrapped Tires

These foil wrapped tires made me think of chocolate bars and maybe even a reference to Charlie Bucket. I wish my snow tires had come with a shiny foil wrapping back in the states. Then again I guess I wouldn't have had the satisfaction of unwrapping them.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Street Food-A Focus on the Meal on a Stick

How I adore street food. In Korea the vendors even have little stools at their stalls so you can pull up and take a load off while enjoying a delicious dinner. Kwang and I decided we would eat eat street food one night so we settled on a stall that had all the good stuff and by good stuff I mean the more weird things on a stick the better. Above are think stripes of fish cake, accordion style on a stick. You are even encouraged to drink the broth as there are cups and a ladle hanging along side the stall. Kwang did this, I abstained.
This batter of fish cakes, vegetables, spices and flour is soon to be carefully molded into a sort of fish corndog on a stick. The vendor made them with the quick flick of a chop stick.
The vendor in action.
Final product revealed: on the left you have the batter wrapped around a piece of faux crab, on the right is the batter with a sesame leaf on top. All fish cake sticks are fried of course before serving. I had two of the sesame leaf ones and they were tasty!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Furniture Arcade

Kwang took me to an area of Seoul called the Furniture Arcade. Here street after street is lined with furniture stores. Some specialize in office furniture, others kitchen tables, we were interested in beds. The bed with settled on after thoroughly searching the strip was sold by a very friendly sales guy. He even made me sit on the bed and jump up and down to test the spring coils. A pretty hilarious sight to be seen. Just so you know a double mattress with wooden sleigh style frame costs $300, not a bad price at all.

Shopping Carts Are Not for Free

Kwang dragged me to EMart at 11:00pm one night last week because we had rented a car to move into our new apartment and it was a chance to purchase some of the bigger, non subway portable items. Yes, essentially EMart=Walmart. However, there is one slight difference. At EMart a cart will cost you 10 cents. Each cart is locked up and is released with just the deposit of a coin.