Monday, May 31, 2010

Conveniently Placed Paper Shredder

I found this conveniently placed paper shredder right next to my local atm and thought that this was amazing. It's the answer to all of random receipts floating around in my bag. 

Of course I had to try it out to make sure it was the real thing. Why don't ATM's have this feature at home?

Watermelon Carrying Device

Watermelons are in season already here in Korea. They cost anywhere between $5USD and $16USD. I found a cheap $5 one and was over joyed. Since most people are shopping on foot the shop keeper makes this handy carrying device out of plastic. It's so convenient!

Our Friend Sunjeong's Dog

This is Star, our friend Sunjeong's Dog who is a newly shaved Yorkshire Terrier. She's pretty damn cute, but incredibly spoiled. She gets special treats and little outfits.

Kwang loves little dogs.

Star is like why won't this crazy Korean guy put me down. Something I hadn't really thought of before is that Star only understands Korean so my little coos to come and play with me didn't make any sense to her. Quite a few of foreigners adapt dogs here and it's almost like they have to teach ESL to their dogs.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Egg Storage Near My Apartment

I stumbled upon this mini egg warehouse while on a walk last weekend. I love seeing massive amounts of one object in one place. I think it's really beautiful for some reason and orderly.

So all of these eggs are outside, just hanging out without any refrigeration. Which is how most eggs around the world are stored. What has caused the US to be so refrigerator conscious and is it truly necessary for eggs to be submitted to such a chilly egg just another victim of factory farming?

Election Time

This Wednesday is Election Day here in Korea which most importantly means I get the day off! Campaign crews greet me at the subway every morning these days. There are usually 4-6 people who line up all wearing the same outfit, handing out campaign cards. They also have super loud pop music blaring in the background. This sort of campaign isn't isolated to one spot. Trucks with open backs like the one above drive around the city blaring different messages. Often there are dancers or performers along in the truck. It's a real show. I saw a robotic mannequin with a picture of a candidate's face bowing from one of these trucks. Frankly, I like the effort and appreciate the creativity of trying to be in more than one place at once!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Foot Massage Walking Path

In the park near our apartment there is an unique foot massage walking path. Koreans believe there is a deep connection between the soles of your feet and the organs of the body. The ground in textured in a way that is helps promote the health of your organs.

Here is a sampling of the foot path. Little pebbles, ridged protrusions, and bumpy surfaces help stimulate the foot. And of course you must take off your shoes to walk down the path.

Here is Kwang making the trek along the curved walkway. I've been nursing a severely stubbed toe so I did not make the homeopathic journey.

  This little girl was quite into it. However, next time we are in the area I think I will take a tip from her and will be sure to wear socks.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ornamental Wheat in Korea (Just for you Hutchens Family!)

I was walking home one day and was shocked to come across this wheat growing in front of a restaurant. It reminded me of garden my friend Shayna and I kept last summer. We had some rogue wheat plants growing in secluded spots.

Here I was thinking Korea was a rice based culture.  

A Visit to TGIF Fridays

Kwang's boss took us out to dinner last Saturday. I was a little nervous due to Kwang's previous experience with going out and drinking soju being the main focus, but then I found out we were going to TGIF Fridays. Back in the states I think I had been maybe once or twice and really don't appreciate the chain restaurant. However, here I was excited because it meant I could eat salad!

I found this interesting part of the menu. It going into great description of where the ingredients originate from. It's also weird because not everything is accounted for; I had tomatoes on my salad...where did those come from?? And hmmm kimchi, gasp, comes from....Korea?!

Kwang also wanted me to point out that a bottle of Yellow Tail costs about $30 USD here. That's pretty outrageous. We stuck to come good old Korean beer. 

Questionable T-shirt

This is what one of my 8 year old children wore to school this past Thursday. I'm thinking that Planned Parenthood has some how gotten into the overseas subliminal t-shirt market.  Or rather this is just a case of Konglish gone wrong. It took me the whole 50 minute class before I noticed what was written.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dusting Off My Shoes After Hiking

At the bottom of the trail there is a dusting off station where you can use pressurized air to dust off your shoes. I had to get in on this action.

I got in line and a nice older man handed me the air gun. I'm not really sure on if my technique is up to par, but luckily I was wearing Kwang's shoes.

You can also check out how differently I'm dressed. Let's just say the there are hard core super geared-up hikers and then there are the ill-prepared lofty hikers.

Giant Hula Hoops

I found these women hula hooping near the top of the climb. Let's talk about how seriously large those hula hoops are. As per Korean info commercials hula hooping is very good for your health. I'm trusting this considering the speed at which these women hiked the mountain.

Hiking in Seoul

Seoul is surrounded by mountains, so when Kwang was working this past Saturday (haha) I ventured out with one of my teachers at school and went on my first hike in Korea. It felt amazing to get out of the crowded city and up in the trees. I do have to admit there were quite a few people along the steep path and yes, many of them were twice my age and easily lapping me.

Here's another view up on the mountain. If you look carefully you can see the hazy outline of Seoul's cityscape. The hiking path was about a 45 minute subway ride from my house. Not bad at all. Hiking is a serious fashion business here. People have whole wardrobes committed to the sport. I on the other hand wore shorts and a t-shirt and felt out of place.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hanging Out By the Changaychun (the man-made river)

The last time we came down to this part of Seoul was when our old classmates were here on their grad school right of passage. It's drastically different with spring acting a whole lot like summer.

We dipped our feet in and it was freezing (worse than the beach in Maine in July), though refreshing. This is such a great area of Seoul.

This Friday is Buddha's birthday and there are lanterns hanging everywhere in celebration of the event. As the day turned into dusk the city was spectacularly beautiful.

A Visit to the Manchester United Pub and Restaurant

If you know Kwang you know is practically addicted to soccer. So when we stumbled upon the Manchester United Pub and Restaurant we had stop and have a meal. It's a restaurant/cafe sort of establishment that celebrates all the glory of Manchester United. Korea especially loves this Premier League team because one of its own, Jisun Park, is a midfielder on the team.

Ok this is sort of uncanny, but we did not swipe or even attempt to swipe this mint condition Manchester United pint glass. In fact the thought of doing so didn't even come up. Apparently, my college days of trickery may be in the past.

Here's another picture of the fine establishment and its number one fan.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Funny Theft Picture at Smoothie King

I was waiting for my delicious very berry smoothie at Smoothie King and saw this flier near the pick up station. Almost every nook and cranky in Korea is on closed caption TV (or it feels like it at least). Cameras are in my classroom at school, they are on the streets, and in the stores. This camera caught this guy stealing a travel mug red handed. I love the care that has gone into identifying the culprit and his prize.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Kwang's Been Hired!

Here is Kwang standing in front of his new office building. He works for a distributor of the XBOX. The company has also just gained the exclusive distribution rights for Razer products. Razer makes high tech gaming devices that include a mouse that has 5600 dpi (I guess that makes it extremely fast to the touch). Kwang will be working on the marketing campaign for the launch of these products in Korea, as well as doing quite of bit of translation work. Razer's Asian headquarters is based out of Singapore and Kwang will be an effective part in bridging the language and cultural gaps.

Parent's Day in Korea

Saturday was Parent's Day in Korea. Yep, you heard it right, Parent's Day, meaning mothers and fathers must share the sacred day. Red carnations the flower of choice here. At school we made paper red carnations for the parents and grandparents. Parent's Day falls three days after Children's Day. We had this day off from school which was pretty exciting. This holiday is when parents and grandparents shower their children with presents and special outings. You did not want to go to the park that day. I actually saw a young child aimlessly wandering the street holding a wad of cash that her grandparents had just given her. The next holiday to come is Buddha's Birthday which I will be sure to document in detail.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Ever Changing Store Front

Businesses turn over quickly here in Seoul. When we first moved into our apartment the store featured above was a fried chicken and beer restaurant. Then it flipped into a pajama store. Then one day I came home and all of a sudden the merchandise had changed to pillow cases and comforters. Today as I walked around the corner there was no longer bedding for sale, but cheap clothing and knock off outdoor gear. I wonder what will be next...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

After a Couple of Beers...Why not shoot BB guns?

After we left the Woodstock Bar at around midnight, the streets were still bustling and small little businesses that we had never noticed before were open. This included a BB gun firing range. Now many of you may not know this, but in the army Kwang was a sharp shooter. He would earn extra days of military leave by winning target competitions. As you can see from the downed targets above and that sheeplishly proud grin on his face, yes, Kwang's reputation still stands true.

I however, am a lousy shot and came from a very anti-gun upbringing. The cultural attitude towards guns is much different here. The toy industry here makes all sorts of guns for kids. We have toy guns in our toybox at school. I feel extremely uncomfortable when the kids play with them.   I've had a student bring a BB gun to school and when I was the only one who threw a fit over him playing with it on the playground I ended up feeling like a totally overprotective, control freak. Just to get a sense of the law here it's practically illegal to own a gun in Korea. Kwang says that you can own a gun, but that it's extremely rare. I'm not sure if the BB gun is the gate-way weapon, but I'm still going to respect what it represents.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Woodstock: Only the Best Bar in Seoul

One of my coworkers turned us on to this Western style bar called Woodstock. Kwang and I went to see what it was all about this past Friday night. We were in heaven. The bar has a huge collection of old records as well as DVD performances of all sorts of rock legends. There are little pieces of paper scattered around the bar to write your request songs on and then give to the DJ guy behind the bar. 

While we were there we heard all sorts of different music. I was shocked to see Peter, Paul and Mary come on the video screen. Yes, apparently Koreans know and love hippie-folk music just as much as I do. I had to quickly explain to Kwang that this was a special moment because he was experiencing the first band I had ever seen live (thanks Mom!). We also heard some death metal, a hair band or two and lots of the Beatles. Our requests included Marvin Gaye and Elton John. We are definitely coming back here.

Wade Kids Academy Goes to the Theater

Last week my school took the kindergarten students to see a play. It was a Korean version of the Wizard of Oz. It was very strange. This was partly due to the play being in Korean and me not understanding exactly what was going on. However, if you look at the photo above you will see that the scarecrow is bald. I have no idea how that fits into the plot of the play.

The kids sure did love it and it was a break from the regular classroom. 

Here's another strange plot twist. The Wizard of Oz turns out to be an old woman with gray hair and big scarf that keeps her warm. Oh another thing to note, there was a lot of singing and dancing in the play. However, all of the singing was lip-synced.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

So What Did We Buy at Costco

Here's what we bought at Costco. It came to a grand total of $85 won about $80 USD. In case you can't decipher the goods here's a list:
-a big bag of frozen shrimp
-a roasted chicken
-a big bunch of bananas
-a giant block of Tillamook Pepper Jack Cheese (can you believe it Oregon fans!!)
-2 large bottles of Prego spaghetti sauce
-3 boxes of corn flakes
-6 big bags of pasta
-a case of canned diced tomatoes
-9 Asian pears (a huge deal since one pear can cost $5 at the local grocery store. We got all of these for $10!!)

A Visit to Costco

Kwang and I made the trek to Costco last weekend. I've never actually been a member before so this was a big move. Apparently my membership works around the world too. It was only $35won to join which come to about $30USD so a bargain at that. Even though we don't have a car we found a bus that picks us up and drops us off less than 100 yards from the entrance of Costco and our house. 

So what did we find...well to start off they were giving away free samples of one of Kwang's favorite Oregon wines, Columbia Crest Riesling. We were pretty jazzed about this though it cost $10 more than at home so it did not make it into our cart.

This was the meat section. I thought it was really interesting that you could see into the butchering room. Unlike in the US butchers are still a very prominent part of Korean culture. This morning we went to our local market and the butcher ground some pork for us right on the spot. So I think this window into the packaging and prep room is to gain consumer confidence.

I loved the contrast of the gray octopus set against the blue styrofoam trays. Such a different feeling than than the Seafood Market we went to weeks before.

They had a fairly big gardening and outdoors section. Kwang is posed this way because we were joking that this tool shed was bigger than our apartment. I can't imagine the store sells many of these. I don't think I've seen an apartment building with a yard yet in the city.

Chair Lift Across the Lake

The  Contemporary Art Museum is located on the south side of a large lake. The subway stop puts you on the north side so I had to walk around the lake to get to the museum. However, there was another way to go, via chair lift. I thought that this was rather cleaver. The ride takes you over the lake where as you can see there is even a net to catch you if you decide to jump or fall off.