Monday, March 28, 2011

Need Some Luck on Your Big Test?

The new part of Sillim that we moved to is near an area where government and law tests are taken. These are serious, intensive tests. Kwang has a friend that's been studying for the past 5 years, trying to pass the government exam. We walked down this Sunday to explore and to find a place to have coffee. On the way we passed a table filled with these used book stands. Each one was once used by a prior student. They are marked with various sayings like "helper" or "gateway to success".

This one claims to be used by a student who passed the test. I love that added superstitious element. I figure everything helps when studying for such strenuous tests.

Renting a Truck in Korea

We moved into our new spacious, two-bedroom apartment about a month ago. Up until last weekend we still were sitting on the floor watching TV and eating dinner. I managed to find someone on Craigslist who was selling a bunch of furniture. The only hitch was that they lived about an hour away from our apartment. So we rented a truck with a driver...sounds expensive huh....wrong! It was less than $60 to get our new furniture loaded up and driven all the way over to our apartment. We took the subway both directions and the whole thing was done in less than 2 hours. Now that's efficient.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Another Great Soju Ad

I was walking through Sillim the other day and all of a sudden had to do a double take. What a brilliant marketing campaign for soju. 

Keep in mind these guys were biking at a snail's pace.

This guy really got into it. I love the wigs and the matching outfits, although I still don't have a thirst for soju. Maybe that comes with time.

Not So Free Cosmetic Samples

We were in Myeongdong, Seoul's shopping mecca, and we wandered upon this interactive display. Let me first say I love the cosmetic stores in Korea. There are so many of them and each one is a little different focusing on either cute packaging, all natural ingredients, or even hipness like the store "Too Cool for School" as pictured below. In most cosmetic stores in Korea if you buy something they will give you free samples of their latest products they are trying to push. I especially love the cosmetic stores in Myeongdong because they give the best free samples. I can walk out with a free facial mask, two vials of wrinkle cream, maybe a mini face wash and some cotton pads after only spending a few dollars. There's no such time as bonus time here because it happens everyday, take that Estee Lauder.

I should mention in Myeongdong cosmetic stores get you into their store usually by placing these girls at the entry who have loud headset microphones and are yelling for you to come on in. The girls are skilled too. They speak Korean, Japanese, and English and are not afraid to target the person passing by. Hello American girl, come on in, come check it out, you get this free! I'm a sucker, what can I say.

Well "Too Cool for School" was trying a different approach. They had this booth set up where someone stood behind holding out their hand.

If you put a 100 won coin (less than 10 cents) into the hand out would pop two samples. Of course people walking by, would occasionally slap the and mess with the guy behind the scenes, but he took it with grace. A crowd gathered soon after a few of us bystanders decided to partake in the stunt.

Here's what I got: a face wash sample (the small blue packet) and a BB cream sample (BB cream is sort of like foundation, but better, it's super popular here). Not bad at all, especially since it included a mini show.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bowling with the Razer Korea Team

Kwang and I got invited to attend Razer Korea's office bowling showdown. There was quite a bit of smack talk going on between Kwang and Alex from the Razer office. Each was convinced that they could out-bowl the other.

Here they are shaking hands after the "warm-up". May the best bowler win!

Bowling in Korea was pretty much the same as it is in the States. One slight exception was the absents of a bar attached to the alley. I'm not sure about you, but my bowling skills only get better with a couple of beers. There was a cooler that had some refreshments in it for sale, but this crowd was more into focus and showing off. 
Can I take these home? Probably the first shoe in Korea that I've found that actually fits me.

Alex had a mean hook that I caught in action here. 

Everyone in the office as well as Kwang put 20,000 won into the pot for the winner. Low and behold all of Kwang's talk couldn't stand up to Alex's continuous strikes. He won the money and then took us all out to dinner. He also bought us each a lottery ticket with his earnings and made us promise to split the winnings.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Le Saint Ex

Last week I had a few days off since my teaching contract had ended and my new job with EducaKorea didn't start until the 7th. To celebrate I took Kwang out to lunch to Le Saint Ex, which is a popular French restaurant located in Itaewon. I'd seen a lot of blog posts about this restaurant, specifically about their lunch special. I was itching to see if it was really worth all the hype as some western restaurants are a bit overrated here in Seoul.
This is Kwang's best "this bread is magnificent" expression. It really was too! And they brought us basket after basket of crunchy, chewy, yeasty slices. 

Kwang opted for the smoked salmon plate as he thought the lunch special was too much food. Seriously, did 5 years in the states not rub off on him at all? I love the cute little circle-piles of capers, red onion and parsley.

The lunch special consisted of a choice of soup or salad, the main course, and then a choice of 5 different desserts or coffee. All of this for 20,000 won, a steal really. I started off with the salad of the day...can you see what's underneath those thinly sliced apples...yeah those are beets! Beets are just not one of those universal, worldly, vegetables. Australia loves them, same with New Zealand and North America. I'm also fairly confident Europe embraces this purple vegetable. Asia...not so much. Needless to say this salad was refreshing and a little taste of home. 

The lunch special's main course was a ground beef and potato shepard's pie. Hardy, delicious and super flavorful.

If this was one of your choices for desert why would you ever pick the apple cobbler (Kwang's first choice). They call this the "Floating Island". Isn't it beautiful.

Kwang couldn't wait to crack into that hard candy crust. Underneath the candy shell there was a heaping layer of meringue. Underneath the meringue was a rich and creamy custard. We were instructed to mix all three layers together when eating.
This dessert was amazing. It was incredibly rich and decadent, but really I felt like I deserved it. Was Le Saint Ex overrated? Not even close.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Korea Blog!

The Korea Blog recently had a contest to find 50 lucky bloggers to contribute to their website. I entered and was picked as one of the 50! Whoohoo! I'm still not exactly sure what all of this means, but I've been invited to the opening ceremonies at the Cheong Wa Dae, commonly known as the blue house or rather the President's house...yes!

I still have to try and figure out how to get some time off of work for the event, but I think I should be able to make it happen. The top contributors to the blog, who currently live in Korea, win the prize of a round trip ticket home.  Sounds like a exciting opportunity to me.

Trip to Yangpyeong Pension

A couple of weeks ago it was my friend Angela's 30th birthday. To celebrate she rented a pension in Yangpyeong which is a hour and a half train ride east from the center of Seoul. A pension sounds so European, but that's what they usually refer to as a guest house here. I like it. Here is a picture of Oak, Angela and MiYoung on the train. I originally met them in response to an English ad on Craigslist. They were looking for a foreigner to place their English with as they have all lived abroad in Canada or the states and wanted to keep up their language skills. I feel really lucky that they choose me because they've become some of my closest friends here in Korea.

I often see groups of young people carrying around boxes like these on the subway during the weekend. I had always wondered what they were up to...well they apparently were going away on their own pension adventure. We made a stop at E-mart first to pick up all the essentials for Korean BBQ and a ramen breakfast. Some heavy lifting was involved, but all necessary.

The pension owner picked us up at Yangpyeong train station later that evening. The house was really beautiful and I can only imagine what the grounds might look like in the spring or summer. The space we rented had a huge kitchen, bath and a large separate bedroom. We barbecued out on the porch while pop songs played in the courtyard.

There was a built up gazebo on the side yard. We climbed up there and took lots of pictures. 

Here my friends are on the second story of the pension. It was such a beautiful day. 

Not only was there a swing set, but there were also a sauna. 

For Angela's birthday we surprised her with this cake and candle display. Champagne all around!