Archive for the 'Culture' Category

TTMMGH – Korea edition #15

I’ve mentioned a time or two about the common misuse of the English (aka Engrish) language in Korea.  I suspect most Koreans don’t even know the English is wrong. 

Here are a few fun t-shirts we spotted a couple weeks ago at a random “sell your t-shirts on the street corner” shop.  Which is your favorite?

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The spice bottles read: Garam Masala, Chili Powder, and Cumin Seeds.  YOU WANT THIS SOURCE?

  

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Actually, I didn’t know that “Romantics love violence, too.”  Good to know.

 

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I know you’re tempted to say it…but don’t. 🙂

  

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Someone alert the American Diabetes Assoc.  I think we have a new slogan on our hands.  “Beating diabetes with Hugs and Love.”  I thought it was a balanced diet and exercise.  Hmm..go figure.

 

Click for other “hmm-worthy” posts:

TTMMGH #14

TTMMGH #13

44 things I’ll miss about living in Korea

I’ve been trying to avoid doing the “countdown to America” thing – there’s just so much left to do that I’m not looking for the days to pass by even quicker than they already are.

But, given that there is so much going on – I figured I’d at least see how many days we have left to stuff everything in. 

As of today, July 9th, we have 44 days!  That’s it folks.  44! 

So, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of the 44 things I’ll miss about living in Korea.  Believe me, there’s a bunch of people/things we are looking forward to when we get back home, but life here is pretty darn easy and definitely a lot of fun. 

In no particular order:

  1. No tipping!  It’s not required, nor expected – and sometimes even considered a little rude.
  2. The subway.  Fast, cheap, and easy to maneuver (especially in Daegu).
  3. Cheap taxis.  Yes, they drive like madmen – but they are cheap and get you where you need to go fast.
  4. Eating out with friends for $5-$10 a person (including beer/soju).
  5. Side dishes.  Every bar or restaurant offers little side dishes of tasty snacks (and unlimited refills).
  6. The “we need you” table bell.  If you need more water, beer, food, etc. – just press the button and “ding” – someone will be over to help you ASAP.
  7. Drinking beers for CHEAP!  Mind you, I didn’t say I’ll miss drinking cheap-tasting beers.  But I will miss being able to drink all night with friends and only paying about $8/person at the end of the night.
  8. Ice cream.  Korea has such a HUGE variety of individual ice cream treats.  Oh so yummy and so cheap (about $.50/each).
  9. Korean food.  Granted, some stuff I don’t like – but the majority of it…I love!  BBQ, jimdakk, deokbokki, soups, noodles, and the list goes on and on.
  10. Dunkin Donuts.  In the U.S. it’s only on the East coast – but in Korea – they are everywhere.  Specifically, I’m really gonna miss this donut.
  11. Fruit and veggie stands.  Cheap and easy way to eat your fruits and veggies.
  12. Concord grapes.  Big and juicy.  Once you learn how to eat them, it’s fun to suck in the grape (you don’t eat the peel).
  13. Cheap cell phone.  I pay about $15 a month.
  14. Cheap cable and internet.  The cable TV is $5/month.  Don’t know how much the internet is, but it’s cheap too.
  15. Not carrying around keys.  Our door has a code-activated locking system.  And we don’t have a car.
  16. Walking.  Yeah, walking sucks big time when it’s super freezing out or super hot and humid, but it’s good exercise and way less stressful than owning a car and driving.
  17. Korean pop music.  Yes, cheesy and super manufactured.  But oh-so infectious!
  18. Going to the movies for $6….not $16.
  19. NOREBANG! (Aka karaoke).  Private rooms, snacks and drinks, and cheap.
  20. Service.  In Korea, this means getting something for free.  It happens fairly often, but you never know when.  Sometimes it’s a free bottle of soda, or a free extra serving of meat, or a package of ramen noodles.  It’s great!
  21. Going to the doctor.  Okay, I don’t mean I enjoy going to the doctor…but if you do need to go – no need to make an appointment – just show up.  Most times, you won’t know what the doctor is saying/doing/prescribing (unless you speak Korean), but it’s better than nothing.  And…it’s cheap.  $2-$3 to see the doctor?  Ok!
  22. Prescription drugs.  Korea usually has the same American drugs (or something very similar) and it’s WAY cheaper.  Flonase in America…with insurance cost me $20 a bottle.  In Korea, the exact same Flonase is about $4-$5.
  23. Our water filter dispenser.  Most Korean homes probably don’t have this, but we have been renting one and it’s awesome.  Filtered, hot (really hot) water at your fingertips…as well as really cold water too.  We drink TONS more water purely because of our water dispenser.
  24. Fast food drinks to go.  If you order a soda from McDonalds, Burger King, Lotteria, etc. – they will tape the lid on and put the drink in it’s own handy carrying bag.  No spilled drink worries.
  25. Air conditioning in our apartment.  Not that we need it when we get back to Seattle, but just nice to have for those really hot days.  Very very unlikely we’ll ever get it though.
  26. Shirts with bad or confusing English.  My friend really did see a Korean woman rocking a shirt that said, “I’m so fucking disco.”
  27. Cheap ATMs.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t find your bank’s ATM.  The surcharge to use another bank’s ATM is usually about $.50-$1.00.  And it’s SUPER easy to use the ATM to transfer money from your account at Bank A to someone else’s account at Bank B.  I’ve never had a need for a check.
  28. Korean co-teachers!  We’ve made some great friends with some of the teachers at our schools.  We’ve helped them with their English, taught them a few drinking games, and they’ve helped us survive our year abroad.
  29. Non-Korean friends!  We’ve also made some really great friends with other Native English Teachers.  Some are staying in Korea another year, and some are going back home.  But we’ll definitely be staying in touch!  Some even live in Seattle!
  30. Students.  Not all students.  But I definitely have a handful of students that I really really enjoy teaching and seeing everyday.  They are funny, cute, and excited about life…and learning English.
  31. Easy commute to work.  Leave apartment at 8:10am, get to school by 8:30am.  Work. Play. Fuss around. Leave school at 4:30pm, get home by 5pm.  It leaves us with plenty of time to have a life (workout, cook dinner, meet up with friends, watch movies, read a book, play video games, etc.)
  32. High speed train.  In Korea, it’s called the KTX and it’s the fastest way to travel the country.  From Daegu to Seoul it takes about 90 minutes. 
  33. Visiting other countries.  Living and working in Korea has allowed us (time-wise and money wise) to travel to many countries (Japan, Thailand, and Australia.  And soon: Hong Kong, Phillippines, and Singapore).  Already being in this part of the world makes it faster and cheaper to visit SE Asia especially.
  34. Cell phone charms.  Cute and ridiculous.
  35. Pot bing su (팥빙수).  Korea’s version of shaved ice…but with way more toppings.  Quite possibly one of the most refreshing things to eat on a hot day or after a spicy meal.
  36. The $30 facial.  Must find time to squeeze in another one (or two) before we leave!
  37. School lunch.  Cheap, tasty, and easy (no need to pack your lunch the night before).
  38. Makgeolli.  It’s a type of Korean rice wine.  I love it best when mixed with fruit juice – strawberry, kiwi, or honey flavored-makgeolli are my faves!
  39. Kimchi.  Yes, this is included in #9, but I’m going to really really miss true, authentic kimchi.  So, it gets its own number.
  40. Korean grocery stores.  The big ones have food samples galore.  Costco has got nothing on the big chain stores here.
  41. Korean socks.  Cheap, cute, silly, and sometimes just plain odd.  But for less than $.50 a pair – how can you pass it up!?
  42. Hof Hama.  It’s a bar near where our friends Gabe and Charissa live.  It’s probably the place we hang out the most with our friends.  Unlimited popcorn snacks and huge mini-kegs of beer.  Always a good time.
  43. Seeing little Korean toddlers bowing.  Seriously, Koreans probably bow 50 times a day.  They are always bowing and you just get used to it.  But when you see a little toddler with his/her mom or dad and they bow – it’s one of the cutest things ever!
  44. Love motels!  It’s one of the cheapest forms of lodging.  Pay by the hour if you like.  Granted, we’ve only stayed in them for actual overnight trips – but they have always been clean.  Some places even will offer you a “goodie” bag upon arrival – filled with a few items to help you get your lovin’ on.

So there you go.  There’s more I could add, but 44 was the magic number I was shooting for.  🙂

Korean wedding photos

So I don’t want to say much about it yet.  But I will give you a little sneak peak of how Micah and I spent 6 hours of our Saturday.  It was SOOO FUN!

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And no, no, no…we didn’t actually get married. 

I’ve been forced to like soccer

As most people know, the 2010 World Cup is currently underway in South Africa.  Before the start of these games, I really knew jack crap about soccer and quite honestly, didn’t give a [jack] crap about soccer. 

My pre-World Cup knowledge and feelings:

  • Soccer is SUPER boring.  Kicking a ball back and forth, back and forth.  And for what…a 0-0 tie?!  Or even with goals made – you’re talking maybe 2 or 3 points.  And that is supposed to be exciting?
  • Soccer is the most popular sport in the world (not so much in the US though).  So, for some reason – people really love it.  But, it is also one of the most dangerous/deadly sports to watch (thousands of injuries – and deaths – mostly due to collapsing stadiums and stampedes).  Hmm…no thanks.
  • Yeah…what else?  Oh, Seattle has its own soccer team – the Seattle Sounders.  I haven’t been to a game.
  • And I know the following players: David Beckham (who doesn’t know that name?), Wayne Rooney (gotta root for a fellow Rooney), and Park JiSung (because you can’t live in South Korea for 10 months and not know who he is.  I actually think it’s a law or something.  I kid.)

  

But now let’s fast forward to present time.

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   Yes, that is Micah and I in the middle of some Korean World Cup chaos. 

  

The World Cup to South Koreans (I make that important distinction of South because North Korea is also playing in the World Cup) is like the Superbowl to Americans.  It’s actually even crazier and more hyped up.  Koreans are DEVOTED World Cup fanatics!  (But quite honestly, they aren’t the hugest of soccer fans outside of World Cup time – preferring to watch professional baseball the majority of the time).

It’s nearly impossible to be living in Korea (especially a bigger city like Daegu) and not get swept up into the fever.  The pride Koreans show for their country’s team is unparalleled to anything else I’ve ever seen. 

My first ever World Cup game watching was just 10 days ago: Korea vs Greece.  Micah and I decided to head to downtown Daegu and watch the game on the huge big screen TV mounted at the central part of downtown.  The streets were packed with thousands of Koreans – all there to crane their necks – and watch the opening game for Korea. It was quite the sight.  We couldn’t even meet up with our other friends because we literally couldn’t move.  And multiply this by ten – and that was what Seoul was like.

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Huge TV screen installed purposely to watch the Korean World Cup team.  And restaurants and coffee shops all over were also installing TVs (or more TVs) for this exact purpose.

   

SAM_2095  Justin Bieber concert?  No…World Cup time!  Go Korea!

  

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Korea beat Greece 2-0.  With every shot at goal or good save by the goalie, the Koreans went into unison shouts of cheer.  Particularly popular is the chant: “Dae Han Min Guk” – which translates to ‘The Republic of Korea.’  The atmosphere was electric and everyone was in high spirits after the win.  It was exciting to be a part of this.

 

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Shirts like these – and hundreds of other styles – can be found all over the streets of Korea.  No guarantee the English will be correct though.  🙂

  

So…back to soccer.  With the help of my friends here, I’ve been able to steadily learn more and more about the game.  If I’m going to watch Korea play, then for sure I’m going to watch America play.  Add up those games, and that’s a fair number of hours I’m sitting in front of a TV watching a game I know nothing about.  So, in true Lisa style – I began my mission to learn more about World Cup and the game itself (at least the basics and a few interesting tidbits too), which in turn has made watching the games much more enjoyable – fun even! 

My ongoing World Cup knowledge and feelings:

  • 32 countries compete in the World Cup – each had to qualify via a series of tournaments organized by FIFA.  205 teams entered the qualification tournaments.  Whoa – that’s about a 16% acceptance rate. 
  • Without going into details, each team is put into one of eight brackets along with three other teams.  In the first round of play, these four teams all play each other – and only each other.  And the top two teams in each bracket (based on a scoring system I’m still getting the jist of) will move on to the next round of play. 
  • Italy was the World Cup champion in 2006 – and apparently are pretty damn awesome.  And so are Argentina, Brazil, the Netherlands and Spain (although Spain was upset in Game 1 by Switzerland).  Yes, I know there are other very good teams competing – but these are the ones that stick out from the little amount I have learned.  Sheesh – calm down! 🙂
  • I still don’t know much about Team USA.  But I do know the son of the head coach is on the team.  And the goalie, Tim Howard, is apparently said to be the best goalie of all the World Cup teams.  Woo hoo!  And there is a player named Hercules Gomez – how cool is that?
  • Soccer players are excellent actors.  The way they can flop around and make a simple push or trip look like they’ve been tackled by a 300 pound lineman is quite impressive.
  • There are lots of yellow cards, a few red cards, lots of penalty kicks, and a gazillion rules about this and that.  I’m slowly starting to understand the game more – and see the game beyond a black and white ball being kicked around.  🙂
  • David Beckham is not competing in the World Cup.  But Wayne Rooney and Park JiSung are! 🙂

With each game I watch, I learn more and more.  Game 2 for the US (vs Slovenia) was so awesome to watch.  Team USA was down 2 goals, and they came back to tie (although it should have been a win!  Grrrr!!!!). 

Unfortunately, due to the time zone difference (and all games are aired live), in Korea the games are on at 8:30pm, 11:00pm, or 3:30am.  Yikes.  In fact, the next Korea game (a HUGE game for them) is on Wednesday at 3:30am.  And you know it – that pesky game time isn’t going to stop the Korean fans from watching.  (But, it’s definitely stopping ME from watching).  In fact, my elementary students are staying up to watch…and then be in school at 8:30am!  That’s going to be a really enjoyable day to teach. 🙂

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Maybe I’ll get up to check out a few minutes of the Korea game – on my cell phone!  Pretty sweet.

You never know, maybe when we get back to Seattle – I might actually come home a soccer fan – and I might even check out a Seattle Sounders game.  Go Korea! Go Team USA!!!!!

TTMMGH – Korea edition #12

Koreans love their coffee…er…love their very sweet coffee.  There are hundreds of cafe’s all over the place – cute little boutique ones, major chains like Starbucks, even cafe’s where you can pet cats or dogs or sit next to huge oversized stuffed teddy bears.  Access is no problem…unless of course it’s in the morning.

This is the Bau Haus Cafe in Seoul.  Here you can enjoy a ‘ca-pooch-ino’ (I love puns).  I haven’t been here  – Micah won’t go with me!

 

While I don’t drink much coffee, I’d venture to say most Westerners consider coffee to be a necessity for first thing in the morning.  Finding coffee shops open at 6am – no problem.  

In Korea – good luck!  If it’s noon you want, then sure – no problem.  Cafe’s here stay open very late, but early morning is just not their thing. 

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Look at this cute coffee shop – located RIGHT NEXT to a university.  It’s 9:30am on a Sunday.  Perfect coffee drinking, newspaper reading, chatting time.  But no…CLOSED!

And in case you are wondering – it’s not that Koreans don’t drink coffee in the morning.  Many of my teachers come to school and the first thing they do is make some hot water for their instant-coffee. 

   

Check out other Things That Make Me Go Hmm editions:

TTMMGH #11

TTMMGH #10

No DD, no problem. Designated driver companies at your service

Let me set the scene:

At a restaurant with some of my teachers late night.  We are eating and drinking beer.  One teacher drove us to the restaurant so he can’t really drink since he needs to drive home.  But we (Micah and me) really want to drink with him since alcohol is a great “social lubricant” (i.e. it turns non-English speaking Korean teachers by day, into very vocal English speakers by night).

Q: What to do?

A: Drink!  And then when you are ready to go home, call up one of Korea’s many “designated driver” agencies. 

It’s a pretty cool concept and I had never heard of it before.  However, a quick Google search showed me that similar services already exist back in the U.S. (but very very few companies do this – and it’s only available in just a small handful of big U.S. cities.  Oh and it’s WAY cheaper in Korea). 

Source

Here’s how it works:

-Call designated driver company and tell them where you are located (hopefully your car is nearby too)

-They send a driver out to your location (for my teacher it took only 10 min).  You give him/her your car keys and you both hop into your car.  And another person from the agency follows you in their own car.

-Driver drives you home. 

-You pay driver 10,000 won (or about $8.50 US).

-Driver hops into the company car.

-You avoid any mishaps (accidents, DUI, losing your car, etc.)

Side note: My teacher did tell me that this can be somewhat dangerous, especially if you are a female and alone.  And the driver’s aren’t necessarily insured.  So, she didn’t really know what would happen/who would pay if the driver got into some sort of accident while driving your car.

Overall, I do think it’s a pretty cool concept (no more having to take turns being the DD).  I’m not sure how these types of companies are doing in the U.S.  But I checked out some of their websites and it’s expensive!  (Yeah, yeah – not as expensive as a DUI).  But not only is there a high flat rate (I saw one at $25), but then there is a per mile charge ($1.50-$2)Yikes! 

Apparently one downside of this service…massive SPAM to your cell phone(since the company has your phone number now).

Since we don’t drive in Korea (and I highly don’t recommend it for 99% of foreigners), it’s not something we’ll be able to try out on our own – but maybe someone else out there has tried it out.

Here’s to safe and responsible drinking! 🙂

A fun-filled week with the one and only Sharon

I’m back with a much anticipated post of Micah’s mom’s week long visit to Korea.  I say “anticipated” more because I’m pretty sure Sharon needs this blog post to remember all the things we did and food we ate. :-) 

This blog post is LONG  But hey – we did a lot!

Monday:  Her late night arrival.  All went smoothly with the flight and four-hour bus ride.

Tuesday: We oriented her quickly with how things work in our apartment (door lock system, water heater system, Micah’s cell phone, etc.) and the different places around our house. 

I left school early that day (ahem…cough cough), and Sharon and I were off to a Korean cooking class.  We, of course, were the only ones who didn’t speak Korean, but it was a really fun class.  We learned how to make two delicious Korean dishes: a spicy chicken and veggie dish (takgalbi) and Korean style fried chicken.

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The chicken dish is on the left (and is a favorite of many foreigners).  And as I’ve mentioned before – Koreans love fried chicken. 

    

We tried our best to follow along with directions and understand the different ingredients.  The teacher was super cute and also tried her best to tell us things in English. 

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We were at a table with two other Korean ladies.  So the four of us shared cooking duties.

I’ll have to share the recipes for another post.  I’m still in the process of decoding some of it – and need to do a solo trial run (to make sure I actually know/remember what I’m doing).

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Really delicious fried chicken – not spicy, but sweet.  We had bought too many chicken wings to the class, so we took some of the leftover ingredients/sauces and whipped up a batch for Micah to eat when he got home from school.  He loved them.

…Later that night:  We went downtown and met up with our friends Gabe/Charissa and Courtney/Sydney – as well as my co-teacher Sun Gyung.  (She’s the one who took us out to dinner in Yeosu a few weeks back).  We ate traditional stonepot bibimbap (rice, veggies, and meat)It’s really delicious.  And afterwards, we headed over to drink makkeolli (a Korean rice drink), play drinking games, and play Cranium.  A good time was had by all – and our friends liked Sharon (and vice-versa).

Wednesday:  Since it was Election Day and we had no school (yippee!) we decided to take a day trip over to the East Sea (aka Sea of Japan).  We took a 90 minute bus to the city of Pohang.  It’s a relatively small city, but is rapidly developing into a major seaport for the country. 

First stop: Bogyeongsa Temple in the northern part of the city.  It’s a very popular Buddhist Temple, nestled at the base of a mountain.  Unfortunately, to get there required a bus ride + undetermined wait time + transfer to another bus.  We killed time by walking around the town where the bus transfer was (there was hardly anything there).  We managed to find a pretty decent Korean BBQ restaurant – so we ate (samgyeopsal aka thick pork slices) for lunch.  And luckily, just barely caught the transfer bus after lunch.

Finally…3 hours later (from when we got to Pohang)– we got to the temple.

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The temple itself wasn’t all that spectacular – probably because most temples look the same.  But the area surrounding the temple was really serene and peaceful.  Had we the time, we could have taken a variety of scenic hikes – some a few hours long to checkout the waterfalls.

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At the restaurants and markets just outside the temple, we saw these alcoholic drinks for sale.  Look closely at the bottle – how hilarious.  If they weren’t so expensive, we would have bought one for our friend Gabe.  (Not sure why him…but that was our plan at the time). 🙂

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Can’t pass up the opportunity for a pose like this!

…After the temple:  It was already 4:30pm.  To get back to the main city would mean probably another couple of hours travel/wait time.  And then we’d barely have much time to do anything before heading on a bus back to Daegu.  Boo!

But my co-teacher (Minju) and her husband to the rescue!  I knew they were going to be in Pohang at the same time as us, but our plan was to meet them downtown in the late afternoon for dinner.  Hmm…it’s late afternoon already and we have no idea when we are going to make it back downtown.

But when she called me, they just happened to be only 15 minutes away from the temple.  So they just picked the three of us up in their car.  So awesome!  And from there, it was like a personal guided tour. 

They took us to Wolpo Beach – where Minju walked in the somewhat murky and dirty water.  It’s not a beach beach – it was really rocky and dirty.

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My co-teacher Minju – she’s super cute.

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Micah poking at seaweed and starfish with his poking stick.

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And Sharon in her own little world collecting all sorts of shells and rocks. 

They then took us to Chilpo Beach.  This beach was really cool.  It’s more like the type of beach most of us could picture laying out in the sun and playing frisbee on.  The beach stretched out for a long time and since it was getting close to evening – there weren’t many people there.  We walked barefoot in the sand and skipped rocks (or tried to).

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Look in the background – Sharon the shell collector. 

And then the grand finale of our special tourJukdo Fish Market.  We didn’t have time to tour the actual market since it was late, but we dined on a really really delicious meal of sashimi, bamboo crab, soup, and tons and tons of side dishes.  The fish and crab were purchased fresh from the tanks, and then we went upstairs to the actual restaurant.  Our food was brought out to us all cooked/prepared.  It was SOOOOOO good!!!

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Sorry – we ate some of you…and your friends.  But you were so tasty and we really appreciate it!

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We ate some of you too.  Ditto as above. 🙂

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A little soju with our meal.  Sure – why not?!

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We had four HUGE bamboo crabs.  We were so full, but somehow managed to eat them all.

My co-teacher and her husband were so amazing!!  They paid for our dinner (except the crab since we really really wanted that), took us all around Pohang to places we wouldn’t have gotten a chance to see (and saved us TONS of time), and even took us home.  It made for a really awesome day.

Geez…only on Thursday.

Back to school for us.  During that time Sharon went to the Korean spa that’s near our house.  We helped her get to the place, tell the lady what she wanted and then she was on her own.  But she figured it out ok and got a good scrub down and massage for 35,000 won (or about $30).  I had done the similar scrub back in Feb. 

After school, we headed to visit with yet another one of my co-teachers – Hanna.  (She’s pregnant and almost due).  It was SO wonderful to see her and her husband.  We met up with them last minute, but when we arrived at their house, it was like they knew we were coming along.  They had a delicious spread of fruit and juice for us to snack on. 

We had a great time catching up and chatting – and then we went to Subyin Park nearby to catch the nighttime water and light show (think a scaled down version of Bellagio in Vegas).  But pretty impressive for this little park on the outskirts of the city.

We had a late night dinner of Korean BBQ – but this time it was a marinated pork meat.  It came with lots of different sides that Sharon hadn’t tried yet.  And of course, I ordered the lunchbox!

We ended the night with a very popular summertime dessert in Korea called Pot Bing Su (팥빙수)(It’s not even available outside of the summer months).

It’s a really refreshing dessert.  It’s basically a souped up, crunchier ice version of Hawaiian shaved ice. 

Sharon really took a liking to this dessert – and thus we were on a mission each day to find it.    Unfortunately, the best one we had was from a small bakery near our house in Daegu.  The other three we tried were not as good. 

Side note: I JUST learned that the “pot” means red beans and the “bing su” means shaved ice.  The best kind is when you can get fresh fruit, cereal flakes, and mochi balls – so yummy!  You can even get it with ice cream or frozen yogurt on top – the combinations are endless.

Friday:  We went to school and Sharon toured more around our neighborhood.  A visit to the Daegu Arboretum, lots of open markets, and shopping at the big grocery store/marts. 

After school, we packed our bags and took the high speed train to Seoul.  We even ordered – FOR DELIVERY TO OUR HOUSE – the spicy as hell, but so freakin’ awesome Kyochon Chicken (to eat on the train ride).  It was hilarious watching each other eat.  Our mouths were on FIRE, but we kept going in for more.

GOAL ALERT: This successfully meets one of our goals of living in Korea: order food for delivery (speaking only Korean) to our house.  Woo hoo!  Nevermind you that the only thing we can order is Kyochon Chicken. 

We got to Seoul at nighttime and found our way to the hotel.  We checked-in and spent an hour wandering the streets near us.  Since we were near a University – there were a lot of restaurants and hofs (bars) around us.  The atmosphere was really fun.  And of course, we ended the night with Pot Bing Su #2 (the worst of the four).

Saturday:  It was all about sightseeing, shopping and eating!  This was actually my 5th time being in Seoul (Micah’s 6th) – so, we were pretty knowledgeable about the subway and the different areas to see.  (That saves a ton of time and energy alone). 

Side note: Many of our Korean teachers/friends in Daegu haven’t been to Seoul five times in their entire life.  To us foreigners it’s a fast (2 hour) and cheap ($35 one way) trip to one of the biggest capital cities in the world – but it’s not so easy and cheap for many Koreans.  Needless to say, we feel really fortunate for so many opportunities to see Seoul.

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Good thing Sharon is in good shape.  We did a TON of walking – which in Korea means, climbing up and down flights and flights of stairs…everywhere you go.

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At Deoksugung Palace (very famous and near city hall), we watched some of the ceremony there and…got to wear some Korean gear aka ‘Hanbok.’

We ate some kickass Japanese/Korean style ramen for lunch.  I found it off the website: www.seouleats.com

Actually, we ate at three places that came off this specific list of food recommendations.  Although FYI: the directions to get to some of the restaurants are a bit hard to follow or a little mixed up.

…Back to the ramen:  It was sooooo good.  Easily the best ramen we’ve had in Korea.  It wasn’t the super spicy, packaged ramen variety, but instead had a rich pork broth with slices of fatty roasted pork in it (that just melted in your mouth). 

There’s only two types of ramen you can order here at Hakatabunkko Ramen.  We ordered the most popular type (which I have no idea what it’s called). 

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When you get your bowl, you immediately take one clove of garlic (yes, a whole clove each) and use the garlic press to mix it with the broth.  That part is soo awesome – and makes for an awesome taste (I’m going to start trying this with regular ramen at home).  Sprinkle some sesame seeds and you are in ramen heaven!!

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Ramen heaven!

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All gone.  Back to the real world.

So the rest of the afternoon we wandered around to different markets.  The free market (think major arts/crafts booths) in the Hongdae University area (where I picked up a really cool painting), and the crazy hectic Namdaemun Market.

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Sharon wasn’t a huge fan of this market.  It’s extremely crowded and chaotic, but a sight to see nonetheless.

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Namdaemun Market gave us a chance for Pot Bing Su #3.  Again, not as good as the first one – but refreshing enough.

After some refresh and nap time at the hotel, we headed back out on the town.  This time to the famous artsy area of Insadong.  Most foreigners like this part of town because it’s more chill and laidback.  Also, most of the shopkeepers speak a pretty decent level of English, and there are SO many different things to buy (from the cheap socks and cell phone charms all the way to really nice jewelry, paintings, and ceramics).  Sharon LOVED this market the most.

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Lots of things to keep Sharon busy and straying away from us in Insadong :-)  Common phrase heard: “Where’d she go?"

And no trip to Insadong is complete without stopping by the honey candy vendors – where you can watch how they make the delicious candy and listen to their cute song that goes with it.  It really is quite entertaining – but this was my third time seeing/hearing it.

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And then fourth time, when Sharon stopped by another vendor doing the same thing just a few minutes later.  We did manage to buy a box from each vendor 🙂

It’s called kkultarae – and it’s made from fermented honey that’s stretched out into little strings and then filled with a nut mixture.  It’s really delish, but best eaten the day of.

 

…One more thing that night – dinner!  We went back to the Hongdae area to try and find this Korean ribs restaurant (again a top recommendation from SeoulEats).  Unfortunately, we couldn’t find it and by the time it dawned on us to call them – well, they were closed.  Insert: Micah NOT happy!! 😦  But instead, we ate some really delicious pork and beef galbi at a BBQ restaurant in that area. 

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Chef Sharon trying to set the place on fire.  (I asked her to pretend to be cooking…but she didn’t – and spilled some garlic oil onto the coals.  WHOOSH!).  :-) 

SAM_2062 A little char for your garlic and galbi? 

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We ate at the very popular (usually long waiting lines) galbi restaurant, Hongik Sootbul Galbi.

 

And finally – Sunday:

We did some shopping at the nearby Emart so Sharon could pick up some more packaged ramen and other Korean goodies.  She loves the Korean ramen! 

We checked-out and stored our bags – and off we went for our last remaining hours in Korea. 

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We decided to use the SeoulEats restaurant recommendations again.  It took us to the Myeongdong area (where TONS of retail shopping stores are located).  We ate at Myeongdong Gyoja and ate their delicious knife cut noodle soup (Cal-guk-su), dumplings, and a chilled soy milk soup (Kong-guk-su).  I thought the Calguksu was the best one.

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Look at all the food!  This place is fast-paced.  Get in, order before you even sit down, pay upfront, eat, and get out!

 

And of course, we couldn’t let Sharon leave Korea without one final attempt for a really good Pot Bing Su.  We were told to go to the Coin Cafe (a very cute, quaint, laid-back place where we just relaxed for an hour or so).

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Pot Bing Su #4 – A huge bowl this time, topped with ice cream and nuts.  Still, no fresh fruit, but it was the second best of the four we had eaten.

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Fruit or no fruit – there was no stopping her. 

Farewell:  We got her onto the airport “limousine” (really just a big bus) and away she went.  Micah and I then headed to the train station to get back to Daegu. 

It was a really fun and jam-packed week.  Sharon told us that she loved everything and we were great hosts/tour guides/translators/lost and found/etc.  🙂 She actually preferred the slower pace of Daegu more than Seoul – but overall had a fantastic time.  She loved every thing we ate…including the things I didn’t mention: Korean ice cream, mandu, kimbab, pajeon, soups, jimdukk, Korean melon….you get the idea :-) 

  

Of course, a week like that doesn’t come without its consequences.  Operation: HARDCORE WORKOUTS are currently in progress for everyday this week :-) 


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