Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bases and Birthdays

After our exciting trip to Costco, and after Stephanie and I lugged our treasures home, we hopped back on the subway and headed to the army base, in town, to meet up with two friends from church. One friend lives on the base, and we all went to her house (she has an oven!) to make cakes for the upcoming birthday party.

I've never been on an army base before, so it was a new experience. It's really, really huge and like a little town with its own roads, schools, churches, hotel, restaurants, neighborhoods, and a movie theater! We walked over to our friend's house and started commenting how it was just like we were in America because there were small streets, yards, big trees, and the houses were "american" looking. It was almost like being in the twilight zone. It was even Trick or Treat night on the base, so there were kids running around in their costumes. Besides that, there were just groups of children around, playing, which is something you don't seen in Seoul. There are kids everywhere- the subway, on the sidewalk, but they don't ever seem to be playing, which I didn't realize until I saw kids goofing off in apartment parking lots on base.

We made cakes (really easy), and sat around and talked for the rest of the night. It was a nice time, and felt good to be in a real house that felt super homey. Stephanie and I spent the night and then stuck around until church time to go to church with Kendall, our friend. The base even has a taco bell (the only one in Seoul), so we ate there for lunch.

After church a huge group of us went out to TGI Fridays to celebrate birthdays within our group, for Octobor and November. It was such a great time, the staff was exceptionally nice to us, and I had a great time. Here are a couple pictures:

(This is the table of crazies. We made them sit by themselves at this other table, away from the rest of us more mature people.)

My mom made a comment about the Amazing Race. Actually, it's funny, because from time to time, we think of things that Amazing Race could do in Seoul. First of all we think they should have to go from one point in the city, to another point in the city, using only the subway, make them figure it all out (transfers, which way is shortest, etc.) Not incredibly hard for someone who's been here a few days, but it would be hard for new people. And yes, we also thought that "get off at the subway and get to Seoul tower using only your legs for walking" would be a good race as well.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


A coworker of ours convinced us that we needed a Costco card and needed to take trips out there. We caved in and today made our way over to the closest Costco. Luckily it is just a five minute walk from the subway. We took our backpacks, stored them in a locker, and then walked around, reveling in the American-ness of it all. It was Saturday, so- free samples!

We had to be careful not to spend too much at this time, but it will be good for us. We can get some American snack items that, in the long wrong, will be much cheaper than buying snacks for work at the convenience store, or even our supermarket. We also tried to buy things that will keep, such as frozen vegetables and ravioli (yay!). We found maple syrup, and cheddar cheese and some other things. They even had some Tillamook cheeses (!!!) but they weren't cheddar.

I also got to eat in the food court, which was fun.

Then came the terribly exciting part of trying to stuff all of our purchases into our two backpacks, stephanie's canvas bag, and our arms. One time my Grandma and my aunt Kathy went to Costco, stocked up on things, and got out to the parking lot, only to remember they had brought Kathy's small Corvette. My Grandma likes to tell the story about how they had to take toilet paper out of the package and stuff it in places, and my Grandma wore a Christmas wreath around her neck for the ride home.

So Grandma, and Kathy, this is what we felt like :) We stuffed it all in, carrying our box of nutri-grain bars, and milk, and made our overladen selves to the subway, to our transfer, and then to home. I even got to run to a subway train to avoid missing it, with the milk and nutri-grain box in my arms! how exciting.

If anybody would like some cheddar cheese, we have some.

Friday, October 27, 2006


I got a great package in the mail from my mom :) I was extremely excited. Mom sent Tillamook cheddar cheese (there is no comparison), a cd, Emergen-C (at my request), some jam, and as the best surprise: cinna-mints from the Taco House. I love those things.

Thanks to all of my family and friends who signed the birthday card :) I sat in my classroom and had a few tears, it was so wonderful to see all of your birthday wishes. Sincerely, Thank You!!!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pumpin' it up

Stephanie and I decided to splurge on Wednesday and pull out the big guns (this is probably a reference to my biceps), all tourist-like. We got directions from on how to get to the Seoul tower, on Mt. Namsan. Easy directions, such as, "take exit 3 from the subway station and walk 30 minutes". You must understand that each subway station has numerous exits, and many times has 2 right by each other, on the same side of the street. When you exit the subway station from a particular exit, it kind of spits you out, and when you just "walk", you go straight ahead.

Not so in this case. We stopped immediately and looked at the neighborhood map, and found we had to turn around and walk up the hill. We had decided not to take any sort of transportation up the hill. We were prepared to walk 30-40 minutes on an incline and then be at the top.

Well, once you get to this road, there are no directions as to which way to get to the actual tower. You can see it looming overhead, but there are different paths and roads and trails. We crossed the road, and roamed up into the park, only to find a paved two lane road, much similar to Mt. Tabor's set up. We walked and walked and walked, never seeming to go up. We had to guess at everything because there were no signs of any kind.

Finally we just guessed, found some stairs and started climbing tons and tons of stairs. We finally made it to the top, covered in sweat, red faced, and I was cranky. There seems to be a recurring theme about me being cranky when I'm tired. Hm.

Anyway, we got to the tower, paid our outrageous entrance fee, and went up to view from the observatory deck. We took some pictures and then just went down. Not a huge deal, although nice to see Seoul from that vantage.


About halfway up.

From the observation deck at Seoul tower:

PyongYang, North Korea - 193km

I've been reading a lot. I read my first book by Toni Morrison - "the Bluest Eye"- which I enjoyed quite a bit for its sociological observations. I read Flannery O'Connor's "Wise Blood", which I can't figure out how I feel about. I also just finished "Of Mice and Men" by Steinbeck, which I 'read' in high school, and needed a refresher. Good stuff.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Subways and Taxis

Last night Stephanie and I went out after work to meet up with some friends at a jazz club. We rode the subway straight out there and had fun hanging out. One of our friends play drums and sits in on some songs sometimes. It was actually toward ending when we got there, but we sat around chatting for a while. We finally started leaving about 12:15 because the subway stops at 1am. We went on the subway, and had to make a transfer. We were pretty sure they wouldn't actually STOP the subway, but let it run its course to the end of the line.

Not true. They made an announcement that it was the last stop and there we were, in a very empty subway station called Gunja. We knew we had to take a taxi home. Stephanie's pretty brilliant and she copied down, in Korean, the name of our home subway stop. Luckily Stephanie writes pretty good Korean- he completely understood and started driving us home.

I told Stephanie that in day to day life, with work, and riding the subway, this doesn't feel extraordinary. But somehow, put me in a taxi, and drive me through town late at night with the lights, over the river and I say to myself, "My word.. I'm in Seoul."

Well, our taxi ended in a pretty funny way. We had JUST had a conversation with Angel at the club about how the 1st second language you learn is what you resort to when you are flustered about speaking to anybody who doesn't know English. Stephanie and I immediately resort to Spanish. Instead of taking us to our subway stop I said "here, here" to him, right in front of our building. He said something, questioningly, in Korean, and I said "aqui!", which means "here" in Spanish. Duh. Stephanie and I couldn't stop laughing and tried to tell him "ne" (yes) in Korean.

oh boy.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Yesterday it rained all day, which made me a very happy person. It is, of course, different than in Portland. As in, it doesn't make that great fresh smell like just fallen Portland rain, but it did seem to clear the air. Stephanie and I woke up to high clouds and no smog!! Beautiful. And now I can see out of the window to blue sky- something we haven't seen for QUITE some time. Also, Stephanie and I are not used to using umbrellas, and apparently everyone here uses them.

We walked outside earlier to run some errands and it was windy, and cold, and we weren't wearing coats. It was definitely cold enough for it, but the coldness felt good after the warmth we've had for so long. It will finally be down in the 60s this week, consistently. Viva autumn!!

Saturday, October 21, 2006


We set again to do some exploring, and took a lot of pictures along the way. First we went over to a historic settlement site near us. We had to get off the subway and either take a bus or a taxi to the site. We haven't ridden a bus before, and we weren't quite sure of that, so we took a taxi. It turned out that the site wasn't that far away and it was a straight shot from the subway station.

It was interesting to see the settlement, which is a restoration, and museum of the "neolithic" period of humans in Korea. Very interesting, but there wasn't much information, and not much to show, so we didn't spend too much time there. There were lots of schoolchildren, though, and a lot of them like to say "hello!" to us.

Next we headed over to Olympic park, with our main mission to see the Olympic museum. We got off the subway right at the entrance.

We picked up some maps of the park (which is quite large) and made our way toward what the map called "Seoul Olympic Museum". Unfortunately, we ended up at the wrong museum and didn't realize it until after we paid. Apparently there is a "Seoul Olympic Museum of Art", but the two different museums are both named "Seoul Olympic Museum" on the map. Lucky us. We toured around the art museum (modern art), because had paid the money, but by then I was actually pretty cranky that we hadn't found the right place, and it was pretty warm so I was sweaty. Not happy.

Some sort of fashion shoot?

Finally, we made it over to the actual museum about the Olympics and everything got better. It was a lot fun. Lots of information about the start of the Olympics, little tidbits about each games, and then of course more information about how Korea hosted the Olympics in 1988. Downstairs there was a "sports experience hall" where you could try your hand at sporting events.

I have no idea how my leg got up that high.

Outside the museum:

Heading back to the subway.

Outside our apartment building someone has used stencils to spray paint the image of this guy. I think he looks pretty cool and I finally got around to taking a picture of him.

I got my first letter in the mail from Joel and Rinda (brother and sister in law) and my nieces, which was a lot of fun. It got here very quickly. I had just bought magnets for our refrigerator, so my cute nieces are predominately displayed. They're so cute I have to post a picture of them here. Hannah-3, Dana-9 months (in this picture.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Day Off

Yesterday Stephanie and I had a really busy day, which left both of us really tired, but it was filled with great stuff, so we really can't complain. I actually set an alarm! I got up earlier, got ready, and then went into the subway to use a payphone to call my grandma, which was so nice. It was good to hear her voice, and for me to be able to talk about things with her. I was so glad she was home when I called. I told Grandma I was calling from the subway and she said "but I don't hear lots of background noise!" and I had to explain that the subway stations are really rather large, and most have little shops in them before you go through the turnstiles and go down to a lower level to meet the actual train.

Stephanie met me in the subway and we took off to the Immigration Office to get our "alien registration cards". Now, Stephanie and I officially have our ARC cards (insert smirk here). Afterward we rode the subway over to Korea University to meet with a professor Stephanie had met on the plane ride over. He is an assistant professor of economics who has lived in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom. We had a nice lunch with him, and he gave a nice tour of his area of campus.

The main gate on campus. Stephanie and I are always so impressed when we go to big universities (like when we went to Berkeley in May) because it all seems so COLLEGIATE and huge and scholarly. So we love looking at the huge buildings.

Korea University is a private college that was founded in 1905. This building was built for the 100th anniversary and was sponsored by Samsung (of course), and is thus called the Samsung Centennial Memorial building (or something like that).

Korea University is the Tigers and Stephanie and I are hoping to go back and perhaps go to some sporting events. We're feeling the absence in our hearts of our love for Knights basketball, so we might become Tigers fans and go to basketball games :)

After our friend had to go back to his work, we headed over to the COEX mall to kill some time. I had conveniently forgotten the directions to the tombs we were going to visit, so we had about 5 hours to kill before we met some friends for dinner. We did some shopping (what we do best), and I spent too much money on books. We then decided to attempt seeing a movie at the cinema at the mall. It's a whole new venture because you have to try and find the movie you want (titles are in Korean), find the right time, talk to the cashier. Plus they obviously only show American blockbusters. So- we had one choice: World Trade Center. It was quite the downer, and brought back a lot of memories. I cried. There's my review of that... haha.

It's quite odd. Stephanie and I at home rarely go to malls, much less hang out at them, but I've been here a little less than 4 weeks and this was the fourth time I've been to COEX. We find this quite amusing.

!!!!oh! The megabox is quite the production here. Assigned seating, and everything is really flashy. At the entrance from the mall there are advertisements, but they are actually small, tiny little sets that people can sit in and take pictures of themselves. For instance, one movie looked like a love story, and the little setting was fake trees and a bench, as if you were in a park. you take the picture and you're in the movie! There was also this big setup for Vespas. I thought it was just for the Vespa company, but I think there might be a movie coming out with a lot of Vespas in it.

Stephanie and I watched the movie, which was in English with Korean subtitles. Stephanie thought the subtitles would bother her, but they didn't bother either of us. Our theory is that when we watched movies with Spanish subtitles it was annoying because we were always trying to figure out if the subtitles and the English words matched, or if we were correct when we guessed how it would translate to Spanish. But, we know NO Korean, so we didn't even try.

We met our friends Candice and Haeseon for dinner, and then eventually went our separate ways.

It's still a little warm here, but the trees were turning color at the University yesterday. My hopes are up. A coworker said today "it's supposed to rain" and I said "yay!!" She said "you want it to rain?" and I had to say "yes, I love the rain!" I'm beyond ready for some cold weather. My extended summer is beginning to give me that Seasonal Affective Disorder (or whatever it's called), not because it's gloomy, but because there's been too much sun and warmth.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Palace

On our days off Stephanie and I, understandably, want to get out and see the city. We have done a lot of walking around, some shopping, running errands in the city, and attended a sporting event (and we want to go to more sporting events), but when we thought about what to do today I thought that I really wanted to do something that had to do, specifically, with Korea. As much as I am surrounded by Korea everyday, it's easy to feel like I'm just in another big city.

So, Stephanie and I set off today to the Deoksugung Palace in the heart of the city. If you click on that link you can read a short history about it. The neat thing about it is that it's in the middle of the city, right next to City Hall and the Seoul Plaza, but once you enter the gate, it's all very serene and takes you back in time. Here are some pictures.

Weird mixture of old (the building to the right) and the new (huge screen tv with advetertisements).

I'm knocking on the door! Let me in to the head honcho meeting! I declare these doors entirely too large! What are we-- giants??

Stephanie and I think elderly Koreans are so cute, so Stephanie sneakily takes pictures of them :)

In fact, sometimes she takes pictures of them with them knowing.

Expect to keep seeing a lot of the peace sign.

After the palace we headed over to the Seoul Plaza where they were having different acts on a stage. Modern dancers, a circus-like act (jumping through circles, spinning a table on her legs, etc.) and breakdancers. The plaza is directly in front of city hall.

A plaque on the ground in the Seoul Plaza talks about the history of the plaza and its significance in the democracy of South Korea, as well as its meaning as a meeting place for social events such as the World Cup games. The last part talked about the hopes for reunification, which I thought was very interesting.

Today on the subway, on the way to the palace Stephanie and I were on the subway. Stephanie sat down in the one empty seat and I was standing with various other people. At the end of the row was man who looked about grandfather age, in a business suit. As he got up to prepare for his stop, he tapped me on the arm, and motioned for me to sit down, to assure me the seat rather than the young men who were standing around. I felt so honored. I smiled at him. Right before he got off the train I looked at him again, he bowed his head at me a little, and he exited the train. This might have been my favorite moment of the day.

Friday, October 13, 2006


"you have... on your arm... spots"- She is maybe 8 or 9 and her mouth is open in amazement.

"yeah.. do you know what those are called?" with a smile on my face.

She shakes her head, still with her mouth open.

"They're called freckles. I have them on my face, too."

She is still amazed. I moved on.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Football/Soccer and other things

Here are a couple more things from the football game.

Can you recognize this song/chant? This was before the game started:

Stephanie and I went down to the Han River again the other night. We wanted to rent bikes, but the bike place wasn't open, so we just walked around. A nice life-saving sign, and a "snack car", both along the walkway.

I just finished reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and Travels with Charley: in Search of America by Steinbeck. In Cold Blood was equal parts interesting and terrifying, and I really enjoyed the writing style. Travels with Charley was nice, but I don't think Steinbeck achieved what he set out to do, originally. It was a good plan, just not well executed, and resulted in a book that could have been fleshed out a lot more. The chapter on Texans was funny, though.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Accordion! In Seoul!

I never thought I'd see this.

When we went to Insadong last week there was this street musician, playing the accordion. We were walking on this very crowded street and I thought I heard it, but I thought "That can't be, it can't be the accordion in ASIA".

But there he was.

I stole this picture from someone else's website.

N. Korea

Um, just a note: concerning North Korea, I don't really have a GOOD grasp on what's happening, and all of the countries involved, but nobody here is freaking out, so I won't either. I just have to remind myself that living life is a day-to-day adventure. Your prayers are most definitely appreciated, not just for Stephanie and I, but the whole situation and billions of people it involves.


I have to call it that.

Last night we went with some people from our church (and friends of those people) to a football game, a "international friendly match" between South Korea and Ghana, at the World Cup Stadium here in Seoul. I'm so glad we went- we had such a great time. Nearly all of us got to sit together, and our friend Candice was a sweetheart and bought us all matching shirts that came with matching bandanas. Unfortunately, we lost 3-1, but it was just such a fun atmosphere. I even learned South Korean football chants, so I can re-enact those for someone if they would like to see when I return.

One funny thing was that Ghana had a cheering section across the field from Korea's "cheering section". One of the cheers involves clapping and "Te Han Mingo" (not sure about that spelling), which I guess is the name of Korea IN Korean. Well, when it was 2-0, Ghana began chanting the same chant back at us. But, of course, I wondered: did they even know what it meant? I mean, they could think it's like saying "yay! go team!", but they were shouting the name of Korea. I'll never know, but it was kind of confusing, wondering if they were shouting for Korea because they felt bad for us, or if they were trying to use the chant for themselves.

One thing it reminded me of is how much I'm going to miss Warner basketball games this season :( Hopefully we can go to some more sports games.

Pictures courtesy of Stephanie, because my camera's battery stopped working. Thanks Stephanie!

Before the game, it was peace all around.

During the game: somebody's body, Candice, Su, the top half of my head, Stephanie, Eddy.

International Friendly Match, Ghana v. South Korea

End of the game. We lost 3-1.


A shot of the stadium, after the game. Down below is the entrance to the subway, with the stadium off in front and to the right.

Most of the group that went together.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


I'm kind of disappointed that no one took the bait on my conversation starter a while ago. This really is something I'm thinking about (ha), and want to know what you guys think. Bananas: fruit of the world?

I was reminded of my question last night at the football (soccer) game when I saw a lot of people eating bananas. Pictures of football game to come soon. But for now:

bananas! Discuss.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

no sun

It's overcast outside today. I think it's half smog, half clouds.

Nonetheless, I'm excited for fall to finally arrive.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Yesterday Stephanie and I went over to the big aquarium within the COEX mall. Yesterday was Chuseok, which is kind of the Korean version of the American Thanksgiving. There were actually a lot of stores open, as well as the aquarium, but less people on the streets and the subway. We were also going to try to go to a movie, but we can't read movie titles. darn!

(there was one part of the aquarium called "aqua home" and it had these animals in different appliances and such. So here's this nasty crab in a refrigerator)

Late night

The other night after work Stephanie and I stopped at a tiny little fried chicken place to eat. We've come to understand that most Korean food is communal, so that's why the picture shows one set of everything - for the two of us. Then we wandered down the street through the market we've been through before. Late night happiness.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lots of new things

For those of you who are worrying (like my wonderful female relatives), I got a bed! So, no more worries. It was on hold at the store for us, we went and bought it at about 6pm, and it was delivered at 7:30 (and assembled for me). It's actually a pretty hard mattress, which I'm not used to, but it suffices, and it's nice to be able to have all that space for myself. I know Stephanie is pretty happy about it, too. One definite plus: it's an actual twin size so the sheets I brought fit on it! For those of you who want to watch a video, I put one up. I'm not sure why a lot of times the voice and the video are off, but I can't do anything to fix it- it looks fine on my camera.

As for other adventures: Last night Stephanie, Candice, Eddy, and I went to the Han River (the river that runs through town) and took a ferry ride from one port to another. It was really nice to see the city lit up, and like I said last night - it's really easy to NOT see this city when you're underground on the subway a lot. The river area is nice - lots of people picnicking, riding bikes, rollerblading, running, etc. I took a lot of pictures, but they are somewhat blurry because of the movement of the boat and the night setting I had my camera on. I really like bridges, so you'll have to forgive me for all the bridge pictures.

Also, just a point to ponder. Please comment about what you think: Do you think bananas might be the fruit of the world? As in, bananas are everywhere!

(more pictures to come)