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Friday, October 22, 2010

Starbucks!

Coffee shops are very popular here in Seoul. In fact, Paris Croissant and their delicious Co-pee Americano and pastries test my will power everyday.

Along with coffee comes Starbucks. There are lots of Starbucks here in Seoul, but only one that is written in Korea. Here it is...

Phonetically, it says S-Ta-Bok-S-Ko-Pee.

Girls Night Out!

Thank goodness for friends...they do make everything a little bit better. Different reasons bring us together here in Seoul, but I am very thankful for my friends here.

Here is Sarah, Jen and I on a well-deserved Thursday Night Girls Night Out in Apgujeong.


Here's to you ladies and the men that brought us here!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Blue Skies...come back to Me!

With almost 3 months here in Korea...I have not seen the "bad air" quality that so many people keep telling me about. For the most part, I have felt great, even with the running and biking outside.

Until...Wednesday this week. I was on my way home from the bus and saw this in the sky. It almost looks like it is going to rain (no rain), but is instead smog. Needless to say, I spent most of the rest of the day inside, thought more about getting that gym membership and was happy again when I woke up Thursday to my favorite Seoul Blue Skies again!



So much we take for granted in the US, including clean air. Take a big deep breath of that clean American air for me today!

It is not just the Kimchi that is going Up...

For those of you following the world news, there is currently a Kimchi shortage is Korea. Kimchi is a national food here in Korea, eaten by most Koreans almost at every meal (as a side dish). It comes in hundreds of different forms, but it is essentially fermented vegetables (caggage, radish, etc) in a sauce of spicy red pepper paste and garlic.

It is the equivalent of maybe a potatoe or corn shortage in the US. It is eaten so often and used to make so many dishes here, it is a pretty big deal. I saw a small head of cabbage in the market for almost $16 the other day. Wow!

We enjoy Kimchi, although not for every meal. Mike has found a favorite version at Shinsagae Department Store. It was when I was getting his kimchi that I noticed that kimchi wasn't the only item in the store increasing in price.

Check out these fruit prices.

7,800 KRW (~$6.50)  for one apple

9,800 KRW (~$7.50) for one Asian Pear

This is the back breaker... 17,800 KRW ($15) for two oranges!
Now, I have to qualify these prices a bit. Shinsagae (where i took these pictures) is like the Neiman Marcus of the U.S. It is a huge 7-floor department store with all kinds of wonderful food and a small market in the basement. It is expensive, but so delicious. So, while I know that these prices are on the high side, the smaller market in my neighborhood was still 4000 KRW (~$3 - $3.50) for one pear!

Americans...eat your cheap fruit and enjoy every last bite. I know I savor each bite a little bit more now!

Weekend Escape to Beautiful Busan!

Last weekend, Mike & I took a last minute trip down to Busan. We were not sure what to expect for the weather this time of year, but it turned out to be a beautiful weekend with warm 70F days and bright blue skies.

Busan is the second largest city in Southeast Korea. (For those of you who don't know, Seoul is in the Northern part of South Korea). It is right on the Sea and is a major port city with well-known beaches.

We took the KTX train, only about 2.5 hours down to Busan, and found an awesome hotel overlooking Haeundae Beach. Little did we know that the Busan Film Festival had just ended and the Jagalchi Festival was just begining.

Waiting for the KTX at Seoul Station


Just a mere 2 1/2 hours later, we were in Busan. Just enough time for a good rest after an early Saturday morning train ride. Immediately, we were off to the Jagalchi Fish Market. This is a very large fish market right on the water in Busan. There is every kind of fish you can think of. You can buy the live fish there and eat it as well...they will prepare it raw or cooked for you.

Here are some pictures...



We opted for some cooked food. The smell of fish is very overwhelming, so we went to one of the outside vendors where the women cook up the food right there for you and got some Pajon (korean pancake with green onions), Gimbap (kind of a sushi roll with just veggies inside) and some spicy bbq fish (no idea what kind of fish it was).
Ladies cooking out lunch
Enjoying our lunch
After our tour of the fish market in downtown Busan, we headed over to our hotel on the famous Haeundae Beach. We stayed at the Grand Hotel with a beautiful view of the beach from our window. Here it is...

We spent most of the days wondering around Haeundae Beach area and enjoying the beautful weather.


On Haeundae Beach, there was an area with food vendors. I imagine they are very busy during the summer season when the beaches are very crowded. There is fresh fish of all kinds available in teh tanks in the picture below. I cannot read the signs, but if it is like the Jagalshi Fish market, I imagine they will prepare it to order as well...



Sunday, we left Haeundae beach and headed to see some other parts of Busan before our afternoon train back to Seoul. We wondered aimlessly (poor planning on our part) for a bit until we finally found Gwangan Beach and stopped for some lunch.


The afternoon train took us back to Seoul! We will have to go back now that we know our way around Busan. It is a beautiful city. It is not what I think of when I think of Beach Towns from the Eastern U.S., but I am a sucker for the sand, sun and ocean. It just soothes you, no matter where in the world you are!

Busan...we will be back!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Politically In-correct

The subway is full of signs that just make me shake my head. This is one that I had to share.

It is so politically in-correct, I don't think I need to say anymore... just take a look.


I have heard that Plastic Surgery is more popular here in Seoul than even in our infamous Orange County, CA area.

Hi Seoul Marathon 10K

Mike and I ran the Hi Seoul Marathon 10 last Sunday. It started at City Hall and went to Ttukseom Seoul Forest. It was a beautiful morning for the race, but a bit of an early start after a long week... (can you tell from our pictures :-)

Have I mentioned what a great sport Mike is? After a week with many late late work nights and little (ok no) training, he was up with me for this 10K!


Off to the subway at 6AM for an 8AM start. Found ourselves in the subway with loads of other runners geared up for the race. Have a mentioned that Koreans LOVE their gear! Each race starts with some celebration, announcers, even some Korean cheerleaders this time, some back-rubs, stretching and fireworks...



It was our second 10K in Korea and looks like my training is paying off. The course was long and was actually closer to an 11K, but I had a PR with the fastest pace I have ever done in a 10K (8:33 minute/ mile!!) Yeah!



For those of you familiar with pacers at marathons, they were here as well. Here is one of them getting their balloon, so their group can see them. Only thing is...his bib says "PACE MAKER." whaaa?

Some things just don't translate seemlessly from Korean to English, and we get a good chuckle once in a while.



Next Race is the Sports Seoul Half Marathon in November! 

Recycling Biker

Back in good old Warren, MI, there was a guy who drove around every Monday night (the night before trash was picked up) and took anything he thought had any value. Not sure where he took it, but he loaded it in his truck and off it went.

Well, here in Korea, bikes can be used, when trucks are not available. I took this picture one night while I was out in our neighborhood walking Maddy.


This form of trash hauling/ recycling is not for the amateur biker. And, just after this picture, I saw him with an empty bike headed back out for more recycling.  He was a little wobbly with a full load and a hill with about a 20 degree incline...quite a feat for a bit of cardboard. Power to 'em!

Not a great quality picture (darn iphone with no flash), but if you can see, this bike is not the most up to date style. It even has the old style kick-stand that is connected to the back wheel.

Seoul Festival Fireworks

On Saturday night, we road our bikes down to the Han River near Dongjak Bridge to view the fireworks that were part of the Seoul Festival that week. Lots of people had the same idea as us. Something to notice in the picture is that Korean people are not fond of sitting on the grass or ground of any sort. These mats, blankets are very popular and EVERYONE uses one. I guess we will have to get one of those for our future firework outings.


Turns out the wind wasn't blowing in the right direction and we ended up seeing mostly smoke with some light (from the very nice fireworks) behind it.

Wolfhoud Pub Grub

A shout out to the GM folks that visited from the US last week. We took them for some authentic Korean Cuisine in Itaewon...best fish n' chips in the city! Hey, what can we say, everyone need a little taste of the good ole' US of A sometimes.


Come back and visit us again soon!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Andong Maskdance Festival & Hahoe Traditional Korean Village

This past weekend, Mike and I took an overnight bus tour (yes, just like tourists) to the Angond Maskdnace Festival, Ginseng Festival and Hahoe Traditional Korean Village.

Seoul has these awesome Global Village Centers all around the city, that helps foreigners with everything...from free Korean classes, helping pay bills with banks that don't speak english, helping buy movie tickets (not as easy as you think) and anything else you can think of. Best of all...it is all free. Our local village center is in the "french area" of Seoul and was sponsoring this great little overnight bus tour. No one told us that it was all in French! Would have been a great detail to know. Mike and I were the only Americans amongst a bus full of French people dirving around Korea! Needless to say, they figured out we didn't speak the language very quickly and were happy to translate for us when needed.

First stop...bathroom...or is it? Yes, that is a bathroom and completely functional! Talk about blending into the landscape :-) And here is our bathroom montage from the weekend...


We visited a maskdance museum...here are some photos


Boo!

Mike's Hungry Face!


Some Maskdance Festival fireworks in the rain at night, preceeded by some fishcake soup (I don't know the Korean name) and makgeoli (always good!) in traditional Korean style...on the ground.


Motel Thema for our Saturday night stay, complete with wall mural that that glowed when the black light above was turned on! Classy! No Hampton Inns in sight :-( Almost don't see Mike in the picture...he blends into the glowing wall mural!


Maskdance Festival & Performance on Sunday. Got a video for you on this one...have to experience it live. I honestly don't know the meaning, but it is a play and each mask represents a person in a traditional Korean society (scholar, peasant, concubine, etc). Warning for those of you out there checking my awesome blog while you are at work...turn your volume down...it is LOUD!

 

Sunday afternoon concluded with the Ginseng Festival. It was a plethera of activities...I dug up some ginseng from the farm, shopped for some ginseng pills, had some deep-fried ginseng...met some interesting folks...and we even found polish horseshoes to play (me in the last picture) and the Koreans were enthralled with my skilZ!


Mike brought his girlfriend this weekend


Great Korean experience, but exhausting weekend. Maddy welcomed us home about 11PM Sunday night and Mike had a big week ahead of him with some visitors from the US. Really, he is such a great husband!

If anyone knows what to do with raw ginseng, send me some recipes. I have some in my fridge that is going to last about 6 months.