Japan

It seems that in all my pages, the Japan trip never made it to print. In the first year that Wyll and I lived in Korea our first summer vacation was spent in Japan, enjoy the Hells of Fukuoka. Wylliam had a college friend that lived in the county so we visited him and he toured us around. We went to Nagasaki together and saw the A-Bomb museum which is not for the faint of heart. There is also a Dutch colony there for people to tour around. We did some amazing Karaoke which is still brought up when singing in public of listening to Weird Al.

The pictures don’t seem to have much rhyme or reason, much like the streets. Japan focuses on building names so we got lost a lot, even though I eventually figured it out.

 

 

Goals for this month

1. Writing everyday

2. Packing the apartment and sending things home by post or not!

3. Completing several work goals

4. Applying to jobs in the Bay Area

5. Checking out Wwoof in South America

I think the order of this list is very fitting. The daily things are important. I’ve made the habit of cooking lunch and dinner before work everyday. Now it’s time to expand my mind. Writing everyday is the perfect opportunity to gain mental clarity. I’m starting with a 30 day challenge, my friend Sarah is doing. It’s a great chance to do something together while I’m out of the country.

Over the past year, Wyll and I have accumulated many things. There is a collection of wooden spoons and a fat stack of notebooks  that need to go somewhere. The spoons will be coming to America. While the notebooks are full and perhaps can be burned or disposed of where no one can find them and learn English or game math with them. I’ve also bought a few fancy gifts and should decide if I’ll send them or take them by plane.

Work goals are boring but they too have to be part of this list. I need to ensure that my students are taken care of in my absence. That the paper work gets done before I leave. And that I get my extra money. I want that extra money!

Applying for jobs in the home state seems like a no brain-er. I’ve already started. Hopefully, my next endeavor will be fun and courageous! I’m looking at Social Media, Social Work, sale in Woman’s fashion. It would be fun to be a professional food blogger so maybe I’ll get a job as a waitress. If the bay area job market is as tough as I remember it being, I will go to South America to learn Spanish. Of the many things Korea has taught me my Spanish ability is not too shabby. There have been many times when I want to say something and I try to use Spanish. Most Koreans do not understand Spanish, so this tactic has never worked for me.

A whole Lotte party-ing going on!

I have to say the biggest company in Korea is Lotte. They own fast food chains (complete with squid burgers! YUM!), grocery stores, outlet malls, movie theaters- they make movies!, and on the weekend before last I was introduced to a whole new product- LOTTE WORLD!

This theme park boasts human size rodent mascots!

That’s not me or Wyll but I think you get the idea (Minnie and Mickey have been turned into squirrels or maybe chipmunks?)

Anyway we had a bunch of fun with a bunch of people and I thought I’d share some of the photos with you!

I would also like to add that we have been going to the bigger cities and seeing live bands. We also hit up a club with Angus and Jim! That was tons of fun. I’ve really started learning Korean vowels, so I should be able to read… any day now…. 🙂

Wyll also finished the beta version of his game and it will be play tested across the world in the next few weeks. The cherry trees are blooming and life is starting to out pace me again. Spring has sprung!

Seoul part 2

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Maybe we would have gotten there faster with wonkwang power!

So, the second day was spent worrying about the subway. We walked to the hub of Itaewon and looked for Vatos, a hot Mexican restaurant with wild margaritas. Down a skinny road, counting the shops and mini roads to find the right place to make a right turn. Did I say right? I meant left… Luckily the right turn was a quick dead end. We turned around dodging motor cars, mini trucks and motorcycles. Sadly what we found was closed. The door was open but on one was home. We agreed to have hot dogs.

(I think this was the moment when we decided that the trip was a wasted one. I didn’t put in the ARC request for a new ID. And our first day felt like a waste of time and now there were no amazing restaurants open in Seoul. We had started the day by walking a mile or more in the wrong direction. Dinner the night before was a bust- we looked for Greek, we got really excited about Greek- we ended up eating at a chain that served us a mediocre fried shrimp and chicken platter  and FROZEN seared tuna.)

We moped around the back alley looking for something. Really we were heading out to the street to surrender ourselves to Outback Steakhouse- however this was very much like the establishment we ate at the night before. We saw a sandwich board it read “The Alley: Gallery, Restaurant , Cafe”. Okay we glanced at the menu- has to be better than frozen fish.

It was phenomenal!

We had wine (from Chile!), a creative Caesar salad (with black olives and balsamic), incredible lasagna (mucho ricotta cheese!). We had an excellent time. Wyll and I talked about people and home. We laughed at the future and basked in happiness. It was an excellent way to let go and breathe.

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Not the most flattering picture but it was tasty!

After we were fed and properly watered, we headed over to find What the Book?, the only all English bookstore in Korea. We spent a good block of time there and found some really wonderful reads. Yes, we got a Korean language book! And cookbook, along with two history books (France and Language- both anticipated and showing to be good reads) and a Korea Rough Guides. Cashing out we took our books over to Starbucks where I got my first caramel macchiato in what felt like years. I studied up on Korea. I read my new language book and actually perused the cookbook. It had been covered in plastic at the store. I looked at Korean foods I would want to eat! Oh man, Grace was in trouble. I was going to be speaking her language and eaten her food in no time! I think I deserve another caramel macchiato, thank you very much!

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Wyll after a long day at the Suncity Hostel

That idea (another coffee) was quickly voted down… We headed back to the hotel to drop off the heavy stuff and out to Dongdaemun, a shopping mega district. What were we thinking? It was fine. We took the subway like pros and didn’t get lost. Of course, we were very careful and used our smartphone app. Our first challenge was finding our way out of the subway. My biggest fear was that we would end up in the homeless section of the sewer system. While I don’t know if these are real, I have seen them on many shows from Law and Order to Bones. I pretty sure even Batman has sewer people. I think it was to our disadvantage that we were shopping at night. I might not have been scared with the sun on the surface.

During the trip I never successfully shopped underground.  Someday, soon I’m thinking, I will. We got very turned around and walked the place several times. We found an information booth with English speakers. While probably not uncommon it was a very friendly and welcome sight. We got directions to an ATM from our branch and were told that a jimjilbang (sauna and hot tub) was in the third level of the basement of the same building. Leaving the booth we crossed the street in the wrong direction and had to immediately turn around.

Let it be known that separately, Wyll and I are great with directions.

While the ATM charged us a 1,000 won fee, the building had a jimjilbang in the basement and Wyll was delighted. He gave me a large sum of money and told me to spend it. I left him with my coat, gloves and other bulky belongings. Two floors of women’s clothing, one floor of handbags and headbands, one floor for men. I took the elevator to the top (where the movie theater is) and noticed that many of the floors were closed or under repair. Awkwardly for me, the women’s sections were like Forever 21. Yes, it is a store that I hold near and dear but sadly it is for teenagers. Korean teenagers are typically much smaller than their ten years older American counterparts. Korean fashion is something that I love, so I had no problem with looking at everything many times. Pearls and rhinestones cover sweaters, dress collars, handbags. Clothes are fuzzy, silky, gaudy.  Leggings are currently the only kind of pants! Giant sweaters are worn as dresses. Korean fashion is is also covered to the neck and long sleeves while skirts barely cover your butt.  I was tempted to buy a free size (one size fits all) dress but the last one didn’t fit so I stood my ground.

There was also a fantastic gate. Dongdaemun means East Gate, it is very lovely and after several tries we got a photo in the dark that wasn’t to blurry.

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Seoul part 1

Winter break was not terribly long and yet full of surprises. We didn’t end up doing what we had planned. Instead we made a spur of the moment decision and took the early bus to Seoul. There was one rest stop- Wyll picked up some steamed Korean sweet potatoes (which were amazing) and I got Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee. I ate many of the sweet potatoes. 🙂

We journeyed to The Immigration Services Office in Seoul only to discover you have to go to your county office in my case: Jeonju.  Since Jeonju only offers a snow activities, we ditched that plan. (To quote the Genie from Aladin ‘boy, do I feel sheepish.’)

So, we are in the big city. Ready for action and fun. First we needed to find a place to sleep at night. WHAT!?! I hadn’t booked it before we left. Oops. 😀 WHAT!?! And the phone is almost out of batteries!

We left not entirely in a slight panic in search for the famed PC Bang (pronounced P-She Bong). Interesting that there were none in the direct vicinity of the government office. We walked eyes peeled for a computer with internet. When we found one Wyll had the know how to get a computer. We searched for hotels and hostels. Veto-ing the others suggestions. Finally Wyll gave in. We got a cheap hostel 50,000 won a night 2 minute walk from the subway station and one stop from Itaewon, beloved international district of Seoul.

Seoul has a very efficient subway system and since we had already taken it to the immigration office we were pros.  Who needs to look at the map again? Not us. That’s for sure! I mean us! Definitively us! There are so many lines that there is a brown line and a light brown line. There are like 16 lines. WHO KNEW?

Once we realized how off track we were, it was time to have a juice, eat another donut and watch animals-made-out-of-donuts-eating-donuts commercial. I mean they were light and funny. For example, a cat ate a cruller and became a lion!

I think in Seoul it only takes two lines to get anywhere you want. So, once we rested it didn’t take long to get to the hostel. We were greeted by Charlie Brown. (Sorry, I never managed to get photos.) The rest of the night was boring in comparison. The rest of the trip however was not!

 

Winter break!

Winter break is finally here. Tomorrow we hop the bus to Jeonju to run some errands and make our way to Muju resort! So far our break has consisted of lounging around the house finishing seasons of various shows- NCIS, CSI, Newsroom, the Sarah Connor Chronicles… ect. Yesterday we hit the local scene for some winter fun. We walked the wall (even though we weren’t suppose too!), I fell really hard on the packed ice, so we went to coffee. Wyll left me at the coffee shop and went to get asprin. He came back with drugs and a bruise patch. 🙂 This patch I’m wearing on my elbow has created a dark blue fuzz and will not be removed. The asprin are huge! Anyway we got some photos. Some are from a brisk walk on Saturday, most are from the Moyang Fortress. Enjoy!

 

There is a funny fact at the coffee shop:

1668 Coffee replaced beer as New York’s favorite breakfast drink!

 

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Gwangju

This weekend one of our students, Brady took us around the nearby big city. It was a day full of excitement and overwhelming joy. Wyll got up early made coffee and tried to get me out of bed. At 9:45, I rose, dressed and casually walked out the door. Once at the bottom of our apartment building I joked about not bringing the umbrellas-

“looks like rain- maybe I should have brought the umbrellas…”

I then went back to the apartment to get said umbrellas. Wyll bought breakfast from the mini mart in the parking lot. We hustled to the bus terminal. Upon arrival we realized- we only had cards. Our lovely student spotted us the ten dollars. It was a good move- once we got on the bus there were only two seats left. Many people stood in the aisle for the 70 minute journey. We both got car sick.

Once at the bus terminal in Gwangju I realized I had been there before. Our first night in Korea this was where we met Sam and Grace. Oh Hello Kitty store, how I have missed you! First stop Korean only ATM. Thanks to Brady for helping me break in! He then took us to KFC and went to run an errand. Salty, salty, salty hot wings. During the 20 minutes it took for our fast food to arrive Brady was back. He ordered and the food seemed to all come at once. Some how KFC knew that we should all eat together. The fries were not greasy or salty. They were almost dry, very weird.

After food we went and looked at the IMax theater, Twilight was the only English speaking movie playing. We decided to go on a hunt for the most elusive store ever, Club Alice. One of the few Magic card dealers in Korea. By far the closest one to us. It was downtown so we all jumped into taxi. There was a big debate over where the store itself was. Brady’s phone didn’t show it properly so Wyll handed his phone over. The taxi driver spoke Korean. He made noises. Brady pushed buttons on the GPS. I held the door handle for dear life as we tried to hit stray dogs, mopeds, cars- parked and moving, people, houses…

We were dropped off in the downtown pedestrian walkway shopping mecca. Anything you want is probably here. We started off by stopping for coffee at- no laughing- Angel-in-us Coffee. So many places to go with that name… We had ourselves a good laugh and headed out to find Club Alice. First we asked the baristas (we meaning Brady), ‘don’t know what you are talking about’. So we looked around, but this place is huge and the whole block or however much space it is all the same street. Everything is everywhere. So we try using the phone GPS. Is it in this direction? Walk a few feet. IDK. Let’s keep walking. We did this for two or three blocks at a very s l o w pace. Brady decides it might be a good time to call. Maybe ask someone who is there, how do I get to where you are? No answer. They are probably too busy playing MTG to bother with the phone. We scrutinize the alley ways. Maybe…. no.

Finally Wyll throws in the towel. We look down a street no Club Alice. He sighs, time to start looking for shoes. I think OH YEAH, let the wild rumpus start!

“There it is!”

“Where!?!” Wyll and I are both excited and happy.

“There! The pink- all in KOREAN!”

Alright! Finally we can show Brady what MTG is. So it can let go of the childish Yu-Gi-Oh image that it has merged with. I mean grown-ups play Magic. I mean I play Magic and I’m a grown up. So it can’t be that silly…

We breathe, walking half way down the block to climb to the forth floor. MTG posters in ENGLISH! I bet they have things I can read! At the top of the stairs there is a GIANT Planeswalker poster glaring down at us. His eyes are white with greed. As if he knows that we have been talking about this moment since before we arrived. Since we know how big computer games are in Korea but still aloof  to MTG. Remember how I said they didn’t answer the phone. Well they were closed. MTG is a growing thing. Maybe. We got the Korean website. Hopefully we can order some cards online. They are having a big event in January but that is a ways off.

The whole trip was far from a let down. It felt like every moment something different and wonderful was happening. We went into some large department stores, I found some really nice Sorels. So we’ll be going back. After I went into most of the shops Brady’s friend met up with us. We went to a few more shops and then took another taxi ride to see the university. Brady and his friend took us on a tour of the campus. Passionately Brady told us which buildings he studied in. Chemical Engineering. Lots of Math, Science, Biology. The campus was very pretty with sculpted evergreen trees. The ginko leaves are yellow and falling off the trees. Fall is such a lovely season.

We saw a pond with dying water lilies. Brady said we had to come see it in May when it’s pack green with pink and white flowers. While we were discussing the next thing to do Brady was pointing out nearby points of interest. We all noted “Skin Dive” would not be happening. So we started in the direction of the theater. I spied some very funny looking street vendors. And OMG could there be more shopping to do! We headed down chicken and soju lane. Brady said there were places to play table tennis. We headed back to the main road and I spied Artbox, which Grace explained to me was targeted to teens. My thought was; who wouldn’t want a Hello Kitty blow dryer? I told her it was the most amazing place ever. She said yeah, and all the boyfriends are lined up by the door checking their watches. Lucky for me I had Wyll, Brady and Brady’s friend. They walked around and Wyll finally drug me out as I clawed at the ground. Do what you want! But leave me here!!!!!!!!

You can’t really blame them. They had low blood sugar, they were hungry, they don’t know good, cheap fun when they see it. So we headed outside, walked around in a circle and went to lunch (second lunch) a few doors from Artbox. It was awesome, being able to talk over the menu! What a luxury! The boys all got different kinds of ramen (lomyoun), spicy,spicy,spicy. The kimchi, pepper and red paste are all to cool down the soup. Who knew? I had mandu. YUM. My new favorite Korean food. (I actually had it tonight too!) It’s basically a stemmed pork pot sticker. LOVE! We all ate very well. The boys got extra rounds for kimchi, peppers, red paste. There was also a …pizza? but more like a savory rice pancake. Everything was really good and sooo cheap. All four of us ate for like $12.

Full we headed out. I got some Aveeno chap stick for 75 cents and we got some stuff for motion sickness for the bus ride back. On the taxi ride back to the terminal, Brady broke the news that we were flying solo. He was staying the night in Gwangju. They took us to buy tickets and showed us where we had to go. Then they were off for a night havoc and frivolity. We had over an hour to kill, but as Grace has told me many times some people get to Gwangju and never leave the bus terminal. Now I understand.

We first headed to the book store. Brady said they have English magazines. $20 dollars for Cosmo are you kidding me!?! No wedding magazines? Do they actually sell anything here?

What is that section?

Why is it so bright over there?

What are all those teenage girls looking at?

What is this?

ARTBOX! My new favorite store in the bookstore! So that’s what this bookstore sells, stationary, hair clips, Hello Kitty! YAY!

Wyll is tired.

“Lindsy, when did we go to Hello Kittyland? Where does it end? Lindsy what are we doing here? We MUST leave!”

“Don’t worry Wyll. Let’s go to COLD STONE!” Up we go.

“Like it size, please. Coffee ice cream. Roasted almonds. Caramel.”

This is the life.

 

So the pictures of the gate and kiwis are from Gochang. The picture of me has Wyll, Brady, and Brady’s friend in the background. They were discussing the merits of sushi.

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