Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Preparations

 Today started out feeling pretty American.  We had coffee (the first batch a little weak, the second a bit strong).  We'll have to figure out a happy medium, but it was fantastic to have it.

For lunch we decided to try making pizza with the pre-made crust mix (on the stove top).  Ian thought he added too much water, but it turned out great.  Though it's still crap by American standards, it was far better than any pizza we've had here.  The sauce we bought is a bit like cheap frozen pizza (like Totino's), but we didn't mind.


It was another crazy Halloween unit at school.  The kids seem to really love the break from their books (and the candy)!

More masks!  These boys can be pretty strange... but they had fun.

Beginner 3 kids (around 11-12 years old) and their Halloween depictions.  They weren't too stoked about standing for this picture.

Tomorrow we head to Seoul to celebrate Halloween.  I'm not posting our itinerary (we don't really have one this time around), instead I'll just fill you in after.  I will tell you that we're going to a "punk" party in a university neighborhood tomorrow night.  I believe Alena will be proud.  Also, we are hitting up Costco (if only to explore), but we're going to a different location this time.

  There's a VERY good chance that there will be no post on Saturday.  We're staying in a Hostel and there are a lot of conditions that need to be met in order for me to post (free wi-fi, coming home at a decent time, managing to pack a computer, etc.).  So, at the very least, there will be an epic post on Sunday.  My apologies, but a promise that posting gaps will be few and far between.  After all, this will be the first miss in 65 posts.

Ian the Wheel of Fortune contestant.

Me with my burglar mask giving myself cat ears.

Well, it's blood orange dot time!  Good night!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Let the Halloween Festivities Begin!

This morning we were greeted by a mailman at our door with a package for us from Justin.  We were really stoked and actually having it delivered was simply icing on the cake.

The package awaits us.

Well, it awaited me while I finished talking to Mom about our (then) missing check we sent home.

Ian is done waiting!

The coffee smelled really good. And we got hats!

And we got a moka pot!

The goods: a card, a winter hat for me, white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, moka pot (with instructions), Starbucks espresso, a winter hat for Ian, a hand held tetris game, and three excellent Lindt bar.  Thank you, Justin!

Today we started our Halloween unit.  Both Ian and I were busy all day, making copies and creating activities.  We didn't use the book at all, but neither of us had trouble filling our class times.  The kids seemed to really like it.  For the little kids we did things like making masks, drawing Halloween scenes, and doing Halloween themed word searches.  The older kids had crossword puzzles, monster riddles and video clips (namely, "This is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas) followed by a writing exercise/ discussion.  All the kids got candy in my classes for saying "trick or treat" at the beginning of class and then for answering correctly.  It was a pretty great day; I can tell it's going to be a fun week.

Some of my Beginner 2 (about 10 years old Korean age) kids modeling their masks.  From left to right: Gabriel, Kevin, Jose (pronounced Josey), Jennifer, Kaitlyn, and Robert.

I'm reading one of the books that Erin sent us (Travels with Charley by Steinbeck).  I'm completely in love with it.  The book is an autobiographical account of a roadtrip he took with with his dog across the US.  I'll be sure to write a review when I've finished it, but so far, I fully recommend it.

Good night!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New "Office"

Today I moved into my new office to make space for the new teacher.  She starts on Friday.  There's no computer in my new space, instead I am to use the computer at the main desk.  Considering that every time I use it students stand behind me and stare, I don't a think that will be happening much.  Plus, it's just not convenient.  Since I do both actual work and web surfing during my free time, I need a computer that is mostly mine.  The Sinback campus has wireless, so it's possible that the others do, too.  I will bring my laptop tomorrow to find out.  If there is no wireless, I will be asking Julia for a LAN line.

View of my closet office from the door.  To the right  you can see the corner of the bookshelf that is one wall and to the left is the plant that is in the meeting of the other two walls.  Later in the day they put a clock on the wall for me.

This is actually a door blocked by a bookshelf and covered with a poster.  Festive!

When I was finished with classes today Chun wha and 'Hank' sat me and the other teachers down and gave us some Hotteok. They are a bit like a Korean answer to the Elephant ear, though it flooded me with memories of Christmas lefse and made me a bit nostalgic.  I grabbed one for Ian and 'Hank' drove me downtown to meet him.  We were supposed to look for gloves for my Halloween costume, but we mostly just sat in Dunkin Donuts drinking coffee.  We did find larger glasses and a yoga mat, however, so the night wasn't a total bust.

On top of our minor finds, Ian met another American teacher while he was waiting for me at Dunkin.  His name is Matt and he's been here for five years.  Apparently, there are many teachers who have been here for several years.  They don't run with the less permanent, younger crowd, so we haven't met them.  We haven't found him on Facebook, yet, but we'll keep trying.

We'll be up planning Halloween themed lessons tomorrow morning, so chat us up!  Good night!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"It's Swine Flu Day"

The fear of Swine Flu is in full tilt here in Jecheon.  I can't find any stats regarding how many cases are in the city (or even the country), but some of the other teachers have mentioned their students being diagnosed with it.  Iris and Michelle were periodically wearing masks today as were some of my students.  Michelle went around spraying hand sanitizer into the air.  On top of that, in my last class today, having asked them the date, one student replied "It's Swine Flu day."

After work Ian and I met to go to HomeMart and pick up some groceries.

We found a mix for pizza crust (that says it can be made on the stove top [we'll see]).  So, we needed pizza sauce.  It comes in a squeeze bottle.  How convenient!

I know I've mentioned the canned meat, but I don't think I've shown you a picture of just how much is here.  Remember, this is a small store.

Tomorrow Ian and I are meeting downtown after work to pick up some stuff for our Halloween costumes.  There are several parties in Seoul to choose from, so Ian and I wanted pretty simple costumes.  Ian is going to dress in a nice shirt and a big name tag and be a Wheel of Fortune contestant.  I'm going to put on kitty ears and a mask and be a cat burglar.  I've been a cat burglar before, but I'm in Korea, so I figured it doesn't matter.  I'm glad that we both have costumes that allow us to wear mostly normal clothing.  I'll definitely let you in on our Halloween Seoul itinerary when we figure it out.

We're settling in to watch Heroes.  I hope you all have an excellent day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Random Gifts

Ian and I both had some pretty serious Monday blues this morning.  It was made worse when both of us missed our buses.  I had to take a cab to work and Ian caught the later bus.

Other than just begrudgingly starting another work week, things went pretty well today.  Starting next week, there will be another teacher at Ha So (another Korean teacher).  I've known this for about a month, but I didn't know that I would be losing my desk.  They are moving me into a makeshift office where the copy machine used to be.  It's the size of a closet, and I'll be even more isolated.  I am not stoked, but I have no choice.  I wonder what the new teacher will be doing, since I don't think there needs to be another person supervising the student's tape sessions.  Maybe she'll teach actual classes.

Ian and I both received gifts from a couple of our students today.

Ian got pogs from a kid named Edwin and I got a candy cane from a student of mine named Caleb.  We're sending the pogs home to Grant with his Thomas gum/chews (as soon as we find international envelopes and manila envelopes!).

Christmas in October?  Not exactly.  The candy cane was fresh, but cherry flavored.

Caleb is the same kid who teased Thomas for being, well, named Thomas (as in Thomas and Friends).  Today, Thomas decided that he no longer wanted to be called Thomas.  After over five minutes of trying to come up with a new name for him (he rejected each one) I settled on N.N. for no name.  I told him he is to come ot class next week having chosen a new name, but we'll see if that happens.

Just this very second, Ian and I saw a commercial for Big Love on channel 141.  Apparently, it's coming to the channel starting Friday.  Yay!

Thursday Ian and I are starting a Halloween unit for our kids.  Our weeks go from Thursday to Wednesday, so the unit will go past Halloween, but I doubt our kids will mind.  We have kids of nearly every age, so we want to do some video clips, games (easy and doable with 4-8 kids in 10-15 minutes) and some holiday themed worksheets and exercises.  If you have any ideas, be sure to share.

Well, off to the land of relaxation.  Good night!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Uirimji, Redux

Today we spent the morning relaxing and watching TV.  Later, we met up with the teachers at Uirimji.  We didn't meet them for lunch because we find troubling people with our vegetarianism to be actually troubling in Korea.  So, we ate Mr. Pizza (the easiest dining out option for us, since we can point to a menu).  They messed up our order a bit though and originally thought we ordered two pizzas.  Thankfully, we caught that on the bill before they managed to make the two pizzas.  When our pizza did come they had accidentally given us corn instead of potatoes.  We didn't mind, figuring as long as there's no meat we're lucky.

Pizza with "spicy chili," corn, and black olives.  Mr. Pizza is pretty stingy with the olives, however, and this slice had none.  We always ask for salt because the pizza can be pretty lifeless without it.  The spicy chilis helped quite a bit, though.

While we were trying to get a taxi (something that is always a problem for us when we're trying to be somewhere at a certain time), we saw a wedding party.

It's a bit hard to see, but there are people in the trunk of that car.  I learned from Matt (who attended a Korean wedding in Jecheon recently) that it's tradition in this city for the groom to dress in spandex and chase the bride as she sits in the open trunk of a moving car.  I imagine these people were preparing for that.  Later, at Uirimji, we saw a group of men toss a groom into the reservoir and hurl big rocks at him.  It was pretty interesting.

When we got to Uirimji, our first intention was to rent duck boats, but they were pretty busy, so we hit up the little archery range instead.

Ian found out that he rather likes archery.

Peter is a bad ass at both photography and archery.  I hear Kate's a good shot with an arrow, too.  I didn't see much of Jeff's shooting, but I know he made some hits.

I, on the other hand, am terrible at archery.  I think I'm a bit afraid of the bow.

After playing around with archery, we managed to rent a couple of boats.  They're four person paddle boats.  I've never been in a paddle boat so large.  Turns out, they're a bit more difficult to get moving.

The scenery was quite nice.  The leaves are turning on the hills.

Us enjoying the back before we switched to peddle in the front.

We had a good time of colliding with the other boat whenever possible.

After boating, we all sat around with coffee and chatted for a bit.

I got a picture of Ian on one of the little animal rides, though we didn't actually put any money in it.  He just pushed it with his feet.

While the last couple pictures aren't exactly Engrish, they are still amusing in a linguistic and cultural way.

I recently learned that Taekwondo has a world federation and it's initials (by which it is known) are WTF.  Meaning that the Korea branch is WTF Korea.

We found this among the many other caps a street vendor was selling.  I suppose it's less strange that it says American Indian (though you won't find "Caucasian" or "Mexican American" written across too many hats), but that this exists in homogeneous Korea (let alone Jecheon) boggles my mind.

We're back to school tomorrow, so it's bedtime in the old folks' home.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Clean Apartment!

I apologize in advance for this post being what Wikipedia would refer to as a "stub."

We spent a large part of today cleaning our apartment.  We cleaned it partially because it really needed it and partially because we were having people over tonight.  Our apartment is frustrating to clean because so many of the surfaces are white or very light in color.  But, according to the other teachers, our place is quite nice.  So, I won't complain.  It's warm, it was close to fully furnished and there are no bugs (or at least not many), so we've done well.

Having people over was quite nice.  We really like the band of teachers here.  It reminds me a bit of college.  We're all quite different people, but the common experience (teaching here) brings us together in ways that other experiences might not have.  We also got to meet Chelsie tonight.  She seems really nice.  I can't tell if she's a little quiet or if that's more a reflection of how noisy we all are.  We all like to get our words in edgewise.  It would be humorous to watch us get loader and loader, I bet.  I think it's great that we're all comfortable enough to state our real opinions on things.  This is especially obvious with Hayley, who is a bit of a chatterbox, but nobody minds because she's so fun to listen to.  It's also amazing to be around people of such differing backgrounds; to qualify, in some ways they're quite different, but in other ways they're very similar.  As I said, it reminds me of socializing at UPS.

Some folks are going over to Uirimji tomorrow and since we enjoy their company quite a bit, I think we might go, too.

Tomorrow morning we have a Skype date with most of Ian's family.  It should be a good time.  It'll be nice to talk to and see people we haven't seen in awhile.

Well, off to bed like the old married folks we are.  Good night!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The classic "should we or shouldn't we" confliction

Ah, the weekend.  Considering we'll be spending tomorrow morning cleaning the apartment, I'm not ready to jump up and down about it.  But, as always, I'm happy it's here.

I had to have the parent's of two students called today.  I hate having to do that, but they just wouldn't behave and they were dragging the class down with them.  It's a recurring problem with them, but today was the pinnacle.  When I turned my back to one side of the room, one of the boys raised his arm and made a joke out of "threatening" to hit me.  Unfortunately for him, I could see his reflection in the giant monitor in the room.  And, his comrade ratted on him ten seconds later.  Then only the two quietest students showed up for my last class.  These kids never talk. so keeping the class going was next to impossible.

In the middle of my second to last class today the principle came in and asked if I would like bimbimbap for dinner, I said that I would need to call and let Ian know.  She mumbled something that included the word "together" and closed the door.  I thought maybe they were going out to eat after work, but as soon as my class ended I saw a delivery man bring tons of food into her office.  Then during my last class (the impossibly quiet one), I watched through the window as every other staff member sat and had dinner together.  Sometimes it sucks being the only one who actually works at work.

So, we're putting some serious thought toward the idea of coming home for Christmas.  We want to.  Badly.  But, the cost is astronomical.  It would take nearly the entirety of both of our November paychecks to make it happen (roughly 75%, actually). We're talking roughly $2,800 on airfare.  Obviously, we're here to save money, but we're here to travel, too.  And the fact that vacation time is few and far between around here, makes us even more conflicted.  If we can't go home, there are other places we could go and still save money.  One place that has peaked our interest (for a longer break like Christmas or summer) is the Tokyo Disney Resort.  Thinking about the options and the decision we have to make soon makes my heart very heavy.  In a perfect world, we'd have it all: travel the world family in tow and it'd all be magically free.  But, this is not a perfect world.  If you'd like to weigh in on our conundrum, please do, but, family, be gentle.  We feel guilty about weighing the options as it is.

Speaking of families and traveling, I really hope that our family members who have expressed interest get the opportunity to make it out here.  Some of my hopes are for selfish reasons, I miss you guys like hell.  And, I'd love to show you our lives here and the tourist attractions, too (we'll have more of that under our belt down the road).  But, concrete reasons for overseas travel don't come often.  It's difficult for most people to justify the expense.  So, while we're here and can cheapen the trip by offering our tiny abode instead of a hotel, I hope you come.

I believe that's enough babbling for one evening.  If you're in the area, go check out my mom's booth at the Tacoma Dome Holiday Food and Gift Show.  She's got great stuff and the rest of it's pretty cool, too.  It goes until October 25th.  Don't feel peddled to, I was just saying!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Peas Porridge Hot...

Today was a pretty uneventful day for both of us.  To be honest, I don't feel like I remember much of it, since I was like a walking zombie until the end of the day.  Ever since I can remember, my illnesses have gotten worse at night.  I'd go to bed feeling terrible and wake up feeling nearly all better, just to repeat the process again.  This sickness is entirely different for me.  I wake up feeling like death and feel that way until evening.  At first I thought I just needed to be up and around to feel better, but no matter my activity level, I feel like a zombie until about 6 or 7pm.  It's totally strange.

Ian had a little girl accidentally take a little chunk out of his pinky finger today trying to get stickers from him.  Seriously, these stickers seemed to be the kids' only signifier of their worth.

It actually looks painful in real life.

Today when I got to work, everyone was very concerned.  They offered to feed me, medicate me, and take me to the hospital.  I went for the "feed" option.  They offered me some "rice and vegetable soup," so I agreed.  Then 'Hank' came back and brought me the same take-out porridge that David brought me yesterday.  It says something like "Wellbeing slow food" on the bag and under the restaurant it says "Tradition Korean Porridge Restaurant."  I assume it's what people eat around here when they don't feel well.  They served it to me so hot it was ridiculous.  I waited about twenty minutes to try a bite and it was still painful.  The porridge is bland and amicable, so I can see why one would choose it while ill.  But, I only managed to eat a little bit of it.  Korean porridge left overs, anyone?

The top one is today's (obviously vegetarian).  I can't vouch for yesterday's (the yellow one on the bottom), however, and it's an even bigger container.

It's Heroes and then bedtime for us.  We're so cool!  Good night!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sick Day

So, I actually took a sick day today.  And I'm glad I did.  I could hardly get out of bed this morning, but after sleeping all day I feel half alive again.  Still, this post will be short.

I'm pretty sure Julia taught my classes today.  I bet that was interesting.  I'm not sure why they weren't canceled like I thought they would be.  David came by to pick up my books and brought me some rice porridge take out.  The smell made me queasy, so I didn't try any.  Plus, I have no idea whether it's vegetarian or not.  So, in the fridge it went.  Julia also sent the cable man over this morning.  That made my life very difficult, since I was still in bed.  But, I just hid under the covers.  So, now we have TV.  Mostly Korean stuff, but CNN international and several channels that play back episodes of American shows and some older movies are also included in our package.

Ian really should have stayed home today, too.  He's pretty sick.  I wish I could convince him to take a day, but he's keen on toughing it out, which means he'll probably be sick for longer.  Poor Enon.

At work, they kept trying to feed Ian today.  First they gave him warm soymilk, which made him gag.  Then they gave him redbean milk (red bean apparently has magical properties).  Finally, they gave him a sort of burrito  (with an egg tortilla) filled with rice and pork bits.  Ian took a couple bites because they told him it was vegetarian.  So, that only added to his discomfort today.

Well, we're going to settle in and hit th hay soon.  Good night!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Forgotten Things and a Care Package

This morning Ian and I realized that there are a few amusing things we've (well, I've) forgotten to include in the blog.

Firstly, some of my kids' English names aren't exactly English.  I've had a couple Antony's.  Not Anthony, but Antony.  I recently got a new boy in class named Alejandro.  Almost everything I say to him I say with a Spanish accent.  It's my own private joke, since they don't hear the difference.

Secondly, Ian would like you to know that he has been teaching his kids TV theme songs line by line.  A couple of weeks ago, he taught some of his kids the Fresh Prince of Belair theme.  Today he taught a class the theme song for the Flinstones.

And thirdly, I forgot to report a totally awesome happening yesterday.  In my second Basic 3 class on Mondays, I have a boy named Caleb and a boy named Thomas.  They're both good students and they play off each other a lot in class.  Well, yesterday, when I got to Thomas in the roll call, Caleb burst into the Thomas and Friends theme in Korean.  I asked "Thomas and Friends?" and he was pretty stoked that I knew it.  I asked him if he liked Thomas and he said he was too old, though he seemed pretty into it to me.  Later I asked him if he'd been to the Sodor park in Japan and he regretfully reported that he hadn't.  Much to human Thomas' dismay, Caleb continued to sing bits of the song occasionally during class.  YouTube won't let me embed the song in the post, so here's a link.  It's worth a listen because the tune really doesn't work all that well in Korean.  It made me laugh, at least.   

We went to the post office this morning to pick up our package from Erin.  We've been anticipating it for a while now (the post office kept trying to deliver it while we were at work), so we were pretty stoked.

Yay!  Packages get pretty beat up on their way here.

What is it?  It's a baby pumpkin!

Ian may have been a little overzealous about appreciating the pumpkin.

I got awesome mustard colored vintage-y gloves as a belated birthday gift.  They will be great for the deep winter we have here.

Care package contents from top left: Hershey's Miniatures, Reese's Miniatures, baby pumpkin, People Magazine, Seattle Magazine, Glamour Magazine, card and letter, gloves, Uno Game, Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

Thank you, Erin!

We're so lucky to have folks like you all back home.  You rock.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Do your parents feed you?

I asked Ian if anything interesting happened to him today and this is what he had to say,"You know that kid who tore out a sheet of paper a while ago and ate it?  Today I only gave him one sticker because he was being a little shit.  Well, he ate that, too."

My day was uneventful, but generally terrible.  My classes went well and the kids behaved, but I felt half dead all day.  My voice would disappear on a whim and one or two times I found myself spacing out.  I did start to feel a little better with the momentum of the day, but as soon as classes were over it all came crashing back.  I'm exhausted.  I know that if I feel the same way tomorrow morning that I should call in sick, but I'm not sure it's worth the hassle.  Unless we want our pay docked, we have to have a doctor's note.  And even with a note, we're only allowed three sick days.  Being sick in a foreign country with a foreign job sucks.

Tomorrow we are going to the post office to pick up whatever Erin sent us and to buy stamps and envelopes.  I'm stoked.

As soon as we feel better, we really need to clean the apartment.  It's pretty gross, since both of us have been feeling so crummy.

Yesterday was Chun wha's birthday.  She told me this when she led me into a somewhat hidden back closet and fed me rice today.  The closet part was a bit odd, but it was nice because she told me not to worry about the time and let me start one of my classes almost ten minutes late.  She and her family went to Danyang and checked out the pampas grass fields near Namhan River to celebrate.  Their pictures were really cute.  She got a new phone (I don't know if it was for her birthday or not).  The cell phone technology here is pretty cool.  Even "basic" phones have nice cameras and they come with all sorts of extras like TV and games.  Chun wha's new phone has a motion sensor in it.  So, she can scroll through pictures and things just by rocking it back and forth.

Well, I hope everyone's work week starts out fabulously!  Good night!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Do Nothing Day

Seriously, I think I may have bed sores.  Ian's still pretty sick, especially since we slogged around Seoul all day yesterday.  And now it seems that I may have the beginnings of what he has.

We spent most of the day mindlessly on the internet.  We did order five books to read, however.  In about 10 days we will have "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" and "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" by Douglas Adams, "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman, and "Gulliver's Travels (and other writings)" by Jonathan Swift.  Pretty nerd-tastic all in all.

Tomorrow morning we are cleaning the apartment as we are on a break from running while Ian is sick.  Fun times will be had.

We're thinking of having the other teachers over for food and drinks this Saturday.  Our apartment isn't really set up well for social engagements, so it could be interesting.

We're going to catch up on some T.V. and then go to bed early, you know, since we've had such an active day.

Seoul and Costco (epic post!)

Yesterday we got up at 5:30am to head to Seoul.  We caught the 7:30 nonstop bus (a little under $9 a piece) and got into the city around 9:30.  I took 97 pictures, so here are some of the best shots.

Ian slept on the bus, but I was too excited!  I did manage to get about 20 minutes of sleep, though.

When we got out of the bus terminal, we had no idea where we were.  We were very hungry, so our first objective was to find our Starbucks.  There are plenty in Seoul, it was just a matter of finding one.  We weren't prepared for the size of the city and that was one of our major downfalls. There are over 10 million people in Seoul and the city itself is 605.39 km² in area.  Seattle is 369.2 km(2) for some context.

On our way to finding Starbucks we passed the gate to the Gyeongbok Palace.  We didn't go in because we were so hungry.

Then we saw it.  We had to run back up the street to find a crosswalk.  Crosswalks don't make much sense in Korea.  For a culture that walks so much, they really don't make it easy to cross the street.

It looked just like any other Starbucks.  Except the menus were in Korean with tiny English names underneath.

Ian had a hot vanilla latte with a bagel and cream cheese.  I had an iced vanilla latte with a scone.  Though the coffee was still not on par with Seattle, it was close.  Ian forgot to order sugar free and I forgot to order soy milk.  Oh, what a month will do.  There was only one Korean man in Starbucks.  Other coffee places (like Dunkin Donuts and Paris Baguette) are much more popular here.  Other than the man, there was us and an Australian family who sat at different tables.  The parents each had their own table and the two daughters (in their mid teens) each had their own, as well.  Maybe they needed a break from each other.

We stayed in Starbucks for almost an hour.  In retrospect, it was a mistake.  But, it was difficult to leave a place that felt so comfortable and so much like home.

Then we hopped on the subway and headed toward Namdaemun Market.  It seemed like the subway took a very long time.  Again, the city is huge.  It may not be as big as New York, but to Ian it felt bigger (I've never been to New York).  Maybe it seemed larger because the language barrier makes it more difficult to get around.

As we were trying to exit the subway station, we came across this underground market.  Underground shopping centers (set up a bit like Pike Place) are very popular here.  There was a little of everything, but nothing worth photographing; just the usual trinkets, books and odds and ends.  Each market is a little different.

The underground shopping centers have handy compases on the floor.  This one leads to: The Bank of Korea, City Hall, and Namdaemun Market.

When we came up out of the station, the market was very easy to find.  I'm glad we went there in the morning.  Most of the pictures I saw online showed the place packed shoulder to shoulder.

The market was divided into "alleys."  They weren't really alleys, but more of a series of alleys.  Each was named for what it's vendor's had.  This alley is called "Women's Clothing Alley."  Here you could find all sorts of clothes.  Name brands, illegal copies of name brands, inexpensive clothes, designer clothes, accessories, you name it.  Some of the shops felt as though they were repeats, but as you got deeper into the market, there was more diversity.


This is my favorite picture that I took the whole day.  This alley is called "Alley for Soldier's Appliances."  That woman is very unhappy with my photograph, most likely because they sew things on the spot and sell very close rip offs of Levis and (probably) other brands.  There was a lot of military surplus in this alley and the whole thing felt a little sketchy.  I couldn't find anything on the internet about it.

We found some classic Engrish in the market.  I later saw a kid wearing this shirt.  It says: "Slash with a Knife the happy amused."

More Engrish on the signs: "Synthesis clothes."  Sounds like a horror/ sci fi film gone terribly wrong.

This man, dressed in mock traditional clothing, was announcing some deals to be had at the store.  He seemed to hide his face every time I went to take a picture of him.  He was wearing Groucho glasses.

"Food Vendor Alley" was not as impressive as we'd hoped it would be.  The people lugging huge pallets full of goods were, though.

We went into one of the buildings off the market street to use the restroom.  They had an imported good section that was largely liquor.

But, they also had Japanese toys.  Like "Totem Pole" Power Rangers and some Thomas gear that I couldn't get a picture of because the lady working at the stand started getting suspicious.

Back out in the market, Halloween had arrived.  It was nice to see the holiday garb.  I almost bought some cat ears, but I decided I'd get them on Halloween (when we go back to Seoul) if I still want them.

Ian is very threatening.

Not too far down from the Halloween set up was a shop with tons of imported foodstuffs.  We got little things of Whoppers (turned out to be stale), Jelly Belly's, and some Japanese Thomas gum (or maybe fruit chews?) to send to Grant.

This is a terrible photo of both of us, but it's the only one where you can really see the tower in the background.  Later, we climbed the mountain (no, really) to the tower.

Me in front of the fountain in Namsan Park.

Ian in front of the fountain in Namsan Park!

Part of the Seoul skyline during our climb to the North Seoul tower.

The climb continues.  The stairs were all different, but none of them were easy to climb.  Some were too short and forced you to take baby steps, others were long and short and caused some tripping, others still were much to high and were very difficult to climb.  We could have taken the cable car up, but when we noticed them we were already on the walking path; it was too late to abort the mission!  So, we took the cable car down.

Here is the view (panned from left to right) from the picture island, half way up.

Us!  It was so windy, I had to hold my hat.

Almost there!

When we got to the base of the tower, there were more people and more happenings than we expected.  The base of N Tower is very much like the base of the Space Needle.  There is a gift shop at the base and events take place below.  There is also a revolving restaurant in it and observation decks, but we didn't go up, as it costs money and there was plenty to see at the bottom.

There were mesh men "flying" (they were just strung up on wires) all around the base.

The base advertising a Teddy Bear Museum and OktoberFest.

I saw a couple struggling to take their own picture, so I offered to take one for them.  Well, I had Ian take it because he's taller.  So, then they took one of us.  What you see on the guarder behind us are locks.  People put locks on the rail and wrote messages of love on them.  It was really cool.

Locks everywhere!

A close up of one of the locks written by an Australian couple in 2003.  Ian and I wanted to make a lock, but we couldn't find them anywhere.  Maybe next time.

There was a Cold Stone at the base!  So, naturally Ian and I grabbed a little ice cream.  I got the Cookie Mintster (mint and Oreos, my favorite) and Ian got something with chocolate, brownies and fudge in it.  It was delicious!

After we got our ice cream, we noticed there was a martial arts (military style Taekwondo, I think) show going on, so we sat down and watched it.

It was pretty cool, but the performers didn't seem very into it.  The lead guy checked his watch a few times.  Maybe he had a date.

Then we decided it was time to head back down.  So, we got on the cable car.  It was a little pricey at W5,000 a piece, but we really didn't want to traverse the stair path again.

In the view from the cable car we could see that something was on fire.  I don't know what it was, but it could be garbage, since they burn a great majority of it in South Korea.

On our way to find the vegetarian buffet, we saw this "Karaoke Sexy Bar."

We also saw this building that appears to be made from Jenga blocks.

And this man giving a hellfire sermon.  The English on his sign said "You Serpents!  You brood of Vipers!  There is burning Hell"  Ian said to me (in his classic style), "I am not a brood of vipers.  I'm a single viper at best."

We may or may not be  abrood of vipers, but there is California Pizza Kitchen in Seoul.

This is Cheongyye Stream.  We were going to walk it, but we ran out of time.  It's on the agenda for our next trip.  It's very beautiful at night.

We asked for directions roughly five times before someone got us to the Hanguachae vegetarian buffet.  Finally, a very kind woman from an information booth walked us there.  It was a tiny place in the basement floor of a building.  We came in and the woman told us to sit down.  She brought us tea and porridge (it tasted a bit like Cream of Wheat).  Then we got up and helped ourselves to the buffet.  There were potatoes, sea greens, tofu, sweet potatoes, dduk (rice cake) and salads.  It was all very good, except I didn't like the sauces all that much.  While we were up, a pu-chin-geh (Korean pancake) and some soup magically appeared at our table.  It was nice to be able to eat Korean food.  After all, the restaurant is all traditional.  It was started by a woman who learned to cook vegetarian food because her husband didn't eat meat.  Her friends told her she should start a restaurant and so she did.

Large amounts of vegetarian food!

After the restaurant, our day went downhill.  We ran out of time (as I told you, we didn't go to the stream) and when we got lost trying to find the Palace again, we had to give up on it.  It was pretty frustrating.  Even though we left ourselves lots of time for Costco (we planned to be there by 7, so we'd have over an hour there), through getting lost and having cab driver issues, we didn't make it there until 7:45.

A nice view of a Seoul alley I took while we were lost and frustrated looking for the Palace.

Some things we saw after we turned around to head back to the subway:

This stage had people performing on it all day.  When we first walked by there was a young woman singing Kumbaya.  Later, there was no body on the stage just a screen playing a video and very loud music.

There were performers on wires in front of a large video screen on the Lotte corporate building.

Trying to be happy on the subway.

I noticed (on the subway and in the city) that the people in Seoul are very different from the people in Jecheon.  First of all, obviously, there were a lot more foreigners there.  But, the people are much more urban and western in general.  I noticed small things, like the fact that people don't drag their feel in Seoul and most people walk much faster.  I also noticed larger things.  The people in Seoul read books and newspapers on the subway and in public spaces.  Reading is not something you see a lot of in Jecheon.  People don't seem interested in that type of culture here.  Movies theaters are largely empty and we've seen hardly any art.  The more we learn about our city, the more it seems depressed and indolent.  It seems as though the major cities are moving forward and leaving everything else behind.

When we got off the subway we immediately started hailing cabs.  The first cab driver we asked to take us to Costco said he didn't know where it was.  So, we got out and tried again.  The second cab driver had us tell it to him letter by letter and put it in his GPS.  Even still, when we got close (I could see the sign for the building) the driver took a wrong turn and got us stuck in traffic, causing us to lose precious minutes.  When we got there, he apologized, but still charged us full fare.

We finally made it!

Because there isn't space enough to have a big open warehouse, Costco is divided into floors, most of them for parking.

This Costco definitely chose function over form.  No fun displays, just a literal goods warehouse.  It was very busy for a Saturday night.  I wonder what it's like other times.

I ran around trying to find both things to photograph and things we needed in twenty minutes.  Next time we go, I intend to set some time aside to explore Costco more thoroughly.  I'll be sure to share those findings with you.  Here are some things I photographed this time:

Tillamook!  The only Tillamook at this Costco were the cheddar Mini Moos.

I found the sushi section (I didn't have time to check it out), but, strangely, I did not find the kimchi department.  I know it's there somewhere.

  Imported Beef vs. Domestic Beef behind a huge wine section.  Most of the wines were Australian.

Another PNW brand!  The "lightly salted" seemed more popular than the "sweet onion."  Behind them is some Oberto jerky, which I imagine would be super popular in Korea.

These pistachios conjured memories from Bruce's family reunion.

And, last but definitely not least.  The answer to Rob and my question of questions.  The simple answer is "Yes, it is the same."  However, there are no churros and we didn't try anything, so we can't answer it from that angle.  And, the menu only shows combo pizza, no cheese.  Instead of a chicken wrap they have a bulgogi (seafood, I think) "wrap" that appears to be fried.  So, while largely the "same," there are some key differences.

After Costco, we decided to take a cab instead of risk taking the subway back to the bus terminal.  And, it's a good thing we did.  The Costco was all the way across town from the terminal and it took us almost twenty minutes to get there.  We got on the bus with two minutes to spare.  We got home at about eleven, put the groceries away and went to bed.

Alright folks, it's taken me nearly four hours to sort through my 97 photos and post this blog.  I sure hope you enjoyed it!