Monday, April 26, 2010

Mom's Seoul Weekend

Ian and I didn't get as many photos of this weekend as we thought we would.  We were pretty busy enjoying our new company.  Mom took some great photos on Sunday, but she was too zonked out on Saturday to do so.  When she puts some of her photos on disk, I'll steal a few and post them.

Ian and I got on the 7 o'clock bus (we thought the first bus was at 6:40, so we waited longer than we had hoped to) from Jecheon to Seoul to meet Mom.  She was a little behind us, so we grabbed a cup of coffee while we waited.  Then, Mom's bus didn't drop people off at the terminal, but an intercity stop about a block away.  So, Ian and I grabbed our things and headed out to find her.  After some humorous attempts at describing our surroundings (everything in Korea looks notoriously similar and the shops repeat themselves every block or so), we found her and headed to the hostel.

 The onigiri (rice ball) bento I made for Mom.  The rice ball was filled with sauteed tofu, peanuts and almonds with soy sauce.

We checked in and decided to head out to Namdaemun Market, the oldest continually running Market in Korea.  We didn't take any photos because markets that busy and chaotic are near impossible to capture on film and Mom was still pretty laggy and overwhelmed.

For a late lunch we went to "O seh gyeo hyang" (Go5 Vegetarian Restaurant).  It was amazing.  We got three dishes (we probably could have stuck to two) and shared them. The food was so good, Ian and I will probably go back sometime.  We order vegetarian bulgogi (Korean BBQ), a cutlet with Korean salad, and mandu (Korean dimsum or dumplings).  And of course, there were plenty of banchan (side dishes), kinchi radishes and cabbage, seaweed stems, several other wild greens and a soup which none of us cared for (the only thing we didn't like).

After lunch we went and sat in a tea shop. Ian and I ordered cold Sujeonggwa, a tea or punch made from persimmons, cinnamon and ginger.  Gene's family also served that tea to us when we were in Busan.  Mom ordered cold Omijacha, or "Five Flavor Tea."  It's made from omija berries which have Chinese medicinal properties and taste sweet, salty, bitter, sour and pungent.  I thought it was mostly sweet and sour.  Pretty yummy and I definitely wouldn't call it "pungent."  Maybe it's different hot.

Mom was pretty worn out, so we went back to the hostel.  She went to bed at about 9:30 and Ian and I went out to take some pictures of the nightlife (on her camera) and get a late dinner.  We met up with two other folks staying at our hostel and awkwardly hung with them for about an hour.  It was all pretty tame.

We started Sunday with Subway sandwiches (surprisingly Mom's idea) and headed to Gyeungbok Palace.  It was a beautiful day to walk the grounds.  My neck got a little sunburned.  Ian had our point and shoot, so the only photos with him are on Mom's camera.

Mom in her natural element:

We ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant called Shindongyang.  It's not a vegetarian restaurant, but they have a whole vegetarian menu.  We couldn't read the menu very well (no English, only Chinese and Korean), so we ordered a course meal.  It was pretty expensive, but completely worth it.  The food was delicious, so many different flavors (let me tell you, though, it's a good thing I learned to eat mushrooms).  There were six courses served on smallish dishes, then a main dish (Mom and I got fried rice and Ian ordered jajangmyun (noodles with stir fried black bean sauce).  We went through six pots of tea and loved every minute of it.  I'm so glad we chose it.

We decided to call it a night after dinner, so we gathered our things from the hostel and went to the bus terminal.  We got there later than we were hoping because of traffic.  Ian left to buy the tickets and when he came back he said it was standing room only.  I was not pleased that he bought the tickets anyway, as we could have taken the train.  A one hour and forty minute bus ride is not something I wanted to stand for and I didn't imagine it being very safe.  So, we stood in line with about 40 other people outside of a full bus.  They let about ten more people on and then it drove away.  No one moved, so we stayed put as well.  A second bus pulled up and we all got seats, so it turned out fine in the end.  They had oversold the bus by about 30 people.

Mom spent the day at work with me, so I'll let her share her thoughts about her Korean experience so far.

Thoughts from Mom:

I spent the day with Casey today and sat in each of her classes.  It was interesting to watch her work with the kids, she really does a great job with all the varied age groups.  She says she does not like teaching but she is good at it. The children are a interesting mix of those who really like learning and those who do not.  I have to say that these kids are out the door at 7am and some don't get in home until 9pm or later,so I am surprised they can learn at all, school is their life or so it seems to me.  I feel it is to the extreme and can't possibly be healthy.  

In case you are wondering I did not get to meet Julia today, maybe tomorrow.

I have to tell you that I have a much different view of Casey and Ian's life since I have arrived here.  My hat is off to them for their perseverance in not only their work situation but life in Korea in general.  From what I have seen and experienced so far this is not an easy country to be a foreigner in.  I truly have a lot of respect for the moxie they both must have.
Good night!

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