Thursday, December 31, 2009

Trip to New York City

The nice thing about living in Boston, besides the fact that it's a great city unto itself, is the fact that NYC is close and easily accessible, even without a car. Yesterday my friend and I took a day trip to The City. From Boston, we took the 8am Fung Wah Bus from South Station in Boston, which is only $15.00 each way for the 4 hour bus ride. Granted they don't have the best safety record, but I've had good luck with them. Fung Wah drops you right off in Chinatown and from there we walked through the blistering cold wind (actual temperatures hovered in the single digit Fahrenheit all day, not including the wind chill) to a restaurant in the East Village called Ippudo, part of a Japanese based chain of Ramen restaurants that "transformed" ramen. The restaurant is wildly popular, so much that we had to wait an hour for a table at 1pm on a Tuesday afternoon.

From there we went over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I'd never been, so I figured we had to go. I still haven't been to central park though, but it was so cold we weren't keen on walking around any more than we had to.

After two hours in the museum, we headed over to Korea town, and though still not hungry from lunch, got frozen yogurt at Pinkberry, and found a place that was just like the chillest HOF you've ever seen. I felt like I was in Korea because there were probably only two westerners in the whole place and everyone was drinking soju and eating real Korean food, not the westernized stuff.

After that we headed back to catch the 9:00 bus, but didn't quite make it so we had to wait for the 10:00 bus. We got into Boston at 2:00am and thats why today I'm exhausted. I'm going to bed soon and I'll make some more detailed posts about Ippudo, the Met, and Koreatown later. Lots of photos to come, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kikuyama: Hibachi Restaurant, Dedham, MA

Twice since I've been home I've been to Kikuyama in Dedham, MA. This is a local chain of hibachi restaurants in the Boston area. I had actually never been to a hibachi restaruant before but I've been having a lot of fun going. It's kind of like dinner and a show because the chefs cook right before your eyes, not to mention attempt many little tricks while they cook.

The first time we went, our chef was pretty animated and excited about the little performance, though our second chef was a bit unfriendly and lacked enthusiasm wich seems to me the only reason why you would pay so much money for this food is for the show that comes along with it.

Anyway, the food, of course, was quite good, dispite the poor entertainment value. I was satisfied, though I'm glad I didn't order the fried rice because it was a bit salty for my taste.

Here's a video you can enjoy where our chef made a fiery volcano out of an onion.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, too bad it's over..

In my family, we tend to be a little bit slow when it comes to some things. Especially Christmas. We've gone through many years where we bought a Christmas tree, never to find the time to decorate it. My mom and I are work-a-holics and we're always too tired to decorate when we get home. Even now, my "break" from work in Korea, I've been working at Macy's for the Christmas season, getting up every day at 4:30am to get to work by 6:00 am (glad that's over).

So, this year, my mom decided not to let another Christmas tree go to waste and decided to decorate it last night/today. Yes, December 29th. We'll have to give it another name, since Christmas is over. A friend suggested a "festivus tree" or a "winter tree". She also finally got the Christmas decorations up too.

Welcome home.

Update 2.0

So I received word from both FedEx and the director of my new school that my visa documents had been received yesterday. I was informed that they would bring the documents to the immigration office on Wednesday and it would take 2 weeks maximum to get the visa issuance number.

Waaa.. I just want this to be over and have my visa in hand. Because even when I have the issuance number it will still take 2 or 3 more days before my visa is in my hand. I want to buy my plane tickets now, I hate the suspense, but I can't buy my ticket until I know when I'll have my visa. Ideally I'd like to arrive on the 15th of January, because that's the boyfriend's birthday, but I don't know if it will happen. :-( It's cutting it kind of close there...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Into Boston

Monday after work I went in town to get the apostille for my criminal background check. Let me tell you it is 3x more expencive than in Vermont, so I'm glad I only needed one document apostilled. Anyway, here are some photos from my journey" (it's actually less than 1o miles from my house) for you to enjoy.

State House. It was near here, around the corner and down the street where I got my apostille for my CBC.

Snow in Boston Common, right accross the street from the State House. It's a big park which is full of people in the summer. Now in the winter, folks don't spend too much time here, but someone trapesed through the snow. Not me. And if you're interested, the storm Saturday night/Sunday morning dumped 1 foot around here. But it's the light fluffy stuff, not the heavy wet stuff we usually get.

A cute couple walking through the Common.

A view of Downtown Crossing, one of the big shopping areas downtown. Macy's is to the right here. Filene's Used to be to the left, but they merged with Macy's so they are tearing down the building to make way for... something else, who knows what.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Lots of things going on this week.

First of all, one of the volunteer Korean teachers from my Saturday Korean class is visiting Boston right now. She stayed last night at my house, but I think she changed her mind about staying with me for the rest of the time when she saw how inconvenient my house is. As I mentioned before, by American standards, it's in a very well connected area, but by Korean standards, it's not at all. Not to mention the subway station nearest to me is somewhat dangerous and I don't want her pulling out her map and looking like a tourist in a dangerous part of town. Also, not to mention she probably felt bad that I gave her my bed and slept with my mom in her bed. It sounds like she'll come back and celebrate Christmas with my family on Christmas Eve and spend the night one more time, though.

Today I finally got everything together and put the documents in the mail for my visa. Even though I sent it today, FedEx told me it won't arrive until Dec. 28th. That's 6 days from now! I guess it's because of Christmas? So I'm guessing that the earliest that I can have a visa in my hand will be Jan 11th, and that is if they bring my paperwork to immigration and are not on vacation next week....

Also, today we bought a Christmas tree. Frankly, being the bah-humbug person I am, I could care less if we get a tree, it sort of seems like a waste of a life for a tree, not to mention a waste of $30 for something that will be thrown in the wood chipper in 2 weeks. But what can you do when your mother demands she have a tree for Christmas because she doesn't know when the next time she will have one will be. I'll just try to appreciate it and not look at the wastefulness of it. It will be nice when my Korean friend comes back to my house for Christmas eve. She can see the way a house is supposed to look on Christmas (we haven't decorated much yet...).

I'll post some photos soon of my excursion into Boston to get the apostille for the criminal background check. (though, I'm not even sure if you need it nowadays, no one has said anything about it...)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Newport, VT

As I mentioned in my last post, I visited some friends in Newport, VT on Friday night into Saturday morning. Though I lived in Vermont for 5 years if you include all my years in college, plus my first year after graduation I spent working up there, the vast majority of my time in Vermont was spent in the Burlington area, the only really civilized (in my humble opinion) area of Vermont. Most of Vermont is either the woods, mountains, or agricultural land. The capital, Montpelier had approx. 8,000 people according to Wikipedia and the year 2000 census. It's the smallest state capital in the nation. But, that's just how Vermont is, and you can learn to love it for its quaintness.

This was my first real trip into "real" Vermont (because most true Vermonters don't really consider Burlington to be a proper representation of what "Vermont" is). I drove all the way up route 2 from Montpelier up to Route 91 all the way up to the last exit before the Canadian border, Newport, Vermont. This is a fairly large city, by Vermont standards, with a population of approx. 5,000 people, according to the 2000 census.

My friends own a beautiful two family house right in the same neighborhood where my friend's fiancee grew up. They've got a big lawn and they seem to be slowly doing some renovations to the house to improve it.

Saturday morning I woke up early (as usual, thank you Macy's and your 6am-10am schedule). They were up pretty early too, but not quite like me, and so they decided to take me on a little tour of the town before I took off back to Burlington.

It's a pretty small town, so there wasn't much to see. But the first stop was the pier where the boats dock in the summer on Lake Memphremagog. This lake is a fairly popular summer destination, and the town is trying to capitalize on their town's beauty to bring in more tourist and more revenue for the town.

See that mountain in the distance? That's a ski resort in Quebec, Canada. That's how close we are. My friend also told me that those woods directly across is the location of an old Abenaki (Vermont Native American tribe) village. Every time they try to develop that land they wind up digging up all sorts of artifacts, so now they just leave it be.

Here's the boat dock where the boats dock in the summer. It was super cold up here, about -6˚F when we woke up (not including the wind chill) so I bet the ice is pretty thick here. But just in case, don't try walking out there. My friend and his fiancee do a "penguin plunge" into this lake every year. Of course, as cold as the water is, the air is much colder, so I can imagine it's probably pretty refreshing to get in... getting out of the water is another story I bet..

Me and my friend! I didn't realize the tassel on my hat was like that. If I had, I would have fixed it. Instead I look like an idiot. Oh well, I usually look like an idiot..

My friend and his fiancee! They are getting married in September! I guess I'm getting to that age when everyone starts getting married...

After this, we braved the cold to walk down Main Street which is right around the corner from here.
Building near the lake.
Typical view of Main Street.

After walking up Main Street (almost everything was closed because we got there before 10am) we came to the library. My friend's fiancee highly recommended we check it out, because they had a small exhibit upstairs.

Here's part of the exhibit. Very old taxidermy-ified animals from Vermont and around the world. Though these things can be a little creepy, it is interesting to see these animals so close. For example, they had a bald eagle and a golden eagle (both of which are found in Vermont) and they are much bigger than I pictured.

Our last stop was the book store. It's an old style bookstore, not a big place like Borders or Barnes and Nobles. But they also had a nice little cafe on the side.

Thomas treated me to some hot cocoa to warm me up. Can you believe this delicious hot cocoa was only $1.50? I guess we're not in Starbucks anymore....

After this I headed out back to Burlington on Rt. 100. They were kind enough to lead me out to the route, because it's not exactly intuitive to find. Newport is a really beautiful place and I hope to get back again and go skiing at Jay Peak which is right in the neighborhood!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Up to Vermont

View from the drive to Vermont

My home for five years. I attended college in the Burlington, Vermont area and lived in South Burlington for one year after I graduated before I went to Korea. There are so many memories for me in Vermont, it's where I became an independent person, learned to live on my own, and found that 10 degrees F can be warm.

I had to drive up here to get my transcripts and a copy of my diploma notarized. I got quite a few extras, just in case, because it's a long drive and kind of a pain to do, and impossible from outside the country. Then had to bring that to the Secretary of State to get the apostille form.

I left my house around 9:30 and was on the highway before 10am. I got to my college at 1:45 and brought everything to the registrar's office to be processed. They said it would be a bit, so I went out really to get lunch, but the cafe was closing on campus because it was 2:00 on the last day of finals and no one was around. So, I went up to the Biology department to see if any of my old professors were around. I used to hang around there all day every day and I would stop in and say hello to all my professors whenever I wanted. I like to think we had a very good rapport back then. Sometimes I worry that they will forget who I am, and I'll show up and they'll give me some cockeyed look and think to themselves that I look familiar, but not remember my name or what class I had with them....

But, that wasn't the case. I was welcome with excitement from all the professors that we still around. I guess I must have left some sort of impression on them because they all still remember me well. Now with the advent of Facebook, I guess my adventures keep popping up on their news feed.

From there I went back, picked up my documents and headed down to Montpelier, the capital (with a whopping population of about 10,000 I think...). It was getting late, I had spent more time than I expected with my professors, but I found the building of the secretary of state that I had come to last time around that I went to Korea, rushed in the door with about 15 minutes to spare and went to the desk asking about getting my apostilles. "Actually, they do that at the office of archives, which was moved to Middlesex about 7 months ago." was the response that I received.

With that I went into full panic mode because I had come up to VT with this purpose only and now I had only 10 minutes to get to the next town over and find the office of archives. "Can I make it before they close at 4:30?" I asked. "If you speed." was my answer. "hurry up".

I ran out the door flew out of the parking lot and called up the office. It's Vermont, and things are usually pretty laid back. I figured if I called, and they understood the situation, they'd wait around an extra 5 minutes for me. Well, when I explained my problem, all they said was, "hurry up, the door locks automatically at 4:30, we have no control over it".

So I hurried down the highway to the next exit. I actually didn't go much over the speed limit, but fortunately, these two towns happen to have exits very close to one another, unlike most of Vermont. Usually there is 8-10 miles between exits in the state.

I got there, and found the office pretty fast, ran in the door and they recognized me immediately as the flustered out-of-stater that needed an apostille. They did it for me quickly and I could finally breath easily.

Then I went on my way to go up to Newport, where my friend and his fiancee live. I didn't really realize where Newport was, especially in relation to where I was. It's not that close, in fact it's quite far. It's waaaay up by the Canadian border, in fact I could see Canada from where I was. But, that's ok, it was great to finally see their house, and Newport was beautiful. There will be a separate post about Newport, because they brought me on a tour of the town the next morning.

That night my friend and I got some pineapple pizza in the only pizza joint in the town, then went back to the house to down some wine I picked up at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store for 9.99 (a big bottle of Yellow Tail).

In the morning, I woke up early and they brought me on the tour of the town (not too much to see besides main street) and then I headed back to Burlington to meet up with my old roommate from college/ year after college. She's living in New York now, so we both had to drive a ways to meet up, but it was worth it.

Church St., Burlington, VT

We got lunch at Tiny Thai in Essex, which is a great place (though I was disappointed because they only had black tea offered with their lunch special). The food there is excellent though. Highly recommended. After we went to Church St. in Burlington to get some things for Christmas before we had to say our goodbyes. A storm was predicted to hit Mass. that evening and I didn't want to get on the road too late.

Fortunately, I didn't hit any of the snow, it didn't start 'til after I went to bed. I made it home safely and I'm hoping to get back up to Vermont at least once more before I go back to Korea. It's so beautiful up there in the winter. I would also like to go skiing once on a real sized hill before I go back to Korea and their midget-sized ski hills.

Expect more posts soon on Newport, and maybe even the snow storm... if you can convince me to go out again and take pictures... it's pretty cold out there...

Friday, December 18, 2009

What would you do if....

I just read this article from the New York Times discussing the coach selection for the North Korean soccer team getting ready for 2010 World Cup in South Africa. I was surprised yesterday when a friend of mine who's really into soccer told me, not only did South Korea make it into the finals, but so did North Korea, for the first time since 1966.

North Korea has approached Phillipe Troussier, a French coach who coached Japan in the 2002 World cup, not to mention many other teams around the world.

Now, this is the question. What would you do if North Korea asked you to be their soccer coach? North Korea, the rouge nation who's plane was just searched in Thailand and was found to be carrying illicit weapons that they suspect were to be delivered to other rouge nations almost certainly for some sort of nefarious business. Who is under many sanctions by the UN for it's missile testing. Who has some of the worst human rights records in the world. Would it be wrong to accept the job?

There is an upside to this job, though. Well, besides the money, which I'm sure would be good. Not to mention the opportunity to coach a World Cup soccer team. But that's not what would be first on my list (probably because I am not a soccer coach). Can you imagine being able to get into North Korea and have a somewhat real experience with real North Koreans? Granted, he'd probably never see the other side of North Korea... the starvation, the prisons, the average people on the street. But, no one gets to see that.

If I were offered this job, I don't think I could turn it down for that reason only. Sure, some people may criticize me for accepting to work for one of the most "evil" countries (quoth Bush) on the planet. But how many people have gotten inside for real?? And I don't think Bill Clinton counts...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"What If" North Korea attacked...

I keep the news reel on the side of my blog to keep myself and others informed of events in the world news about Korea. Today this article from CBS showed up and I had to check it out. It described "what if" North Korea attacked. They presented it in such a manner that it would make the reader believe that if these present talks fail that war is almost imminent.

Is there something that I missed? Talks with North Korea have been failing for decades, but they haven't attacked yet. I'm not saying they will never attack (sometimes I get scared during thunder storms because I think they are bombs). But are the chances so high that we have to start discussing these points and making me scared again?

Whenever there is tension with North Korea I get a little nervous. I know the Koreans don't even bat an eyelid, but the thought of war, and accidentally getting caught in a war makes me really scared.

What do you think of this?

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Monday, December 14, 2009

Makes me sick...

Why is it that every time I turn on the news, all I hear about is someone getting shot, or people pulling out guns for no reason? This morning's big news was that one of the firefighters from my town was shot last night in some road rage incident. What could this firefighter possibly have done for a man to get out of his car and shoot him?

Last week's news. A man in some other state was refused a drink at a restaurant because he was getting a little too drunk and he went out to his truck, got a gun and started firing at the ceiling because he was mad. Is this why he carries a gun in his truck?

Week before's news. Man walks into a coffee shop one morning and shoots four police officers eating their breakfast point blank. They never found the guy as far as I heard.

What is wrong with this country? We're brainwashed from a young age to believe that we live in the best country in the world. Sure, there are a lot worse places to be in the world, but why do I have to worry every time I get in my car that someone might get angry and get out of their car and shoot me? Why do I have to worry about drive-by shootings or getting caught in the crossfire while I come home from work on the subway through dangerous neighborhoods? People in developed countries shouldn't have to worry about these things. These are things you worry about when you live in a war zone... or Mexico and their drug wars. Not in the "best country in the world". I've been looking at some websites and it looks like at least 40% of Americans have firearms in their house. That's just sick. We say it's for self defence, but if we didn't have guns in the first place, we wouldn't need guns for self defence. It takes a lot more effort to kill someone with a knife or other object than to just simply push a button.

I'm sick of it. I don't want to turn on the news any more. I promise you I'll never be shot in Korea (unless Kim Jong Il takes some drastic measures). Sure, I might get hit by a motorcycle, but at least that would be an accident. I'm not saying Korea is a land of paradise, but don't listen to that crap that we're so lucky to live in America and if you were born in another country you would be so unfortunate.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bedroom Renovations: Part 1

My mom has decided to make my room into a TV room after I leave to go back to Korea, so we're in the process of renovating. I don't really mind so much that she's "converting" my room, she's leaving the bed and is going to use it like a couch. Or maybe really a bed. All she really is going to do is put a TV on my dresser. At least my room will not be dead space anymore, since I'm home so rarely now.

So, my room hadn't been wallpapered since just before I was born. There was nothing wrong with the wallpaper, per se, but it was just looking a little bit tired... maybe we were all sick of that same flower pattern for almost 25 years. So, last week, my mom and I went down to the paint and wallpaper store and spent 1/2 an hour going through books before we settled on our wallpaper. I really wanted something purple or pink, since my room is always some shade of blue... but in the end, we stuck with the blue... nothing else seemed fitting. We weren't 100% sure of this wallpaper when we picked it out, but it was the best one we could find... that we could afford that is, so we got it.

Sizing the walls
Friday we sized the walls. That doesn't mean measure. Size is sort of like a paste that you put on the walls before you wallpaper. I'd never heard of such a thing. We probably didn't need it anyway, it's usually used for painted walls and our walls aren't painted, but we want this paper to stick!

Saturday morning, pretty early, we started to work. The first two sheets gave us a lot of trouble, but after that we started to go faster. Of course, my mom and I are the sort of people that loose focus easily, and so we really took about a 20 minute break after each sheet for the first few sheets...

By the end of the day, wallpapering all day (but not continuously) We only had half the room done. Actually less than half the room done... We thought we could get almost everything done in one day. So, today is day 2. I'll have more pictures. Maybe we can finish today, but food shopping and laundry needs to be done today (we go to a laundromat), so I'm thinking this might even go on for a third day... Lets hope we get almost everything done today...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I have a job! :-D

I have officially accepted a job at Songpa-gu SLP. I originally wanted to work for another kind of school instead of an SLP, not because I don't like SLP, but just to get a feel for different teaching techiniques. But, seeing the other crap jobs I was being offered, this seemed like the best choice, even though I'm actually taking a 100,000 won pay cut. Really, it's only 25,000 won/ week difference and it's not worth giving up a good job to stick up my nose at the pay. In this economy, I just need to be thankful I have a job at all.

This SLP is quite different from my old one. It's the only SLP (Sogang Language Program) that is actually owned by Sogang Universtiy. Thier housing options, to some, might sound miserable, but to me, it's great. They offer dormitories at Sogang Universtiy (which is very far from the school) or they give 450,000 won to find whatever housing you want.

My boyfriend found me a great place near my old home in Sindang (actually, probably not in Sindang-dong), which is two bedrooms, plus a decent looking bathroom (with some help from some shower curtains, it will be lovely, I'm planning already) and a kitchen which is separate. It's hard to tell from the photos, but my boyfriend really loved it. It's on the 3rd floor of a villa, and I hear there's even a patio/roof area. I swiped some stuff from my old apartment that I knew the new girl moving in didn't want and I'm hoping to buy some stuff like beds and wardrobes when I get there. I'm trying to plan out everything in my head, but it's hard going on some poorly taken photos and an skewed floorplan...

I have to be in Seoul before Jan. 22nd. I'm going to come as soon as I can, I just am having a hard time figureing out how long it's going to take to get my visa processed. I sent off my form for a criminal background check, but I don't know how long it takes to process. I also need to figure out a way to drive up to my old university in Vermont to get my transcripts and the copy of my diploma, and then get it all certified with the apostille at the secrertary of state in Vermont. That will be a day in itself.

Anyway, if you happen to be moving, or getting rid of things in mid/late January, please let me know. I will need:
Bed (larger than a twin)
Wardrobe or one of those light movable poles people use
Table and Chairs
Plates/Glasses etc
Desk/ desk chairs

Well, I'll know more of what I need when I move in. We're buying things like the fridge, gas range, vacuum and maybe some tables from the landlord so we don't need those things. Do you think you can buy a tension rod in Korea to put up a shower curtain, or do you think I need to bring that from home?? I know Korea is not big on shower curtains...

Finally a good website for Salsa in Seoul

Thanks Roboseyo for pointing out this great site for Salsa dancing in Seoul! Now I really can't wait to get back to Seoul so I can go salsa dancing again! Me and the boyfriend started getting into it in my last few months and I want to take lessons if I can find the time!! Here's the website, if you like salsa, you need to check it out!

btw, has anyone been to the new salsa club in Itaewon? How is it?

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Neighborhood #3: 중앙시장- Jungang Market

When I initially planned these neighborhood posts, I thought of them as a way to remember my past. Now it looks like I might be moving back to the old neighborhood. Not to the same place, of course, the new apartment looks quite a bit further from the subway, closer to E-mart. Anyway, now you're not only seeing my past here, but also for my future, my next year or more in Seoul.

Anyway, welcome to Jungang Market, a small but wonderful place to do your shopping. As I've mentioned before, shopping in markets is really the best way to get your shopping done in Seoul. If you have one near by you, check it out. Prices tend to be much cheaper than your typical chain supermarket, especially for things like vegetables and meat. It's way better to support these real people than to support a huge conglomerate like E-mart. Those supermarkets are putting markets like this out of business.

Here's a view of the market from the entrance.

Near the entrance there are lots of food stalls where you can get all sorts of snacks. This day seemed a bit too cold to me to eat outside though...

All sorts of fresh seafood. The temperature was so cold this day, they probably didn't even need ice to keep it fresh....

Here we're buying some vegetables. The vegetable prices are very good here, though we've found much better in other markets. Either way, still beats E-mart...

Tons and tons of eggs...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Holiday on Ice

Well, I'm trying to read "The Lemon Tree" by Sandy Tolman, but I keep forgetting to bring it with me to work. And let's face it, if I don't read on my way home from work on my hour and a half commute, I'm not going to read it at all. So, while I was waiting for my bus, I happened to see that B. Dalton is going out of business at the Mall and everything in the store was 30% off. I wandered in and thought to buy myself a China guide book, because those things are so expensive. Then I thought to myself that something to read on the bus would be nice and I accidentally stumbled upon the David Sedaris section. If you haven't read David Sedaris, your life is incomplete. I read his book "Me Talk Pretty One Day" and I was laughing so hard at work that my coworkers were giving me looks...

My eyes fell upon his Christmas book "Holidays on Ice" and I thought it would be appropriate reading for this time of year. And of course, the other great thing about this book for me is that it's small and will fit inside my purse so I can't forget to bring it home from work. It's a collection of several stories, which I tend not to like those kinds of books, but with David Sedaris, I don't mind at all. I read the first story and half of the next on the way home from work, which means I'll have it done in just a few days if I remember to keep it in my purse where it belongs. I think that's this books only flaw, is that it's just not long enough... I'm going to be craving more David Sedaris after this is through...

If you're looking for a book to put you in the proper Christmas cheer (which is not the heartwarming crap most Christmas books will throw up at you) then this will be your best investment of the season. Happy reading!

I know how you feel...

Today an old Asian-looking woman approached me and said "excuse me" and handed me a piece of paper. On the paper it said "I want to go to Quincy Center station". I pointed to the side where she needed to be and said "Just go one more station." She gave me a cockeyed look, and I realized she really had no idea what I just said. "Here," I said pointing, "One". "One? Ok." she said to me and went to the platform to wait.

Oh, I know how it feels to walk around with a piece of paper and hope someone tells you something you can understand...


The first real snow I've seen in a while... three whole inches, but a lot of it had melted by the time I took these photos... We still have a little, but it seems to be melting faster today than yesterday... Tomorrow we get snow in the morning, changing over to rain by the time I get out of work. Lovely.

Eating Korean in the US

My Korean-American friend took me to one of the more authentic Korean restaurants around on Sunday so I could get my Korean food fix. The restaurant is called Garden House in Laurence She really seemed to enjoy the the Korean Chinese food like Tangsuyuk and some other spicy ginger chicken thing, but I got a very nice bibimbap, though it was called kopdol bibimbap, rather than dolsot bibimbap, like I'm accustomed to in Korea. I guess it's just the kind of stone bowl they use... it did look a bit different to me. The panchan (side dishes) they brought out were just like being in Korea... and I gobbled up all the odeng I could, knowing it would be a while before I saw that again...

The only thing I couldn't get over was the price of food here! See for yourself the prices!
More than double the price as Seoul. Oh, and get this. One bottle of soju is 12.95!!! It's 1,500 won at Family Mart! Not to mention that you have to tip here in this country..

Anyway, it's good, authentic Korean food, so if you've got a hankering, business has been slow lately due to the opening of the H-Mart (Korean grocery store) rather far away from here, so they'd certainly appreciate your business. Here's their address-

Garden House Restaurant
108 Winthrop Avenue
Lawrence, MA 01843-2819
(978) 691-5448

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Swine Flu in North Korea

According to this New York Times article, swine flu has hit North Korea and has already caused many deaths. The South is considering sending flu shots up to it's neighbor to help combat the illness.

I just want to know how swine flu got in anyway? And where the South Korean government would get these supposed swine flu shots, since here in Massachusetts we barely have enough to go around...

Anyway, I guess it goes to show that swine flu really is quite deadly if you don't get the proper treatment/ are unhealthy to start out with. Maybe the Spanish Influenza was just as deadly, but people didn't have Tamiflu and the were much more likely to be undernourished back in the early 20th century...


The face of a haggard, overworked me.

I've almost secured myself a job back in Korea.. I don't want to jinx it, like I have every other job that looked promising, so I'll let you know when the contract is signed. That would start January 25th or 26th for training. I'm ready to come back already.

Since I've been back, I have already started working at Macy's for the Christmas season. I was in San Francisco for 4 days, I came home for Thanksgiving, and I started working at Macy's on Black Friday at 5am. Now every day I go to work at 6am and work until 10am. Then I need to take the subway home, which is somewhere between an hour to two hours commute by public transportation (15 mins by car). Today it was over two hours because of a broken down train somewhere on the track... which left me sitting out in the freezing cold and wouldn't it be the day I forgot my hat and mittens (which my friends make fun of me for wearing even when it's in the 50's outside).

Then I usually get home somewhere around 12:30 or 1:00 where I have a few hours of consciousness before I fall asleep for 1-4 hours... wherein I wake up around 9 or 10pm when Korea starts to wake up. I talk to the boyfriend, check my emails incessantly, waiting for news from jobs, and talk to friends in Korea. Then go to bed between 11 and 1am. If I go out with my friends, I seem to fall asleep whenever I get in a car. I think it's starting to bother them.... maybe they think they are boring me, but I'm really just exhausted...

In my haste to get back to Korea and out of this working/transportation hell, I was looking at a winter camp from the end of December until mid January. When I told this to my mom, she looked at me and said... but... why can't you just take a vacation? I mean, she's right. If I did a winter camp I'd be taking maybe a 2 or 3 day vacation from the end of my job at Macy's, flying over to Korea and working my butt off for 3 weeks at this camp, then getting about a week to move into my new apartment before the start of my new job.

Why can't I just take a break? Most people I know have no problem bumming around the house for months at a time before they start to get depressed. But me, no. I refuse. I must constantly be working. It's good money-wise, but my body might need a rest sometimes... So... I don't expect I'll take this winter camp job... they never emailed me back anyway... and I might even go to Florida for a few days in January to visit family I've never met before, then hopefully get on a plane as soon as I can and come to Korea.

In other news, my boyfriend thinks he has found the apartment for us. It's not far from our old apartment, though considerably further from the subway. It will be nice to be back in the Sindang area... It's not a new and modern area, but I love it nonetheless. AND I'll be a 2 minute walk from the Chonggyechong :-). He'll sign the contract soon for early January, and may or may not move in before me. I hope he does, because he's commuting almost an hour to work nowadays...

My Neighborhood 2#: A walk to work

About a month ago now, before I came back to the states, I decided to walk to work (because I've become a lazy slug and stopped walking many many months ago even though it's only about 20 minutes) and take some photos of what I see every day on my way to work. For those of you at home, it might give you some idea of what my life here is like, if you're curious. This goes more or less in order from my house to my work.

Here's a gas station. I took this photo about a month ago. The price of gas/ liter is 1638 won/liter. That's $1.42 per liter, or $5.37 per gallon... though I'm not sure which grade of gas that's for. I think my boyfriend generally pays about 100,000 won for every time he fills his tank of his little Kia.
Right across the street from my old building is a whole neighborhood (and I mean a WHOLE neighborhood) which has been set to be demolished, obviously making way for some ginormous apartment complex. I bet at least 1000 people must have been kicked out of this neighborhood... no, probably a lot more. Kind of sad. It's really creepy to walk through too. You would expect that many empty, gutted houses would be full of squatters, but... they really don't seem to be... it's just eerily quiet back there...
Near Sangwangsimni Station there are lots of machine shops... I don't know what they could possibly be doing, but they tend to make a lot of noise doing it... not to mention using their blow torches and hack saws (or whatever the thing that makes lots of sparks when you play with metal is) in the middle of the sidewalk. It seems dangerous to me, but what do I know?

Here's the Gynecologist I went to, right by Sangwangsimni. His English wasn't great, but he has been practicing for 30 years and seems to know what he's doing, even if he is a little rough...

Here's my old dance studio where I used to go back in the day. It was a lot of fun and good exercise, but I'm happy with my Korean class now. I can't really be taking two classes.... that's a little intense... though I am hoping to find a salsa class when I get back....

If you're not familiar with Korea, you might be happy (or unhappy to know) you can get all your favorite American food here, like McDonalds and Pizza Hut. McDonalds is mostly the same as home with some new additions like the bulgogi Burger and the Shanghai spicy chicken sandwiches (I generally avoid these places, but they are good... ).

On the other hand, you might find Pizza Hut to be quite different. Korean pizza is just a little strange... sweet potato filled crust, seafood and corn for toppings, but (save for the seafood) I have really grown to like Korean pizza. Though, not the price of Pizza Hut (try PizzaSchool instead... much more affordable).

Here is the Enter-6 Mall at Wangsimni Station. Wangsimni Station is going through some gentrification. It's the intersection of three subway lines, eventually it will be home to 4 lines, aka, a major hub. Therefore they are going through a process of modernization. Here at Enter-6, which opened about a month after I arrived last year, there is an E-Mart (there is always an E-Mart), "Renaissance Themed Mall", golf range (see the big half dome... its supposed to be huge), water park (yup, you heard me)/ jimjilbang, CGV cinema, not to mention all the big name Korean restaurants like VIPS, Marisco (is that really a big name?) and some others.

Here is the park across the street to my school. No grass really to speak of, but there is so much foot traffic through here, it would probably be decimated anyway. Down here we take our preschoolers out to play for gym.

In the upper part of the park all the old men gather to play their board games. On any day there might be 10 to 50 old men out here playing. Women don't seem to be invited. Soju usually is a normal part of the day for these men, so I try not to come too close (I took this photo with my zoom). Sometimes I get creeped out a little here because there are a lot of homeless men (really homeless) that live in this park... the number seems to have increased since I arrived and I dont know if that's an indicator of the economy or what. The homeless men here tend to be drunk/drinking whenever I pass. The lack of laws regarding public drunkenness in this country is probably my biggest complaint, I like almost every other aspect of living in Korea that I can think of...

Here you can see Lemon Plaza where I used to work. My school is SLP, and upstairs from us is Olympiad. They stole a lot of our older kids when they first opened, but since they don't have a preschool they weren't competition for us there. Those poor folks who work up there work until 10 or 11pm. I couldn't do that... not anymore at least...

Here is the new Lotte Super. It used to be called Lemon Mart (because this is called Lemon Plaza) but a few weeks ago it magically changed. It's really nice to have a supermarket in the building where you work, because you can just stop by on the way home from work. God I love this kind of life...

All the lovely places downstairs from my hagwon. First on your left is Paris Baguette. This is a coffee shop/pastry shop. Personally I hate almost everything here, except their chocolate chip muffins and their baguettes (since they are the only place I can get a baguette conveniently). Next is the 약국 or Pharmacy. The folks here are very nice, I like going here for my pharmaceutical needs. Next is the best Korean food restaurant on the face of the Earth. It kind of looks like a Kimbap Chonguk, but the food is 1000x better. I ate here every day at least once a day while I was an afternoon teacher (sometimes twice... shhhh).

Here's the Ear/Nose/Throat doctor I used to go to. I stopped going when I realized that she diagnosed everyone with tonsillitis... even in Korean when we brought translators. And it didn't matter what you went in for, you walked out with a prescription for 5 different drugs, one always being an antibiotic... for a cold... a cold people. Colds are from viruses, antibiotics are for bacteria. I'm not a doctor and I can tell you that. Haven't you ever heard of Antibiotic Resistances? How 'bout MRSA, does that ring a bell for you???

Anyway, long story short, I gave up going here and treated all my colds the old fationed way... doing nothing and waiting for it to pass. Now that I'm home I got a neti pot and it's been working wonders... definatly coming back with me to Korea.

Here is the church inside the same building as my old hagwon. Coming from a Catholic family, it seems really strange to have a "church" inside of another building, because my idea of "church" is some big stone building with a steeple and stained glass windows, but I guess there are plenty of small protestant churches in the US too that meet in the basement of other buildings.

I hope I don't come off too negative about my neighborhood. Yea, it's not Apgujeong or Gangnam, but I'm happy I lived here and I'm looking for apartments around here for when I return. It's a little less classy than other areas of Seoul, but it feels like real Korea to me, not some ultra-modern tinsel town. I think in 10 years, this is going to be a very different place though... we'll see.