korea: day 6

we woke up early and took the 7:20am bus from seoul to jinju.  my aunt and uncle live in jinju, which is south of seoul.  the bus ride is about 4 hours.  it makes one stop and costs less than $20.  it's very convenient.  there are a lot things that are set up really well here.

my aunt teaches english in jinju.  she is one of 5 sisters (including my mother).  the other 4 sisters live in the u.s. and my aunt is the only one in korea but her english is the best.  this is because when she was about 7 or 8 years old she came to the u.s. to study for a year and a half.  she has very good pronunciation and speaks better than most korean people her age whom i know in the u.s.  it amazes me how much a child can pick up when it comes to language.  30 years in the u.s. at an older age can't beat 1.5 years at an early age.  i keep this in mind when i think about my future (god willing) kids.

we visited two of my aunts english classes and the students conversed with us by asking us questions in english.  it was fun.  she teaches at a community center for women.  her students are wives and mothers who want to learn english for fun or to teach their kids.  it's really big here for kids to learn english.  school and career are very competitive and kids are driven big time.  they study all the time and all get tutoring or go to some after school programs in addition to school, which is very demanding.  if a kid lives in another country for a few years and comes back to korea, it is very difficult for them to keep up, and they may have to attend international school, which is easier.  one of my cousins is sending his son to boarding school in massachusetts to attend high school next year.

anyways, it was fun to participate in the class and her students are of all ages and very fun.  we also ate lunch across the street.  jinju is known for really good food.  being 4 hours south of seoul, it feels very different in jinju.  it's not as high tech and developed, and it feels like how seoul was 10-15 years ago.  it's a slower pace of life, which was a nice change from seoul (even though i love seoul).

we picked up some stuff from my aunts, went to the grocery store together and then visited my uncle at the hospital.  he's a urologist.  we chatted with my uncle and then took off for another road trip.  my aunt and uncle actually have a place in namhae, which is a small island off the southern coast of seoul.  it's about an hour drive from jinju. 

abouy 5 years ago, during a leisure trip to namhae, my aunt and uncle saw a sign saying that the government wanted to create and american village in namhae, and were selling land.  at that time, there was already a german village on the island, and now they wanted to make an american village.  they called the number and land was still available.  they thought about it for 6 months and then bought the land.  they were going to just put up a pre-made house on the property because they couldn't afford to build, but the gov't wouldn't allow it.  then they submitted a design for a small home but there was a minimum square footage that the government required.  so they added a loft to the home and it got approved.

so w actually drove and we went to namhae.  on the way we went to a local fish market and saw the lady pick out and then kill the fish that we were going to eat.  she gave us eel, flounder, crabs, halibut, sea squirt (conches) and some other stuff we'd never seen before.  it was super fresh.  we got fish to eat raw (hwe), and also fish for maeuntang (stew). 

so i have to explain more about this american village.  there's huge sign saying "american village" in front of it.  you have to have lived in the u.s. for a certain number of years to be accepted.  so some of her neighbors are actually americans who married a korean, or koreans who married americans and use it as their vacation home, a b&b or retire there.  originally, once you got accepted into the village, the government wanted you to change your citizenship to korean, but they changed that because most people want to keep their u.s. citizenship.

anyways, we got there (i'm actually here now) and it's pretty awesome.  it's a quaint little house which is pretty new and clean.  she has a little garden where we picked lettuce and peppers for dinner.  she also has a blueberry bush where we picked some blueberries and ate right off of.  i'd never seen a blueberry bush before.  in her garden are also tomatoes, an apple tree, mint, peppermint, rosemary and a bunch of flowers.  i freakin loved it.  then we went across the street to her friend's house (they also built a house after seeing my aunt's, and of course they are friends from high school and their husbands both teach at the same university; the friend's husband teaches asian history).  her friend has a bigger garden so we got some ggeneep (another lettuce leaf we like to eat) and garlic.  and she gave us lots of red leaf and romain lettuce leaves too.  we sat down and had some drinks with them.  oh, she also cut off a branch of a plant to ward off mosquitos for me.

my uncle arrived and we all had dinner together, of raw fish and the lettuce we picked.  it was pretty awesome.  my aunt and uncle took off and left their car here for us.  we're spending 2 nights here and then heading back to seoul so we'll look around the island.  i'll tell you more later, if you're still following.

korea day 5

we ran an errand in the morning - needed to buy a laundry drying rack (they don't have dryers in korea.  i wonder what they do in the winter?) so we went out to get one.  then we will's uncle picked us up and we went to visit will's grandparents' grave, about an hour away from seoul.  will's uncle moved the grave site and has space for himself and his 4 brothers there if they want to be buried there as well.  then we went to lunch in icheon, which is known for its rice.  it was a really good lunch, a variety of great banchan.

we came home, quickly did laundry and then met up with my cousins seungyun and heeyun for dinner.  my cousin heeyun looks like a korean actress.  they say guys just ask for her number on the street.  we had kongguksu and then walked around insadong, an area that sells traditional korean stuff.  we also went to a traditional korean tea house.  i remember going to inasdong 10 years ago and really liking it.  now it just seems like an overpriced tourist trap.  after that we walked along the cheonggyecheon river, which is a manmade river in seoul.  it kind of reminded me of a mini seine river.  lots of couples walk along the river, and it's a couple of miles long.


korea: day 3-4

day 3:

we slept in and then went to dongdaemun (a different part) with will's aunt.  then had lunch at youngyang center in myungdong (ugh, i wish i knew how to type korean on the keyboard) with his aunt and uncle.  we had samgyetang and fried chicken.  after lunch we walked around and they took us to baskin robbins, which is pretty big here in korea.  then we went home and then went out again back to dondaemun.  i did some bargaining and got shoes.  we ended up watching the korea game at home because will's uncle was adamant about not watching out in public.  he said it more than 10 times so we finally decided not to.  according to him, a lot of young people these days believe that the south (along with the u.s.) attached the north first, so if people hear us talking in english or hear our bad korea they might harm us, especially at big events like the world cup.  i thought that was interesting.  they say older people don't think this way but because younger people did not experience much suffering after the war, they believe this.  he said that about 20% of young people believe this.  so we watched at home with my cousin and his friends.  but i did see everyone wearing red shirts throughout the city all day and some other things going on.  too bad korea lost - i thought they actually played better than uruguay, which made the loss worse than if they just totally sucked.

day 4:

my aunt brought us dduk and tangerines in the morning that she bought from the street market that occurs only on sundays.  it was really good.

we went to church with joseph, one of w's school friends from chicago.  the service was in english and i really liked it.  it was mostly korean people, and a lot of people for whom english is a second language.  the music was great and the so was the talk.

then will's cousin picked us up and we went to din tai fung (dumplings).  then they took us to min sok chon (korea folk village) which i loved..  they film a lot of historical korean dramas there, which i'm into so that was fun to see.  i realized how much i've learned about korean culture through historical dramas, because i recognized a lot of the things they showed here.  we ate tofu (that they made there) with kimchi, acorn jelly and seafood pancake with wine that they serve in clay jars.  we played with his 2 kids (5 and 2) too.  then we went to myungdong and had the best naengmyun i've ever had.

after that they drove by the location where will's father grew up.  will's family still owns the building but it's commercial property now.  will actually visited the old house and stayed there when it was still a house when he was little.  he says it was an old style house like the ones we saw at the folk village.  the bathroom was a hole in the ground and they pounded out clothes to flatten them.  it was really cool to see will's family history like that and listen to him recall his childhood memories.


korea: day 2

today was a family day.  we got up at a more normal hour and went to kyungbok goong (palace) in the morning.  it was very cool.  then we had lunch with my aunt and cousin at samwon garden.  then we took a fat nap (3 hours, which was better than yesterday's 5 hour nap).  then we had dinner at will's uncle's place.  all in all a good day.


seoul, korea

hi everyone, i'm in korea!  we flew asiana airlines and arrived last night to incheon international airport.  we then took the bus to apgujeong-dong, where we're staying at my cousin's place.  we got a little lost finding his place but found it after an hour.  the nice thing is, we have the place to ourselves.

today we woke up really early and went to rent a cell phone (or hand phone, as they call it here).  we went to paris baguette for breakfast and walked around while waiting for the place to open.  it's really affordable and convenient to rent a phone for travel - they should really have something like this available in the u.s.

we also went to namdaemun market and got red korea t-shirts so that we're ready to cheer on south korea in their next game against uruguay.  i'm totally psyched that i'll get to watch the game here in seoul.  i don't even care if they win the next game.  i just wanted them to win the last one so that i'd be able to watch one game in korea. 

we ate breakfast at paris baguette, kimbap at a food stand
lunch at namdaemun - naeng myun and kalgooksu, also some really good mandu and fruit on a stick
afternoon snack - red bean shaved ice at a food stand at dongdaemun
dinner - at gangster (jopok) dukbokki in hongdae

it's been 10 years since i've been in korea.  a lot has changed.  the city is really clean - super clean.  also, they are very high tech, more than the u.s. for sure.  the subway is super high tech, clean and easy to use, which i love.  i noticed that goods are not as cheap as i had expected (clothes, etc).  but food is super cheap and there is tons of street food.

that's all for now.  good night!


in columbus

hi everyone!  just wanted to log on to let you know that we arrived in columbus last night.  today the movers brought all our stuff and we've been busy unpacking, running errands and getting adjusted to our new place. 

first thoughts are that it's a bit of a shock.  the lifestyle here is so different from chicago.  it definitely feels more like a suburb.  i feel like i'm in the car all the time.  we like our place.  it feels huge compared to our chicago home.  i've been itching to garden and it turns out the owner had flowers around the house, some lilac bushes, stargazer lilies and some other pretty flowers whose names i don't know. 

i wish i could post photos but i have limited internet right now.  i hope everyone is having a great summer.  i'll let you know more about columbus and my asia adventures later.