Sunday, September 27, 2009

um, yeah

Art along the street in Samcheongdonggil.

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This is our current entertainment system. Supposedly we are getting a new one. The rack on the right is our laundry rack, upon which we place our laundry. Actually, this is the rack upon which my husband places the laundry that the combo washer/dryer doesn't actually dry.
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mmm, apple muffins...

I have no idea what goes into making these, as I'm not allowed into the kitchen during the process. Of course, maybe it's because the kitchen is only big enough for one person. What I do know is that they make the apartment smell delicious.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Local shops

Seoul has many little stores on the streets. Some are standalone metal buildings, and some are tucked under exterior stairs of buildings. Near our apartment building was this little shop that looked like a musical instrument repair shop, that had guitars and other stringed instruments hanging from the walls. Yesterday morning, I noticed that it had been damaged from a fire. This morning, it had been cleaned up a bit, and yellow crime scene tape was across the doors. Tonight, they had removed the tape and cleaned up a bit more around the area.

These places are everywhere. Many of them are little refreshment stands, with newspapers, candy, and sodas. Some are shoe repair places. And some are actually restaurants that serve real cooked food. But they all have one thing in common: There's only room for about 2 people inside - the proprietor and one customer.

I hope that the owner of this little shop is safe and has not suffered too much, and has not lost so much that he has to close down.
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Public transportation promotion day

One day a year, Seoul provides free public transportation in the morning. Since I can't read the signs, I don't necessarily know when it will be, although since there are new temporary signs posted on the bus stop, I do assume that something out of the ordinary will be happening. This is the street on Tuesday morning -- they put barricades along the street and only allowed buses down the center. To catch the bus, I had to walk out into the middle of the street and hope that my bus didn't listen to the policeman with the whistle and not stop at the stop. Fortunately, he ignored the frantically whistling policeman and stopped long enough for several of us to get on.

The weird thing about the free transportation day is the lack of beeping and the scan card again message (that's what I assume it says). When you get on the bus, you have to scan your T-Money card. And if you get the X, you have to try again. And when you scan your card, the amount remaining appears on the screen and it says "Kansahamnida". But when they turn off the machines, there's no beeping or voices saying "kansahamnida", so it's almost like the Twilight Zone, in an alternate universe.
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Sunday, September 20, 2009

When it's noon your time, it's midnight my time...

Just want to point out that for anyone interested in finding out what time it is here (especially if you are planning to call us), there are several ways to do so.

  1. Google what time is it in Seoul and you'll have an array of websites to choose from.
  2. On your cellphone, usually under accessories. Even the cheap $19.99 cellphones have this tool.
  3. If you are in the eastern time zone of the U.S., just add 13 to your current time to get our local time. So if it's 12:00 p.m. (noon) in Florida, that means it's 1:00 a.m. in Seoul.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sign in Itaewon

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Din Tai Fung again

A couple of weeks ago we went to Din Tai Fung for the first time. Ever since then, I've been craving the steamed pork dumplings, so we headed back over there. It's a popular place. The first time we went, we timed it just right and didn't have to wait. This time, the greeter handed us a piece of paper with a number on it. Fortunately, the wait wasn't long, and our number was called within about 20 minutes. But that gave me plenty of time to people watch. Let's just say I'm glad my husband doesn't bite my arm in public.

One of the things I love about being outside of the U.S. is the normal sized portions of things. At one point when I was living in Japan, I had to explain the concept of a 7-11 Super Big Gulp. They couldn't understand why someone would want so much soda at any one time. And considering it can take me a good 4 hours to work my way through a standard 12-oz soda, I understand their confusion or lack of understanding about why on earth anyone would want 32 oz of anything at once. So, here's a photo of a single serving can of Coke.

This is the braised beef soup with bok choy. Mmmm. Yummy. With only two people, we didn't order that much. With 3 people, there's enough for every one to get a bowl. With only 2 people, some of us got second servings.

These are the spring rolls.

I'd have taken a photo of the dumplings, but by the time they arrived, I was too impatient to take the time to take a photo. So even though I was really full due to that second serving of braised beef soup, I managed to consume my half of the steamed dumplings in record time. But you can see what they looked like based on my previous post.

For those of you in the Greater Los Angeles area... Din Tai Fung, 1108 South Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, CA.
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Shinsegae and Myeongdong adventures

Before eating dinner at Din Tai Fung, we did some wandering around. I took the husband to check out the basement food court area at Shinsegae, since he'd never been. Shinsegae is one of the premier department stores in Korea. The annex building that we wandered through first contains lots of things behind glass with no price tags. Those are the kinds of places that always remind me of my mom when I was kid telling me not to touch things.

Hint: If you're in Japan or Korea, and you don't know where to go eat, the basement levels of department stores are usually food courts and grocery stores. We saw Indian food, sushi (on a conveyor belt), Italian food, Chinese steamed dumplings, Auntie Anne's pretzels, Sticky Fingers bakery (no, not the bbq place), and the grocery store. It's pretty impressive the amount of prepared foods that are available. It's no wonder one of my co-workers goes there 2-3 times a week for lunch and comes back with something different every time.

This is the view in the direction we live from the 10th floor of Shinsegae, the terrace or garden (I can't remember what it was called).

There were benches and fountains.

The other week, on my way to work in the mornings, I saw people taking photos in this direction. This happened on three different days at the same spot. So I figured, eh, I'll stop by and see what they were all taking photos of. I think it was this building. Which happens to have a post office on the ground floor, and they put a santa hat on the sign in the front during December.

This is a church in Myeongdong.
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My own personal line of pens...

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Job I'm glad I don't have...

Poking passed out drunks in the subway stations or on the street in the morning to see if they're still alive.

In the mornings, especially after big holiday weekends, there are police and others that go around rousting all the people passed out in doorways and on the street. There have been times in the afternoon on the weekends when we've gone out, and come back via the back street behind the park, and seen people passed out or in the process of passing out in doorways or in the middle of the street (fortunately the street is closed to vehicular traffic on weekends). One person I'm sure woke up with a very nasty bruise on his forehead the next day.

This acceptance of public drunkenness is so different from the US, and still I find it a bit unnerving to see businessmen dressed in their suits (ties have usually been removed by this point), still holding on to their briefcases, passing out in public from so much soju or sake consumption. (I've seen this in both Japan and Korea now.)

Then there are the ones that go to the 7-11 about 10 or 11 at night and buy Blue Label scotch and their freeze dried squid snacks, and you just know they're going to end up passed out on the street somewhere soon. Especially since they already aren't too steady on their feet.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why we need health care reform...

  1. Arguments over semantics -- was it a second opinion or changing of physicians?
  2. Why are we limited to only 1 second opinion? (Assuming it wasn't a change to a new doctor.)
  3. Why should a primary care physician's signature be required for everything? Especially when he's on vacation and can't be reached for two weeks and you've just received a prognosis of days left to live and the clinic won't start your treatment without the signature.
  4. Why should family members spend their time dealing with insurance paperwork instead of with the terminally ill person?
  5. Why do I get a half dozen bills from a single visit to a medical clinic? Why can't you send me a single bill itemizing everything in plain English? Why is it that I pay the bill, and then continue to get bills saying my account is past due for the next 3 months?
  6. Why do you limit me to only a single month's prescription at a time? What if I'm going to be out of town for an extended period of time? It's not like I'm going to be selling my heartburn medication to strangers on the street. I need it.
  7. Why can't you help me find a physician that covers the area of expertise I need? And when I do find one, why do you fight my using that physician?

These are just some observations I've made lately based on my own experiences and those around me that are dealing with severely ill family members. After experiencing medical care in Korea, where I receive one bill at the end of my visit, that I pay then and there, with instantaneous digital communication between the doctor and the nurses and technicians, I know there are better ways of managing the business of medical care. Why is it so difficult for the U.S. to move forward with streamlining the medical business? We can do so many other things, and yet we can't seem to solve this problem.

Plastic wrapped books

Just for kicks, tonight on my way home from work I stopped at Youngpoong Bookstore to pick up some pens for my Mom. On my way to the office supply section, I wandered through the foreign book section just to see what there was. And the books were all wrapped in plastic!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Seattle Teriyaki

I'm noticing a bunch of restaurants that are Americanized Japanese. There's Seattle Teriyaki, New York Shabu Shabu, and American Sushi. I'm not sure if this is a trend, or whether it connotes some sort of change to the food, or what. I've only been to the Teriyaki restaurant so far.

Speaking of which, this is good. The chicken isn't dry. And I usually get the combo, with gyoza (dumplings). It comes with a salad, rice, some pickles, and a bowl of miso. You can also get the chicken with beef or egg rolls. There are other options, but I don't remember what those are at the moment.

This particular restaurant is located near Noksapyeong Station.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The first leaf of fall...

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Field trip: My big adventure out of Seoul!

Every now and again I get to go outside of Seoul for work. It makes for a pleasant change. Especially if there are enough of us that have to go so we can take the HOV lanes there and back.

The view from Katsura restaurant at AK Plaza in Pyeongtaek.

Tonkatsu at Katsura restaurant, AK Plaza, Pyeongtaek. There was pork cutlet (right), shrimp (middle) and fish (left). Unfortunately, I managed to drop the biggest piece of fish on the floor. Fling via my lap is probably a better description. This came with a small bowl of udon and a bowl of rice. And it made for a nice treat.

The "Life is Cool!" line caught my eye. Then I noticed the ADT sign on the right.

Buildings in Seoul on our way back to the office. See the blue bus? It looks just like the one I ride to/from work every day.
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Man U

The entrance to one of the underground shopping areas in Myeongdong. For all the Man U fans out there.
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Itaewon at night

Intersection behind the Hamilton Hotel, late summer, so it was comfortable outside.
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I've been buying these individual snack size bags of barbecue flavor Cheetos! for the husband lately. Apparently they look like Cheetos! but they don't quite taste like Cheetos! I'm personally not a fan of Cheetos! However, these come with toys!!!

They have these little plastic squares with pieces you pop out, and then you squint very closely at the plastic and the pieces you poked out and you match the numbers and you get toys!! So far we have a motorcycle and a rocket. And now we have two of the spinny things.

There are two bags of Cheetos! sitting in the kitchen. I'm hoping this weekend I get more toys to play with.
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oooh, Taiwanese food

A few weeks ago we were off to find Chinese food. But alas, our restaurants of choice were closed! Forcing us to go around the corner to Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese style restaurant. Which, by the way, bills itself as having the best steamed dumplings in the world. And they are also located in Los Angeles, Jakarta, Tokyo, and Osaka.

A brandy type drink. Tasty. Burns a bit going down. Has a hint of apple smell.

Non spicy kimchi.

Vegetarian eggrolls.

Steamed dumplings. You pick one up, dip it in the soy sauce and ginger mix, put it in your spoon, and poke it with your chopstick to release the hot juice inside. Then put some of the ginger from the soy sauce mix on top, and eat. Yummy! I love these things.
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I was in the lobby of my apartment building this morning and I could hear the United Airlines theme music. Except I wasn't in a United Airlines plane with their standard color scheme. And I wasn't on hold with United Airlines.

Very rarely do I hear George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue outside of the United Airlines context.