Asia, Celebration, Dessert, Family, Food, Funny, Travel

Settle Down, Seoul

There’s some political unrest in Korea, in case you haven’t heard. One of my friends sent me a message the other day about how they were glad we weren’t in South Korea right now, but I had just been wishing I were there. 

His message reminded me of this post I’d written when I was there last. Same country, slightly different political outburst, but here it is: 

I accidentally got caught up in a political rally today. 

This happened in Thailand a few years ago, when I dared Jake to go wave the huge Thai flag. 

Jake at the Shutdown Bangkok rally

I don’t know if political rallies can be your thing, but I really kinda like them. Such a sense of national pride, even if it isn’t my own nation. 

A couple of my friends are a news anchor and a journalist for a newspaper here in Seoul, so both of them have been catching me up on the political climate. 

Hyoseung, the news anchor

This rally has nothing to do with North Korea, so no need for immediate concern. In case you don’t keep up on South Korean politics like I do, their president Park Geun-hye has recently been impeached. It’s a long story, but some people have accused her of being involved with a cult and all sorts of other things. She had a 5% approval rating and was finally impeached a few weeks ago. 

As I am told by my friends, even though she’s been impeached, they are still calling for her to resign her position. (Which if you’re reading this now, and not when I originally wrote it, you’ll know that she did resign). I’m not exactly sure why, some of the more technical political terms get lost in translation. But, you get the basic idea. People aren’t happy with her. 

We were taking a taxi back to our hotel today when we were stopped by a lot of commotion. I knew that there was going to be a candlelight vigil tonight in the city (as there has been every Saturday night since the impeachment) to peacefully protest the president. I also knew that they were expecting a million people to show up to said candlelight vigil. I, however, did not know that the million people would be marching down the sidewalk that leads to our hotel to get to the point at which the protest would take place. Which is what the taxi driver hurriedly spouted off to us in Korean as he dumped us out in the middle of the madness. 


I love the Korean people because they openly embrace Americans. So, upon seeing that we were walking with them, we were quickly given flags to carry and Korean flag pins to wear. We were asked by about 100 different people where we were from. We had our pictures taken with more random people than I could keep track of. I eventually just stood off to the side, holding my Korean flag and waiting for people to come stand by me for their picture. Someone came up to us with a video camera to ask us questions and film us as we were walking along. 


Then, someone asked us what broadcasting network we were with. Which got me to thinking: maybe I should become a journalist. I do have an affinity for crazy crowds and political unrest. 

If anyone needs some quick, unofficial coverage of a B list event, let me know. Until then, I’ll be down in Hongdae, eating these little beauties. 

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Asia, Culture, Food, Funny, Travel

Jet Lag Junkie

Jet lag has set in, which means I’m up at 2:48 am drinking a coffee and eating a kiwi. From 3 – 4 am, I went to the hotel gym for some yoga to start off the day, then was at breakfast, wide eyed and ready by 6. 

The unfortunate thing about being up so early is that nothing is open. So, it doesn’t really benefit you to go wander the streets. There is one place in the city that opens at dawn: the fish market. 

Early morning eel cleaning

Noryangjin Fish Market is where all the best restaurants in the city come to buy their seafood. Not surprisingly, there were no other tourists there at 7 in the morning, so we were quite the spectacle. Probably because I kept stopping to take pictures of stuff like this.

Is shark fishing even legal?

Yes, I wore white shoes this day

After our fish market tour, we made our way to a neat little shopping district. 

We ducked into a random restaurant that we walked by for lunch. It was the sort of place that requires you to take your shoes off at the door and sit on the floor to eat. 

When we were properly barefoot and seated, we realized that there was no menu in English. Our waitress also quickly realized that we didn’t speak Korean. A conundrum ensued, in which she was presumably asking us (in Korean) what we wanted to order. She was getting blank stares in return, so she did what any good waitress would do. Babbled at us in Korean, made a two sign, and just brought us something. 

Two steaming bowls of something.  

Still unsure of what we’d gotten ourselves into, I started pulling out chunks of bone and meat, hoping to identify something. If you’ll remember back with me to What Did You Say?, unidentifiable bowls of meat and vegetables don’t always work out in my favor. 

But, it tasted pretty good. Jake’s review of the stew was a little different than mine. 

I believe this is a correct direct quote:

“It doesn’t taste exactly like dirt, but just a little bit.”

Later in the day when we met up with some friends, I hesitantly asked them exactly what we’d eaten. 

It’s called Haejangguk, a spicy mixture of pork bones, vegetables, and broth. But, more commonly, it’s referred to as “Hangover Stew”. 

I’m not sure if I should be offended that she mistook my jet lagged looking face for being hungover or thankful that introduced us to the delicious Korean remedy. 

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Asia, Culture, Europe, Food, Travel

Club Class

In the airport, there’s this magical little world no one ever tells you about. It’s hidden away behind glass doors, outside of the hustle and bustle and screaming babies. I lovingly refer to it as “the club”. In the club, it’s quiet and there’s free food and drinks. It’s a wonderful little oasis.

The Korean Club

We have all these amenities, not really because we’re anyone special, mostly because Jake does his travel research.

Each airline has a club, and I’m not sure technically exactly how it works, but we show up at the door and give them our passports and tickets and they escort us in.

 

The Tokyo Club

I keep hearing a waitress in heels walking towards me and am fairly certain she’s coming to tell me to put my shoes back on and to keep my feet off the furniture. I’m really probably not high maintenance enough for this travel life. In fact, there’s no probably about it. I’m not high maintenance enough for this. Seeing as how I’m currently drinking my ice tea from a beer mug, I’m pretty certain that seals the deal. (The mug was the biggest cup they had though, in my defense)


We also have access to “the lounge” at our hotels, which is another magical oasis where there are free food and drinks and where I’m known as Miss Scott, even when I walk in with bed head and Nike shorts on for breakfast. Who am I and how did I end up here?

 

Part of the breakfast lounge in Seoul

 

The lounge in Germany, where they have approximately 37 different types of beer

Short little side note: when we arrived at our hotel, the concierge asked Jake how old I was because they serve alcohol in the lounge, so you have to be atleast 18 to go in. When he informed her I was 24 (his older sister), she laughed nervously and said, oh, I thought she was still in high school. Seriously though, this age thing is getting a little ridiculous! Right?

 

Afternoon tea at the lounge in Seoul

This is all pretty fancy for me. But I am considering buying a fur coat, just to try to fit in a little more. Although, I realized I’m currently wearing socks with holes in them, so maybe I’ll skip the fur coat for now and just treat myself to new socks instead. I’ll take this fancy lifestyle upgrade one step at a time. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.

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Asia, Beauty, Culture, Fashion, Food, Travel

It Takes Two

I never wear lip color. But, Jake and Jordan were busy buying gold face lotion (yes, it actually has gold flecks in it and is apparently some of the best face lotion on the market in the world right now, as told by the girl selling it) so I used all the store testers to give myself a new look. Jake was less than impressed that I used the store tester lip gloss wand, but it looked pretty clean to me.

Pucker up

In other news, I’ve won Jordan over to the dark side. I was literally having a meltdown. I think I’m borderline hypoglycemic because sometimes it feels like my blood sugar just drops off the map. I was having a moment and all I wanted was street corn. As in cobs of corn that they cook and sell on a street. God heard my request fast because as soon as I said it, we walked right up to a stand.

 

Street corn stand

It’s maybe a little odd to some people, but I love it. And now Jordan does too. You get two street corns for two dollars. They only sell them in sets. You can’t buy one corn for one dollar. You have to buy two. I don’t really know why, except for the fact that everything here is made for couples. Even the street corns. I think it’s a conspiracy, ya’ll.

 

Subway hat shopping and corn eating, no shame in my game

Did I also mention that Jake, Jordan, and I are all currently single and all have no prospects of changing that anytime soon? So, we don’t exactly fit into the couple culture here. And, yes, it is very much a culture. You’re not somebody unless you have a somebody. And they go to extreme measures to let you know they go together.

 

Singles in Seoul

 

Couple clothing. It’s a phenomenon.

They literally buy matching things as a couple then wear them at the same time to let you know they’re taken. Here are a few examples:

Winter coats: to me, this could almost be construed as seasonal, so it wouldn’t be my first choice of couple clothing. I feel like it says, we’re together for the winter, but once spring hits, I’m out! However, the cost amount of a coat may indicate a more serious status in the couple clothing world. Also, it is an essential, so maybe if your guy wants matching coats, you should go for it.

Shoes: this one is the most popular (and the most difficult to get a picture of). We saw a ton of matching shoes. This is also a little more costly purchase, however, I think it indicates a medium amount of commitment. My thoughts are that it says: we’re officially established as a couple and we’re semi-serious, but we’re probably never getting married.


Hats and scarves: totally seasonal, not a costly purchase, not too much thought put into it, you’re definitely not marriage potential. But, you’re cute, so keep doing you.

That pretty much covers the main bases on attire. The options vary some in the summer: matching t-shirts, matching shorts, etc.But, I’m not really concerned about finding someone to share fashion with. What I’m really concerned with is finding someone to share delicious street corns with. Jake is no good because he hates corn, unless it comes in the form of a tortilla. But, me and Jordan make a perfect match.

My true Seoul-mate.

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Asia, Culture, Travel

Coffee Break Beginnings

I’m back where it all began. Well, where this all began. This being my blog. Which I haven’t been keeping up with very well lately (sorry, mom!).
Actually, Korea is where a lot of things began for me. I almost had a Korean roommate in college but she got moved to the international dorm before she moved in with us. But, that spurred a friendship between us, which spurred me leading a Conversation English group, which spurred friendships with a lot of other Koreans, which spurred our first solo travel, which was to Seoul.

 

Heesu (to my left), my Korean (almost) roommate

So, it’s kinda where it all began in a literal sense.

Traveling solo (or duo in our case, since me and Jake almost always travel together) to a new place where you don’t know the language is pretty exhilarating. I should also mention that Jake was 18 and I was 20 when we first came to Korea by ourselves. We were babies! But, we (he) figured out the subway system and how to get ahold of our friends and meet and order and all the other things you have to know to get around. And, once we got the hang of things, the world became quite a bit smaller and traveling got a lot easier.

 

First time to Seoul

So, this is our fourth time to Seoul.

We’d been planning this trip for awhile, since we could conveniently travel during the holiday season. I was trying to see all my friends on winter break before we left, which just happened to include morning coffee breaks with Jordan. Her family lives a few miles away and we’ve been friends since high school. So, morning coffee while she was home became a must.

 

Morning coffee break selfie

Somehow, one of our morning coffee breaks turned into us booking plane tickets, which turned into jet lagging our way to Seoul (with a short sushi break in Tokyo)


And, jet lag means coffee breaks are a must for us on both sides of the world.

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Asia, Missions, Travel

Moving On…

Airplane bathrooms baffle me. You get one square foot of space, but they include a full length mirror. Why thank you, I did need to see a full view of myself standing three inches away. Yep, just as I suspected, travel worn and weary, that was just the look I was going for! I cause scenes in airports. I liken it to having a toddler at the DMV. All my normal social standards just go out the window. I try, I really do. I always go in thinking I’ll try to be normal this time. But, it never works. I stand in line, everything is going well, then our baggage is too heavy, hidden fees ensue and all the sudden, I’m sitting on the floor, shuffling dirty clothes from one bag to another, trying to balance weights among bags, muttering angrily to myself, with about a hundred sets of Asian eyes all on me. And, after that, it’s all over. I guess I figure once I’ve literally aired my dirty laundry to everyone around me, there’s no turning back and I can throw whatever kind of temper tantrum I need to at that point.

4 of our 8 bags

4 of our 8 bags

My frustration gets me nowhere though, and after an hour at the check-in desk and being ushered into a back room to dig through my checked bag to show them my hairspray (for reasons that didn’t translate), I still find myself running through the airport, with a now 25 lb bag on my back and dragging a 35 lb bag behind me. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an elephant run, but I have and I know they look more graceful than I did. We made it onto the flight though and God shined a little light down on me in my distress: the seat next to me is open, allowing for some much needed room to breathe. Next stop: Cambodia!

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Asia, Food, Travel

No Soup For You

Finding a post office around here was a little bit difficult. Fortunately, not only did we find a post office, we found the post office. As in, the central headquarters of the post office. Which was huge. And, it just so happened that we found it in the middle of a protest. So, I crossed the police lines to try to find out what was going on (and where I could buy a stamp) I figured it wasn’t too dangerous because they were all eating soup. I was actually just trying to find out how I could obtain a red vest so that I could get in the soup line too. But, then, I figured I probably couldn’t pass for a protester. So, no soup for me.

Soup Time Selfie

Soup Time Selfie

IMG_2968

I’ve basically covered the scale on Korean dining. I’ve done street food, home-cooked, traditional, and fine dining. As you can probably tell, fine dining is not my usual fare. I guess if I had to describe my dining style, “hole in the wall” would probably be the best phrase. Give me a grungy taco shop where I have to order in Spanglish and I’ll be a happy camper. (Have I mentioned that I haven’t had Mexican food for 7 days now? This may be a personal record for me.) However, fine dining experiences are fine.(I can never pass up an opportunity for a pun!)

Let me go ahead and explain what a fine dining experience entails in Korea. They sit you down at a table that is full (as in 20 or more dishes) of food that ranges from recognizable to “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.” You begin eating, mostly picking up bites of things with your chopsticks from all the different dishes. Then, they begin coming in with more dishes, replacing the ones on your table with new things and continue this parade of food for an hour or so.

Part of our crowded table

Part of our crowded table

They say there’s a first time for everything, so I’ll detail a few of my firsts.

Mugwort pancakes: I thought the green ones were seaweed, but I was wrong. I actually really liked these (plus mugwort has great health benefits) and Jake graciously gave me his portion.

Kimchi, corn, and mugwort pancakes

Kimchi, corn, and mugwort pancakes

Lotus root: I saw the gray disks presented and they sat on the table for the entire meal untouched. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I asked what they were (knowing that if I asked, I was going to be obligated to try them.) I was told they were lotus root, and so I picked one up, prepared for it to be squishy. But, again, I was wrong. They were crunchy and slightly nutty tasting. Also really good! I was told that lotus root has blood cleansing properties that make it a great food for health.

Lotus root and anchovies

Lotus root and anchovies

Jellyfish: Slimy. That’s the only word for this. It tastes exactly like what you would expect. Chewy and slimy. Appetizing, right? You kinda just chew and swallow and move on. Did I mention that refusing something is basically not an option?

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

One of the meals we attended had 35 dishes, so as you can imagine, there was much much more. However, I think I hit the high points with these three.

Pair of Choux

Pair of Choux

Oh, and we finally did find our shoes at Dunkin Donuts, what luck!

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