Monday, October 31, 2011

One Fell Down...

One Fell Down by kiki5253
One Fell Down, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Some young students on a field trip in Suwon. I love their matching outfits!

One boy fell down though...his partner was trying to help him up and in the process fell too. They're all so cute!! ^^

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Jetlagged Traveler and Drooling Cat

It's Saturday and I feel like this day will never end. I went for a walk and am now practicing Korean, but I feel like sleeping again.

Winslow isn't helping because all he does is cuddle and sleep...with a little drooling on the side.

Monday will come too early I think...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Departing Korea

Departing Korea by kiki5253
Departing Korea, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

I'm getting ready to leave Korea. I already passed through customs and's much easier here than in the US to go through customs and security. I don't know why...but everything is much more organized.

I'm sitting at the gate right now waiting for my flight. As usual, United's plane has been late, but customer service has come through again! I was re-booked on an Asiana flight (AGAIN!!! ^_^) and will have a direct flight to Seattle this time instead of flying through San Francisco. Thank you United for getting this straightened out for me before if only all your flights could be on time on a regular basis. When I left my plane was delayed for 2.5 hours then too!! Maybe I'm just really unlucky when it comes to travel...

Ah well, I'm ready to go home. I loved being here in Korea and I hope to come again in the next year or two...but honestly, I had a great experience. It wasn't at all what I expected and probably, the fact that I wasn't trying to do any adoptee stuff, made it that much more enjoyable. Instead, I got to participate in regular Korean culture. I had many wonderful experiences and though, I don't speak the language, everyone was extremely friendly. I'm sure that if I were a regular worker, it would be an entirely different matter, but as a guest in a foreign country, I had a great time.

As far as my Korean identity is concerned...I feel much more at ease with who I am and being ethnically Korean and culturally American. I can easily (if I learn more Korean) participate in both cultures equally and there are some wonderful pros and cons about both cultures and countries.

I'm glad I took this trip as an adult because the experience has been so different from when I was in high school. I was timid and shy...I was unsure of myself and I didn't want to be Korean...i just wanted to fit in with all the other Americans and look like a typical American. But I don't look like a typical American; I look like a typical Korean.

One of the things that probably was the best learning/growing opportunity for me was the idea of body image. For the first time, when I looked around me, I saw people my height with my face shape and eye shape, nose shape and legs and body. I am an average Korean female; well, I'm still kind of tall and according to my friend I have long legs ^_^ but really, being surrounded by people who look just like you does wonders for your self esteem and the way you look at yourself in the mirror. I'm actually pleased to be Korean and to have Korean features. I also have a better idea now for how to do my hair and makeup...and find clothes that work for my body shape. Everything in the US is for some tall lanky, Caucasian with big eyes and distinct cheeks and double eye-lids. It can be so frustrating to not have those things when that's all you see and hear about as being beautiful or attractive. It made it hard for me to figure out what can I do with what God's given me. More and more, I'm feeling more comfortable in my own skin...not as an adoptee, but as a Korean American woman.

Anyway, I'm sure more thoughts will pour out when I get back to the US. these are just the things on my mind right now as I'm waiting for the plane.


P.S. See you in Seattle!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Scooter Chick II

Scooter Chick II by kiki5253
Scooter Chick II, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Yup, I rode a scooter around Seoul tonight. Mom, I'm sorry I did something crazy, but boy was it a lot of fun and a great way to see and experience Seoul.

Namsan Tower at Night

Namsan Tower at Night by kiki5253
Namsan Tower at Night, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

My obligatory shot of Namsan Tower in Seoul.


Favorite Night Shot

Night Shot II by kiki5253
Night Shot II, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

This one is probably my favorite shot from the night. I didn't bring a tripod with me, so unfortunately, there weren't many pictures that were in focus, but this one is particularly striking to me. It's not very colorful (wide variety of colors), but I think it shows Seoul's "personality" well. It's the one I am the most pleased with from tonight.

Colorful Bridge

Colorful Bridge by kiki5253
Colorful Bridge, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

I like this picture strictly because you can see the water fountain bridge that crosses over the Han River. I love that the LEDs change colors every so often, showing an array of colors from the rainbow. So beautiful!

Tasty Fish you can Eat!

Tasty Fish you can Eat! by kiki5253
Tasty Fish you can Eat!, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

참 붕어빵...It's pretty tasty. It's like a cake with the filling. The box is pretty cute too since it shows a cat eyeing the fish. ^_^

Fish We Cooked

Fish We Cooked by kiki5253
Fish We Cooked, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Some Random fish we found at E-Mart. We put lemon juice, Thyme and some Sage on the fish...bathed it in a little bit of Olive Oil so the fish juices would stay in the fish and then baked it in a oven toaster at 200 degrees Celsius for about 30 minutes (until the fish is white). Mmmm...delicious!

Cooking with Katie was a good way to spend my last night in Korea. We had dinner...talked about life and ate good food! We cooked a fish, at some Asian pears, pineapple and I had some random cookie/cake things I found at E-Mart. We then went out on her scooter to find a nice park to take some Seoul skyline pictures.

See my next posts...


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Korean Dog

Dog by kiki5253
Dog, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

I saw this guy hanging out behind the Japanese style Temple in Gunsan. Cute! ^^

Me at the Hwaseong

Peace by kiki5253
Peace, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Oh yes...for your enjoyment, a picture of me at the Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon. I was there this last Thursday with my friend and a group of adults from a district in Seoul. The trip was sponsored by the district and coordinated through SNUE. There were three teachers, including my friend, me and the rest were various adults (generally older) and one Korean Professor of Korean History and Culture.

See the Ocean??

See the Ocean?? by kiki5253
See the Ocean??, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Sorry, I look a little awkward, but this road is the longest in the world of it's type. It was completely man-made and was built across where the Ocean used to cut in to the coast. The road is about 15 miles long (30 km) and the side that is no longer part of the ocean, will be eventually filled in with dirt so the land can be developed.

Korean MREs

Korean MREs by kiki5253
Korean MREs, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Meals, Ready-to-Eat!! They had a display of various MREs at the Jinpo Maritime Theme Park in Gunsan...It actually looks better than the ones I've seen for US soldiers.

Korean Catholic Church in Jeonju

Saturday in Korea 051 by kiki5253
Saturday in Korea 051, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

This Catholic church is the site where Christians were first persecuted in Korea for their beliefs. According to my friend, it's the first place where people were killed for believing in Christ.

The Only Japanese Style Temple in Korea

This temple is apparently the only temple of its kind. Meaning, it was built during a time when Japan was occupying Korea. It was built by a Japanese Buddhist Monk and is the only remaining Temple in Korea that was built in this style [Japanese]. There are still houses and other buildings in Gunsan with the Japanese style (tiles, roofing, walls) standing today. I got to see some of them while I was on a quick tour of Gunsan.

Fresh Stingray

Fresh Stingray by kiki5253
Fresh Stingray, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Eat your heart out!

Fish Market in Gunsan

Fish Market by kiki5253
Fish Market, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

I went to Gunsan for an overnight trip this weekend. I really like the city and I'm glad I had the opportunity to leave Seoul for a little while. Certainly, Seoul is like the life the party. It's where everything is happening at all hours of the day, but a smaller and quieter city like Gunsan is more my cup of tea. Gunsan is about the size of Bellevue, WA - which is still pretty big in my book.

One of the sites I took in today with Chang Myeung and his parents was the Fish Market. The vendors there sell fresh/still alive fish, shellfish, crabs and other seafood that was caught in the morning. I saw many interesting sea creatures while walking through the market.

It was a great experience and I cannot express how grateful I am to Chang Myeung and to his parents for inviting me to Gunsan and allowing me to stay there with them. I had a wonderful time there!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jeonju Bibimbap Festival

Saturday in Korea 037 by kiki5253
Saturday in Korea 037, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

I went to Jeonju today with my friend Chang was a short trip because our final destination was actually Gunsan, where his parents live and where he grew up. It's about 3.5 hours away from Seoul.

The festival was very lively and it was fun to see so many people out enjoying the Traditional Village. There was music and some people even had a Bibimbap Cook-Off!! Who could make the best Bibimbap!! who knew!??!

Overall, it was a good day and I'm glad I had the chance to leave Seoul, even if it is only for one night. Tomorrow, I'll have more pictures to post of Gunsan and its surroundings.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Look at all the Lights!

Look at all the Lights! by kiki5253
Look at all the Lights!, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

I can't believe how many lights there are at night! It was beautiful, but at the same time it seemed like overkill to have so many electric signboards at night. I loved being out at 11:00 p.m.'s great to be out with friends and feel safe...there were tons of other students and couples out at night. It's definitely a different atmosphere than that of Seattle at night.

Eggs made in a Rice Cooker?

Eggs made in a Rice Cooker? by kiki5253
Eggs made in a Rice Cooker?, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

I had a western style breakfast today...this is what my omlette looked like when it arrived. i'm pretty sure it was made in a rice cooker or some other pressure cooker. It doesn't look like a typical omlette from the US...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Painting Sunflowers

Painting Sunflowers by kiki5253
Painting Sunflowers, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Here's another local man painting sunflowers today. ^^

참치 김밥 - Tuna Kimbap

참치 김밥 -  Tuna Kimbap by kiki5253
참치 김밥 - Tuna Kimbap, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

I have to say...I love fast food in Korea. No fries. Just kimbap, dumplings, ramen, soups and a few other interesting items. For four dollars I was completely full. ^^

I had a great day!

Tah-dah! by kiki5253
Tah-dah!, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Today was wonderful! I'm thoroughly exhausted, but it was wonderful to walk a TON, spend the day with my 언니, and go somewhere new. The Hwaseong Fortress was interesting and has a fascinating history behind it.

I would have never learned all about these things if it wasn't for my 언니 inviting me on this trip. I'm extremely grateful for her. ^^


Shrine by kiki5253
Shrine, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

The first place we stopped was the burial grounds for posthumous King Jangjo and Queen Heongyeong and King Jeongjo and Queen Hyoui.

I learned that according to Confucian belief, the physical body and spirit separate upon death. The body is buried in a mound grave, but the spirit because it's separate, flies around and can come and go as it pleases. That's why there is a shrine in addition to a burial mound. The shrine is where the living can come and meet with the deceased spirits (ancestors).

So a couple of things I learned based on the way the Shrine is constructed in this picture. There are two raised walkways...the highest one is for the ghosts (spirits of the ancestors) and the second one is for the King and the living. The rest is just...well, stone.

On the right side there are two stairways up to the Shrine. The plain one is for the living and the ornate one is for the ancestors. When the ceremony is complete, the spirits fly away through the ceiling or windows...that's why on the left side there is only one stairwell down. That is for the living when they leave the meeting place. Interesting, no?

I don't believe in any of this, but I find the fact that the Shrine is built a certain way fascinating. Knowing that background helps explain a lot of the layout and choices made when designing a burial site like this.

I'm sure there are many structures that have layouts that are specific to Christianity too. I'll have to think about that for a little while though...nothing comes to mind right away.


Hwaseong Wall

Part of Hwaseong Wall by kiki5253
Part of Hwaseong Wall, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Today I went with my friend on a field trip to Suwon. We stopped by some royal tombs (pictures in the next post), had lunch and then moved to the Hwaseong Fortress. This fortress surrounds an entire village.

The palace was built by the 22nd king of the Joseon Dynasty, King Jeongjo in order to honor his father Crown Prince Sado (his father had been ordered to death by being locked in a rice chest over party strife and was posthumously titled King Jangjo).

The Hwaseong is primarily built of large stones and hardly any brick. The brick that you do see there had been imported from China at the time, because Koreans didn't know how to make bricks during that time period.

I learned a lot even though I was in a tour group for Koreans. The guide, who is a professor of Korean Culture and History, gave the group an excellent background on the sites we visited...I wish I had been able to understand more of what he said. My friend had to do most of the translation for me and I'm sure I missed quite a few things since she was busy listening too.

Ah well, it's a beautiful area and I had never been. I'm glad my unni invited me to come along on this field trip.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Life in Seoul

Here's an everyday person I saw eating on on the banks of the Cheonggyecheon

Entrance to Lotte World

Entrance to Lotte World by kiki5253
Entrance to Lotte World, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

I also made another pit stop by Jamsil today to have lunch and exchange some money. Here's the entrance to Lotte case you weren't aware of Lotte World, it's a large indoor theme park that has some very similar Disney characteristics.

I never went in, but I took some pictures of the area and I found a viewpoint for which to spy on people in the park.



Nuns by kiki5253
Nuns, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

I also enjoyed a nice long scenic walk along the Cheonggyecheon. It starts at City Hall Plaza and then proceeds for 5km or more...I walked it up until I got to the Dongdaemun Station/Dongdamun Culture Park. I felt like my legs had enough by the time I was there. It's beautiful though, I would definitely recommend you take the time to go for a stroll.

I saw many business workers taking a break and talking together as well as many students studying. It's also a nice place to have a date; I saw many couples out sitting along the banks of the river.

It was a beautiful day for a walk!


Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Market by kiki5253
Namdaemun Market, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Today I visited Namdaemun Market for a little bit of shopping. I didn't find a lot of things that I was looking for right away. I think this means I need to head back over there on Friday or back to Insadong for a few more things.

I did find some wonderfully carved tigers to place in my new home next month. I think they'll look great on the fireplace mantle. I also bought myself a small compact mirror that I can use and often be reminded of my time here in Korea.

There are a variety of other gifts I need to pick up too...a few small things for my coworkers and a piece of art (painting) for my wall at home.

I'm sure I'll find something, it just takes time.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting my coffee fix

It's really common for coffee drinkers here to put some sweet syrup in their drinks. It's really not bad, but different since in the US most people drink their coffee black.


This is Seoul's mascot. He is like a guardian for the city. I found these six statues in Dongdaemun last night that were each painted differently; much like the Seattle pigs you see all over the place. Some of these Haechi statues were a little creepy...

New Housing

I'm staying in a Guest House near Hanyang University in Wangsimni. It's pretty nice room. A little small, but there's a sturdy bed, TV, closet space, mini fridge, free wireless, a passcode entry and a communal bathroom.

The neighborhood is pretty quiet, but quite close to the University. I think it's a pretty safe neighborhood; there's a police station just down the street. You can hear the train go by, but maybe that's my room location. The guest house is right off the train tracks here, so if you're a light sleeper...bring ear plugs.

The owner is very friendly and kind. In fact his English is great! I didn't have any problems getting checked in or finding amenities. He was thorough and gave me his cell phone number in case I had problems.

I'm kind of tired now though, so I'm not going out again until tomorrow.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Beans Bins

Beans Bins by kiki5253
Beans Bins, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Awesome Coffee and Waffles! You must go's right across the street from the Prime Minister's House in Seoul....actually, really close to Gyeongbukgung...just walk past the entrance to the National Folk Museum a few blocks and it'll be on the opposite side of the street from the palace.

Wandering Around Insadong/Jongno/Buckcheon

Hanoak by kiki5253
Hanoak, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Here's a picture of the Hanok Village houses I wandered through. These traditional style houses are beautiful!

It was a lovely afternoon, the sun was out, I was out with Chang Myeung and there were Waffle Snacks too!!!

I was also able to meet up with Noble after dinner for awhile in Dongdaemun...I must go back during the day to see more of the area and do a little bit of shopping.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Class playing a Game

The Class playing a Game a video by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Short clip of the 6th graders playing a game during English Class.

One group would get up and point to the other students and tell them what to do. Then someone would ask "What do you want to do?" and the student would respond with "I want to: _______" the blank space is for whatever activity the first person had told them to do.

For example: "DANCE" and then someone asks "What do you want to do?" The person responds by saying "I want to dance!"

First Band I saw - Singing a KT Tunstall Song

Here's a little video clip from the Mullae Art Festival this last Tuesday.


A few more Pictures...

034 by kiki5253
034, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

this was at Gwanghwamun Square

Konkuk University Stop

Konkuk University by kiki5253
Konkuk University, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Last night I found myself out and about near Konkuk University. That's a nice neighborhood since it's close to Gangnam (more upscale). There's a lot going on at night and the streets are full of lights. It's almost like it's not even dark outside because of all the lights.

I met some of my friend's friends at a restaurant called Ashley, which serves Western Style food in a buffet format. The food was pretty standard fare, fruit, salad, pasta/rice and other hot dishes. There was also a dessert bar too. I have to say...because a lot of western style food gives me an upset stomach, I didn't feel the greatest afterward, but it was still fun. It's a little on the expensive side, but I will say this: "If you're in Korea, and you're missing your home food, Ashley would be a good place to go. There are even JoJo's!" Just be prepared to shell out $25 (salad bar only) - $50 (if you want steak).

COEX Subway Station

COEX Subway Station by kiki5253
COEX Subway Station, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Shopping at the COEX was a little too expensive, so unni and I went to Jamsil instead. There was a lot of stuff and I saw the entry to Lotte World...I'm not so sure I need to go into Lotte World, but it was certainly interesting to see how "similar" it was to Disney things...I guess I never realized just how much Korea copies certain things in the U.S.

I found some cute heels and some new hair accessories while I was out today. I had actually been on a mission for some boots, but it turns out heels go better with most of the outfits I wear anyway...

I may try to fit in a little more shopping for clothing (like a big comfy sweater and some skirts) before I leave. This is in addition to the various souvenirs I plan on buying. I don't really have much I want, but I do plan on getting a handful of gifts for some of my coworkers and a few other friends/family members.

Changdeokgung Palace

Korea Day 5 003 by kiki5253
Korea Day 5 003, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

I spent part of the day on Saturday at this palace. Unfortunately, I ended up getting caught in a downpour (aka flood) of rain so I couldn't stay very long. I was soaked to the bone because I had been trying to protect my camera.

I had to come back and rest/stay warm so I wouldn't get sick. I ended up going out for dinner later with Katie, but it was a good thing I went back to her apartment after getting soaked. Otherwise, I'd be very sick right now.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mobile Phone and T-Money Card

I don't know where I would be without a rented phone and a T-Money card. These are amazing!

The rental phone is a little expensive, but not too bad. It's about 2000KRW each day and then 600KRW per minute/phone calls and 100KRW texts messages. All incoming calls and texts are free. It's only when you send messages that you're charged.

I rented mine at the airport, so I was able to pick it up when I arrived and I'll return it at the airport upon my departure. I can make international calls with the phone if I need it and I think the rates are much better than what AT&T charges for international roaming. Even so, I still brought my iPhone with me so I could use all the wireless and iPod functions of the various apps. There isn't as much free Wireless as I had hoped, but that's okay. There's enough to get me by for now. Don't get me wrong, there is ample wireless coverage throughout Seoul, but you have to be a subscriber and in order to be a subscriber you have to have either a Korean Social Security number or an Alien Registration Number. Neither of which a tourist would be eligible.

Now, as for the T-Money Card, you can pay on the Subway, Bus, Taxi and some convenience stores. It's really handy because it's a pre-loaded card and there are many money loading stations. You can use the English Menus to decide how much you'd like to load and then you place your card on the appropriate slot, load your money and then viola! You're done!

So far, I have used about 10,000KRW this week during my travels. So if it helps any of you planners out there, you will most likely be able to get around Seoul on 10,000KRW each week.

That's all my knowledge for now...I'll post more as I learn more.


Incense Burner - National Treasure

I don't think I fully understood how important National Treasures are to Korea and to its people until I visited the National Museum yesterday. I can't believe that one, it's free; two, it's an immense building and three, there are many Treasures and National Treasures to look at.

Everything was beautiful...I wish I could stay in Korea for a much longer time now than just the 16 days I have planned this trip. I'll just have to start planning another one after I return to the US.

Anyway, enjoy all the pictures!


Korean War Museum

Korean War Museum by kiki5253
Korean War Museum, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

The Korean War Museum was a lot bigger than I remember it being 8 years ago. That's okay, there's a lot of interesting information inside! The ground level is about the wars that took place during the various dynasties that ruled Korea, such as Shilla, Kaya, and others. Then it progresses into more modern things like the Korean War, Vietnam War, Current Military Technology and conflicts with North Korea.

In the outside walls there are the names of all the soldiers who died during the Korean War. The far left side is the UN soldiers and the right side are the Korean soldiers. Outside there is also some larger military equipment used during the various wars, such as Planes, Tanks and a large Destroyer? Ship.


I tried many new kinds of food yesterday. It was all so delicious, but I got full pretty quickly. I still have a list of foods to try that my friend Bomin emailed me too.

I love the variety of food here, but now my tummy is a little upset. I thinks it's because I'm not used to the food yet. I also haven't been as hungry since arriving this last Monday. Must be nerves or something.

Anyway...I'm getting around to posting more pictures ever so slowly. Look for them soon!!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

You Are Here

You Are Here by kiki5253
You Are Here, a photo by kiki5253 on Flickr.

Here's a small map to help you get acquainted with how large the palace is...the larger image is just a small portion inside the smaller one in the upper left hand corner.