Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Well it's about time!!!

Okay, Okay....I am at fault for not keeping up with my blog. But can you blame me? When I finally find time to sit down and type, it is far too late in the night to be doing that. Many of you would say, so what!, but I add that our computer happens to be in the kids room so after they go to bed it is pretty much lights out for me too. That's okay though because I find that my days start pretty early here in Korea.

Well, on to our adventures!!!

We have had such an amazing time here that I will be sad to leave our new home and friends when the time comes. I will give you a current up-to-date, and then I will be retro-posting some of our fun times we have had.

Currently, to ease anyone's worry, we are all safe and feel relatively so. I know that a few family members and concerned friends have e-mailed me hoping that we are out of harms way with the current North Korean/South Korean tensions. I can assure you, we are. I feel personally, that if there were cause for us to worry, we would be warned ahead of time. And I can also say that our Korean friends are not over reacting, so I will take their lead and do the same.

With that said...the kids are excited for Christmas. Since Thanksgiving is not celebrated here, the Christmas/Holiday sales and decorations have been out for awhile. That does nothing to curb the kids excitement as you can imagine. They are still asking me to buy a little 1 foot tree for our apartment. I don't know that I will give in though, seeing that they cost around $33 US dollars and I'm not sure I would be able to sell it when we have to leave. I told them it might be fun to make our own. Still trying to figure out how to do that though.

I will post some pictures that I am really excited to share first, and then I will retro-post.

The following pictures were taken during the annual Seoul Lantern Festival along the Cheonggyecheon stream that runs through downtown Seoul. It is a beautiful place to visit even without the lanterns, but the lanterns made it even more special.

Here are the kids at the very end of the processsion. We kind of started on the wrong end.

These are some beautiful cranes. I don't have a picture of the one they had suspended over the walkway.

This was one of Ruthie's favorites.

This was a replica of an historical Korean village.

This is based off of an old traditional Korean folktale involving a hare, a dragon, and a sea turtle. Ruthie knows the story. Unfortunately,  I don't.
 Hard to believe that they were all constructed of paper. The sad thing is, we only got to see half of the lanterns because it was so crowded and Joseph was tired of getting bumped around. It was quite the sight to see!!!

Afterwards, we walked over to the Insadong market area where there are several street vendors, shops, and bars and cafes. The kids enjoyed some Baskin Robins (yes they are here!) and I enjoyed the sights. We have been to Insadong once before, but it is always a sight to see.

I couldn't resist getting a shot with the Max beer can. I can safely say sadly, that this is NOT my favorite beer. But at least he posed with me. When Joseph saw me,  he wanted to jump in too.

We have no idea what this guy was selling. I think it's Mickey's Korean brother Michi.

This is just one of the streets in the Insadong area. They are all pretty much like this. It is unbelievable.

On the subway ride home, Joseph fell asleep. It was a busy exciting night. Can't blame him.
 I will try to get back on the track here an update as much as I can and I apologize to those of my friends who have been wanting to know what we have been up to. I can't wait to tell you all about what we have done and what we have seen. I promise more neat things to come!!! Just please be patient with my horrible blogging. You won't be disappointed.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Finally! A New Post!!!!

I must apologize to all my friends and family that have been wanting to follow our trip through Korea. It has been several weeks (around 3 I believe) since my last update. I will add this though...I have not been missing due to lack of wanting to type. So much has and not really happened since my last post. By this I mean that though we got to visit a few places since my last post, mostly we have been dealing with illness.

Don't be alarmed...nothing too bad. We have all been battling various colds and viruses that we were warned that we may have to endure being in a new country, in a new time zone, and facing new situations. Thankfully, we have weathered all of this with smiles still on our faces.

So, now that is all explained, on to the latest.

About 2 weeks back we decided to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is one of the royal palaces built in 1493 for the Joseon royalty. It was a trip just to get there. We had to take a bus to the subway station over by Hongik University. From there it was about an hour subway ride to the palace grounds. Once there we arrived just in time to see the traditional changing of the guard. It was magnificent.

This was the guard waiting outside the gates to go into one of the courtyards.

Believe it or not, this was the ticket gate area. Wow!

Check out the mountain in the back. It was all so beautiful.

To signify the beginning of the change, the drum was struck several times. It echoed through out the outer courtyard.

This is inside the first gate, but what turned out to be a large outer courtyard.

The procession started with a head guard calling out the march and followed by flag bearers, musicians, and armed guards.

Here are the armed guards with the musicians in the back.

Here are the lead guards.

This was the head guard. Notice the feathered hat.

Here he is again.

So, they traveled around the courtyard in a square-like pattern.

They then lined up, went inside and the next guard came out.

These are the next gates into the offical palace grounds where the royal rooms and various builings were. This is the offical guard that stood out front.

This is yet another courtyard in to the palace grounds. As you can tell by now, this place is quite large.

That was the gate we just came through. They were all very intricately carved and painted like this. Hard to believe it was done in 1493.

Ruthie outside one of the royal rooms. I think this was a room used for audiences or possibly for prayer. Hard to tell. It had both prayer items and a dias in it.

This is definately designed for royalty.

I couldn't believe the ceilings.

This was the queen's quarters. You could enter in the building, but you had to take your shoes off first.

As you can all see, it was quite the amazing palace and there is much more to share. But, that will have to wait for a later time. It is now time for me to go and pick the children up from school. I hope to keep up with the blog much more frequently now that things are starting to calm down.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shopping mayham and more....

It is about our 4th day out and we are still here. Extremely confused and astounded, but still here and loving it! No desires to hop on the next jet stateside yet, even with an injury that caused much stir and panic.

No, no one is in the hospital (thank goodness) but there was a bit of blood and screaming involved. Joseph got his toes trapped in the glass doors at the pool/gym in our building yesterday. Don't worry, he is alright. No digits lost. Our gym attendant was quite helpful despite the language barrier and I hope she is not too worried or upset, as she seemed to be genuinely concerned for Joseph.

But, I get ahead of myself. have to update everyone as to our newest adventures.

On our second day out David and Taek went to the local grocery store/everything store to get some food and find a bunk bed for the kids. They came back with a table and 4 dining chairs, a bunk bed, a pillow and pillowcase (for me because of allergies), and various food stuffs to last us at least until the next day. David also regaled the experience of shopping in Korea. It is EXPENSIVE!!! Well, not that bad, but I will get to that later. We then went out for dinner with Taek and his family. We walked to a little restaurant not too far from our building and had a wonderful meal. I was full before we even made it through half the dinner (Korean side dishes are plentiful and come with the meal). Joseph however, slept through the meal. We are still battling jet lag and time switch. Ruthie is about set to Korean time, but the rest of us are still waking up and sleeping at goofy hours. We then went back home to try to get to sleep. Unfortunately, Joseph woke up and did not go to bed until 12:00 AM. Ugh!

The next day we (being David, the kids, and I) took the free shuttle from DMC Ville to the shopping complex. The store that we chose is a giant amalgam of grocery store, department store, home store all in one located in the World Cup soccer stadium. The store is called Homeplus and it is huge!!! I guess that can be expected for a store located in a stadium that once hosted the World Cup. This store was fun! It was packed as though half of the city's population was there. It was noisy with Koreans searching for various goods and extremely colorful. The down side to all of this is that I couldn't figure out 1/16 of the things I was purchasing. I simply had to guess by the packaging. I did end up getting it right on most things, but I accidentally bought 2 packages of paper towels (it was 1 + 1 day) instead of toilet paper. My only worry was that my peanut allergy might be a hassle to deal with, but I figure if I ask my friend who is coming over today I should be fine. As far as cost, only if you wanted to by American or meat, the cost was relatively close to US prices. The reason David was so set back, I found out later, was that he bought the items that are expensive here...those being grapes and bedding. The furniture was actually less expensive here. I did have a bit of a run in when I asked for help a couple of times and was answered in Korean. Though I clearly stated my question in English and that I didn't speak Korean, they still answered me in Korean. Luckily, I remembered enough of my Korean to understand that one lady was telling me 1 item was being purchased. I wanted to roam longer, but our bus was to pick us up 2 hours after drop off.

Well, I am about to head out for coffee, as we don't have a coffee maker yet. I can't function too well without my morning cup o'joe. I apologize to all if this entry seems a bit random and jumbled.

NEXT: School starts! (No really, it starts tomorrow!)

Random Pictures
Can you guess which on is the light switch? It's the second one in from the right. Now can you guess which button turns the light on?

The toilet beeps everytime you sit down. I keep forgetting this so I sometimes think the phone is ringing or someone is at the door or it is my cell phone.

On the B2 level of our apartment complex is a kid's room with a neat playstructure in it. Could you imagine having one of these in your basement?
This is Joseph pre injury.

There is also a driving range on this same level. The pool, gym, and sauna are one floor up.

Putting range.

There are about 7 of these ranges and golf clubs are provided.

Here is one of our purchases from yesterday...2 mediam loaft pans. Read it. It really says that!! I love Korean to English translations.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

WE MADE IT!!!!!!

It is my extreme pleasure to say...
WHEW!!! We made it to the land of the morning calm, though maybe not altogether so calmly.

Our journey started at 6:20 AM EST with our good friends and most capable house sitters Qifei and Wei Wei helping us load up both the truck and the Hyundai. They then were kind enough to take us out to the airport and send us off with hugs and good tidings. After about an half an hour of trying to get passports in order and tickets printed out, we crossed over the security line and really felt like we were leaving.

Goodbye Knoxville!!

The kids were antsy to just get on the plane and start the trip. Little did they know what was in store for them. Actually, it wasn't all that bad. Our first leg of the journey was a 2-3 hour flight to Chicago O'Hare  International ( by the way is one of the airports on my hate it list) which was relatively uneventful considering it was Chicago O'Hare. However, there was a bit of confusion when we had to leave the airport to get back into the international flight area. There was a bit of consternation only because in Knoxville we were told that we were not assigned seats on the next plane and had to request them in Chicago. What a drag! Once we passed the security (after getting seat assignments of course) all seemed to settle down. The kids sat quietly and played their ds and dsi game systems as I tried to nap a little and David read.

The Korean Airliner we flew in was immense!
I have to commend and recommend Korean Air to anyone who is traveling over here. It was great! First of all, the plane was so large that nervous flyer like me felt comfortable. Second, the service was unbelievable. The flight attendants were polite, helpful, and offered everything in two languages! Third, who can beat free movies of your choice the whole flight. I got to see movies I probably would have not otherwise with free -yes everyone free- earphones, blankets, pillows, meals, snacks, and wine. I availed myself to the free wine! On top of that, the children got to choose from kids movies, video games, or children's television programs on their own little screens. They particularly loved seeing Pororo, a popular children's television character here. But, I will add a little caveat, when travelling for 14 hours on the same flight, it can get a bit tedious and if you are a sleeper like me (meaning you don't sleep well on planes or in cars) no service or flight can be truly enjoyable. The children did better than I did flying. They slept at least 3 or 4 hours.

We finally landed at Inchon International Airport and wearily made our way through customs and down to our luggage. Up until this point, we were relatively spoiled because most things were in both Engilsh and Korean. Now we were left to navigate our way through signs and billboards will a few English blurbs placed in areas that seemed to make little sense. Yet, our wonderful and truly life saver of a friend Taek was there to greet us and procure a vehicle (via Yonsei/Fulbright) to our apartment in Seoul...1 hour away from Inchon.

Well, I have to admit I saw little of the cities of Inchon or Seoul as I quickly fell asleep when the driver started the motor.  I guess over 20 hours of no to little sleep can do that to a body.

We arrived at our apartment and made arrangements to procure card keys and arrange various other items that will be needed for our year here.

I could really use a shower and a bed right about now, but I'll smile because you are pointing a camera at me.

We really are here, but when do we get to the apartment mom??!!!

So after all of that, we tumbled into our apartment and tried to settle down. Our apartment is small but very nice. My only complaint right now is that there are so many buttons and electronics that I'm having a hard time just figuring out how to turn the lights on. It doesn't help either that even though I can read Korean, I don't know exactly what is being said..

As required by Korean custom, we must take off our shoes before entering the house. There is a little entryway and closet just for that purpose. Neat!

Living room.

Hallway to kitchen and rooms.

First bathroom. Check out the bidet toilet!!



Check out those instructions and buttons!! Hand wash anyone?

Well, I am getting tired and I promised the kids we would check out the pool and the driving range in the building. So I will add more pictures and information as our life in Seoul unfolds.

We already miss everyone and our home, but we are hopeful for our days ahead and the experiences they will open up to us.