Monday, December 31, 2012

Dr. Fish in Gangnam

Today we went where I've always wanted to go-Dr. Fish! Dr. Fish is a cafe where you can have your feet .....what's the word?....groomed by small biting fish. We drove to Jeongja and parked our car (after some work to find the parking garage) and took the fancy Shin Bundang line to Gangnam.

Grandma on the subway! Or should I say Ajumma?

 I had found directions on another blog, but those directions turned out to be wrong (I didn't realize it but they were 5 years old, which is before the Shin Bundang line even existed). SO, if you have stumbeled onto this blog looking for directions to Dr. Fish, as of Dec. 31, 2012, leave through Exit 10, walk straight for about 5 minutes. It will be on your LEFT above the BSX clothing store on the 2nd floor (across the street from the huge CVG movie theatre).
Here's a picture of the entrance. Take the elevator to the 2nd floor.

 I used the time that we were lost to buy this awesome scarf. SO snuggly. It was about 20F here today, so both fashionable, Korean-looking, and practical.

So this cafe is really nice. For about $5 you get a drink (cafe latte for me), all you can eat bread, coffee and tea. When we first got there, there was also delicious soup. But when it ran out, they put out rice balls.

Puffed rice balls. Blaegch. The kids LOVED these though.
Ruby and August enjoying each other's company
We paid an extra $2 per adult (kids don't do this because it's too scary for them, or something) to get the special fish treatment. First they wash off your feet, then you put them in the pool for about 20 minutes. There were two pools: small, hungry fish and large, hungry fish. 
Feed me!

Grandma, getting her feet washed
I enjoyed it, it was very ticklish, but In this picture I look very surprised.

The fish really  liked Jim's feet. Look how lonely my feet are:

To give you a better impression of how this went down, here's a video:

Grandma Visits Korea

First things first-get the kids cleaned up before grandma gets here. I took them all to the Juno Salon. I've never seen August so relaxed.

 Then Grandma arrived! She got here just before dinner time. This left us all enough time to eat together and open some gifts. She is staying at a neighboring apartment (they're out of town and we do have permission for her to stay there) and Grace and Ruby went with her for a sleepover.

Gifts from America!!!

We decided her first stop in Korea should be my favorite place: Dongdaemun fabric market so we could get beads for bracelet making.

look at the beads! We got about a million of these
Get a gooood, close look at these. This is my number one reason to return.
Can you see the princess cat, and the bunny cat fabric?
Right after I took this picture, the woman in the stall across from this said "No picture".

 Dr. Sparkle told me about this bracelet stall. Her directions were perfect-using her hands, she said, "You know how Happy Quilt is here? [motions with hands] The bracelets are just down here [motions with hands]". Turns out, her directions were spot on. We found it with no problem at all! I really wanted to make a dog collar for our dog family members: Charlie, Malika and Rufus, but here in Korea there are only tiny dogs, therefore, they only had tiny dog collars. But we still made bracelets for the rest of us.
Here are samples of the types of bands and
different kinds of letters you can choose from

We wrote down the names, showed her the styles and she put the bracelets together.

Here's mine!
We made it back from Dongdaemun with no problem and got take out from Omama Korean Noodles and Cuisine for dinner. This morning we headed out to the Sandang Flea Market. Too bad it was way too freezing cold to go to a flea market! We were there about 20 minutes before going back to the car. We decided to stop in for lunch at Costco on our way home. Costco is easy-generally. Cheap food that the kids like-easy right? Well on a Saturday, not as easy. I know this, not sure why I ignored all my prior knowledge. It wasn't as crowded as I've seen in the past, but that's not saying much. While we were there, I grabbed the essentials: milk, coffee and peanut butter. We got our food from the cafeteria and went home to eat since there were people everywhere and no place to sit. Even tables with people eating had people standing over them waiting for their table.

We tried to teach Grandma the Wii, and she played about as well as one would expect a grandma to play. I'll leave you to interpret that.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Last day at the beach

We've had a great, quiet time at the beach. We're back in Santa Fe, Bantayan Island, at a restaurant with decent wifi so I thought I'd share a few pictures. Jim has most of the pictures-so we'll post many, many more tomorrow when we get into Cebu City.

Here's where we're staying: White Beach Bungalows. We rented 2 bungalows for the week. The one you see in this picture is the "girls bungalow" (Jim and August's is next door).

Would the blog be complete without a picture of my feet at the beach? No. So here it is:

Here's a picture of both our bungalows:

The first time we went in to "town", the van from the resort was in the shop, so we took a "tricycle". A "tricycle" is a taxi created out of a motorbike.
When we left town, we took another version of the "tricycle". This one is a more bus-like, but still fashioned out of a motorbike.

 Here's a nice picture of the resort.

More pictures are coming! It's tricky here with the internet. Tomorrow morning, we pack up and reverse the process back to Cebu City: ride to the ferry, ferry to a 3 hour ride to Cebu, stay at the same hotel. Sunday we'll fly back to Manila, have another 5 hour layover in the airport. Then arrive in freezing cold Seoul. It will be good to be home for Christmas, though.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winter Break in the Philippines

It is Wednesday afternoon and we are in the Philippine on a small island called Bantayan, an hour ferry ride from the bigger island of Cebu.  We have been here since Sunday but internet availability has been minimal at best.  Right now we are at a cafe with wifi that kind of works. I was able to upload just a few pictures but there will be later posts with lot more.

We had a busy time getting here. 

The semester ended on Friday. I had my last final Friday morning, and then a Christmas party with August and his friends in the nursery at noon, then I was grading until 3:00.  When I got home I started packing and twelve hours later, Saturday 3:30 am, we were awake getting ready to be picked up at 4:30 to get to the airport. The driver was 30 minutes late, which was a little stressful, but remarkably it was the only real hold up in our travels.  Everything else was just the normal challenges of traveling with three young children, though those challenges can be significant. 

The flight to Manila took a little over three hours.  Irish sat with August while he was being crazy, then we switched seats and he fell asleep for the rest of the flight while I was with him.  The girls played peacefully with iPads.  We had heard some stories about Cebu Pacific being a difficult airline but that wasn’t our experience.  No movies, no free food, but otherwise an ordinary flight.  

We had also heard rough stories about the airport in Manila but we seemed to get lucky there too  which was good since we had 5 hours to kill. We passed through customs, saw that it was a “No ‘Wang Wang Zone’” which we believed was a good thing, or at least it seemed funny.  ( I just looked it up, it's a word the President of the Philippines made up, it means "no overtaking" or no corruption, I think in this context it meant don't cut in line which is roughy what I guessed) 

August was cute, made the immigration official smile as he ran forward and back while we tried to stop him.  Once we were through we got our luggage, bought lunch, changed money and then looked for our connecting flight.  I think we were in a newer terminal because it was really fairly nice, not as nice as Incheon or Singapore, but significantly better than some airports I have seen. When we got to our gate there was a massage place right next to it, so Irish got a 30 minute massage and then we waited, for a long time. Really long.  Five hours is easy enough to pass when you are on your own, but with the kids it becomes exhausting. They took turns being impatient, complaining, crying a few times.  And then finally as the sun was going down we were on our one hour flight to Cebu City. 

In Cebu we walked down stairs from the plane onto the tarmac.  It was very warm, it had been raining and we could smell the ocean.  The difference from Korea, with it’s incredibly modern airport, and cold cold weather was striking. While I was waiting for our luggage Irish went to see if there was a shuttle to the hotel we booked.  She found a representative from the hotel itself, and he got us a taxi we could charge to our room.  
Walking from the plane to the terminal in Cebu City

The ride to the hotel was slow.  Traffic was crazy, but not in the Korean running red lights way, just incredibly congested, with scooters squeezing through and these pickups converted into mini busses, I’m sure there is a name for them.  The girls thought it was funny, and dangerous for all the people to be hanging out the back of the cars.
August will let you know- that's dangerous! not safe!

Finally getting to our hotel for the night both of the girls had fallen asleep and August was hanging on by a thread.  Before we could go in though a police officer was called over and a bomb dog sniffed my luggage, and then we went through a metal detector, which I guess should make me feel safer, only it didn’t because I had not been thinking about bomb threats, but after the security procedures I was. 

Our room turned out to be a corner room on the 14th floor, windows on two walls.  It just had a king size bed but they gave us a crib for “the baby”  (August has been getting mad at everyone calling him a baby, but he didn’t seem to mind the crib which he pretty much filled up)  So we ordered room service, had a picnic on the floor, and then four of us got in the big bed, August next to us in his little bed (crib), and we all fell asleep immediately. 

More soon about our trip from Cebu City to Bantayan, and vacation on a beautiful island, and lots of pictures once we can upload them.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas shopping in Insadong

We visited Insadong many months ago-when it was so hot I thought I would melt. Well, this weekend I went and felt the exact opposite. Amy, Jenn and I went and it was only 18F. Jenn showed us how to take the 5500 from our neighborhood right to Insadong. It's so easy-and nice the busses are silent

I got a few things. Insadong is a very touristy place, but as a kind of tourist, I like some of that stuff. I don't want to give anything away, but this shop makes stamps with your name on it in Korean. Hopefully they really put the right name and not a swear word...

Shopping. Look how cold everyone looks!

mmmm chocolates 
I never get tired of taking pictures of street vendor squid items

See? It really was COLD
We took the M4101 straight home. It really is the best way to travel around Seoul.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Parties

This was a busy weekend. We had the Seoul Campus holiday party on Friday, the KIS family party for the kids Saturday morning and the KIS whole staff party (skipped it) Saturday night. What fun. The weekend started early. It snowed again on Friday and they sent kids (and teachers!) home after lunch. This is how excited we all were:

Music teacher Bonny and PE Teacher Jared
The Seoul Campus Christmas party was at Mr. Rich's house. The food was so great- he made a taco bar. I was so full, but didn't want to stop eating because I miss Mexican food so much. I definitely overate. Here are the guys hanging out together.

Maybe I'm not the only one who overate?
 Kenny made fancy drinks. The look on Jared's face says maybe not so fancy? Maybe just strong?
 I think even Kenny things the drink is a bit spicy.

Now for the white elephant gift exchange. I'm a huge fan when it's done right and this one was great. In my opinion, to pull this off you have to have just the right balance of strange with nice.

Here are pictures of the highlights:
These socks are strange AND nice

 Our business director, Jeff, got this very Korean gift. It falls on the "strange" side for the expats, but on the "nice" side for the Koreans. He was very happy with his gift.

dried squid, a meat flavored cheese stick, spam, dried silk worm
larvae and something else I'm not sure about 
This nice scarf was mine for about 5 minutes until Lisa stole it.
 It does look nice on her though. 
 How to explain the next gift. There's some back story to it. See Lisa? She's totally innocent. She had no idea what a "love motel" was. A love motel is basically a motel one goes to in order to cheat on his or her spouse. She booked a motel online when she first got here and it turned out to be a love motel. She said when she got there, she was given this little gift pack (and she re-gifted it to the white elephant exchange).
The love motel kit: 2 Hershey's chocolates,
bubble bath, a toothbrush and a pack of condoms
 Jim and I did very well. He got chocolate covered macadamia nuts and I got these gloves-they look normal but they work with touch screens (ie my smart phone).

YoonHee and Alice, so lucky
Bonny and Kenny spread the awesomeness around with TWO pairs of teeny-tiny swim shorts. 

And the strangest nice gift (or the nicest strange gift) was from the boss himself! A framed portrait. Surprisingly, no one stole this from Jared. I wonder where Jared will keep it? On his desk at work? Or at home?
 I forgot to take pictures of what we gave. I found a beer stein at the Beautiful store and paired that with a Heineken. And for Jim's gift I found a tambourine that lights up when you hit it (also from the Beautiful Store). I paired the tambourine with a $10 Starbucks gift card (although I didn't have time to go to Starbucks so it was just a 10,000 won bill with "this is a Starbucks gift card" written on a piece of paper-can't get more white elephant than that!).

Saturday was the KIS family party. It was great. Santa came!

 August with his new backpack and Thomas book from Santa 
 After the Santa visit and lunch, the kids played games and did crafts.
musical chairs

Jim and August making tops
August's best friend Jesse got a doctor kit that came with these spectacles. 
August giving his buddy a Christmas kiss
By Saturday night, I couldn't do another party. I'm sure it was super fun, but I figured we should quit while we were ahead. We had our own party-we ordered pizzas and watched a movie at home.