Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Seoul Costco

Ah Costco. You know how crazy it is on Saturday? Well it's even more crowded here on a Monday morning. We had gone to Costco here once before-on a Saturday afternoon-and it was literally the craziest shopping experience of my life. I was going to blog about it, just for you, but we didn't have a proper camera at the time and Jim's phone deleted all my pictures. And words cannot describe this.
It's shoulder to shoulder packed. There are so many familiar products there. The dresses the girls own are for sale there too (and just a few bucks more than at home). But in some ways it's like the worlds largest American import store. I got products such as Kirkland brand American cheese slices, Skippy peanut butter (2 huge jars for $20) and yoplait yogurt. The American products are more expensive, but seriously people, I am an American after all and I need peanut butter.
Hey! Jan Yupcavage! I found all the crocs! They're at the Costco in Seoul.

Traffic Jam in the shoe aisle

Enjoy your cheap Burt's Bees, America! It's $34 for these 2 little jars here

Grace and Ruby think we should get this 3D tv

Stuff is upstairs, food is downstairs

Grace saw this picture and said "is that from the aquarium?!" No. Costco

How many of them are also buying peanut butter?

Feels like home...

And ...this also feels like home...

Check out
 We decided to eat lunch at the food court. This is one of the better deals in Seoul. Well, if you like junk food, and I do, so it works well. The girls got the "hot dog set" (hot dog and a drink) and I got the chicken bake. The first time we went, Jim and I split a chicken pot pie and it was so good! The food court is totally packed and the first thing you do is park your cart, with all your paid goods, near the entrance of the food court.
 After you park your cart and order, you just jam yourself into any table you can find. We ate with strangers the first time, no one seems to mind, I think people are just happy to have a seat. I was.

The school schedules trips for us every month or two weeks or so. It's described as a "quick in and out". I have a hard time seeing how that will work. Shopping at this Costco is more of an endurance sport.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Back to church. and a Kpop music video.

One week later and I tried again to go to mass at Myeongdong Cathedral. I took the same bus, the M4101, got off one stop before where I got lost last week, and this time after a two minute walk I was at the cathedral! I'm starting to feel better about getting around Seoul.  We are looking into getting a car.  Between car, bus and subway we should be able to get anywhere we need to.

Without having to wander around lost I was a little early so I got coffee at a Starbucks across the street, read my book, and then walked up to a 9:00 mass.  There were a lot of people there,even though this was the English mass more than 80% of the people were Korean.  In contrast when I went to mass years ago in Taiwan it was almost entirely Filipino workers, with a few Westerners.

The priest was from Ireland and he ran a good efficient mass.  Even that early the humidity was killing me and wearing long pants I was sweating more than I liked. So I didn't mind that we were done in 45 minutes.  When the collection was taken I quickly grabbed what was in my pocket , put it in the basket and then had a small moment of panic.  I have been carrying  10000 won and 1000 won, just under $10 and $1 respectively. As you can see below they are different colors and the 1000 won is a little smaller. Compared to US currency they are pretty easy to distinguish, but I have still more than once paid for 30000 worth of groceries with 3000 won and had the clerk stare at me waiting for the rest.  So this morning I put three or four 1000 won notes in the basket, and then paused, afraid I had just given $30- $40 instead of $3-$4.  Obviously I couldn't reach in and grab money back.  When I counted the money in my wallet later I didn't seem to be short, but I need to be careful.  It's been a long time since I've used cash this often.

With mass over I walked back, found the bus easily and 25 minutes later I was back at Good Morning Hill. 

One last thing, completely unrelated. On the bus both ways there was a music video playing.  I've been seeing the same video on TV,and then just came across it again online tonight. I'm not sure how familiar people are with Korean pop music,  KPop,  but this is an example of it.  The song is called Gangnam Style.  Gangnam happens to be the district in Seoul where Irish will be teaching. The video cracks me up, and the song is fun, so enjoy.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What I've been waiting for: DONGDAEMUN FABRIC MARKET

Before we moved to Korea, I looked up where to buy fabric and found youtube videos of this place. I couldn't wait to check it out. I decided today would be a great day to go. Jim kept August and I took the girls. I studied the subway map and wrote down every stop along the way and where we would transfer.
Seoul Subway Map. Piece of cake!

This is the list of stops we would pass
We took 3 different subway trains to get there. It took just under 2 hours. The girls were a huge hit on every train, and did indeed get candy on each leg of the trip.
One person even asked to take their picture.

Ruby, totally ready for her close up
The subway was packed but the Seoul subways are SO user friendly. The subway lines are numbered and colored and all the signs are in Korean and English. We made each transfer successfully and made it to our destination.

see the picture of the cartoon train? That shows you how far the train is from the stop

I asked that guy on the left if he spoke English and he laughed and said, "A little. But I am sorry, I am drunk"
across the street from the fabric market
OK, let's get to it. The Dongdaemun fabric market. It was a little tricky for me to find because there are huge "Markets" on every corner. I knew not to go the one for clothes, so we crossed the street and ended up in a market selling all kinds of socks, pjs, etc. I knew I was close but not at the right place, so when I saw a white guy with a Greenbay Packers shirt I stopped him and his Korean companion got directions for me. We were close-in fact the Dongdaemun is on the same corner as the subway exit (the building behind the construction for the JW Mariott). We entered on the first floor. There are 4 floors and 4 buildings and on each floor there are little stall-like things with different vendors. Most fabrics are grouped together. For example, when I asked were jersey fabric was I was told to go to building D on the 2nd floor.
The long and short of all of this is that it was too much for me. It was totally overwhelming and I left without buying anything. I'm so glad I went and I will definitely will go back, but for today the adventure was enough.
sewing supplies
Look at this lace-ish stuff $4 per yard
they're making these bows right here
see what I mean by overwhelming?
this store had only polka-dotted fabric
just one of several lace stores
And the craziness continues OUTSIDE!
And a video of buttons
After all that, the girls wanted to take a minute to check out the river, but mostly they wanted to go home. I was definietely on board with that.
across the street from the fabric market
This woman couldn't help but upgrade Ruby from standing to a lap seat

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Seoul Zoo

The girls and I went to the zoo today. Turns out traveling without August is way easier. Or maybe it's Irish who is slowing us down.  Either way, when it was just me Grace and Ruby we were pretty efficient. Bus to the train, three trains, two connections and 90 minutes later we were at Seoul Grand Park.

Below is a look at a subway station, with Ruby explaining what the music means.

Getting off the last train we came up the stairs to a completely rural landscape, no evidence of the city at all, hills all around, really very pretty. On the short walk from the subway station to the zoo we got a bag of donuts for a little less than a dollar.  Donuts are surprisingly popular in Korea, it's possible I've already mentioned that but it's worth repeating. There are donuts everywhere. After buying the donuts from an old lady we came up to another Dunkin Donuts.  Squid and donuts, I've had an incredible number of opportunities to eat squid and donuts recently. 

At the gate we bought tickets for a tram ride up to the zoo, not too much, 1800 won, so less than two dollars for the three of us.  Then for admission to the zoo the girls were free! And it was only 3000 won for me, less than three dollars. An amazing deal.

Walking in the zoo was nearly empty.  In part it was middle of the day on a weekday, and it was incredibly hot, but still it was strange to have the place largely to ourselves.  It's a huge zoo, too big really, each sign showed where the next animals were, and the distance, which would be 200 or 300 meters at least.  It looked like the animals had a lot of room which is nice, but I wasn't ready to walk three football fields just to get to the next exhibit. So we probably only saw a quarter of the place or less.

There were flamingos near the entrance.  The girls thought they heard a fart, which led to a discussion of animal farts.  They agreed that animals fart just like people, except for cows, Ruby said "cows fart milk"  They both thought that was very funny, I did too.

After the flamingos we saw some giraffes, and then apes/monkeys. We were alone in the building that houses the apes, a lot of them were inside resting away from the heat. Here is a baby monkey checking out Grace.

Below Grace points out that a baby orangutan has a butt like a person. Which is true, and not nearly as gross as the bright baboon butt we had just seen.

After the apes we were getting tired, so we circled back, saw some elephants, hippos, and then got lunch.  I had noodles, which included squid.  The girls had pork and rice. Kimchi was available self serve, as much kimchi as you wanted.

When we finished lunch it was time to go. We took the tram back, passed Seoul Land, a theme park next to the zoo, the recorded announcement on the tram said "Seoul Land- where dreams and happiness are fulfilled"  So obviously I am going to have to get back there sometime. 

On the walk back to the subway we got ice cream cones from another vendor, and repeated the long trip back three trains, two connections, the 17 bus back to Good Morning Hill.
G n R on the 17 bus.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Found the LotteMart!

Remember the other day when the bus driver tried to help us find our destination, but didn't speak any English so we finally agreed that it was the Outback Steakhouse that we had been looking for (Even though it was the LotteMart with a TGI Fridays that we were looking for)? Well we finally found it, but not without some trial and error.
We all got an early start this morning and wanted to check out the dollar store. Jim and I had passed it the other day when we were trying to get to the LotteMart the first time. We took the bus and took it to Suji-ro, where there are lots of shops and construction (they're extending the subway).
It could happen

McDonald's delivers?! I can't imagine the number of diet cokes I would have had last year if they delivered to my school.
We walk less than one block from the bus stop to the dollar store. Victory! Wait, what's that? You what, now? Open at 3? Am I missing something in the translation? Oh today at 3:30, of course. Doesn't everyone take the middle of the day in the middle of the week to do inventory and stocking?
So sad, they were totally serious-the store was closed.
the dollar store. Taunting us with it's flip-flops and cheap toilet brushes
That didn't crush our spirits. We set out to finally find LotteMart. We headed in the general direction that we thought the store was in and we found it right away!
I didn't know what was in store for us, but it looked so inviting from the street. We were there at 9:30, and the store opens at 10. Lucky for us, LotteMart anticipated our needs and had a playground.
The doors opened at 9:45, but we basically congregated in the front of the store near a small section of sales items and some baked goods. At 10:00 sharp they let us in (all employees were in the aisles clapping). We decided that we would go to the top and work our way down. Guess what? There's not a lot to LotteMart. It's strange because the building is huge, but the 3rd and 4th floor don't really have anything on them.
If Emart is the Walmart of Korea, I think LotteMart is the Kmart. We got a few things from the Toys R Us section of the store.
play area in the Toys R Us of LotteMart. The store was UN-AIR CONDITIONED though, which makes me want to never go there again.

I feel that all of you needed to see a few things I saw in the ladies room.
In case you were wondering where there was a urinal in the ladies room for your son, just follow this sign
A sound machine. I wouldn't have pressed this button (because doesn't it look like it notifies someone that you need help?) but I backed into it when I was shutting the stall door. It makes a flushing sound followed by running water
Before leaving we got lunch at the LotteMart food court (skipping the beloved TGI Fridays for today...). 

Anyway here's how the food court works both here and at Emart. There is a glass case with a plastic replica of all the different options (think dessert tray at a restaurant). You choose the number you want and pay, then the cashier notify the restaurant of your order and when it's ready, your number comes up. When you are done with your meal you take the tray and all the dishes back to the restaurant.
The food today was great. We had some breaded pork (something like Panko breadcrumbs but bigger), soup, rice and dumplings. 
When we got home we all fell hard asleep for 2 hours. I can't tell if it's still a little jetlag or the heat or both.
When I woke up, I went to Kim's Club (the grocery) and did my grocery shopping. I took the perishables home with me on the bus and they delivered the rest-for free! (speaking of, we have got to learn how to ring someone up to our apartment).