Sunday, September 30, 2012

Car buying and the start of a week off

I just realized today that Irish was waiting for me to write about this week's car buying trip before she posted anything, so I am the reason there hasn't been any other posts recently- sorry about that.

We have a car now.  When we got our Alien Resident Certificates a few weeks ago we planned to get cell phones and cars as fast as possible.  Both turned out to be a little more challenging than expected but now we have done it.

On Tuesday I took the train out almost as far west as you can go on the subway to meet a car dealer. It was two stops from the end of the line, near the city of Inchon, a couple of transfers and close to two hours of travel. It wasn't all that bad, travelling without kids is remarkably easy, I just read and played games on my phone.  But I was motivated to buy a car so I wouldn't have to make the return trip.

I met CJ at the train station.  He is Korean but went to school in Hawaii and lived there for 5 years. He picked me up in a really beat up car and then drove me to a huge parking garage.  The facility is shared by multiple used car dealers.  He showed me the government inspection garage and then we walked into a building filled with office spaces.  CJ told me everyone there had something to do with cars, some were used car dealers, others were importers and exporters of cars.

At his office we looked at several cars that were available on his web site that met my criteria- cheap, with enough seats for three kids, and in decent shape.  He was able to show me the paperwork for each one, assuming he was telling the truth about what it said in Korean, there was information about the car's accident history and whether it had ever been in a flood. With a few options picked out he went to get keys.

CJs office- with a big stack of gift boxes of seaweed paper- I assume for the upcoming Chusok holiday.


It turned out we could only test drive the car within the parking garage, which isn't much room to get a feel for things.  And then, after looking at a couple of cars, it was close to 7:00 and CJ let me know that offices for the insurance brokers on site would be closing by 8, so if we were going to buy a car it had to be soon or else I could come back. Again, not wanting to take a long train ride home or drag the process out any longer I made an efficient decision- chose a 12 year old Kia with low miles that had two rows of seats in the back. And then CJ got everything rolling.

CJ processing paperwork





Back in his office he brought in an insurance broker, we got that taken care of- then went to a convenience store where there was an ATM and we transferred money to pay for the car. By 8:30 everything was done and I owned a car.

The car runs on LPG instead of Gasoline, which is good since it costs around $100 to fill up a gasoline car here, LPG costs about half that. I was not sure how to fill a car with LPG, but it turns out I don't have to know because all gas stations are full service- just like in New Jersey. CJ took me to a gas station, and we filled the car up.  He then downloaded a navigation app on my phone- but there was no way to make it work in English.  So we set that up on the dashboard, and he pointed me in the right direction and I was off. It was around a 45 minute drive on a highway with a few notifications from the phone that worried me because I had no idea what they meant. I just kept looking for signs that said Pangyo, the name of a neighborhood near were we live, and eventually I turned the navigation app off.


Now that we have a car we made a trip to Costco and spent a lot of money.  I was hungry, which is a bad way to go grocery shopping, and big blocks of cheddar cheese looked too good to pass up.

Yesterday I drove all three kids to the zoo, in part to see if I could find my way there, and to give Irish some time on her own.

The tram from the parking lot to the zoo entrance- it went fast enough to be fun, and maybe not as safe as it could be.

The kids being good sports about a pretty lame exhibit of insects- this was literally just an aquarium full of crickets.

The picture indicates "don't feed the animals" which makes sense, but the text reads "just a moment please" which doesn't make any sense at all.

Walking back to the tram- the trees are just barely starting to change colors, it is fall here.



And now we are off school for a week.  Tomorrow we are going to an amusement park that includes an "American Adventure" area.  I expect to see cowboys, and maybe some SUVs?   Then Wednesday we are flying to Jeju island for three days.  Good times.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Scavenger Hunt

Last night Irish and I competed in the annual KIS scavenger hunt. It was incredibly fun and utterly exhausting.

Fourteen teams of 6-7 players each met up at a park last night at 5:15.  With this many participants every available babysitter in our neighborhood was occupied.  Irish had the foresight to book one of the principal's daughters early.  Our team was called "The Bald and the Beautiful"  because the men were all bald, the ladies- beautiful (in case you weren't able to figure that out on your own..)

The first three challenges were humbling.  We started with a set of anagrams, like the jumble in the newspaper.  I have always been bad at these and did not add much to the team's effort.  After getting just six of the seven words we were mercy ruled. 
I am on the right, contributing nothing


This meant we had to go early in the next challenge, which involved singing and dancing, two other things I am very bad at. We had to sing "Staying Alive" from Saturday Night Fever, and incorporate the word "bunghole" into the lyrics, while being judged on teamwork, singing and choreography. We came in second to last on this one, I was a little surprised we beat anyone (the team with the middle school and high school drama teachers won, which isn't much of a surprise) There are videos of our performance, I wish there were not and would like to find them so they can be erased. 

The third challenge involved exercise.  This is another thing I am bad at (my undersized t-shirt in the pictures reveal my love of eating over exercising.  The school's Biggest Loser competition starts next month, with a large cash prize- so I will be very motivated to make some changes, but not until October)  We all hiked up to the top of a big hill, through the woods just after the sun had set. At the top we all participated in an exercise session while two of our teammates were doing the challenge.  Pete, the elementary gym teacher, led the group exercise wearing a pair of indecently short short shorts, lots of pelvic thrusts and lunges. We finished that one still in last place.  And then we started to pick up speed. 

We walked to a mall near the park, there we quickly solved a puzzle- then went to an arcade where we finished a series of games. After that we took a group picture in one of the photo booths Irish wrote about yesterday.  Several teams were having problems with the editing but Irish was our expert. And then we got on the subway for our next destination. On our way we saw a team still waiting to get to the arcade, so we knew we weren't in last.


At the next stop we went to the roof of a 32 story building.  There was a drinking challenge, a beer for each member of the team- with a few team members doing more than their share picking up the slack for non drinkers. On our way down we saw another team waiting for the elevator, so we went for the stairs. I think the original plan was to go down a floor or two to catch the elevator before them, but we ended up running down all 32 floors, stopping at each floor to hit all the up and down buttons- an enormous amount of work for very limited return.
The view from the rooftop (source: Steve Katz facebook- I was a little freaked out by the heights, and didn't take a picture)

Back in the lobby, dizzy and exhausted, we were told to get on the red line.  This is the train to Gangnam, where Irish and I went out to dinner last night.  At the train station in my urgency not to miss a train I spent a minute trying to go in through an out turnstile, then once I got that figured out we were handed a jigsaw puzzle, probably 100 pieces, and as soon as the train arrived we got to work.

foreigners acting weird on the floor of the subway.

There were two other teams working near us, so at least we were not alone in our strange behavior sitting on the floor talking more louder than is normally expecting on Seoul subways. A couple of train officials stopped and watched us, but they seemed more amused than angry. With the puzzle finished a few stops from the end we flipped it over and found a treasure map.

At each challenge up to this point we had been giving a picture that we were keeping on a keychain, on the back of each picture was a shape, the map showed paces to each shape.  We found out later that this is where some teams came off the rails but we got it figured out and expected to be on our way to the finish...except it was not finished yet.

When we reached the X we were given a new checklist of things to do, an entire scavenger hunt in it's own right.

There was a list of easier challenges, we had to complete eight of them.  Then we had to complete four items from a more difficult list, and finally every team had to record themselves singing an entire song from the eighties at a Noraebang (Karaoke). Having made it this far we were ready to do whatever it took.  This included, but was not limited to the following:

  • Recording ourselves doing the Gangnam Style dance with at least two Korean people
  • Following a group of foreigners who were not part of the game, and narrating their activities in the voice of Steve Irwin (We had a New Zealander on our team so he provided the approximately Australian sounding accent)
  •  Building a human pyramid and convincing a Korean stranger to join us on top of the pyramid.
  • Take a picture inside a DVDbang (When I lived in Taiwan they had MTVs- places you could rent movies and watch them in private rooms, I remember them being decent places nice leather sofa's, big screens good sound.  DVDbangs are similar, but much much seedier, basically rooms for couples to hook up in- the one we found had a bed in the room- I was glad to be taking the picture that time)
DVDbang room.  It was actually pitch dark when they went in, the flash on my camera lit it up


Human pyramid- the guy in the middle top was the stranger- he said it was his birthday, he was very happy to help out.

video
A three second clip of us dancing like fools in a public setting- anything longer would be too embarrassing


Finally- after singing "Sunday Bloody Sunday" at a Karaoke place we had to find a statue where we would turn in all our pictures and videos.  At least one team got hopelessly lost looking for this statue- but again our Friday night trip to Gangnam helped out, we had seen the statue the night before- so we knew where it was and that we were close.  All of our stuff checked out, and then... we still were not done! One last clue, a puzzle that gave us the name of a bar, a short walk looking up to the upper floors of the nearby buildings got us there, and after more than five and a half hours, we had finished, in 4th place!

After congratulating the teams ahead of us and saying hi to some friends we had to go home.

We took the same train back.  Found a burger place that was closed but willing to sell us take out.  So we happily ate cheeseburgers outside on a pleasant night, completely worn out but very happy.

Irish eating a cheeseburger late at night.

Gangnam!

Tonight we got a night away and went for dinner with friends in Gangnam! Amy came over to babysit tonight-we're trying a babysitting swap for a while and I babysat for them last week, so we were free for the evening!
We took the Shin Bundong line (the one with the lights in the tunnel). We got on the best train! The promotional train for G Dragon's new album! As you probably know already, G Dragon is from Big
Bang but he is releasing a solo album.This train was special though-we've taken the red line 3 times since taking this picture and we haven't seen pictures of G Dragon since.... We got lucky this time.


The only thing missing was the actual music-if they're going to go this far, shouldn't they play the new album too? Maybe I'll write a letter to the transit authority.

Anyway, it was a direct trip from end to end on the red line and the last stop is in Gangnam. By now, you've heard a lot about Gangnam and seen Psy everywhere. Well, here are some pictures of the real-life Gangnam.

Katie and Bonny
Being in Gangnam felt like being in the city ...or maybe it made Suji (where we live) feel really suburban? Either way it was bright and busy!
We walked for a couple blocks in search of a restaurant and we found one that was not too busy. We wanted to sit on the patio, but they had a special place for us. We couldn't tell if they were hiding us or treating us like VIPs, but we got a room to ourselves.
So fancy-the art at our table was a picture of a naked lady.
 I guess that answers the question-this is definitely the VIP room.


The menu was in Korean, but had English
titles with a *few* pictures. Like this one of "steak" for $28. 
I've been missing Mexican food. I insisted we order the "cheese nacho". This is what we got:
Don't they look good? The chips, covered in maranara sauce and cheese with the sour cream, cheese whiz and maranara dip. Eh, close enough for now.
I ordered the Pizziola pasta. Mmmmm pizza pasta. 
After dinner we went out looking for dessert. As we were walking we saw this candy store. We went in for a minute and noticed a lot of people in the back at some photo booths.

We had to try it. It took some figuring out and some help from the employee who showed us that we started in the wrong booth, but we had great success.This first video is us figuring out and using the photo booth. It kind of leaves out the exciting picture taking part, but I didn't want my phone in every picture.What we're doing here, because I'm not sure you can get this from watching the video, is choosing what kind of background we want in our pictures. We chose one where we're sticking out of back pockets of jeans, one with a butterfly net, one with a bear hugging us and (accidentally) one that says "diet" and has measuring tape going around us.You can see us going through the menu pages and when we choose something it goes to the right side of the screen.


This next video is the editing part. This is the part where you make the pictures really special.


Just wait until the Farley Christmas cards come out!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fall is here!


Fall is here and it's so nice! The weather (typhoons here and there aside) is perfect. I've been working out with some coworkers after school and now that it's cooler we took the workout outside.

Look at Katie's form!



When I got home, we took the kids to the courtyard to ride their new bikes. Let me give you some background on these bikes. Most kid bikes start at $90 and go up from there. When I found these used bikes at the Good Morning Hill market one Thursday, I snatched them up-three bikes for $80.
You know how in baseball, when players are warming up they swing with a weighted bat? Well my kids are learning to ride bikes on a weighted bat, if you know what I mean. Look at these monster bikes.
Grace is getting the hang of it. 

Ruby was riding so fast tonight I could barely take this picture

August riding his bike



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sewing club...food...Hordes...

Tuesday night was the first night of sewing club! Should I have put an age limit? Yes. Should I have capped the number at 8 kids. Yes. Did I do these things? No. So I have 13 students from 1st through 5th grade and 4 sewing machines. I'm have a real Tim Gunn "make it work" moment here. I survived the first week, and things actually went well. I had them cutting out their patterns.



 Then they chose which fabric they wanted for their a) skirt or b) messenger bag. They were able to select a few fabrics by putting a sticky note with their name on it and placing it on the fabric they want. All those sticky notes gave me a few heart palpitations because I was worried that I wouldn't have enough fabric but I think we're going to be fine.

Oh and sewing club put me in a right-time-right-place situation. Our Korean business staff works until 5:00 every day (I should say they work until at least 5:00) and this night they were having a little birthday party for our school nurse, Raina. Yeah! A party!
I ate one of these corn dogs that were made by cooking club. (very easy to make: take some bread, cut off the crust, roll it around a hot dog, dip it in egg, dip that in panko bread crumbs then bake it!)
 I did NOT eat this. Blood sausage. Get a good, close look at this. There's pig lung in there. Now don't get me wrong, I'm pretty sure pig lung is very likely in hot dogs, but it's just so visible here. And, really, the name blood sausage...

Jeff and Don! (They loved the blood sausage, by the way)

The principal, examining the blood sausage

Bruce, eating blood sausage. He loves it. And look in the backgound-the birthday girl, Raina

This is a spicy rice thing. The things in there
that look like hot dogs are made of rice.
 I can't remember the name. Very good. Very spicy.

yum! Cake from Paris Baguette! The red things on
 the side are chopped up dried strawberries. 



As if that wasn't enough food, we stopped on the way home for takeout because I still have to feed a horde* of children at my house. We went to Pho Bay in between Sunae and Miegum. The take out was OK. Looks like a nice place to eat.

 While we were waiting for take out, we got Starbucks. Look how fancy this one is (below). I got a salty-sweet hot chocolate, which I thought was something I could blog about being exclusive to Asia. But it's not. I looked it up, you can get it anywhere. I highly recommend it.

*

horde

 [hawrd, hohrd] noun, a group of hamsters. Example: Addie, the principal's daughter, got a "baby" hamster one week ago for her birthday. Weren't her parents surprised when the hamster had a horde of baby hamsters.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happy Quilt: My favorite store in Korea

All teachers at my campus host an after school club. Naturally, I am sponsoring the Sewing Club. As you know, I didn't totally love Dongdemun (although I found out that the fabric I probably wanted was on the 5th floor, while I only made it to the 4th floor on the day I went) (UPDATE 8/30/14: Happy Quilt does have a stall at Dongdamun! It's in the A building on the 5th floor stall A5215).
UPDATE SEPT 2014:


With sewing club quickly approaching (it starts on Tuesday), I reached out to facebook to see who knew what about where to go. Lucky for me, it seems that in the KIS community there's always someone who knows the answer.

Leanne, who's daughter is in Jim's class, knew of a store an hour south of us that had the type of cotton fabric I was looking for. She arranged for us to go with the director of KIS' wife, Paula and another teacher, Erin, to go on Saturday.
When Saturday rolled around, I left the apartment a little early so I could get non-instant coffee, so I went to Paris Baguette. These little cafes are EVERYWHERE around here.
The pastry on the left says "chocolate" on the package. The one on the right does not. So I presume that if it doesn't explicitly say chocolate, then it is red bean. I bought the one on the left and it was delicious.

I really like how they interpret how the French dress. All the employees wear barets, but the guy in the picture below takes it one step further and was dressed like a mime. I'm not sure if it was on purpose or not.


On our way to Happy Quilt we got stuck in horrible traffic. We got a little lost. But finally, through the rice fiends, there was HAPPY QUILT. The best fabric store in South Korea. (If you have stumbled upon my blog looking for directions to Happy Quilt, I would like to direct you here to another blog with outstanding directions). This store was what my friends at Fancy Tiger in Denver promised me that I would find in South Korea: really cheap, beautiful fabric. And that's what I found. I saw fabrics that I've purchased from both JoAnn's an Fancy Tiger. ALL fabrics were $3 per yard unless they were higher-end, designer fabric, then they were $4 per yard.

I recognize this from home...


 And they have this hideous cat fabric

Dr. Seuss section

wow

They come back and cut it for you (no cutting counter- just measure it with tape measure, cut and rip)






I bought this fabric in lavender last year for a dress I made for Ruby. 

Notions

CSU fabric?! But NO CU fabric?!
I went totally crazy. I bought enough supplies for sewing club (for $104) and I bought a stash for myself-tons of fabric for only $150. This store was exactly what I've been looking for. And now that I have my stash of fabric, I can start sewing again.
My top priority was lunch boxes for the kids. Those bento boxes were driving me crazy. So many parts and pieces to keep track of. So I made each kid a lunch bag with their first initial on it. It's kind of hard to see because there's a lot going on. But they're very cute and appear to be very functional (we'll see tomorrow when they go to school)

This afternoon, Amy and I went to emart. Isn't emart always an experience? I mean, how many times have I blogged about emart? Here are a few gems to share:
This was on a pencil case

You can coordinate WITH your bathroom. This is a paisley green toilet seat, matching cup and soap dispenser and, look up at the very top, shower shoes in green paisley too!
 I showed the Moon Walk sauna experience to Amy! Look at the progression of these pictures. She just gets loaded up with relaxing things-I don't even know what to call them.
Put this around your waist

This lady gets it


then you put this on your neck on top of that other thing on top of your shoulders

Hot? 
 After we had our relaxing time with the saunas. We headed down stairs for some groceries. And we saw this bunny, cute but children around him were scared and crying.
mmm cheeze
Sewing, emart, Wicked, what a great weekend!