Sunday, December 15, 2013

Nearly Christmas: Week in Review

This past week has been filled with parties and cookie eating. Lots of cookie eating. Mostly by me.

First was the Seoul Campus white elephant party. Last year, the biggest hit was the framed picture of our principal. Look what I got this year-two framed pictures of the principal.

I wasn't the only lucky one. You see, last year, our PE teacher, Jared got the picture of the boss. Before Jared moved back to the U.S., he secretly passed this on to me to make sure it got back to the white elephant party. Sooo, Holly also got a framed picture of Mr. Rich! How lucky. I can't wait until every present opened at the party is a framed picture of Patrick Rich.

Later in the week was August's winter concert. August and I attend a weekly mommy and me-type music class at school. I knew he knew all the songs, we sing them at home and in the car all the time, so I was excited to see him sing. I was so excited that I tweeted out this picture before the show started:

The first thing I noticed, however, is that when the curtain opened, August stood there with an untucked shirt. At first, I thought that was surprising. Soon, though I realized the untucked shirt was the least distracting part of August's performance.

Here he is after the show. The clip above is a minute and a half sample of the twenty minutes he was on the stage. But look how happy he is about the performance:

I asked him how he thought he did and he said "good!" I left it at that.

That night, as the snow fell, I met up with some friends for a cookie exchange. The group consisted of 2 Australian women who had never been to a cookie exchange and 3 other American woman (2 who are from Denver!). The cookies were so good. Especially the Anzac biscuits. And the peanut butter blossoms. And, ok, they were all good.

Finally, today was the family party for KIS staff kids. Just like last year, Santa came and gave out gifts to the kids. August was so excited that he couldn't stop running up to Santa and talking directly to him (while the rest of the children sat quietly). He was almost literally bursting with excitement.
photo by Kristy Fitzgerald

Santa started by reading a story to the children. before you watch this, you should know that August is just talking crazy talk, of course there's magic in Korea.

                                 photo by Kristy Fitzgerald
Here's Ruby with Santa
August with Santa

Lego set!
Grace with Santa
                                   photo by Kristy Fitzgerald

The party was great. We ate lots of treats and were surrounded by good friends. Just another week until vacation!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Irish visits Japan

I got to go to Japan over Thanksgiving! Japan is just a 2 hour flight from Seoul and we found tickets (after a lot of work) for about $200. So hey, in Denver you might go to Las Vegas but in Seoul, you go to Japan. We're jet setters now. And by "we" I mean me and some of my friends, not me and Jim (someone had to stay home with the kids and it wasn't going to be me).
L-R Anna, Meredith Jeff, Katie and my eye
 proof that we're jet setters. 

We bought a rail pass and took the train from the airport to Kyoto.

When we arrived in Kyoto, we walked a short distance to our very nice accommodations (a loft apartment) and headed out to dinner. We walked around for a bit and finally stumbled upon a very small ramen restaurant. The food was amazing.
Japanese soda

After dinner, we decided to find karaoke. What's a visit to Japan without karaoke? We walked around and did some shopping.
This is so smart, they serve the ice cream
sundae with an apple pie IN it.

Tea flavored Kit Kats. I'd rather have Kit Kat flavored tea.

There are vending machines with both
hot and cold drinks. This is a can of hot
corn soup for about $1
Then we saw these guys on the corner advertising karaoke. We talked to this guy and he assured us that this karaoke was $3 per person, so we crossed the street with him and went up to the karaoke place. The cashier told us that rather than $3 per person, it was $25 per person. We were walking away and she said, "OK, $8 per person". We went with that. We got to our room and it took a while to find songs in English, and even figure out how to program anything at all. We ordered fries and a spectacular dessert (see below) and got down to business.
"$3, I swear"
The switch part of the old bait and switch
This gives me an idea for all desserts:
Why not stick a piece of cake on everything?
Katie rapping part of "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
Jeff and Meredith singing John Denver

When I showed the pictures to Grace she asked me who won at Karaoke. I think it's safe to say we were all winners that night.

After a great night's sleep, we grabbed breakfast at 7-11 and took the train to the Torii Gates. The weather was perfect and the Torri Gates were beautiful. Here are some pictures.

paper cranes near the entrance of the Torii Gates

After hiking around for about two hours, we got on the train and went to the bamboo forest.

This artist sells his paintings of the bamboo forest to tourists like me

We got lunch at a small cafe near the bamboo forest, then got on the train for Osaka. When we were arranging accommodations before we left Korea, we booked the loft for the first night and had trouble finding anything that was really affordable online, so we decided we'd find a capsule hotel to stay in when we got to Osaka.
Osaka JR train station
When we arrived at the station, we asked at the information desk about capsule hotels. The woman showed us on the map where there was a capsule hotel and tourist shopping nearby. This is when the trip hit a few bumps. We walked through the busy streets and found the capsule hotel easily enough, but we were immediately shooed out because it was for "men only!"

We kept walking and came to an actual hotel. It was totally out of our price range, but they gave us their wifi password and let us use their lobby. We called 7 capsule hotels while Jeff went out to see what there was nearby. Nothing. What's the deal Osaka? Why so popular?
Us looking for a place to stay.
We came up with a plan: the love motel. A love motel is, as you probably already guessed, a hotel that rents by the hour or hours. In this area, we had seen some that had an option of staying from 9:30pm to 11am. This was all we needed-a place to sleep for the night. We decided to hang out and get dinner, then go to a love motel at 9:30. We found a bar-ish restaurant. The menu was all in Japanese but had pictures. I thought I ordered a hummus type appetizer, but when the waitress brought it out she said in English, "liver pate". I ate it and I liked it.

Here's me eating pate and liking it
After dinner, we went out to find a love motel. Guess what? This is a very difficult task when you look like a group of backpackers. We were turned away at hotel after hotel. One told us they were for Japanese people only because their "staff doesn't speak English".

Ho! Ho! Ho! The Christmas themed love
motel turned us away too. :(
We finally found one that would take us. We got two rooms. It was pretty nice. It was fully stocked with Shiseido products, which I am a big fan of.
I thought it was interesting that this type of establishment had a guest book. I don't know what these say, but it would seem that everyone who has stayed there really had an adorable time.

Our night in the love motel was just fine. In the morning we grabbed a quick breakfast (including a chocolate croissant!) at the train station and rode the train to the airport.
When I returned to Korea, the house was clean and the children and Jim were so glad to see me and the assortment of Japanese snacks I brought back for them.