Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dongdaemun, the happiest place on Earth

When we got back to Korea after our summer in the USA, I ran into Katie Fleetwood at the bank. We decided we needed to go to the Dongdaemun fabric market.

Here we are at the bank
Usually I drive to Dongdaemun and it takes forever because of the terrible traffic, there are busses that can get there much faster because of the bus lane, but I usually get a lot of things and it's tough taking it all back on the bus. Fortunately, we found out that if enough people are interested the social committee at school can get us a school bus! For free! So for my own selfish reasons, I put together a trip to Dongdaemun. Actually a lot of people went and everyone I talked to had a great time. This just confirms that being selfish is a good life choice for me.

There are two parts to Dongdaemun: the shopping part and the fabric market. Maybe there's more, but this is basically why most people go to this part of Seoul. I don't like the shopping part because none of the clothes fit me except the socks and there are only so many Obama socks one person can own.

And who needs to go to the shopping part when you can spend all day in the fabric market?!
Ahhh, so much to see
Even disco balls? Dongdaemun! You're so amazing!
I made a ring out of a little charm from here.
Katie and Kathryn looking around

 I had lots of little projects I wanted to try and of course grabbed some unexpected fabric too, just because I liked it so much.

First project: decorating with embroidery hoops. This one is so easy and turned out so great. First we found these embroidery hoops (and then found them again and again on several other floors).

Then I found some fabric I liked. When I got home, I just put the fabric in the hoop, trimmed it and hung it up.
 Here's the before of the desk area:
Ta-da! Here's the after!

 Also note that we got that desk out of the trash yesterday.

Next project: recover the kitchen chairs. There's nothing wrong with these chairs, but if they can be prettier, then why not? I was looking for laminate fabric which is basically fabric that's coated in plastic. This makes it way easier to clean. I tried pantomiming it to this guy who didn't speak English. How should once act out "laminate"? He picked up his carrot phone (every stall seems to have one and it really is shaped like a carrot) and called an interpreter. After getting a description from the interpreter, he showed me some laminate fabrics he had and I didn't like them. Then he got out the book. This is something I didn't know my first time visiting Dongdaemun. Most stalls have books of a huge variety of samples, you can choose one from the book, they call a guy and he shows up from who-knows-where about 10 minutes later with the amount you want. It's magical! The book had probably 100 different kinds of laminate fabrics, I chose a lovely floral print. He picked up the carrot phone again and my one yard was brought to me in about 10 minutes (in case you're wondering this guy is in B1...somewhere).
"Please help, I can't tell what this lady is doing"
Chair before:

Chair after!

I grabbed a fabric with a geometric print at Happy Quilt before leaving with no real plan for it (For those of you who googled "Happy Quilt" and ended up here, Happy Quilt is stall A5215). Then I remembered I was going to make a tray for our squishy ottoman/coffee table. I saw on the internet that you can make a tray out of a picture frame by adding door pulls. There seem to be no door pulls in Korea (ok, they're probably somewhere but they weren't at Dongdaemun and they weren't at HomePlus) but the tray turned out great anyway. 

I took this frame with our adorable children in it, threw away the picture (just kidding!) and put fabric in it.

Ta-da! Now I can put my coffee down on the ottoman/coffee table!

Each time I go to the fabric market, I go to Happy Quilt first. After that, I wander around in the huge maze, there is no chance of finding a stall again and I get turned around so easily. Each time I go, I forget that there's also fabric in the basement. It was there that I found the most. beautiful. fabric. It's almost fall (can't wait) so I got this to cover the throw pillows on the couch so the apartment is ready for fall too.

So pretty!
Ready. Bring on the cooler temperatures
After we got what we needed, we headed back outside.
motorbikes ready to deliver...things
 We got pineapple on a stick for $1. It was so, so delicious that I ate two.

And then it was time to go. Check out our sweet KIS bus:

 Katie and I should run into each other at the bank and plan trips like this more often.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Clothing Swap II

Last year we started the year with a clothing swap and it was such a success that we brought it back this year.

Before I go further, I was looking at these pictures from the party today marvelling at how far we've come with this apartment. I found these pictures from when we first moved in. Look how empty the space is compared to how it is now:

Anyway, we had the swap. The idea is that when you arrive in Korea you have so little-especially toys-and after you've been here a while you acquire lots and lots of stuff. And just like at home, the kids grow out of things and get bored with their toys and you just need to pass it along. Who better to pass it along to than someone new who actually needs stuff?

The party went great. There were tons of toys and they nearly all got taken by new people.

 Lots of socialising (meeting my be-more-social goal already. Now if I could just do a pull up, all my goals would be complete!)

On to the food. Last year I was amazed that I knew how to throw a party after being so lost in the grocery when we first arrived. This year we had a yogurt bar and I made coffee cake in the crocpot!

Overall, the swap was a success. The funny thing is I didn't swap anything-I just hosted. But that's what I needed from it. Not the stuff-the time with people.
Oh, and just like last year, the dads were in charge of the kids. Since it was raining they took them to the Kid's Pang Pang!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Back in Seoul for year 3

We've been back for a few weeks now. We have been busy getting unpacked, getting over jetlag and starting our 3rd year teaching/2nd grade/JK.

This is what jetlag looks like
 Here are the kids on the first day of school. It's going to be a very exciting year with the girls in 2nd grade (and starting language classes-Ruby will be taking Chinese and Grace will be taking Spanish) and August will be starting JK (class for 4 year olds).

We have just finished the first week of school and everyone is very happy. After the first day we went out for chicken dinner. A lot of places were closed this week for "summer break", so we tried a new place. It was OK. I did like sitting out on the sidewalk to eat. It hasn't been as unbearably hot this summer as it was the past 2 years.

It's my goal this year to be more social. I think the first year we were always out and about with other new families and last year we just settled in to regular life. We'd go to work and come home, watch tv, read, whatever. This year I want to spend more time with people-either out doing things or just hanging out at home.

Yesterday we went to a birthday party in Seoul Forest. This was our first time visiting Seoul Forest. It's pretty amazing. It's huge and beautiful and free. We ran into the Cabaluna's at the subway so we got to spend time with them on the way there and back! Yay!
Grace, Mia, Ruby, Jesse, August
Here we are in Seoul Forest, isn't it nice?

 OMG! I have it on very good authority that G Dragon lives in one of those buildings that over looks Seoul Forest.

Seoul Forest has this fun water fountain that runs for about twenty minutes every hour.

The park is huge, we only saw about 1/10 of it. There are lots of statues and art displayed around.

It seems that many people come for the day and set up tents (very close together) to hang out in or rest in after they've ridden around on rental bikes or hiked around or played in the fountain.

The best part of the birthday party for Jim was definitely the bubble party favors.

 After the party we all got back on the subway to go home. Look at me, totally partied out.