Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lucky No. 7

I was just looking through my calendar, and noted the beginning of my countdown back to the States. As of Feb 1, I have 7 weeks. That is, 7 weeks until I can stop fudging on my resume that I'm an "advanced" Korean speaker, 7 weeks of blissful worry-free living, and 7 weeks of all-you-can-eat kimchee. My aunt made some bomb kimchee.

On the flip side, here's what I'm looking forward to most going back to the US:
1. Apple cinnamon oatmeal: I've searched high and low for it, and nothing. Really, Korea? A Bennigan's but no instant oatmeal?? And in other related news, muesli is $15-$20/bag. WTF!
2. Chipotle burritos and/or Potbelly sandwiches: Dying for each.

     Barbacoa beef with black beans, red tomatillo salsa, pico de gallo,
     lettuce, corn, cheese in a burrito bol + chips and guac + a Diet Coke

     Turkey on wheat with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, extra hot peppers
     + that irresistible chocolate chip oatmeal cookie + a cup of water
     (hey, they give it to you in a legit cup, not serve yourself over there
     w/ a dixie cup and pitcher on top of the trash can)

     BTW: Chipotle is no longer a part of McDonald's as of 2006! Yay I
     can hold my head up high as I shove a burrito in my face.

3. Cooking again! Unfortunately this requires a major schleppage of my belongings from 7 places in 5 cities (I don't know what I was on when I thought this was a good idea, but it must have been good) to SF. But once I get my beloved kitchen gear back in one place, I'm gonna COOK.
4. Alone. Time. I am very much the product of my parents. I can generally talk to whomever and strike up a conversation (Mama). But when I don't want to be around people, I hibernate (Pops).
5. Seeing people I haven't seen in awhile: 9 months is a long time.
6. Life on the West Coast! Hopefully I can get a job and stick around for a little while. Otherwise, my cousins want me back in Korea tout suite.

Should any of the above interest you (sans #4, obvi) and you would like to spend time with yours truly, 7 weeks :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Stolen Goods

Whomever Jeffrey dates in a few years is going to be very lucky--this kid knows how to show someone a good time. On Saturday, we spent the afternoon together wandering around Seoul. His assignment was to be a tour guide and show his Auntie Nora some of Seoul's highlights. But before he could even show me his map of where we'd be going that day, I dragged the poor kid off the bus for a quick fat-kid-detour to the Doughnut Plant, one of my favorites places in NY. This one in Myung-dong was tasty, but not as good as the original.

Chocolate Cassis + Americano

Unfortunately that was the last picture I was able to take before my camera died out. These next few links are all stolen.

First we passed the tolling of the Bosingak Bell in Jongno-gu. Normally they only do it for New Years, so I don't really know why they were ringing it. I think my tour guide knows, but he was only supposed to speak to me in English, so about 87% of the information was lost in translation. Oh well. After that we walked to Insa-dong, where we climbed the stairs of Ssamji-gil: multiple levels of trinket-dom, antiques, and art. You know I'm a sucker for such things. Then as we were walking around, a group of street performers in a drum circle were dancing and playing the janggu (drum). When we were little, my sisters and I did buchaechoom (fan dance), and the scary-looking drag-queen man who taught us played one, so this was a mildly disturbing flashback.


Then we passed pojangmachas (street food carts) selling goon bam (roasted chestnuts) and making Kkuhl Tarae (honey skein):


For lunch we went to a restaurant, Koong, famous for their Choraengi Ddukgook with Gaesong (North Korean)-style dumplings. It. Was. So. Good. So good, in fact, that Jeffrey stuffed himself so much at lunch that he got sick before dinner, had to puke, and apparently is still sick the morning after. I admire him for his valiant eating.

After a few art galleries (a sucker for these things as well), we hopped in a cab to the National Folk Museum of Korea, where we strolled through an exhibit of beautiful, flowing hanbok (traditional gowns), and then saw some pansori (traditional folk singing) performances.


The pansori was such a flashback moment for me. My grandmother raised me since I was born, and all throughout my life I remember when she was sad, happy, bored--whenever--she would start singing and dancing pansori. I especially remember times where she would cry about longing to go back to Korea and sing a truly mournful song through tears. But she stayed to take care of me and my sisters, even when we mistreated and took her for granted. When I heard the performance I started to tear because I had completely forgotten about that part of her. I always remember my grandmother's cooking and have always regretted not being able to learn from her. But this was buried somewhere and I hadn't thought about it since she passed away twelve years ago. When she passed away, she was in Korea and I didn't have a chance to say goodbye. Not long after she died though, I had a dream about her and we talked about what is going to happen to me now that she's gone. She very calmly said that she and my grandfather are watching over me, and that I'll be fine. Then we said goodbye and she said it's going to be a long time before I see her again.

I'm enjoying being in Korea more than I thought I would. There are parts of my identity that I'm rediscovering and discovering for the first time. I'm so glad I made this decision to come here and take it all in.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Not your granny's panties

It makes me very uncomfortable when the maid hands me my folded underwear. At least the laundry people in Manila hid my thongs and whatnots in between layers of shirts and bed sheets. It was our little "I know your panties are in there, but I'm going to spare you some dignity" secret.

Yes, the maid does my laundry. The nanny (not mine, would be nice though) prepares my lunch. For the next three months, I'll live with my cousin and her family in their posh condo in the center of Seoul. She's an investment banker, he works in securities (I still don't even know what that means), and together they pity me for my career path in the non-profit world.

This is quite a nice change from the past five months in Manila. Don't get me wrong, we lived fairly comfortably in Manila, too. But I went from makes-you-feel-dirty humidity and 87 degrees to the largest snowstorm in Seoul since 1937! And last week we went on holiday (yes, trying to sound pompous) to Yong Pyong, a ski resort 2 hours north of the city. From a beach resort to a ski resort within two weeks... This isn't me bragging, it's me trying to savor every last ounce of easy living. I am very aware that I'll be living off of saltines and gum when I move to SF.

Anyway, allow me to introduce Diana, Julie, and Meena's understudies.

Jeffrey, 12
Erin, 8
Casey, 7
Harin, 15 months

These little munchkins keep me busy, especially the littlest one, who, every chance she gets, runs towards my laptop to push buttons and cause mayhem.

My goals for the next three months:
1. Stop getting sick hanging out with these munchkins
2. Learn Korean
3. Find some good Ghanel and Praba bags
4. Learn how to cook Korean food
5. Not freeze to death from my lack of winter clothes