Me trying to eat noodles, originally uploaded by bertine.

It is sideways but it cracks me up. Only 200 more pictures to go through!

Um... yeah

Jun. 4th, 2008 12:51 pm
I have jetlag. Dammit, I was hoping to skip it.
Friday was sort of a blah day. I had cramps and was so drained from the DMZ and the late night talking to people that I moved at a really slow pace. We had to move rooms that day so we did that first thing, then we went for a walk around jong-myo. I kept whining that I was hot and tired so we didn't spend much time there. Then we decided to go to Namdae-Mun Market, which was a lot of fun and we got some fun shirts with bad English on them. After the market we got back to the guesthouse and chatted with people, which was fun in itself.

Saturday morning I got up around 9 and was hanging out when this guy asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. I decided I had a couple hours to kill so I said sure. I got to see the expensive house and a nice little park. Then we went to lunch and debated American lifestyle. After the walk I ironed my dress and got ready while Serinia disappeared. We had to leave at 2:30 to be on time and she showed up at that time having gotten her hair done. She quickly got ready and then we were off to the Gimpo (Kimpo) airport where the wedding was.

We showed up right before the ceremony started having asked many people if we were going the right way to get to the wedding hall. I had no idea what was going on in the ceremony but it was weird that everyone talked through the whole thing. After the ceremony there were lots of pictures to be taken, one of which was full of the friends of the bride and groom. After that we were supposed to go to the traditional ceremony but were rather ushered to the banquet hall instead. The food was good and traditional. We sat with Sun's little sister and her cousin on one side and on the other side was a couple of Sun's friends here in Korea.

After the meal we were wandering around talking to people when two guys, one in perfect English, told us we should go with them which made both Serinia and I laugh. Then Jonghyeon's father told us it was OK, that all the friends would go to the same place. We with them and soon were joined by a couple other friends of Jonghyeon. People were assigned cars and we were off to a bar about a mile away. Most of the people at this event were school friends of Jonghyeon. There were only two other women there and they were both in the physics department. There were lots of people to talk to, most of whom spoke English.

Through the night I talked about history a lot, which was a nice change. First I talked to the guy that lived in Minnesota and was trying to decide where to go for his post-doc work. I tried to convince him that Minnesota was the place to go but that is because I thought he was cute. He said he liked Minnesota so maybe I convinced him. Ha! Then I talked to this guy that told me to call him D.J. He wasn't in physics, he did something like a pre-law degree and ended up in the Air Force. He really liked hearing about Europe, he loved classical music and wanted to know if I had been to a concert in Europe anywhere. This whole conversation took place over another guy that was sitting between us. A few times I tried to change spots with him but he didn't want to. Serinia pointed out later he had a good view of my cleavage the whole time.

Then there was the guy that was in sales in Hong Kong. He was very cute and was telling me about his problem finding a good Korean girl because he wasn't in Korea often. Actually most of the guys there were single and Serinia and I kept making fun of them because they would huddle up together and completely ignore the women there. The last guy I chatted with was the guy with the English accent. This wasn't an upper crust accent, it was more of a cockney accent, which was so very funny. This guy was a huge flirt and kept hitting on me which was OK but made it so I couldn't talk to the guy I had a crush on. Serinia talked to a different set of people and has funny stories too.

Soon it was almost midnight and that is when the subway closes here. The guy with the English accent lived near the guesthouse we were staying at so Sun and Jonghyeon decided that he would make sure we got home safe in a taxi. I was sad because I wanted to take the train home with my crush, who had oddly enough taken the same train with us on the way to the wedding but didn't say anything despite recognizing the invitation. I decided to be bold and I gave him my email address in case he did come to Minnesota. Then we were put into a taxi and driven to the guesthouse, though because of the protests going on many roads were closed. Then we went to bed.

I didn't wake up until noon on Sunday (the new room has a tiny window that doesn't let any light in) and I was pretty slow moving. It was really hot and I was so tired from talking so much the night before. Around 2 pm we went to Gyeongbok-gung and the National Folklore museum and then we sort of wondered around. We then went to dinner with this girl from the guesthouse, Rachel, that is in Korea until August doing an internship. For some reason everything was closed (I guess because it was Sunday) so it took a while to find a place that was open but once we did it was good. Then we sat and talked until late and went to bed.

This morning I got up at 8 and we were out of the building by 9. We took the subway to Dongducheon where Camp Casey is. It is about an hour from where we are staying. I figured this would be an all day outing but the whole area is much different than Serinia remembered. The US army has reduced their numbers in Korea and so we saw a lot of empty building. I did get to see where Serinia lived and where she worked (both empty) along with the curb she hit and blew out her tires. We were trying to find her favorite restaurant but it started pouring out and when we found it the restaurant was closed. So back to Seoul we went.

Now we are just sort of waiting to go home. We are mostly packed and all the postcards are mailed (sorry some are really lame). Tonight we are going to Seoul Tower and tomorrow morning we have to be out of here by 7am to get to the airport in time. It is funny, the flight from Japan to San Francisco leaves 6/3 at 4:45 pm and arrives 6/3 at 9:45 pm. I guess we gain time there. We have a 10 hour layover in San Francisco and I was thinking we could go to Fisherman's Wharf or something. However, right now I just want to go home. I miss my cats, my bed and work. I want a nice long bath and a fork. I feel like I have been gone forever, even though it has been less than two weeks.
A funny picture of me:


Serinia got her hair done:


Me and my Korean crush:


Me and this guy that was there that talked in a British accent and cracked me up a lot. The tube on the right is the tube the beer came in:


The people that were left at the end of the night, minus Serinia who took the picture:


The guys that were there along with a couple woman were mostly Jonghyeon's college friends so almost everyone there had studied physics. Also most of them hadn't seen him in years so it was really fun to see them connect again.

The wedding itself was weird and hard to take pictures of. I'll have to write up about that later.

Thursday

May. 30th, 2008 09:35 am
We went to the DMZ, here we are in front of the North Korea building in Panmunjeom, the border is that line in the gravel/rock behind us.



There were lots of cameras there:



A picture of the border, at least inside the building (it is the speakers). In this building you can cross over the DML to stand in North Korea:



(I have a lot more but there are too many to go through here)

We went to dinner with Sun, Jonghyeon and his parents were a video was made of me not being able to get noodles out the bowl very well with chopsticks but the orinetation is the wrong way so you will have to wait for that.

Then we walked back to the guesthouse because it wasn't so humid anymore, saw a lot of police officers in riot gear because there was a protest against the FTA scheduled for tonight, saw that the US Embassy was surrounded by buses to protect it and stayed up to watch the protestors walk down the main road from the roof of the place we are staying.

Today we are going to another palace, another market and a church. Tomorrow is the wedding, Sunday we will do something and Monday we go to where Serinia was stationed. Then home. I am sort of looking forward to going home, I miss my kitties.
Tuesday we got up pretty early and hung out at the guesthouse chatting until our tour at the Changdeok-gung (our guest house is across the street from it, I love the location of this place and it is really cheap, like $35 a day for the two of us). The tour was awesome, this palace is really impressive and has a section called "Biwon" which is a secret garden. The weird part of the architecure here is that it looks so unreal because it is so different from what I am used to looking at in old buildings. Also the painting is really brightly colored.

After the tour of the palace we went to the shopping street Insa-dong and got some lunch. I don't remember what it is that I got but it was some dish served in a stone bowl with an egg on top that you mix all up before you eat. Between that, the dumplings and all the side dishes that come with every Korean meal, I was full again. After lunch Serinia and I walked to see the Jogye-sa, which is a big modern Buddist temple. It is the headquarters for a sect of Buddism. It is sort of funny to see because it is in the middle of this modern area and again is so brightly colored.

After stopping at some stores to look at Buddist trinkets we decided to walk to the southern part of the city to Nam-san. Nam-san is a mountian that the youth hostel we were thinking about changing to is located. After realizing that we would have to walk a lot with our luggage, that the location wasn't as nice and that is was a very western style hotel we decided to stay at the guesthouse for the rest of the trip.

Then we took the subway back to the guesthouse where Serinia convinced me to take a nap. All of a sudden it was 3AM and I was wide awake. After an hour or two I was able to go back to sleep but I was still up at 7 AM. I figured out our plan for the day and waited for Serinia to wake up (she can sleep a lot!). Since it was raining we decided to go to the Korean National Museum for the day. We got the audio guides, which had some really funny pronoucations of English words, and learned a lot about Korean history. The best part of it was learning about the hanguel language and how it was invented. Now that I know a little more about it the language isn't a bunch of random scibbles anymore.

While we were at the museum the school children kept coming up to us to ask us where we were from and how we were. It was so cute to see them. Actually this is something that happens a lot here, we get stopped in the street by people that want to help us or just want to ask where we are from and what we are doing here. I find I talk much slower and use simpler words now.

After the museum we went to the huge market with all the fabric, Dongdae-mun. I couldn't believe how many different fabrics, furs and sewing materials there were. Also there was a whole city block of just yarn (no, I am not kidding). I bought a blanket because since I had stayed at Sun's parents house I had wanted one. We bought some sort of corndog like street food and watched all the young couples in a square.

We got back to the guest house and the girl that works here was making Korean pancakes and was offering to let everyone try them. They were really good and it got lots of people talking. We met this woman that is 10 days in a 51 day trip around the world. I was a little jealous.

Something that we always talk to other forgeiners about is the state of the US economy. The dollar is not doing well at all and it is really obvious here. When Serinia was here in 2001 the conversion rate was 1300 won to the dollar and now it is 1000 won to the dollar. Korea is still cheaper than the US but not as cheap as it once was. Anyways, it is funny how people view people from the US and how sometimes I feel I should defend parts of my way of life. I always forget about this aspect of travelling until I am out of the country again.

Anyways, we are off to tour the DMZ and then to dinner with Sun, Jonghyeon and his parents. I'll try to post some pictures tonight but here is a video from Monday:

Monday

May. 26th, 2008 09:03 pm
This morning we woke up and packed our bags because today we moved into a guesthouse in Seoul. However, before that we got to go to Sun and Jonghyeon's blessing ceremony. Neither of them are buddist but Jonghyeon's mother is very devote so she wanted them to do it. The temple was half way up a mountain in Uijoughbu (I think this is spelled wrong). We went to the first part then the monk suggested we go hiking at this park that surrounded the temple.

We started to climb to the peak but then I realized that Serinia was wearing slingbacks. However she was willing to keep going but soon some Korean women that were also hiking made her take her shoes off and roll up her pants legs. They also forced us to take a bottle of juice. This is what most of the Korean woman we have met are like.

After an hour or so we went back to the temple and sat in the sad looking out over the valley. I read my guide book and I think Serinia napped. Then we joined the last half an hour of the ceremony. I wish I had taken a picture of the inside of the temple because it was very interesting. However, I forgot.

After they burned some stuff it was time for lunch. This is when I realized "church ladies" are the all over the world. They kept giving us food and laughing at my inablity to use Korean chopsticks well (they are thin and metal, I am usually good with chopsticks but I kept dropping these). Since we were at a buddist temple nothing had meat in it and Serinia willing ate tofu which made me laugh.

After lunch and coffee Mrs. Park drove us into Seoul and the place we are staying. This was a long drive and we were all so tired. Jonghyeon took charged and got directions and when we got here dealt with all the people in Korean, even though it is a place for foreigners so they speak English. He even carried our bags and then him and Sun walked us to the Insa-don so we could go shopping. It is really nice yet odd that they are so worried about us here.

After they left us we walked the lenght of Insa-don and stopped at Starbucks to get frappocino's. I have been craving two things the last day, one is something really sweet and diet coke. Korean food is good, just they don't do heavy sweet foods at all. I wasn't in the mood to shop so all I bought was postcards then we went walking around the area that we are staying. I didn't really get lost because we didn't have plan on where we were going but it didn't work out like I wanted. However, I found a liter of diet coke to buy.

We got back to the guesthouse and repacked our bags. Then we came down to the common room and wrote postcards. We also got to hear the guesthouse drama, which cracks me up. There is this Australian here that talks to everyone and caused some girl to cry last night. I think he is sleeping with some other girl too but I am not sure yet. Right now he is flirting with a third girl.

The plan tomorrow is go to one of the places and then go shopping. We might also go to a movie (Indiana Jones).

PS. I am in Korea!!!!
Saturday night we went to Sun's family's house to watch the traditional gift giving cermoney. Sun's family owns a gym in Suwon, which is south of Seoul and about an hour from where we were staying. We were dropped off and it turns out that all of Sun's aunts and uncles were there along with her parents and siblings. A few minutes later Jonghyeon came in carrying the wrapped suitcase and smashed a gourd as he entered. Then Sun's parents inspected the suit of clothes, coat and jewelery that was in the suitcase. They also had the story of Sun and Jonghyeon's lives to that point written out, which her parents read.

After this was done Serinia and I were sat next to Sun and Jonghyeon and made to eat a lot. First there was this huge meal with 20 billion different choices my favorite being the make your own kimbob. Through the whole thing everyone was drinking and was very amusing in their attempts to speak English and get us to learn Korean. After dinner I hung out with Sun's siblings, who I don't know how to spell their names right now. They were very shy at first but slowly warmed up to us. They are a super cute family.

After a couple hours they had order sushi and I was soon back eating, even though I was so full I was going to explode. This is the point where Sun's uncle, a police officer in Seoul, kept flirting with me through Sun. It was rather weird. Soon it was time to go to Sun's parents house and sleep. Her parents gave us their bedroom and they stayed at the gym. Jonghyeon kept making Sun's siblings talk to us in English, even her little brother who is very shy around us. We stayed up very late talking. The next morning we woke up and went to the gym (which seems like where they live more than their house) and ate leftovers from the night before and watched TV. Korean TV is awesome.

After this we (Serina and I, Sun and Jonghyeon, Sun's mom, and her two younger sisters) went to the Traditional Korean Village, which is this huge replication of different styles of Korean houses. It was amazing. I have lots of pictures of this. I had cold buckwheat noodles for lunch and some iced beans for dessert (it was good). We also saw a traditional Korean wedding and Sun explained to me the parts they would use.

When we got back from the Village we went to dinner (yes, there is a lot of eating here). Serina, Sun and Jonghyeon and I went to a som(?). It is where the meat is made at the table and you make little lettuce wraps with them. I think it is my favorite meal so far and I don't even like pork. This was a good dinner because we were able to talk and be funny. I really enjoyed it.

After the dinner the four of us were driven back to Jonghyeon's parents house where we watched the historical drama "The King and I" that is filmed at the Traditional Village. There was some issue with the reservation on the hotel tonight and Sun called them and sorted it all it. It was super sweet. Then her and Jonghyeon gave us directions to where their wedding is (at the Gimpo Airport, I'll explain that later) and then they showed us all the places in Seoul we should go.

This morning we are going to the temple that Mrs. Park manages and then Jonghyeon will drive us to our hotel. I am excited about doing more touristy things now.

BTW, it is funny how everyone here has to ask which is older, Serinia or I. They also want to know our ages, what our parents do, what we do, how many siblings and why I don't have a boyfriend. They are so direct with their questions that it is very funny to me.


PS: I am not spell checking these because it sort of sucks on this computer.
First, we are staying with Sun's husband's family. Sun and Jonghyeon were actually married three years ago so she could go to Minnesota with him where he is a Ph.d. student at the U of MN. Sun has been staying with them since she arrived in Korea in Febuary. Jonghyeon's mom, dad and grandma all live here.

The first night I got here and took a shower and tried to sleep. First we are sleeping in traditional Korean beds which are a thick blanket on the floor with a duvet on top. It is actaully much more comfortable than you would expect. Once I got to sleep I kept waking up because my inner clock was telling me it was time to be awake. However, my goal was to sleep until 8 am, which I was able to do. We had breakfast which was rice with three or four kinds of kimchee and we hung out at their house until it was time to go pick up Jonghyeon and Sun at the dentist. After we picked them up we were to the jeweler to get the jewlery that Jonghyeon's family is giving her, then we went to the eyeglass place so Serinia could get a new pair (Glasses are really cheap here).

After that we went to this huge market full of fabric that I don't remember the name of but I was totally in love with it. You could get any sort of fabric or fur that you have ever heard of. At this place all the gifts that Jonghyeon's family is giving Sun were wrapped up so she can bring them to her family to inspect (that is tonight). This was done in white cotton and is rather elaborate of a process. Jonghyeon's mom Mrs. Park watch while they did this and Sun, Serinia, Jonghyeon and I took a watch down this little park area next to the market. Then we sat and talked with the shop woman that was wrapping it up for a while.

Then we went to this place for soup. It was really good but I was getting super tired at this point so I couldn't finish it. Right when we got back here I took a shower and went to sleep. I woke up this morning with a migraine, which I think freaked them out a little. I took an imatrex and was hoping that I could be done with it before I told anyone but I needed some ice for my head and so had to tell someone. They don't seem very fimilar with migraines and Serinia had to keep explaining it. Anyways, that sort of made today a slow day. I am glad that I was here when I had it since being at a hostle with a migraine would suck.

We are about to go to Sun's family house to see the presentation of the gifts. We are staying there tonight and then coming back here tomorrow. Monday the plan is to go to the Buddist temple that Mrs. Park manages and have her show us around then possible go up to Camp Casey where Serinia was stationed for a year. After that we are going to the "Guesthouse in Korea", which is in central Seoul. Right now we are in Gimpo which is about a 45 minute drive to downtown Seoul. I am having a good time here, it is relaxing but I am really excited about going and being a tourist for the rest of the week.

Pictures are going to have to wait until I get home, I think. I am taking some right now but not that many yet. We haven't been many really exciting places yet.
So, I had 20 hours of travel time leaving my house at 6:30 am on Wednesday and getting here at 10:00 pm on Thursday. The funny thing is that since I was flying west the sun didn't set until I got to Japan.

My first flight was good. I sat next to a cute boy that ruined his cuteness by talking and so I read my book. LAX is a sucky airport which has no where to wonder around so I called lots of people to talk until I remembered that one of my friends is still in school and took his last final today so I could chat with him for like an hour.

The flight from LAX to Toyko was long but there was no one in the middle seat (actually there was no one in the row with me but someone moved up, I was fine with that). I thought it was 9 hours but really it was 11 hours and I finally realized that my best bet against jet lag was just to stay up the whole time. I did take a little nap because I wasn't that interested in the movie, too bad they didn't have the little personal movie players. The Toyko airport is set up a lot like London Gatewick so at least I was able to get a good hour of walking in because I needed it. Then I watched sumo wresting on the TV. Also, the toliets were so complicated they had instructions (This was the only picture I took today).

The flight from Tokyo to Seoul was easy, only two hours long. However, we had personal movie players and was served this really cute bento box that had this sushi like wrap thing. It was good. Customs was easy, my bags made it and Serinia, Sun and her family picked me up. I am staying at their place until Monday and then we are moving to a youth hostel or a hotel (I think that will make Sun less stressed).

I think this is the furthest I have been away from Minneasota, it is an odd feeling. I haven't seen much yet but a lot was in English and the freeway looks just like any freeway.

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