Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Our Latest Adventures & Christmas Eve

In my last post, I mentioned the fact that nothing is ever as easy as it should be here. I mentioned that last weekend we went to see Frozen. We originally planned on going Saturday afternoon, after I returned home from a baby shower. The last time Eric and I went to the movies, he was able to buy the tickets online and then our challenge was printing them at the theater. This time, our second movie-going experience in Korea, he wasn't able to purchase them online--everything was in Korean. So, we just drove to the theater. Of course, the afternoon showing was nearly sold out--we couldn't get four seats together, so we bought tickets for Sunday afternoon after church. No big deal.

On Sunday, we arrived at the theater early--turns out there is no need when 1) tickets have already been purchased and 2) seats are assigned. Our second learning experience occurred when Eric realized that the alphabetical rows in the theater begin with row A in the front. He had purchased four tickets in row D--four rows from the front in an IMAX theater. Oh joy. I only got slight motion sickness and the movie was great. All is well that ends well.

This past weekend, we decided to check out the only full-sized Toys'R'Us in Seoul at Jamsil station. I had heard about it, but wasn't too optimistic, until recently when a friend of ours said it's worth the trip. Typically, we would take the subway to get to a station, but she said it's easy enough to park there and get parking validated, so I figured we would venture in the car--iPhone maps said it would only be a 20 minute drive (ha!).

Naturally, we made a few wrong turns, so it took us just over an hour to get to the line. The line for parking. We waited in line to park the car for over 30 minutes. I'm not exaggerating. Just waiting in line to get into the parking garage. Thankfully, the kids were so excited to see the store that they happily listened to music in the car and even let Eric nap the entire time.

The store was decent--though I can't say I was impressed. Eric and the kids said it was worth it just to see the impressive Lego display they had in the store. The kids spent the rest of their Christmas money on more Legos, then we were able to (fairly easily) find something we were all able to eat for dinner, and made it back down to the car. Here, we had yet another new Korean experience. The car was double-parked (not a new experience), but here they had parking spaces that are intended to double-park. We discovered that these people leave their cars in Neutral, so that they can be moved. Interesting.

This week is only a three day week with Lunar New Year at the end, so we're looking forward to another short break. Christmas Eve, which feels so long ago now, was spent doing much preparation for the big day. Because we got out of school so close to Christmas, I hadn't done much to prepare--including shopping, as I already mentioned.

We had been invited to my principal's house in the afternoon--and I had planned on going, too--but it quickly became clear that I was not going to get everything done if I took a few hours off. It's a bit ironic how much preparation we put into making memories, but for me, it was just one day, and I wasn't that enthused about the "Christmas Eve open house" anyway.

So, I focused on making mom's caramel rolls--Kennedy had been reminding me for weeks that I promised that I would make them this year. That was one aspect of Christmas that she felt she missed out on being in Thailand last year.

Eric and the kids baked and decorated sugar cookies for Santa. He's been talking for years about how he's the baker in our family, so I wasn't letting him get out of the sugar cookie tradition. That was one challenge he hadn't taken yet.

So, I made the glaze and the kids taught him how to decorate the cookies. You might remember that I decorated cookies back in the middle of November with the kids, so they were well-practiced. In the meantime, I made the breakfast casserole for Christmas morning--for after our caramel rolls.

Sometime in the late afternoon, my brother started getting a little antsy. I hadn't put him to work yet; I think he spent much of the day playing Legos with the kids. He decided it was time to get out of the house.

So, we sent him on a mission to find two of the local breweries and to a very particular fried chicken place to pick up dinner. We provided him no directions to the breweries, but I gave him walking directions to find the chicken, because that's what we wanted for dinner. He refused to bring a phone (with service) and stuck with oral directions.

After a few hours, Kennedy began to get concerned about him, and she wondered at what point we were going to go out and look for him. The last time we thought we'd lost a person in the city was when Gretchen came to visit, but I wasn't too worried this time. We had taught him what to tell the taxi driver to get home, and he could contact us if he found wifi, which isn't too difficult.

He showed up not too long after, with chicken--from Mom's Touch--in hand. He hadn't found the breweries, but he'd found the right chicken restaurant and managed to get back before it got too cold, too. Success! After we put the kids to bed, we wrapped presents while watching the classic Christmas Vacation, and then I took way too many pictures of the tree, presents, and stockings!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What We Drank

The day after our Seoul Tower trip was a Monday--the Monday before Christmas Eve. Eric and I still hadn't done any Christmas shopping at this point, because we usually get a sitter and make it a date (of sorts). Since my brother was going to be here (and we had been in school and busy!), we figured we would just wait for him to hang out with the kids while we did some shopping.

Shopping was the only thing on my agenda on that Monday, but it doesn't need to take all day--especially now that we have a car, so we decided to squeeze something in for the morning. The War Memorial is always a favorite among guests, plus it's close to our house, so we figured it would be a perfect trip. The day did not end up turning out quite as I had planned.

Only after we arrived did I remember that many of the museums are closed on Mondays. Including the War Memorial. What a tour guide I am! After checking out the airplanes and tanks in the outdoor part of the museum, we decided to try to salvage the day by heading to Namdaemun. We had barely even started walking through the rows and rows of booths and stores when we ran into one of Kennedy's best friends from school. I had never met either one of her parents, but I'd been emailing her mom about setting up a playdate, so we had something to talk about.

I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but pretty soon we were wandering through alleys trying to find a Korean BBQ restaurant that would seat a party of ten--most restaurants here are really tiny, so it can be a challenge to find one large enough to fit that many people. It was an interesting lunch as it turns out that the dad knows a lot about a lot of things, does a lot of talking, and he's also quick to replenish drinks! For only being in Korea for a few months, he knows a lot about it, and he taught us a few words, as well as the best way to drink Korean beer (with soju mixed in).

After one of the longest lunches I've had in a long time, we were on our way again. We took a bus home, and Eric and I were still able to get our Christmas shopping done. It certainly wasn't what I had planned for the day, but it turned out pretty well in the end. Sometimes expat life (or any life, for that matter) means you just have to roll with the punches. I think we rolled pretty well with that one!

I've now slowed to a post per day of Travis' visit--there's no way I can keep up that rate, so I'll have to pick up the pace after I get through the Christmas posts. Thankfully, things are pretty easy at school right now since we're at the beginning of a unit, so I don't have too much grading to do yet, but it will be getting busy again soon. We've been enjoying our weekend downtime lately, too. Last weekend, we took the kids to see Frozen, which we loved (and have been singing songs from all week!), and this weekend we're going to find our way to the biggest Toys'R'Us in Seoul. Nice, easy, indoor adventures. Nothing is ever as easy as it's supposed to be here, but we always manage.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Seoul Tower

On Monday, we had our first snow day of the school year, and it was great! I'm so glad that we moved to another place in the world where we can get the day off from school for an inch of snow on the ground. It was a great day for it, as we got to see the Seahawks win the NFC championship in real time at home in our PJs, rather than in class while distracted by other things.

By the end of the game, the roads were clear, so we decided to take advantage of the mid-week afternoon to head to Costco. It may have been the emptiest I've ever seen Costco! We were able to get in, get out, and return home again within a couple of hours. It was a good thing, because the blizzard began before we'd even gotten out of the car after arriving home.

On Trav's first Sunday here, we decided to go up to Seoul Tower. It's always an important trip to get in early, so that one has a better perspective as to the size of the city and where things are. Eric, Travis, and the kids decided to hike up to the tower, but I wasn't feeling up to the trek in the cold weather, so I planned to take the bus.

The kids started off their morning right. They were so excited by the many cereal options that my brother had brought along, that they couldn't choose just one. Cade had the brilliant idea to have his cereal in his sectioned lunch tray for school. Kennedy was feeling left out, so she went the muffin tin route.

They took off not long after breakfast, and I leisurely made my way to the bus stop. I'll never forget this trip to Seoul Tower, as my cousin called while I was on the side of an eight lane highway waiting for the bus to tell me that my grandma had passed away. I was thankful for the Viber app that day--even without wifi I had great reception, though the traffic made it difficult to hear.

I was grateful for the bus trip that day; it provided me some downtime to process and grieve before sharing the news and pretending like I was happy to be at Seoul Tower with the crowds.

We all walked back down after a lame lunch of hamburgers and fries at what is advertised to be the restaurant that serves "Seoul's best burgers." No one ever advertises "Seoul's smallest hamburgers."

Cade enjoyed finding very large sticks. He looks even more like Elmer Fudd when he's holding that thing!

After our walk, we looked up flights and talked about flying home. We procrastinated on calling back home until we were all hungry again.

Travis had been craving some bibimbap--which I think he had in about 10 different restaurants in the time he was here--so, we went to the first Korean restaurant that we went to when we first arrived. He had his dolsot bibimbap and the kids and I had bulgogi--only the second time we've had it in a restaurant since moving here.

It had been an emotionally exhausting day, and I think we were all glad when it was over--not that you can tell from these pictures of the kids. They were enjoying wearing Uncle Fraffy's hat and gloves! (And, since there is not a single picture of Seoul Tower itself in this post about our trip there, I figured I should at least link you in the right direction--our last trip there was last March--when I did take pictures of the tower!)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What We Ate

It is quite possible that in the almost four weeks that my brother was here, we saw more of Korea than we have in the last 2 1/2 years. As a result, I have a lot of pictures to share. Eric joked the other day that I will probably be sharing pictures until April, but we all know that's not a joke. It usually takes me about 3 months to get through all of our summer pictures, so it may be about the same!

Travis got in the evening before our last day of school. I actually didn't have to go to school that day (officially, anyway), so we had the great joy of driving to Cade's school an hour after we'd put him on the bus to drop off his tuition. Long, bad story. We made it back to school in time to take care of a few things before the middle school Christmas lunch at the new BBQ place in Itaewon.

That evening, we went out for galbi at our favorite neighborhood Korean restaurant. Cade loves galbi--even the bones! (Ironically, these pictures of him were edited with a preset named "Sweetheart"--he looks like anything but a sweetheart in these pictures!)

Gyeranjjim, or steamed egg, is one of my favorite side dishes.

Saturday morning, we gave him the truly Korean experience of heading to Costco to fight the masses. All was well until Eric said that he needed to push the cart, too--otherwise you haven't really experienced Korean Costco. An experience that he does not need to re-live!

After Costco, we headed home to unload groceries and headed out to meet a friend for lunch. We went to the much-acclaimed Everest, in Dongdaemun. I'd been hearing about this Nepalese restaurant for the past year and was excited to finally try it! It was delicious! And, Ross, having lived in Nepal, said it was pretty authentic.

Have you noticed a theme here? I think that oftentimes our days revolved around food--and sometimes when we neglected to do so, things went downhill quickly. Our afternoon culminated in Legos, of course, and some good ole' spaghetti for dinner. Nothing like flying to Korea to have spaghetti from a jar. That's right. We're classy around here.

If I have a post for every two days that Travis was here, then it will probably take more than three months to make it through this--I'll have to cut down!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

December Fun!

December flew by for us, as I'm sure it did for many of you. But, I still have loads of pictures from that month, so we'll be re-living that month here on the blog!

December is typically a pretty chilly month here in Seoul (though not as cold as some of the temps in the Eastern US last week!), so I'm always trying to think of things to do that are inside.

So, one evening we went to one of the malls across town to check out the Christmas decor and have some dinner. Kennedy took her first-ever picture with Santa Claus. I can't believe it took us seven years to do that! Cade wasn't up for it, though.

He was too busy looking at the "snow" coming from the snow machine. (It was actually soap.)

Kennedy also had a pretty fun Christmas party at school.

It happened to take place in the time that I have to eat lunch and work before I have to leave to pick up Cade, so I was able to be there.

The kids did a little craft and some goodies provided by the room moms.

One of the parents even brought supplies and taught the kids how to make chocolate-dipped fruit that they were able to take home!

The room moms here are pretty amazing!

Her teacher also put together a little booklet of songs and then the kids traipsed through some of the hallways and did some caroling. They were pretty cute!

My brother just left town yesterday, and things are slowly starting to get back to normal around here. Our office, which has been his bedroom, is once again full of laundry. I've finally managed to clean the floors and the kitchen a little better. We're three days into the second semester. It's hard to believe that another school year is half over already!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Christmas break continues...

It's hard to believe that we only have one week of Christmas break left. I still have a lot of work left to do, which is a small part of why things have been quiet around here.

But, really, we've just been busy! We've been to palaces and museums.

We've been to the jimjilbang and the noraebang.

We've eaten food from about ten different countries.

We've traveled 300 km/h on the bullet train to Busan.

And we've built a whole lotta Legos.

Tomorrow we're off to find snow (and an indoor water park) in Seorak because we haven't had any snow since our week in mid-December when it snowed every day. We're looking forward to actually getting out of the city this time!
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