Saturday, January 2, 2010

Korea Travel Journal

Okay, here is a journal of my two weeks visiting Adam in Korea. I don’t know if it makes sense because I am not going to edit it. I will probably take days to do that and I don’t feel like it. The verb tense probably won’t make sense since sometimes I was writing as a recap days later and sometimes I was writing right after it happened. Overall, I had an awesome time and it was so good to have my hubby with me. It was super cold so we didn’t do as much sightseeing as you might expect but there will be a lot more time for that later. I know I probably left out so many stories and anecdotes but you can always email or call me and I will fill you in. Enjoy my travel journal of sorts.

December 20, 2009

I have arrived in Japan. The 13 hour flight was as boring as anticipated. I watched every video available to me on the digital recorder as well as reading a lot of one of my books. I couldn’t sleep too much because my legs were restless. If the girl sitting in the aisle seat hadn’t been successfully sleeping the whole time I should have gotten up and walked around. I know now that I have to wake them up because my legs are very swollen. I had a feeling they were swelling on the plane because I could feel the pressure in my toes. Sure enough they look like sausages and I have CANKLES! It feels better to walk around and so I will write my thoughts down and then walk around the airport here. It is 2AM in Texas but 17:16 in Japan. I board my flight to Busan in about a half an hour and I am very thirsty. I see a water fountain but I am always distrustful of water fountains. OH! But the public toilets were so fancy. I was amazed. First, I was shocked because the first stall I went in to essentially was a hole in the floor… it was weird and not sure what it is used for but then when I saw a regular toilet I went in there. The toilet had controls on it because it has a bidet, a BIDET in a public restroom! Wow! I know my naivete must be showing right now but I don’t care. Also, they had a control for the toilet to emit sounds to cover up your bathroom noises. If my iphone had been turned on I would have taken a pic of the instructions. Maybe on my return to the US. Okay, I am going to stop typing and take a stroll to loosen up my swollen piggies. I feel like Linus packing my pillow around but it wouldn’t fit in to any of my bags so carried around it is.
Arrived in Busan and immigration and customs went super easy. I now have my first stamp in my passport and am an official International traveler. Once I got my luggage, and I think mine were the last two pieces off the plane, I found Adam, Jay and Jin and we headed out. I was not prepared for the craziness that is Korean driving coupled with the amount of people and skinny roads. Jin and Jay took us to a Korea BBQ restaurant and we had a great feast of Korea food that was not spicy for me. I also got to try Soju for the first time and it was good! I can see how you can drink it and not realize you are drunk till you stand up. It is like vodka but without the rubbing alcohol aftertaste. We also had Korean beer which has a great flavor. The pork we ate was like a really thick pork chop and it was the best meal we have had so far. After dinner we went to our hotel room and settled in. Our hotel room was on Haeundae beach with an awesome view of the ocean and a beautifully lit bridge. I was super tired from my long journey so it wasn’t long before I was asleep on the hard bed.

December 21, 2009

We woke up before the sun rose and got to watch a beautiful sunrise over the ocean and the bridge. When it was time we headed to the coffee shop down in the lobby for our complimentary breakfast which was bagels, pretzels and coffee. Not what we had expected but it was food and we were hungry. We tried taking a walk down the beach but found that it was way too cold and so we headed back to the room to watch Korean tv. The commercial for prostrate pills was the best! At lunch time we braved the cold again to find some food. We randomly selected a restaurant and went inside. The caretakers were older and didn’t speak a word of English and kept pointing at words on the wall with prices on them but we had no clue what they were so we ordered what we knew, Bulgoki… and the man hurried back in the back and the lady got to cooking. A little while later he comes back out with some kimchi, rice and a boiling pot of SQUID. We thought we were getting beef and we got squid. We were surprised but decided we would try it none the less. We scooped the squid and sauce in to our rice bowls and were pleasantly surprised by the flavor. It was spicy but not fishy and very good. The squid was a bit chewy but not inedible. We ate and Adam paid and thanked him for the food and we attempted another cold walk on the beach only to return to our room to watch Will & Grace with Korean subtitles.
Adam has general Korean greetings as well as thank you down in Korean. I am trying to learn so that I am not a completely rude American when I am out but I am still struggling. I feel like I want to pronounce everything with a Spanish accent. Ugh! The traffic is scary, scary being that their traffic laws are not as strictly enforced as they are in the US and there are 100 times more cars on the road at one time than I have even seen in a big city. Craziness! The driving part is what scares me the most of moving here.

December 22, 2009

Drove up to Adam’s room on Camp Carroll. On the way we stopped for breakfast at a rest area. We had ramen and mine was super spicy and had hot dogs and spam. It was billed on the menu as Ramen with assorted foodstuffs in a boiling pot. I am not very good at eating Ramen with chopsticks and I am definitely not good at slurping the noodles so that they don’t fall from my chopsticks back in to my bowl or burn my mouth. The Koreans are expert slurpers but I feel like I am going to get in trouble for sucking up and slurping the noodles. The rest stop which is high in the mountains was super cold and I thought I was going to turn in to an icicle. The highway we travelled on was full of bridges and tunnels so that there wasn’t any large climbs which was really good for Adam’s “shit car” because he said he had taken an alternative route which had him going over the mountains (I love that they are for real mountains and not the hills that Texas would call a mountain) and his car died twice. Scary.
Camp Carroll is super tiny. The PX is the size of the Shoppette down the street from my house and the Commissary is an old basketball gym with aisles the width of one shopping cart. It is a total 180 from Fort Hood for sure. Camp Walker in Daegu is a bit larger but still very small compared to what I am used to.
We got dressed up and drove to Daegu to have a dinner for the Korean American Friendship Circle that Adam and another Captain and his wife have been a part of. This is a program where American’s get together with Korean college students and do activities to be able to exchange culture. The dinner was good. The food was a variety of American and Korean food. The entertainment was the Daegu Boys and Girls Club choir which Adam is convinced they were lipsyncing.

December 23, 2009

Adam woke up this morning with a terrible stomach bug. Not sure if he ate something bad last night or if he caught a bug. He is a more adventurous eater than I am and he tried the bone soup and that may be the cause of his problems.
Adam is still not feeling great but we have his shop Christmas party to go to tonight. Adam has quite a few Koreans who work in his shop and they are very excited to take us to a traditional Korean meal and Karaoke. After sleeping all day he seems to feel good enough to get up and go so we headed down to Camp Walker and checked in to the lodging there for the evening.
Mr. Yi, one of the men who work in Adam’s office, picked us up at the Lodging and we went to the restaurant. The seating is traditional so we had to take our shoes off before entering the room and sit on cushions on the floor. They gave the Americans little chairs with backs that sit on the floor. That didn’t help me from having my feet fall asleep a few times though. I am just not used to sitting criss cross applesauce on the floor anymore. The food was amazing though. There were a few things that were not yummy but overall I was very surprised. The food just kept coming for 2 hours. It seemed the ladies would open the door and have a new cart full of food. We also drank a good deal of mec ju (beer) and the Koreans were pouring soju in to their mec ju. Adam still was feeling yucky so he stuck to sprite and rice. Towards the end of dinner Adam was feeling better so we agreed to head to the Karaoke joint.
Korean karaoke is not what I had expected. In fact I felt like I was in Lost in Translation. You get a room to yourself. In the room they bring you your drinks and food (fruit, nuts, dried squid), you have many books of songs both American and Korean and there are tambourines. Adam and I started the night off by singing Mika’s Big Girl (You are Beautiful) and then watched the Koreans the rest of the night because they are talented. I was a bit intimidated at how well they sing. They also get in to it doing dances and backing each other up. They also employed the use of the tambourines a lot. At one point Mr. Wong made all of us stand up and dance and clap as they sang. It was very interesting and definitely fun. I imagine when I come to live here we will have to go do it again. I will have to practice my Karaoke with Korea in mind.
After a few hours at Karaoke Adam was feeling bad again and we got one of the men to drive us back to our room on Camp Walker and we went straight to bed.

December 24, 2009

Caught Adam’s stomach bug. Gonna spend the day in bed.

December 25, 2009

Woke up for a lazy lounging morning in bed. Tried to call home to talk to the family and got to talk to dad because Nick, Em and mom had gone to the movies. At lunch Adam took me off post to the “chicken soup store” and had chicken porridge. It was really tasty except for the bones and skin you had to pick out. The rice made it super thick and it filled us up quickly. We came home and Adam called his parents and then I called and talked to my mom. You have got to love Skype. After the phone calls were made we watched Christmas movies and ate our dinner, chicken fingers and French fries. After dinner we hung out having margaritas. Not a super flashy or exciting Christmas but it was nice none the less.

December 26, 2009

Not feeling well this morning. Day after Christmas is going to be a lazy Saturday in bed. Adam is such a sweetheart and went to the commissary to get me some crackers and cheese. He also bought stuff to make pico, guac and nachos for dinner. Nummy! Been a relaxing holiday here at Camp Carroll. We have watched a few movies: Extract, SpiderMan 3, Inglorious Basterds, as well as caught up on tv. Tonight we started watching Jersey Shore. We had to see what everyone is talking about. It is super ridiculous but I can see how it can be addictive because it is drama drama! Love some drama!!
The nachos were super nummy. The pico was super good and the guac a bit salty but I had two big plates being that it was the only food I had eaten all day with the exception of some cheese and crackers. Adam wasn’t feeling the nachos as much as I was but hey! I love cheese.
Okay, I am too distracted by Jersey Shore this shizz is good!

December 27, 2009

The Jersey Shore dramathon continues! I am an addict. Time to get some cheese to go with it.

December 28, 2009

Just hung out at Adam’s room. Going to leave for Busan tomorrow so we are just chilling today.

December 29, 2009

Drove to Busan today and went straight to Jay’s store to meet up with her and Jin. Going to go to dinner with them and then check in to the hotel.
The hotel stinks like something died in our bathroom. Not sure what the smell is but having the windows open helps and since it is like 90 degrees in the room all the time having the window open is necessary anyway. Jay and Jin took us to dinner at a buffet that cost $40 a plate. It was crazy busy there. I kept running in to people and knocking their food off their plates. I don’t know how to say excuse me in Korean so I sort of nod my head and give them an awkward smile and walk away. Considering the price of the food you would think there would be a whole lot more of it but there really isn’t. Jin made fun of me for getting a plate that had pizza and quesadillas on it but I really didn’t want anything else… it looked funny and some smelled funny. Adam was super excited for the cheesecake which turned out to not be cheesecake at all. That was pretty funny.

December 30, 2009

Jay took us to a Buddhist temple today. It is right on the water and was so beautiful. The story goes that a dragon used to live there and all the buildings had dragons painted on them. There were a lot of rough stone stairs to climb and I didn’t think to wear tennis shoes to walk in so my feet are killing me. It was quite the workout but so totally worth it. It has been so cold that we haven’t wanted to do anything really. Adam has been restless but it is good to get out and do something. We will come back again when the weather isn’t so cold. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that bad but then you get around a building and the wind hits you and you are frozen.
After the temple tour Jay dropped us off at the Aquarium. Adam loves aquariums and our hotel gave us free tickets so we had to go. This one is pretty cool with a huge shark tank that has a tunnel on one side that you walk through. They supposedly have penguin shows too but when we walked past the penguins they were all sleeping on their rocks. So not exciting at all. I think fish are pretty creepy but Adam loves them. It was worth going to though and even better because it was free. After the aquarium we went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant that was across from aquarium. We had contemplated walking around the area that the aquarium is located (Hae-undae Beach) but again it is too freaking cold. After dinner we hailed a cab. The cab driver thought he knew where we were asking to go but in the end he didn’t and took us to the wrong place. He had to call and get help but then we were on the right track. He also thought that Adam spoke more Korean than he does and that was funny because Adam just goes “I don’t know what that means” and smiles when he doesn’t understand them. The cab driver felt really bad for taking us to the wrong place to begin with and apologized a bunch of times but it was no big deal.

December 31, 2009

Happy New Year’s Eve and my anniversary! We don’t have anything exciting planned. I do want to take a nap so that I can stay up to midnight but we will see. It seems we are going to hang out in and around the hotel (it is supposed to be below zero today so probably won’t go outside much) and then go have some drinks tonight.
Had dinner at a really great place. Korean BBQ with the best salad I have had in a very long time. I drank a bottle of champagne in the room before we went to dinner to celebrate! After dinner we headed to Thursday House for some beer and they had popcorn with curry on it. It is sooo good. One of my new favorites. I think I will continue to put curry on my popcorn. Jay, Jin, Jay’s brother & her cousin met us at the bar and then took us to go eat (again) at the place we had dinner the first night. Although we had had dinner we are still hungry and the big chunks of pork grilled with chunks of garlic are too good to pass up. Mecju and Soju to go with the meat. While we are at the restaurant the clock turns midnight and it is 2010!

January 1, 2010

After the restaurant we head out to a bar. I keep hearing Jin say bikini bar but who knows. There are tons of people outside on the streets but when we get in the bar there isn’t really anyone in there. We have a beer in there and shortly after we get there Jay gets sick and Jin takes her home while Adam and I stay with Jay’s brother and cousin. When Jin gets back we all pile back in his car and he drives up to a completely different part of time still in search of the elusive bikini bar. We manage to find a place to park after maneuvering through the big crowds and head in the bar which again is deserted. Apparently you just hang outside in the cold here. Screw that. It is colder than ever today. I have two sweaters layered on top of each other and still freezing. It is like 3 am when we are at this bar but this is where we have the most excitement because the next thing we know we hear women screeching at each other. We look over by the bathroom and there are two old ladies and an old man fighting each other. The old lady was even kicking. It was great. The next thing we know though Jin has gotten up to get a better look and gets tangled up in the old people fight. Definitely a highlight of the evening. After the fight we finish our drinks and I am barely awake so Jin takes us back to our room. It is like 430 when we get back and we crash just to be woken to loud music and screaming. The sky is turning pink and when we look out the window the beach is filled with people. The bridge no longer has cars on it but people. In Korea they celebrate the New Year by watching the sun rise. They believe it will give them luck in the next year. Adam and I manage to go back to sleep and the music continues through the sunrise for about another hour and then there is peace and quiet again.
When I wake at about 10 I feel like crap. Thankfully Adam is content to just hang out in the room after getting some breakfast in the coffee shop. We adventure out just to get food. Ending our evening at Pizza Hut with Jay and her family. Since I have to be at the airport early we are going to be in bed early. My trip to Korea to visit Adam over. Boo!

January 2, 2010

315 came way too fast. Getting our stuff together and getting the car takes no time at all at that time in the morning. The hotel valet parks all the cars and they use a car elevator to put them in the garage. Very smart but can be a little chaotic at times when there are a lot of people coming and going at one time. There isn’t a car on the road and so the 45 min drive we had planned for took half that time. We get to the airport at 430 for my 800 flight. When we get to the airport it is completely black and not open. Adam and I sit in the car in front of the terminal till 500 when other people finally start showing up. Because of what had happened in Detroit there had been advisories to get to the airport 3 hours ahead of your international flight. Apparently that doesn’t apply here because there isn’t a single worker here and none of the airline counters open till 600. If I had known that I could have slept in another 1.5 hours. Ugh. Oh well! At 500 Adam kissed me goodbye and head back to Waegwan. Now I sit and wait for my flight.
The flights were uneventful… well, except for me spilling a cup of soda in my lap. BUT the airline blankets are water resistant! In Dallas I had to have my bags searched in Customs but it wasn’t too big of a deal and the agents were chatty. In Killeen my bags don’t show up and at the counter I find out that they were tagged with an old flight number so they didn’t make my flight. No big deal though. I know they were in the US and it would just be a matter of getting them on another flight for them to come and be delivered to me. Toni and Savannah picked me up at the airport and we went to Casa Ole for some steak and enchiladas (two birds one stone). While we were eating lunch I got a call that my bags were here because they had come in on the next flight. On the way home we swung by the airport and I was set. Once home I cleaned up after the doggies a bit. Toni was awesome and had cleaned up a lot of the puppy messes. Cleaning done I took a shower and hit the bed. I slept hard for 5 hours waking only because I am hungry.
Traveling all done. Back to work in a couple of days. I am glad to be home but I miss Adam already. The doggies have barely left my side and they are just as relieved to be sleeping in my bed as I am! Looks like I will be moving there at the end of the summer so get your passports so you can come experience Asia with me!

Things I will take away from my trip to Korea:
1. Driving is scary. The locals drive fast and sometimes don’t obey the traffic rules. They park on sidewalks and on the side of the road in a lane. Taxis pick up people in the middle of intersections and pedestrians do not have the right of way. So pay attention!
2. Not all of the food is spicy and most of it is delicious. I especially like the big thick slices of pork they cook on the BBQ. SO good. They also drink lots of beer which is awesome and Korean beer (mecju) is delicious. I am not a big kimchi fan but you get a ton of different types with every meal… it is like having chips and salsa with a Mexican meal.
3. Not speaking the language is frustrating. I am going to start learning the language ASAP. I learned the bare minimum and it really was a minimum. Learning the culture is also something that I will have to get used to knowing.
4. Korea is a very beautiful country with mountains and beaches. It is about the size of the state of WA (according to Jay) and so getting anywhere doesn’t take more than a few hours… it is the traffic that will add to your travel times. There is always the train you can take though.
5. Korean coffee isn’t so great but it works if you need coffee. It is pretty bitter.
There is probably more but I can’t think of them now. I am tired.
I was going to embed pics in this blog but if you want to see pics check out... PICTURES this journal the pics haven't been edited so there may be many duplicates.

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