Monday, October 24, 2011

The Land of the Morning Calm

Apparently this land is only calm in the morning! More on that to come....

We have arrived!! After much headache, and heartache, we are here! The flights weren't as bad as I was expecting. They were actually pretty decent. Akira & Ezzio slept the ENTIRE time, that includes layover time at the airports! Akira was passed out on the floor at Chicago O'Hare for the entire 5 hour layover. No jet lag for them though. We left Tuesday morning at 5:45 and landed in Seoul on Wednesday night at 9:30. Riley was so amped up thinking we were on our way to daddy he barely slept. Poor kid! He even got sick, twice!, as we were landing in Tokyo. The Asian girl next to him looked like she was going to be sick too! After that he was a rockstar again asking how much longer until we were in Korea with daddy. I stayed awake the whole time also so I'd be exhausted & sleep when we got in. I can't have jet lag slowing me down, I've got an entire country to explore! Needless to say we all crashed hard when we got to lodging. We're all a bunch of masochists & were up by 7 am ready to start the day. Daric took us on the train to show us the apartment. (The landlord was having issues with his insurance so for liability reasons we couldn't move in when we arrived. We had to stay in lodging on base for 4 days but the landlord said he's paying for it so that's nice.) We walked from the train station to our new home, which took about 20 mins & was a nice little walk, and hung out in the house for a little while. It felt like I was loitering in someone elses place though since all our stuff was at lodging. We walked around our neighborhood, Daric showed me the grocery store & chicken place across the street, think southern soul food type chicken. We walked back to the train station & headed for base to walk around & see what was there. It took a total of 30 mins to walk the ENTIRE base, front to back & side to side! It's a tiny base. That was basically day 1, we did some admin to get the kids & I registered on base out here but that was it.

Day 2 we finished our admin then headed to Camp Casey to register with the medical clinic. Camp Casey is gigantic compared with our little Camp Red Cloud but minuscule compared to Fort Leonard Wood. When we arrived, after taking the free shuttle bus from Red Cloud, there was a Labor Day festival taking place complete with fair type games & rides. The BEST part of the entire festival was the legit mariachi band wandering around playing music! If there would have been a taco truck I would have been in heaven. Daric thought the band was Koreans but as we got closer I told him no, they're Mexicans. Fantastic! We bought a giant, hand-painted fan & when I say giant I'm talking fully opened it's at least 4-5 feet wide & 3 1/2 feet tall. Ginormous! That was our day 2.

Day 3 was Saturday & we decided to be adventurous & head to a market in Seoul. It's called Dongdaemun market & it's apparently where you go to get cheap fabric & clothing. Dongdaemun means East gate & as we approached the area there is, sitting in the middle of the street, a giant gate. You could tell, back in the day when the cities were walled off from invaders, this was once an entryway. Absolutely beautiful & such an odd thing to see in the middle of all the hustle & bustle. We weren't entirely sure what we were looking for, I figured it would be a street market but we saw a tall building that said 'Dongdaemun Market' so we headed for that completely unaware what awaited us inside. That building was 7 stories of fabric, nothing but fabric as far as the eye could see. Vendors were crammed into any open space & their fabric was bulging out into the aisles. Daric commented the building was a giant fire hazard, he kind of had a point! We got kind of lost inside since every space looked the same, "haven't we passed this leopard print already?" I finally noticed signs directing you to the escalators & elevator. Even the signs were confusing, the arrows were misleading. The elevators had a stewardess in it, complete with 50's type uniform with matching hat, who pressed the buttons for you. We finally exited the rear of the building onto the real market. A stretch of street we couldn't see the end of with shops up & down each side & alleys snaking throughout lined with restaurants & street vendors. After our fabric fiasco we weren't up for walking the entire thing so we stopped at the food vendors. We got a spicy sweet & sour type chicken that came with potato wedges & rice shaped into what looked like a fingerling potato. That was incredible & CHEAP for a box crammed packed with chicken. We had chicken skewers, also amazing & cheap, spicy hot dogs sort of like a long bratwurst on a bun with a kimchi/coleslaw hybrid slathered all over, phenomenal! We had a spicy pork bun, she wasn't kidding when she said spicy, and topped it all off with what I can only describe as mini churros. 5 for 1,000 won can't beat that! (1,200 won is $1) As we headed back to the train station I noticed a coffee cart type thing that I'd seen around the train stations elsewhere. I stopped to see what people were getting since I can't read Korean. 1 girl got a smoothie so I asked for the same thing. The girl in the shack cut up the peaches right into the blender added a little ice & a splash of water then blended. You wouldn't think something so simple would be so stinking good but it was so fresh tasting, I'm drooling just thinking about it! Daric got a banana/kiwi smoothie which was surprisingly good, it had a tart little kick to it. That was how we ended day 3.

Day 4 we woke up & got a call from the realtor saying the insurance had been sorted out we could move in to the apartment...finally! We packed our bags & headed for home. Now it feels like home. We unpacked the suitcases, got settled in, & set up rooms as best we could with what we have. We went to our little grocery store to get toilet paper & drinks, they don't recommend drinking out of the faucet here, our landlord is going to install a water filter soon which will be nice. We decided we'd try to figure out the buses since we see them passing us walking from the train station & we noticed bus stops all around the apartment. We started walking & before we knew it we walked right into a bustling shopping center, right down the street! There's a mall, a German bakery, 2 Parisian bakeries, Pizza Hut, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins & a 7-11. We had Pizza Hut for dinner only it's very different from an American pizza hut. Our pizza was topped with bulgogi & bbq chicken. Quite possibly the best pizza I've ever had. The kids had orange ade to drink which was like fresh squeezed oj mixed with sprite. So good. I had a blueberry soda also super yummy. Our bill however was not super yummy! It was 58,000 won for 1 pizza & 5 drinks which is around $50. Yikes! That's going to be a once in a while treat. We got Dunkin Donuts for dessert & a few treats from the Parisian bakery. So, so good! Went home & showered & got ready for bed. That was day 4.

Day 5 was yesterday, Monday, Labor Day. Daric had to work unfortunately & the internet guy was coming to connect our internet & the guy was coming to hook up our washer & dryer so the kids & I were stuck in the house just about all day. The internet guy didn't speak a word of English so that was fun as I tried typing things on my iPad then using google translate so he could read what I wanted to communicate. Of course after he read it he'd bombard me with Korean so it was an extremely pointless venture. He couldn't hook up internet so it was a waste of a day. The guy who came for our washer & dryer at least spoke enough English we could communicate BUT he only connected the washer, he said the city has to connect our dryer. Then he called his company when he was done so they could tell me how much & the guy on the phone said it's $120 for both connections or 130,000 won. When they called earlier to tell me the tech was on his way they said $60 for both connections. AND he only connected the washer! Not both! Ugh!! This language barrier is getting annoying. So I waited around all day for my washing machine to get connected to the water supply & I'm out $120. Day 5 couldn't end soon enough!

This morning, Tuesday, September 6 is day 6. We woke up, had some of the pastries we got from the bakery then I decided to let Ezzio try out our jacuzzi tub only THERE IS NO HOT WATER!! The guy who hooked up the washer apparently messed with our gas so now we're waiting for someone from the building to come fix what he did. That $120 was well spent! Daric finally got home from work, he had 24 hour staff duty & brought home some groceries. Good man. Once our hot water works again we're going to decide what the day has in store for us. So that's how our day 6 is beginning. We're going to try & head to the electronics market soon & get a cheap camera so I can stop using my old cell for a camera & possibly get a laptop so then our internet can get turned on! Stay tuned for many more fun adventures from the Bishop clan in the Land of the Morning Calm.

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