Diversions And Excursions
Saturday, 16 September 2006
The movers came yesterday. Amazingly, all of my belongings were packed up and hauled away in less than 6 hours. A couple hours after they left I had a moment of heightened anxiety wondering if I'd ever see my things again. They said it would take a couple of months to ship everything. There's nothing I can do until then so I decided to just let it go.
Last night I went out with several folks from work. We went to a Kalbi house and then hit a bar downtown. Great food, wonderful people, lots of laughs. No muss, no fuss fun. It was a perfect way to end my stint in Korea.
Now here I sit in my hotel room, looking out at my old neighborhood and pondering the last 4 years. I accomplished everything I set out to do....advanced my career, traveled all over Asia, and still managed to save money. I think that's why I have such peace with this move. No regrets.
Posted by cynthia
at 9:26 AM KDT
Tuesday, 5 September 2006
My Hits and Misses
**Take a look at the "All Good Things Must Come To An End" entry for this will make more sense**
DRIVING -- A definite not miss
I've been out and about like crazy trying to get all my ducks in a row for the move. That includes getting all of those last minute items that I won't be able to find in the US. During such an excursion I got myself lost and ended up deep in the bowels of Taegu. Every street I turned down became more narrow and less foreigner friendly. I saw things I won't bother to repeat now. Trust me, it's better you don't know.
I really should have been completely frustrated, but just had an overwhelming sense of apathy. Even though there was no exit strategy in sight I just didn't care. At some point I had to find my way back to civilization. That myth of falling off the edge of the earth was disproved wasn't it?
The alley I was on ended up T-ing into a wide brick sidewalk. I pondered my options. I could back up and turn down yet another alley leading to who knows where or I could cruise down the sidewalk. Sidewalk driving in Korea isn't unheard of and I was in no mood to try the obstacle course in reverse. So sidewalk it was.
At first it was actually wider than the street I'd just left -- can you smell the irony? But then I was driving past stores. Stores that used part of the sidewalk to display their products. Stores that people parked their mopeds outside of. I got as far as I could go then was stuck.
My car couldn't fit through the sidewalk anymore. Plus there were now pedestrians and bikers to contend with. Backing up was not an option. I'd only made it that far because my side mirrors collapse.
With the car drawing attention and my apathy not diminishing there was only one logical option.....fake it. I threw up my hands in hopelessness. I ran my fingers through my hair and shook my head then dropped it to the steering wheel. Oh the stress, the panic, what was I to do?!? How could I ever get out of this mess?!?.......If I don't get an Oscar for that performance heads will roll!
As suspected, the staring crowd started moving mopeds out of the way. (That stupid American) It only offered a few inches on each side, but that's all I needed. I rounded the corner and gently slid into traffic. Problem solved.
I gave countless Koreans a good story to tell the family that night. You could say I'm a humanitarian....of sorts.
Two For The Miss Column
Four years later and 2 things in Korea still impress me.
1) Service people respond immediately. I’ve called cable guys, phone guys, the gas man…they’ve all been at my apartment within 30 minutes . Or, if I say I’ll be home at 2pm, they meet me at 2pm. None of this “somewhere between 9am and 4pm, sometime during the month of June”.
2) Their accuracy at custom orders. I’ve had countless outfits made by just bringing in some fabric and a picture. Talk about a gift.
My kitchen table is basically oval, but has scalloped edges…If that makes sense. Anywho, it used to have a protective glass top. A rather vigorous wine opening incident cracked said glass top. That was about a year ago. The glass was going to have to be custom cut and that just sounded like more of an ordeal than I could handle on my own. With only weeks left in Korea I broke down and started asking for assistance. I wish I didn’t hate asking for help so much. Come to find out there was a place only minutes from my apartment – go figure. I brought a picture of the table with me and somehow explained that I needed glass for it.
Not surprisingly, they needed to see the table in person. So I hopped in the truck with one of the workers and off we went to my apartment. He traced my table and back to the shop we went. I chose the glass thickness and paid the lady. Assuming this would take a few days, I asked when it would be finished. She said they would do it now. I walked down the street, grabbed a bottle of water, waited a little bit and boom, it was done.
Back in the truck with newly cut glass. It was a perfect fit! The whole thing took about 30 minutes. I did it all on my lunch hour. And the cost for this handiwork? $40. And that was for the thicker glass. The thin stuff would have been $25.
I don’t know how they do it, but I wish they’d share their secret.
Kalbi Houses -- They Will Be Missed
A quick refresher: kalbi houses are restaurants where you grill meet at your table and have a ton of side dishes. I love eating at these places. The style of dining is best suited for large groups of people so right off the bat the atmosphere is festive. It's also relatively cheap which is always a bonus.
Because the meal involves a grill in the center of the dining table there won't be any places like it in the states -- thank you lawyers. I've been learning how to make various side dishes so I can feed the craving (literally). Next to nothing it's not a bad substitute, but there's nothing like the real thing.
The Mani/Pedi -- Big Time Miss
All of those pampering beauty treatments: manicures, pedicures, massages, facials, etc. are a lot cheaper over here. It's easy to get spoiled. I'll be getting one more round of beautification before I go. The hands feet and hair will all get a proper send off.
Squatty Potties -- I can't imagine anyone missing these
It's pretty self explanatory -- a porcelain hole in the ground that you squat over to use the restroom. I think there's a picture of one from my Thailand trip. Modern buildings have the western style "thrones", but the squatty potty is alive and well all over Korea. Hole-in-the-wall restaurants, subway stations, markets, public parks, and rest stops are common squatty potty sites. I was in one today while shopping at one of the underground malls connected to the subway station. Going into the stall I thought, "This may very well be the last time I use one of these." I felt not even an ounce of nostalgia.
People -- The biggest miss of all
It's not where you are, it's who you're with. This is an undeniable truth in my life. Being associated with the military in Korea means friends are continuously coming and going. It's like a revolving door and not very condusive for putting down roots. On the flip side, it has given me the opportunity to meet some great folks and create good memories.
The handbell choir, the PWOC members, the quilting ladies, all of the TDY folks during exercises, the yoga crew, the BK buddies at work.....and countless others that made my time in Korea a great experience.
Posted by cynthia
at 10:27 PM KDT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006 12:06 PM KDT
Thursday, 31 August 2006
All Good Things Must Come To An End
It’s been 4 years since I moved to the “land of the morning calm” and I’m ready to head back to “the land of the free / home of the brave”. Actually, I’ve been ready for several months now. My slick talking boss somehow convinced me to stay an extra 6 months. How did that happen? In all seriousness, my time spent in Korea has served me well. I’ve gotten to see and do amazing things. It bears repeating….I live a blessed life. Before coming here I’d been to 24 different US states, 7 different countries, and about a dozen Caribbean islands. Traveling is one thing, but actually living away from the motherland is a horse of a different color. The experience is so vast that I can’t even begin to fit it neatly into one paragraph. You have to live it.
So with that in mind I’m going to list a few things I’m going to miss about Korea as well as those things I’ll be glad to leave behind. I'll keep updating the "Hits and Misses" entry as they pop into my head.
Posted by cynthia
at 12:01 AM KDT
Updated: Friday, 8 September 2006 10:17 PM KDT
Saturday, 19 August 2006
Gimme Your Stuff
I stumbled across this cool site recently called Gimme Your Stuff
. It's a meeting place for people around the globe that want to trade things. Most of the trades a relatively small items....candy, magazines, crafty things. It's sounds pretty fun so I'm going to give it a whirl. I'll post my results (hopefully) soon.
Posted by cynthia
at 7:39 PM KDT
Updated: Saturday, 19 August 2006 8:36 PM KDT
Wednesday, 9 August 2006
I'm A Star
Another sleepless night for CJ….wide awake at 3am. I thought about breaking out one of my yoga DVDs or working on that cure for cancer. I ended up watching a little Oprah and surfing the net.
Ever wonder what celebrity you look like? Well I found a site that will tell you. With not much else to do I gave it try.
This is the first photo I uploaded.
And the results……
Oprah Winfrey – Not quite what I was expecting, but I could see a nose resemblance.
Margaret Cho – Korean comedian, clearly I’ve been in this country too long.
Condaleezza Rice – Again, it must be the nose.
Sophia Loren – Sweet! From her early days. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!
Melanie Griffith – The picture of Melanie that they showed looked like she was auditioning for Annie.
JK Rowling – Not too far off, I guess. The hair color was the same, but I can't say I was overly excited about it.
Jeanne Moreau – I had to google this one. She’s an actress whose work dates back to the mid 1950’s. In her early days she was a hottie, but the photo they provided must have been taken yesterday. C’mon, I’ve come to accept (sort of) my inevitable aging, but this?!?
Toni Morrison – I lump this in with JK Rowling. Not devastating, not thrilling..
Heidi Klum – Not a big Heidi Klum fan, but she is a super model so that’s pretty good.
Geena Davis – This is good. I like Geena. Like me, she's not super model material, but still attractive.
Then I decided to try another pic
And here are its results……
Condoleezza Rice – Again with Condi, I’m not seeing it.
Geena Davis – Of all the matches I think this one is the most accurate. I never thought I looked like her, but look what I have to chose from.
Matt Dillon – Case in point. A guy?!? Yeah, the site doesn’t distinguish male or female.
Charlton Heston – At least this was from his early days. I have to ask, though, how on earth did I match this? High forehead maybe?
Zhang Ziyi – Actress from Memoirs of a Geisha. My recent Japan trip must have influenced this entry.
Yasmine Bleeth – I’m beginning to think they throw in the models to offset some of the more dubious choices.
Thabo Mbeki – South African President. I can actually see the resemblance. Look at the cheeks.
Heidi Klum – Just when you’re feeling pretty good…….
Carl Sagan – No friggin’ way!
Try it for yourself. It’s good for a laugh….of course I am easily amused, especially at 4am. www.myheritage.com
Posted by cynthia
at 12:01 AM KDT
Sunday, 23 July 2006
Planes Trains and Automobiles....and Buses and Tuk-tuks and....
I love traveling. That may appear to be stating the obvious, but I'm not talking about visiting places. Without a doubt I enjoy that. I'm talking about the physical act of getting from one place to another. I love it!
I like all of the documentation involved with travel....my passport, visa stamps, the tickets, itineraries, those adhesive tags the airlines put on your luggage. I like reading subway maps and the arrival/departure board. Walking through airports or train stations with my carry-on bag gives me a thrill. My music, a book, water bottle, and camera are staples bag essentials. I think it's great to get off the train, change concourses and hop on the subway. Heck, I just flat out like the subway, period. Don't even get me started on getting to ring the bell signaling the bus driver you want to get off at the next stop. Hailing a taxi makes me happy.
Layovers can sometimes be a drag depending on your location. It's amazing what some airports offer. I've surfed the net, sat in a massage chair, gotten my nails done, napped, had a masseuse relax my tired feet, watched a movie....in a theater, played pool, drank bloody Marys, and of course shopped. The airport shops are great, even though I'm more of a browser than a buyer.
But it's not all a bed of roses. I'll admit I've had my fair share of horrible experiences -- lost luggage, plane delays, countless sprints to through train stations and airports or chasing after buses and taxis, my pick up person is nowhere to be found.... I've had travel snafus that brought me to tears and fellow passengers that made me contemplate violence. Yet, I still love it.
The more I travel the more creative the modes of transportation become. My journey back home from Cambodia started with a tuk-tuk drive from the hotel to the airport. I then boarded a plane to Vietnam. After a lengthy layover I got on another plane bound for Korea. I landed in Pusan and grabbed a taxi to the train station. With impeccable timing I bought a ticket and was on my way to Taegu in a matter of minutes. One more taxi from the Taegu station to my front door and I was home sweet home.
That old saying of "you can't get there from here" is obsolete. There may not be a direct route, but you can definitely get there.
Posted by cynthia
at 2:58 PM KDT
Updated: Thursday, 27 July 2006 8:12 PM KDT
Sunday, 16 July 2006
Geisha For A Day
I use the term geisha as a synonym for maiko. They do not, however, refer to the same thing. Maikos are apprentice geisha and they wear the more ornate kimonos and their make-up and hairstyles are a little different than a full-fledged geisha. Technically, I got a maiko makeover.
Stage 1 – Getting Prepped
There are many layers to a geisha’s kimono. I started out with a light white cotton wrap that dipped down in the back and V-ed low in the front. The fit of the wrap is important because the white makeup is worn on the neck, and a bit down the back. Thankfully, I wore a wig (can’t imagine how long it would have taken my own hair to look like that) which necessitated the lovely hairnet.
Stage 2 – The Makeup
It wasn’t nearly as think or un-breathable as I’d expected. Of course I only had in on for an hour. It might be different after several hours of wear. And maybe the real geisha wears a thicker brand to last all night. A light pink base, similar to a rouge, was put on my checks before the white makeup. This is so the rosy cheeks would shine through. One of the real geisha I saw in Gion had that blushing look. It reminded me when I’d put a flashlight in my mouth and puff out my cheeks….you’ve done it too, don’t lie. Her’s, of course, were much more attractive. It really did look like she was glowing. She was beautiful. I couldn’t help but stare.
The white makeup goes over the entire face neck and part of the chest and back. A W pattern is made at the base of the neck. The kimono dips slightly to show the design. Red tinted eye makeup is put on along with eyeliner and mascara. The eyebrows are penciled in and the lips painted a glossy red. Red is used frequently in the makeup and the kimono as it is supposed to attract men.
Stage 3 – Layering, Layering, Layering
As stated earlier there are several layers to the kimono. I first put on the tabi socks -- the popular foot mitten designed to accommodate flip flops or in my case getas. They were a nylon/satin material that hooked along the back heel.
Everything else was done by my makeup artist/dresser. In addition to the cotton slip there was another light-weight white wrap that went around my shoulders. This one wasn’t as low cut, had thick red trim around the neckline and only went down to my upper abdomen. It was secured just below my boobs. Next was a wrap skirt tied above my natural waistline. This was patterned because it’s meant to be seen. Then came a wide sash that draped around my neck. Finally we got to the kimono robe. It rested on my shoulders strategically to show the fancy back makeup as well as the decorative neck sash. A long, wide red sash was then wrapped from right below my hips to just above my waist. Then some sort of stiff board was placed over my midsection. An embroidered sash was wrapped high on my torso flattening my chest down. (That one isn't shown in the above picture.) At last we got to the obi sash. It went on top of, but did not cover the embroidered and solid wraps. There's a full length shot below that you can make out the 3 different sashes, but you have to look closely. A skinny elastic belt with a rhinestone studded buckle was placed over the obi. I guess this was to indicate where my waist should have been. The finishing touch (for the kimono anyway) was the back knot. I’m sure that real Japanese women tie it, but for my dress-up purposes we used the pre-made style. The large plastic hook wedged into my obi like giant bow on a Christmas box.
Stage 4 – The Wig
I was asked to sit down to put the wig in place. The dresser had wrapped me so low on my hips that I could hardly bend down onto the stool. It was a snug fit and a bit heavy. For just a few seconds I felt light headed. How those Rockettes do it I’ll never know.
Stage 5 – The Photo Shoot
I walked from the dressing room to the studio taking tiny steps. There wasn’t much room in all my wrapping for a large stride. It added to the whole experience, though, making me feel more in character. I wore basic sandals from room to room, but had the actual geta shoes on during the pictures. Boy were those tricky! Some of the shots were taken while I was kneeling. Getting down wasn’t so bad, but the photographer had to help me back up. It takes a bit more effort when you can’t bend at the waist.
Stage 6 – The Clean-Up
Taking off was quicker that putting on. Even the makeup cleaned up with ease. The whole thing, makeup, dressing, and pictures only took an hour and a half. I got to keep the contact sheet from the shoot. From the 20 shots he took I was able to pick out (3) 5x7’s and make one of those into a wallet size laminated card. I also opted to get a CD that has all 20 original shots.
The makeup lady and the photographer were a lot of fun and really enhanced the afternoon. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I’ve gotten to do and see so many different things while living over here. What a blessed and fortunate life I’ve lived.
The End Result -- Check out the travel pics for another shot of me and some pictures of real geisha and maiko.
**By the way, I did get to participate in a traditional tea ceremony while in Japan. If I can get my hands on a good wig I might become available for parties, anniversaries, and bar mitzvahs.**
Posted by cynthia
at 8:49 PM KDT
Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006 2:26 PM KDT
Saturday, 15 July 2006
Hot. It's So Freakin' Hot
It’s funny how people ask about the weather. They hear you live in a foreign country and they want to know what the weather is like. It has to be out of habit. Although I’m not sure how such a habit originates, I can’t imagine that that many people are truly interested in meteorological analysis. No doubt I have been guilty of the same query and I definitely fall into the habit group.
Before moving to Taegu I spent a brief time living around Seoul. Upon telling people I was would be moving to Taegu they’d either tell me that Taegu was going to be much hotter than Seoul or much colder. Now how can that be? Taegu is south of Seoul so I could understand the hotter part, but the colder? And there’s no way it could be both.
Criminy sakes, they were right. Something having to do with the mountains around the city. They create a wind tunnel in the winter. The temperature may read higher than Seoul, but the wind is a killer. Summer is naturally warmer due to it’s southern location, but I think the mountains also trap in the humidity. I don’t know the technical reasons, all I know is it’s July and I’m miserable. The humidity level is so high that there is a palpable difference going from indoors to outdoors. Palpable.
Adding to the agony, the AC in my office hasn’t been working all that well. From after lunch until quitting time the building is completely uncomfortable. A few of us walk down the block to the quickie-mart just to hang out in the walk in refrigerator. We joke among the cases of cokes and beer about bringing in our laptops….but were not really joking.
A new shipment of fans arrived at the small furniture shop on base. Five of us bought matching desk fans. I call us “the fan club”. It’s the best $17 I’ve ever spent. It's definitely made the past few days a bit more bearable
Posted by cynthia
at 5:44 PM KDT
Friday, 14 July 2006
Useful Phrases When Traveling
Guide books always list several words and phrases that come in handy during international travel. Hello and thank you are the most common terms people learn. Because they can be repeated several times during the day they are also usually the easiest to remember. A lot of people think that “I don’t speak (insert language)” would be useful. Ironically saying that phrase tends to contradict the desired effect. Ideally, the foreign national would follow a thought process similar to “They don’t speak my language, perhaps I’ll try another language.” Or “They don’t speak my language, perhaps I’ll find someone who speaks their language.” Or even “They don’t speak my language, perhaps I’ll try wildly exaggerated hand gestures.” No, what seems to occur is a complete disregard to the statement itself and more of a focus on the language being spoken….”They constructed a complete sentence using my language. I’ll continue speaking to them in my native tongue.”
I make a point to learn excuse me and sorry. Excuse me is a great way to politely get someone’s attention. It signifies you are at least attempting to assimilate into their culture. And hopefully, that tiny gesture will encourage them to be charitable. I say this because most of my excuse me’s are prompted by the need to ask for directions. Sometimes it’s as desperate as, “Excuse me, am I currently anywhere on this map”?
Of course a new country brings new customs and new procedures, making sorry an excellent friend. Take for instance my first day in Japan. Riding the bus, you enter from the back and exit at the front, paying as you leave. It’s 220 Yen to ride the bus. Upon exiting, I put my 500 Yen coin in the slot, got my change and started heading out the door. Not so fast. You have to pay the exact amount. That first slot just broke down my 500 Yen coin to smaller denominations. There was a different place to put the bus fair. I just opened my hand and let the bus driver take what he needed….ooops sorry. Day 2 with the bus system I was more confident. I now possessed a pre-paid bus pass that let me ride all day long. All I had to do was put the card in the slot next to the driver. Too bad I got the paper money slot confused with the bus pass slot….ooops sorry.
Yep, I highly recommend mastering the I'm sorry phrase. An accompanied naive expression doesn't hurt either.
Posted by cynthia
at 12:01 AM KDT
Updated: Saturday, 15 July 2006 4:58 PM KDT
Sunday, 18 June 2006
Wake Up And Smell The.....Tuna?
Somewhere in this site I think I've mentioned that Koreans don't eat a traditional western breakfast. Their morning meal is often leftovers from the night before. I've eaten my share of cold pizza in the A.M. but I'm not about to give up my pancakes and eggs.
Weekends I usually put a little more effort into the cooking. Today was no exception. I had my fancy omelet, my toast, my instant chai latte. I was all prepared for a relaxing breakfast. Then I walked into the dining area where the smell of fish slapped me in the face. And not the deliciously grilled Mahi Mahi Amondine fish smell. I'm talking heart of the fish market, head still on, fish smell. That stench is bad anytime, but at 8am when you aren't braced for it is just torture.
This time of year I like to keep my windows open, as do my neighbors. On one side of my apartment there are 2 driveways that separate me from the neighbors. The other side I can spit and hit their window. Thankfully the buildings are staggered in such a way that the windows aren't directly across from each other. As luck would have it I can look down into my neighbor's kitchen....where all of their cooking smells were wafting right into my room. I let out some grunts and sighs of disgust then closed the window, lit some incense, and managed to get the peaceful meal I was hoping for.
Posted by cynthia
at 4:06 PM KDT
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