Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bent Backing

Today began the moving process. We officially began occupancy of the new office, which is located on the NORTH side of a train station (that's important later on in the story). We spent a few hours packing and preparing, and while CH had to attend a meeting elsewhere, I worked with two other Korean men packing up and moving some delicate electronics items that we don't want the movers to handle. To my surprise, we loaded up three SUV's full of stuff! I was even more surprised when these men told me (in body language and Konglish) that I was to lead the convoy of vehicles to the new office! I've been there by taxi a few times, but I have NEVER driven there. The car I was driving has a GPS navigation unit, so I proudly used my limited Korean skills to enter in my destination - the train station.

Well, we arrived at the train station okay, but the navigation unit took us to the SOUTH side of the station. Minor problem you might think. You would be wrong. It is true that this is a SUBWAY train station, but unfortunately for me this is one of the occassional stations where the tracks near the station are above ground. Thus, it is nearly impossible to get from one side of the station to the other. I realized this, and cautiously began searching for a way to drive around the station. I saw a promising road, and turned onto it.

At first, this road was wide and looked normal. But as we went further and further on the road, it narrowed to 1 lane and it was clearly a private driveway serving an apartment complex. A guarded and gated apartment complex! At a dead end. By the time this was obvious, I had no idea how we were going to turn around all three cars. I decided to turn around first, and backed up into the entrance where the automatic gate was located. I was about to turn around, when suddenly 2 other cars and a BUS came along blocking us all in. The plan seemed to be for us to pull forward into the dead end area, while the other cars (who belonged there) drove into the apartment complex.

It took some time for me to realize it, but that wasn't happening. Apparently when I was backing up, I slightly bent the crossbar of the gate (no damage to the car thankfully)! It wouldn't work! We waited around about 15 minutes, during which time my Korean colleagues told me over and over again... "you don't speak any Korean - ONLY english, you can't understand anything the guard tries to say to you". Finally a maintenance man came out, opeded the hatch of the gate machine, and did something really quickly. Suddenly the gate started working again. We let the other vehicles through, then we followed. I was nervous because this guard had been previously making motions like he wanted to detain me. When I was driving through the gate, he shouted something at me... I thought I was heading to the police for sure. But instead I think he was telling me I should have the proper device put on my car so I can automatically enter the parking lot (maybe he thought I just moved there?)

After this, one of the Korean men took the lead driving position. In my defense it took him about 10 more minutes to find the way there, and in the process HE led us down a blind dead end street, too. We finally arrived at the new place and unloaded all three cars and took the gear up to the new office (which is basically a big empty room). Some shelves are being delivered tomorrow, and after the real moving day on Saturday everything should be relocated. Being ORGANIZED is another matter...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Goodbye Aircon

[These photos below are of my air conditioner leaving the building...]
There was a glitch in the moving process a couple weeks ago. When we went to inquire about the installation of my air conditioner (that's aircon in Konglish), we were told that this apartment did not allow installation of your own aircon. Each home comes with one aircon installed, and that's all you're allowed to have! No amount of haggling would change their minds.

I've convinced myself that the pre-installed aircon is a big, strong one, and should probably be adequate. Even though it is located in the living room, it points directly to the bedroom door, so I should probably be okay. At worst I would need to put my fan in the bedroom doorway.

So that brought up the question, what should I do with the old aircon? CH did some checking around, and it was going to be difficult to sell. It is a "triple-headed" unit. That is, there is one outdoor compressor, and three wall mounted indoor units. When I bought it last spring, we really were not looking to air condition three rooms. But we found this triple-headed unit that was the same price as most of the two-headed (more common) styles. But most Koreans don't want that many indoor units, so it was going to be difficult to sell. Finally CH himself decided that HE would buy it, because he has postponed installing an aircon at his house. And he said that after paying me a fair price, and paying the removal and installation fee, he is saving a lot of money over the luxurious style unit that HS was considering!

Fusion Rice

My friend Trevor told me an odd way of cooking the frozen vegetables that I bought from Costco recently. He said to start off making a pot of rice in the rice cooker, then just before you start the cooker, throw in some frozen vegetables and then press start. I've done that a few times, and it works well. There is only one bad point about this. I think the "rule" my Korean friends have given me in the past must be changed when dealing with "vegetable rice". That is, usually I've been told the rice can stay edible and tasty up to 48 hours in the rice cooker (once it cooks the rice, it constantly keeps the rice warm). After 48 hours, you should throw out the rice or use it to make fried rice. My observation is when you have the vegetables mixed in, it lasts an even shorter time - I would guess 24 hours at the most.

I've tried to make a cream of chicken-like sauce to pour over the rice. I've made it a few times, and I'm still not quite happy with it. I think I need to add some spices, but I don't know which ones. I put chicken cubes into cream of mushroom soup, and pour over the vegetable rice and eat it.

While the cream of chicken sauce is definitely NOT Korean, putting "things" in the rice cooker with the rice actually IS a common thing in Korea. Sometimes they put some other, colorful grains in the rice. I've seen different kinds of beans added to the rice, too. My cookbook that came with the rice cooker shows all sorts of variations, if only I could read enough Korean to understand it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Korean Air Water

I have proof that at least one person besides my mother reads my blog - a non-family member commented on my Korean Air playing card post. I want to point out that you can get at least one other free thing - The Jeju Island Water Spray bottle. They pass these out in the business class cabin, but I'm sure you could request on in economy class. Just tell the stewardess that you have a severe skin condition and need to frequently moisturize, and I'm sure she'll bring it:

By the way, this is an older style bottle, about 5 or 6 inches tall. I've noticed on recent flights they've switched to a shorter, miniature version.

Remaining Anamnesis

There are a couple interesting looking bars around the area I live, that I have not had the chance to visit. Since I'll be moving next weekend, I decided to go visit a couple of these this week. The first one is named the "C U Bar". I thought it was a silly way of spelling "see you", but I found out it is instead pronounced "Kyoo-Bah", almost like Cuba would be pronounced by a Korean. Met a nice guy who was the manager and only employee, except for a waiter who would appear from time to time. When I asked for 1 more bottle of beer, I said, "One more bottle, please". He repeated this command to the waiter, "One more bottle, please", and the waiter said, "yes, one more bottle". I felt like the captain of a submarine!

The other place I visited, in hindsight, we had visited maybe 3 years ago with John and CH. I don't know why I forgot about it, because in better weather they have a roof-top patio where you can sit outside. This place is called the "Z1BAR", and has a slogan that I honestly couldn't understand until I got home and looked it up in my dictionary:

Zone for Beautiful Anamnesis to Remain... just rolls off the tongue like a perfect slogan should, right?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

KFC Copycat

When I sometimes break down and eat at an American fast food restaurant, I sometimes eat this thing called a spicy chicken wrap from KFC. The last time I ate it, I was staring at it, and thought to myself, there really is no secret to making this. It is just chicken, lettuce, tomato, mayonaise wrapped in a tortilla. So this week I bought a head of lettuce, some pathetic greenhouse tomatoes, and thawed some chicken breasts. Instead of frying the chicken (which was a failure last time I tried it), I simply grilled it with red pepper and black pepper. Wrapped it all up, and it was delicious. Highly recommended, simple to make. No photos - I was so hungry I ate it immediately before thinking to take a picture.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Card Auction

Most of my friends know that when I travel on Korean Air, I always request a couple decks of playing cards. I don't know why I do it, I guess it has just become a habit I can't break. With all my trips, I currently have quite a collection. Here are my 24 sealed decks, and that doesn't count the decks I've given away to friends or opened myself and used.

Well, I used to joke with my friends why Korean Air didn't pass out sets of Hwatu cards. After all, it IS Korean Air, used by Koreans, and the hwatu cards are by far the most common in Korea. (I wrote briefly about them in this blog entry). On my most recent flight in December, I happened to ask the stewardess why they don't have Hwatu cards. To my surprise, she told me that many years ago, Korean Air DID offer them, just like the do today with western-style playing cards.

Where do you find old, odd stuff? E-Bay, of course. One day I did a search on E-Bay, just out of curiosity. I wondered what these Korean Air hwatu cards looked like, and did anyone have them for sale. I didn't find any hwatu cards, but I did find this fellow selling a deck of regular playing cards for $25 minimum bid! He claimed they were a "hard to find" item, which I guess justified the price (it took me some time to realize that HTF is E-Bay jargon for "Hard To Find"). That was just amazing! I have 24 decks, and I was quickly doing the math (it would have been $600). I checked back on this auction a couple weeks later, and found out that it did not sell. In fact, he tried to sell them again for $16 and failed. I guess these cards are worthless afterall.

Have I lost $600 or not? If you lose money that you never had in the first place, is it really lost?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tooth Trash

I almost forgot about this photo. Last month CH and I were walking down the street to lunch, and saw this pile of trash on the ground. As best I figure a dentist office must have closed down. Teeth and jaws everywhere.... yuck!

Monday, January 07, 2008


You know you've been missing American cooking too long when you get excited about finding this in the store:

By the way, they tasted delicious. I'm not sure why they export frozen vegetables from Washington State all the way to Korea (that's not visible in the photo - it is printed on the back of the package). It's not like these are special vegetables that they don't have in Korea. Strange...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Belly Ache

Well, I've done it again - somehow I've ended up with another stomach ache. I believe it was something I ate on Saturday night. I was bored, so I headed out to the area where the new apartment will be, and went to a movie theater which was recently constructed. Even though it is usually hard to get tickets on a Saturday night, I had three things going for me. First, I was alone - I figured there might be an odd seat available. Secondly, this was a new theater and perhaps not as many people have discovered it yet. Also, I was flexible in which movie I wanted to see. There were two American movies I was interested in, "I Am Legend" with Will Smith and "National Treasure II" with Nicholas Cage. I got there, purchased a ticket, and within minutes I was seated in a theater which was about 1/3 empty to watch "National Treasure II". My plan worked. Conclusion, the movie was very good, but I think not quite as good as the first one. Not exactly a spoiler, but let me say the story very definitely left open the possibility we'll be seeing a "National Treasure III" in the next couple of years.

Next I went to have some chicken at KFC, but they were just closing. Across the hall their competitor McD's was still open, so I reluctantly ate a hamburger. Afterwards I went to Trevor's bar in the snow, to find there was only one guest. We sat and watched Hockey for a few hours and ate a hot dog. Even after watching some games for three hours, and having lots of rules explained to me, I still don't quite get this game. I told Trevor I found it very boring to watch, but perhaps it would be more interesting in person. He tells me, it is just colder to see in person.

After visiting Beer O'Clock, I was hungry again and found myself at a new place called "It's Miller Time". This is a brand new place only opened a couple months ago. I've been there a few times with my friends, and have also used this place as a "waiting spot" while waiting on my buddies to arrive. I ordered a plate of sausages and onion rings, and met the owner of the shop for the first time. She is a former airline stewardess of 15 years, and speaks English perfectly. I found out that she gives me and a few other foreigner customers a 10% discount, simply because we are foreigners! Wow, that's a first! At least she isn't giving me the Senior Citizen Discount like in Hawaii!

Well, the next day my stomach was killing me. It could have been the McD's burger, or the sausage, I don't know. I'm pretty sure it was not the hot dog, since Trevor told me he didn't have any stomach pains the next day. Anyway, I've been either sleeping or lying on the sofa watching TV for 3 days straight. Finally on New Years Day I felt brave enough to try eating again. I made some chicken with rice soup. Over the past 24 hours I've eaten more and more, and now (Wednesday AM) I'm almost back to normal.

Well, since I haven't been out much, I don't have any good photos to share. Instead I stole two from the internet showing the New Years celebration here in Seoul and in New York City. We drop the electric light ball at Times Square in America, here in Korea they ring a huge bell 33 times to usher in the new year. I kind of like the bell, especially the log / clapper. But this year the Times Square electric ball has been completely re-designed, and is kind of cool, too. I got to enjoy both celebrations on TV, lying on my sofa clutching my stomach...

While I was laid up with a belly ache, The Stumbling Family was enjoying New Years celebrations with our friends in Sunny Florida! I received a report that the first day in Florida they grilled burgers, went boating, and soaked in the hot tub! Reportely the second day of their visit (New Year's Eve party) they were going to be enjoying grilled oysters, crab cakes, chicken, and swimming. I'm jealous.