Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Everywhere.  Look on any wall (and even our ceiling) and there it is.  Glued on and ready to brighten any room (except the bathroom, which is ALL tile). Wallpaper!

Construction in Korea is all cement, so wallpaper is a good option for decorating.

First, lets take a look at the wallpaper in our apartment.


Notice the Big Pink Flowers on one wall in our bedroom. I L-O-V-E (love) this wall paper.  (Mark … not so much :o)  The other walls and the ceiling all have white wallpaper. 

Wallpaper can be bought at about any store in this country … there are rolls of it everywhere. 



As you will soon notice, THE pattern of choice for Koreans is flowers.  And the colors are bright and bold.

Now for some up-close shots of different wallpaper prints.









Monday, March 30, 2009

And Now, About the Potato

Mark and I are enjoying Korean food (me a bit more than Mark).

BUT Korean cuisine does not include:

  • butter
  • bread
  • potatoes
  • steak
  • cream of anything
  • french toast
  • cured bacon
  • cheese
  • chunky peanut butter
  • Sunday Pot Roast (I miss this so much)
  • apple pie
  • Ah, the list goes on …  

So, for the sake of “stomach sanity” (very important in a foreign country) out comes my frying pan, potatoes, butter, garlic, salt, and pepper. And very shortly thereafter, glorious, heavenly, butter-y, garlic-y goodness is ready to consume. 


Thank you Lord for the potato farmers of the world!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Delight of Korea

Mark and I have fallen in love with the bright spirit and spunkiness of the young female upstarts in this country.  They are eager for life, vivacious, sweet, silly, opened faced … so genuine.  They have stolen our hearts!!

On Saturday we were heading downtown.  At the bus stop a group of 6 girls were waiting as well.  I smiled in there direction and they said a hesitant (but excited to be speaking English) hello.  I took a few steps towards them to see if we could talk to them a bit more (being as how I just learned the words for cute and very cute I felt confident!)  They instantly huddled around Mark and I and started firing questions at us. We jumped right in and started saying the few Korean words we knew … which they LOVED.  They corrected us, affirmed us, and ALL of us enjoyed the general merriment. 

We all got on the same bus and when we arrived downtown we talked with them a bit more.  Then Mark pulled out the camera and we captured this spirited picture.


Mark and I saw them two more times throughout the day, as we were all enjoying the food, shopping, and the general hustle-and-bustle energy of downtown.  Each time they said “HELLO” with big smiles, high energy, and all around genuine excitement for life.

Mark and I agreed that they were the highlight of our day.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ode to the Donut


In this land of rice

We’ve met many a new flavor

Our palates have declared ‘very nice!’

Our stomachs are much braver

Come Saturday morn’

The week has passed in a flurry

We rest our body and refresh our gut

Our weekend is born

We aren’t in a hurry

Except to find our doughnut.

Shinsegae Department Store

This high-end shopping establishment is a world in itself.  It is 11 stories (including two basements) of:

  • fashion, covering all ages
  • house wares
  • sporting goods
  • around-the-world food courts
  • a grocery store
  • an art gallery
  • Starbucks (yeah)
  • a spa
  • high-end boutiques (Louis Vuitton, Burberry, etc.)
  • valet parking
  • and more

Check out the elevator listing of floors


The downstairs foyer has beautiful seasonal displays.



My favorite customer service feature at Shinsegae (and they are BIG, BIG, BIG on customer service) is the parking staff that helps direct you into and around their parking lot.  They are dressed up to the nines and make sure your parking experience is very pleasant.


Isn’t she absolutely adorable and unexpectedly dressed-up for standing at the entrance of a parking lot?  She has a microphone and her sole job is to welcome cars into the lot.  I kid you not … they are THAT into top-notch customer service.


Everything at Shinsegae is posh and lovely and beautiful.  I love watching the young people strut their fashion.  New moms (with their mothers) carefully guiding their baby stroller through the throngs of people.  Couples walk hand-in-hand in search of the perfect ‘couples outfits’ (yes, matching outfits … no, I’m not kidding :o)

I get dizzy going up, up, up the escalators … and then get dizzier by all the visual splendor surrounding me.  It is a mite overwhelming … but it is so much fun! 


Today I went to Shinsegae with So Hyeon and another woman named Mok Ryun.  I have tried to shop there before but just got too overwhelmed because of the language barrier. It was SO much more enjoyable for me to shop with these two women.  I learned lots of new Korean words like:

  • Cute
  • Very cute
  • Pretty
  • Pockets
  • ‘Gottcha’
  • ‘Lets go!’
  • Thanks!
  • Too expensive
  • Sorry (for when I bump into people)
  • I Like
  • I Dislike
  • Did I mention VERY CUTE?  This is one of their favorite description words.  Cute, cute, VERY cute!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cardboard Recycling with Pops & Mama

The first time I looked out our apartment window my heart sank.  This is what I saw…

PICT1899 A right proper MESS! 

With time I have come to realize that this mess is actually a very intentional line of work.  The owners of our apartment are an elderly Korean couple (whom we call, affectionately, ‘Pops’ and ‘Mama’– as we don’t know their names).  They own this lot next door and use it as a recycling station for cardboard.

Every day Pops and Mama go around our dong (our small section of the city), with a cart either pulled by hand or by a bike, and collect cardboard.  Everyone in Gwangju separates their cardboard from the rest of their garbage and puts it outside.  I see older people all over the city pulling around carts collecting this cardboard.

PICT1882   A classic style of cart

I think our landlords do it in part to supplement their income, but also I think it gives Pops something to do (I see him out there more than Mama).  I now see this lot as his workshop.  

  PICT1633 There he is in the upper left corner carefully inspecting one of the cardboard items. 

PICT1899 Now I look at this pile and see an organized heap of cardboard ready to be picked up by a recycling company.

PICT1900 Often there is a tarp placed over the cardboard to keep it dry.

PICT1635 It is amazing how much the pile can grow in a day … they work very hard!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cartoon Animals

Around here, many restaurants use cute cartoon animals as marketing tools.  They are always used to advertise the type of meat the establishment specializes in.















What do you think?  Are you hungry now?!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Heated Floors

Apartments in Korea are heated through hot water pipes laid in the floor.  It was a nice surprise when we slept on the floor at Vicky’s house (the one saving grace of that week).  It is also great when all of our furniture (aside from our bed) right now consists of two floor cushions.


They are very comfortable, and we are VERY thankful for them. 

Here is a peak at our ‘computer room’.


Which turns quickly into our ‘dining room’ (remove computer and voila!). 

Also, I appreciate that I can lay clothing on the floor to dry, like these two sweaters.


Very cool (and very warm) :o)


Koreans LOVE take-out.  There are so many restaurants that cater to this cliental.  A lot of the fliers plastered on our door are advertising for take-out.  Plus, most of the scooters seen zipping and weaving through the traffic are filled with crates of food to be delivered.  You know a take-out scooter when you see it, there is always the restaurant’s name and number, with a picture of the type of food they serve.


Right next door to our coffee shop,


there is a take-out restaurant that has a gang of scooters that are always flying in and out. 

In the morning, all of the guys (I have never seen a female deliver food) show up to clean their scooters, shoot the breeze, drink coffee, and smoke cigarettes around this little burn barrel.


As orders come in, the food goes into these crates.


Which goes on the back of the scooters.


And off the guys go, with or without a helmet.  With or without a cigarette hanging out the corner of their mouth.  With or without  a cell phone in hand carrying on a conversation.

BUT - I guarantee the food is always hot.  The way they break ALL the traffic rules, there is no way it can have a chance to cool down!

Even McDonald’s delivers!


Monday, March 23, 2009

Unexpected Invitation

Mark and I were relaxing on Sunday afternoon at (surprise!) Starbucks.  I spied out the window a car pulling up, but not just any car, a car covered in Hearts, Pink, Flowers, Streamers … LOVE!



I kinda freaked out and pointed excitedly at the car to Mark. (Look, look!!!)  Out came a beautiful bride and dashing groom and they came into Starbucks to meet up with a group of their friends.

At first Mark tried to take a picture on the sly.


Then I got BRAVE and just outright asked (okay, more like I gestured with camera in hand and smile on face).  They kindly obliged, but not before grabbing Mark and pulling him into the picture.



FYI: The bride is wearing a traditional Korean dress. Isn’t it gorgeous?!  She looked beautiful!

Next the group trooped outside


And then … I followed them out there because I had to get a shot of the wedding car for the post.  I snapped a few photos.


Next, they insisted I get in the photo.


Can you pick me out?

One Night at Starbucks


One night at Starbucks, Mark took this picture. Harmless enough, we were just amused at all the trays (Koreans love trays) that were overflowing on the waste/recycle and coffee condiment station (isn’t that what you call the place that houses all the sugar, cream, and spices you put in your coffee?).

A Korean woman asked Mark (in English) what he was doing. Fair enough, what were these two crazy Americans doing? We blamed it on all of you back home … we said you would be amused at the sight. Well, whether you are or aren’t amused, it struck up a conversation and now a friendship.

So Hyeon (sounds like: So He-yung) is an English Teacher at a hog won (a private language school, like Mark’s school) in Gwangju. She is a lovely Korean woman who is more than happy to answer all my crazy questions while she practices her English.

Today we enjoyed lunch at her favorite restaurant. We had marinated pork rib, cooked right in front of us on our own mini BBQ, wrapped in lettuce with bean paste, sesame oil, and garlic. YUM!. Plus a coleslaw like dish that is made with vinegar and wasabi instead of mayo – as wonderful as it sounds!

She answered a lot of my questions about the culture (like what is a coffee girl … answer: a bit of a slander, like, “make sure you work hard in school so you don’t end up a coffee girl”) Also, I had questions about our mail. You know, Mark and I were wondering “are you my mail”? Well, today I finally got the answer.

PICT1726_thumb This was not our mail!

Yes, I did carry this letter (and a few others that have arrived since) downtown with me.

Yes, So Hyeon did laugh at me when I pulled the letters out.

Yes, it is so nice to (finally) know it is not ours and that I can now identify the names of the previous tenants.

It’s the little things that make the day great!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Coffee Shop Recycling

Mark and I have always wondered why coffee shops in the US don’t make an effort to recycle all of their paper cups. 

Lo and behold, Korea already has a system in place.  How cool is this!


The recycle/waste station


Dump liquids in here


Cups in one – Lids in the other


Put the rest of the garbage here.

Viola!! Recycling made easy.