Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lessons Learned

Henry Ford said, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young."  

We've certainly learned a lot in the week+ we've been here.  They are all part of our Korean experience!    

First, you have to step UP into the main part of the house.  The foyer here is where you take off your shoes before entering the house.  That means you also have to step DOWN to leave the house.  You may not notice this when you can't see the floor for the 50 lb. suitcase you've just carried up 3 flights of stairs.

In the same way,  the bathrooms are considered wet rooms, so almost anywhere you go, you must step down to get into the bathroom.  This can be quite a jolt at 2 am, so make sure you're conscious or dribbliage may occur! 

We have met a new friend, Chelsea, who is from Canada.  She's been here a while and offered to take us sight seeing.  We ate lunch at an authentic Korean place, Kimbop Heaven. We then set out for Coex mall via the subway.  I'm learning that most Koreans like to walk while staying to the left.  For instance, Zane exited the subway on my left while I was talking to Quade, who was on my right.  I put my arm out to put it around Zane's shoulders and looked simultaneously.  It wasn't Zane, but a very nice, laughing, Korean lady! 

While still in the subway, we went to the restroom.  I again, stayed to the right out of habit, and got tangled with a blind man and his cane as I turned the corner.  For this one, I may go to Hell, but God knows I've worked with the disabled for almost 20 years, right?!?   Note to self...stay to the left!!

 Here we are in Insadong..a market where you can find most anything.

I've learned you need to get a Korean hairdryer.  I tried using mine an adapter I brought from the States.  It wasn't running at full speed, though the setting was on high.  But, I kept going, bound and determined to not have frizzy hair today!  Three minutes into styling, it powered down and ended with a pfsssft and a cloud of smoke.  Thank God it didn't set off the smoke alarm!  Not sure I could've explained that to my Korean landlord.

We learned you only turn on the air conditioner an hour or so a day or you get fined for excessive electricity usage.  The business office called and told us this after we'd run ours for 4 days straight.  So, the windows are open, make sure you plug the holes in the screens or you get rabid gnats!  You also learn with the windows open, that the garbage truck comes in the middle of the night.  It's not a hobo going through your trash for aluminum.
(We've since learned that it's not a fine..but more like a graduated scale for your bill...the more you use, the more you pay.)

Zane has learned to bat his baby blues and he can get free stuff.  The Korean ladies love him.  At the convenience story the other day, he bought a Gatorade.  One clerk physically turned him to show the other clerk his eyes.  He didn't get anything extra on this trip but a boost to his ego.  But, he did get me 2 extra dumplings last night from the street vendor who also gives him extra buns.  I don't get anything extra when I go alone.  I guess I need the Zane touch.  (We now know that this is 'service'.  But, Zane does get extras all the time, too.)

Quade has learned that Koreans love spicy food.  He and Tre got into a contest to see who could eat the most.  They were both sweating and moaning.  There was no real winner, but Tre said he wouldn't get in a contest with Quade again!  

We learned that you have to recycle.  Which I love!  But, the rules are strict and you can get fined if you bag something the wrong way.  You have to buy the bags for regular non-recycled items (pink bags) and food waste (yellow bags) from the local market. 

We've learned that Itaewon has a great Mexican restaurant!  If you need to see some American faces, this is the area.  Right near the US military base.

We learned if you get off the subway at a different spot just to see what you can find, you might find something awesome!  And, we did.  Yesterday, we let the kids take the subway to the Jukejon station by themselves.  This is where Emart is.  They'd found some models there and wanted to get more.  We got off at Ori station just to see what was there.  We found Home Plus.   Sorta like a super Walmart.  I was so glad.  We found a mattress pad. They'd been over 245,000 won at Emart.  They also have their workers do exercises periodically, which offers much comic relief..but we didn't let them see us, of course.  (See Tre's video post on Facebook.)

That's the Final thing to share about what we've learned thus far...queen sized mattresses are as hard as a rock.  For some reason, it's literally like sleeping on your box spring.  So, this is my new best friend.  A mattress pad.  Best 69,000 won I've spent so far!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Attack of the rabid gnats

I have been here almost a week and have a bite marks from rabid gnats to prove it.  One for every night.  Tre on the other hand has none, which proves even gnats think I'm sweeter than he is.  I'm not sure if they decided to visit us after we left Zane's bedroom window (and screen) open all night.  The poor kid was covered.  I only woke up with one on my forehead, like a giant cyclopes.  The kids are on a mission now.  500 won per dead gnat.  There must be proof in the form of a smeared, dead, wingless gnat in order for payment to be rendered.  

Speaking of missions.  We appear to be living in the flight pattern of all US military aircraft.  Some may remember when Tre and I first finished at OSU.  We lived out at Appalachia Bay in a mobile home.  Tre's dad had a plane and would fly out over the house.  We would run out of the house with Quade (he was only a baby) in our arms, stand in the yard and wave to Papa.  The Campbell's are people of consistency.  Doesn't matter if its a C-130, Blackhawk, or a Schnook, all of us run to the window to look out.  A bit louder than Tom's Cessna for sure.  But, I must admit.  Though I'm not worried about North Korea and their rhetoric, it is nice to have the US of A flying right over head on a daily basis.

The last few days have certainly been busy. { And, for those reading my Facebook posts, you may know I'm having a day of 'serenity', as Tre called it.  Still in my pj's at 3 pm drinking coffee. } Sunday, the day of rest, we decided to walk into town to find food as the bread, tuna, milk and orange juice were all gone.  Tre had found Emart while running.  It was quite a run for Tre, but walking there at an easy pace shouldn't be hard, right?  We set out and were hungry by the time we got into town.  We were surprised to find an Outback Steakhouse, so we thought we'd check it out.  Looking at the menu, we totally understood why Kevin told us to get our steak fix in the States.  Geez!  $25 for the cheap steak.  We ordered 2 appetizers.  One was a sampler plate, the other bbq wings.  All were good.  We ordered water, but the waiter brought us a glass of Sprite and a glass of Coke with two straws each.  I guess he took pity on our sweaty, red, American faces.  35 dollars later and with full bellies, we headed out again for Emart.  We'd already gone probably 3 miles from home and the last quarter was naturally uphill.  As Emart appeared (please insert a clip from Vacation here) we saw the bars on the windows...closed for the day.

Of course it is!!

Ok, plan B!  We headed back to the main part of town.  We found a fruit stand.  We bought cherry tomatoes and bananas for 7,000 won.  Zane wanted apples, but for 17,000 won, we could by a whole apple tree, so we had to veto the apples.  I also learned the vendors like to pick the items up for you and bag them. The meat market was next.  We decided to get 2 chickens.  The guy took them out of the freezer and hacked them up right there while we stood on the sidewalk.  The guy was quite taken with Zane and talked a lot to him.  Though the only words we recognized were "oriental chicken".  

We next went to a place we'd seen some older ladies selling fresh vegetables.  Zane was convinced the lady told him, in Korean, that she'd seen him walk by earlier in the day.  She probably did as he was dressed in all neon green..a Zane beacon of sorts.  We bought a bowl full of potatoes and some yellow onions.  An older Korean lady walking by asked us how were were doing with our Korean.  While Tre and I talked with her, the lady we were buying veggies from was carrying on a 'conversation' with Zane.  She snuck put some green peppers in our bag for free.  We tried to pay her extra, but she wouldn't hear of it.  

We were smelly and exhausted when we reached our dong-sweet-dong.  But, it was so nice to finally have some food in the fridge!

Monday, Tre was on a mission to conquer the subway and bus system so that we could easily find Emart or anything else for that matter.  The boys and I were on a mission to find a market a bit closer.  Though it would be a bit more expensive, not having to take the bus would be worth it for a simple need of milk or eggs.  I also wanted to find the school.

The boys and I took off on the main road headed North.  Zane had found the school already on a walk with Tre.  It sits on a hill and by the time we got there, I was drenched with sweat.  The security guard stopped us and only knew two words:  admissions and business.  We were saved by a member of the business office who was leaving, Mr. Cook, and another man.  We talked for a little while and then the boys and I headed off again.

We found a home store and added a measuring cup, a whisk, another cutting board, and a squeegee for the shower to or bags.

On our walk home, we found...literally just across the street...a small market.  We bought several things in there.  Spam, milk, orange juice, noodles, eggs, flour and bread (Quade picked up a larger loaf and the lady grabbed it from him and threw it back on the bottom shelf.   She handed him a smaller loaf.  She explained, from what we could tell, that the larger loaf was old.)  We even found microwave popcorn!

We headed to a street vendor for some authentic Korean food.  I'm not sure what they are called, but they are steamed noodle pockets filled with green peppers, rice noodles, and pork.  Looked like ravioli.  Some others we bought also had some red peppers in them.  We got some steamed buns, too, filled with a date filling.  Again, Zane's eyeballs seem to be a hit!  The lady asked, in broken English, how old he was, and handed him a bun all to himself in a little baggie.

Ah, that lunch was yummy!  Fried Spam with our Korean ravioli. (Quade informed me they are called dumplings.)

Tre came home and had found a market off one of the main streets called Kim's Club.  He bought grapes, bell peppers and green onions.

Quade's chicken and dumpling soup was the best soup I'd ever eaten ever!  Everything was totally fresh and there was none left.  We all had full bellies.

It's amazing how finding a market and getting some food in the fridge does wonders for one's anxiety level!

Tomorrow we're off on an adventure with a teacher who's been here a while.  She's going to meet us for lunch and some sight seeing!  We can't wait!

Monday, July 9, 2012

We can get used to this, Mom.

Zane woke me up our first morning in South Korea with this:  "I know you were sad last night, but we can get used to this, Mom."  He kissed me on the forehead and scooted out the room.  I know he's right, so I got up and got moving.  Tre had already taken him for a walk to see the school and the neighborhood before Quade and I even woke up.  I fix the fam our first breakfast...toast with peanut butter and strawberry jelly with orange juice and potato chips.  Breakfast of champions!  With no coffee, I take an Aleve with some orange juice and get busy.

Apparently, the family who lived here before us had girls.  Zane's room is decorated with peel and stick flowers and butterflies.  He says he's man enough to leave them up, but peels them off anyway.  Quade's room has tiny Disney princess stickers on the doors and windows.  He grumbles and wastes NO time getting them peeled away and ceremoniously thrown in the trash.  Both of their door latches have tape over them so that the girls couldn't lock their doors from the inside.  This is smart, of course with small children.  My children are older, independent, and trustworthy.  So, of course, I rip off the tape.

Of course, I start organizing the kitchen.  Tre goes for a run so that he can learn the lay of the land for an outing for us later.  He's tasked with trying to find a market that sells toilet paper, since we have none.  The kids are tasked with getting their clothes unpacked.  Both of them seem to decide that they don't have enough space for clothes and have me come investigate only to find both of my older, independent, and trustworthy children have prioritized their Legos and PSPs on shelves and in drawers over their socks and underwear.  Mom solves the problem because she is sooo smart!

With the kitchen organized, I get out the items I brought with us.  A years supply of deodorant, lotions, razors, etc., along with the spices we use all the time in cooking.  Toothpaste exploded all over one bag of bathroom supplies and taco seasoning exploded all over the spices in another.  I'm cleaning away, Quade is playing a game on his computer, and Zane is peacefully humming the theme from Halo in his room with the door closed.  I hear him rummaging through his newly christened Lego drawer for the perfect pieces for this latest creation.

After finally cleaning Crest and taco off all the items, the kitchen is complete.  All other items are neatly stored.  I head to the bedroom to start unpacking my clothes.  I have 2 suitcases of my own and have other things distributed in several other 'community' suitcases to go through.  Tre's still out and about, so I have the pick of 3 dressers. (We've already decided he needs the bigger of the 2 closets in this house as always...luv ya honey.)

All of a sudden, Zane yells, "Hay!  Let me out!" and is fiercely wiggling the door knob.  We try everything.  It won't budge.  I'm thinking, "Great, we're three floors up.  There's bars on the back windows.  The door comes all the way to the floor, so I can't even pass him a grilled cheese let alone a phillips to unscrew the door."  This is all so Campbell! Quade and I begin laughing.  And we laugh some more.

Zane doesn't seem to think it's as funny as we do.  Tre walks in as I pick up the phone to dial our friends from the business office. answer...Andrew..finally picks up.  He's obviously stifling a laugh as he says, "Can't he just turn the knob and unlock it?".  No.....we kinda tried that.  Afterall, he is older, independent, and trustworthy!

~I'll insert here that Tre did find toilet paper, but only 30 rolls which is difficult to carry whilst running, I guess!  Thank goodness my mother-in-law Karen gave us 20 travel packs of Kleenex she bought for $0.80! Go Karen!~

Anyway, Andrew dispatches Kwancho, another guy from the business office, who lives closer to us.  He heads to the school to get our house keys.  Since our front door has a key pad, they weren't in any rush to get them to us the night before, but now it appears to be a rushable situation.  He arrives at 9 a.m. to save the day.  He is obviously Korean, but says he's from Australia, and hollers through the door, "I'm going to get you out champ!"  He tries like 20 keys til he finds the right one.  And, in true Campbell fashion, it doesn't unlock the door.  We try a credit card.  Still no go.  Kwancho decides the only way to get champ out is to break down the door.  And he does!  The latch ended up in about 12 pieces on the floor and Zane is sitting on his bed, eyes wide as this Korean-Aussie busts through his door.

I guess...the tape Mom peeled off the door this morning... left the latch pretty stuck to the door frame... (Mom slinks unseen from the room stage left)

It's only 9:30 a.m.

We have Kwancho show us how to use the microwave and how to turn on the hot water.  It has an on/off switch in the living room.  You turn it on 5 minutes before you need to shower, set the temperature (remember it's in Celsius) and lookie there....  Hot water!  The idea is to conserve energy.  The key is for my 3 boys to remember to turn said power button off after they get their squeaky clean bodies out of the shower.  What would they do without me???

The rest of the day is thankfully uneventful.  Tre comes home and reports that he found a market southeast of here. (Thanks to our handy-dandy Google maps).  He even found the illustrious Emart that we've been told of.  It seems to be quite a walk, but doable.  Tomorrow.   Sunday.

By evening, the house is unpacked and I've got cabin fever. I hang the load of laundry up to dry...did I mention we don't have a dryer?  Breathe in...breathe out....  We find 3 English speaking movie channels and the boys get settled in.  There's an A/C unit in the living room and the master bedroom, so they are nice and cool, but the rooms are stuffy.  Tre and I open Zane's window and head out for a walk.  He found a Family Mart, a small convenience store, a few blocks away.  They have Pepsi.  Caffine.  My friend.

It's around 7 when we get home.  Zane falls asleep in his room despite the stuffy.  Quade drags his mattress into the living room and is quickly out cold.  I can't even concentrate on my book...Little Men.  Yes, Mother, I'm reading it now, too.  You're welcome.  I know I should have read it 30 years ago.  But not tonight.

I'm beginning to get used to this.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

We're Here!

Well we made it to Seoul on Friday in the rain!  It was quite a trip and very bumpy.  Thankfully, all 10 of our bags made it off the conveyor belt!  Yay!  We thought we'd have a huge ordeal when going through customs, but all we had to do was give them our card and we passed right on.  No going through each bag and seeing all the boys underwear they had crammed oh so untidily in their suitcases.  Works for me!

Erickson and Andrew from the business office were waiting for us.  Very nice guys.  You could tell they were automatically trying to figure out how they were going to get the 16 (6 people and 10 50 lb suitcases) of us in the little KIS van.  But, we managed.  Quade and I were in the back with 2 suitcases between us so we couldn't even see each other.  Zane and Tre were in front of us with another between them.  I felt like a sardine.  (After being in flight for 16 hours, I think I was equally as slimy as well.)

The ride to the apartment was about an hour long.  The views through the rain were so beautiful.  So green and lush.  We crossed a causeway bridge that was very long and saw many big tanker barges down below.  I think we missed some of it because later we all confessed we'd fallen asleep somewhere after the bridge.

The boys helped us bring the luggage up to our apartment.  3 flights of stairs.  Thank goodness, because I was little help.  Here we met Eunice, also from the business office.  She was too cute ~ And here I wish I'd thought to taken pictures ~ in a t-shirt, shorts, and galoshes.  She had gone shopping and to the bank for us. We had our 'welcome kit':  a loaf of bread, a loaf of cinnamon bread, 2 packages of cream cheese, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of strawberry jelly, 2 large bottles of water, 2 large bottles of orange juice, 2 cartons of milk, 2 bags of chips, and 2 cans of tuna.  She provided us some new utensils, a cutting knife, and a skillet.  The spatula has sunflowers on it and the large spoon and ladle have pink roses which match my Grandma Bertha's kitchen exactly!  (Which is very sweet and interesting at the same time.  They cookware is so 1950's while the Koreans are so much more technologically advanced than the US.)  The bedding is all the same turquoise blue, kinda appropriate I think.  She'd also made some address cards in Korean and English for  us, as well as providing us with 2 phone cards and 2 T-cards for transportation.  They showed us how various things worked in the house and left us to our own devices.

Then I sat down and cried.

I know our house in Farmington was far from being Shangri la, but it was really nice.  And decorated.  And new.  I think after working so hard for so many years to get everything we had, in that moment, it felt like I had stepped back in time to having nothing.  I mean, I have a camper in New Mexico that doesn't have holes in the walls and a peeling floor. All the adrenaline I'd been working on since we decided to take this adventure in December drained from my body in a puddle on the really hard queen sized bed.  There was no toilet paper and they'd forgotten how to show us to turn on the hot water.  So, the cold one did me some good, right?

But, we're here!  So, we went to bed and I got up Saturday morning and put on my big girl panties, started unpacking, and ready to begin our new adventure!

Stay tuned...

야호 (yaho) !