Saturday, August 17, 2013

One Odd Year

  One Odd Year.  

  That's what the front of my Senior yearbook from 1991 has on it.  I've thought a lot about that year for lots of reasons in the last few months.  It applied then, as it does now.

  We started this journey to teach in South Korea as a family of four.  Now, there are only three of us here to further our adventure.  

  Korea isn't to blame for my marriage breaking apart, just know that you can move across the U.S of A, or even try a new continent, but your troubles follow you.  Korea is just what this small town Oklahoma girl needed to find her big ajumma panties and decide to go it alone.  I have found 'me' again in the Land of the Morning Calm.  

   Korea is a safe place for a single mother.  I still go anywhere, even after dark.  I let the boys go on the subway without fear.  There is always someone who speaks enough English to be helpful.  It's hard for family and friends who have not experienced this place to understand this, but, spend a month here and you'll soon realize it's true.  

  I thought I'd document my One Odd Year, 2013, for posterity.  A year ago, I named this blog Seoul Pokes, because we were two Oklahoma State grads (aka Pokes).  Now, we're one grad and two OSU legacies.  So, it still works! 

  If I ask my boys, Quade (or Will as he likes to be called in Korea because the Q doesn't translate) and Zane (he doesn't care the Z doesn't translate), what their favorite thing about Korea is...besides their independence...they'd say FOOD!  We love to eat out and we love to cook in.  I try to vary the stores I shop at because they all offer a different variety of Western foods.  Keeping our diet pretty normal and eating Korean at school or when we go out seems to help with homesickness, too.  As funny as it may seem.  I frequent Emart in Jukejon, Homeplus in Ori, Kim's Club in Migeum, I Love in Jeongja. I also head to EMart Trader's in Guseong and Costco in Yangjae when I can. Prices are more than you'd pay in the States.  Sometimes a lot more.  But, you get used to it and when you want it bad enough, you learn to just deal with it. I a say that, but I still refuse to pay 25,000 won for a watermelon!  I will pay almost 3,000 won for a can of black beans, though.  

                                                             Quade, my oldest son, loves to cook.  And, I let him.  

Here he added onion and octopus to ramen.  

There are two Butterfinger restaurants I have found.  One in Gangnam, one in Jeongja.  Both are expensive, but when you just need a taste of's so worth it.  You gotta try the Orangeaid.  It's about 8,ooo won, but yummy.

This was lunch...I often feel like I'm on an extended vacation, so why not have breakfast for lunch?  With whipped cream!!  There's also a yummy waffle place in Irwon Station that smears banana or strawberry butter on the waffle, then folds it in half for you to eat.

Occasionally, we have to take pictures of what we want to show the person behind the counter.  I love my iPhone even more at times like this. 

Sometimes, you just need a taste of home.  And bacon.

When you find a good, cheap, and convenient place to eat, they will take care of you the more you go in.

More comfort food to keep some normalcy to our lives.  I can't find ready made pie crust, so I'm getting good at making my own.  Finding Campbell's cream of chicken wasn't too hard, but it's not just cream of chicken.  I've found different varieties I never saw in the States, like Cream of chicken and mushroom and Cream of chicken with herbs.  Both made this pot pie pretty scrumptious.  

Korean BBQ.  Need I say more?

I did a happy dance when I found this green chili salsa at Homeplus.  I only bought one jar, though, in case it wasn't any good.  MISTAKE!!  It was great, and they haven't had it since!

Pork cutlet is a good go-to food for kids.  Pretty normal breaded pork.  

Starbucks are everywhere!

When you don't have 6,000 won for a coffee, these coffees are at any convenience store and under 2,000 won.  You can have them hot or cold.  Add a yummy prepackaged pastry and viola!  Breakfast!

I get this ox-bone soup anytime I see it on the menu.  They say it's a great hangover soup.  Not that I'd know....  Restaurants provide water free as 'service'.  They don't seem to frown on you bringing in your own drink, as I did here, with my coffee.

   Though our year was pretty crazy, we managed to do some pretty cool things. Korea has so many areas to explore.  You can go to certain areas that sorta specialize in one thing or another.  My favorite places for day-trips this year were Dongdaemun for fabric and jewelry making, Itaewon for Western apparel and food...Taco Bell...(or to go hear people speaking English since it's right off the base), Myeongdong for clothes, Insadong for souvenir-type items, musical instruments, art supplies, Icheon for handmade pottery, and Gangnam for the cool underground clothes shops in the subway and trendy shops above ground.

   Here are some of the highlights:

Boryeong Mud Festival in July was a lot of fun.  Grown-ups playing in mud.  The boys actually got bored and spent most of their time at the beach looking for shells and starfish.  

Seoul Tower has amazing views of Seoul.  We took a tram to the top and then walked down hundreds of steps.  The walk is worth it because of more amazing views. 

Icheon, ceramic village.  These are kimchi pots.  


Nakwon, near Insadong, musical instrument market.  Floor after floor, store after store of instruments.  Bandites would hear angels upon entering it's doors.

A ride on a tricycle in Lapu Lapu, Philippines.
The view from my chair on Bantayan Island, Philippines

Our trip to Mactan Island in the Philippines at Christmas was an adventure in itself!  But, after 6 weeks in the hospital with Quade for his splenectomy (see previous blog), we finally found our beach, and some serenity.  Once we left the bustle of Cebu and Lapu Lapu.  

Zane and I were privileged to attend the International Special Olympics in Pyeong Chang with Korea International School in January.  It was a chance of a lifetime to go to support our American special athletes, some of whom visited our school to put on a demonstration a few days before.

 Quade, Zane and I went with several other families for a long weekend of skiing at Yong Pyong.  This place will be a venue for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.  We can watch the downhill and say we skied that run!

Dongdaemun is a crafter's paradise.  If you can sew.

Jeongja, just east of our dong is a great place to find good food.  It's a bit pricey, though.

Seoul National Forest is a neat place to spend the afternoon.  There's timed fountains the kids can run through on a hot day.

We went with a school-sponsored group for paintball!

Zane teamed up with two friends to do a triathlon.  He biked 15k.

Quade and I got our feet cleaned by some fish at Dr. Fish in Gangnam.  

Korea War Memorial is a somber but beautiful place.  The boys enjoyed looking at the military aircraft and vehicles on the grounds.

    The first year passed quickly.  I know this coming year will too.  I have yet to decide if we'll continue our stay here.  There are a lot of personal factors going into my decision.   But, I know for certain we will continue to have a great time exploring all this beautiful country has to offer!