Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My new ice cream line, ddeokkbokki town, and Cheonggyecheon lights

Girl from China: They went to Bee-ah.
Me: What was that?
Girl: Bee-ah.
Me: Huh?
Me: Mekju? (Beer?)
Girl: Ice cream!
Me: Huh?
*Girl air-writes "B" and "R"*
Me: BR?
Girl: YES!
Me: Ohhhhh, Baskin-Robbins?!

This, by the way, is my clever transition into talking about ice cream, in case you didn't notice. ^^

See anything special in the photo below?

Not yet?

Take a closer look.

It's not just any ice cream. It's the CHERImoya! ^^

...or as YH calls it, "Cheri! 뭐야?!" which I'm too tired to explain right now. Ask a Korean if you're curious enough. ^^

Unfortunately, the dork in me did a little googling and soon discovered that it's actually the name of a real fruit, which apparently tastes like a pineapple-banana, if such a thing were to exist.

Won't you take me to... Ddeokbokki Town. Ok, you really have to imagine me singing that to the tune of Funky Town. Or not. I couldn't resist. ^^;;

Finally made it to "Ddeokbokki Town," an area outside of Sindang station (신당역 Exit 8) that is known for, well, what else but ddeokkbokki (떡뽁이) - a spicy dish made of rice cakes and gochujang (hot chili paste).

This version came with boiled eggs, pan fried mandoo, noodles, and odeng. As Onni would say, "Yum yum in the tum tum!"



We walked it off - all the way to City Hall - via Cheonggyecheon, which I'll never get tired of... with views like this, how could you!

And yes, I'm still a little picture happy. ^^

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Picture happy as can be

Recently, I got a little tired of jjiggae and rice, and consequently went on a bit of a pasta spree... Unfortunately, most of my "Italian" experiences have tasted like pasta out of a box, topped with Prego or Ragu. Not that that's a bad thing, but I can do that in my own kitchen. I'm positive there's excellent non-Korean food to be found in Seoul... just not in Sinchon. ^^ I mean, I actually read a restaurant review from The Korea Times entitled, "Enjoy Real Mexican at On the Border."  Hmmm. Well, to be completely fair, none of the dishes pictured below cost over $10 so I suppose in the US, that's equivalent to The Old Spaghetti Factory, possibly Bertucci's at lunchtime, and those small mom and pop shops around the financial district... ^^

Baked fusilli and rigatoni with chicken in marinara
Very cafeteria-esque.

Basil cream spaghetti topped with toasted almonds
Tasty, but after 5 or 6 bites, it got pretty greasy and I got queasy.

Spaghetti with salmon, capers, and bell peppers in a light cream sauce
Notice how it's served with pickles and toast? I've gotten used to the pickles - everything is served with pickles - fried chicken and pickles, pad thai and pickles, fried rice and pickles, pasta and pickles... apparently to cut the grease. But the toast? Perhaps they were going for "poor man's garlic bread?" Haha.

I've also been snacking way too much... 

Pat bing soo from Paris Baguette

Pat bing soo from Sweets Cafe
If I ever go on a diet, I'm considering having this as a dinner replacement every night. ^^

Green tea cake donut from Krispy Kreme
We recently discovered that the Krispy Kreme in Sinchon closes its doors at 3am, and when you go late enough into the night, whether or not the "Hot Now" sign is on or off, they'll give you an original glazed donut for free when you buy something. My Asian friends tend to think it's too sweet, and could barely finish an entire donut. (Crazy, huh?)

Cold Stone Creamery
Since tipping is a rarity in Korea, they don't really sing here, which kind of kills one of the Cold Stone themes...

...but I suppose it all comes down to the ice cream, and technically, they don't stop you from singing on your own, so it's all good. (Look who it is, Alice! ^^)

Fried chicken from Kyochon
My spicy food tolerance has really improved in Korea, best measured by my newfound ability to eat the hot version of Kyochon's fried chicken, something that was a lot more difficult to do a few months ago. ^^

Beer at O'Kim's Brauhaus
SJ introduced me to Korea's first microbrewery. Filled with the after-work crowd, it gives off a Boston Beer Works, or perhaps Gordon Biersch, kind of vibe.

Yep, it was quite awkward drinking out of that thing. ^^

Picnic in the park
The only thing that was missing was a beach...

Me: Look, how cute! Let's take a picture!
Go-eun: Okay.
*takes picture*
Me: Your turn.
Go-eun: How old am I? I can't take a picture like that!
Me: Then what does that make me? I'm older than you!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

In Suwon: Hwaseong Fortress and Agutang

Visiting the family usually = getting stuffed with food.

This time, they wanted to introduce something new to my diet: agutang (아구탕). Agutang is a soybean based stew featuring, well, you guessed it, the "agu" fish, also know as the anglerfish...or more commonly, monkfish. It's a terribly ugly looking thing. Apparently, "in most places monkfish is sold with the head cut off, an in fact at one time in France it was illegal to bring monkfish into port with their heads for fear of frightening passers-by." This was the first time I had it prepared Korean-style...

Not quite my taste. I prefer it panfried and finished in the oven, drizzled with a red wine reduction, served over a bed of mashed potatoes and wilted greens, or something to that effect, but it was an interesting experience.

One thing I love about going to Suwon is easy access to Homeplus, Korea's Samsung/Tesco operated super store... of course, the best part is the food court... where you can get two burgers, fish cutlet, salad, mac salad, pickles, fried rice, and soup for the bargain price of $5.

But there's nothing like eating from your own kitchen. While JJ and I studied US states and capitals...

...Hyun fried up some eggs and Spam. Koreans seem to take quite the liking to Spam. I can't eat it, since it's made of pork, but it sure reminded me of Hawaii. (Spam Oven Roasted Turkey, however, is pretty awesome. It's a shame they don't carry too many varieties in Korea.)

And when we weren't eating, we took a little trip to Hwaseong Fortress, whose wall spans nearly 6km, the perfect place to burn some cals!

The Mac's back! (plus salmulnori video)

The good news is that my Mac's back. The bad news is that everything on it went to data heaven. I'm also convinced they just replaced a faulty hard drive with yet another faulty hard drive.

The funny thing is that a day or two before I picked up my computer, I had been groaning and grumbling to myself, feeling like a victim of bad luck, hopelessly crossing my fingers, and praying for a miracle. After getting smashed, smooshed, and pushed around like a sardine in a can on the train, I picked up my long neglected copy of The Purpose Driven Life, re-read through a couple chapters, and it hit me.

It's true that life on earth can be likened to a test - whether we experience seemingly unanswered prayers or senseless misfortunes, even the littlest incident can be used as "a growth opportunity to deepen [our] character, to demonstrate love, or to depend on God." These thoughts, along with a million other reflections, have been circling through my head (it obviously goes beyond my crashed hard drive), and without sounding like I just got back from church service, I wanted to express and reiterate (mostly to myself, but also anyone that's willing to listen) that it's not always about questioning why, but rather, actively learning and improving from everything you're thrown, and moving forward with those lessons in hand. Something too easily forgotten.

With that being said... I'm going to be thankful for the captured memories I have post-crash, and get around to updating the blog now... ^^ As promised in the last entry, I present our hilariously pathetic attempts to produce something rhythmically appealing... it sounded better in person since our ears were ringing and we couldn't hear anything!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Achy breaky heart

To err is human, _____________________.
  • but to really foul things up requires a computer.
  • and to blame it on a computer is even more so.
I'm a computerless, heartbroken fool. *cry*

It's your standard Cornelian dilemma.

Your hard drive seems to have committed suicide. But we've all read (or watched) Romeo and Juliet, and want to keep the slightest ounce of hope that it'll wake up one day...

So what do you do?

Door #1: Salvage what you can! (Take it to a data recovery center.)
Sure, it may put a dent in your wallet ($300), but pictures keep your memories alive. However, you've been told that there's less than a 10% chance of resuscitation.

Door #2: It wasn't meant to be. (Get Apple to replace your hard drive for free.)
You've only been together for the past 4 months or so, and sure, you had a good thing going at the time, but look what it's done to you now?! Let it go - pictures are pictures but memories will always remain in your heart, something a faulty hard drive can't take away from you.

Unfortunately, the catch is that both doors can't be opened. Right now I'm just sitting on the situation, Skype-less and 2008-picture-less. If there's a lesson to be learned, it's this: BACK UP ALL YOUR FILES. I mean it. Right now. DO IT.

Anyway... that's the end of that.

Today we made music. ^^

Samulnori (사물노리) that is. Lifted from KBS:
The term "Samulnori" describes a traditional Korean percussion quartet
comprising a "kwoenggwari" (small gong), "janggu" (double-headed drum), "buk"
(drum) and "jing" (large gong). The Kwoenggwari is a small percussion
instrument, which can produce the fastest and highest-pitched sounds; the janggu
produces fascinating sounds in harmony with the kwoenggwaril; the buk serves as
a harmonizer of all sounds in the quartet; and the jing’s sounds can be compared
with the sound of the wind because of their long reverberations. These four
traditional instruments constitute samulnori, which embodies the lively spirit
of the Korean people.

It was LOUD. And quite a workout, probably the most exercise I've gotten all year! ^^ (Visuals to come soon.)

The other big news is that my littlest cousin JJ is officially going to the US of A this year! I often ponder how this will change his life, and 10 years from now, which cultural identity (and language) will he most feel comfortable with? Oh to be a kid again, so young, so many opportunities, so many options. I envy that. ^^

Speaking of fleeting years, yesterday I met up with a friend from five-ish years past. It was as though we had just pushed the fast forward button on our life remote controls. He is the epitome of "living life for life experience" so playing catch-up was quite fun. Admittedly, tt was also really nice being able to 1) eat pad thai and chocolate molten lava cake (ooooh, Top of the Hub dessert memories), 2) drink "American style," and 3) have a conversation with a native English speaker face to face... feels like it's been a while, ha ha.

Lately, communication attempts beyond your standard day-to-day or getting-to-know-you stuff have proven to be quite trying. I think I screamed "답답하다!!!" at least ten times the other day, when my friend and I were discussing Korean "social issues." It's a work in progress. ^^

I'm also starting to realize that my experience in Korea thus far has mostly been of the bubble gum sort. Not that that's a bad thing, it's just that my eyes are starting to open a bit more which I'll save for the "other" blog... Gotta run for now.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

V-Log Attempt #1 - Congratulations!

Don't worry, I don't intend on making vlogging a usual thing. This was a special occasion. ^^

I know I should sound more excited given the circumstances (I really am!) but I just rolled out of bed at two thirty in the AM to make this! I love you guys!

***Update to Seoul, Korea from Stephanie in Istres, France who just got off the phone with Rockport, Mass... it's OFFICIAL!*** ^^

Saturday, April 12, 2008

By special request

By special request, meet my future Stanford MBA classmate/classical guitarist/McKinsey partner. Now you're famous, you've made it on my blog! I'm such a good friend, eh! Ha ha. ^^

It's 1:18 AM. I should be...
  • sleeping?
  • reading the Wall Street Journal?
  • cleaning my room?
But I'm...
  • hacking up a storm (caught cold for just about the 4th time this year, and consequently, unknowingly passed out for a multi hour nap which is going to mess with my sleeping schedule),
  • chatting with pals from the US of A who are just starting their Friday mornings in the office,
  • trying to figure out how to download pictures from the mobile (and failing at it),
  • incoherently blogging!
I thought I'd take this opportunity to show some pics of my new walk in closet place that I snatched off the interweb.

The hallway...

The kitchen/dining/laundry area...
(No oven = no butter mochi ㅠ.ㅠ)

The bedroom... well, not mine, but similar.
I feel like I'm living in one of those Japanese capsule hotels. Quite an experience.

Upon moving in, my initial reaction was...

"Wow...am I really living here?"

But the internal optimist fought to come out...

"Eh, it could be worse..."

And now that I've gotten used to being able to lazily reach from one side of the room to the other by ways of a simple strategic stretch (particularly useful when trying to throw away trash, or reaching for a can of juice from the mini fridge)...

"It's all good."

It's the littlest things that take me there.

As you can tell, we've been making decent use out of PhotoBooth... ^^

But clearly there's some work to be done... ^^

Have a happy weekend!