Friday, August 31, 2012

To Seoul and Back Again

Hello!  I'm finally posting something about my friend's wedding in Seoul.  It was a bit of the uncanny valley, I must say, but not too bad.  To get an idea of what Korean weddings are like, at least for me and several ex-pats who have blogged about them, I'm linking to a blog post from someone who's been to several weddings in Korea. 

Our friend's wedding was not entirely like the ones described in Jason's post: no smoke machines, no laser lights, none of the stage show-like features I've seen described on other blogs.  But it was odd there being a catwalk-type "aisle" to walk down as a bridesmaid (I say "catwalk-type" because it wasn't raised as high as a catwalk, but it was definitely a shiny, raised surface). It was odd there being an MC in addition to someone who officiated.  It was odd that they cut a cake in the middle of the ceremony, and this cake was not served, not during the ceremony or at the reception.  It was odd that there was no rehearsal so the bride and groom (and the foreign bridesmaids) would know what to do during the ceremony.  And it was odd that people wandered in and out of the back of the hall and talked freely--and not quietly--while the ceremony was going on.  It was just odd.  I was a little bit taken aback.  But I was so happy for my friend, and she looked beautiful, like a fairytale princess. 

Despite there being some aspects of Seoul I didn't understand, I enjoyed the trip very much. 

Here are the things I didn't understand.

(1)  I don't understand why it was so hard to find drip coffee. 
(2)  I don't understand why the Starbucks we visited in Myeongdong serves neither drip coffee nor green tea.
(3)  I don't understand why it was so difficult for me to find a place that sells cute stationery and office supplies, given that the cutest pens, paper, pencils, etc., that I've ever seen come from Korea and Japan. And I know they're available because M.J. has brought them to me from her trips back home over the summers.  So where were they keeping the office supplies while I was there?!?  Where? 
(4)  I don't understand why we couldn't find a camera battery for sale anywhere we went...except at the airport as we were on the way to board our plane home.

And the trip to Seoul reinforced something I don't understand about where I live.

After spending seven days without having to drive, and it being every bit as wonderful as I thought it would be, I don't understand why we don't have better public transportation in my region, even if we can't build something as wonderful as Seoul's bus and subway system.  Surely we can do better than what we have.  We can do better, but there are enough ignorant, selfish, or foolish people out here (some of whom are a combination of all three of these traits) to block our moving forward with better transit.

Here are some of the things I especially enjoyed, in no particular order.

  • spending time with M.J.
  • easy access to various kinds of rice cakes (not like the kinds we typically eat here)
  • the easy-to-use subway system (as you may have inferred from the above comments on transit)
  • being able to walk around so much
  • walking on wide sidewalks when next to newer, wide, busy streets and on the shared streets in the historic areas we visited
  • shopping at locally-owned stores
  • having a hotel room with a kitchen, complete with full-size fridge and freezer, stove, microwave, and rice cooker
  • not being at work (of course)
  • lots of coffee shops (even if I couldn't get drip coffee easily)
  • seeing in person the Cheonggyecheon project I had read about and admired
I did not enjoy having easy access to ddeokbokki, japchae, and my other favorite Korean dishes yet not being able to eat them due allergies...but I did enjoy seeing all the food stalls and drinking spots, just like in my favorite K-dramas (see also this article)!

And now, because I'm sure you were waiting for this, here are some pictures from the trip.

Between Pages, a coffee shop:

Another coffee shop:

Picture of a coffee shop from the coffee shop I was visiting:

A coffee shop and bakery we passed but did not visit (couldn't bear getting closer to the fantastic-smelling off-limits bakery products that lured us into the building housing the shop): 

Bread is Ready, Coffee is Done.  Doesn't it have the best name?  They sell something called an "All Day Set." I don't know what that is, but it sounds like something I would want from a coffee shop and bakery.

You expected something other than pictures of coffee shops?  All right, fine.  Here.

A street scene.

Here is in from Google Streetview.

A wonderful chocolate shop with a super nice saleswoman and a tasty, tasty, tasty chocolate drink that we shouldn't have had (which was followed by Benadryl).

Interior of a restaurant where we heard Rhinestone Cowboy playing in the background, giving me an amusing taste of home.

A lovely, lovely wide sidewalk next to a busy street.

And finally, a street scene from the Insadong neighborhood.

Our camera battery died soon after we arrived (don't ask why we didn't get a replacement; it's a boring, somewhat bitter story), so we had to be satisfied with pictures from our cell phones--and so will you, I'm sorry to say. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Surprise! Your deadline isn't when you thought it was.

Yesterday, I had a phone call from an agency from which we received a grant last year.  Our contact there wanted to let us know we had only three weeks to finish spending the funding provided in our grant.  Ha. Ha ha ha ha ha.  Funny. I thought our deadline was the end of December.  I am now going to cram four months of programming and publications/educational material into three weeks.  No problem.  I can do this, right?

In other news, my plants are still alive.  Well, most of them are.  The fennel has looked better.

How are your plants doing this summer?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Sorry, I can't talk right now.

I'm watching the Olympics.

Yes, I already know who won the events that interest me; I heard it on the news earlier.  But now that it's the evening, I'm busy watching what I've already heard about. 

In other news, my supervisor got poison ivy two or three days ago, and this morning his car broke down on the way in to work.  So he's having a bad week. My week has been sublime in comparison, and I have no incidents to report...except this.  Why does our finance director insist on talking to me in staff meetings as though I'm the head of our department?  She kept saying things related to the budget, either information she still needed our department to submit for next year's budget or how much money we have in our tree reforestation fund, and I wanted to tell her (but didn't have the nerve), "The head of the department is sitting two seats down from me. Why don't you turn your conversation in his direction?" 

Have a happy Friday, y'all!