Monday, January 11, 2016

Stop & Chat: January 11 - The Neverending Story

Oooo, shiiiny!
Guess whose several day training period was postponed until the beginning of February? M's! Yaaaay! That means he got today off! That also means today's post will end up being a bit of a novella (without the fiction) complete with crappy phone pictures. I'm sorry, I forgot my fancy shmancy camera at home! I was so upset with myself because I remembered it right as we got on the highway, making it rather difficult to turn around and go back home. Guess you'll have to settle for cell pics!

Anyways, on to my day!

M got home a little late, right before 10, and asked me if there was anything I wanted to do for the day before he went to sleep. I expressed interest in going to the mall to walk around since I was feeling a little stir crazy. That worked with his plans of going to Yongsan to turn in some library books. So I showered, put on some warm clothes, and we left!

One of the places we knew we needed to go in the mall was a store called Gundam which, big shocker, offers Gundam figures for you to buy and put together. While I view Gundam as a kind of grown-up version of Lego/Bionicle, there are several smaller and safer options for young'ns. My goal for today, however, was to pick up a set that my dad and brother could work on together. Dad has expressed interest in doing lots of build-it-yourself kits with my brother to have some bonding time and also make sure he knows 'how things work.' It's a legitimate concern; my brother is the baby of the family and grew up with older sisters who did virtually everything for him. Now that he's getting ready to graduate in a few years there are some things that he needs to be able to figure out for himself and Dad's wanting to work on that now. I don't think it's a lack of intelligence on my brother's part; he just hadn't had reason to care or learn how to do simple things, like, oh I don't know, properly put batteries in an XBox One controller. Dork. I don't know how he messed it up but he messed it up pretty good when M and I were playing Halo together back in the States.
We ended up picking up a set for him and Dad and I told M to pick up a set for himself because I felt bad that we were looking at all these amazing sets and it wasn't for him.

There was also a replica model store nearby and M being M spent a good while walking around and taking pictures. We saw a few things that we thought Dad would be interested in but as we've already picked up their round of very belated Christmas presents for the year I think we can wait.

Knives everywhere! I just wanted to take a picture of this shelf while we were shopping in a local equivalent of Bed, Bath, & Beyond. I don't know the quality of these knives but they were relatively cheap, between 4,500 and 8,000W. I thought that was pretty noteworthy.

We also made a point to pick up some biking pants for M since he's been having issues with chafing and general coldness while riding his bike around. I found a spot to sit and played some 2048 while he looked for pants in his size. He's not overweight by any means but those blogs and 'things you need to know' lists weren't kidding about Korean sizing being pretty small. This was my view whenever I looked up. I know, exciting. :P

After buying his pants M said he was feeling pretty exhausted and we started making our way out of the mall. I joked that I hadn't hit my 10,000 steps for the day according to my Fitbit and M offered up for us to go back to the electronics market to buy that motherboard we had been talking about. Funny how he pepped right up at that but was too tired to see Star Wars at the mall's movie theater.

We did check out the video game section and M picked up some game that he's been wanting (something about Mario and Luigi... Dream Team I think?) and I picked up a hard, clear case for my 3DS XL.
Then we made our way to the computer electronics section and walked around a bit. I found myself parched so when we found ourselves by a little hole-in-the-wall convenience store we picked up a liter of water for 1,000W, or about 80¢. That water was like a breath of life to me! After we drank and refreshed our throats we turned around and found ourselves at the stall with the same father-son team we'd bought parts from last time!

Ooooh, RAM. That yellow notepad with a bunch of scribbles is our writing back and forth on products and pricing. :)

Oooh, motherboards! I know, nobody cares about this stuff. Let me just geek out a moment, okay?

In case you were wondering, yes they very much recognized us. The father was super excited to see us again and pretty much shafted the customer he had been talking to to rush over to us. LOL
M was the one that did the talking and pricing since he's the more knowledgeable one about computer parts and I kinda stood there silently holding all of our bags.

Eventually M worked out a deal for some RAM sticks and a motherboard and the son rushed off to the warehouse or wherever he goes to get the products. While we waited the father invited us into the office area to sit down and gave us some coffee! Very hospitable! We got canned mocha lattes. I wish I'd taken a picture, but we were busy trying to have a conversation about how long we were supposed to be in Korea and what was in my bags.

This was my first true experience with Korean curiosity of Foreigner's bags. I'd read about it and knew to expect people coming up and looking at what you have in your cart or bag (with no ill intent; just curiosity) but this was the first time it actually happened. While we were sitting the father peeked into our Gundam bag and got really excited. He tried asking if we had any kids we were getting our stuff for. M pointed to himself, which made him get incredibly excited. He turned on a monitor that was on a side desk to reveal a real time strategy game that was currently playing on the computer. M asked if it was his son or him that played, and he very proudly pointed to himself and also mimed that he played with his two twin daughters. Then he pulled out his phone and showed us pictures. :)

When the son came back with the pieces he too peeked into our bags and I could see him get excited as well. Throughout the entirety of my exchanges with these two I've gotten the impression that they really like finding similarities between our two cultures. We like coffee. They like coffee. We like Gundams which they very correctly extrapolated to us liking video games as well. They like Gundams and video games.
Our blurry view from outside the store/kiosk.
Once we finished our coffee and chitchatting, we continued on to another area of the electronics market where ended up buying a new graphics card for me. We have officially replaced every part of my computer except for the PSU. And optical drive, which doesn't need upgrading. Neither does the PSU, for that matter. Once M sets up the new parts after he's done sleeping I will have a brand new computer. M's talking about taking the parts from this old computer and sticking it in an older computer case that we have and hooking that up to our TV for extra watching capabilities. Youtube on 47"? No problem. Our equivalent of watching a TV series is watching a Lets Play series, anyway!

While driving home I decided to take a picture of this building because it looked burnt. There's a fire or smoking pit, I'm not sure which, right at the bottom left-ish where the car is in the way so you can't really see it. That's why this building look so crispy!

Just another picture I took from the car. I contemplated not posting these pictures but I figure you guys want to see the area so why not?

Another view from the street.

This sideways green lantern symbol is actually a gas station owned by Hyundai, called Hyundai Oilbank. I couldn't see any prices from here but they have a car wash, just like a lot of gas stations in the US! I guess I'm kind of like that electronics store duo; I take great joy in finding similarities between our two cultures. :)

That concludes my unexpectedly busy day but it does not conclude this post! I have questions to answer!!

Are there familiar American things there?
Yes! Domino's, TGIF, lots of American style eateries, Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Costco (though a lot of the signage and products are in Korean), and lots of American brands can be found all over the place. I feel like there might not be as much as I think there is, though, because a lot of the places I go to for comfort home foods end up being on post. On post there's Popeyes, Subway, Taco Bell, Anthony's Pizza, Burger King, Baskin Robins, and probably more that I can't remember. On post I get the added benefit of everything being in English/USD and not having to worry about any sort of language barriers, too. For someone who doesn't have access to on post facilities it's definitely harder to find that American familiarity, and even what you do find has its own Korean twist to it.

Is there anything you're missing yet? (Besides the obvious, like family, etc.)
Hmm... This is gonna be a really weird one but right now it's the biggest thing that comes to mind. Origin/EA is impossible for me to buy from here without jumping through incredible hoops, and even then I'm not 100% sure a purchase would be successful. Origin's website is region locked based off of your IP address. As you can imagine, that leaves me with a Korean Origin with everything in Won instead of USD. There is an English language option, but I still have to buy in Won and I cannot use a  non Korean card to pay. PayPal isn't a thing for Koreans, either. A VPN for my computer does not successfully reroute my IP through US internet lines to force Origin into showing the proper website and buying system. I can go on my phone's VPN and make a purchase through the US/USD website, but I cannot then transfer that to my computer because everything is region locked to Korean and won't allow me to download whatever it is I bought. I don't even want to load up my Sims 4 game for fear that the game will go bonkers. Uuugh. I contacted customer support and they said that there is nothing they can do, or more that "it is incredibly difficult to change the way the website is set up to show you the American version of Origin." The representative offered me two 15% off coupons for this inconvenience, but I can't even use it because I can't buy something that would actually work in the language I can understand! AUUUUGH! I'm not willing to try and buy something and let it download through the Korean servers only to have it not be available in English because Korea is not a part of Origin's good game guarantee or whatever it is they call it. Basically, my purchase would be non refundable. No thank you.
Besides that nothing has come up besides the obvious family, being unable to understand the language, general cultural differences, that sort of thing.

Did you learn about Korea at all once you found out you were going there, or did you decide to just dive in and figure it out as you go?
I googled a little bit about Korea once we got our projections. Mainly "Military move South Korea tips." So it was more stuff I could do while still in the states to prepare for Korea. What to bring, what to leave in storage, what kind of clothing to bring (I needed to buy cold weather gear!), what I needed to get rid of/give away because I wasn't allowed to bring it. Besides that I was very much dive in and figure it out as I go. I did watch a documentary I stumbled across on YouTube that went into the economic changes Korea has gone through in the past several decades, but everything else culture wise I didn't really look at. Now that I'm here I did take a little more time to actually read in depth blogs and articles about foreigners' lives in South Korea, but after a while a lot of the information was either repetitive or just straight up negative. At that point I decided to go back to 'figure it out as I go' and take everything as it comes.

Do you have any goals for your time there, like master the language, or visit a particular place, or anything?
While I would love to master the language I already found out that it's an unrealistic goal. Korean is very different from English both structurally and grammatically and I have no other linguistic experience that compares to it, making this a very hard language for me to learn. I will try my hardest, though! Once we get the TV set up I want to have some sort of Korean show/news playing at all points in time to help me grow more familiar with the sounds of the language and eventually start picking up things on my own. I have a general goal of being able to hold a simple conversation by the time we are ready to PCS back home. Right now, though, I can just barely work out "Thank you" ("Kamsa-hamnida" typically shortened to "kahn-sah-may-dah") and the Korean greeting ("Anyoung haseyou" typically shortened to sound like "an-hass-say-yo"). The rest of the language is very hard for me to pick out.
Besides that I just want to jump in and experience as much of Korea as I possibly can. I want to go to the museums, travel to any historical sites, and just see everything I can that Korea has to offer. One of the things I'm very adamantly against is becoming a hermit and hiding away in the house instead of going out and experiencing this whole new world. This is pretty big for me because I'm not one to really enjoy going out. I prefer a quiet night at home over a loud and busy mall. I'm making conscious efforts to go against that desire both in an effort to change my own hermitness and to make sure I get the full Korean experience. :)

Hmm... my blog posts are getting incredibly long lately. I hope you enjoy reading them and looking at the pictures! Shoot me some more questions, please! I find that I really enjoy doing this! It allows for a lot of positive analytical thinking on my end, besides that EA/Origin minor inconvenience :P

Do you speak any other languages?  I know enough Spanish to understand what is being said and write a response, but speaking it is still difficult for me. Lots of pronunciation errors are always made on my part. :)


  1. The bag thing kills me! How funny! I kinda wish we could get away with that too. I'd be peeping in everyone's bag. I love the pics! Please keep them coming.

    1. I love seeing what kind of things people put in their cart. It's like a little window into their life.
      I'm so glad we bought that extra big hard drive. It's going to be beyond full by the time we leave Korea. I'm also a hoarder of pictures and videos. Do I really NEED a random picture of a hamburger or blurry view of hubby walking down a hallway? Who knows, but I have it if that situation ever comes up! XD