Sunday, January 3, 2016

Stop & Chat: January 1st & 2nd - There and Back Again

The only reason I'm still coherent right now.
So... would you believe me if I said I haven't posted anything because I've been legitimately busy these past two days? No? Oh, okay. Well let me tell you about my busy two days anyway!!

After finishing my past post, I had just enough time to bring out my Sniff My Tarts bag before M decided to emerge from the bedroom. He wasn't quite bright eyed and bushy tailed (not that I've ever seen him like that) but he was halfway coherent when talking to me. At this point it was four in the afternoon and I wasn't sure if he still wanted to go into Yongsan and walk around. Silly me. Of course he wanted to go.

Originally we were supposed to go with one of his friends but his friend backed out at the last minute (not really, just had other plans with "the lady") and left us to fend for ourselves. Dramatic sigh. :P
So we drove into Yongsan and got ready for a very, very, walking-filled night.
All day it was cloudy. Or is this haze? I dunno.
What a lot of military people do when they want to shop around the Yongsan area is park their car on post and just walk out a gate to their destination. That's what we did, to lessen any parking hassle/costs and for the added security. I know Korea's not supposed to be a place that's big on crime, but I refuse to let the safe lifestyle of Korea become second nature because ultimately I'm coming back to the States, and that is not a place I want to be with less than stellar security and safety habits. Nothing has ever happened to me or my property/possessions, and I strongly believe that it's because I am very vigilant.

Anyway, onto adventures!
The big place we wanted to go to was the mall. M has known for some time now that I've needed a new bra or two (my boobies deserve to be pampered!) and we've -okay, I've- been keeping an eye out for the Victoria's Secret sale. When I was looking at their products online, M offered for us to go to the mall, where he was sure he'd seen the store. My first thought was there is no way they would carry my size because I'm bigger than most Koreans. I decided that we may as well check it out, though, since I told him I would go with him to Yongsan.

Fast forward to arriving at the mall, and we were on a mission. We walked around what felt like the entire mall, looking high and low for this place.

Along the way we found a toy store. Full of kids. And parents. Guess who wanted to go straight in and look at the legos?

That's right. My own personal man-child. Of course he picked up the set that was 600,000 Won. I felt like a parent scolding their child when I told him no. He got pouty and everything.

Near the toy area was a very beautifully decorated Studio Ghibli store and area. We couldn't even get in to look around because there were so many people. I tried to take a picture from outside and the hoards of people trying to move through the area kept shoving me around. Not intentionally. It was just very crowded. A lot of the stores along the streets of the city were closed for New Years, and the mall was one of the big things that was still open. This place is usually crowded but that was a whole new level. I can confidently say it looked like packed sardines. Talk about throwing myself into the middle of the culture! :)

After two hours of searching for Victoria's Secret M and I decided to call it quits. We did look at the other stores that we walked by, of course, but the one place we knew we wanted to find kept eluding us.

Instead of heading back to post, however, we walked around some more.

While walking around we got to go under one of the major highways. The low ceilings had me a bit anxious and the sounds whenever a train passed over were unsettling but it was cool nonetheless.
We ended up in the electronics market, which was closed also. M was kind of upset that so many places were closed. He wanted to show me some places that he had been able to go to while I was still in the US. It was sweet, really.

Normally these streets are bustling with people. It felt like a ghost town anywhere but at the mall.

We decided after arriving at the electronics market that it was time to turn in. Along the way back M thought it would be nice to take a more quiet route, away from the big street we had walked in on. Remember those security measures I was talking about? Typically walking down a dark alleyway is not on my list of things to do. At least, not alone.
I trusted M's decision making here, though, and he said it was the route he and a friend took back to base the last time he was out here. It was actually a very nice route. It took us through some older residential areas that had actual houses with yards! The yards were tiny, but the fact that they had yards was amazing. And they were actual houses, not apartment buildings!

Eventually M and I got on post and got to the car. The food court was still open, so we picked up some Popeyes and headed back home.

I think we got home around 9 pm? It was dark and this has been the absolute latest I have ever stayed up since arriving in Korea. We set up to watch a movie together while eating, Pirates of the Caribbean, and I ended up completely passing out. I finished most of my food, however, and I vaguely remember pushing the rest of my food at M as if to say "Can you take care of this for me? Put it in the fridge or something?" Of course I never said anything like that and M got annoyed at me for ruining his food setup by shoving my stuff in front of him. Ah, he puts up with me so much LOL.

You'd think that after a night like that I would sleep like a baby until morning, right? WRONG!! Think Lex Luthor in Man of Steel for the proper inflection there.

No, I woke up bright and early at 2:35. In the morning. Bright eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to start my day. Except for the fact that I'd gotten maybe four and a half hours of sleep. Okay, whatever, I can do this!

I ended up catching up on blog reading and commenting, checking Facebook, looking at wax to buy, and in general just being on the internet because I'm obviously not on here enough. I also spent a lot of time messaging my Mom as she was up and telling her about my day. She informed me that Dad demands more soap, and we both had a laugh at how he probably doesn't realize exactly how much soap I made while over there. I think they'll be good for a while :)

Seven rolled around and I decided to take a shower. M decided to be a lost puppy and follow me into the bathroom fully clothed, not to shower but just to be near me, so I had some fun splashing him and running at him head-on, naked and soaking wet. I complain about him being a kid but I can be just as mischievous and silly! LOL

I was started to feel a bit cranky and tired at this point, so I set up to take a quick hour long nap before we went on post to check our mail box and pick up some stuff from the Commissary. Mom messaged me when I was riiiight at that point of almost-asleep but not quite, and it jarred me back awake and I couldn't lay back down. So, I messaged her and putted around a bit before M and I finally went in.

While at the commissary I saw some much beloved holiday candy on sale: the Hershey's candy cane kisses. That is my favorite chocolate to have, behind Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme candy bars. I picked up a couple family pack sized bags and went on my merry way. What? I already have two regularly sized bags of these Hershey's Kisses? Well, I have to stock up for the next year before they have it in stock again, you know! It's always wise to have a stash of your favorite comfort candy or food for those really rainy days. At least it's wise comfort-wise. If you're trying to watch what you're eating it might not be as beneficial. :) I have very good self control though, so I'm not worried.

After taking the groceries back to the apartment, we went to pick up the friend that didn't go out with us the day before. I finally got to meet one of M's friends that he knew back in basic. Either that or AIT. Point is, M's known him. This guy is Korean American and spent some time living here when he was younger, so he has a better grasp of the language than we do and ended up acting as a partial interpreter for us. I got worried that he would be annoyed by it, but he assured us that he didn't mind. It's not like we invited him out exclusively for his knowledge of the language. He's a pretty cool guy to hang out with!

We drove on post in Yongsan again and walked towards the mall and to check out the now-open street vendors and stores. While out we somehow managed to buy a bike for M.

Apparently this is an actual Cactus from the US. I don't know if I believe that because I don't think customs would have let it pass.
Okay, not somehow. He's been talking about selling his current bike, A Quintana Roo Caliente, and replacing it with a bike better suited for the kind of riding he would be doing in Seoul. The gentleman who ended up helping us at this store was very kind and willing to answer all of M's questions. He threw in a lot of extras with the bike and in the end M was 'content, satisfied, and happy' with the value of product and service that he got. His words, not mine. I'm happy that he is happy, though the stingy, penny pinching part of me hopes that he can get at least the value of this new bike for his old bike. He hasn't sold it yet, as it hasn't arrived with our household goods shipment.

While they were tuning up the bike and installing everything, we went to the mall to finally eat at my first Korean restaurant. It's funny because we actually ended up at a Chinese style restaurant called Congee GoGo. Eh, technicalities. Are you ready for some food pictures?

We bought a several course meal so we could try several things. This is some crabmeat soup. It was my favorite food of everything offered, so if we ever eat there again I'm going to buy this. That is a big if, however.

 Next was shredded sea cucumber, beef and mushroom.

Oops. I forgot to take more consistent pictures. I was busy eating :) After that we got beef & pimento in oyster sauce with steamed rice buns. We also got some shrimp in chili concoction that I don't know the name of. They didn't have it written correctly in English on the menu, and M's friend (we'll call him K) had to translate it for us.

M was a bit unhappy as he has eaten here before and there were some discrepancies between both visits. Serving sizes were much larger last time and he didn't have a waitress that seemed very annoyed and almost offended to have to take our order. To completely fill ourselves up we had to get another entree order, which you can see in the upper middle of the picture above. Chicken and peppers and black pepper. Something like that. In any case, even that was a very small serving size.

We were pretty much ignored by all employees, and they took much longer to get our food out than tables around us. In the end our waitress sent somebody else to talk to us and we had to explain that we had not gotten all that was promised on the menu. They hadn't even bothered to bring out our rice, and K had to remind them that we were supposed to get dessert. We ended up getting the rice to go and would have left without waiting to find out about dessert if they hadn't brought it out at the last minute. It was two grape sized pieces of fruit that taste almost exactly like mandarin oranges. This meal was not cheap, and while the food was delicious it was not worth the experience nor money.
I can't help but wonder if we somehow did something wrong on our end or if something got lost in translation, but the attitude we were given from the waitress was less than welcoming.

After paying for our meal, we walked back towards post and the bike shop and picked up M's bike. We took the bike back on post and put it in the car, then drove and parked closer to another gate that lead to a different shopping area of Yongsan. I don't know what it's called (itaewon?), but it has the Lush we went to on our first outing. :)

We walked up and down the street and pretty much acted like true tourists. M stopped at a vendor that sold shirts that said very rude and hilarious things in English (I have a horrible mind, I'm sorry) and I picked up a shirt that had a huuuuuge smiley face on it with the words "Eat shit and die, mother fucker" That was the most tame of the pictures and text. A lot of these shirts made sex jokes or were outright depictions of phallic objects or sexual acts. M picked up a shirt that said "Re-enlist? You must be high." Again, not shirts we will ever wear outside of pajamas, but they made us laugh way too hard not to pick up a couple. I'm wearing my bright and sunny shirt right now and it is very very soft. Perfect for sleeping in! No, I did not nor do I plan to take pictures of these shirts LOL

M expressed interest in going back to Lush -how did I end up marrying such an awesome man?- and we walked by it, but there was a huge crowd of people and they had sales men outside shoving Lush products in your face. Soooo we passed going in Lush on our first walk-by. Trust me. There were more :)
The first thing we did was walk completely up and down both sides of the street. While walking we saw an English book store called What The Book. English! Book store! YAAY! That was our first destination after we finished our walk around.

 This bookstore reminds me heavily of Half Price Bookstore in the US. They have a selection of both used and new books and a wide variety of both. I almost picked up a brand new box set of the Pretties series by Scott Westerfield but decided against it. The only book I'm missing from that series and have never read is "Extras" and it's been years since I've read any of them, so I didn't want to put down money on a series that I would no longer like.
 On one shelf I found a holy grail of Patricia Cornwell books. I started reading her books after Mom found out that the Dr. Scarpetta series is what the TV series Bones got its inspiration from. She loved the series and kept telling me about it until I finally read a book and I got hooked, too. I was only going to pick up one or two from the series but M very much noticed my jump of joy and excitement when I'd realized what I was looking at and told me to grab every book. Every. Book. Copies exempted, of course. Even with that encouragement I only picked up 8 or 9 books. The way I view it and from how many books I saw, I will have plenty of time to come back and get any other books I saw.
M picked up a few books, as well as an audio CD set of Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. This children's book was originally written in German. Did you know that?

More books!!! YAAAY!!!!
Since we spent over 30,000 Won we got a free What The Book bag. This one is purple, plastic but very sturdy, and sizeable. I think this will come in very handy as a shopping bag. Plus it's purple. Did you know that it's purple?

After the bookstore we continued walking around the area, casually aiming for crossing the street to get back to the Lush store. Along the way M kept pointing out belts for me since I had mentioned that some pants that fit just fine a few weeks ago were now starting to sag and slip down my waist/hips. Casual brag much? :) I kept turning him down because I didn't see any belts that said "buy me!" Is that weird? I said I want a simple, neutral or black colored belt. They had plenty of those. I just didn't see the perfect plain, neutral belt. I don't pretend to understand my own mind.

We crossed the street and got back into Lush. This time it actually had people in it, versus last weekend when we were the only two customers in the store. I ended up with the same woman who had helped me last time, and she very much recognized me. I guess I'm kind of hard to forget :)

This time she helped me pick out more bath bombs and bubble bars. I picked up two gift boxes, Night Before Christmas and Butterbear. The woman who helped me said The Night Before Christmas has her favorite bath bomb. I should really pay attention to name tags. Apparently all of the sales women had names like Fairy and Sparkles as their English names, so I'm not sure how much that would have helped. LOL

She encouraged me to pick up a gift set that has a wide variety of bath bombs next time I come, because I had a lot of stuff already that would have me set for a while. M was very much trying to get me to pick up the box, especially since this particular box was set up to explode with confetti when you pull the top off. I resisted though, since like she said, there's always next time.

When it came time to check out I tried giving my information for the membership that I had signed up for last time. No matter what phone number or name I was giving I didn't come up in the system. After lots of searching through the database they finally found my file and saw that basically everything had been put in incorrectly, from my name to M's phone number (I haven't set up a phone yet, and I'm not sure there's a need to at this time). So they got me set up and I earned more points and I don't know what all it means but since I figure I'm going to be there frequently I may as well sign up LOL. The manager who had taken over at that point gave me some freebies for the New Year and because of how patient I was with the membership ordeal. Jackie Oats color supplement, which is intended to be used alongside your daily moisturizer. I also got a purple liquid lipstick. The representative (I feel offensive saying 'lady' and 'woman' all the time) said that she figured I like purple, with my purple jacket and purple gloves and purple bag, so she gave that to me as well. These two items are worth more than half of what I spent there. Holy cow.

Everyone who helped me at Lush was super friendly and helpful. Normally I hate the over-your-shoulder salesperson method of running a business and I've had issues with Lush representatives in US stores before, but this was... I don't know? Different? Maybe I just got caught up in the excitement and let myself get carried away but I felt nothing but happiness and absolute ease while in the store. There were no lies ("actually, we're not going to run the Boxing Day sale this year so you may as well buy all of your gifts right now" I'm looking at you Lush North Star Mall; don't think for one second I believed you. Why do you think I walked out?) and there was a very genuine love for these products from the employees that I have yet to see in the States. As I walked out the first woman who helped me gave me a pamphlet and said that I might enjoy some of the tips and tricks it gives, even if it is in Korean.

After that we walked to a local kebab joint for food. The first one was jam packed, so we moved on to another literally 50 feet away. That one was too crowded to sit and eat, so we moved to yet another, this one 100 feet away. This one had a very kind Indian gentleman out front who was selling ice cream. I wasn't hungry otherwise I would have bought some. Inside the store was enough space for the three of us to sit, and M bought me a Kebab even though I wasn't hungry. I did munch off of his fries, which he said he was counting on so don't get mad at me for not wanting food then eating his food LOL. We saved my Kebab for later and put it in one of the bags for safekeeping. While we waited outside for K to finish throwing his stuff away the gentleman outside started talking to me.
"You are from California. I know it!"
"Of course! You have to be!"
"Then where are you from??"
"Ah... Texas, California, what is difference?"
"There's a little difference!" At this point I was laughing and holding my fingers close together, to signify the little difference. K had come out so we had begun walking away.
"Well nice to have met you, Texas!"
"Nice to meet you, too!"

Along the way back M asked if I wanted to stop at a jewelry box vendor that I had been eyeballing the past couple times we had passed. I gave in.
The boxes are called Najeon Chilgi. It's a lacquer and wooden box inlaid with mother of pearl. Absolutely beautiful.

I picked up a musical jewelry box for myself. The only other box I have that comes close to this is an all wood Middle Eastern handmade jewelry box that Mom sent me during one of her deployments. I left that box with her at home as I didn't want it damaged during the move overseas. It is one of my most treasured possessions.
 Do you see those gorgeous designs??

Here is what the inside looks like. It's perfect for me. I don't have a lot of jewelry, in fact right now I have none because I've left everything with Mom and Dad, but I've always wanted something small to put my stash in. This is perfect for the maximum amount of jewelry I will most likely ever have in Korea.
I picked up some more things to send home to my family, but those won't be pictured. I contemplated picking up some for my bloggy friends but I wasn't sure if this was anything up their alley.

I also picked up a metal set of chopsticks. I can't decide if I'm going to keep them to myself to practice with or give them to my sister, who is very much a fan of Korean culture.

The damage.
All in all I would say I have had a very active couple days. It's taken me over two and a half hours to write all of this and oh my goodness this is a doozy of a post. I don't want to split it up at this point as I would have to re upload several phone pictures to the other blog post, and also I'm just lazy and don't want to LOL. I don't regret writing so much as this will help keep a strong and detailed record of my experiences here.

Today we have tentative plans to visit a museum but I have to say I am hurting from all of the walking and carrying stuff. Hills in Korea are no joke. Also I'm a bit of a lazy bum and haven't done much to keep my fitness level up. I'll have to see what M says when he wakes up.

Did you make it to the end of my novel? Am I getting better at taking more pictures?


  1. I did make it to the end of your novel! I loved it. =)

    The jewelry box is gorgeous. It reminds me of one my mom has. I'll have to look at it again next time I'm over there, ask her where she got it and when. Hers has some sort of Asian type scene on it, trees or something, if I'm remembering correctly.

    Glad you're having fun! How long have you been there now? A week?


    1. Oh yeah, and I had to look up the money conversion to see how much the Lego set was. LOL!


    2. Yup! I've been here a week now. It feels like I've been here longer, though. Maybe because of my crazy sleep schedule and our extended adventures.
      I'm already living and breathing converting Won to USD and vice versa. I didn't even think to put the USD equivalent. Doh! I'm going to have to remember that from now on :)

  2. I love it! It's just so fun to experience the country through your eyes. And it's so adorable how your husband is so enthusiastic for Lush! I can't wait to read more!

    1. Michael's the reason I'm even willing to spoil myself. I have no sense of self preservation (or self pampering I guess you'd call it?) on my own. All I see is $$ when I look at stuff. It's great to have him to balance that part of me out.
      It's so fun being able to share my time here! I'm glad it's something you enjoy!

  3. What an amazing day! Can I just gush over the bookstore for a moment? I began reading the Uglies/Pretties series several years ago too but did not finish and now you have me wanting to go back and finish that series. Also, yes! I love the Scarpetta cases and had no idea Bones was modeled after that. I read several but not in order and not all of them since I was picking them up willy nilly at Goodwill. Glad you are settling in nicely.

    1. I really want to finish the series because I loved the concepts when I read it years ago. Even if I no longer like the writing styles or concepts I at least want to finish it. It was the first dystopian series I had ever read, and I feel like it holds a special place in my heart. I would bug Michael by saying something is very happy-making or just silly phrasing like how Tally and co. would phrase things.
      I can especially appreciate how real the relationships are in the Scarpetta series. No friendship is perfect and Scarpetta's relationships are anything but picture perfect. The good thing about her books is they are written to each stand alone from the series so I can pick and choose whichever books in whatever order I want to read :D