Monday, September 27, 2010

Weekend 30 of 52.

Ewha, Charlie Brown Cafe

Has there ever been a lazier week in Asia? Dan and I left the house almost exclusively to eat. It was Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), and we had every day off but Monday. Korrine went to Taiwan. Other people went to various Korean islands. We slept past breakfast every morning, did a puzzle at a Starbucks, and met three friends for three dinners. It was too wonderful.

Our first dinner was Tuesday night in Gangnam for some Asian Fusion with Nikki, with whom we hope to attend a Korean performance of Grease. I can't wait to learn what hickeys from Korean Kenickies are like (like Hallmark cards when Kenickie's an American). Thursday night we went out for chicken and 24 hour pastries with Shin (from Cafe Soul Underground) and his American friend Paula. Our third dinner was last night in Gwacheon (outside of Seoul, so there!) where we had home-cooked Jjim Dalk/찜닭 (spicy soy sauce chicken) at the behest of our new friend Il Kwon and by the hand of his lovely wife So Yeong, who also prepared Bimbimbap and a variety of Chuseok fruits. Il Kwon even made us espresso drinks, providing me with one of my best Americanos in Korea.

Today we ventured out to see the area around Ewha Womans University [sic]. We drank sad sack coffee at the Charlie Brown Cafe. And then we welcomed Korrine back at our favorite local barbecue restaurant (because everyone has one of those).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekend 29 of 52.

Seoul Folk Flea Market, Seoul Global Center's Quarterly Foreign Flea Market

Seoul Global Center's Quarterly Foreign Flea Market, as its name declares, happens only 4 times a year. We've been in Seoul for two previous installments, having meant to attend each, and forgotten when the Saturdays finally rolled around. I was set to forget again and thought we should go out to Olympic Park, but Dan remembered because he is so smart.

The Foreign Flea Market is held in the parking lot of the Seoul Folk Flea Market complex. The foreign offerings ($8 for a tube of Quaker Oats, for example) were underwhelming, but the Folk Flea Market was pretty awesome. Dan tried to talk down some guitar hawkers, but each time to no avail. Korrine found, for fewer than $50, a hiking bag for her imminent trip to Taiwan. And we all sifted through a dozen sheets of lapel pins to find Seoul specific buttons.

We serendipitously timed our visit to the market to coincide with a weekly auction, at which we were the only non-Korean participants. The bid crier really appreciated Korrine's foreign enthusiasm and rewarded it with special attention and clever taunts. We got outbid on a classical guitar, then outbid again on a backpack. But we put in a 1000 won bid and won! a portrait of the president's deceased wife in traditional Korean garb. All right! And, even better, for participating, we got three 1000 won gift certificates to use at the flea market with which we purchased our pins. It was a really, really fun way to spend the afternoon, and we are ever thankful that such fortuitous cultural things have their way of happening to us.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mid-Week Things.

Noraebang, Bowling

Some weekdays occasion that we should do fun group activities. Sometimes we get together with the teachers and eat chicken galbi. Other times we go to Noraebangs (singing rooms) and have Scorpions sing-alongs. Still other times we head to basement bowling alleys to alternate strikes and spares, while trying to avoid the inevitable poodles and sour apples (hey bowling, your slang is so cheesy cakes). It's fun!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Weekend 28 of 52.

Hongdae Free Market, Seoul Wow Book Festival, "Smart Donuts" at Dunkin Donuts

Dan and I (as the Bell & the Hammer) got to play at the Afternoon Stage of the Hongdae Free Market. The Free Market is an artist run flea market where you can buy handicrafts and hear some music. It's held every Saturday at the Hongdae Playground. Saturday's weather forecast called for pretty much 100% chance of rain at all times, but it managed to lessen to just sprinkling for a couple afternoon hours. That made us glad.

On our way home from the Free Market, as the rain picked up, we walked through the Seoul Wow Book Festival.

On Sunday we had our second Korean hit of Taco Bell and ate some "Smart Donuts" (made with soy milk!) at Dunkin Donuts.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Weekend 27 of 52.

Hyehwa, Lock Museum, Kokdu Museum

We've been to Hyehwa once before to visit Cafe Mano for patbingsu and milkshakes. Yum. We went back again to visit Cafe Mano for milkshakes and tiramisu. But also so that we could go to the Lock Museum and the Kokdu Museum.

Locks are locks. No further explanation necessary, but I will say that the curators shyly spoke excellent English and gave us a quality book of Seoul Museum tourist info (as part of the "Infinitely Yours, Seoul" campaign, which I think is really cute).

Kokdu, though, are wooden figurines of angel-type beings that decorate funeral biers. They act as guides to and guardians of the deceased as they wander their way to heaven. The Kokdu stories reminded me of Dante's Inferno (which I only read for a college class, so don't think I'm too terribly smart or cultured). The funeral bier is also decorated with phoenix and dragon carvings. We learned of dragons, that they follow the path of the rain and are able to descend into the depths of the seas and then ascend to the heights of the heavens. As such, dragons are fantastic afterlife companions (and not at all the combatants that skewed Western lore would have you believe), fighting off foes and having all that inside information.

All of the descriptions in the Standing Exhibit were translated proficiently into English. There is also a dynamic Special Exhibit that presents Kokdu in varying modern art genres. Transient as it is, this exhibit's explanations are only in Korean. When we went, it contained manual wheel animations (called phenakistoscope) and crank puppets (like this, but in real life). The museum is small and it is not free (W5000 per adult), but it was different from all the other museums we've been to, and we really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Weekend 26 of 52.

Rain, Dongdaemun Shopping Town, Bangsan Baking Market, Rain, Tri Nations Rugby game at Scrooge's in Itaewon, Seoul Station, Rain

It rained a lot this weekend. Before we knew it was going to rain every day, we had decided to go to Lotte World, the largest indoor amusement park, to celebrate our 26th weekend. Dan wisely discerned that maybe a lot of people would go to an indoor amusement park on a rainy summer day, so we opted for something less. I needed to make another trip to Bangsan Baking Market for powdered sugar and maybe some bran flour, and I wanted to check out Dongdaemun Shopping Town for knitting supplies, so we trudged around through the Dongdaemun markets. We were armed with little more than flip flops and umbrellas, but we managed. And I still walked away with some black rice powder (no bran) and a couple packs of yarn.

That was Saturday. Right as Sunday was starting (read: 12AM), we were at Scrooge's in Itaewon, getting ready to watch South Africa best Australia in a Tri Nations rugby match. After we'd slept it off, we went to Seoul Station to admit freely into the Seoul Museum of Art, which is free every fourth Sunday. Unfortunately, it was August's fifth Sunday. Instead of consuming art with our minds, we consumed some Bennigan's with our mouths and bellies. Then we had some affogato at a cafe across the street. Then back across the street to Lotte Mart (not World, alas) to buy a perch for our TV, which has sat on top of two cardboard boxes for the last six months.

Maybe not a very exciting weekend, but a practical one at least.