Monday, December 31, 2007


K: Mark & I received some money for Christmas from my parents, my work, and from a gift we returned. We've decided to apply all of it towards a nice set of luggage for our travels.

Unfortunately, our cheapo Target set has a huge hole in the side from our last flight and since Mark has taken a job that will require some traveling, it is a good time for an upgrade.

From what I understand, for international flights between us we are allowed 4 check-ins and 2 carry-ons. I will probably get a monsterous purse to load up as well. I am leaning away from a *Big Bertha* suitcase since Mark's clothes, specifically SHOES, are much heavier than mine and tend to drive the weight over the limit.

As I was reading reviews, it seems that Samsonite is generally the best-known, and while it's expensive, not mind-blowing.

I found this full set of 5 pieces for $300. Is a garment bag worth it? If we choose not to take it with us to Korea, it may be helpful for business trips. This luggage will come in a dark grey color. I was hoping for something in a deep maroon or bright blue, but I'm not sure how Mark will feel about carting those bright colors around. Since this is community luggage, we'll probably have to go with a more neutral color and I can just tie some bright ribbons to it so we can easily spot it in baggage claim.

Macy's is also having a sale on luggage (aren't they always!). They have quite a few spinner collections, which are sold piece by piece for around $100/piece. As far as I can tell, the spinners are supposed to help with maneuverability, which may be nice as we navigate the streets of Seoul. I also really like this blue color, which may be Mark-approved. I would assume we'd get to large size suitcases and two of the medium sized ones and maybe one travel/carry-on bag.

I'm leaning towards the set of 5 pieces, since it seems like we'd get more bang for our buck, but it would be nice to choose each piece individually and mix and match.

Also, these bags will mostly hold Mark's clothes. We figure there probablyaren't many tall sizes in Asia. I plan to bring a few basics and just buy most of my clothes once we arrive in Korea. (Here's hoping my birth father is feeling generous since he owns a clothing factory and all!)

Any feedback, especially from the Spain girls, about what pieces you think are necessary... if there's another luggage brand we should consider, etc? Oh and Hannah - you travel for work a lot, is there something in particular we should look for to cover Mark in that department?

Friday, December 28, 2007

First Class Fantasies

K: Well, just a bit of daydreaming today. Mark and I have been talking about booking our flights to Korea with our tax returns this year. That way, we'll have no way out - the tickets are bought - we're going!

We started talking about the flight there, which, according to Travelocity, is a whopping 14 hours and 10 minutes. Now, I have a hard time sitting for that length of time, but my 6'7" hubby falls apart on airplanes. Last time we flew, his ankles were around his neck (while his legs invaded my personal space) and his back started hurting. And that was just a 3 hour flight to Mexico...

I started doing some research on Korean Air, which is supposed to be the best, just to see what the flying conditions would be like. Well...

Here's what Coach/economy looks like. I wish I could get the other pictures to download, but they were in flash. You can see them here if you're interested. I like how they describe the seats as "snug."

Then they have the normal first class seats, which much more leg room.

Then there are the sleeper seat/recliners in first class
Finally, there are the completely unbelievable sleeper seats. *Mark is drooling now.*

Considering just the coach seat is over $1000/person per way, I'm thinking the first class Kosmo Sleeper Seat will remain in our dreams. But it's pretty cool, right?

Guess Mark'll just be loading up on Nyquil and Vicotin for his long jouney east. :-)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Web 2.0 Han Won Style

K: So following my phone conversation with Sang Kwan, we talked via IM for about 45 minutes. It was actually much easier than speaking on the phone because they could take their time responding and reading my messages. Emily did most of the typing since my brother was too nervous about his English, but she would ask him questions since he was sitting right next to her.

We discussed many topics including:
  • Our trip to Korea --- both he and my birth father are expecting us. They want to help us find a job and to live in the family home... we'll see about that. From what I understand, they have an apartment in Seoul but hardly live there. That might be an acceptable living arrangement.
  • The funniest thing was when they mentioned that if we came to Korea we'd have to quit our jobs, and I said that meeting my brother is more important than any job. Emily told me that Sang Kwan was very happy and wanted a beer. haha.
  • We established that we all also enjoy drinking wine. When we get to Korea, we decided we will drink wine and listen to music (something they said they enjoy).
  • Along the listening to music theme, they said they like country music. How crazy is that?
  • They also think that my brother and I look alike!
  • My birth father DID in fact receive the photo album. (Somewhere my mom is doing cartwheels.)
  • Emily & Sang Kwan have been dating 4 years.
  • There were a couple of funny translation issues, or at least I'm going to take them that way... 1) They asked what I was doing right then, I responded, and they followed up by asking me if I'm boring. Hmmm... 2) They asked when we come to Korea if they can live with us. I most certainly hope that was a language barrier issue. I can only imagine living in a cramped apartment with Mark, Sang Kwan, and Emily. Yikes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


K: I am literally on cloud 9 right now. Slowly floating back down to reality. Why, you ask? Well, I JUST HAD A PHONE CONVERSATION WITH MY BIRTH BROTHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hearing his voice and excitement when he realized who he was talking to was an experience I'll never forget. I still haven't gotten this goofy grin off my face. I mean, that was my blood brother! It just makes him so REAL to me to hear him speaking to me! Okay... time to slow down and give a few more details. Deep breaths...

It's shocking how cheap it is to make a call to China. We picked up an international calling card from Walgreens for $10, which gives us 2 hours to China. How insane is that?!?!

Well, we dialed the number Sang Kwun provided, the phone was ringing, and there he was saying "hello." He didn't immediately realize who he was, but the minute I said the name Han Won, he just broke into excited laughter. It was a little difficult to communicate with him, so his girlfriend, Emily, jumped on the phone and started talking. Her English is really really good!

The sweetest part was that Emily told me that my brother was so excited that he couldn't think of the English words to use to talk to me. When I talked to Sang Kwun, he kept apologizing for his difficulty speaking, but come on, if we were having this conversation in Korean it would be much worse.

Though the language barrier prevented my brother and me from having any sort of in-depth conversation, we discussed our trip to China. He was really excited to "play" and "eat" with us. He also said he would tell my birth father I say hello.

I believe there was something in there about it snowing in Beijing and the two of them at work right now.

We also discussed IMing on MSN... OMG... he just logged on....more later........

Monday, November 26, 2007

Package Delivery: completed

K: Awhile ago I posted that my mom had put together a Creative Memories album with pictures from my childhood through my wedding to send to my birth father. Talk about a SAGA.
My mom first started by visiting the Chinese consulate. A very helpful man took this 中国北京市海淀区动物园世纪天乐国际服装批发市场11层1109 . (ZHONG GUO BEI JING SHI HAI DIAN QU DONG WU YUAN SHI JI TIAN LE FU ZHUANG PI FA SHI CHANG 11CENG 1109) and wrote out a label that he claimed would be understandable. But when she took the package to the Post Office, they did NOT understand it and also warned her that China is a communist country and there's a possibility it could be intercepted and/or opened. So, she decided to send the package to my birth father's business in Korea instead. Well, to make a long story short, this involved calling Peter Yim (our translator at our wedding), having his wife call Korea and talk to my birth father, putting together a mailing label in Korean, having the post office tell us they couldn't understand the label, calling him back and having it translated in Korean, and then having him hunt down a postal code... Whew. My poor mother - it's a good thing she's retired!

Anyway, here's what the label ended up looking like:

Well, then my mom began stalking the post office's web site to see if/when the package was delivered. Then there were two failed deliveries posted. She was starting to get worried. So, Peter Yim came to the rescue again. She placed a call to him --- he called my birth father --- and found out he's on a plane from China to Korea and would pick up the package later that day.

And then I received a message from Sang Kwan letting me know they had (finally!) received the package. Now my mom can get a good night's sleep.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A very important missed call

K: Just thought I'd share... as mentioned in his last email, Sang Kwan actually called our house! We were both at work, so he just got our machine. Said "hello" a couple times. Gave me chills (in a good way of course) to hear my long lost brother's voice! Made it all seem so much more REAL.
Mark and I are planning to purchase a calling card to call him back. Talk about an expensive game of phone tag!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Email from Oba!

K: Just got an email from my brother! I had written him earlier to let him know about our plans to come to Seoul. Isn't it so cute that he's already thinking of stuff we can do? I think Mark and I are going to pick up a calling card and try to give him a call. Anyone have any advice how to place a call to China?

Kim: How are you theres days ! torday I receved your email It 's so great you will come to Seoul .but how's the working now? I am worried about that .so I think I will togther with you at that time .can you teach me english too?^_^ I have a lot of plans when you come to Soul .we can go to trivell .cooking togther , play togther ,and ...... I hope i wil togther with you all the times .... Torday i try to call you .but just Make 's message .it's so pity ! I Will call you next time .


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Talk to me like I'm a child...

K: Last year we bought Korean textbooks with every intention of becoming fluent in the language. Easier said than done. We memorized each letter and what it's supposed to sound like. But Korean seems much like English in that there are exceptions to nearly ever rule. And then there is the oddest practice of just throwing letters that are not to be pronounced in the front of words for the heck of it. Anyway, we learned the alphabet and deciphered several words, trying to figure out what we thought they should sound like... and then we'd listen to the online tutorial and hear words that sounded nothing like what we thought. Needless to say, this became a very frustrating experience.

My co-worker, who also happens to be 1/2 Korean, mentioned that she was using the Rosetta Stone. Apparently it is used by ambassadors and is billed as the "fastest way to learn a foreign language." The program teaches you to speak the language much like a child would be taught, through pictures and immersion.

Mark ordered it today, so we'll see how well this miracle product works... Won't you all be shocked if our next post is in Korean!?!?!?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What we're perusing

K: Now that we're 99.999999% sure that we're going to make every effort humanly possible to get ourselves to Korea, we've been checking out blogs of people who are actually there. Our favorite so far is Lee's Korea Blog. Lee was also adopted from Korea but calls Australia his home. How cool is that?!?!? Mark and I just love his attitude: completely laid back and willing to eat anything, go anywhere, meet anyone. He also puts a ton of great pictures on his blog, which are fun to look at and to learn about the country. Lee actually works in Busan/Puson, which is where my American brother, Kevin, was born. If you have time, check it out...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The perks of being a kyopo

K: Lately it feels like we've been learning new information non-stop... this blog has never been busier! We've gotten a majority of our information from the message board I referenced in an earlier post. The experience of having complete strangers from all over the world who are caring in their messages and willing to take time out of their day to share their experiences and advice with us has been so refreshing. All I can say is Mark and I are going to be very busy sharing our experiences and advice with the "newbies" when this is all said and done.

We have learned that I am eligible for a returnee (F4) visa, which is a special visa for Koreans who have immigrated (or been adopted) living in another country. This would enable me to work as a private English tutor, which is far more lucrative than teaching in a school or hakwon. Plus, I wouldn't have to be tied to a contract with a school, which is nice because the school wouldn't "own" my visa - meaning if I hated my job, I could quit without being sent back to the U.S. From what I hear, this is the problem most westerners have when teaching in Korea - tthey get suckered into a bad contract and are stuck since the school technically owns their visa.

We also received this very specific advice today, which is so cool:

"Many organizations offer help for Korean adoptees wishing to visit or re-locate to Korea. KoRoot has a lovely villa near the Blue House, the Korean White House, where you or your family can stay for a few dollars a day. Only adoptees and their families can stay there and it's a great place to meet others in your situtation. Check it out online---- Also contact This organization has around 200 active members who are currently living and working in Korea. They will help you with everything. And, on top of that, they're a lot of fun to hang around with as they have weekly activities, and occassionally score free tickets to theater, etc."

Mark and I looked at both websites. The KoRoot house is located in Seoul and looks kind of like a dorm, but the price is unbeatable at $15/day. They seem like a group primarily dedicated to helping to ease the transition for kyopos. They provide events for adoptees to attend to get to know each other, offer various tours of Korea, provide Korean language lessons, teach about the culture, and even provide career counseling for adoptees (like me!) who would like to stay in Korea and work. After seeing that web site, Mark and I were thinking it would be cool to possibly stay there for a month to acclimate ourselves and have the opportunity to travel and improve our Korean before trying to start full time jobs. Just another idea to throw into the mix. :-)

The other organization seemed like it would be helpful as well: it seems to have similar goals to the KoRoot house. From the website:

Global Overseas Adoptees' Link (G.O.A.'L) is a non-profit organization and a NGO consisting of overseas Korean adoptees (OAKs) and native Koreans working together to locate birth families and experience Korean life and culture.

1. Contribute to adoptees in identity formation and understanding Korean culture2. Share the anguishing experiences of unmarried mothers, adoptive families and adoptees3. Improve Korean domestic adoption culture and contribute to the betterment of adoptees' rights.

Just knowing that we would have these resources available to us to help ease the transition and provide support is so important. This information has sort of answered my decision (or rather indecision) from my earlier "Would you rather" post. There is no better time, this is something we can do, we can scale the hurdles and make this a reality. WE ARE GOING TO LIVE AND WORK IN KOREA FOR A YEAR!!!!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I am a kyopo!

K: I just found out today that when I go to Korea, they will call me a "kyopo" - meaning Korean-American.

Oh and something on the lighter side: I read a post earlier that said that Koreans get kind of mad when they see a Korean woman with an American man. People said they experienced dirty looks and mean glares. All I can say is that will be one nervy Korean who stares down (haha - or maybe the better word is UP) at Mark. Having that experience will be reason enough to relocate for a year... hahahha...

No way?

M: As Kim wrote in an earlier post "Would you rather...", she mentioned the dilemma that we're facing about how long our visit should be. If we choose to go with "Option B", we will try to find a job teaching English (ESL). There is an abundance of jobs in Seoul and the hours are not as demanding as in a business position. While teaching might not provide us with the international business experience on our resume that we were hoping for, it would provide us with more free time to explore Korea.

Preciously, Kim mentioned a message board, Dave's ESL Cafe, that we joined. The website is dedicated to foreigners teaching English in Korea. Through this site we learned that a typical ESL contract will provide you with:

  • 2 to 2.5 million Won per month (roughly $2,000 to $2,500 in American dollars)
  • Paid overtime
  • Roundtrip airfare
  • Apartment (utilities not included)
  • Anywhere from 25 to 40 hours per week of teaching
  • Medical benefits (not sure yet what these include or how they vary among contracts)

The free rent is what first caught our eye. Kim and I have been very worried about how we could afford both living in Seoul and paying our mortgage. If this is true, that would lift a huge burden off of us.

We have learned that the ESL business in Korea is very competitive and that some schools will make false promises to teachers in order to get them to sign a contract. So obviously, Kim and I will need to do as much research as possible before we make a decision like that.

I do believe that this information provided Kim and I with a little resolution about our decision as to how long our stay should be. Finding the right teaching job could subside most of our financial worries with our house here is the US.

We've gone public!

K: Well, maybe not as exciting as it sounds... we've joined this message board, Dave's ESL Cafe, and posted our blog. This board is so cool - filled with people who are either currently living in Korea or like us, hoping to get there. There's such a wealth of information.

Yesterday we got a message from someone who's IN KOREA teaching English who read our blog! Such a mindtrip to think there's a complete stranger who's actually interested in our story... the power of the internet bringing people together to share stories, experiences, and advice! Maybe someday when this is all said and done I will write a book about this whole experience.

Anyway, I've been telling Mark that I'm carrying the load with this blog, so he promised that he'd write the next update with some new information we've learned about from the people on the message board. So keep an eye out for that!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What the 中国北?!?!?!

K: So I FINALLY heard back from my brother. Apparently I now have TWO brothers who are communicationally challenged. At least from time to time.

I wrote him nearly a month ago asking for an address. My mom had put together a creative memories scrapbook for my birth father chronicling my childhood through our wedding. It's pretty awesome and he'll be absolutely obsessed. Anyway, before she shipped it off to never-never land, she wanted me to confirm an address with Sang Kwan. So I emailed him and waited and waited for a response... Here's what I received:

"Kim: I am sorry .these days I am very busy .I ofen went to other city . I am ok don't worried about me .^-^ Appa can't speak chinese ,I afraid he can't recive it .so you can send it to me .and then I will take it to ded. my address: 中国北京市海淀区动物园世纪天乐国际服装批发市场11层1109 . (ZHONG GUO BEI JING SHI HAI DIAN QU DONG WU YUAN SHI JI TIAN LE FU ZHUANG PI FA SHI CHANG 11CENG 1109)KIM SANG KWUN PHOTO: 13391912403 13552020704 this is my shop's adress."

So, I'm confused. Do we just slap this address on the package and cross our fingers or what? I mean, will it even get out of St. Louis with a bunch of symbols like this on the box? Mark and I are thinking we'll take this email to a chinese restaurant or something and see if they can tell us at least where we should put line breaks in... Anyone else have any suggestions?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Current events

K: It's been shocking to us when we tell some people of our plan to move to Korea how they completely freak out. And no, they're not worrying about our mortgage, our jobs, or any of the issues discussed on earlier posts... they're terrified for our safety.

We've heard comments from, "You should look into getting the latest military intelligence," to
"You should put it off a couple years until things settle down there."(Granted, the last comment was from someone who was scared for our physical safety while we were on our honeymoon at a resort in Mexico.) Mark and I do our best to calm these people down, telling them that South Korea is a developed, stable country - we will not be living in a bomb shelter there.

But for those who are still nervous about the stability of the country, they will be happy to learn that "North Korea pledged to detail its nuclear programs and disable all activities at its main reactor complex by year’s end, then signed a wide-ranging reconciliation pact with South Korea Thursday promising to finally seek a peace treaty to replace the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Would you rather...

K: This morning it occurred to me that in order to fund our dream of living in Korea, we'd probably have to sell our house. There's just no way we'd be able to pay rent in Korea as well as our mortgage and all those utility bills back home. There's always the option of renting, but that can be just so messy. Plus, there's a little thing called money that the collateral we've built up on our house could help us out with.

To be honest, I've been waffling back and forth. One minute I am gung-ho on selling our house, quitting our jobs, and just GOING. And then the next minute I'm thinking about stability, money, putting off starting a family, and (this is silly, but I'll admit it) leaving Riley and wanting to throw the whole idea out.

So I've come up with two scenarios and major pros and cons of both. Readers... what which would you choose and why?

Scenario A: We plan a two week to month-long visit to Korea. We keep our respective jobs and just take "leaves of absences." We learn just enough Korean to get by while we're there.
  • Pros: Stability. We keep our house. We'd only have to find someone to watch Riley for a month. We could move ahead with any family and/or higher education plans. We wouldn't have to work while we're in Korea, so we'd have quite a bit of time to do all the sightseeing and spend time with my family.
  • Cons: Not truly immersed in the culture. Finding an apartment/hotel to stay in that whole time could be expensive. Dependent on whether or not our jobs would allow us to take a leave of absence. There's a possibility of having a short period with no paycheck.

Scenario B: We stick with the original plan and move to Korea for a year. We sell our house. We find someone who's willing to 'adopt' Riley for a year. We start some intensive Korean language classes. We both quit our jobs and make plans to teach English abroad. When we return to the US we can start/continue the job and home searches.

  • Pros: A year we'd never forget, living in a foreign country for a year would be unbelievable. An opportunity to really get to know my birth family. Probably get to see more of Asia, rather than trying to cram it in. International work experience to add to the resume.
  • Cons: Money. Not knowing if everything will work out when we return to the States. Postponing our "everyday" lives by a year or longer, depending how long it takes us to get back on our feet after returning (that means children, higher education, career advancement). One of us could have difficulty finding a job. If we are totally broke, we might have to live with parents until we can save up for a new home/apartment (yikes!).

So readers, please weigh in. What would you pick? Why? Or are you like me and just plain... confused...

Friday, September 28, 2007


Still nothing from my Sang Kwan... how many emails should I send before I start to appear stalkerish???

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Update for the heck of it

K: I received an email from Lindsey today telling me that she checks this blog at least 2 times a week and that I'm slacking. So here's a quick post --- dedicated to Lindsey.

It's been over a month since I've sent my brother Sang Kwan the last email in which I asked if he was planning to marry his girlfriend. I still haven't heard anything back! I sent another email today "just checking in" saying that I hadn't heard from him in awhile and was a little concerned. I'll keep you posted...

OH and since I'm talking about my brother who lives in Asia and his alleged wedding cold feet, I should probably add an update about my US brother, Kevin and his impending wedding plans. I got an email from Kevin yesterday telling me that he and Alicia have set a date - March 29, 2008. And the wedding colors will be black and pink. How exciting.

A funny note about Kevin: he swears that now that I've found my "real brother", one day I will cut him from my life forever and go live happily ever after with my ty quan do champ brother, San Kwan. He tells in a really dramatic fashion with a long narrative about him sobbing until he hiccups in the corner. Makes me laugh - like I could ever give up Kevin's hilarious jokes (well, at least 40% of them are at least moderately funny)...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Off the subject

K: I just have to share since I think this is the best thing ever... and it once again proves I'm completely domesticated.

In an earlier post, I wrote that Mark and I are trying to save money by not eating out. Well, we've cheated here and there (it is hard), but are doing our best. The hardest thing about eating at home all the time is that you can only eat the same things so many times. There are only so many ways to cook pasta and stir fry (that we knew of). We were in a food rut.

So then I found this website (endorsed by Oprah, so you KNOW it's gotta be good): The Six O'Clock Scramble. Each week you receive 5 recipes in your email inbox, which includes a grocery list (so helpful). The recipes are healthy, simple, and only take about 30 minutes to cook! We tried out the sample recipes last week which included:

1. Asian Turkey Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries*
2. Lighter Macaroni and Cheese
3. Warm Chicken Salad with Mixed Greens*
4. Roasted Halibut with Balsamic Marinade
5. Spinach Burritos*

The only one we didn't make was the roasted halibut (who knew halibut costs $11/pound!), but every other recipe we cooked, we were obsessed. We subscribed immediately.

So, looks like there won't be any more boring meals at the Johnson household. Give us a call whenever you're in the area, you're more than welcome to swing by for dinner! :o)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Foot in the mouth *maybe*

K: Just realized I've been slacking on this blog! It's been almost a month. This summer is flying by! Guess there just hasn't been much to report. I wrote an email to my brother in which I (jokingly! - I put a smiley face after it, I swear) told him as his "little sister" I just had to ask if there were any wedding plans for him and his girlfriend. Then I didn't hear anything back from weeks. He usually replies immediately! I was starting to get worried maybe it got lost in translation or maybe SHE was the translator and this put him in a really awkward position. Then I got a message from him saying:

"kim: I 'm sorry .I just read your email. beacuse I 'm in korea now .my computer can't work in here .so if I come back to Beijing I will touch with you ^_^ "

WHEW. That could've been bad... but still no reference to the marriage question. Typical guy!?!??!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Family Resemblance?

K: My brother sent me some pictures of him and his girlfriend! Whaddya think? Do we look alike?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Contingency plans

K: Mark and I decided to crack open a bottle of Mark West and talk night last night. Partially to celebrate the 2-year anniversary of the day we got engaged (hard to believe it's been that long!) and mostly since we hadn't seen each other all weekend and we wanted to catch up. As Mark puts it (in his mocking tone) "any chance we can get to talk talk talk!" Haha.

As most of our conversations of late usually do, the chatter turned toward our thoughts about moving to Korea. As we shared our perspectives and thoughts, it occurred to both of us how differently we approach the same topics. I asked Mark at what point we would decide not to go. For example, if we don't have jobs lined up 3 months before we'd fly out for the Olympics, would we decide it was a lost cause... or would we wait until two weeks before.. or the day before...??

Mark looked at me like I was crazy - like not going was not even an option. That's where we differ: when Mark decides he's going to do something, he doesn't even consider failure as an option, whereas I prefer to have a backup plan. I'm of the mindset that if I don't know what will happen if it doesn't work out, then the failure would be even worse.

So... to ease my nerves, we formulated a "contingency plan." We decided that if Korea doesn't work out, we will immediately start saving for a trip to Europe, which is something we've always talked and daydreamed about. Not a bad contingency plan, eh? China/Korea one year and Europe the next!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Language Barriers

M: Speaking to another person through an interpreter is a truly unique experience. I was not sure who to look at when I was speaking or if everything I said could be translated to Korean and keep the same meaning. I had to be careful when using metaphors, slang or other common everyday sayings that I would normally use in a conversation.

Peter Yim, a friend of K's birth father, who served as our interpreter during their visit, was a godsend. I am not quite sure how he was able to still have a voice by the time they departed St. Louis. But speaking through a translator is not the same as speaking directly to the individual.

After reading the email that K received from Sang Kwan, we saw the great lengths that he went to in order to communicate with his sister. We decided that we too need to break the language barrier and learn how to speak Korean. We are hoping to take a class this fall, but we also have purchased some text books so that we can start teaching ourselves.

Last night was our first lesson and it went okay. We went over the Korean alphabet and some basic rules of pronunciation. We can already see that this will be a difficult task, but K and I are looking forward to the challenge.


K: This weekend M and I went through our budget and decided that if we really want to take this trip we're going to have to sacrifice. We have some debt we need to eliminate to make this trip a reality. We're going to follow Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" plan. Currently, we need to pay off our Citi credit card and our student loans. M decided he doesn't actually need his luxury SUV, so he's going to trade it in for a smaller, cheaper car with a lower monthly payment. Finally, (this is just a small step) but we're getting rid of our Blockbuster Online membership. It's only $20/month, but every penny counts!

The next part (I think) will be the toughest. We have decided to cut out eating out entirely until our Citi card (at least!) is paid off. No more quick lunches or Sunday breakfasts or dinners out with friends. Every dollar we save from eating at home will be used to attack our debt!

These next few months will be tough, but I just keep thinking... when we're exploring Korea together, we will be so glad we made the sacrifices!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Seoul Research

K: One more thing to add, yesterday M did some research about where I'd be working if I stayed with the company I currently work at. Big W-O-W!

Gangnam-gu is one of the 25 gu (local government districts) which make up the city of Seoul, South Korea. It is one of the most affluent areas of Seoul and is located in the southeast of the city. It is served by Seoul Subway Line 2, Seoul Subway Line 3, Seoul Subway Line 7 and the Bundang Line.

Several popular shopping and entertainment areas are located in Gangnam-gu, including Apgujeong, the COEX Mall and the area around Gangnam Station. The important business district around Teheranno (Tehran Street) runs east-west from Gangnam Station to Samseong Station and the COEX-KWTC complex.

Known as the Silicon Valley of Korea, Gangnam-gu's "Teheran Valley" is a progressive commercial district along Teheran-no street. The street is home to numerous venture companies, especially IT and Internet-related companies. Many finance, insurance, and trade companies also have offices located here. Such major companies as Yahoo! Korea, Dacom, LG Telecom, and Samsung SDS have moved their main offices to the area. Most venture businesses are concentrated between Gangnam Subway Station and the
COEX / World Trade Center (which also includes the ASEM Convention Center and City Air Terminal). The high concentration of venture firms gives the area a second nickname as Korea's "Venture Valley." The sector also expands far beyond, stretching for many blocks in all directions through Gangnam-gu.

With such a concentration of high technology firms, the area serves as a breeding ground for creativity and progress. To support them, the area has the best infrastructure in Korea for technology, transportation, and facilities. Many support companies (e.g., venture capital firms, incubation companies, consultants, lawyers) also thrive here. The World Trade Center Seoul (WTCS) houses many organizations existing to help foreign businesses do business in Korea. Foreign companies wanting to tap into Korea's high technology and venture sectors should plan to locate near Teheran-no to tap into the creativity flowing throughout the area. Foreign businesses looking for highly qualified Korean partners should begin their search here.

Background stuff...

K: I'll be the first to blog. A little background for those who may not be familiar with the story (although I assume if you're interested enough to read this, you probably already know the background stuff.)

I was adopted from Korea when I was two and I have the best parents in the world. Over the last few years, my birth father has connected with me and despite a huge language barrier (he only speaks Korean and I only speak English) we have kept in contact sporadically through translators. Well, he last fall, I met him for the first time (since I was a baby) when he came to St. Louis for my wedding! Unbelievable.

Well, to condense an incredibly long story, last weekend I received a call from the translator's nephew inviting us to Beijing for the 2008 summer Olympics. My new husband M and I began thinking... if we already have a plane ticket, what better chance to get to know my birth family and my homeland than to move there for a year. Sooo... the adventure begins.

I started by talking to my work who has an office in Seoul (my birthplace). They tell me they need to run it by the "higher ups" and filtering everything through HR and there may be some complications (namely I don't speak a word of Korean... yet!)

I think I've gotten you completely up to date on where M and my progress thus far.

Oh, one more thing, got my first email from my big brother in Korea, Sang-Kwan. He's only two years older than me and the email below is the first contact we've ever had...


From: 김상관
Sent: Monday, July 02, 2007 9:15 AM
Subject: I 'm your brother

Dear Kimberly : First ,Congratulations,you got married ! It's a pitty i can't go to American to take your wedding . I heart that you wrote the email to Ded and me .I fell very happy . These days i want to know all about you . I wrote many email to you before .but you can't repeat it or. mabe you never recive it ! but NOW I have your news ,i feel happy too ! you said you will come to china with your family next year . I expact . I want to see you as soon as possible ! I can't write so much ,just beacause my poor english . but i stiill exsitting! I never forget you !
miss you --- your brother

Now you see exactly why M and I are embarking on this adventure. Sang Kwan even learned english to talk to me!!!