Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chuseok Sushi

Mark and I celebrated our first Chuseok with family. Chuseok is basically Korean Thanksgiving. People get together with their families and eat a lot. There are a lot of traditions associated with Chuseok especially as related to ancestors... there's a good description here if you're interested.

Our teacher told us that married women tend to hate the holidays as they are expected to spend the entire day cooking and cleaning and waiting hand and foot on the men. Meanwhile, the men spend their time sleeping, eating, and drinking alcohol. If I understood our teacher correctly, there's a belief that the men aren't allowed to enter the kitchen or it will anger the ancestors. Pretty sure that superstition was created by a man!

I was kind of hoping for a very traditional Korean Chuseok with my birth family (maybe minus all the hard labor). But the more holidays I spend with them, the more I realize my family really doesn't behave like a traditional Korean family.

My birth father was supposed to arrive in Korea on Chuseok day. So a little before 7, the doorbell rang and it was my two uncles and their families. So we chatted with them (yay! we could... a little), watched t.v. and waited for Birth Father to come from the airport.

When Birth Father arrived we headed to a restaurant. (This is my kind of family... minimal work for the women... haha.) We actually ended up eating sushi to celebrate the holiday.


Yep, complete with the wriggling tentacle things...


But I know you probably don't care about the food. Here are the family members... We actually separated into an "adult" and "kid" table. Yep, even in Korea I will forever be placed at the kid's table. :)

Here's the adult table.


Actually, I got to meet a few new family members on Chuseok, which was cool. These two ladies are my aunts! They are Birth Father's younger sisters. They were really sweet to me and had a few questions for me, which I was mostly able to answer. W00T!


Now onto the kid's table. The girl on the left is the college-aged cousin I've met before. She really came out of her shell this time one-shotting soju and she even spoke some English! She actually told me she wants to start meeting with me on a weekly basis to practice English and Korean. :) To her right is her older brother and his wife who happen to be the same age as Mark and me. Her brother could speak good English and told us he wants to go to the United States because he loves the NBA. So of course we told him we'd be happy to show him around anytime. When we get back to the States, we may have a lot Korean visitors. :)


And finally, me with my littlest cousins. They're cute, aren't they?


And here's a final one with Mark. Mark loved teasing the little cousin in the middle. She was kind of freaked out by the full fish, so when she wasn't looking Mark put one right in front of her face. When she turned her head, she saw the fish and screamed. Then later he pointed out a huge spider to her and got the same reaction. Good thing Mark didn't have a little sister growing up, or I would've definitely felt sorry for her. :)


All in all a really nice Chuseok. These truly are the special moments that I'm so happy to be able to experience over here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fukuoka Visa Run

Before the start of our 2nd semester at Sogang University, I had to get a student visa in order to legally stay in the country any longer. To do this I had to go to a Korean Consulate and the closest one to Seoul is located in Fukuoka, Japan. The trip was fairly uneventful so I did not take many pictures but Kim thought that I should still post the ones that I did take.

I arrived in Fukuoka on a Wednesday morning and went straight to the consulate to submit my application. After that I spent the rest of the day watching TV in my hotel room since it was boiling hot out that day but I did explore the neighborhood later on that night. Unfortunately, I did not take my camera so I did not take any pictures.


Since I cannot speak Japanese and there was not much english on the restaurant menus, I had to rely on displays like the one below in order to decide what I wanted to eat. I did not choose to eat at the place pictured below but this was the only photo that I took of the restaurants. I did find a delicious sushi restaurant but I was unable to eat some of the famous Japanese Rameon that I had been hearing so much about from the Japanese students in my class. Maybe next time.


The next day after I picked up my visa, I decided to kill the time before my flight walking around one of the biggest malls I have ever been in. It even had a canal going through the center of it.



I had a 4pm flight back to Seoul so I did not have time to do anything else. I do hope to make it back to Japan sometime in the future. I am sure I will enjoy much more with Kim there to share in the adventure.

Let the Wedding Madness begin!

Sang Kwun and Chung Ping arrived in Korea today... we got our hanboks... Chung Ping's entire family will arrive in Korea tomorrow...

Almost time for the wedding madness to begin! Can't wait!!!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New international faces

I've previously mentioned that Mark and I are in different classes this semester. One of the best aspects of being separated is the opportunity to meet twice as many fun people!

Last weekend Mark went out with his classmates on Friday night and I met my class for lunch on Saturday. We both had a ton of fun. Mark didn't take any pictures, so I don't have anything to show from his night out... but I did hear some hilarious stories about some intense fooseball games. I believe the Japanese girls had to be told by the bar owner to please stop screaming every time they scored a goal. SEGOY!!!!!! <-- (FYI: the Japanese word for hooray or great.)

Below are some pics of my classmates and even a teacher who joined us.

Our teacher randomly wanted Mexican, so we went to On the Border. Here I am with a few of the girls.


Here are a few more classmates. The two guys make me laugh really hard on a daily basis.


One of our classmates, Anne, is from Thailand but married to a Korean man. She has 3 children, and she brought her 5-year-old daughter with her. SOOoooooo cute.


After lunch, we went to the noraebang. We had margaritas with lunch, but singing in front of a bunch of people without having much liquid courage is MUCH harder than it initially sounded. Oh, my speaking teacher (she's also Mark's listening and reading teacher) is in the big chair in the middle.


Look forward to spending more time with these people. This semester it's pretty cool because we really can communicate better and can get to know the non-English speakers this time around. Which is good because more than 50% of my class really can't speak English at all.

Friday, September 24, 2010

4 Years!

My how our food preferences have changed. Mark and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary by going to a hard-core Korean restaurant in Insadong.

Originally, we planned to go to Sanchon Korean Temple Cuisine, a famous restaurant in Insadong. I was surprised Mark agreed to it, since it is a completely vegetarian course meal similar to what you can get in a Buddhist temple. Everything that is served is gathered from the mountains/countrysides of Korea. I was pretty excited, but when we got there, it was closed for some reason. Bummer. We'll definitely have to make another trip there... looks so good.

So instead, we went to a Korean restaurant and had a course meal. They brought out a ton of little plates with different dishes.


Here's Mark digging in...


The restaurant was really pretty. And we were in a semi-private room looking out onto a little garden in the middle. I don't think you can tell from this picture...


What a fun night! It's been a great 4 years. When we got married, we never would've guessed that we'd have celebrated 2 of our 4 wedding anniversaries across the ocean in Korea!

Get excited St. Louis!!!!

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch...

"Red Mango is opening locations at West County Center and in downtown Kirkwood in the next couple of months."

This is a huge Korean frozen yogurt franchise and it's amaaazing. I hope they don't Americanize it too much because they have a red bean topping here that I love love love. Oh and you can get frozen yogurt mixed with shaved ice with fruit on top...

Actually, I just looked at the website, and what a let down. Definitely not the same menu as in Korea. No red beans, no shaved ice/yogurt... Blah.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Idiot-Proofing Desperately Needed

In Korea, contact lenses are sold over the counter. As in, you go to an eye-glass shop, show your previous box of contacts, and voila - your new contacts are handed to you. For an extra $7 you can even get colored contacts. (But for those like Mark with blue eyes, you're out of luck. You have a choice of brown, brown, or brown.) But it's really nice not to have to schedule an appointment with an eye-doctor and pay for a whole exam when you can see just fine with your current prescription and all you need are new contacts.

HOWEVER, when you buy contacts in the States, they come in clearly marked bags with your name on them. Also, the eye-doctor's office mark's each box with a color-coded "right" or "left" sticker. Not the case here...

I put in my new contacts, went to school and couldn't read the board. Mark wore his contacts for several days and had a splitting headache each time. Initially, we got kind of mad at the man that sold us the contacts and planned to go back and demand a switch/refund... "He gave us the wrong prescriptions!" But then we realized that 1) I was wearing Mark's contacts and 2) Mark was wearing his contacts in the wrong eyes. After we figured both of these issues we were fine.

Uh yeah, not the proudest moment for the Johnsons.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Another adoptee in Seoul

Funny how random people seem to stumble across this little blog that was created just to keep the people back home updated about our lives in Korea. Recently, we had an opportunity to meet a really interesting and sweet adoptee named Anne who was visiting Korea. Anne actually lived in Sung Ae Won Orphanage for awhile. You know, the one Kevin lived at and we visited? Anne was going to Busan to see the orphanage and wanted some advice about who to contact, how to get there, etc.

So we met Anne and her husband on a dreary, rainy day in Seoul for some 갈국수 and 만두 in Myeongdong. I love this restaurant, it's famous for the handcut noodles and kimchi. Mmmm....

Here's the group:


Anne was actually adopted to France, but her husband is a Canadian-American. (I think?) They're planning to move to NYC when they return to North America. They also talk about coming to live in Korea for a year or so eventually. Such an international couple! It's always fun getting to meet new people. Thanks for contacting us, Anne!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Happy Chuseok!

Tomorrow is the start of Chuseok here in Korea. Chuseok is basically the equivalent of American Thanksgiving, but it lasts for 3 days. Birth Father will be flying in for the festivities, so I'm expecting lots of delicious food. And maybe this time around if I get to meet extended family, I'll be able to communicate... even just a little! Here's hoping!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sogang Level 2

So here we are, several weeks into Sogang Korean classes, but at the frenetic level 2 pace. Back in the day, I blogged about how difficult Level 1 was... and now I find myself longing for those days. Yeah, level 2 definitely kicked it up a notch (or 10). The teachers don't spoon feed the information to us as much, definitely speak a lot faster, we don't get to practice new grammar and vocabulary nearly as much. They kind of teach us what we need to know and assume we'll learn/memorize it on our own.

This semester, Mark and I got put in different classes. At first I was kind of nervous to be in class without my support system. But as time goes on, I can see that it's definitely better for both of us, as it forces us to meet and mingle more with our classmates. Plus, we have the opportunity to make twice as many friends.

Speaking of classmates, our classes are still pretty diverse. Mark has South African, Malaysian, German, Turkish, Thai, and Japanese students in his class. I've got a far less diverse class, with half of the class coming from Japan.

One thing I've noticed this semester is that our classmates can speak SO much better this time around. A lot of them didn't attend Level 1 at Sogang, so came in with varying abilities. I know I can be overly modest at times, but I am dead serious when I say this time around I'm without a doubt at the bottom of the heap when it comes to speaking ability and vocabulary.

The semester is going okay, but it requires even more studying this time, which I didn't even know was possible. There are many days that I honestly feel like I'm barely treading water. But I'm not complaining. I came back to Korea to learn the language and it's not a pretty process, but that's what's happening.

More pictures next time. And now back to the never-ending task of vocabulary memorization.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Introducing my step-brother

I met my Korean step-brother, Kim Ju-Yu, today. Here we are together!


The typhoon strikes

Well, the typhoon ended up being a lot of hype over nothing. In the morning, there were some pretty heavy (loud) winds, but it definitely wasn't as bad as the word "typhoon" sounds. We still had school and now I can proudly say that I attended class come hell, high water, or even typhoons.

On the way to the subway, there was a bit of chaos as a huge neon sign was dangling from one corner in the wind. There were policemen and ajummas directing the traffic lest anyone have a sign land on their head.

Also, we saw this... beware of flying telephone booths.


Telephone booths are pretty much everywhere, which is so weird to me since cell phones are basically like another appendage on Koreans. When you buy a phone, they provide you with a back-up battery. And if that's not enough, if you ever find yourself with a dead phone, you can pay about $1 at a convenience store for them to charge it up for you. And honestly, I've never actually SEEN anyone use a pay phone... Guess that's one Korean mystery I'll never figure out.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Email from the US Embassy... Hmmm... It IS awfully windy and rainy... Hope I don't blow away on my way to school.

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul is transmitting the following information through the Embassy's Warden System as a public service to all U.S. citizens in the Republic of Korea. Please disseminate this message broadly to U.S. citizens.

This warden message is being issued to alert U.S. citizens residing or traveling in the Republic of Korea that the Korea Meteorological Administration has issued alerts for a Category 3 storm, Typhoon Kompasu. As of 1230 (local time) on Wednesday, September 1, Typhoon Kompasu was located approximately 263 kilometers or 163 miles southwest of Cheju island and traveling north at 33 km/h (20 mph). It is expected to turn in a northeast direction and pass very near Seoul at approximately 1500 (local time) on Thursday, September 2.

The Korea Meteorological Administration reports that the maximum sustained wind speed in the storm is 157 km/h (98 mph). While Typhoon Kompasu’s winds are expected to decrease over the next 36 hours, sustained maximum winds when the storm reaches Seoul are still predicted to be as high as 150 Km/h (93 mph).