Saturday, September 1, 2012

Brunch, Shopping, and New Friends

In case you aren't caught up on all my blog posts, last night was a late one. I didn't get to sleep until 4am. Tab and I went to the Dongdaemun Night Market. It was a crazy experience and I loved it! She spent the night and we woke up with a mission to find an American breakfast.

We have both been so sick of Korean food, and in particular, not having any western breakfasts! Apparently, Koreans eat kimchi and rice for breakfast. I'm not commenting on this practice, but you can guess my opinion.

We did our research a few days ago when we made the plan, and set off to Itaewon: Little America in Seoul. It is situated right next to the Army Post in Seoul, so it caters to westerners very well. We took the subway and met the cutest little girl on the train. I wish I'd gotten her picture, but the whole thing happened quite fast.

Tab and I were sitting on the train (which is kind of a big deal, seeing as seats are prime real estate and if a young person or a foreigner (or, heaven forbid, a young foreigner) sits in a seat, everyone over 50 years of age gives you the stink eye... ) Well, we were only 1 stop away from our destination, and the cutest little Korean girl got on the train holding her dad's hand. We waved at her and she waved back. Dad saw and literally dragged her over to us and (I guess) told her in Korean to talk to us.

Tab says "Hello!" and the little girl says "Hello, my name is Julie" (honestly, can't remember her name...) and we all have a basic conversation in which we find out that she is doing "happy" and we tell her we are Tab Teacher and Chelsea Teacher. She is so bashful but speaks well enough. The dad is so excited for her to talk to us! It was both cute and weird. He wanted us to keep talking, but our stop had come so we said goodbye.

This is probably the most attention I've received in public. Before coming to Korea, everyone told me to expect a lot of attention because of my hair and eyes (being starkly different from the Korean genetic pool choices). But, thus far, most people stare and avoid being in direct contact with me (like sitting next to me on the subway). This was so precious and I didn't even mind that the dad was shamelessly using us for free English practice for his little girl.

Well, once we arrived in Itaewon, we followed the directions to Richard Copycats: All American Diner. Score!!!! We arrived and the first thing I see is a room full of 18-year-old Army boys. We avoid the room and ask for a table for 2. The waitress asks "Smoking?" and points to the sparsely inhabited larger part of the restaurant, "or Non-Smoking?" gesturing to the room full of American guys. Sighing, we head to the small non-smoking, American section.

As soon as we enter the room, we are received with a chorus of "Helloooo ladies!!" (or some variation of the same sentiment). We blush, avoid eye contact, and sit down. Thankfully I got the seat that had my back to the majority of them. As soon as we sit down, we get asked "Come here often?!" I just blush harder and look away, but Tab responds with "Oh, not really." Haha, I just think she is so ironic sometimes...

We get menus and look over all the mouth watering choices. I hear the guys at the table behind me start talking louder (in a (sub?)conscious attempt at impressing us with boasts of how much they can drink or ignorant remarks about Korea). I started to get annoyed, but for the love of bacon I just suffered through it. After we ordered, one group of guys got their bill and stood up to leave. One of these guys came over and let us know that there were guys behind us looking at us. Wow, thanks Sherlock. I would never have guessed, being the only females in a room of about 40 18-year-old soldiers.

Incredible breakfast. Coming at least 1x per month.
Our food took a while but when it arrived, my jaw dropped. Both of us ordered the "Big Morning" with pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, sausage patty, hashbrowns, and toast. I sub'd my sausage for bacon, and she did the same but opposide. We each added cheddar cheese to our eggs. This was breakfast of champions if I've ever seen one. It was honestly a TON of food, but we heard "wow!"'s from the boys behind us who all got hamburgers and other lunch things. (It was after 1pm, but all day breakfast menu = heaven). Call me a glutton, but I wanted to eat every bite. I almost succeeded. I left half a pancake, and 1 whole hashbrown. Yes, I did eat several days' worth of calories in one seating, but by George, I loved every bite!

All said, including my OJ, I paid around $20. Glorious, glorious breakfast food!

After we left, Tab and I walked around Itaewon. I looked for a place to get data on my iPad, but was told to come back on a weekday when it could be activated (Korean phone activations will not go through on weekends). After that, we didn't really find any good shops (minus one street cart with "I love Korea!" t-shirts, which Tab and I both bought one of) so we decided to head to Myeong-dong, one of the best shopping districts in Seoul. She had head about their street vendors and I was on the hunt for a purse large enough for my iPad.

After looking in many stores, I finally found a store that only sold purses, and every single one was 10,000 KW, about $10. Now, the quality is obviously very poor. But that was the flat out best price I'd heard, so I found one that suited my needs: cross-body with enough room for my iPad and some papers, my wallet, hairbrush, chap stick, etc. I bought it in coral.

Along the way, we found some great deals at the street vendors. Tab and I both bought some headbands, and I got a silk scarf to use in my hair. We took a little break at a coffee shop and I got an iced chai tea latte, which was amazing.

Around 5:15pm, Tab and I said our goodbyes and boarded subway trains going in opposite directions. She was heading to her apartment and I had plans to meet some friends.

Back story: When I first told my dad that I had decided to go to Seoul, he contacted his Air Force buddy who was currently stationed in Seoul, Ed. Well, he and his family have since reached out to me several times and offered assistance in whatever I needed. Now, among the people I know, everyone says they are there if you need anything, but its just something they say. It's a passive friendship. If you need something, come to me. Thursday afternoon, I got a Facebook message from Heather, Ed's wife. She and Ed invited me to dinner Saturday and also offered to pick up some American groceries for me.

Maybe I don't have very high expectations of people, but this was something I never expected. It was not only kind and generous, they were actively attempting to help me in every way possible. These people have never met me, knew my dad several years ago, and owe my family or me nothing. And yet, they went out of their way to invite me over, offer me dinner, food, and help. I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

So, today I headed to meet up with them. They gave me directions, which of course I mis-read and almost ended up at the completely wrong gate. I managed to correct myself before much harm was done, and met Heather and her daughter at the visitors center. To sign in, I had to surrender my drivers license. No prob!

We headed to their home and they gave me a bag full of groceries she had got me: apples, breakfast bars, peanut butter, Cheerios, etc! Wow!! They also offered to take me to look at cell phones. Now, I had basically made up my mind to get data on the iPad and just get a flip phone for local use. But, I said sure, let's see what they've got on Post. I'm sure they have good deals for military members.

Well, we get there and I start looking at the contract phones aka smart phones. The guy behind the counter explained the contracts and my options being here only 1 year. I will skip the pro/con list and the deliberations and skip to the point: I got a 2 year contract with a 1 year return policy (basically, I pay the better price like a 2 year contract, but I give back the phone after 1 year). However, I am sorry to say, I could not get an iPhone. They do not have the return policy (which I could have guessed), so I was stuck with a choice between LG and Samsung. Samsung had the better deal on the phone and contract rates, and it was my preference anyway. Even though they are Apple's biggest competitor and I hate Android, at least it has unlimited data and tethering as well (basically wifi anywhere I go for my iPad!). And the price, you can't beat! $55 a month including the fee for the phone. iPhone contracts are at least $20 more a month plus stuck with 2 years. Finally, I got the phone much earlier than I expected because on Post, I could get the phone without my ARC. If I'd have gotten the plan otherwise, I'd have to wait til I had that.

After some running around to get the proper identification (my license was still at the gate, remember?) we got the phone in hand and everything signed off. I have to wait until Monday to activate it, though. Remember, Korea won't activate cell phones on the weekends.

After all this, we headed to dinner. Originally, they invited me to get some American food for me, but after my amazing brunch, I was not necessarily dying for a burger. We decided on an Indian food place in Itaewon. It was excellent, and I really enjoyed getting to know the family. Finally, I got a cab home (too many bags from shopping plus groceries. Also, I was dead tired and my feet were killing me).

Now, it's time to get my apartment set up. I am very glad I have a day tomorrow to relax and decorate before work starts again on Monday. I'm really living for the weekends now...


  1. What a huge blessing it is to have someone near by that was so generous!! Glad things seem to be looking up! Love reading about your daily endeavors in korea!!

  2. Chelsea, you're words are too kind! It was our pleasure to not only meet you, but to lend a helping a hand. Please do not hesitate to call on us if you need anything; it's not a one time deal. How was the cab ride home? Did he get you right there? I'm enjoying reading about your adventures in Seoul, and I know that each week will hold some new revelation. Take care!

    1. Ahhh! I mean "your words are too kind," not "you're." I hate it when I do that. :)


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