Sunday, September 9, 2012

Moohak, Happy Birthday, and Costco

I can't believe its already Sunday night, and I have to go another 5 days before the weekend comes again. Boo! I definitely appreciate my weekends a lot more now that I have to work so hard for them. Which is why this weekend was so frustrating...

Saturday, I didn't have any definite plans, but Tab and I had decided to meet up in the afternoon, after she went hiking with some other people. I declined the invite since it was still undecided until the moment they left. I figured I would sleep in, get up and clean, then meet up with Tab around 2. Well, 2pm came and went, and still no word from Tab. Around 4pm, I messaged her, thinking maybe she had gotten home and fallen asleep. Around 6pm, I was legitimately worried. She had told me she would be home at 1pm, and this is getting close to 6 hours later... By 7pm, I was mad. I spent my entire day waiting for her to contact me. Finally around 7:45, I got a message from her that she had just gotten home. 

While I know she did not have a phone to call and let me know she was going to be 7 hr late, I was still pretty upset. I value my weekend time so much, and I want to make the most of every moment. I did nothing but clean my apartment, watch movies, and lay around. I know some people would love this, and it was nice, but I also determine the quality of my day by the sense of accomplishment I feel at the end of it. I felt like I had completely wasted my Saturday. When I finally spoke to the outside world around 9pm, I was in tears. 

I am a planner; no, I am an obsessive compulsive maniac planner. I had been trying to reach my friends on the military base in Seoul to try to figure out when we were going to meet up on Sunday, and had gotten no where with that, had spent my Saturday like a hermit, and all that combined made me extremely homesick. The key to not being sad when you're away from home is to do something, go somewhere, experience something awesome and new! I had done zero of that, and felt miserable. (On a side note, I think some hormones were probably a participating factor in my completely distraught state.)  

I finally dried up the tears and went to sleep before midnight (a rarity for me these days...). I woke up today with plans to meet Michelle (my Korean BFF) for church. I left my apartment around 11am and caught a taxi. Have I mentioned how cheap cabs are here? I was in this cab for around 25 minutes, and paid less than $6. I mean... seriously? It's more expensive than public transportation, but when you need a cab, you can be glad it's this affordable!

Looks like a mega-church, right?
When I got to the neighborhood the church was in, I had to ask a little old Korean woman where it was. She sweetly pointed in the direction that the masses of people were walking (duh, should have known!). I followed her family up the slope to the church - Moohak Presbyterian Church. It reminded me of a mega-church in the states with a coffee shop, kids play area, elevators, and sleek contemporary design. I waited for Michelle by the information desk, which I thought was quite unhelpful since they offered no assistance when I was clearly looking around confused. (I mean, obviously I was there for the English service, they could have pointed me in that direction!) 

But I waited for Michelle and when she arrived, we set off for the English service. We headed in the direction of this big sancutary, and I got excited - it reminded me of several churches I'd been to before. When we got to the door, Michelle asked where to go, and we were pointed down a back alley, and told to go in the far building and up to the 4th floor.

Performing Amazing Grace
I couldn't help but laugh; sure, shuffle the foreigners off to the corner! We made our way in that direction, and finally found the room. It was the size of a small classroom, with about 15 people in it. I felt so awkward; I was 1 of 2 white people. They were in the middle of praise and worship when we entered, so we found a seat in the back and joined in. 

Well, at least these guys had a projector... the only musical instrument was an electric piano, and the vocalists... well, let's just say they should probably pursue a non-musical profession. I knew a few of the songs (although at times, between the horrible pronunciation of the words and the skipping around of the verses/chorus, I didn't totally recognize them). After we finished singing, there was a little performance of Amazing Grace by a choir-ish-thing. (A line of 5 people and a violinist). THEN the preacher came up... 

Sneaky photo taken of the pastor
I said I was 1 of 2 white people - he was the other. And he looked about 19. When he said he had a wife, I think my jaw literally dropped. The kid was young. And Canadian. I attempted to take him seriously, but he just didn't have that commanding presence. Plus, the way he talked, I'd be surprised if the audience (all 12 of them) knew what he was talking about. I mean, he didn't have an accent that was hard to understand, but he used phrases that I was fairly certain most intermediate-level English speakers would not know.

After an hour, I asked Michelle if her husband was ready to go (he had gone to the Korean service), and she said yes. We left before the service was over, but I don't think we really missed a whole lot. When we stepped out, a guy followed us. He wanted to put my phone number on a text-messaging list for the people who go to the service. Michelle explained I was just visiting and lived far away, so not sure if I would return (all of this said in Korean), and I was so thankful she saved me! I wouldn't have known how to decline politely :( 

When we were far enough away to speak freely, we both had a little laugh over the situation. She felt bad, because she didn't know it was so small and basic. I told her I didn't mind, but it wasn't what I was used to. She said that the Korean service is much better, and I told her that I actually would be interested to experience that, even if I couldn't understand any of it.

I want to add that, despite the service being lackluster, it was actually really amazing to be with brothers and sisters in Christ all the way on the other side of the world. About half of Korea is Christian, the other half is Buddhist. I didn't realize how much Christianity had permiated their society, but it was amazing to see. And, you could tell they were not there out of obligation or tradition. They wanted to be there. They love Jesus too. Just like me! We don't speak the same language, we come from totally different lives, but we were connected by a savior. Pretty amazing to experience...

We met up with her hubby (I taught her that word - she thinks its hilarious), and set off for lunch. We ended up going to a shopping complex that had a lot of food options. When we were driving into the parking garage (since they have a car! which is awesome!), the attendant was wearing a baby blue sash over his uniform. From the back seat, I couldn't see it too well, but I did see that it said "Happy BirthDay!" then had some Korean underneath it. So, being the friendly American that I am, I yelled, from the backseat of these Koreas' car, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!" .... The guy looked completely bewildered. Michelle and her husband just start laughing so hard, and he quickly rolled up the window and scooted the car inside. Between fits of giggles, Michelle managed to get out, "Chelsea, I think it's the store's anniversary!" Hahahaha!!! Oh man... I explained to her that occasionally, in American, some people wear things like that to celebrate birthdays or bachelorette parties, etc. Not that they usually wear it to work, but I seriously thought this guy was just really excited about his birthday. I was wrong... Later, inside, I got a photo with a mannequin wearing the sash.  

Happy BirthDay!
When we got to the food court, they went through each place and explained what it was to me. I ended up getting some seafood pasta with cream sauce (without the "small fish spawn," please and thank you!). They got Korean hot-pot. We chatted, I taught them the word in-laws (they were going to see her husbands parents after lunch), and got to know each other better. I absolutely love her, and her husband is great, too. He doesn't speak as much English as she does, but he understands some. I just know that they will be friends for life, and hopefully we can all (I'm including Michael in this despite that he has no idea I've volunteered us) meet up once in a while, maybe go to Australia (where Michelle lived for 9 years) or Thailand! Couples vacations! :D

They took me to the lower level of the shopping complex to show me around, but then they had to go meet up with the in-laws, so we said our goodbyes. I called Ed and found out that I could pick up my stuff from him in the evening. Rather than go home and wait, I messaged Tab to see if she wanted to go to Costco, since there was one relatively close to where I was. I waited for her to get ready and catch the subway to where I was at (which ended up being around 1hr 45min...), and we set off for Costco.

I had known I wanted to go Costco, even if only for cheese. But, since they only sell in bulk, I knew Tab and I should go together. When we got to Costco, we split the price of the membership card (~$35), but since she was the only one with an ARC, she got to be the "holder" of the card. We will be going together all the time anyway, so it doesn't really matter. First thing, we got some food. Even though I ate 3-4 hours before, I was hungry again. We went to the food court, and I got the best food I've had in Korea: American style pizza!!!!! It was so good, I took a picture! And, to make it even better, a fountain Coke! (Convenience stores only sell bottles, and the only fast food I'd been to had Pepsi.) It was glorious!!!

While we were sitting, we had a Korean family in front of us. The little baby waved at us, and Tab and I discussed how extremely small children knew how to wave in Korea. Like, babies their age in America can only drool. I decided intelligence is not only a product of constant study and endless schooling, but it must be genetic, too. When we were throwing our trash out in the many different bins ("food waste", "plastic" "plates" "silverware" "cups" "paper" etc), I saw something that both grossed me out and intrigued me. An onion grinder machine. Apparently, Koreans love their onions. I knew I had smelled it while eating, but I didn't realize the mass quantities in which they were consumed. Literally, plates full of onions with mustard. *Shiver*

Onion machine
Each Korean had a plate full of onions.
We finished up and made our way into the insanity that was Costco. There were so many people, and they do not observe the walk-on-the-right rules we Americans stick to. They park their carts wherever they want, and don't take a hint to get out of the way! We stuck to the food floor, since that was what we came for. Both of us had our goals: mine was parmesan cheese and cream sauce for pasta. Tab's was granola and granola bars. We found all of that, and more! I found my pasta sauce and parmesan cheese very quickly, and we got Fiber One bars like in America. I also got some croissants, pancake mix, and eggs. Tab was having a hard time finding granola, so I asked a worker. He motioned me to follow, but the crowds were so thick, I had to leave Tab with the cart behind. I literally ran after the guy, and he took me to 2 different people before they could direct me to the appropriate aisle. But, in the end, we did find it! I also grabbed some frozen chicken breast, and Tab and I decided to split it, since it was all individually packaged. On a side note, I'm kind of proud that I am figuring out how to cook and eat without the use of a microwave. I mean, it sucks in a lot of ways, but I'm sure it's healthier too. 

We realized when we checked out that they don't offer to sell you bags at Costco. This is probably because 90% of what they sell would not fit in a bag. But, neither Tab nor I brought our reusable bags. Thankfully Tab had a backpack, and we were able to cram some stuff in that. The rest we carried. We flagged down a taxi and headed for my place. Walking to the cab, and from the cab to my apartment was ridiculous. I have a photo to prove it, too.

Oh, did I mention, this entire time I've been wearing HEELS?! Yes, my feet are absolutely killing me. When we got to my place, we split up the things we had decided to share. Then, we headed back out to the subway; Tab heading for home, myself for Itaewon to meet Ed with my package from home. 

So, more time on the subway, walking to the gate, and back to the subway loaded down with a backpack full, a bag of groceries, and a box with my foam mattress pad from the sates. I thought about cabbing it back home, but the fare is around $12 from Itaewon, and I'd already spent almost $10 in taxis today. I decided to just hack it on the subway. It wasn't that bad, besides taking a while. 

When I was waiting for my connecting train, a Korean guy came up and asked me how to pronounce something in English. And another word. And just kept talking. He got on the same train as I, and was telling me about how he is studying English, and wants to practice and there is no one to practice with, and would I be willing to talk to him, etc etc. I couldn't be rude; I talked to him for a while and he got my Kakao (Korean text messaging app) name, and wants to meet up sometimes.

He was very nice and I felt guilty telling him no, but I felt slightly uncomfortable with that idea. I politely told him that while he is welcome to text me to practice, when I am not at work, I prefer not to work. I think he understood. On the subway, he jabbered away. He was so excited to talk to an American; wanted to show off his knowledge of American things. He asked me to quiz him on the states and their capitals. Then he asked me one, and embarrassingly I didn't know. Well, no, I just couldn't think of it on a dime. Plus, he pronounced "Vermont" as "Beaumont" and I told him I didn't know that state. He probably thought I was an idiot. But, an English speaking idiot who was nice to him. Poor kid...

I finally made it to my home station, onto the bus, and finally to my apartment. First things first was to put my new mattress pad on my bed. Oh, man... does it make a difference or what!! I love it!! So happy I got something. The Korean mattresses are only slightly better than sleeping on concrete. 

All in all, my day was good but exhausting. I am looking forward to sleeping tonight, and maybe I'll make some pancakes tomorrow!! :)

My amazing, incredible, beautiful Korean BFF!!!


  1. Glad you made it home okay. I was concerned about you carrying all that on the subway. What a crazy busy day you had!

    1. Yeah, the subway was fine with the box etc. I was glad it was the least trafficked time of day for the subway or else it might have been an issue! Thanks for all your help with food/packages. Sorry for getting frustrated - I knew my texts werent going through and I am of the generation that feels like you should only dial a number for an emergency! oops! :) we know better for next time.

  2. I feel your distress/impatients at waiting for your friend. I hate to wait for people when we have set a time and they are late. Maybe it's living with a military guy for 57 years. I guess we could give her a pass since she didn't have a phone. I'm living your journey vicariously and loving it. I am just so proud of you. Love ya.
    PS - Gosh, I just thought of something - since you are so venturesome when you get back you can go to Belize with me. I think you'd enjoy it. :>)

  3. Don't laugh too hard at the way I spelled impatience. Too many years in the hospital

  4. Chelsea, I appreciate your feedback about the service at Moohak. It is always good to hear a third party's perspective. Despite my young looks (I believe you said I looked 19) I am actually 33, 32 back then.

  5. Chelsea, I wanted to thank you for the feedback on the service you attended at Moohak. It is a basic service, but we will endeavor to improve it. I also thank you for the comments about my youthful looks, and saying that I look 19, as there are days that I wish I was a bit younger than I really am (33). That, however, is the way of life. I really do appreciate what you have said, though, and do sincerely hope that you found a solid church community to be a part of. God bless you, Ted

    1. This was a very unexpected comment! I had forgotten about this post, actually. I hope I wasn't too harsh, Ted!! This was definitely just my personal experience and I had no idea what to expect going in, so I was surprised! I hope that things can develop to a more robust service for those English speakers attending your service and again, I hope I wasn't too harsh (Guess this is one of those "Don't say anything you wouldn't want that person to know you said!" I'm a little embarrassed that I was quite critical!!!) And, I'm sorry I called you a kid! :P kkk


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