Sunday, May 16, 2010

What should I pack? The best suggestions I can give to all those deciding what to bring to Korea!

So this blog is for all of you who want to know what to bring to Korea. Maybe you are thinking about moving to Korea, or maybe you just bought your tickets and are in the process of packing, or maybe you are my mom and are just loyal enough to read this blog even though you'll never live here. Anyways, for those of you who just don't care, then watch the video at the bottom and move on, I won't be offended : ) . (The video can't be missed so don't forget) I'm just writing this because I wish someone would have given me a list of things to bring when Danny and I were packing, and also it's because I'm avoiding doing work. (whoops!)Anyways, here are some warnings before I go on: this list is only from my own experience so some of you will be in cities and say, "Why did I bring all this junk?" and blame me for your over packing, but that can't be helped. Also, Danny and I came from the US where we could bring 4, 50 lb. bags with us, plus carry-ons so for those of you (if any) who might read this from another country, sorry about your packing weight restrictions!

OK! On to the list of things to bring to Korea:

Toiletries~

-Year supply of deoderant (you can find it, it is just really expensive and they have few brands)

-Shampoo (if you like a specific brand, otherwise don't waste the weight and just buy it here)

-Travel face wipes (for the flight over and traveling, such an easy way to make you feel clean)

-Razor or electric razor - if you have a brand you really like, just bring enough blades for a year

-Girls only: the Diva Cup - look it up online but it is an amazing and eco friendly way to bring only one thing with you to help you with that time of the month.

- Make up: only if you like specific brands, otherwise they have a ton here. Don't believe all the packing lists that say they don't really sell make up, it's a lie...there are 4 or 5 "Bath and Body Works" type stores or make up stores in our town and it's considered a "small town".

(Don't worry about bringing contact solution, toothpaste, tooth brushes, contacts, body wash, floss, or nail polish because they have it all here)

For Cooking (I love to cook so this might be a more extensive list then you want)~

-Spices: don't waste the weight on salt and pepper (they have it here) but bring things like seasoned salt (Tony's Creole, Lawry's), TACO SEASONING (A must if you like mexican. I would suggest going to Costco to get a jumbo size to last a year) Garlic Salt, Oregono, Basil, Thyme, Onion Powder, Sage, Cilantro, Bay Leaves, Nutmeg, or anything else you use a lot. (I also had my mom send me a packet of seeds to grow my own herbs in the summer if that is up your alley, I would really suggest bringing it, especially basil and cilantro because they don't really have that here)

-Vanilla extract or the real stuff

-Corn bread mix or corn meal if you can't do without corncakes and gravy like Danny and I ; )

-Chocolate Chips~ quoting my ingenious aunt, use chocolate chips as "packing peanuts" and even if it melts, what's better then something covered in melted chocolate? : )

-Any snack food that makes you feel like home ~ for us it was trail mix that lasted us about 3 weeks to ease us into Korean food...other suggestions are Pop Tarts, Oreos, REAL Cheetos, nuts, gum or mints, etc.

-Instant gravy packets~ they don't have breakfast sausage here if you like country gravy

- Coffee: if you like good ground coffee, you aren't going to find it hear so bring some or have someone send you it.

Household Items~

- Towels: if you really want big, soft towels, I would suggest bringing your own.

- Sheets: bring a queen set of sheets if you are willing to tuck stuff in if you end up with a full or twin sized bed. (We brought full sheets because everyone told us that is the biggest bed here and they were wrong... we ended up with a queen size bed. ; )

- Down comforter: this is not a necessity, but everyone comments on how cozy our bed is because we brought our own comforter and duvet cover and they shrink down to nothing if you have a vacuum packing bag.

- Thin cutting boards: get those flexible cutting boards that are the thickness of a piece of paper, they work great and are useful for a lot of things.

- A couple good knives

- Pillows: only if you can't live without yours...

Clothes~

- A really (and I mean REALLY) warm jacket for the cold winters

- Bras: girls if you are not a 32b you might have some trouble here finding your size

- Good walking shoes

- Long underwear

- Gloves

- Hat (it's not always cold, but when it is cold, it is COLD! And clothes are expensive in Korea.)

Misc. Stuff that I suggest~

- Pictures of home and your friends and family so you can decorate your apartment with friendly faces.

- A few gifts from your home state... to bring to people when you visit their home.

- A few favorite movies but don' t bring too many because other people have a lot and they all have told me they regret bringing so many.

- A few books if you like to read.

Above is a list of things that you may or may not need/ and if you really try hard or get a Costco membership in Korea, you can find other western foods and conveniences, but it depends on how prepared you want to be when you get here. (I wanted to be REALLY prepared so some (Danny:) might say I over packed) Thankfully, there is always the ability to send stuff by mail, so give your family a list of things you miss and perhaps you'll get a care package in the mail sometime!

Now, here is a list of things that you DON'T need to bring, in fact you might even get some stuff cheaper here. I somehow had it in my mind that I was moving to Antarctica or something so I packed the world.

Things you don't need to worry about bringing:

- Extra contacts or glasses: it is insanely cheap to get your eyes checked here so don't bring a huge stock of contacts

- School supplies: don't waste room on bringing things for your class or school if you are coming to become a teacher

- Straightener or hair dryer: they have them here and the different voltage can be a problem for US hair stuff if you aren't careful.

I know there is a lot of other stuff that I would suggest or not suggest, but just think about all the things you think you REALLY need, and then leave behind all the rest. There is something very freeing about living on so little so why don't you try it for a year.

Also, last thing...There is a beautiful website called G Market that was a live saver for Danny and I when we were setting up our apartment, so if you really need some things, I would suggest going on G Market and looking up stuff that you might need. Danny and I bought a rug, couch, lamps, coffee table, storage boxes, a fan, mirrors, a french press, and a lot more on G Market and all of that was around $300 for all of it! Make sure and be careful when you order on G Market because you have to make sure you are ordering the right product since all of it is in Korean, it can get a little difficult. Just match up the letters and you'll be fine!


I hope that was too much to handle. Now you can enjoy a halarious video of Danny singing at our first No Rae Bong experience... R Kelly... awesome.
video

Saturday, May 15, 2010

This Spring is for you, Leaf!


I am so excited that spring is finally here! The trees were looking pretty barren when we first got here in Korea, so now that things are turning green and we got to experience the Korean cherry blossom trees, I understand why spring is everyone's favorite. This spring has to be dedicated to the underdog that no one thought would make it through... the leaf. On the picture above you can see buds growing on the tree, but there is STILL a leaf hanging in there! After all the snow and rain and wind, the leaf is still there holding on for dear life. Maybe he made a bet with his buddies to see who could stay on the tree the longest, and this leaf is going to win, baby! So this spring is for you, leaf, the one nobody expected to make it all the way. Way to go!

Before...

After...

Now I know why everyone calls Korea such a beautiful country...more reason to come visit, right? (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)






Monday, May 10, 2010

Heart (or should I say Intestines) and Seoul

You may already be a little worried about this post because of the title of it, but fear not, it's not that gross... or most of it isn't gross. Danny and I went and spent the weekend in Seoul last weekend, and honestly I could probably go back to that city 10 more times to see it all (and eat more food)! It's huge! So we got to Seoul Friday night and started the trip out right... by eating some delicious food. We went to Din Tai Fung, which is actually Chinese, but oh my oh my was it good. We met up with our friend JP who is so awesome to show us around Seoul a little bit and so we went to the busiest shopping area where I made my momma proud and found the only H&M in Korea. The next day I broke down and bought a few things, but let's just say it is good that store is a 3 hour bus ride away!

Now on to the gross part! So Saturday was great filled with a traditional Korean village, more shopping, etc. but as we were walking through Namdaemun Market, we decided to eat some street food for lunch. Most of it was excellent like duckalbee (which is rice cake in a bright red sauce, croquettes (but that isn't the Korean name, I just can't remember it) filled with stir fry pork and vegetables, and hoto ( pronounced "hohtoe" which is the most amazing fried dough thing that looks like a pupusa but is filled with cinnamon and sugar). Then JP brings out the plate of craziness! On the plate we had liver (yuck), pig's lung (eww), and pig intestines stuffed with glass noodles which where soaking in pig's blood(what?!). WOW. Now honestly, I tried them all an they weren't that bad, but often when it comes to some Korean food, it's not that bad, but it's not GOOD either. So why waste the time when I could be eating delicious hoto till I puke?


Now, no more gross stuff... on to the rest of our time in Seoul. So in Namdaemun Market you can find probably anything you could ever imagine from matching guy/girl underwear to a ridiculous amount of shoes. We even saw groups of older women all over the place rummaging through a pile of clothes on the ground as a man was yelling something like "EVERYTHING MUST GO!" or something like that in Korean. Seoul is the place where I have litterally never seen that many people. You feel like nothing because there are thousands of people walking around you at all times!

Caption: "I must have this pink striped sweater!" "Get out of my way, I see khakis that may or may not fit me!" "Maybe I will just stick some of this stuff in my purse and no one will know... haha!"

In the evening we went to the Seoul Tower, which is an awesome place to see. It has an amazing view and apparently it is the place to take a date...rrrRRaarRRR. The highlight, as Danny said, though was being able to pee at a urinal with the best view in the world.


We also saw a sign on the window that told us how far away we were from Denver! 9,927 km or 6,168 miles away from family, friends, Chipotle, Five Guys Burgers, and so much more! Oh how we miss it!
When we got down from the tower, we walked through the crazy shopping area again to get to our bus, and you would litterally be pushing into the backs of people because the streets were so crowded. That didn't stop me from purchasing the tallest swirl cone I had ever seen though. If only more icecream was served to be the height of your face! (I think I must be hungry because most of this blog is about food ; )

The trip concluded with the best experience ever!!!!!! This is where your eyes tear up when you think of the joy that Danny and I went through when we ate supper at a MEXICAN restaurant called Dos Tacos. It was fresh and delicious and all of us on the trip, even the Scottish, gorged themselves on mexican food. We had 2 burritos, 2 orders of chips and salsa, 2 margaritas, 1 quesadilla, and 1 taco and I could have done more. There was avacadoes and sour cream and limes and I'm pretty sure that God created that restaurant just for me!


I wanted to lick the plate but I didn't know how that would go down, so I refrained. Oh Dos Tacos, how I love thee!

We ended up walking out of that place with a proper "food baby" and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
Our trip to Seoul was a sucess and we hope that some of you will come visit us so we can have more excuses to go up there! Today's Korean word for the day: Mashisoyo! (delicious)









Monday, May 3, 2010

Beaches at Busan!

So much has happened lately that I'm a little behind in posting what we've been doing. Two weekends ago, Danny and I and some friends went down to the famous beach city in Korea, Busan (pronounced Boosahn). I was so excited to be able to see the ocean and spend the day in the warm sun. The weather in Andong has been a little chilly and gloomy in the month of April, so it was great to have such a warm day. Danny and I took a late bus on Friday night and got into Busan around 11 pm. It was late so we tried to find a hotel as quickly as possible and ended up with quite a story that I'll get into later. (It will take some time to explain the motel we ended up with)

We went to the Busan Aquarium with some friends, which ended up being pretty cool. They had a ton of sharks and different animals to look at and we heard that you can swim in the tank with the sharks for about 50,000 won (or about $50) so I think that we are going to try and live dangerously and do that sometime : ) (Dad I know you would appreciate that)

Danny and Paul and Andrew of course spent a good amount of time that day goofing off and paying each other money to do ridiculous things, so it's always a fun time with the boys. I have to admit, even though the beach was great, my favorite time was going to TGI Fridays to get the most delicious hamburger, fries, and even a margharita! I know that it sounds crazy, but having the chance to eat "western food" has a highlight anytime we go to a big city to visit. TGI Fridays is about the same and you definitely see more westerners there then other restaurants. I guess people vacationing also need a break from kimchi and boiled octopus.

The whole area of Haeundae Beach was really beautiful and we will definitely go back very soon!
Now onto the motel that we ended up getting for the night. So innocently we thought that as we were trying to find a place to stay in Busan, the best thing would be to ask a local. So we found the nicest looking lady who worked at a convenience store and asked her if she could help us. She ended up calling her "friend" who owned a (and I quote) "nice, clean, and cheap motel". It cost 20,000 won a night (which is about $20 so that should have tipped us off). Let's just say that we found cigarette burns on the sheets, the bathroom had a old scrubbing towel in it for new tenants, and the owner of the motel so kindly brought up two refilled water bottles for us to enjoy (probably one's that he had just finished using). It was no 5 star place, needless to say. It was an experience, but hopefully we won't have to do it again! Korea definitely keeps us on our toes.