Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seoul, Korea Temple

The Seoul, Korea temple is obviously an important place for Ben.  He was "born" into his mission in the temple area-- a church and missionary housing right across the lawn from the temple.  He got to go pretty frequently during his mission, but the Shinchon area will always have a special place in his heart.

He was so excited and proud to bring me to the temple! We waited for our visit until Ben was done with his plant visits-- Thursday morning-- instead of trying to pack it in on a free night after work. We got to spend some extra time around the grounds, and I am so glad we had this special time together in Ben's mission area on the week of our anniversary!

The temple has amazing landscaping.  The bushes and trees are all very ornately and traditionally trimmed.  It was so beautiful to see how, inside and out, the temple has subtle hints of Asian. 

I was really nervous to go into a foreign temple! I had to be personally shown where to go for everything.  Luckily the LDS people worldwide are very helpful and understanding.  No one minded my innoncence : ) Even when my English translating box exploded in high-pitched squeels....

Happy anniversary! 

And the joke's on me! ... Twice.

Namdeamun Market: 

"The woman at the Myungdung Shopping Center Information Station insists on giving me two new maps to get across the street to the market.  These go in my purse in addition to the one from my hotel this morning, the hotel yesterday, and the two given to Ben at Indadong last night.  Do they have a quota to reach? Does the government award funds to organizations that give away the most maps to tourists or something?

"Everything imaginable and unimaginable is available in Namdaemun Market. Ginseng root shaped like a human body; everywhere. Duct tape in every color and texture? I pass two stalls in the first five yards.

"The stall owners don't crowd or bother as much as other countries in this competitive atmosphere, but I still keep my earphones in until I'm at a stall where I want to ask about something in particular.  That affords me some peace in this bustling area.

"I pass an entire street of knock-off accessories and wonder if any of the name brands I'd seen every fashionable Korean wear have been real or fakes.  Before I know it I've passed from purses to octopus. Smelling dried fish and seeing lives ones in baskets is something I've never gotten used to... Well, best intentions! Ugh.... The end of the street is a long way away to hold my breath!"

Gyeongbokgung Changing of the Guard

I was standing outside of the palace taking these pictures, when an older Korean man says to me "You should go inside." I say, "I will...I will..." thinking he means I should see the actual palace, not just stand outside of it.  But I do go inside, and realize that the real changing of the guard was taking place inside the palace gate! There was a huge to-do of prancing and pacing by men in colorful dresses and feathered hats. Not something I would have wanted to miss! Thanks, old man.  You got me. 

Samcheongdong Gallery Street

Next door to the palace (which happens to be in the center of town) is Samcheongdong, a... dare I say, romantic shopping district. It is a windy road of low, architectural buildings and beautiful trees.  Because it was windy, you can only see a portion of beautiful road at a time, making it very small and romantic feeling, instead of overwhelming like many large-building-ed, high-traffic areas of Seoul.  Many of the buildings are art museums.  Absolutely beautiful.  The remaining buildings are either restaurants (very high class ones offering "couple views" at the top) or expensive boutique stores.  Couples, hand in hand (rare in Korea) are everywhere.  I love it. 

As it turns out, I had been obsessed with the plan of eating dinner one night at a restaurant I read about online:  Beadanbaji. After a few days of asking around and ending up somewhere else, we discovered that the restaurant was in Samcheongdong! I was so excited to go back there on my own date night with Ben :)
Unfortunately, the restaurant had lost its "quaint" lodgings and is now on a floor of the owner's house.  Oh no! We spent our week hanging our hopes on this restaurant, finally find it and it's in someone's living room? No, thank you! We will never forget that ironical experience. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"I think a taxi is more better."

I decided on Tuesday that I wanted to try my hand at using the subway system, and asked the hotel employees for help with directions to the area I wanted to see:

Them: You should take a taxi.

Me: I'd rather take the subway or bus.

Them: I think the taxi is more better.

Me: I want an adventure.
Them: This taxi driver says is very difficult to walk... He'll take you for $5.
Me: I'll take a taxi on the way home. 

I finally get directions for the subway, and confidently make my way to the nearest station.  Surprisingly, it is very easy and foreigner-friendly to use the train! All the signs are in Korean, Chinese, and English, there are easy-to-follow maps everywhere, and the different lines are all known by a color. Very easy to manage.

I check out a map to double-check I'm at the right place while waiting for the next train:

Old Man: Do you need any help?

Me: No, I think I've got it.  I'm taking this line for one stop, getting off to transfer to orange, then taking orange for 3 stops until Anguk to get to Bukchon. 

Old Man: Yes, you have it. 


The subway takes me to the stop I'd wanted, and the sunshine that meets me outside feels like freedom.  I had wanted to go to Bukchon Village -- an area situated between three palaces famous for maintaining the old Korean style of architecture and way of living-- but soon realize the hotels guys took me to Bukchon neighborhood, not village. Oh  well-- wherever I am, I got myself here.  And I love it.

Bukchon turns out to be a really fun little pocket of Seoul.  I'm happy to see a couple guesthouses along the way.  Hostels are almost always in the fun, quirky part of town.  I saw cute stores, local people, houses and restaurants.  It was where people are just people.

I had an entire conversation with that shop owner. All I needed to use in Korean was, "Hello", "I like." How much money?", "Korean", "No." and "Thank you."  All she used was "Homemade." It was simple, but it was dialog! I started to slip in some "Si"s and "Cha", mixing in old Spanish and Khmer to the conversation-- that's the bad part of traveling: I have bits and pieces of all languages stuck in my head! Can I create my own Yiddish?!

I even stopped by one of the cultural palaces: Cheongbukchon.  It was cool. I was so impressed with the level of detail and art from centuries ago in this palace... We just don't take our palaces that seriously in America.

That night the supplier Ben had spent the day with called me to ask me to meet he and Ben at the 63 building (named because it is the only building around with 63 stories.) It has a viewing deck, an aquarium, movie theater, and wax museum!

I hurriedly changed to something nicer and took the first taxi I could find to the building.  Ben has put a lot of energy into working with this supplier, and I didn't want to ruin this experience for him!

When I got there, it turns out the supplier didn't even plan on staying! It is typical for a supplier to "wine and dine" potential clients (like Ben), but he just took off!

So Ben and I paid the expensive fare to get to the viewing deck/ Art museum alone, in our nice clothes.  But this city is important enough to Ben that it was definitely worth it.

Driving back into town for dinner Ben tells the taxi driver to take us to Anguk train station, our restaurant was close by. 
Me: Anguk? I know that place! I went to that station today to get to Bukchon!
As we drive around, I realize that the extensive, important subway trip I was so proud to have planned and executed was about a 20 min. straight-shot walk from our hotel.  
Darn it all. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

While You Were Sleeping....

We are 13 hours ahead of the East Coast, so let me tell you about my days wandering this incredibl(y confusing) town while Ben works.

Ben: Should I charge the company $100 to get my laundry done at this hotel?
Suz: That's ridiculous. Let's buy some detergent and I'll do it in the bathtub. 
Ben: So you'll wash my clothes today?
Suz: Yes... Geez, I take a bath, I watch TV, I do your laundry... It's like I'm a housewife even on vacation!
Ben: No, you're on vacation when you're a housewife.  You have it backwards. 

After doing laundry (can you Belize-it?), I took the free hotel shuttle to a great little area called Itaewon.  It is a multi-cultural shopping and eating area, so everyone thinks foreigners should go.  Luckily I didn't see many foreigners, because I tend to get lost down alley ways when left to my own devices : )

The alley I decided to take turned out to be a residential street, which gave me great insight to the types of buildings and ways of living people have here. I absolutely LOVE seeing where people live, and especially the types of trees they have growing in their yard... hee hee. 

It took me to the antique section of town, for which Korea is famous.  Wow! I love antiques, and was in heaven seeing antique stores in Seoul.  Most shopowners here speak English, as well, so I got to sit down with a very nice woman at one store and talk about antiques from around the world (since most of hers were from American 1950's era). 

Isn't getting lost the BEST?!

I also happen to buy this AWESOME shirt for only $9!

To buy:
Cool Clothes
Present for Drew
Silver chopsticks
Marriage ducks

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sunday in Korea

We got in to Seoul around 5 pm on Saturday.  We were picked up by a representative of the plan Ben came to work with, who drove us the hour into town and took us to an amazing Korean restaurant.

Unfortuantely, I was EXHAUSTED.  I had been traveling for the past 20 hours, and not slept at all (despite taking two OTC sleeping pills... ugh)! We slept in the next morning as late as possible, then had to get ready for church.

Ben spent 13 months in the same area as a missionary, so we were excited to visit that ward and check in on everyone.

 The church is in the middle of the city, and used to have the only lawn in the whole area.  We were met outside of the door by members Ben had known, and he was pretty shocked to go on a tour and see all that has been built up in the church's backyard since he lived here.

Everyone was so excited to see him again! They even announced from the podium that we would both share our testimonies.  Yikes.  I was shaking I was so nervous, but I was glad for the opportunity to thank them for their help with Ben.  This area was so important to him, and I know I owe a lot of his testimony to them.  Ben translated my testimony, which made them love him even more! 

No matter where you go, the church is the same. It may be a strange looking building, the people may speak another language or where different clothes, and the culture may have a different protocol for praying, but the church is true, and people are rejoicing all over the world. That is what is important. 

After walking back to our hotel after church we decided to spend the day sightseeing.  

Old meets new, East meets West, Man-made meets Nature, city meets mountains, and art meets business in this bustling area of international development. 

One of the first things we had to do was buy a copy of Ben's most memorable Korean Book: The Tale of the Mole; Who Knew it was None of His Business.  (AKA "Did you do this on my head?")

Because Spring is coming and it was a Sunday, a city organization called "S-Day" organized some free activities for the people walking around the area.  Balloons, stilts walkers, Korean magicians, dress- up outfits, and a free bus tour. 

Another area we walked to was Isadong  Market.  It is best known for being full of handicrafts and local, cultural goods and foods. 

Despite the blistery wind, it felt wonderful to peruse this city with local Koreans.  We only saw a few foreigners, and even the locals carried DSLR cameras around their necks.  We got to be ourselves, and even sort-of fit in (as much as two tall white people in odd clothing, one of whom speaks perfect Korean can fit in).

It seems as though the city would be confused, but this jumble of architectural, artistic, and natural elements combine perfectly to create a melodic chaos. It has a sort of flow... Be who you are, but fit in. Stand out, but be sincere. Be modern, but remember your heritage.  

Ben asked if this city reminds me of any I'd visited before.  No, I said.  Seoul is a city unique in itself.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Uncle Ben is in India!

Ben is in India this week, and I'm hanging with my sis in Georgia while he's there.  I'm pulling carrots from the garden, making crafts and sewing clothes, eating really good food, doing Zumba, and exhausting myself with three adorable children.

But on to the exciting stuff.  Ben is in Bangalore, nicknamed the Silicon Valley of India because it is the center of development and technology.  That means it is relatively clean and foreigner-friendly (the exact opposide of my experience in the more touristy Delhi and Agra.  I'm glad he's having a better time!) So he's loving it.

Here are some pictures he's sent me so far:

I'm not really sure who any of those people are... 
Ben, you are welcome to come into this post and give us some insight about your adventures! 

And a couple fun videos: 

We love you, Ben, and hope you have a great trip! Glad you made it there safe!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Meat and Potatoes, Vegetarian style!

A couple years ago a member of the ward I grew up in made the most amazing meatballs I've ever had for my family, and I finally got the recipe from her!

This dish is so amazing that I just had to find a way to vegetarian-ify it. And yes, folks, it can be done!
Vegetarian meatballs:

  1. 1 pkg. soy crumbles (or 1 lb. of ground beef... if you're into that stuff...)
  2. 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
  3. 1 egg
  4. 1/2 cup milk 
  5. 2 tsp. Salt
  6. 1 pinch pepper
  7. 3 mozzarella sticks, cut in thirds. 
  8. Spaghetti Sauce
  • Mix together well and shape into tennis ball-sized balls.  
  • Push two pieces of mozzarella sticks side-by-side into the balls. 
  • Cover sticks completely
  • Bake at 350 for 40 mins. 
  • 15 mins. before meatballs finish, add spaghetti sauce to the pan
I admit that I was pretty nervous about this recipe, but they were amazing! Ben ate four for dinner!
Seriously, you have to try these meatballs. Meat or no meat, they just can't be beat :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fun Weekend in Cola!

We had a fun, fun weekend with our Fields family last weekend in Columbia.  Our temple is there, so we make a trip once a month or so, but usually only stay for 24 hours so we can be back in time for church Sunday morning (the Relief Society roll won't take itself!).  Last month my sister's family, from GA, met us in Columbia so they could visit the temple and have my niece take Girl Scout cookie orders.  She suggested another get-together this past weekend to celebrate another niece's birthday, her husband flying into Columbia from a visit to BYU, and the fastest delivery of the Girl Scout Cookies.  Yes, it was the cookies that brought us together.  (visit her blog post... so worth it.)

We all decided to stay an additional day to pack in all the fun, and it was a total blast to spend time together and do what we wanted to do with no time constraints!

Friday night we had an amazing night talking and laughing over my favorite local pizza place with my mom and sisters Megan and Brett.

Saturday morning Brett, Ben and I went out to the temple, then we headed out for a much-anticipated trip down the Saluda river to enjoy our recently AWESOME weather and test out the new addition to our family: Ben's new whitewater kayak!

The Saluda is an awesome river to run. It is a great combination of flat water and class 1 and 2 rapids (3's when the water is higher), lots of river boulders to practice turning and navigating around, beautiful scenery, and lot of people who enjoy tubing and fishing. 

It has some great drop-in spots, and we decided to start from the first one we know of to the last one we know of.  Almost 5 miles (5.6 mi. by road) down river... the longest run we've ever done. It took almost 2.5 hours, and my shoulders were killing me afterwards! 

Ben practicing some playboat moves on one of the rapids:

Megan and Brett brought their kids to the Marionette Theater while we paddled, and met us at the end of the run to drive Ben back to his car at the beginning. (Ben wanted to go to the show, but I took a behind-the-scenes tour of that place in college and I find it so creepy!)

All the kids and my sisters met us at the boat landing at the end, and were waving and yelling "You made it! Congratulations!" as we pulled in.  It felt like finishing a marathon, especially after being so tired, and was one of the sweetest memories of recent years. 

My sister made an awesome lady bug cake for our beautiful niece, Eliza-bug. 
And she really enjoyed photographing it. 

Eliza seemed to like the elephant t-shirt I made her!

We love you guys! Thanks for such a fun weekend!