Travel Vicariously through the Fitzgerald's

We are happy to provide our experiences as a stay-cation for you! If you have any questions feel free to ask. We have a lot to learn and lots to see!


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 8 - Orientation, Costco, & Gecko's

What a day! First day of orientation. We took the KIS bus to school, were escorted to the cafeteria for some french toast and bacon, then on to the conference area. We were given formal introductions by the director, Steve Cathers, and the school principals. They introduced a scavenger hunt of the school for prizes which included 10,000 KRW. Do you know how much that is in American money? Keep reading to find out if you are right....muahahaha!

They divided us into 7 teams, gave us a list of 29 places to find in the school and 3 questions to answer. We had roughly 35 minutes to complete the task. The school is huge and slightly confusing. Hence, the scavenger hunt to force you to explore, especially because there is money involved. Neither Stacy's team or my team won but it was fun! Remember how I told you that the hallways aren't air conditioned? Well we sweated our butts off!

After the scavenger hunt, it was time to take faculty photos. Yeah, we were hot and sweaty and needed to look professional. We might need some retakes. Next, to the library we went to retreive our Macbook Pro's!!! Those babies are nice! We got our school keys and then headed to pick up Ethan from the day care so we could go to lunch.

So far KIS has done an outstanding job of coordinating everything for us. They coordinated another shopping trip for us at Costco (like Sams Club). THIS was an adventure. The plan was that we would have lunch at Costco, get our memberships, then shop. The school was going to bring more buses and trucks to load up everyone and everything and deliver it to our homes. Let me prepare you for this experience.  We pulled up in 2 buses and parked where it said no parking. There were roughly 40 faculty members, 10 kids, and 4 KIS staffers entering Costco at the same time. We kind of clogged the entrance. Dan Choi, our business manager, had a talk with the store manager about accomodating us for lunch and for memberships. We went down a level, walked through the grocery area to this small, mad-house food court and made a LONG line because KIS was paying for our lunch. Once we ordered and got your food (choices were pizza, hot dog, or ceasar salad) we were led through a maze of doorways. We went up a stairwell, through the employee dining area, through their locker area, into a meeting room with one table and no chairs. We sat on the floor, kneeled, and stood while eating off of real plates. The employees took great care of us while we were up there. They even got a group picture of us! They must not get this alot.

When we finished eating, we were led a different direction to get out and back to the main entrance. Again, we clogged the lobby because we were all trying to get membership cards. The funniest thing - my Costco card has Stacy's name on it and my picture and his has mine!! We didn't even notice until we got home. Oh well! I doubt they will even check.

On to shopping. The 2nd floor wasn't so bad, at least compared to the grocery level. We found the pillows we had been looking for there. The pillows in our apartment were super stuffed and firm, just like our bed. We only had an hour to shop after the crazy lunch and membership fun. Down in the grocery area you could barely get your cart around it was so packed. Found some cereal, Quaker instant oatmeal, and a few other comfort foods and headed out of there. At least we know what they have now so we can plan for the next trip. This place was insanely busy.

We had to wait about 30 minutes for the buses to arrive but we loaded up pretty quickly and they delivered us to our homes. I couldn't believe that all 4 of our buses whipped U's right in the  middle of the road. Man I wish I had gotten it on camera because it was a sight! The strangest part is there was no honking.

We took a short break at home, freshened up and headed back out for our evening gathering. The school buses picked us up again and took us into the Jukjeon district to this place called Gecko's. It was on the 9th floor but it was wicked nice. The whole gang was there having drinks which we had to pay for but the school picked up the unlimited appetizers. There was pool (billards not swimming) which Ethan tried. The patio had a kids play area (so smart!). There was good music. I ran out of my medicine but took tylenol, so no alcohol for me :(. Definitely next time, I heard their margaritas are awesome! We all visited and talked about the international school experience. The more experienced international school teachers talked about KIS being the best and most organized so far. We all feel very fortunate to be at KIS! It was a great night and I hope the next time I'm not sick so I can really enjoy it. We headed home about was a long day. The night life was exciting and invigorating. The lights, the cool breeze, the food stands, and the shops that are all has a certain energy that grabs at you.

We met our international family tonight and really got a chance to get to know them. So far, we absolutely do not regret this decision.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 7 - AK Plaza...A woman's dream shopping world!

I would like to begin by apologizing for being a slacker. I know everyone has been waiting for this :)

This Thursday morning we were getting ready to explore the infamous AK Plaza said to be the most upscale place to shop. We headed out for the bus stop down the street where we were going to hop on bus 80-1. As we step out of the building we see it stopped. Excited Stacy tries waving it down but the driver says no and continues. It was 30 minutes before we saw another 80-1. Luckily there are 3 bus stops near our house. One of them is a shaded corner stop and if you see the shutterfly site you will notice it's not the cleanest. On this HOT morning it was the best place to wait.

We made it onto our bus, told the driver "AK Plaza" and enjoyed the sites of the ride. Speaking of the ride you must know what its like to drive here. There are NO stops signs. You can pretty much whip a U anywhere. Buses do it just as well as any car. From my observations red lights are optional. Most stop and stay stopped but I have seen motorcyclist, dump trucks, and cars stop at the light and then proceed through it. You don't really see any police around. Lanes seem narrower than in the states and they are 5 deep in one direction. People use their turn signals alot just to tell you "hey I'm squeezing in, deal with it!" Koreans park just about anywhere and apparently as long as you have your hazards on, it makes it okay.

So, AK Plaza is located in the Sunea (Soo-nay) district of Bundang. From what you see everywhere, Koreans are almost always dressed to impress. They like to look nice no matter where they go. To quote a colleague of mine, " running in heels is an olympic sport in Korea." Stacy and I really have to rethink our wardrobe. In the basement level of AK Plaza, you will find the Sunea subway station. The mall has 8 floors intricately interlaced. Check out the pictures (which don't do this place justice) on our shutterfly site.

When we first walked into the mall it was immediate awe. Then the tummy grumbled. We walked out to explore our food choices at each of the exits before exploring the mall. We decided to have....are you ready for it?....Burger King! Yep, you weren't surprised. Ordering was fun! They understood what we wanted. Thank God for our hands and fingers! I had forgotten my Korean phrase book and didn't know how to say "no onions". We got our food (they are quick) and headed upstairs to the 2nd floor eating area and sat near the A/C. When we were done, we took our tray over to the trash. Now, Koreans recycle A LOT. There was a place for you to empty your drink cup and a place for you to stack your used cups. There was a place for you to put your straw and lid and then you could throw your food in the trash. **On a side note, we have 2 trash bags at home that we have to buy, a yellow bag for just food scraps, a pink bag for trash other than glass, metal and plastic. Those items have their own bins at our complex. Side not over** Full tummies means time to digest...

The first floor, which is at above ground level has all the makeup stores like M-A-C, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Shiseido, Lancome, Estee Lauder, etc. Also at this level are purse/luggage stores like Louis Vuitton, Coach, and others. Floors 2 and 3, are devoted to women's clothing. It is not setup like department store either. On each floor, there are sections divided by glass walls displaying the name of the designer featured. ALL of the big names were there such as Vera Wang, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, and so many more that I couldn't remember to save my life. Obviously I don't shop at these places enough to know them on a first name basis. lol! Maybe that will change :). On the 4th floor there was a large, beautifully lit showroom of SHOES! I picked up a pair of rhinestone sandals and the price was 239,000 KRW ($239). Going to have to save for those. Ethan pointed me to a pair of black, peep toe heels that were very stylish. I walked over to look as a salesman was walking my way. I quickly looked at the price for these, a whopping 270,000 KRW. I set them down, grabbed Ethan and walked swiftly in the opposite direction before the salesman could think I was an interested customer.

Floor 4 was men's clothing about the only floor that Stacy didn't think was absolutely pointless. They had some very nice men's clothing. I'm going to have to get Stacy to purchase a few pieces of basics. They had FUBU, Levis, Tommy, and an awesome sports section. Floor 5 was the electronics (more expensive than E-mart), and the food court where there was a drop-your-child-off nursery playground area. Off this floor was a skybridge to the bedding and housewares. Floor 6 was childrens clothing where I wasn't allowed to roam. Floor 7 had a couple of upscale places to eat and have coffee. This is where I took a potty break. The toilet seat had this plastic covering on it. Well I took care of business, turned to flush, saw a red button, pushed it and the plastic covering moved. It was their hi-tech version of sanitary toilet seat covers but you don't have to touch it. I ended up finding the handle to flush. They also had a high powered hand dryer that dries both sides of your hands at the same time. Not to worry, I washed my hands too!

At one point Ethan and I got separated from Stacy and ended up playing hide and seek on the escalators on 3 floors. He was not happy but Ethan sure was! Once we were all reunited, we discussed heading for home but didn't want the trip to end on such a sour note. Stacy had this great idea - ICE CREAM :) On to Baskin Robbins for some Love Struck Strawberry (the kind I ordered). It was so yummy!

Time to go home now. We got back to our bus stop after getting strange looks for running across the street. We were wanting some confirmation that we were at the right stop. I looked at the bus numbers that stopped there and didn't see bus 80-1 so I decided to try my communication skills with some Koreans. Don't get excited I had paper, pen and some hand gestures. Don't know Korean yet. Two young people, girl and a boy were my lucky helpers. I wrote my bus number on it and pointed to here. They went to look the same place I did and said no. They showed me the X with their arms. You get that a lot here. After a little bit of English on their part and some confusing names on my part, the bus suddenly arrived and we were both happy that it did because neither one of us was getting anywhere.

We eventually made it to our neighborhood and I took pictures of the walk home so you could see what all grows there. Check out the shutterfly share site. It's beautiful!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 6 - Getting to know KIS and its people & another E-mart trip!

So this morning we woke up with a purpose and for once I wasn't the first one up. I'm going to complain just the one more time. Skip to the next paragraph if you want to skip the complaining. I have been taken over by this booger inducing monster and it comes out at night to torment me when I'm trying to rest. Thus, rested or not I must leave the bed and flee to the the unoccupied office room so not to disturb Ethan or Stacy in their last few hours of good sleep. I'm determined to go to the doctor Friday if it hasn't disappeared by then. That is when our medical insurance kicks in. I figure it will be good to go ahead and find a family doctor in case something comes up later. 2 birds, 1 stone...that's efficient.

Like I mentioned in a previous blog, our inner clocks are syncing with Korean time. Awake by 6 am! Not 3 or 4 - 6am! It is amazing how much you can get done in 3 hours. We didn't know what time we would return home today so we did a little laundry, dishes and tidying. I did some ironing (with my new iron) and Stacy made breakfast. No rushing around this morning.

The KIS bus was scheduled to pick us up at 9:40 at our bus stop. At the stop we met 2 families that live in our 'hood who will be working there also. A family of 4 that came from Costa Rica arrived last night. I can't remember the husband's name or what he will be teaching but his wife Miriam will be teaching Spanish. They must have been the couple hired 2 weeks before us. They have 2 children, older than Ethan. Their whole family is fluent in Spanish. The husband is originally from California...that's pretty much Mexico right?  The other family we met was only partially present. Susan and her daughter Gaby hail from Canada. She is teaching 3rd grade and her husband who we haven't met yet will be teaching MS history. They also have a son who we didn't meet. Her family arrived about the same time we did. They have been a little more adventurous than us. They have done twice the amount of exploring. She was super friendly and talkative.

It was a short ride to KIS where we were led into one of the computer labs in the middle school. They provided brunch type stuff...muffins, cookies, fruit, coffee and juice. We visited with our new school director (we would call him superintendant) Mr. Cathers. Ethan was bored and not hungry so Stacy went ahead and took him to the nursery so he could play. I noticed there were several married couples hired and a handful of singles hired. Kevin who is the new associate principal (grade level ?) attended the annual Boryeong Mud Festival when he arrived. This guy is going to be my boss. He seemed very down to earth. Lloyd the Australian who's going to teach a Math and Science course. Like I said...lots of wonderful people. I also found out that this year they had a record setting 17 new students from newly hired faculty. Ethan is part of a record!

We spent about an hour on a walking tour of the school. David, the High School principal, and his wife, a science teacher, were our tour guides. It is huge, very nicely built, and hot. They don't heat or cool the hallways but your classroom is always comfortable. The amenities are amazing! I'll start with physical activities. You can swim in the lap pool, play ping pong on one of the 15 tables, play basketball in anyone of the 3 gyms, rock wall climb, play foozball, air hockey and work out in a gym-worthy weight room. They have squash courts, a turf soccer field and well, I think I named it all.

There are 4 buildings: Elementary, Middle, High School, and G (specialty subjects). We didn't tour every floor. We were shown the highlights of each building and how to get from one building to another. The cafeteria has been expanded and will have 3 lunch lines now. Woohoo! Faster lines means more time to eat. You know what I'm talkin about. Words do not do this school justice. There are an insane amount of stairs so students get lots of exercise even before PE and sports. Lucky staff, we get to use the elevator. :) Remember how in high school if you wanted to hang out at school you had to sit on some hard wooden bench or even maybe a cold metal bench? Well at KIS there are lots of hangout spots throughout the school that have modern cushioned couches with flat screen TVs.

Guards are on site 24 hours a day so there is never a problem with getting in. Just show your ID and tell them how long you intend to stay. Apparently this school will do almost anything for teachers. If we buy something large and have it delivered to the school, the school will deliver it to our apartment. We don't even have to ask. If we need something, just say the word and its done. We were told that teachers are revered here.

So, on to E-mart for the 3rd time. On the bus ride there we sat next to a 20 something Kaitlyn from Michigan. She studied abroad in Australia and then spent 6 weeks student teaching in South Africa. She has the travel bug too. She tagged along with us while we shopped. I bought a rice cooker. I didn't realize there were so many variations of rice cookers. I saw at least 20. Oh yeah, we went up to those mystery floors and were sadly surprised. The top 3 floors were PARKING GARAGES! I expected those to be under the store not on top! Who knew. Anywho, we shopped for stuff on our list and every time we turned around there was a KIS Korean staff person waiting to help with translation. Nice. We had an hour and a half to shop. The meeting place was the Starbucks on the 2nd floor. I have to say the Starbucks is about $1 more expensive than in the US and I personally have not tried it but according to my colleagues totally worth the extra $1! Kaitlyn and I decided to scope out the clothing while we waited for everyone to gather. Clothes are priced comparatively with the U. S. I can't wait to go clothes shopping! Especially if it takes longer for our stuff to get through customs.

The most ironic thing happened. As we were walking to the check out line, an Asian looking young man stopped us and asked , in English, if we could help him. He called himself a "foreigner too" so I assume he was not Korean. He wanted to know where the fedoras were. I had to do a double take. I was so used to Asian people speaking words that I didn't understand and he didn't. LOL!

We all made it out of the store with boxes of goods. I would like to say that the 18 of us made a dent in E-mart but I doubt it. We were all really glad that the bus was dropping us off at our doors. Stacy and I stayed on the bus to head back to the school and pick up Ethan. Elizabeth, who I mentioned earlier, offered to drive us home. She was a very helpful source too. Her and her husband have lived here going on 3 years I think. She told us that we landed in the best school possible.

Tomorrow we are going to explore the shopping malls and see what movies are playing. We'll fill you in soon! (Pics are up of today's adventure at our shutterfly share site)

On a side note, Stacy wanted me to mention that he bought a bottle of gatorade and it tastes like pears. You just never know what your going to get no matter how familiar it may look.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I wanted to upload pics to the blog but it wasn't efficient enough for me. I realize that you now have to look at 2 sites to keep up with us but I hope it is worth your time. As always we are happy to share our experiences with you!

Day 5 - Doing Nothing

Today was a lazy day of sorts. I was up by 4 am. Stupid sickness won't go away yet. The men in the house joined me by 6. We are doing a pretty good job of getting on Korean time. By 10:30 we had eaten breakfast, vaccuumed the apartment, washed dishes, scrubbed down the dining table and chairs, rearranged the furniture, picked up some essentials from the corner store, made a couple international phone calls, and eaten lunch. Now that we are neighborhood regulars at the corner store, the lady recognizes Stacy when he goes in. Maybe we can teach her some English....or we can learn some Korean.

We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting around. I watched Ethan and Stacy play with Ethan's new Star Wars Lego set.

It was 2 o'clock when we finally met the cable man. A KIS English-speaking staff member was supposed to be with him but was about 10 minutes late. We did our best to gesture our way into internet connections. I hadn't thought about it until Stacy mentioned it but, we have people coming in to work on things in our apartment with socks on and they sit on the floor to work. In a different setting that would be weird but here, it's perfectly natural.

Stephan was the KIS translator who is a terrific young man. It seems like he can do anything! He was nice enough to order pizza for us. Here's a Korean tid-bit - no one expects you to tip. Sometimes they will flat out refuse! Do you know that we had dinner at 3 something in the afternoon?!? Our days begin so early that we sometimes eat a 2nd dinner if we stay up much longer.

So now that we have cable, you are probably wondering what we  have to watch. Well, I think we have something like 200 channels. Don't ask me what is on those channels because I live with 2 males and 1 television. It'll be at least a week before I can get an hour of the TV to myself. As I type this in our office, Ethan and Stacy are watching Phineus and Ferb on the Disney channel in ENGLISH! It has Korean subtitles. I think there are a few American shows that air with Korean subtitles. Our remote is in Korean. It shouldn't be hard to figure out but we still took the precautions to ask about all the buttons we need to be familiar with. Anything we buy is going to be in Korean, unless it is the Phillips brand. If I had little Post-It flags, they would be everywhere!

Thanks to Disney Channel, there is no arguing with Ethan about staying up. He is doing it all by himself. We actually had to tell him when he was going to bed.

So tomorrow we will meet lots of the other recently hired teachers and go shopping at Costco. Ethan is excited to go to childcare so he can play with kiddos his age. I really hope he makes friends early on. I think that will really make him feel comfortable. I'll let you know how tomorrow goes and of course I will take my camera. :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 4 Part 2 - E-MART #2 = Bigger & Better

After a satisfying lunch, we got back in the car and headed to E-MART. As I mentioned earlier, this location is much bigger than the other and every bit as exciting! This time we came prepared with more money, a list, a translator, and a car! We stocked up on tons of stuff! I also probably looked like a silly tourist taking pictures as we went through the store, but I wanted you to be able to see. I'll post those soon also. Again, we only made it to 2 floors. The grocery shopping was fun and I could have spent the whole day on just that floor. It reminded me of a Sam's Club because they have all kinds of tasting stations. They want you to try everything. All the bread is baked right in the store. I have never seen more varieties of seafood in my LIFE! Other than on the Discovery Channel...but that was alive. Everything is so fresh that my potatoes looked like they had just come out of the ground. They had chunks of dirt falling off of them. When you bag your veggies, you take them to a lady standing at a scale and they weigh it for you and put a bar code sticker on the bag right there. That is such a great idea! I bet this store has at least 100 peopel working on each floor every day!

Okay, so I'll bet you are wondering what kind of foods they have. They have almost everything. I found ketchup, mustard, cheetos, pancake mix, but didn't find the mac n cheese. Sorry Ethan. We're going to keep looking for that. We found sliced ham but no turkey. Beef and pork are big here. Chicken isn't very popular but they carry it. Whatever you are used to in the states, they will have some version of it here. We had to shop quicker this trip because we were on a schedule. The next time we go back we are spending at least 3 hours there.

Is it wierd that I was excited about buying an iron??? I even got it on sale. It was originally 119,000 W but I purchased it for 69,000 W. (To convert to dollars, take off 3 zeros). Leaving there was difficult because there was so much more that we need to buy but we were only in a four door car. Our driver informed us that the school provides 2 trips a month to E-Mart and Costco for larger items. He happens to be the driver on those trips. This means we don't have to buy everything at once. Oh, and something we didn't know the first time but found out was that each plastic grocery back is roughly 50 cents. We used boxes which were free!!! Haha!

We now have a stocked refrigerator and I was later instructed how to use my washing machine. Another golden nugget about our school, they have clothes dryers that they let teachers use. This means we can wash our clothes at home and take them up to the school and dry them. I was wondering how I was going to dry jeans and sweaters.

On a different topic, for all you parents out there, you will appreciate this. It was 6:15 and we were eating dinner when Ethan said, "I'm tired. Can I go to bed?" Now as a parent you would typically say "yes, go to bed." Not us. We said, "No, you have to stay up at least 2 more hours...go play your DS or something." "You are not going to bed early!" I can't believe it! We were actually arguing with our child about GOING to bed. I think a pig flew!

Day 4 - The Welcome Tour!

We didn’t get out anymore day 3. I felt too sick to do anything.

Day 4: Monday came at 5 am. We are doing better, slowly inching closer towards normal waking hours. Unfortunately, I still felt like crap but we decided to get the ball rolling on stuff that needed to be done.

Weather forecast in Bundang: scattered showers through the morning. And guess what, we were out of milk for our breakfast cereal. Stacy offered to walk to the store at 6 am to get milk. While he was gone, I looked out the window to see if he was on his way back and saw an old Korean woman vigorously brushing her teeth in the parking lot. I don’t know what to say about that. Within 15 minutes he was back empty handed. The store wasn’t open yet and it sprinkled on him. He wasn’t in the apartment 20 minutes when it started raining. It was a beautiful cooling rain but you can’t walk anywhere in the rain with out an umbrella which should arrive with our other stuff August 2nd. Now the dilemma of breakfast. We had eggs, cheese and toast. Cheese omlettes and buttered toast has been the daily special for the last couple of days and Monday was no different. The cereal was supposed to break it up for us. :)

After breakfast, we decided raining or not we were not staying in the apartment. We were going to handle our business and then set off to do some more shopping. Isn’t that what you would do? Exactly! So we had to call Keith at KIS to find out when the cable/internet was going to be connected, when the welcome committee was going to welcome us, and how to work our washing machine.

I will start with the cable/internet issue. Obviously if we had it connected on time this post would not be a day late but we were told that they are crazy busy and will be by Tuesday morning sometime. This is Monday evening at 6:40 my time and my fingers are crossed because something happened to the internet that we were piggy-backing off of.

Second, we received a welcome call from a young lady named Norli who was going to be our tour guide for the day. A school bus driver, who I can’t remember the name of, was our driver for the day and he was very friendly. We were officially shown around our neighborhood, introduced to the neighborhood cleaners store, taken to the school, taken out to lunch, taken to an even BIGGER E-MART and given tips on the bus system.

We were already pretty familiar with our neighborhood so that wasn’t exciting but the school is AMAZING! It is set on a hill and very modern looking. I just know we are going to love it there. I met the school nurse and she hooked me up with some meds which were exactly what I needed. We will be taking a longer tour the end of this week. I’ll catch you up on that in a photo blog soon.

Our tour was mainly showing us how to get to the different parts of Bundang. We scoped out other American chains such as Quiznos and Starbucks. Found the best places to shop (and burn several holes through my pockets!) AK Plaza is a very upscale mall that they show in the school video and I kept wondering where it was. We were taken right next to it and the interesting part is that many of the large shopping malls have subway stations in their basement floor. So convenient! Just wait until we explore that mall. You will definitely hear all about it!

Norli took us to lunch on KIS’s tab to a place called DailyKing’s Diner: The Original American Dining. We probably should have selected a Korean restaurant but we wanted some sustenance. It was definitely comfort food. I would describe it as a modern-retro restaurant that served a lot of American comfort food. I don’t know where you would find a chili cheese omelette in the US but you get the idea. Stacy and I ordered burgers and fries and Ethan wanted chicken strips. Norli ordered for herself and the driver. I have to tell you that this restaurant was on the 8th floor of a building and we parked in the last parking spot in the underground parking garage. The parking garage had 5 levels going down. From the very bottom to the very top! Ethan loved the view we had in the restaurant too. When our food arrived they set it in the middle of the table. I assumed it was because they didn’t know who ordered it. Nope! It’s because in Korea, when food is ordered it is shared by all. All the food gets grouped in the middle and you get individual plates to take what you want. It’s like a mini buffet. When Norli explained this, I had already put mayonnaise on my bun, stacked it with the veggies and cut it in half. She explained that she and the driver were going to share and that they didn’t expect us to follow the same customs. Stacy was nice to offer to split his and share with them but they politely refused.

While we ate, Stacy and I asked lots of questions. We found out that Norli came from the Phillipines with her sister seeking a better job. She found one at KIS just like us. In her home country English is taught all through school. It is the 2nd language spoken there. Stacy asked her which language was easier to learn, English or Korean. Yep, you guessed it…English. :) She has been in the country 3 years and knows quite a bit of the language but there is still quite a bit she is learning.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 3 - The E mart Experience

Hello followers! We decided to make today a super adventurous day. After spending about 30 minutes trying to decipher the subway map, the city map, and the bus routes, we decided we weren't getting anywhere. We picked up all the maps, our bus card, and the Korean phrase book and headed out.

I'm going to back track for a moment. Saturday while we were out I made the comment that I hope one day we will have clear blue skies and some sun. This is because it has been overcast since we arrived. Well, today the sun came out. No clear blue skies but the sun managed to slip through the haze. It was brutally hot and muggy. I would like to retract my earlier statement. I will be happy with overcast and a light cool breeze.

The maps at the bus stop have the route stops in Korean and English. Yeah! That was a relief. We picked the 1550 bus that stops right in front of E-mart. Remember, this is Korea's equivalent of Walmart. I will describe it shortly. So we get on the bus and show the driver on the map where we would like to go. He was super helpful! We took the scenic route it seemed and guess what! We spotted....wait for it....MCDONALDS! Along with Baskin Robbins, Subway, Pizza Hut, Dominos, and Papa Johns. When he dropped us off he even pointed to the other bus stop that we would need to return. He was a swell guy!

So back to E-mart. The store sign read that it opened at 10 am. We had 25 minutes to spare. Yes we were all up by 6 am this morning. We decided to walk around the block and scope out this area. 15 minutes later we were back at the front doors. I guess because there were so many people waiting they opened the doors early. Okay, let me get to the juicy details of this store. It has about 5 floors with these flat escalators that allow you to get on with your cart to go up or down. To get a cart you have to insert a 100 WON coin into this little gadget on the cart so that it will unlock. It's kind of like a deposit to make sure they get their carts back. The basement level is the grocery store and food court. 1st floor has clothing. 2nd floor has kitchen ware, electronics, and appliances. We didn't even make it to the 3rd or 4th floor. They save their boxes that the merchandise came packaged in and they let the customers use it to take their stuff home. By the way, we are SO buying a car! Navigating it will be a whole other adventure. Most items are priced the same as America. In this first trip to the store we spent over $200!

I can't wait to go grocery shopping tomorrow.  Our fridge is still pretty bare. I am so proud of us for getting out and conquering one part of public transportation! Well, it is only 3 in the afternoon and I'm sure we'll be going out again before nightfall.

Day 2 - Exploring the neighborhood

Saturday started early for us. Stacy was the first to try out the shower. Unfortunately, we had missed the tutorial on how to get hot water, so he took a cold shower. We unpacked our suitcases. Believe it or not I'm actually happy we only had 1 bottle leak.

We have lots of storage too! If you have ever seen House Hunters International, you will know what I'm talking about when I say wall closets. The next time you are in IKEA, go into the closet section and they have customizable wall closet solutions. That is exactly what we have and I love it!

Close to lunch time we decided to go out and see what we could find to eat. We walked through our neighborhood and saw a playground and outdoor work out equipment. No excuse for not exercising! We probably walked about 2 miles. We found several stores, a couple resembled convenience stores, others were more like mini, rundown Walmarts. It's so funny how when we try to communicate with the Koreans, we talk to each other like one of us is going to miraculously know the language. We now know how the Native Americans and the English must have felt. Lots of signs and hand usage. We picked up some dumplings and something else that I don't know the name of from a street vendor. We paid 6,000 WON for this meal. I pointed to the pictures and she said "one" and pointed to each picture. Glad she understood me but frustrated that we couldn't ask what was in it. This is called blind eating. On our way home we stopped at one of the convenience stores and picked up eggs, butter, soda, cheese and a few other snacks. We couldn't eat half of our lunch because it was so spicy but the rest of it was pretty tasty.

After a 3 hour nap, Ethan and I woke up to news that we now have HOT WATER! That was music to my ears. We have a tankless water heating system. You have to let it run for a few minutes but, otherwise it works perfectly. After getting cleaned up we decided to go out and explore again.
Round 2 of exploration! We went a different direction and found a magnificent Catholic church, a whole section of flower stores, and lots of car detailing shops. There are very few signs that have anything in English. We have yet to find the Quizno's, Starbucks, or McDonalds. When we turned back to head home, we saw a sign for Paul's Italian Cuisine. Ah, finally something recognizable! We trekked, yes trekked, up a steep street to get to this restaurant. I'm pretty sure we got our heart rate up! This was a VERY upscale restaurant. We did NOT dress for this but still ate there because, well, it was ITALIAN FOOD! The food was expensive but, delicious. Poor Stacy, I feel sorry for him because they have no Dr. Pepper. He is having to make due with Coke and other sodas. This upscale restaurant served coke from a can like it was some expensive wine that they leave on the table.
Going down the hill was much easier than going up. Stopped at the HI mart convenience store to pick up a few more goods. While Stacy was paying, I took Ethan across the street to peek into a furniture store where I spotted a beautiful white antique-looking Italian vanity. Talking price with hand gestures is difficult, but I think we got him down to half off before deciding to hold off. :) With it only being day 2 of living here, we thought it might be a bit hasty of us to go furniture shopping. I'm not going to forget about it just yet. We have some hefty shopping to do on the 28th and 29th when the school takes us to a big department store. We were told that E-mart is the equivelent to Walmart. Can't wait to check it out!
We haven't tried out the bus system yet but it's on the list of things to-do.
Can't wait for day 3!!!

What time is it there?

I have installed a widget that will tell you what time it is here in Korea. What you need to know is that we are 14 hours AHEAD of Texas. So, for example, if it is 2 in the afternoon on Monday in Texas it will be 4 in the morning on Tuesday in Korea.

Day 1 - We are here!

Well, the plane ride didn't feel like 14 hours after a handful of movies, some sleep, some food, potty breaks, and the lack of a clock. Don't get me wrong, it was a long plane ride but not being able to count the hours made it much more manageable.

Ethan loved it up until about the last 5 hours of the trip. There was plenty of room and we all sat in the same row, actually it was the last row in our section right in front of the restrooms. Very convenient. Thank goodness for the Nintendo DS which paid for itself in the first 4 hours of the trip.

I was very miserable on the plane because my left ear was clogged and I had sinus congestion. I am kicking myself in the butt for not having gone to the doctor before the trip. When we were coming down preparing for the landing, I felt the worst pain in my ear and the left side of my head. Poor Ethan, was trying to console me. I have such a sweet boy.

The Koreans have a very efficient customs and immigration system which made everything much smoother for us. We didn't have to wait in line for an hour like we did in England. KIS came through with every word. Once we had claimed our baggage, which by the way, tying ribbon on our luggage made it a hundred times easier to spot, we exited the airport. We assumed that we would be looking for a person holding our name on a piece of white posterboard- WRONG! A young looking Korean man wearing stylish ripped pants, a purple Mickey Mouse shirt, sleek black tennies, and talking on a cell phone waved at us and said follow me. Apparently he already knew our faces and that was great. No problems! His name is Keith Ki Won Choi. He was super friendly and has been here 9 years. He went to high school and college in the U.S.

Now, it is rush hour on a Friday AND it was raining which meant that instead of a short ride through Seoul to Bundang, it was going to be an 1 and 1/2. This allowed us to really look around. Highways are well maintained. The majority of vehicles on the road are Hyundai but we also saw a Chevy, BMW, Mercedes, and Mini Cooper. All the vehicles are either black, gray, white, brown or somewhere in there. I never saw a anything outside of those colors. Oh, I take that back. I did see tiny car that was lime green. There were several others that we didn't recognize. Did you know that Samsung makes vehicles? Me neither.

I think it was near 7 pm here when we arrived at our apartment. There are 3 floors in our building: Basement, 1st, & 2nd. Can you guess which one we are on? Nope, guess again! 2nd floor for us! Nice building. The apartments here don't use keys, they have codes on the door. I like not having to carry a key! The apartment is completely furnished. Downside - only 1 small bathroom, no clothes dryer, and no dishwasher. We are dealing.

Keith showed us around our apartment, explained how to work everything, gave us our relocation money and tried to order delivered McDonalds! Unfortunately McDonald's has temporarily stopped delivering. :( Keith had stocked our apartment with some food like, bread, crunchy peanut butter, strawberry preserves, chips, cookies, milk, and some fruit soda.

That was day one in Korea!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ethan and Stacy posing so I can document EVERYTHING about our trip!
Ethan wanted to ride the REALLY BIG escalator.
We spent last night having a wonderful meal at Babes Chicken with the Ozuna Family. Then we went to see our last movie in the states, Despicable Me, which was hilarious! Got up early this morning and had a good breakfast at Waffle House where I somehow managed to break the inside door handle of my brother's monte carlo. :( We arrived at the airport with plenty of time. Stacy was much more manageable knowing we were ahead of schedule.  Had a teary goodbye with my family and managed to get all 6 of our checked suitcases and 5 of our carry-ons into the airport. It is 11:04 as of right now and we will be boarding at 11:20. We should land in Seoul a little after 4 in the afternoon there. But don't stay up because it will be 2:30 in the morning your time. Talk to you again from the other side of the world!

Boarding the plane soon!

Ethan and I waiting at our gate

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How we did it (Korea International School website)

Luckily Stacy and I were meant for each other. When we flew to Boston for the international schools job fair which we found through International School Services (ISS), Stacy was sure we wouldn't find jobs. After a short talk, I managed to talk him into staying and experiencing this new job fair. We had originally determined Europe is where we were going to land jobs. The advice we kept hearing through the orientation was "keep an open mind." Basically, don't count out any place because it may be nothing like you anticipated. So that night we went back to the hotel and scoured the updated list of vacancies. I found KIS needed both math and a substitute. We researched it thoroughly and decided we would like to interview with KIS. We set up an interview with them and coincidentally they had already considered us for those positions. I failed to mention we had been in contact with KIS since November but at that time we were interested in the math and Spanish positions. On the 3rd day, we interviewed with KIS for an hour and a half. They offered us the positions on the spot and we accepted ON THE SPOT! Unbelievable as it may sound, we were thoroughly prepared to answer but didn't expect to actually have to. This happened in the second week of February and we have spent the last 5 months selling, packing, shipping, driving, visiting and stressing.

Stress comes from dealing with the shipping company, passports, visas and the various other paperwork that goes along with a move such as ours. Luckily, Stacy is the most detail oriented, organized person I know and has done a fantastic job!

It felt like this day would never come and suddenly we only have one day left in the US. We have approximately 38 1/2 hours before we board Korea Air.