Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Coffee Shops

I have FINALLY learned to like coffee! =) After 25 years of drinking nothing but hot chocolate (which I still love), I can finally enjoy a cup of coffee, too. Yes, yes, I still add lots of cream and sugar, or I'll go for a flavored latte or something, but I have come a long way from not liking any type of coffee whatsoever! In Korea, there seem to be coffee shops on just about every corner! In some places, you'll be able to spot several coffee shops all within a few steps of each other. I'm amazed at how many high-end coffee shops there are here (prices equivalent to Starbucks in the states). Some of them are chains (Angel-In-Us Coffee, Holly's Coffee, Tom n Tom's Coffee, etc), but others I've seen seem to be individually owned (Caffe Del Tren [Coffee Train], Coffee Tomato, etc). Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts are big over here, as well, so add those coffee shops into the mix and you can picture what I mean about coffee shops literally being everywhere here. I am just so happy that I am finally able to enjoy it with the rest of the world now =).

Coffee 2F & Strada Coffee

I snapped this picture above when Kyle and I were walking around Busan this past weekend. In the picture, you can see two nicer coffee shops side-by-side, and then there was another one directly across the street as I was taking this picture. Three coffee shops all together, but yet, they all seem to do very well and always be crowded with people! 

My favorite - I love the name!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Public Transportation

I had heard rumors of this being the case, but it's something that I didn't quite believe until I experienced it for myself. If you ride the subway, buses, trains, etc. in Korea, you have to get over your fear of people invading your "personal space." There is no such thing as a personal bubble when it comes to public transportation here. The saying, "packed in here like sardines," comes to mind every single time that I ride a bus or hop onto the subway. On top of being squished in with a ton of people, you have to learn to "land surf" as the drivers take quick turns, accelerate, and stomp on the breaks (to avoid hitting someone or something). To say that driving (or riding) is crazy a complete understatement, but it's always an adventure!

A couple days ago some friends and I decided to go to Seoul to hike a mountain.  We took a taxi to the train station, and then rode the train to Seoul. After we got off the train @ Seoul Station, we took the subway for three stops. Then we jumped on a city bus that took us to the bottom of the mountain. Four forms of public transportation later, we finally arrived. 

Hiking in Korea is an experience because Koreans are some of the best-dressed people in the world. Most Koreans wear name-brand hiking clothing, to include the "hiking sticks" that people use to climb with. North Face & Mountain Hardwear are two of the most popular brands I see people wearing here, but it's true that you will hardly ever see Koreans hiking in  old or "bummy clothes." ON TOP OF THAT, Koreans and Americans differ drastically on our outlook of the sun. Many Americans (myself included) spend a day outside hoping to get a little color, but the Koreans we passed were covered from head to toe -- to include visors, hats, neck covers, gloves, umbrellas, and long sleeves that were tucked into their gloves! Pale is considered beautiful here, and many will do anything they can to ensure their skin stays that way. So while my friends and I were hiking in tank-tops and short-sleeved shirts (it was 80 degrees!!!), the majority of the people we passed were covered from the top down. It's interesting to see the cultural differences...

Friday, May 11, 2012

New Friend

To start this thing off - I have a funny story that happened in Seoul last weekend I want to share. We spent the entire weekend in Seoul because we had our Quad A (Army Aviation Ball) Friday night. We had a blast at the ball, but then we spent Saturday & Sunday hanging out with friends and exploring the city. Saturday afternoon we came across a big festival called the "Seoul Friendship Fair 2012." Tons of different countries were represented in the fest, by having booths where they had traditional outfits, trinkets, & food from their countries. You could buy souvenirs to take home with you, or you could just look at the cool things that came from around the globe. Anyway, besides the booths, they had a stage where a "talent show" of events was being held; different singers, actors, dancers, kung-fu fighters, etc were being show-cased on stage, and these performers came from the different countries represented at this Friendship Fair. The guys were off looking for the Brazil booth so that they could buy margaritas, haha, while the girls sat on the lawn and watched some singers from Russia perform on stage. Not long after we sat down, a Chinese man (maybe around 30 years old?) came up to me and said very enthusiastically, "Hi Lady! Are you from the USA???" I told him yes, and he got a huge grin on his face and said "I guessed right!" as he plopped down beside me on the grass. He then proceeded to tell me that the next group performing was a group from Beijing, China -- and there would be dancers and Kung-fu fighters. He was ridiculously excited for them to come on stage, and he was holding his camera up so that he wouldn't miss a moment when they did. My friends and I all got a good giggle out of his excitement, but he was just trying to share it with someone. As soon as the dancers came onto the stage, our new friend jumped up and literally ran to the very front of the crowd so that he could record THE ENTIRE THING. We were cracking up. He was standing directly in front of the people who were sitting on the lawn trying to watch the performance, but our friend seemed to be oblivious to this. As soon as the performance was complete (kung-fu & all), our new friend RAN back over to my group of friends as he shouted, "WASN'T THAT SPLENDID?!?!?" Trying to hold back my laughter, I assured him that the dancers performed beautifully! The dancers WERE beautiful, but it was just so funny how excited this guy got over his country's performance. It was cute & it makes me smile when I think back on it. :)