Friday, November 30, 2007

Back in the US -- English!

It is so great to be back in the US and hear English spoken. I do have a strange sense of culture shock though. I can see a white person and not do a double-take. Going to a restaurant is actually easy. I can negotiate with people...That and I recognize all of the stores.

It is great to catch up with friends, seeing a friend from college randomly on the street (he just happened to get out of class and was headed home at the same time I was walking back towards my hotel, what are the odds?!?) Chicago is definitely the Windy City, was not quite prepared for the cold, I decided I need to get a new jacket…

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Exploding cell phone?!?

This news story came out yesterday, my first thought was that I was glad it wasn't a Samsung phone (no seriously I haven't drunk the Kool-aid that much)

The story actually gets more interesting though, a murder cover-up:

Friday, November 23, 2007

Vietnam for a long weekend (and a friend's 30th)

What a fiasco. After a week of running low on sleep, James coming in late on Monday, dinner with our client on Tuesday (and getting hammered by a cold on Tuesday morning), then packing on wednesday, it was not easy to drag myself to the airport yesterday afternoon. Getting to the airport and discovering that my ticket was for the following day didn't help. Not quite sure how that happened, but i worked it out with my travel agent (at not too much extra expense).

Strange thing in vietnam, no ATMs in the airport, so I had the taxi driver take me to an ATM (i know, i would NOT do this in other countries). But then out to a bunch of bars here, finally crashed out around 5 am. My body doesn't really knopw which way is up, but it is soooo happy to be in a warm climate! Also very cool to be with more of a certified local here, James can speak enough Vietnamese to get by, and he seems to know plenty of folks here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Keeping track of your work family

So I was in the office last week and one of my co-workers greeted me with a set of rice cakes/candy. It was as a celebration of his baby’s 1st birthday. The little traditions in the office are quite interesting. Every time you come back from a business trip (or vacation, Koreans seem to think of a business trip a lot like a vacation apparently) you are supposed to bring treats. Since so much of your life revolves around work, it is an interesting viewpoint of bringing your “family” presents.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thunder, Lightning, and Snow?

So it was quite a shock to look out the window and suddenly realize that it was snowing. I guess you could expect this, but after so much time in San Francisco (and the fact it was "only" the middle of November) I was not expecting such a scene. What made it more surreal though was to see both thunder and lightning from my living room at the same time.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


This weekend was a little more tame (and necessary). Friday was out with Haas folks, had the most amazing array sashimi. After eating everything from sea urchin roe to slabs of super fresh fish, I was a happy camper (and thought we were done). At that point the real stuff started to come out, blowfish, lobster, the most expensive parts of a tuna, which were cut in front of us by the chef! Of course we gave the chef a couple of shots of soju, i can only imagine how his night must have been if every table did that!

Saturday was much more chill, out with a few friends, chilled out near the Sommerset (my home for the first 32 days in Seoul). I went shopping at Namdemun market, finished a bulk of christmas shopping =) They have EVERYTHING at this market, from plates, to art work. to clothes, and even plants (and a gym where you can get great massages too). It is perpetually crowded but always an interesting experience...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Indoor rock climbing

I spend the better part two weekends trying to find an indoor gym over here. Closed on Sunday, and some were even closed on Saturday (or climbing outside I discovered). I finally found one that was only 30 minutes away. The people there are really friendly, and when I can, I go about once a week. Or such is the goal! I have to watch out for my tendonitis in my wrists. It is amazing what they manage to fit into a basement level 1-story gym. And most of these folks are good, I struggle to find the "beginner" areas! But the owner is great, he won't charge me half of the time, and has given me some valuable pointers about my climbing technique.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

It isn’t quite the bay, but...

My apartment looks out to the west, and I definitely spoiled sometimes with the sunset. Overall I am very happy with my apartment, the ex-pat package is pretty nice! Furnishing it was a bear, when you wish that you had an IKEA that says a lot. Korean sense of style is well, “different.” The couches can be similar to sitting on stone, so I searched and managed to find a store that imports some IKEA items: The name actually means foreigner (although the spelling could be done slightly differently, which might be a better idea ;) I love that the title of the page is: For better your life in Korea.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Is Korea Anti-Foreign?

I went to a lecture entitled "Is Korean Anti-Foreign" It was done by someone who had written a book called "The Koreans, who they are, what they want and where their future lies." It was an interesting take, he commented on stories of the Korean identity being centered around race, while other countries are focused on other issues (like the US is based on an idea of freedom, while European countries identity might be based on language) He also mentioned stories that while foreigners complain about experiences in Korea, they also speak extremely positively about the country. Korea attracts the most loyalty and also frustration. (His end conclusion was that Koreans are not anti-foreign, but in fact anti-Korean. In order to explain his whole argument would take too many blog entries!)

I will say though, I have heard Koreans as being described as the cowboys of Asia. And I feel my race much more acutely than I have before. Sitting in a cab with my friends who are Thai or Taiwanese, and they ALWAYS will look at them first (and even turn their back on me once at the airport). It makes you realize what you are used to growing up when you are in the majority.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Parks around Seoul

Seoul is really beautiful in the fall, with the leaves changing and the number of parks I went wandering around one with my friend Sunghee one Sunday. Around the palace, the leaves were all turning yellow, and even a few trees next to the office at work (although I swear they re-planted trees to make the office building have more colors when the leaves all fell off one tree).

Thursday, November 1, 2007

All Saint's Day -- Samsung Holiday

Not for the reason above, but instead it the anniversary of the founding of Samsung Electronics. A group of 4 of us headed to Soraksan, which is an area famous for the fall foliage. The first night, no thanks to my co-worker Gavin, we were all up until 3 am drinking. We definitely were moving slowly the next day, but we managed a little hike, and discovered why it was less crowded that weekend (it was COLD, and the wind was insane!) But so many colors of foliage, and we made the mistake of trying to hike up to a waterfall (turned out to be a trickle).

In the evening we went to a famous town on the sea which had amazing sea food. We had red snapper sashimi (we picked the fish from the fish tank), and sea urchin roe). Finally a brief stop at a hot springs (or public bath), that was the perfect end to the day!