Sunday, January 27, 2008

I am not an English teacher

Have decided that this is a shirt I need to create. (The front will say "I am not an English teacher" and the back will say "I am not in the military") Apparently there is a man that sells "I am not American" in Itaewon, one of the main foreigner areas, mainly for the many Caucasians who are mistaken for Americans. Many of my Asian (but not Korean) friends would probably want a t-shirt that says I am not Korean. Nothing like being judged by the color of your skin...

I feel like Epimetheus

So yesterday was full of errands (including being about 20 minutes late to physical therapy (learned this doesn't go over well as it cut into their lunch time, which is a calm and relaxing time for me. Won't be scheduling a noon appointment again!) So I bought a cell phone for my guests, and after all of this time negotiating, i realized that I wanted a different cell phone. For anyone who doesn't know the story of Epimetheus, he was someone who always realized things in hindsight (he opened Pandora's box as well, but the analogy does not go that far). I realized i wanted a more Korean cell phone (ironically made by a competitor), since if I have guests coming, I would prefer for them to have an amusing one instead. Still working on configuring it with an avatar, but the English menus are not always the easiest to figure out!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Stay away from the Hos (bars that is)

Saturday involved heading to the college area of Seoul, Hongdae. Dinner with a couple of friends, and the group slowly increased until we finally decided we needed to go out to a bar. We checked out Ho Bar IV (full), and Ho Bar II (only open table was next to the speaker). We sat down at Ho Bar II, were quickly told to take the jacket one friend had put on the speaker, and then quickly retreated from the bar when they started playing hard rock. I would like to keep my eardrums thank you!

Then the group went to another random place (partially to get out of the cold), and they asked how many people, I responded in korean, THAT got a reaction let me tell you! Someone had the "brilliant" idea of a whiskey shot, that didn't go over well with most of the group...Then off to another place that had about 4 people in it total (we doubt it will be around long), but we had fun drinking beers, and playing with the drums they had there. Crashed out at 4 am?!?!? I told everyone it would be a chill night, and i guess it was, but a little too long!!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hangover Soup at work

Busy day, meetings in two different locations (first one 1 hour away from Seoul, and then the 2nd one across the city, with two different clients). Good stuff, but then to have an hour of Korean class after all of that. Add to that, it being brutally cold (ears practically falling off this morning). Dinner with a friend, trying to learn more Korean, which helped definitely. The highlight of the day though was the menu at lunch for Suwon. Spicy beef hangover soup (this is a company cafeteria), and Bean Curd Residue Stew. Classic, wish I had a camera, but those are not allowed in the company due to any concerns about information (potentially confidential) getting out. It means that even my iPod needs to be taped up in case i walk out with documents on my shuffle...)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bus of Seoul

What a trip. Took the Seoul Bus out skiing yesterday with my friend Tony yesterday. On the way, the bus had rainbow colored lights, and on the way back, some of the best curtains from the 70s. The actual organizer of the trip, Gavin, got a last-minute ear infection, so we got on the bus without knowing too many details, including how to exactly get to the place we were staying. We made sure to send Gavin several texts, reminding him how we were doing. The texts were not appreciated.

Skiing reminded me of my childhood days (ie slopes that were listed as advanced and expert, but in reality would barely be intermediate at a big resort in Europe or out west in the states). Ski patrol all over the trail (I probably got whistled at a few times for skiing too fast, but...) Stayed at a Korean hostel, and managed to find some trails without too many crowds (the last trail down was chaos though, dodging people left and right!) And most random of all, we ran into a group of Thai people chilling out there last night. I still don't get why they would come to Korea to go skiing (or the woman we met from Swaziland for that matter I suppose). Another cultural experience though, that is for sure!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Speaking a little Korean does not mean fluent

So this happens to me every once and a while. I speak a bit of Korean, and then the floodgates open. During my physical therapy, I will speak the occasional word, and she will respond with about 20 sentences of Korean (all specific to my injury). After I stare back with a look of no comprehension for about 5 seconds she will explain in English. I swear though, it happens EVERY time. Maybe she thinks that I will retain what she said before. But in order to do that, I need to be able to actually pick out words (that is what was unfair about going to Japan, I could actually separate words, even if I did not understand their meaning!)

On the physical therapy side, turns out that my back is weaker than the average for my age. Was NOT expecting that one. Especially not after all of the core work that I had done. But I guess that is what the corporate world and rowing will do to you!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Where is the warm weather?

The Bay spoiled me. It is COLD over here! Add to that my vacations happen to have been to Boston, Northern Japan, and Northern Spain. Perhaps I could have chosen better in terms of warm places (other than Vietnam in November). And right about when it is warm enough to stay in Korea, I decide to take a vacation to Hawaii. Huh?

Monday, January 14, 2008

New Tourist Spot! Engagement site

This is classic. Koreans like to do things the same (almost everyone gets married in a wedding hall), and now the government is hoping that they will get engaged in the same place.

Korean sense of space

Koreans really do have an interesting sense of space. Standing in a subway, good luck with getting people to not bump into you (or apologize for bumping into you). On the road, cars cut each other off with abandon (there might be more accidents, but traffic moves so slowly here). Which may make things interesting, given that there is discussion about going skiing this weekend or the next. How Koreans handle sense of space on a ski slope may be another interesting cultural experience!

1.5 hours to get to a Korean restaurant

...a restaurant that wasn't even that good. But this is normal. When people travel from the US, they tend to eat things that are "local" cuisine. That does not exactly translate here. Why? Because Koreans will drive an hour and half or more to get Korean food, even if it is in a major international city with good cuisine. It does make you wonder, since the goal is a globalized company, right? Or just globalized sales? From everything I have heard, that is one of the challenges of many Korean companies, and the food is an example. Yet, how is it that you can expect to design products for local economies if you don't experience them? They do though, Koreans travel, and their experience definitely involves the local economies, or the duty-free economies at least…

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Memories of 1,000 corn dogs

I have been having a discussion with a friend of mine over here involving the vast amounts of chicken in my apartment. I needed a bit of food for a few folks coming over to my apartment. She was given the unfortunate role of helping me (because she speaks fluent Korean). Apparently the amount of chicken needed was enough to feed 10 people for a week. Okay perhaps an exaggeration, but still I could easily eat chicken for the next 10 days. It reminded me of National Corn Dog day last year, and business school classmates asking for enough corn dogs for 60 people (which was a high estimate). 1,000 corn dogs arrived a few days later...Thankfully I just have 10 extra boxes off fried and bbq chicken (ie it fits into my refrigerator, unlike the vast numbers of corn dogs.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The world of mobile phones

My second project focused on another area of Samsung, the mobile phone business. I had no idea the number of players in the industry and the challenges. Each day I learn something more about the industry, the more I realize that I don't know! Every single country, multiple carriers, and every phone company has about 100 different models!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sick day (sort of)

I think I learned a lesson the hard way yesterday, careful of how much garlic fried chicken you eat. As I woke up this morning around 6 am with the worst stomach ache I had in years! (Or at least since I had food poisoning in Bali in December 2006). Needless to say I was pretty much useless at work, we had interviews scheduled with the ad agency over here for half of the day, I sat curled up in a chair half listening (that and I missed the first two). I also managed to half listen to the new project announcements. It is classic, we all joke around with each other that we know exactly what project we will get placed on. And given that we have only been here 3 months, our level of choice is a little low. But hopefully some good stuff, I should know by next week what my next assignment will be, fingers crossed! My stomach is crossed too, but that won't last too much longer (or at least I hope not!)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Ho Bar

A night out in the college town with a few friends from work. The signs over there were memorable to say the least. Italian Pub, since 1992. Jazz and Old Music Bar. And my favorite, the Ho Bar. Managed to find a music club, which was a dance club (not exactly the live music we were expecting), but quite a scene. Foreigners (ie people like me) out in full-force, maybe 10 or 20 of them in the bar! Add to that I witnessed my first PDA (a couple actually making out in the bar!) followed by a post-PDA smoke of course.