Monday, March 31, 2008

Raw meat + Raw egg = NOT happy Michelle

Went out for bibimbap tonight with Michelle, or at least that was the attempt. Apparently when the picture has raw beef, they mean raw beef. Needless to say, Michelle's craving of bibimbap was not exactly satisfied when she saw both raw beef and raw egg in a bowl with rice. It was fantastic, even with Michelle's attempt to put it on the BBQ. One more very Korean experience for her (and perhaps better than the stinky tofu that she made me eat in Taipei ;)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Vanilla Extract!

Okay, so the little things in Seoul really make you happy. After some great Italian food for "brunch" and a fantastic strawberry tiramisu, Michelle and I headed to the "foreigner" supermarket. After about 3 weeks of searching, we finally found vanilla extract! We went wild in the store and then proceeded to go shopping elsewhere. Needless to say, my bank account is much lower, but I have enough food to last for at least a few weeks (and too much for one of the shelves in my kitchen apparently as well). Last night we made lemon zucchini bread, which was great. It was made in a silicon pan (never seen these before, but it implies that pamela anderson can bake a park of herself without melting). The coolest thing though, so easy to clean up!

Action packed weekend

Saturday started out with Hot Yoga (the room is about 80-90 degrees, and the poses are easier, but you come out completely drenched in sweat after 45 minutes). At night we went out to Itaewon to see a couple of friends of mine (who are a couple), and had a great dinner and met one of their neighbors, a German guy working for GM/Daewoo, and later an Australian working for Credit Suisse. Needless to say, the foreigners are a fairly tight-knit group in Seoul and a lot of them are really interesting world travelers. We ended the night listening to Jazz at a place called Club Evans, some really good music!

Sunday it all started again with Michelle introducing me to pilates. I feel like I am learning to be a ballet dancer with some of the poses, but I am interested in trying out more pilates and varying my workouts since my injuries have not decreased as much as I would have preferred. Of course it doesn’t help with the dress shoes, or Cigna not reimbursing my medical expenses…So I am back to square one and looking into new options like Chigong and Pilates and the herb market in Seoul which I will hopefully go to the in next couple of weeks.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Final presentation done

Only an hour and 45 minutes delayed (and we were lucky). Project went well, and was well received. Very different than other presentations (questions were asked in the middle of the presentation, which is almost unheard of in Korea). It was a great first project on Mobile phones though, and my next project will also be in the same space, just a different topic. The clients have high expectations, but my powerpoint and logic skills definitely both improved on this project, and I like the space. There is so much going on here, and the market moves so quickly, that I am always learning a lot about the space and what both Samsung and competitors are doing.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sunny Suwon

So Suwon is where Samsung Electronics is headquartered, a 30-60 minute drive depending on traffic. Yesterday was a BEAUTIFUL sunny day, and I relished my moments of standing outside. For the most part though, that commute and being in Suwon is a blessing and a curse for most folks in Samsung. The interesting work is done there, but the commute from Seoul isn't easy (ie I would go from being able to get up at 8 to having to be at work at 8, which means getting up closer to 6 am). The added funny bonus is that teams are called "cells" down there. I understand the biological reason for this, but the connotation might not be exactly what they want...Needless to say, I will let everyone know what cell I end up in if I transfer down there ;)

Saying of the day

You would think that the saying of the day on our phones (for those people over here that have the pets on our phones (yes, i have a virtual dog named Sparky). Yesterday's saying (for me, and my two co-workers was "Today will bring you sickness and anguish" Huh? Normally the sayings are positive, but I have seen one or two others like this, including ones that say "Don't make any business decisions today because luck is not with you" and that sort of thing. Who writes these things???

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I miss US movies!

As much fun as it can be to think about downloading movies over the internet, I miss having a Blockbuster nearby. I have a list of 4 or 5 movies I want to watch, and I can’t seem to find them anywhere! I finally found one of them “Chinatown” the other day, but I am not willing to drop US prices on a movie I just wanted to rent once! Add to that I don’t want to buy a movie and realize later it has been dubbed over in Korean!

And in another wonderful realization, my DVD player only plays in black and white. I don’t understand it! It is potentially because of the “region” that my DVD player is set to (I blame the DVD makers for this and bad business practices). Needless to say, I have now bought a cable to connect my computer to my TV (which is awesome, the slide shows I can create) So I now can watch my movies in color!

Hot Yoga

Michelle found a Hot Yoga place right down the street from me. It was my first yoga class since Ogilvy (the company used to have them once a week). Our teacher's name was Bambie, and outside of a few poses (or advanced moves), the class was really good. It is funny to be the only male in the class, I managed to sneak in late though, so no giggles (or none that I heard at least). It is always interesting though, showering in the end, and a guy comes in and starts doing pushups in the shower. (The Korean men also seem to like to do pushups in the sauna and steam room at my gym, I don't fully understand, but...)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Do not try this at the theatre

I went to Jump, one of the most popular shows started in Korea (“Cooking” is another one). Almost all of the show was silent (or noises, and not specifically Korean, so I could understand by reading the plot summary and seeing facial/body expressions). What I did not expect however was to be pulled up on stage. Seeing all of the examples of TV shows when an audience member gets brought up stage, I realized I would look pretty stupid no matter what, the goal was simply to limit the damage. It all started innocuously, “do the same thing the other guy is doing” Kick with your left foot. Okay, I can do this. Then. Then, then, then. Forward somersault to a backwards somersault and then up to a handstand and back to your feet. Right. I turned to the man who had dragged me on stage. WHAT? “Go ahead” I laughed, then raised my eyebrows. They weren’t kidding. “Here goes” Let me say that the forward somersault surprised them. The crowd was not expecting that. But apparently you need to use momentum to do the backward somersault. I got stuck, and my neck reminded me for several days that I got stuck. So much for looking somewhat coordinated. Gotta say though, my first time on stage, and I had a blast at the show.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The ability to keep a straight face

Is not so good when one of the members of your party decides to ask the waitress what a blowjob is (one of the drinks on the menu). I lasted about 15 seconds before losing my composure, but my back was towards the waitress for a reason, allowing the questioning to continue. “Okay, I understand what the drink is, but what does the word mean” The sheepish waitress finally had to concede, “you should look it up online at home, I can’t tell you here.”

Haas reunion

One of my classmates from Haas who works for Samsung in San Jose came over to Korea for about 5 days. It was great to chill with him over the weekend, and hear about the latest from his end. Add to that, we managed to get a couple of others out from our class, and there were 5 of us total at a bar in Itaewon. I miss the b-school groups, so many smart folks who challenge you and are also fun to drink with. At least I have a few of them over here, even if most of them stayed in the bay area!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Michelle the sharpshooter

So I have decided to not let Michelle near a real gun. She is too good. We went and played a number of amusement park-like games. We won a little Snoopy at a dart game, and then we went to the shooting range for target practice. Once the manager showed her how to use it (we used most of a clip without hitting ANYTHING), she cleaned out almost everything, missing only once. And as a follow-up two weeks later, she missed only once out of about 20-25 shots!

Fun with China

So I just saw a t-shirt I think I need to get:

I might not want to wear this when I am in Beijing for the Olympics, but I still am very inclined to get it (and no, i have not yet eaten dog, or at least not to my knowledge). Thankfully the Koreans seem to be more dog-friendly in that sense. It is funny though, when I am asked if I want "dok," it definitely makes me wonder. The Korean pronunciation of "dog", "duck" and "dok" (korean rice treat) are all too similar. Each time they have been referring to duck though...

All of that said, China definitely makes our life interesting here in March/April and maybe part of May. Dealing with yellow dust storms, that are at least blamed on China (I have to wonder at times though, since South Korea also industrialized pretty quickly). Still, you are not supposed to exercise outdoors, have windows open, or even wear contacts on days that the yellow dust warning is high!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Some things just don’t get old

Shangria. Yup, the good old Spanish drink made from wine and oranges. Fantastic “shangria” at one of my favorite places in Seoul. It is more a question of what misspellings will occur. I am still looking for the seafood place with “fried crap.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

YouTube launch party

YouTube had a launch party at one of the hot clubs in Seoul on Wednesday night. One of the first times I have been a VIP at a party like this! The founder was there, unfortunately I did not get to meet him, but Michelle apparently talked to him for a while in Chinese! Add to that, I recognized a Haas 2006 graduate, who happened to be here from Beijing, what are the odds?

Unfortunately they ran out of beer too quickly, so it was either Jaegermeister shots, or water. I decided against the water, twice...We may have been photographed by the local media, clowning around outside the party "oh my god, is that Jeremy?!?" One of my co-workers was pretending to be famous, and when Michelle ran up to get a picture with him, we saw some professional photographers also taking pictures.

Needless to say, it was a great Wednesday night, and Michelle managed to make the most of the time difference and celebrate her birthday two days in a row!

Tip for foreigners: say you like Kimchi

Koreans love Korea. And that means EVERYTHING in Korea. So we learned quickly, you are not allowed to speak negatively about anything in Korea. When I mention that I struggle with how people push and shove on the subway, people apologize for the next 20 minutes about Koreans. It is like you are insulting your co-workers behavior! Apparently my co-workers came and apologized to the foreigners because of the Korean who went AWOL in Virgina Tech. So the lesson here? If you are asked if you like Kimchi (the “wonderful” fermented cabbage), say yes, otherwise they will think you don’t like Korea or Koreans.

Flat Stanley

I received an email from my cousin about a project for his son’s . If you haven’t heard of this, it is a school project where you have people traveling take pictures with “Flat Stanley” who is on a piece a paper (a chalkboard fell on him, so he is able to travel very easily). So we took him to temples, frozen yogurt places, and introduced him to a new friend, a stuffed animal called “Peeping Tom.” We called him over here, “Frat Stanree” based on the Asian heritage. (I know, we shouldn’t have, but it is funny! And we didn’t change his name when I sent him back to my cousin).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A western appliance!

An oven, I can bake finally! (or at least Michelle can, since I have been running around too much to find the time…) It took a few months to get this (and negotiations, since there were a few things with my real estate agent that I had been hoping for. First he bought me a microwave (apparently I wasn’t clear on “oven” and the 10 other sentences about “baking”). But hopefully Michelle calmed things down when she baked him a loaf of apple-ginger bread. I was the happy recipient of the other loaf, which was shared with none of my co-workers (yes it was very good =)

I did not do this

I know who did, but I will not toss anyone under the bus. Still though, my poor stuffed animals have been violated!

T-shirts i need to get

This site is perfect for many ex-pats living here:

The meanings are explained on the page describing the t-shirts. I am going to have my own made later, saying "I am not an English teacher" in Korean. Still, I will very likely have a few of these t-shirts next time I come back to the states!

Monday, March 10, 2008

What I don’t like about living in a city

Flakes. And I can be just as bad, I know! But I remember life in NYC, and there was always so much going on, you never were able to pin anyone down. I joked with Michelle, “I haven’t seen this many flakes since the snowstorm in Spain.” We can always find things to do on the weekend, but trying to organize some things works beautiful on one weekend and the next it is a ghost town! Unfortunately cell phones do make it worse, because you figure if you flake, or show up late, you can always call. It does crack me up when you are in another country and you don’t have a cell phone, and you wonder “how did we ever meet people or survive before these things?”

Pushing in subways

New stories of fun! Found out from one of my friends that she missed her stop because a group of young kids created a football line in order to get in the train. Funny thing, the train was full, so they wanted to ensure they got on, but wouldn't it have been easier to let people off first?

Apparently one of the reasons they have no issues bumping into you involves the fact that you don't exist unless they have been introduced to you. It is akin to bumping into a wall. Needless to say, this wall has been sharpening his elbows ;) I have joked with friends that I am not sure I will get used to the subways. Apparently though, you get over that in a few more months.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Seeing a traditional Korean house

One of my colleagues lives in a traditional Korean house, a guest house on a property that is 200 years old. It was a beautiful place, and there is even a guide book for the whole complex. How cool is that? "If you want to learn about my house, here, read this handy pamphlet" I am typically just happy with posting some images of my home online, this definitely beats that!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Just try to get a table

Brunch with friends, watching the dynamics for actually getting a table. When they gave away our table (we were actually waiting in the restaurant, and it was a table for 4, and there was one Korean woman sitting there). Needless to say, that didn't go over well, especially with the member of our group who could speak Korean fluently, being the fact she is Korean-American. So they realize they screwed up, and negotiations ensued. They attempted to bribe us with fresh cookies (which we appreciated), but our leader was NOT appeased. Needless to say we were seated in the next 5 minutes.

Tough medicine to swallow

I have decided that I need to take a break from the Korean medicine (which continues to be one of the most brutal tasting stuff ever!) Add to all of this having issues with Cigna, which is choosing to selectively cover members of our group (I won't start venting, or so I tell myself, even though they have no problems rejecting certain claims, but they can't set up an Electronic funds transfer in 4 months).

Friday, March 7, 2008

Maroon 5 in Seoul!

So my ear drums are still recovering from the screaming little girls. The fan base was closer to young teenagers here than in comparison to the US, and the decibel level was not helped every time the lead singer decided to practice his Korean (saying "I love you" in Korean for example), the pitch went up (potentially to levels only a dog could here).

They were great in concert though, and after a snafu on getting in (a group in front of us literally pushed the small Korean in front of the door out of the way and rushed inside), we managed to stand 20-30 feet from the stage!