Thursday, July 31, 2008

Talk about fortuitous

I went out to lunch with a co-worker the other day and it started to rain while at lunch. He saw a co-worker (but not even someone he knew well) in a car, and we managed to get a ride back (it was pouring and it would have been a 10 minute walk). Talk about great luck! The only downside is that it really has rained for the better part of the past 2 weeks (almost the whole time my aunt was here, she left yesterday). Definitely a bummer, but we made the most of the rain and the muggy weather.

Not enforcing the law

So apparently someone was in a car service and the car just drove in the newly created bus lane. “Isn’t that supposed to be a bus-only lane?” Yes, but they are not enforcing it for the first month to let people get used to it. Huh? "Isn’t that like making robbing a bank illegal but not prosecuting?" one of my co-workers asked.

On another note of consistency, I have to go through some hoops to eat meals (due to my employee status, which is a whole other story). There are about 5 cafeterias on the Samsung campus, and one has Indian food (which is a welcome break 1-2 days a week). Unfortunately, they have different systems. The catering company? The same. BUT different teams run each one, so a card that works at one, doesn’t work at the other. Somehow they have managed to figure it out for Samsung employees though, so I don’t really get it…

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Two good signs

One from Germany (the words Fur and Die in the same sentence crack me up), and a great menu item "Beer with Knead Flour", aka Fried Eggplant)

Not bad for a half day

When I woke up at 3 am this morning, I was worried. Oh boy, jet lag all over again, this will be a long day. I lay back down, and then turned over after what appeared to be a little more sleep. 11:30 am?!?! How did that happen? Needless to say I think my body wanted to recharge. That meant less time to show my aunt around Seoul, but we definitely made the most of it. First eating a famous ginger chicken soup, and then running a small errand (prescription sunglasses), we headed to the show Nanta (Cooking in the rest of the world, it has been on Broadway and done a number of tours). It turned out we had two hours before the show, and so we explored the neighborhood.

First stop was a local palace (which was across the street from us, and the only palace in Seoul my aunt had not seen!) Turns out they were shooting a Korean movie inside (and so we got a few pictures, and may have accidentally wandered into the picture once or twice. The other funny element was watching the actors take pictures of themselves with their camera phones. Afterwards we went into the Korean History museum for a quick tour and then back to see the show.

We sat in the front row of the show (and I had learned what this meant). Halfway through I was pulled up on stage to be an audience volunteer. While Didi, my aunt, could not get my camera to work, she managed to get the person behind me to take a photo of me exiting the stage. Apparently I was doing a good job of getting the crowd into it (it was a “dumpling making” competition between the blue and red team, and we won!)

Afterwards we went to dinner in Itaewon, a great Greek place, with a couple of friends, including a friend’s son (who is in high school and rows). A great way to end the day. Not bad for half of a day, right?

Friday, July 25, 2008

When to just take a chill

So I was running around like crazy trying to deal with a few little things on my end for a marketing campaign, worried about timing, worried about getting it wrong, and trying to negotiate between parties on different continents. And add to that jet lag and my traveling. Not an easy situation, and it helped that today my saying of the day from the game My Pet (on my phone) was: "please remember that however urgent it might seem, delaying an action might be advantageous." True words, and much better than the saying involving "anguish and misery" These quotes for the most part are cheesy, but this one was pretty accurate for today!

Apparently learning Korean is important

This came up in an email from the head of our group, and they are putting forward new ways to provide Korean class. And it might even include incentives for those who improve the most. Now granted, that can't be the only reason, but I am realizing that my Korean ability has slowed down A LOT. So I need start studying a little more (if i can find any free time!) But it helped that i was actually able to communicate and change my acupuncture appointment today (all in Korean!) Now on the flip side, my favorite new sign today: "Dental and human space" I need to get a picture of that!

Umbrella traffic jam

So I managed to return to Korea for the one portion when the rain had stopped, and when I was at my acupuncture appointment, it decided to start again, HARD. So after getting them to call me a cab that decided to never show up, they lent me an umbrella. And there were so many people in one area of the street that I actually couldn't walk. A definite first, a traffic jam due to umbrellas...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A whirlwind trip to Europe

So many of my co-workers from the strategy group didn't really seem to think about it when they saw me on both Monday morning and Friday afternoon this week. After all, they are not used to seeing me as much any more with my commute to a much further away location. But this week was definitely different, 3 days in Europe, a full whirlwind tour! With a few challenges (something about the internet in London, internet cafes closing down, getting up at 4 am...needless to say I wanted to redo Monday). But Tuesday/Wednesday and Thursday were better from a work perspective. Of course I also got to see a bunch of friends on Monday night in London, and that was definitely great! The only downside was my body not cooperating in terms of sleep. Waking up at 4 am, oh boy this will be a long day! When they come up with a legitimate cure for jet lag, then i will be impressed!

Then Wednesday and Thursday were in Frankfurt for an internal marketing conference. I woke up to the plane landing, and let me tell you, THAT was an experience (the take-off as well actually). A sense of cultural shock all over again when I am in a foreign country and cannot speak a bit of the language. Except knowing that "ausfahrt" means exit (and also looks really funny as a word). Overall, it was great to meet colleagues from all over. Sweden, Turkey, LA, France, Canada. The first day I met about 20 people (and proceeded to forget 17 of the names...All very interesting people and a lot of fun to talk with. I definitely now feel split between three continents of course, with friends and family in one, half of my work in another, and the final half in a third continent!

And one of the most entertaining things was the cab ride back to the airport, where our cab driver was talking about Korea (and how the two should re-unite). I mentioned the challenges of east and west Germany when they re-united and the Koreans being scared, especially after the financial challenges 10 years ago (which westerners call "the Asian financial crisis" and here they call "The IMF crisis"). Needless to say this turned into a 20 minute discussion about how Korea is better prepared (and that North Korea has a lot more to bring to the table, from natural resources to military strength). Turns out he used to be a teacher, and the conversation was fascinating (and too funny!)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Apparently I am a creature of habit

I went to the grocery store today, and on my way to the meat department, one of the people who works there just picked up one of the pork products. Something that is a mixture between bacon and pork, and one of my favorites. By favorites, i mean I eat it at least 2-3 times a week. I felt like Norm in Cheers. "Yup, the usual" Just Korean style.

A weekend of rain

Finally the weekend arrived and I had it pretty open to spend most of the time with my aunt. And wouldn't you know it, it rained almost the whole weekend! Apparently something related to a monsoon in Taiwan, but all I know is that walking around Seoul was not quite the same (pouring rain and very, very muggy!) But we made the most of it, going around Namdemun market (she bought pottery), brunch in Itaewon with friends (and later shopping for some Korean furniture which she bought), wandering around Samcheon-dong and Insadong (and of course running into random friends all along the way). A great weekend, even if not fully intentional. The one funny story to relate? Apparently a friend was up in Namsan tower (which overlooks most of Seoul) with a friend of her's, and the weather changed, and it was just amazingly gorgeous. Without a camera, her friend ran to buy a disposable, and brought it back just in time to see the weather change again...sigh.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

European business trip

So next week I am off to London and Germany, which would be awesome, the bummer is that happens to be during the time my aunt is visiting =( She is here for about 15 days, and a portion of that I will be away. But I have a feeling she will be able to keep herself entertained, since she is used to traveling on her own. At the very least I can show her around on the weekends, and comfortable accommodations. It helps that she has made friends almost every place she has gone, and my friends and co-workers have provided numbers for her to call in case she gets into trouble. It really is one of the amazingly nice sides of Korea, which makes me very happy!

Friday, July 18, 2008

What is wrong with my left side?

Now this was annoying. At the mud festival one of the interns was tossed into me, and that definitely hurt my neck a lot (more on the left side). Since then both a canker and a stye on the left side (if you don't know what these are, be glad!) Can I replace this side? Now if the left side of your brain stands for the logical side, what is that implying? That the logic is broken in Korea?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I got an email the other day including that word (it was about a reservation). You know the kicker? It wasn't even a korean that wrote that! It wasn't a native speaker though either, or if so, it was someone from Shakespeare's time ;)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cameras everywhere

If you could capture every moment, would you? are we capturing too much of life now? what about personal space? what about copyright? if you take a photo, does that mean you own it? what if your family member or friend (or random person in a tiny bit in the background doesn't want to give the rights away? the whole thing about who owns what is interesting when it comes to photography. just random musings from someone who has gotten really into photography recently, from photobooks on to publishing some photos in Everywhere Magazine.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mud festival

Words can only do so much to describe this experience. They cart in mud and the whole day is spent finding ways to get it on and off. I think there may be health benefits, but for the most part we were just dirty. Very dirty. And I felt like I was back in high school. A 3 hour bus ride to go to this town (on the seashore), and we started out slow. Lunch. One of the co-workers unfortunately decided this was a good time to start with soju and beer (11 am mind you). It went downhill rapidly. We went from there to the mud pit, and then down the mudslide. And all of the while, we had several groups of co-workers, some trying to meet girls, and one who was just trying to give everyone a hug (especially those not covered in mud). I have never seen people run so fast. Meanwhile the soju kept flowing, and we had a few moments that were not highlights. But all of the interns that we took on this trip said it was one of the most fun experiences they had so far (definitely more entertaining than the temple stay with buddhist monks apparently). And I think they also made it on to Korean TV!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Team workshop, aka wine tasting

When you are asked what your Friday afternoon schedule is here, you typically worry. Why? I don't want a meeting at 5 or 6 pm...Turns out we had a team off-site for wine tasting. And they poured 6 healthy samples of wine (my body may not have liked that so much the next day, but it was great at the time). I can't say I learned that much (mainly for the reasons that the wine course was in Korean), but the company was great, and we had about 5-6 hours of relaxing and talking.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lack of oversight

Power cord next to the water overflow at work. Whoops. Either that or be careful if you are on HR's list, maybe they have a button. I swear on some mornings I do feel like big brother is watching you. They have security people to check your badge, check to see if your mp3 player has a sticker on it, etc. And I got in trouble the other morning, apparently I wanted to use the "wrong" security device to prevent me from transferring anything on to my mp3 player. That led to a call to one of my co-workers (even though I provided MY cell phone number).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Even if you win the rat race, you are still a rat

Ever wonder about the rat race? reading interesting stuff about humans pushing themselves as far away from nature as possible, and part of me wonders, WHY? why do we coop ourselves up in cubicles? It does provide me with envy about the coaches who are outside all day. And you know the funny thing, we make more money, why? so we can get in another totally unnatural thing (the airplane) to spend time in other air conditioned buildings...okay that is overly dramatic, but it is amazing how much time we spend away from nature. and at times you are reminded, life isn't about selling more of a product, or building the latest gadget, not life in the non-human sense...but it is our version of reality, and I am making the most of it (or so I am told ;)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Could have done without that

You know when you have a day where it seems like everything breaks? my knife broke while cutting a too frozen ham, my home theatre no longer works, and i still can't get reimbursed from my stupid insurance company!??! then the next day you manage to miss the elevator, miss the bus you want, and then show up a couple of minutes later than you want...not ideal. i managed to make the bus today, and then also managed to spill my tea all over my desk. thankfully very few casualties this time (not the case when it happened 4 months ago...)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Daily workouts, plus sauna, sooo needed!

Nice to go to the gym, my back and body has been sore. i am worried about getting older, since my body definitely has not healed, maybe the daily commute, the lack of concern for office chairs that are comfortable, etc isn't helping. korean buses aren't big enough, and people don't exactly provide much room with their shoulders...but all i know is that my back has had a few more spasms or pain recently. i need to find an acupuncturist around here (or get on my co-workers case about that...)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A weekend in Tokyo

It happened to be July 4th in the states (they don't celebrate that here), and Michelle flew in for the weekend (this was a long trip, and she gets massive props for flying that far!) The weekend was packed, with first hitting a nice sushi restaurant (where the chefs got REALLY into it, and would shout "Welcome!" and "Thank you!" to every person entering or leaving the restaurant. A nice romantic dinner this was not. But the food (Michelle had good sea urchin roe for the first time and loved it) and the atmosphere had their own charm. Definitely worth returning to.

At night was off to Roppongi, and just check out the scene. We walked down one alley, and I finally turned to Michelle, "should we be concerned that I have not seen ONE couple on this street? ALL men. Yeah, i think these weren't the right kind of establishments...

The next day we toured around Asakusa, where there is more of an older flavor of Tokyo (including a couple of nice temples). The weather became dramatically hot that weekend (and has stayed that way since), so we did our best to stay in the shade.

That afternoon we headed out to Isehara, where my host family lives (I stayed with them starting in 1995 and I hadn't seen my host parents in 11 years!) I saw my host sister's baby boy, who was adorable! When eating pudding, Michelle asked him if it was good in Japanese. We took his grunt to be postive. Then we went briefly to the Tanabata festival (or Star festival), filled with street food, banners, and games. Michelle managed to win a bunch of fish in a game (we left those in Japan with my host family). It was such a nice day, so great to see them and practice my Japanese, and they had traditional wear for both Michelle and I to wear (they gave her a kimono!)

That night was a fantastic restaurant with my host family, owned by the cousin of the director of Totoro (a famous Japanese movie for children, which is why I watched it about 2 months ago). We ate about 15 courses, and we also got to make Mochi, which involves pounding rice. They had a whole set of outfits to wear and drums in the background.

The last day flew by too quickly, more of a relaxing day wandering around our hotel (which was a fantastic place, Royal Park Shiodome). My host family had been really sweet by sending us fruit the first night we arrived. That fruit was actually a godsend, since I had my reservation on the wrong weekend (long story), and my host family informed me of that before I went on the trip!

We sampled some great lunch places around the hotel, I finally bough a Kendama (Japanese toy that I have been trying to find a new one for a while). There were plenty more adventures to be had in Tokyo, but not enough weekend. A great break though all told!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

10:30 is an early night

...and i am running on a sleep deficit every day. It takes its toll, including a cold last week...I can't complain though, I might be tired at work, but there is more than enough to do that I barely notice when the day is over. Working until 7-7:30, of course the hour bus ride home is a little harder, but I like the similarities with advertising and realizing that i can't predict any given day and what will come up. I do miss sunlight (A LOT), Koreans on the whole I think like to keep window shades down. I don't get it, but it is the way it works (even in their college days i guess). I mean, if i am hungover i am all for no direct sunlight either, so maybe we can blame this on too many nights out with colleagues...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A gift for my "teaching"

Now this one is cool =) Every one of us that helped at the Samsung development center (learning institution for the best of the best of Samsung's next generation of leaders...) It is now my profile picture in the Samsung directory. Speaking of the directory, one of the funniest things that I have seen, anyone who was in my address book before but left the company is listed as "Retired" I wonder what that implies?