Sunday, July 12, 2009

Starcraft TV Is Real!

Kyeonghi and I finally made our long-awaited trip home last month. After handing the keys to Tom, one of the fine new friends we've made here in Buffalo, he dropped us off at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, and we boarded a plane for Atlanta. In Atlanta, I gave Brent a call, so that someone in Knoxville would know we were heading out of the States. Apparently Eleanor remembers us well enough to say "Bernard and Kyeonghi come here now!" or something like that. I thought that was cute! I was a little surprised since she wasn't exactly putting together whole sentences when I was still in Knoxville. I hope she still remembers us when we visit, which will be someday soon I hope.

Anyways, after that little interlude, we got on a plane for a 17-hour flight to South Korea, during which I got to catch up on all the types of movies I never bother to see when I'm on solid ground. My 10-second reviews:

Gran Torino: Laugh-out-loud funny until the female lead gets beaten up and raped, and her brother and Client Eastwood go on a blood vendetta. And then it's not so funny. Instead you feel awful about yourself for ever laughing during the movie.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button: Could've been called The Creepy Sexual Exploits of Benjamin Button and I wouldn't have thought it inappropriately titled.

The Transporter 3: The quintessential airplane snoozer. You can doze off, wake up, watch a little bit, doze off, etc etc, and by the end, you would've still been slightly entertained and not feel you've missed anything.

So I was amply entertained on the plane. Kyeonghi watched a bunch of movies, too, but I don't remember which. In between, we ate some better-than-average airplane food and slept as much as we could (which was not a whole lot).

When we finally landed at Incheon Airport, we were picked up by Kyeonghi's youngest sister and her brother-in-law, her middle sister's husband). After a about a half-hour drive, we arrived at Kyeonghi's home, a roomy apartment in a crowded resident area in Seoul's crowded Gaebong district. I'd met my mother-in-law before, (she was at the wedding in Knoxville) and it was nice to see her again. I said hi to Kyeonghi's sisters and soon we we were sitting down to do business... dinner!

Unfortunately, my half-baked chopstick skills just weren't cutting it with those fancy metal Korean chopsticks. They kept sliding through the food! Mom gave me wooden ones to start with, but I was still embarrassed enough that I resolved to learn to hold them the proper way, after all these years.

The rest of the week was full of sightseeing, shopping, and eating, as Kyeonghi took me through several of the fun parts of Seoul.

Now for the photos...


Kyeonghi little baby niece! She was a real cutie.


This pic makes my wife squeal every single time.


How good is Starcraft TV? Even Jesus approves!


A typical Korean meal in a typical Korean restaurant that Kyeonghi frequented in her college days. By this time I'd almost gotten the hang of using chopsticks the right way. It wasn't actually that hard when I put my mind to it.


Kyeonghi poses on the 1st floor of Sam Shik Il, an artsy shopping arcade that sells very cool and expensive artsy things. Or so she tells me... I couldn't tell except for the price tags!


Kyeonghi strikes a cute pose in a cozier part of the shopping arcade.


Self-portrait via iPhone... :p


This is a traditional tea-house.... the building is older than the hills. Way back then it was a house for the gentry class.


Another shot of the tea house.


And this is the tea we had! I think the pinkish tea was a seasonal summer thing. They were both delicious.


One morning we decided to try one of these quick toasted sandwich places for breakfast. The lady made it right in front of us after we ordered.


I ate it right in front of her to show my appreciation.


We visited one of several palaces in Seoul, ChangDeok palace, as part of our sightseeing. Here we are next to what I think was a royal library. Don't quote me on that. What you can quote me on, is those are apricots that fell from the tree. The tour guide let us take some, but we completely forgot to eat any of them before we left Korea.


This was a modest little home away from the main palace buildings that one of Korea's kings built for himself. It is purposefully less flashy and colorful than the rest of the palace (like the library, for example). I guess it's easier to relax and get things done when you're not experiencing sensory overload.


In this pic, Kyeonghi tells me the strange looking rock on the left symbolizes an immortal who watches over the palace. The structure to the right is a chimney that lets our smoke from the palace buildings' under-floor heating system.


Here we are taking a breather at one of the little gates in the walls that divide the palace grounds.


Here's the main palace building! This is where all the pomp and show is held. The little posts you see on the sides of the walkway leading to the main building indicated to all the Korean officials where they needed to stand in assembly, arranged by rank. Furthest from the building are the lowest-ranked officials. It took decades of education and loyal, dedicated service to stand at the final post at the far end, reserved for the highest-ranked and most esteemed officials.


... and here I am standing right exactly where I'm not supposed to, I guess.


Here's the throne room. Large, daunting, and intricately decorated. We weren't allowed inside, so I took this picture from outside.


This is the main entrance to the palace proper. The vaguely humanoid statuettes on the edges of the roof symbolized spirits who, according to Kyeonghi, did not successfully attain dragonhood. Instead, they opt to sit on palace's roofs to guard against evil. I don't blame them, I can figure out how to become a dragon either.


We visited a large Buddhist temple that was close to the palace, where we met this friendly little guy.


Kyeonghi took me to this famous restaurant that specializes in Kal Gook Soo, a kind of soup noodle. It was delicious! We also got a seasonal noodle dish that had a cold, creamy soup with green noodles. That was ok, but I definitely preferred the Kal Gook Soo. The noodles came with a special kimchi that had so much garlic in it, it was like eating whole cloves of garlic straight!


Of course, after watching Starcraft TV I had to get in on some of the action. There's a pc room (or what I'm used to calling an internet cafe) on just about every block in the city. This one's next to Kyeonghi's dentist, which was convenient. I'm losing that game btw.


And then... some Street Fighter IV action! I had to look online for an arcade that had this game, and Kyeonghi was such a good sport to take me there.


We had Tak Kal Bi for lunch after the arcade romp. It's basically chicken and veggies stir-fried in a hot pan right at your table.


We have to wear aprons at the Tak Kal Bi place, or the stuff gets all over us as they cook it.


Here's something the Koreans do pretty well... American fast food! They put their own twists in it here and there. Those are squid rings, not onion rings. And there is bulgogi sauce in that burger. Yummy!


We spent a LOT of time on subways. Public transportation in Seoul is good enough you don't need a car. Here's one shot I decided to take on one of our trips.


And here are the in-laws! Kyeonghi's younger sister and mother, to be exact. This was at a Chinese restaurant after we went to a indoor spa and waterpark.


And finally, more Korean fastfood. This is a pizza place, and yes, that is some gigantic shrimp on my pizza. Shrimp on a pizza?! I know, it makes no sense. Tasted great though!

Next... photos from Malaysia!