August 2008


Myeongdong has a new California Pizza Kitchen (near Lotte Hotel and TGI Friday’s).  It opened in late July and as an early adopter you get free gifts for eating there —  a purse mirror and packet of sticky notes.  My husband wanted to try it out and I went knowing I could get a proper salad.  The menu is identical since the pizzas are mass produced in a factory, frozen and distributed to restaurants.

FYI: beverages are refilled once with a soda of your choice, not what you originally ordered (e.g.: iced tea, mixed drink).

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Recently the Nintendo Wii arrived in Korea (previously you could only get them with a Japanese interface). Last year we tried to bring one back with us from California. This year my husband’s birthday fell right in the middle of the Beijing Olympics and his brother bought him everything. Good for me — you can bypass most of the Korean language set-up prompts and the games are in English. Better for me — I can ween myself from daily Olympics viewing by competing with Mario & Sonic in Beijing.

Wii play for medals late into the night.

Korea has a limited selection of dairy products. The good: the milk is tasty. The bad: the yogurt is super sweet and most often just a milky drink. I have taste tested most of the yogurts in search of an unsweetened version, without much luck ~ the closest is Yoplait Plain. I found something called Sour Cream and discovered that it’s more like Greek Yogurt (thick and tart) ~ yum! Therefore, don’t trust the labels on dairy products here.

At first I didn’t believe it when I saw it. Costco in Korea? After a double take, checking the font of the signage, it was confirmed. They’ve partnered with Samsung (=Shinsegae, E-Mart, Starbucks, more) and have 6 stores in Korea, 3 in Seoul. Membership is honored worldwide, renew here because the annual fee is cheaper in Korea (35,000W per couple). You’ll find about 1/3 the products you would see in a stateside Costco with an identical food court (hot dog!). FYI: it’s the only source for peanut M&Ms, trust me I looked everywhere. Tip: bring cash (ATM in lobby) because they only honor Samsung credit cards.

Multi-story Costco in Seoul should be avoided on weekends.

August 15 is Victory over Japan Day in Korea. The government hosted a lavish morning ceremony to commemorate the past, present and future of the country. On television it even preempted the Beijing Olympics. It’s a red-letter day on the calendar, 광복절, making for a three day weekend. Mansei!

Traditional Korean roof detail.

Olympic fever has hit Korea. There are special advertisements, it’s the subject of most conversations, and it’s watched everywhere (since you can watch TV on your mobile phone here). Interestingly, they only broadcast events with Korean athletes — I’m used to having more viewing options but here it’s all about national pride. Which means when someone earns gold, the win and the ceremony are on perpetual repeat.

Beijing Olympic Tree (artificial Christmas tree ?!?) provided by the Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Culture.

Strange how nearly everyone riding the Seoul subway sleeps. Sometimes I wonder if they are asleep, praying, meditating, thinking or just avoiding eye contact because it’s one of the few places where the underprivileged beg for money.

Announcement: “Next stop is ___, exit on the right…” ~ is how those who dose seem exit at the correct place.

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