December 2008

The new year merits some new clothes and new sewing projects. So off to Dongdaemun/동대문, with multi-story Doota! and fabrics/notions/yarn just across the Cheonggye Stream…even nicer at night with twinkling holiday lights.


Subway lines 2,4&5 exit Dongdaemun Stadium/동대문운동장.


FYI: fabric/notions/yarn vendors work short Saturday hours and are closed on Sunday.

There is a bus for everything in Seoul. Kids ride a special bus to the hagwon/학원 (tutorial center) or to taekwondo/태관도. The local gym/헬스 has a bus for members.  Sadly, the library bus does not take you to the library/도서관. Instead the bus itself is the library.  And I don’t see it with much regularity either.



Korea really needs a system of public libraries in buildings, not buses.

Merry Christmas! While there isn’t snow in Seoul this Christmas, white is prominently featured in the windows at Andre Kim…famous for wearing all white clothing, all year long.  His fashions have been showcased the world over, in numerous beauty pageants, runway fashion shows and the 1988 Seoul Olympics.  He combines Asian, European, ancient and futuristic flourishes in everything from wedding dresses to household goods.


andre-kim Andre Kim in white attire, heavy makeup and strange hair.

Yesterday was Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. On the Korean calendar it was also Dongji/동지 (lunar 11/24).  This special day has a food requirement ~ eat patjook/팥죽 (sweet red bean porridge) for good luck.  By eating sweet red bean paste porridge, evil spirits will not bother you for another year.  Mother-in-law explained this to me as she ate a bowl of porridge.  The red color is distasteful to evil spirits.  I opted for pat-ice-cream instead, let’s hope it’s the ingredient and not the form that matters.


Soak sweet red beans before boiling into porridge.  Sugar, salt, dduk/떡 (small rice cakes) may be added.

The holiday season has arrived. Post Offices in Seoul offer holiday cards, which generally convey “Happy New Year.” If you’re looking for Christmas cards, head to Art Box, Morning Glory and the like. But don’t expect much variety, there are more mechanical pencil options than greeting cards in any Korean stationery store.  Believe me, I spent more than a month looking for non-existent thank you cards last year.


Post Office Holiday Cards, orange stickers indicate “sold out.”

It’s possible not to spend any money on a calendar for the next year when you live in Korea. Banks give customers wall calendars, desk calendars and pocket calendars (and more than one of each when asked). Even hamburger joints give calendars as a gift with purchase (spend 8,000W at Lotte). Calendar collecting begins in November and supplies dwindle by years’ end. This explains why my older Korean relatives have a calendar on every available surface of their homes.


Four free 2009 calendars from one bank visit.

There is a new government initiative to name all the streets in Seoul. It used to be that only major thoroughfares were named (e.g.: Tehran Ro). Other streets were known by the landmark building at the intersection (e.g.: KOTRA SaGeoRi). Now even back alleys are being named, more like numbered. Giving directions will change from “turn right at the Family Mart” to “turn right on South 25th from Yeoksam-Ro” — which is useful when there are five Family Marts on that street.


North/South 25th Street off Yeoksam-Ro.

If you look around at the trees in Seoul, you’ll notice that a lot of them are wearing luau skirts, hay sweater belts or cozies. They serve as a low-tech and environmentally-safe way to manage tree pests. How? When it’s cold and leaves drop off, pests rush down the trunk of a tree and burrow in the roots, causing damage all winter. Pests find warmth quicker and forget to go further down — reducing the pest population and need for pesticides. Right before spring the “tree cozy” is removed and burned.


Tree cozy, as seen in Gangnam.

My favorite place for western dining in Seoul is Bulansuh (literally “France”) in Hongdae.  Its chef worked with Gordon Ramsay of Hell’s Kitchen fame prior to opening this restaurant.  The prices are quite reasonable for 양식 (western food) because of it’s college-town location and clientele.  The desserts are highly recommended ~ order the dinner meal set (33,000-39,000W) and you’ll have delicious chocolate mousse or creme brulee to finish.

Bulansuh can be found off Subway Line #6 at SangSu Station exit #1, walk straight and call (02)333-0106 for specific directions since street names and addresses are wonky.

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