March 2009


I’ve already lamented about libraries in Seoul…just re-purposed buses or trucks.  I’d rather see an ice-cream truck (none in Korea) than a library truck on the streets and highways.

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Surprisingly I found an actual library while getting my son’s first passport at the Gangnam Community Center.  Funny, it houses a Foreigner Center (since foreigners would be drawn here) that offers information about living in Korea, local laws and culture ~ in English.

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Ever since nanny-ajuma came to our house we’ve been eating very well.  She prepares three meals a day using fresh ingredients.  The daily seaweed soup doesn’t get dull when the meat changes from beef to shrimp to abalone to oysters and more. I’ve never eaten so healthfully before.  It’s tasty too.

Good eating for a nursing gyopo.

When buying baby things I made sure to get clothes, receiving blankets, crib linens, diapers, etc.  The most frequently used are baby hankies.  Nanny-ajuma introduced them to us and says they are unique to Korea (Tip: great gift idea for expats in Korea to send overseas friends).  Baby hankies are used as napkins when the baby is eating, over the shoulder burp cloths, spit up pillow protectors, bath time washcloths, knotted at the neck as a bib, folded up to “brush” baby hair into place, and more ~ better than tissue, flannel, or terry cloth. Their uses are endless.  One can never have too many of these.  They are just the right size, cute, useful and dry quickly (essential here because everything is drip dried).

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Baby hankies are 100% cotton, they are literally handkerchiefs featuring cartoon animals.

Every time we get gasoline we get a “complimentary” packet of tissues (gift with purchase since gasoline is expensive ~ 3-4xs US prices).  There are three kinds: a small box that’s good in the car, a folded packet that travels well inside bags and then a pop-up packet that piles up from disuse because they get lost easily and dusty after opening.  I found a gyopo solution: get a toilet tissue cylinder (particular to Asia), an empty pill bottle and one pop-up packet.  Fill the pill bottle with beans or rice (adds weight needed to keep the dispenser in place while tugging tissue out), lay it on the bottom of the tissue, top with a packet of tissue, close lid and pull up the first sheet.  Now we’re actually using those darned tissue packs ~ a welcome option to dispensing endless toilet paper from toilet tissue cylinders.

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Gyopo solution to a tissue issue.

The first meal a birth mother is given in Korea is a bowl of seaweed soup.  Usually her mother brings it to her in the hospital.  But no one tells you that from that point onward until you stop breastfeeding, a nursing mother has to have seaweed soup at every meal.  Why?  There are a number of reasons: it helps blood production, it clears the complexion, it improves milk flow ~ and I believe it stimulates the bowels.  I’ve eaten so much seaweed that my poop (now twice a day) is the same color.  The seaweed used for nursing mothers is different from that eaten by regular folks, it should be collected from the sea rather than cultivated via aquaculture, making it cost is 2-3xs more.

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Street food can be fun but street food could also get you sick.  Korean street food comes in many forms, from many different vendors and in many flavors.  I prefer to eat street food when the weather is cool enough to not require refrigeration since the cooks only have makeshift kitchens.

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Street food costs 500W (about $0.50 USD) and up.  Tempura on the left, ddukboki on the right.

As an American citizen of Korean descent married to a Korean National, I have two visa options:  F-4 visas are for overseas Koreans. F-2 visas are for spouses of Korean Nationals.  Each costs approximately 30,000W and requires renewal every two years.  Not sure which category to file under, I asked the immigration officer.  TIP:  F-4 visa holders may exit and enter South Korea at will. F-2 visa holders must file any overseas trips with the Seoul Immigration Office.

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We spent most of the day trying to find this building (on the outskirts of Seoul), looking for parking (lot was full and streets are one-way) and waiting for service (nearly 2 hours ~ it is said to be shorter in the morning).

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BTW: Gyopos need proper documentation of their English names along with their Korean Family Registry. This is the common problem when processing F-4 visas (e.g.: demonstrate how Kim Chul-Soo = Charles Kim).

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The comment box at the immigration office must hold more “Unkindness” than “Kindness” based on the remaining slips.

Our nanny-ajuma taught us the neatest way to clean up after a poopy diaper ~ baby bidet in the sink. Take the baby in the crook of your left arm (pull up his clothes and grasp both feet), check that the sink water is warm, aim his bottom over the sink, use your right hand to scoop up water and wipe him clean. We use a washable cotton cloth to dry him off before putting on a fresh diaper.

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Baby bidet in the sink ~ he loves the sound of running water and warm water cleansing over cold baby wipes…too bad he’ll grow too big to do this for more than a few short months.

The new baby can have dual citizenship because baby mama is a U.S. citizen and baby daddy is a Korean national.  The U.S. Embassy requires a lot of evidence to convey citizenship to a baby born abroad.  We had to present my U.S. passport, the baby’s birth certificate in English and proof of my U.S. residency for a minimum of 5 years ~ something I never thought I’d need to prove.  They will accept tax returns or college transcripts.  Then there are three lengthy forms to fill out (for citizenship, for passport, for Social Security number).  A photograph of the baby with eyes open and no parental hands visible is also required.  The biggest hurdle is the time frame ~ you must gather all the documents and the entire family has to physically go to the U.S. Embassy within 30 days of the baby’s birth ~ to satisfy visa requirements.

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Tips:  * Bring your college transcript if you plan on a lengthy stay in Korea.  Employers and the U.S. Embassy will find some reason to ask for it.

* Photo of baby: set him down on a white blanket and take the picture from up above.

* Pay the delivery service fee (6,000 W) and let the packet come to your home in under 2 weeks.

* The U.S. Embassy does not accept personal checks, bring US dollars or a major credit card to pay the processing fee of $150.