Seoul is mighty cold in the winter. Nearly everyone here has a smart phone. But not everyone knows the cheapest, easiest way to keep your gloves on while using the phone…










I have an expensive stylus I would rather not drop/lose on the street. Ta-da: the sausage-cheese-fishcake works like a “finger”. Somehow it has the right electrostatic to function well, though not perfectly, on my phone for spare change (less than 500W or $0.50USD). I have these yellow sausages stashed in all my coat pockets, handbags and stroller. If one gets lost, or eaten by a hungry toddler, no worries. Try it yourself, it works! (Kitchen tip: use one to navigate while cooking using a recipe app, no more food smudges.)

The technical problems began about the time of my last posting. I could not find my digital camera charging dock for about a week. Then, the computer kicked the bucket. The error message read “NTLDR is missing” and professionals had to be called in for repairs. Hopefully, technology will work next week. Sorry for the silence.

When Koreans move, the movers arrive with a truck that reaches all the way up to the balcony window. Everything is placed on a large flatbed that makes quick work of big loads and allows other apartment residents unimpeded access to the elevator.


Korean moving truck that reaches up to the 25th floor of a high rise apartment building.

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.

It might be short for “Transportation Money.”  The T-Money card lets you pay for riding the bus, subway or taxi in South Korea.  It’s “smart” because it allows you to transfer from bus to bus and bus to subway and vice versa within 30 minutes at no additional charge, no paper slip to misplace.

FYI: Bus fare is reduced 100W or more when using T-Money.

Tips: *Always remember to “click” out when you disembark a bus, just in case you do transfer and also to officially end that trip (it’s possible to be charged for an extended fare the next time you ride that bus line).

*You can pay bus fare for a friend by telling the bus driver before you “click” your T-Money card.

T-Money can be recharged at a convenience store or at self-service kiosks throughout South Korea.  I started out with the standard card and then had it added as a feature to my credit card.  Now I prefer using the key ring accessory attached to my mobile phone. T-Money is the same as cash at some retail stores and public telephones.  Even when your wallet is empty, you can at least make it home with a charged T-Money card (the balance is revealed after each “click”).


T-Money entry/exit on the Seoul Metropolitan Subway.

We went to Japan last week.  It was our last hurrah before the baby arrives early next year.  Tokyo was clean, orderly and full of vending machines.  These are some of my favorite photographs.


Pay for hot food at the vending machine and pick it up at the counter.


The roadside rest stop restrooms featured this diagram to improve efficiency.


Four-story Daiso in Harajuku made the historically low currency exchange rate between won and yen bearable.

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.

It’s sad but true, unauthorized copies of recently released movies (Hollywood and Hallyu) are easier to buy from street vendors than legitimately rent them. Worse, the cost is equivalent: about 2,000W to rent versus about 3,333W to buy (3 for 10,000W is the going rate). The only reason to wait for the legitimate DVD rental is to view Special Features, which is a must for my film professor husband.

Most DVD shops also rent comic books, popular novels, and fashion magazines.

Lately the phone has been calling about itself. Ring, ring, ring, 여보세요/Hello. The computerized telephone voice states your name, your number, and that your bill is unpaid and overdue (나쁘다).

It’s somewhere between polite and annoying because the phone calls every other day until the bill is settled. FYI, linking payment to your bank account is not foolproof since this should have been taken care of without the phone calling and making a specific transfer.

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