Sunday, December 30, 2007

Korean quirks

Many of you have asked me what is different about the culture here....what are some of the adjustments we have made living here?  So, this is a post all about Korean quirks.  These are some of the things we find silly or irritating or great about the Land of the Morning Calm.

1.  There are traffic lights in Korea:  green means go, yellow means go faster, and red means, well, go anyway.  People honk at you if you stop at red lights.  So why aren't there tons of accidents?  People just sort of avoid each other.
2.  Speed bumps are the name of the game when it comes to back roads.  If you are not on a major highway, speed bumps are a given.  It is common to give directions by saying, after the 7th speed bump, turn right after the cow farm....

3.  Speaking of giving directions, there are no street signs or street addresses, so you just give directions based on landmarks.

4.  When you go anywhere with a parking lot, there are very official men with white gloves that move like robots and direct you to your parking space.  It is done with a lot of flair, even if it is painfully obvious which way you should go, and they always bow as you pass them.

5.  When a Korean accidentally calls your cell phone and you say, "hello," they will then say, "HUH" (in a Tim Allen kinda way).  You say, "wrong number."  They say, "many more words in Korean that you don't understand."  You say, "I only speak English.  You have the wrong number."  They say, "many more words in Korean that you don't understand....in a friendly tone as though you are having a conversation."  This will continue until you give up and hang up the phone or say "bye"  to which they will either repeat said "bye" or continue with many more words in Korean that you don't understand.  This happens at least once a week.

6.  No matter how girlish we dress Adeline, even if in a pink dress with flowers and a bow in her hair, Koreans will still ask, "girl or boy?"

7.  The Korean people overall are very stylish.  However, the men wear colors and some styles that are beyond metrosexual.  For example, a pink and purple striped shirt under a v-neck pink sweater, or a coat trimmed in faux fur.  Pat and I play a game when we are out called, "things you would not be caught dead wearing..."

  8.  While on the topic of style, the women here are also big on fashion.  What amazes me is the shoes they wear.  Koreans do a lot of walking, and many of the women wear these crazy cool (and high) heals.  They look great, but I can't figure out how they manage to walk in them all day.

9.  Koreans love babies.  In America, people may smile and tell you your baby is cute, but they would never dream of reaching to hold your baby.  I find it so interesting that even young men will touch her hand and try to get her to smile.  People think nothing of asking to hold your baby, or just picking them up if you are not holding them. 

10.  As I demonstrated in our house tour video, you are always supposed to take your shoes off before walking into someone's home.  It is a nice custom, but it struck me as silly when my washing machine repair man and the man delivering our oil were walking through my house in their socks.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Only in Korea...

So, something very funny happened today.  My friend, Johanna, took me to a mall (it gets funnier...).  She is the same gal that helped me discover the joys of the flower market a few weeks ago.  When we came out to our car, we found that we were completely parked in!  Sometimes people here will leave their car unlocked with the keys in it so you can move their car or they will leave it in neutral so you can push it out of the way if you need to.  None of these were true today.  So, we are walking around this big van trying to figure out what to do when Johanna says, "Do you have a cell phone?  I think this is a phone number..."  I hand her my phone, and she starts dialing.  This owner of this van had a sticker inside the windshield (at the location where most people have stickers reminding you of when you need your oil changed), with a cell phone number.  When Johanna called the number, after battling the language barrier for a few minutes, the man said he would come soon.  Within three minutes, he was there moving his van.  Only in Korea could you leave your cell phone number on your windshield for people to call you when you need to move.  In the US, your vehicle would either be keyed or towed or both!  Always an adventure....

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Eve

We were able to enjoy two Christmas Eve services this year. The first was at our church. The pastor read the Christmas story from Luke while the kids acted out the scenes. Instead of memorizing lines, the kids would just move their mouths when their character was supposed to be speaking. It was so cute! Here is the adorable heavenly host.








Then, the chapel sponsored a service at the high school gym on base. There was a variety of music, a sermon, readings, carols, and a candle lighting. Adeline enjoyed chewing on mommy's cell phone (how on earth could we have left the house without a paci?!?!?!?) and visiting with her friend, Georgia, in front of us.


Rohal Family Christmas

We had a wonderful Christmas this year, despite being away from friends (although we've made some new ones here) and family. The picture below was taken by our friend, Christie...



We invited our friend, Christie, to spend the night here Christmas Eve so she wouldn't have to wake up alone on Christmas Day. She brought homemade chocolate chip pancake batter because it is a tradition for her and her sister to make pancakes for their parents on Christmas morning. Yum!



We were able to open gifts with our families via Skype. Of course, Adeline is still too young to appreciate the fun of giving and receiving gifts, but she was very happy with all her new toys from her grandparents. One of her favorites was this train with animals that has moving parts and plays a song (we quickly turned off that part).



And of course, the wrapping paper was almost as much fun as the gifts...especially the shiny kind that crinkles.

The adults enjoyed playing with our new games while Adeline had nap time. In the evening, we went to a potluck with the medical group. It was an all around fun day.


I have to take a moment to brag on my husband. We decided not to do a lot for each other or for Adeline (because her grandparents spoiled her enough) since we are spending so much on traveling this year. However, three packages with three cards appeared with the other gifts. There was a gift and a card for me from Patrick, a gift and a homemade card from Patrick to Adeline, and a gift and card from Adeline to her mommy. Precious! I love you sweetie!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Anniversary Adventure

Thank you for all of you who called or left comments to share your concern and suggestions after our anniversary plans went up in flames (literally!). I am happy to report that we had a great day. First, we slept in (someone must have had a talk with Adeline because she was completely on board with this plan). We tried to get tickets to Nanta (more on that in another post), but it was sold out.

One of the things Pat and I do very well together is vacation. We both rise to the occasion for an adventure. We decided to spend the day touring Seoul and then have a nice dinner at the Dragon Hill (the hotel we went to for Thanksgiving). Before heading there, we had lunch at this great Thai buffet just off base. Yum!

Seoul really was an adventure. We followed one of the walking tours from the Lonely Planet guide, which felt like we were on a treasure hunt. Here were a few of the highlights....

At one point in the day, the subway was CRAZY! It was like DC after the July 4th fireworks. People were pushing to get on and finally giving up when the doors wouldn't close. You didn't have to hold onto anything when moving because we were so crammed in that there was nowhere to fall. I know this sounds horrendous to most of you, but it was only for a minute or two, and it was part of the adventure.

We found a couple groups of dancers/musicians like this during our day. To give you an example of why this felt like a treasure hunt, you can see a bridge in this picture (above). The directions would say something like, "cross the bridge, go down the steps on your left, then turn 180 degrees and walk for about 5 minutes until you see a small waterfall..."




One of the temples.

The last leg of our tour before heading to dinner was to ride the cable car to Seoul Tower which gives a beautiful view of the city. The pictures don't do it justice, so you are just going to have to trust me on this one.



We also went through some of the shopping districts, including Namdemun market. We also frequented Starbucks (Pat was very happy) and Gap (although the prices there were WAY higher than the US). The final highlight after dinner was ice cream from the homemade ice cream stand with tons of great mix-in choices (it's my blog, so of course I had to include this). It was a great date to celebrate 6 wonderful years, and Adeline was a doll (of course) for the baby sitter and was asleep when we got home. Sweet!

Sunday finest


Monday, December 17, 2007

Anniversary plans in jeopardy!

This Saturday, December 22, Patrick and I are celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary.  It happens that the travel service on base was offering a trip to see the Nutcracker ballet in Seoul that day.  We thought this would be a great date night, so we found a sitter and planned to spend the day away at the ballet and then at a nice dinner.  Well, Patrick heard a rumor at work that the trip was cancelled.  I called to investigate and it turns out the theatre burned!!!  Pure craziness!  What are the odds?!?  As I'm complaining, my sweet husband says, "at least it didn't burn while we were there!"  I guess it is all a matter of perspective.....

Since many of you have been here longer than we have,  I am hoping that someone has a plan B for how we can spend our anniversary.  After all, it would be a shame to waste a day with a sitter already scheduled!  Help!  Any suggestions?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sunday finest

I couldn't decide which one was the cutest.....






Thursday, December 13, 2007

Purse Girl






One of my friends was joking after watching Adeline in the nursery at bible study, that she really knows a good purse when she sees one. She is facinated with purses and comes to this spot in our house several times each day. She loves the handles and tags. As long as she has a pacifier in her mouth, I let her play with them. Otherwise, she starts chewing on the handles. She rarely takes anything out of them, but she did manage to find a toy inside on this day.....

For those who are thinking..."What!  You let her play with a Coach bag!?!?!"  I'm in KOREA, remember!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Flower Market

My new friend, Johanna, took me to experience one of the true joys of Korea this week....the Flower Market. It is a very happy place! It was so fun to see all of the beautiful flowers you could buy for just a few dollars. They also have ribbon, decorations, paper, glassware (not great quality but cheap), and stickers. I finally settled on these irises ($4 for the whole bunch). They weren't open yet, but the next day...........


I also picked up a couple of these miniature poinsettias to add a little Christmas to our house. Mom, you are going to LOVE this place!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Happy Birthday Christie!

Two of the doctors Patrick graduated from residency with also came to Korea. The Rohal family had the distinct pleasure of helping one of them, Christie, celebrate her 30th birthday last week. She chose an Italian restaurant off base which had good food and a very nice atmosphere. Then, we enjoyed a concert on base by Pyongteak University. It was a fun way to spend a Wednesday evening.








Monday, December 10, 2007

Santa picture



So I would not receive any further hate mail after my Christmas meme post (just kidding), I thought I would post this picture. Adeline was much more interested in the pretty lights on the tree than she was in Santa (must be genetic). This was the best we could do.

Sunday finest


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Best Christmas Present

This big box arrived in the mail from Amazon the other day (courtesy of Patrick's mom). Adeline is having so much fun with it, that we just put it in the middle of our living room for her to enjoy. The box is just the right height for her to pull herself up without too much effort. She loves to bang on the top and walk around it. Little does she know the treasures that are inside! Christmas is coming! ...and yes, those are cute striped tights that match her very cute sweater dress...did I mention how much I love to dress up my baby girl? Hand-me-downs are the best!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cookie Exchange Party

Thank you to my friend, Kristin (pictured above with her youngest son, Eli), for hosting this very fun cookie exchange party. We each made one of our favorite cookie recipes and brought copies of the recipe for everyone.

Kristin provided containers, and after each taking a few of each kind, we punched a hole in the upper left corner of each recipe, added the cute cover Kristin made, tied them together with some ribbon, and each had our own cookie exchange recipe book.


Kristin, of course, provided some extra munchies, and we all had a great time sitting around and chatting. Here is the whole gang. Thanks, Kristin, for a great day (and thanks to all the ladies for a wonderful variety of cookies)!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Christmas meme

My good friend, Sarah, tagged me to fill out this (very fun) Christmas meme.  Hope you enjoy learning a little more about our family's holiday.

1.  Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Under the tree, I usually wrap boxes, but if something isn't easy to wrap, a bag is a great alternative.  Before going to a Christmas party, I usually grab a gift bag from the stash under my bed.  Kids presents should almost always be wrapped....better pictures for the blog, more noise, more mess to make it look like Christmas morning.

2.  Real tree or artificial?
Depends where I am living.  In Baltimore, it was really tough to take the (dried out, sharp, dropping tons of needles down my stairs) tree out of our third floor apartment.  I decided to be content with the fake tree and burning a pine scented candle.  In our house in MD, it was easy to get a real tree in and out, so we had a real tree the past three years.

3.  When do you put up the tree?
Usually right after Thanksgiving.  We aren't sure we are getting a tree this year because they are not very conducive to crawling baby girls.  We aren't sure how to go about getting a real one here.  I'm already burning my pine scented candle. :)

4.  When do you take the tree down?
So many tree questions!  I like to enjoy my tree.  Patrick and I decorate it together, and we enjoy the romantic glow it brings to the room, so I tend to leave it up until the middle to end of January.

5.  Do you like eggnog?
Yum!  Especially the totally not good for you, almost full cream, cinnamon packed version in the grocery store.  This is one of Patrick's favorite holiday treats.  I even have a recipe for eggnog pumpkin pie!

6.  Favorite gift received as a child?
We collected Precious Moments figurines as children, and we always looked forward to getting one at Christmas.

7.  Do you have a nativity scene?
I have one for almost every room (although I didn't bring decorations to Korea).  My mom collects nativities, so this has rubbed off into my holiday decorations.  As those of you know who know my mom or have seen my house, she is my chief decorator.

8.  Hardest person to buy for?
Adeline---she is just SO picky and wants things just her way (just kidding!)...

9.  Easiest person to buy for?
myself...oh wait...I'm not supposed to be buying things for myself when shopping for others...that is so hard to remember sometimes! ummmm....
My mother-in-law...she is good about providing a list, and I know her taste pretty well, so I can usually find things she will like.

10.  Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Can't think of one.

11.  Mail or email Christmas cards?
Definitely snail mail!  If you send me a picture, it will end up in the back of my family scrapbook to be forever remembered.  I do one large album per year and this is usually the last thing I put in it.

12.  Favorite Christmas movie?
Hands down, A Muppet Christmas Carol.  So cute and amazingly well done.

13.  When do you start shopping for Christmas?
It varies from year to year, but I am almost always still buying something at the last minute.  I have a gift drawer where I keep things that I find through the year that I think someone will like.  I keep both "gifts for anyone" in there (candles, napkins, lotion) for last minute trips to a party, and I also keep gifts that are for a specific person there.

14.  Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Can't remember doing this.  I have returned gifts though.

15.  Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Breakfast made by my dad (just because it is a fun tradition) and chocolate cookies with Andes mints swirled on top.

16.  Clear lights or colored on the tree?
clear

17.  Favorite Christmas song?
Nat King Cole's A Christmas Song.

18.  Travel at Christmas or stay home?
I don't like to travel ON Christmas, but I love to travel to my parents' house and wake up there Christmas morning.  That feels like home.

19.  Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Yes, but only because of the song....and because my friend Sarah listed them when she filled out this survey. :)

20.  Angel on the tree top or a star?
Neither!  I usually have a giant bow with strands coming down the tree.

21.  Open gifts Christmas Eve or morning?
Morning!  Although, I did have a friend whose parents got everyone new pajamas to open and wear to bed Christmas Eve night, and I think that is a fun tradition.

22.  Most annoying thing about this time of year?
crowds and traffic everywhere........santa everywhere (it was never a big part of our holiday growing up, and I have never been a big fan)....don't send me hate mail, please.

23.  What I love most about Christmas?
Where to start.....I love baking cookies with my mom, decorating and watching the house transform, sitting in the living room with my husband in the evening listening to Nat King Cole and looking at the lights, being with family, Christmas Eve service, Christmas pins (notice I DID NOT SAY sweaters!), finding the perfect gift for someone, dressing Adeline in her pretty Christmas dress, the music, my anniversary (Dec 22), and all of the fun parties that happen around this time of year...just to name a few. :)

Okay, I am going to tag JJ, Rachel, and Jenna to do this survey.  Tag, you're it!

I got elfed

This is HILARIOUS!!!  My sister-in-law, Brooke, sent this to us on an email.  Click on the link below to check it out!  If you make one for your family, be sure to send me an email or leave a comment.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Views from our windows

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Here are views from the windows in the front and back of our house.  The back view was much prettier before everything was harvested from the fields.
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House tour

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