30 December 2008

Winter is All Around Me

Usually Christmas decorations are swept away as soon as the 26th hits, but Christmas still lingers in Seoul - trees, carols, Christmas themed merchandise -- they're all still around. Even though Christmas in the Motherland doesn't feel quite the same, I'm glad to see reminders of Christmas around town.

Even the buses are still celebrating Christmas. This weekend, Seong and I managed to catch one of those magical local route buses, charging throughout town, bedazzled with garland and lights (both inside and outside of the bus). As gaudy as they may be, these decorated buses make you feel special.

Though we've been working 6-7 days a week (We're done by 8:30, so it's not as bad as it sounds), we made the time to walk around Myeongdong, primarily to pick up winter accessories.
My memory's not so keen, but I swear, winter is MUCH colder this year. Or, maybe it's just the building...

The Hagwon is located in a newly built building, so the facilities are quite nice. It's just that the building was so poorly designed. First of all, the heater/air con is built into the ceiling. I don't remember much from my science classes, but I do know that heat rises. Heat doesn't fall down to short people like me. Secondly, the building is not well insulated. I can feel the cold air seeping in through the windows! We could complain to the building manager, but we're all a little afraid of him. He's like one of the bosses from a Korean gangster movie. We all decided to wear shawls instead.

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite winter accessories, essential to surviving a Korean winter (or a poorly insulated building).

1. Earmuffs (10,000 won). I don't know what I was thinking, but I left my earmuffs back in California. I picked up a new pair in Myeondong. I know they look rather silly, but they are very warm. It's strange that my ears are so sensitive to the cold, despite all my hair.

2) Finger-less gloves (10,000 won). There was a cheaper pair for 8,000, but I sprung for the thicker knit. I either wear these gloves under a pair of mittens or wear them while I'm typing away at the computer. They make feel like a cartoon bum, but I don't care. They're very effective.

3) (기모) Gimo Tights. I'm not sure what gimo means, but these tights are much warmer than an ordinary pair of tights. The tights are lined with cotton, similar to the lining in a pair of sweat pants. I know what you're thinking. Why don't I just put on a pair of pants? Firstly, jeans (even with the naebok) aren't that much warmer. Secondly, I prefer to wear skirts and dresses. Don't worry. I'm usually wearing boots when I head outdoors.

As much as I complain about the cold, I enjoy having a legitimate reason to wear such accessories.

23 December 2008

It snowed last night!

Every morning I walk up to this hill to get to The Hagwon. Despite the fact that it's so darn cold that my ears are blushing, I always trudge into the building sweaty and slightly out of breath.

Though the hill makes my morning walk more rigorous, the incline is not the problem. It's the slanted sidewalks. I'm not sure if you can tell from this picture, but the sidewalk slopes to the left, so that when you're walking up the road, it's almost like fighting against two perpendicular hills. This means that while I'm trekking forward, I'm also trying to keep myself from leaning inwards. This is no easy task when the sidewalks are icy, or if you're wearing heels.

Anyone who's had their soles mangled by the streets of Seoul know that the terrain in the Motherland is not very flat. I imagine that it's quite difficult to lay concrete on a mountain, but some of the sidewalks in Seoul are just plain jagged.

Despite my whining, I don't mind walking to work. It's the only exercise I get. I just wish I didn't have to bring two pairs of shoes to work: boots for walking, and heels to look more authoritative...and taller.

19 December 2008

18 December 2008

Sangsangmadang in Hongdae

I met up with Heng this weekend in her new neighborhood, just around the corner from Hongdae. It's been a while since I've trekked over to the Hongdae area. I had almost forgotten how cool it is. I'm especially drawn to all the quirky little cafes, which is strange, because I'm not big on coffee.

After sharing a bowl of super-sized ramen, Heng and I went to check out the new (at least new to me) multi-story SangSangMadang building. I don't think I've got a handle on everything that SangSangMadang has to offer, but it seems to be an intersection point for art and commerce.

I may have my facts a little mixed up, but here's the breakdown of the facilities, from what Heng and I could determine:

Basement: Cinema (indie Korean & Foreign films, I think) + Live Performance Hall
First Floor: Stationery Shop and handmade crafts
Second Floor: Gallery (This part was still under construction when we went)
Third Floor and Up: Recording Studio, Film School, Record Shop, Photo Studio, and Cafe.

If you sign up for a membership with Sangsangmadang, Heng says that you can access the gallery for free. I'm sure there are other perks, but Korean membership cards still tend to baffle me.

Heng and I spent a couple of hours at the record store, Label Market 2 (I presume that there's another Label Market somewhere else in Seoul). This is all conjecture, but I think the store is named Label Market because the albums are arranged according to record label. (Just call me Sherlock Holmes!).

You're not going to find any Wonder Girls or Big Bang at this shop. By virtue of the fact that I've never seen most (if not all) of these bands on MNet, I'm assuming that the featured bands belong to the Korean indie music scene.

With colorful CD Walkman spread throughout the store, you're invited to sample any album at your leisure. You can essentially listen to every album in the store. It's pretty awesome. I only listened to a small handful of albums, but I already found a number of bands that sounded interesting. I was particularly interested in a band called Sugarbowl and another one called, Funny People. They both have a bit of an Maroon 5 kind of vibe.

Label Market also features music from artists around the world. [Cyndi they have all the albums for Mocca and Olivia. Want anything?] I, for example, got to skim through the entire She & Him album, and as a result, have decided to purchase it off itunes (because I have a bum CD player). I also picked up an album for my sister by a band called Sunshine State.

I have no problems admitting that I love me some k-Pop, but the genre can get a little tiresome, so if you're looking to explore the diversity of the Korean music scene, you should definitely take a trip to Label Market.

See the red stage behind me?

Label Market also boasts a calendar of in-store performances by many of its featured artists. On the day we were there, we were treated to a free(!) performance by an indie band called, Achtung (악퉁). I do not mean this as a slight at all, but the band kind of reminded me of Hanson. I quite enjoyed their performance (even though I found the lead vocalist's pama and glasses distracting).

This intimate, non-bar venue is a great way to experience live music in Korea. You just have to put up with all the amateur photogs. I swear, everyone and their mother in Hongdae has a DSLR camera. Nah, I'm just jealous...

I did momentarily take out my little snap-n-shoot to record a bit of Achtung Live at the Label Market. Take a look if you're curious.

Achtung - Live Performance in Hongdae from Annalog on Vimeo.

Edit: I forgot to mention that Sangsangmadang is right next to Su Luxury Noraebang, the one with the windows. I'm terrible with directions, so that's the best I can give you.

16 December 2008

Party Time. Excellent.

My cousin N. and her husband, Mr. T are always going to exciting events around Seoul. For instance, last week, she went to a charity dinner where she met Alex from Clazziquai, and told the singer that her cousin (that's me!) is a big fan. Whenever she has the opportunity, N & Mr. T invite me, along with the other teachers at The Hagwon, to join them. It's fun to take N up on one of her invites because you never know what's in store.

Two weekends ago, we found ourselves at the Seoul Club celebrating St. Lucia Day, a Swedish Holiday. We listened to Swedish carols, munched on saffron buns, drank glog, and ooh-ed and ah-ed over dozens of little blonde children with rosy cheeks and blue eyes. Swedish families must have a hard time walking around Seoul without encountering people who want to pinch the cheeks of their children or snap photos of them. Every kid we saw at the party looked like he or she walked out of a Gap Holiday ad.

The Swedish winter festivities concluded with a raffle, where Seong won a bottle of mushroom wine from North Korea. I'm not sure what they're doing up there in the North, but they're definitely not working on perfecting their wine-making techniques. Just the thought of the mushroom wine makes me shudder.

This past weekend, N & Mr. T invited the entire Hagwon gang to their Rotary Club holiday dinner. We were just expecting a buffet, but were met with an entertainment extravaganza! In addition to the buffet and a free-flow of wine, soju, and beer (oh my!), the evening began with a live performance by a woman pursuing a career in the music industry. She hasn't made it to Inki Gayo or anything, but she does have a song on some drama OST. I enjoyed her performance, even though she concluded her set with Frank Sinatra's "My Way", a song, as someone at the table noted, is better suited for a funeral.

The musical performance was followed by a dance lesson, where we were all forced to learn the jive. Thanks to Social Dance I back in college, I was able to keep up with the ajusshis. I think I may have even been leading at some point. It was embarrassing, yet fun.

Later that evening, one of the members of the Rotary Club, a folk singer from the 70s, who, according to N, was part of the Simon & Garfunkel of Korea (no, not SG Wannabe), brought out his tribute band. After, rocking out to numbers by Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton, "Paul Simon" joined the band and performed a few of his greatest hits, including a few songs that we were required to "twist" along to. Twisting is hard, y'all. Gidget and Elvis make it look so easy.

Since I'm normally inclined to just roll up into a ball and never leave the house during the winter, I'm grateful to have a family with a social life. :)

12 December 2008

Pasta Hut

When I first returned to Korea, my cousin mentioned that Pizza Hut was changing its name to Pasta Hut. I thought she was joking until I saw a Pasta Hut commercial on the terebi. Then, while passing through Hongdae, I spotted an actual Pasta Hut.

It turns out that Pizza Hut is "re-branding" three of its 330 stores in Korea as "Pasta Hut", in order to bring attention to the fact that Pizza Hut now offers a revamped, "mid-range" pasta menu in addition to pizzas loaded with cream and potatoes.


I'm not sure if I want to eat pasta at Pizza Hut, even if its now refers to itself as "Pasta Hut." The thought of eating pasta in a hut is just not very appetizing.

10 December 2008

Bacon + Kimchee + Bibimbap + Fried Egg = Awesome

Move over dalk dori tang. I've found a new favorite Korean dish:
Dolsot Bibim Bap

I've had Dolsot Bibim Bap (Mixed rice in a stone pot) before, but never with bacon AND kimchee.

I had it for the first time yesterday, and I will definitely be back for more. I wish I could tell you where the restaurant is, but it's in some basement in Hannam-dong.

08 December 2008

A New Cupcake Bakery in Seoul

My last cupcake in Seoul was quite disappointing, but from what I hear, a number of cupcake places have been popping up around Seoul. One of those new cupcake bakeries is Lynn's Cupcakes in Hannam-dong, which just happens to be walking distance from The Hagwon. Sweet!

Today, in honor of Seong's birthday (my hagwon BFF), we, including my lil' cousin, Emi, went to Lynn's for some celebratory cupcakes.

This was my first time trying Lynn's Cupcakes. Their cupcakes can't hold a candle to the moist deliciousness of Sibby's or Kara's Cupcakes back in the Homeland, but Lynn's cupcakes weren't half-bad. I enjoyed the flavors of the frosting and the cake, but did not find the soft texture of the cake to my liking (I prefer a more dense cake). Lynn's cupcakes also aren't the prettiest cupcakes I've ever had, but I would definitely return to Lynn's if I was craving a cupcake.

I'm told that Lynn's Cupcakes has several locations throughout Seoul, including a shop in Itaewon, but I can't give you their whereabouts.

Lynn's Cupcakes in Hannam-dong is located right across the street from UN Village. It's pink facade is hard to miss.
Business Hours:
10 - 8 pm
(010) 2893-6687
(02) 792-0804

The owner of Lynn's lived in America, so you can probably get further information in English if you give the bakery a call.

A funny thing happened on our way into the bakery...

A producer from KBS2's 문화지대 (Yeah, I hadn't heard of it either) was filming a segment on Lynn's cupcakes and was looking for some customer commentary. The owner of the shop, immediately pointed to Seong, who had been Lynn's first customer.

The producer, with his little DV camera, looked to the three of us and asked who wanted to speak on camera. I think Emi, Seong, and I, all short of took a step back, and tried to avoid making eye contact with the camera. Seong ended up explaining (in Korean) that neither Emi nor I spoke very much Korean. That's when he found out that we were all English-speaking gyopos, and decided to have us give our comments in English (even know he could not understand a word we were saying). Poor Seong had to translate everything!

So, the filming began easy enough. He filmed us as we picked out our cupcakes. Then, he asked us about cupcakes in America and Britain (where Seong went to school). I akwardly muttered something lame and giggled like an anime character with beat-red cheeks. I'm embarassed just thinking of it.

Just when we thought our agnozing 15 seconds of fame were over, he asked us to eat some of our cupcakes in the store. Though none of us really wanted to be on camera, we blindly followed him, like some starlet wannabe being asked to take some "artistic" nude shots. That's when the shop owner offered to give us some free cupcakes to eat on camera. She placed each cupcake on its own pedestal and brough out candles in honor of Seong's birthday.

For the following fifteen minutes, the three of us had to get all fake excited about the cupcakes, sing "Happy Birthday", stuff cupcakes into our mouth, and lavish Lynn's cupcakes with complimentary remarks.

I've seen a lot of Korean food programming, but I never realized how challenging it would be to act normal with a camera hovering just a few inches from their faces.

The segment on Lynn's Cupcakes airs on Thursday night. I'm not sure if any of our footage will make it on the program (I'm kind of hoping not), but at least we got some free cupcakes.

And, last, but certainly not least...

Happy Birthday, Seong!

07 December 2008

Sharing Some Coca Cola Sponsored Joy

I woke up this morning, greeted by a light flurry snow. As much as I will gripe about the cold this winter, I have to say that snow is very pretty. (It's just too bad that it's so wet.)

Now that I've seen a little snowfall, it truly feels like winter. In honor of winter, I'd like to share one of my favorite songs of the season.

Don't laugh, but it's from a commercial.

This commercial for Coke and Walmart, entitled "Extended Family", proceeded both the Quantum of Solace and Twilight films. I've been somewhat obsessed with the song, and am glad to see that it's finally posted on youtube.

Most people that I've talked to find the commercial quite annoying, but I like it.
It makes me want to "stock up on joy" and... shop at Walmart for some Coca Cola.

06 December 2008

Back in the Motherland

-12 degrees Celsius.
I walked to school with wet hair (I was running late!), and I arrived with a few frozen strands of hair.

02 December 2008

Craptastic: Vintage Annalog

If you've been stalking my blog, then you probably discerned from my lil' ol' profile that I started blogging in July of 2004. What you may not know is that before I got all self-centered and started blogging about my inane non-adventures in and between the Motherland, I just stuck to blogging about movies.

Back in the summer of 2004, I had just gotten a Blockbuster Movie Plan (I was trying to resist the Netflix trend) and was working an office job that required a lot of mindless, white-collar sweatshop-type work, like stuffing envelopes. And, thus, my movie blog was born (which at that time was called "Craptastic").

When I started blogging about the Motherland, I decided to hide all of my movie-related posts. I can't really say why I did this. I guess I didn't want people to know the extent of my weirdness, but that's now moot since I already posted a video of myself lip-syncing to Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" (No, I'm not going to post the link. You have to search for the humiliation on your own). Dignity went out the officetel window a long time ago...

Anywho, at the request of Jusunnie I've decided to re-post all of my old movie reviews, especially for those of you stuck behind a computer all-day, trying to stretch two hours worth of work across eight hours. I was going to import all of my movies into a new movie-centric blog, but I could not find the "Import Blog" button as detailed in the Blogger Help section. (Thanks a lot, Blogger. You are a big fat liar!)

So, if you're curious enough to read my old movie reviews, you can just click on the "movies" tag buried somewhere in the right sidebar (I know, I know. My tag list is out of control!). I should note that most of the movies I reviewed were movies that most people would not deign to spend a minute, let alone precious dollars on. I have a pretty high tolerance for crappy movies, but even I had to cringe a little when I saw the full listing of my movies posts, which includes such gems as:

Into the Blue
My Baby's Daddy
New York Minute
Dirty Dancing Havana Nights
From Justin to Kelly
Oh. Yes. I. Did.

I'd like to make a special shout out to the original readers of Annalog, who started reading my blog way before I ever started blogging about BB Cream or what to wear at a Korean wedding. There were literally only four readers: J.Mo, DJ OSV, Mark Y., and my sister, Doogal. Of course, they've probably all stopped reading my blog around the time I started blogging about BB Cream or what to wear at a Korean wedding, but I know they're all still part of the Annalog Fan Club-- because I said so.