Friday, March 30, 2012

Our Korean Rock Star

Everywhere we go Cooper has Korean admirers. He has a few things going for him: he is a baby - which is good luck, he is white and blonde - which is very unique, and he is a male - which is important in this culture for carrying on the family name. 

We visited an artist shop in the alley last week and the artist painted this flower on Cooper's hand in watercolor. 

She joked that it would be worth a lot - sure enough, the next day I saw posters around our tower for a big art show where she will be featured. 

Cooper's hand could be famous!

The first question Koreans almost always ask is if he is a boy or a girl. At first it threw me off - I thought "well, of course he's a boy!" but then I learned that they ask for two reasons. One is that in the Korean culture baby boys and girls look an awful lot a like and even the clothes are very similar (they are all very feminine). Also, again males are more revered for carrying on the family name - so I always get a nod of approval. 

Koreans usually ask how old he is and then they reciprocate - always in months. I had someone tell me their baby was 72 months at the grocery store once - it honestly took me a few seconds to figure that one out in years! Even the toys that we've bought have age markers like 32 months. Koreans also start life at age one rather than 0 but I think, in general, they understand how we do it with our children. 

Besides the artist interaction we've had a lot of other great experiences; here's a couple that were especially interesting:

The maintenance man that came to my house this week stopped what he was doing, said some things to Cooper that I didn't understand, softly touched his head and then gave him a piece of ginseng candy. 

We went to a Korean hospital this week with one of our friends. As me and Cooper walked down the hallway we saw a really young boy in a wheelchair hooked up to various bags of liquids. He was in the cancer center area so we could only assume... He looked tired and ragged - when he saw Cooper he beamed and looked up at his mom smiling. This made her beam too. If only for a second, Cooper made someone hurting, smile. This happened with a few more patients during our walk. Heartwarming! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

One Month in Korea!

It's official - we've now been in Korea one month! 
Here's what we've been up to:

The Fam in a nutshell
We miss our puppies and we miss our friends and family but we've gotten to Skype and Facetime lots so, even though it's not the same it is great to be able to see their faces. We still are living without our stuff but the moving trucks will be bringing our household goods on Thursday - we're so excited! My obsession over the next couple of weeks (or months) will be getting the house just right. We're also starting to plan several 3 and 4 day weekends throughout the summer so we can travel and explore the country... and continent. Here's more about each of us.

We can see him growing and learning something new everyday - it really is a wonderful time to be home with him.

He's learned several new words this month. He now says words like bite, thank you, love you, momma, dadda, down (from his highchair), that, ball, duck, no...

He's also doing really well with table food - eating it for just about every meal. Some of his favorites are ravioli, chicken nuggets, bananas, yogurt, cheese, and bread. He also loves to snack on Mum Mums (rice cakes), Club crackers, veggie puffs and Cheerios. So far the things he consistently hates is green beans and chocolate. 

He has been on whole milk for the last month and we're actively working on phasing out the bottle completely - we're actually going on several days straight now. The paci is also on its way out but I'm not disciplined enough to go cold turkey on that sucker quite yet! 

His favorite thing to do is play chase and hide-'n-seek around the house - he loves the anticipation and loves it even more when he gets 'gotten' and tickled. It might be my favorite thing to do too! He also loves kicking the ball around, reading books, playing with puppets, and going on our daily stroller adventures.  

And, last Tuesday he turned 13 months old - what a big boy!

Owen is the ADO (Assistant Director of Operations) in his squadron and the MCC (Mission Crew Commander) on scope. Basically, this means that he supervises those providing command and control functions in the airspace. This base is very busy and he's been working some long days. In just the past month he's already taken part in a large exercise, gotten qualified as an MCC - with 70 flight hours, and is preparing for another large exercise next week. Owen also will be promoted to Major on June 1 - we're very proud of him and will start planning the party soon!

I'm getting the hang of lots of new all at once - besides living in Korea, the biggest change personally is transitioning from having a full-time career in advertising to being a stay-at-home mom. The great thing here is many women are in the same boat but if military spouses are good at anything it's persevering and making the best of things. So, that's what I've been doing with my little buddy by my side. 

I'm so anxious to do and see more but so far we've gotten to go to the Seoul Flower Market, the Songtan Outdoor Market several times, Songtan's Dream Depot, Pyeongtaek's E-Mart, antique furniture shopping, purse shopping, and enjoyed lots of great Korean cuisine. 

To support all of the shopping that I NEED to do here I've applied for a few blogging positions. My first post for an Australian car insurance company posts tomorrow and I'm writing a test post tonight for a social media guru position that I'm super excited about!

Also, this month I made my first meatloaf, my first batch of homeade biscotti, my first Asian ginger dressing and cooked more than probably the last 6 months combined! 

I've joined the Spouse's Club, already made some great friends and look forward to a wonderful 2 years here! 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Songtan Antique Furniture Shopping at MeWha and Kojeon's

On Thursday I went with a group of ladies 45 minutes into Songtan to visit two antique furniture shops. The first was the shop of Mr. Kim which I was excited to meet as he's a bit of superstar here - everyone has a Mr. Kim this or Mr. Kim that. He is the president of MeWha Furniture where you can buy furniture and some decor or you can also have furniture custom made. I've seen his gorgeous work in several custom pieces in our tower - needless to say we're already planning on what piece or pieces Mr. Kim can build for us!

This post is all about the photos. I'm still learning what the origin and meaning are of different pieces so there may not be a lot of description but there are lots of photos to browse through. And, the photos may not be the best but at least give me props for taking them all with my iPhone as I was juggling a 26 pound, active baby boy in the other arm (no room for strollers)!

Decorative furniture dusters (I actually took the large red one home with me)
Antique Chinese cabinet - one of the pieces I have my eye on to own
Asian basket - great for magazines storage and such 
Korean children's table and chairs modeled by my shopping buddy! 

Unique and very old North Korean blanket chest antique - used for storing your bedding while sleeping

Beautiful chest with Chinese writing on the inside

Chest full of drawers - I will own with all of these drawers before me leave here!

Chinese dining table

Inside of a jewelry box with gorgeous Chinese lettering.

Gorgeous tabletop piece 

My first purchase - larger furniture purchases will be made after we actually get the rest of our stuff here

The next stop was Kojeon Antique's. Kojeon is huge and has some amazing pieces. We were on a tight timeline to get back so I literally only had 6 minutes to look while Aimee watched a sleeping Cooper for me. I understand that this store caters to a different crowd and the prices can be a bit higher but they really have an eye for unique pieces.

Kitchenware table display

No blog post about furniture shopping in Asia would be complete without a pic of a gong!

Traditional Korean couch

Privacy screens

Close-up of an amazing armoire of these drawers - for a cool 6 grand I could own it...

Until next time Mr. Kim and Kojeon's!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Curbside Service

Our life here on Osan Air Base is supremely convenient... I mean c'mon even McDonald's delivers! Okay, this isn't actually on-base delivery but these mopeds are right outside of the main gate. Bulgogi burgers to-go anyone? 

McDonald's delivery mopeds

Our house is located within walking distance to just about anything we need. When Cooper and I need to run an errand I simply pull his stroller up to his door, he leaves his tractor (or anything with wheels) behind and we go down the elevator and take the 5 minute stroll to the grocery store or the library.

And then we can simply pull the basket into the kitchen to unload. 

Or after a short 10 minute walk we can be at the post office, cleaners, or shopping outside of the main gate in the Sontan Outdoor Market.

And, in 10 minutes we can also be at the BX (the military walmart) - and when we buy more than we can carry thought there are taxis that can take you anywhere on base for about $2. 

Osan Air Base taxi

Cooper's playground is just around the corner - to get there we only need to walk down one hallway. He loves playing - but mostly he loves watching the big kids play and giggling at the puppies being walked. 

Cooper (in the green frog hat) on his playground. 

When neither Owen or I are in the mood to cook dinner (or breakfast or lunch for that matter) every restaurant on base delivers in under an hour including Chili's - now if only Starbucks would get on board! 

Osan AB Chili's (courtesy of C. Fung)

To take our trash or recyclables out we walk just a few steps - 52 to be exact - down our hallway and down the chute it goes.

To visit friends we usually just hop on our elevator and head up to one of the 13 floors of our towers - sometimes in our socks. 

Side view of the Hallasan Towers. 

Our day-to-day life is undoubtedly easier and even though we know it will eventually become, perhaps stale - for now we're going to enjoy the simple life. 

Well it was ravioli...

Cooper's new favorite food - ravioli!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Songtan's Jung-Ang Open Market Purse Shopping

ROK is THE place to purse shop. Last weekend I went with my friends Aimee and Beth to make my first real purchase here and it was only fitting that it be a purse.

But not just any purse - a gorgeous, white leather, Prada. I'm in love... although it's only a matter of time that I'll fall in love all over again (perhaps next time with a Mr. Choo...). 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

So, where do we live... exactly?

{For more images follow my Korea Pinterest board} 

South Korea is officially called the Republic of Korea or ROK and is located in the southern portion of the Korean peninsula. 

The peninsula is flanked on the west by the East China Sea followed by China and on the east by the Sea of Japan followed by Japan. North Korea (and more of China) is of course to the North and the Korean Strait and East China Sea is to the south at the tip of the peninsula.

Foot path on the South Korean coast

We are about 6,500 hundred miles from OK, TX and NM where many of our friends and family live. 

The border between North and South Korea is termed the demilitarized zone or DMZ and it is the most heavily militarized border in the world. The buffer between North Korea and ROK is about 155 miles long and 2.5 miles wide and is largely inhabitable by humans due to the area and heavy concentration of land mines. Because of this it is now the most well preserved natural habitat in the world and home to dozens of rare and endangered plant and animal species including tigers, leopards, bears and cranes. There are tours of the DMZ border that we'll visit and blog about in the near future. 

South Korean border guards (photo courtesy of 1stopkorea)

ROK has a population of about 50 million - 10.3 million living in the capital city of Seoul - which also happens to be the second largest city in the world only behind Tokyo, Japan. In case you were wondering Mexico City is third and New York City is the fourth largest.  

ROK is among the safest places in the world (including for foreigners) with extremely low crime rates. It is also among the most wired in the world with free wi-fi available in most areas (there are plans in place to have free wi-fi in all areas by 2015).

Mountainous city view of Seoul, South Korea

Street level view of Seoul, South Korea


ROK has four distinctive seasons of spring, summer autumn and winter. The yearly average temperature is 54 degrees but can reach up to 101 degrees in the summer and as low as 2 degrees in the winter. The summers are hot and humid.

Seorak Waterpia hotsprings in Gangwon-do Sokcho-si, South Korea 
The rise and fall of the Siberian high-pressure system drops temperatures lower here than in other regions at the same latitude. The rise and fall of the same system often causes a typical cycle of 3 cold days followed by 4 warmer days. 

Muju Ski Resort

The beaches here (that we can't wait to get to) are supposed to be beautiful!

And the region is very mountainous so there are hundreds of national parks and beautiful places to get to during our time here!

Cheju Island with the country's highest mountain range which is also an extinct volcano - Hallasan

Seventy percent of the annual rainfall is concentrated in the monsoon period which is the rainy months of June through September. Autumn is supposed to be especially beautiful in ROK. 

Autumn at the Secret Garden in Seoul

ROK has been called the jewel of assignments by the friends we've known that have been stationed here and everything we have experienced leads us to believe that is completely true. We are so excited to continue to explore this beautiful and inviting country! 

There are more beautiful and interesting images of the country here, on my Korea Pinterest board.