Tuna Tar-Tart

I suck at everything. Probably more than you do. I enjoy experimenting with cheese and playing with glue sticks. You might know me from that other joint, LiveJournal.

Aug 182019
 

By the third full day in Korea, my eye was feeling better (still only wore contact though per the advice of Dr. Henry who apparently earned his optometry degree by mailing in $1 to an address on the back of a matchbook) and the jetlag fog had mostly dissipated, so this was the first full day where I felt like myself and I had to stop myself from running through the subway station, screaming, “ERIN’S BACK, BITCHES!”

Plus, Chooch and I were being rowdy in the hotel hallway that morning so Henry hissed, “shut the fuck up” but he did so under his breath because he’s afraid of us.

Yes, things were definitely feeling normal! We commemorated the start of a great day by taking an #OOTD selfie in a subway station mirror, a la Joan Kim.

Anyway, this was us on our way to this cool urban walkway called Seoullo 7017. It’s a former highway overpass that was recently repurposed into a skywalk, full of plants and brightly-painted pianos, with plenty of seating which likely makes it a great spot to escape the daily office grind.

Chooch and I adopted this dumb pose for nearly every picture and it made us crack up but Henry was just like, “You guys look dumb.”

We got to the walkway pretty early on Saturday morning, so the streets were still relatively quiet. If there’s one thing about Seoul, it’s that everything stays open extremely late, but nothing opens early, man. Not even cafes.

Also? THIS IS THE FIRST BLUE SKY OF THE TRIP! I was like, “Something looks diffe—-OMG THE SKY IS BLUE! THE SKY IS FUCKING BLUE!” From this day on, the weather would be mostly clear, with sporadic showers here and there so I was relieved. I really thought a fucking monsoon was going to come in and flood out our vacation.

Henry was trying to enjoy all the pretty plants but Chooch and I were giddy AF and kept making Cheetah Girl jokes which never sits well with Henry, and then there would be the occasional person passing by on a morning walk, and they would look at us like we had escaped a mental institution.

ALWAYS stop & smell the Korean flowers, guys.

You can see how the rain clouds were still chilling in the background; they stuck around just long enough to make us wonder if we were about to regret not bringing our umbrellas but it never did rain that day, just once earlier in the morning, before we even left the room.

That glass building to the left of the green-dome is Seoul Station, a major subway station but also the KTX and AREX train terminals. There’s a Lotte Mart there, Lotte Outlets, plus a ton of restaurants, cafes, and other shops. We spent a shit-ton of time there last year, spinning around in circles, being thoroughly lost, but Henry and Chooch are like pub-trans pros at this point and we just breezed right through every time we had to go there on this trip. It was cool seeing it from this perspective though, considering we’re always inside and underneath it.

Lush urban vegetation! Pittsburgh has Point Park downtown, but I do wish there were more green areas to visit while I’m on my lunch break walks. Pavement-pounding gets pretty old after a while.

Meanwhile, Henry took a timelapse of traffic on the other side of one of the railings and I don’t know it was so funny to us, but it was and Henry was like, “YOU KNOW WHAT, GO FUCK YOURSELVES.”

Then, I saw in the near distance one of the numerous “Gates” around Seoul, so I was like, “CAN WE WALK THERE” and Henry was like, “LET ME LOOK AT MY MAP” and then somehow, we stumbled upon one of the the secret alley entrances to Namdaemun Market and I was SO CONFUSED, because I am directionally challenged and even here at home, it’s fucking WILD to me when I look at a map and realize where certain neighborhoods are in relation to Pittsburgh because I can’t grasp the concept of NORTH EAST SOUTH WEST. One time recently, Nate was asking me which direction we were flying out of the US to Korea, and I had to stand next to him so we were facing the same direction so that I could wave a hand in front of us and say, “OK so if this *wipes air with hand*is America, we fly out this way *points to the left*.”

“Oh OK, so….west,” Nate said in his best effort to eradicate any ounce of condescension from his tone.

In most US cities, you’d generally want to avoid alleys of any kind, but in Korea, this is where you can find hidden gems, like tucked-away mandu guk (dumpling soup) restaurants or a food stall housing a breakfast sandwich-slinging ahjumma.

Chooch got an egg & cheese toast and as much as I wanted one too, I held off because I knew more options awaited.

Namdaemun is also a good place to get some cheap threads & good Korean donuts, yo. I wish Pittsburgh alleys had less piss and the possibility of rape, more egg toast and knock-off designer clothes stands.

But first we had to go and find that gate so we cut through the main roads of Namdaemun to get there. (Again, mindblown that we were where we were. I should study a map more often, I think.)

But FIRST first Henry had to embarrass us at 7-Eleven in front of the cute cashier because we kept taking our stuff up to pay and Henry would be like ME NOT READY, ROARRRRR and we would have to take our stuff off the counter but then finally Henry put his shit on the counter so we were like ok cool it’s time to pay and we put our stuffs down too (they sell SM idol group jellies there so I got EXO and NCT127 for Veronica!) but then Henry just kept standing there looking at his phone and Chooch and I were like tugging on our collars, asking each other with our eyes, “What is he doing???” And the cashier kept looking at us and we were all smiling at each other nervously, then finally Henry thrust his phone at the young man and barked DO YOU HAVE THIS and apparently it was a picture of Ibuprofen and the guy was like I don’t know what that is and so Henry was like FOR A HEADACHE?! and the guy was like OH! Here, this will work and gave Henry a box of something else but it ended up being children’s Tylenol and THAT IS NOT GOING TO WORK, Henry growled to us outside of the store as Chooch and I were saying in tandem, “you are so embarrassing!” Ugh.

We reached Sungnyemun Gate, which was free to explore. It’s billed as the first National Treasure, so how could we not give it some tourist love? This is one of the eight gates of the Fortress Wall that once surrounded Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty. It was built in 1396!

1396!! It’s super hard to wrap my head around things like this. It was rebuilt in 1447, survived some damage from the Korean war which required repairs, before burning to the ground by arson in 2008. It was rebuilt in 2013 — as of this time, it was the most expensive restoration project South Korea has ever seen. There are still some smoke-stained stones.

I love resting my eyeballs on sights like these and imaging what it must have been like when it was in use.

You just, you know, don’t see things like this in Pittsburgh and gives you a brand new perspective on a life and time where a city needed to be walled-inn to protect itself. And I love that these historical bad boys are just right smack in the middle of modern, high-tech Seoul.

The colors on that ceiling though!

Imagining trying to break down that door. Maybe my ex-neighbor “Ned” the Kingpin should have replaced his door with one like this,

Honestly, you walk through the doors of the gate and you’re back in the 21st century.

Thoroughly history-fed, it was time to revisit Namdaemun for some additional feeding (this time of the mandu variety) before leaving behind all the palaces and gates for super-new Seoul a/k/a Gangnam. Stay tuned, or turn the channel if you’ve had enough of Korea; break my heart – it’s fine!

Aug 172019
 

The most cliche, basic thing to say in summer is WHERE HAS THE SUMMER GONE but like, maybe if summer would slow it’s fucking roll we wouldn’t have to be so damn trite.

August is halfway over, school starts in a little over a week, LIKE SAND THRU THE HOURGLASS…ETC ETC.

There are many pros and cons to working from home, but in the summertime, I am so thankful for the privilege to work from home on my late shift days because I get to enjoy being outside in the mornings, walking around the neighborhood, having my weekly breakfast seshes with Chooch…I really, really love these summer days!

And August in particular, for some reason, really makes me happy. There’s something about the way the air feels in August that reminds me of swimming at my Pappap’s pool and lazing around with no worries and nowhere to be. So I’m walking home from the post office the other day, appreciating this summer month, when tears started springing from my eyeballs?! That’s where I am in life right now. Just all emotional and grateful and hyper-aware of it all, man.

For this week’s Summer Breakfast Club, we went to the Dor-Stop ONLY because we’ve hit the bottom of the barrel for local AM eateries.

The Dor-Stop is like, ultra popular around these parts because fucking Guy Fieri ate there for his dumpster dives show, or whatever it was called, and gave it his greasy seal of approval and they’ve been riding that wave of C-list celebrity fame ever since.

I have lived within walking distance of this joint since 1999 and have only eaten there less than 8 times so that should tell you something. Every experience I’ve had there has been either SHITTY (hair in my food, abysmal service) or just completely unforgettable at best.

This time, we had an OK waitress and OK food but the people seated behind us were SO FUCKING DISGUSTING. The lady was sitting on the other side of my booth and kept body-slamming herself into the back of it to the point where I thought I was mistaken and there were actually children sitting behind me. Then her man-thing told her a joke and she was straight up bucking in her seat and stamping her feet on the floor and then he started blowing his nose in a fashion that would make a trucker disgusted and then he BURPED IN BETWEEN.

So gross.

But Chooch liked his raspberry French toast (one of their specialities and I will admit that it’s good but the bread is pretty puny) and we had good talks so I guess that’s all that matters, right.

In other Chooch news, he decided to start a book club at the teen center and the lady in charge gave him the green light so he made this flyer and I didn’t even hover and try to add Erin-flourishes, I AM SO PROUD OF ME!

Also in Chooch/Teen Center news, he was made an administrator which basically means he gets to NARC on other kids so this right up his alley.

Ok well I’m going to go now because Chooch and Henry are outside in a thunderstorm fixing Chooch’s bike which means they’re having some pass-the-popcorn levels of bickering and I need to pull my seat closer. Byeeeee.

Aug 172019
 

Our plan after a long day in Incheon was to go back to the room, rest a bit, look up a spell to cure my eye, procure a virgin and a rib from a centaur to complete said spell, and then head on out to Myeongdong for some street food and night shopping.

I LOVE Myeongdong! It’s street after street of beauty shops and boutiques and kpop merch and loud music and laughter and street food, and and and…it’s just a must-visit on any trip to Seoul. If you’re looking to just shop, then probably stick with going there during the day. But I like being there at night because it’s more of a party, night-market atmosphere and not as many food carts are out during the day.

And really, isn’t it all about the food?!

I didn’t think twice about throwing down some Won on a gyeran bbang (egg bread). This little loaf looks like it would be savory, but it is surprisingly sweet, the kind of sweetness you’d get from French toast, with a delicious egg baked right into the center, and topped with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds.

FUCK.

These things are so good.

Maybe the new Pie Party should be Korean Street Food Fest.

Henry doesn’t hate Myeongdong or anything, but he does get nervous because people will stand outside of various skincare shops, luring potential customers inside with the prospect of free sheet masks or other assorted “1+1” deals. And I’m a sucker. I’ll go in and look at the lip gloss and next thing I know, I’m walking out with $100 worth of premium snail serum for my face and this is not an exaggeration, this actually happened last year at The Saem in Busan. BUT THE LADY WAS SO CONVINCING and that shit actually was amazing on my skin, I’m not even going to lie. I still have some left because it was so expensive that I use it so sparingly.

But I did good on this night! I avoided all those shops and we just focused on socks (there are sooooo many sock shops in Korea but especially Myeongdong and they are fucking CUTE AND WELL-MADE – most shops have 11 for $10 deals. Chooch and I stocked the fuck up…or should I say, SOCKED the fuck up?

OHHHHH!!!!

They also have kid socks so we were nice and got some for Calvin too.

One of my early observations from this trip is that, in spite of what all the Kpop news articles and social media would have us believe, Bigbang doesn’t seem to have actually been canceled over there. I still heard a good bit of it being played in shops and there was still just as much Bigbang merch as any other group, even Seungri specifically. So I just don’t know. Is it propaganda, do the average Koreans condemn Seungri for alleged crimes he hasn’t actually been tried for? Because if I wanted to buy a pair of Seungri socks, or a Seungri keychain, I could have easily done so at a variety of shops. So that was reassuring!

I also thought it was cool how familiar it felt being back in Myeongdong. How did Seoul so quickly start to feel like my second home!? It really must be hard-packed into my heart.

Before the trip, I was telling my co-worker Margie that we were staying in my favorite neighborhood of Hongdae and she was like, “How do you know all the different neighborhoods?” and I was like, “BECAUSE THIS IS MY LIFE, MARGIE.” But honestly, even before our first trip there, I had spent a year and a half watching vlog after vlog on YouTube of people living in Seoul and you just start to understand and recognize different areas, just like you would in your own city.

One of my favorite stores is Stylenanda, even though I never buy anything there. They sell makeup and clothes, but their stores are SO PRETTY. The one in Myeongdong specifically is themed as a hotel, and it’s like 6 floors of makeup, clothing, accessories, and a cafe themed as a rooftop pool.

Henry hates it there.

This tub is iconic.

I love shops like this because they make Henry uncomfortable and it’s so much fun for me to force him to pose for pretty princess pictures.

This bed and table are suspended over the entryway (lobby) of the store. It makes me nervous.

Stylenanda Pink Cafe.

Also in Myeongdong is an accessories boutique called My Poetry. It’s a Korean brand with multiple locations around the country, but it’s so intimately-themed that you would think it was an independent shop. And the earrings! They are so beautiful that I poured one out in an alley later that night for my closed-up holes. I really need to get my ears repierced and this shop maybe was the boot in the ass that I needed.

I did get a ring for myself there but holy shit I was really coveting some of those delicate earrings.

Also, I love that this brand’s tagline is “I still hide you in my poetry.”

Chooch got one of these s’mores-esque things to cap off the night. It had a chunk of ice cream in the middle and he of course did not let us try it.

On the subway back to Hongdae, I sat in between Chooch and some sleeping, possibly-drunk, older man who kept getting dangerously close to slumping over on me. The guy on the other side of him kept shouldering him back upright, but then at one of the subway stops, Sleeping Guy had enough momentum to fall all the way into my side. So then it was basically me and the guy on the other side volleying Sleeping Guy back and forth like a bizarre game of Subway Ping Pong, until I finally got up and stood because it was too much responsibility for me to bear.

Ugh, I miss the subway so much. :( And Myeongdong. And gyeran bbang. And sock-shopping. And Korea all around.

Aug 152019
 

I didn’t know about Wolmi Island during our first visit to Korea, or I would have dragged my fam there in an instant! It’s basically a BOARDWALK, you guys. WITH RIDES. It’s also a seafood lover’s Mecca, if that matters to you.

The only way to reach Wolmi from Chinatown in Incheon was either to walk (which Henry said would only be “like 20 minutes”), take a taxi, or take a bus. Now for some reason, I am still terrified of public buses. I don’t know why! Ok I do know why–it’s because I’m always worried my transit card won’t work when I tap it and unlike on the subway, you’re face to face with the bus driver and everyone on the bus is getting all huffy and surly because you’re holding everything up.

I write this like it’s from personal experience and it is NOT. I have only ridden the bus in Pittsburgh once in my whole life and that was in 1998 waaaay before the days of transit cards, and the times we rode a bus last year in Busan, we had zero problemo.

So Henry did his thing, found out which bus would take us there (um, nearly all of them) and we waited at the stop right across from Chinatown, then got on the EMPTY BUS with some old man and that was it! Success!

Also, after riding there on a bus, I can now tell you that it would have been one fucking bitch of a walk there through mostly industrial areas, so…dodged that bullet.

The bus ride was only about 10 minutes and not scary at all. It is still highly unlikely that I will ever willingly board a PAT bus in Pittsburgh though.

So here’s a nugget of history about Wolmi Island, which I only recently learned: “On September 10, 1950, the U.S. Army began five days of bombing Wolmido Island, which contained North Korean Army soldiers. Several hundred civilians were killed in the dropping of 93 napalm bombs. The battle was inspiration for the North Korean Propaganda Film Wolmi Island produced in 1982.”

Yikes. Thinking about that, and knowing I walked all over this place is goosebump-inducing.

And yet, now it’s a big tourist spot full of restaurants, bars, and amusement parks!

It had stopped raining by the time we made it to Wolmi, but the gray skies kept most people away. Wolmi Theme Park was open, and the ride operators were busily squeegee’ing the rides of puddles.

But were the only people strolling around, so it gave it a mildly sinister feel. Later though, some people were riding the pirate ship and hearing their screams made it less creepy, somehow.

The famous Tagada! Or, also known as Disco Pang Pang. So this ride is popular in various Asian countries but it’s not something you would ever see in the States, what with, you know, safety regulations and whatnot. But the ride operator essentially tries to catapult the riders off the ride. And there are no seatbelts or anything! So you have to grab on to the rails with all your might and give it to God, I guess.

(No one actually gets flung off but I have seen videos of people sliding around all over the place!)

Taemin and Key from SHINee were actually on  this ride during an episode of “We Got Married”! It’s the very beginning of the video, so just watch it:

I mean…I was attacked by our family’s pet rabbit Rudy when I was 15 so just glancing at this ride was enough for me.

Across from the entrance to Wolmi Theme Park is the Wolmido Lighthouse.

Yellow Sea.

It didn’t even feel like we were in Korea while we were here. It could have been some small town on the Jersey Shore, to be honest. It was nice to have a slower pace and hear all the seagulls squawking as people fed them squid snacks. Chooch and I got drinks from a little cafe run by the most adorable and pleasant older couple (Chooch was on a major bubble tea spree, and I mostly opted for iced Americanos everywhere we went).

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“Fun time,” as Chooch would call it.

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We stumbled upon another little park that had not one but THREE pirate ships. They love their pirate ships in Korea!

I can definitely imagine this being a major hotspot during nicer days and it probably is a madhouse during summer nights.

Before we headed back to Seoul, I was adamant that we ride the ferris wheel, which cost us like $18 I think but it was worth it not because yay, family time, but because TAEMIN RODE THIS FERRIS WHEEL.

Also, Henry smiled once.

Chooch was tired of hearing me complain about my eye woes.

Eye drama and intermittent rain showers aside, this day trip was actually pretty great. However, the highlight for me when we were sitting on the subway on the way back to Seoul and Chooch created an Instagram account for Cheetah Girl – the imaginary stripper girlfriend we invented for Henry – and I was fucking laughing so hard that I thought my bum eye was going to shoot out, and Henry was like, “WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING” so Cheetah Girl sent him a friend request BUT HE DENIED IT.

Aug 142019
 

Hello. This is still the second day. My recaps are tedious and ridiculous.

Every time I would start to get sad that it was raining, I would remind myself that it was STILL BETTER THAN BEING IN PITTSBURGH. Honestly, when I started planning this trip, I knew it was Korea’s rain season but I was adamant on being here for my birthday – who knew my birthday was in Asia’s monsoon season? Coincidentally, all the rain really helped with the air quality and there were no yellow dust advisories the whole time we were there, as opposed to our last visit in spring when everyone was wearing medical masks the whole time.

Give and take, I guess.

Anyway, it was fine that it started to rain because we were ready to get Our jjajangmyeon on anyway. I guess now is where I tell you that jjajangmyeon is a noodle dish with a really thick and rich black bean sauce. It’s served with danmuji (pickled yellow radish) and lemme tell you what, it is such a satisfying dish.

Interestingly, it’s a Koreanized version of a Chinese dish, much like how America has its own versions of Chinese food that is most likely not served in China. Incheon’s Chinatown is allegedly the birthplace of this dish (there’s even a museum there for it) so naturally, this is what we had to have for lunch!

There are numerous places that serve this, clearly, but we chose a place that one of our favorite Korean YouTubers recommended, and it has the “a k-drama was filmed here” claim to fame. When we walked in, there were several tables occupied by old men, which is always a good sign.

I think our waitress freaking hated us though. She just gave off “trespassers!” vibes even though this was like a major tourist area.

But we still happily ate our jjajangmyeon. (Chooch did too even though he was being a bitch about it when we were looking at the menu—he and I both have massive food/mood swings.)

Actually, we ate so happily that I failed to even take a picture of the jjajangmyeon after all this hype about the jjajangmyeon but honestly, it’s not a very attractive dish. It’s literally a bowl of noodles with a wet crowd of dark gravy-like gloop.

Fun fact: there is a holiday in Korea called Black Day where single people gather to eat jjajangmyeon in an effort to dull the pain of not having a Valentine, I guess.

I got this picture from the Internet but you can just pretend like it was my bowl before I bibim’d that shit up into a chunky nest of black bean ooze.

(OMG as I’m writing this a video about kimchi jjigae is playing on my TV in the background and I just realized that I never ate any of that this time around and it’s one of my favorite Korean dishes, ugh guess I have to GO BACK AGAIN.)

Our lunch was so delicious but I definitely had regertz afterward because there was this one restaurant we walked by earlier, and also after lunch, where an older woman was standing in the doorway cheerfully saying hello to passersby in an attempt to lure them inside and I wished so deeply that we had chosen her noodle house instead.

Le sigh.

Look at the little chairs on the windowsill!

We strolled around some other areas of Chinatown after lunch. I ended up not gaining any weight the entire time we were away even though I ate so much and it’s definitely because we did so much walking. It’s the best way to digest, you guys.

I don’t know if it really is or not.

I was scared walking up these steps because they were so wet and shiny.

But there was a reward at the top! Look at how beautiful that is. There were steps on the other side of that Chinese gate, which led us into a forest/park-type area which also was home to a Korea-US Centennial Monument, so that was pretty cool.

There was also a General MacArthur statue, which Henry correctly guessed from many yards away because he knows more history stuffs than me but also he probably saw this on the map that we were looking at next to the entrance of Chinatown.

Chooch and that damn umbrella that I had to carry through four airports on the way home, ugh.

That MacArthur guy. Maybe I should look him up sometime.

CAT!!

Oh shit you guys, we got some Mooncakes from this vendor that I read can have lines up to 90 minutes long so it was another reminder to thank the rain for keeping away the crowds. Mine had a green tea filling, Chooch’s was super-messy chocolate, and of course Henry got red bean. These were way better than the buns we had earlier that day, and also fresher. Plus, the vendor was so much nicer and personable and happy to sell us his Mooncakes.

I dunno, these alone might have been worth the excursion away from Seoul!

Before we could say goodbye to Chinatown, Chooch had to waste more of our precious coins in the claw machine arcade.

I think that I will definitely visit C-town again if I ever return to Korea. There are so many different things to eat there and my stomach is just not as big as it feels when I’m watching food vlogs.

Before we left Incheon, we had more place to go: Wolmi Island. SEE YOU IN THE NEXT POST!

Aug 132019
 

Incheon is a city about an hour west of Seoul, and also the location of the international airport. But it’s also home to Korea’s largest (and only official) Chinatown. Why would you want to go to a Chinatown in Korea, you may be asking if you’re even reading this but you probably aren’t whoever YOU ARE.

Anyway, I wanted to go specifically because I heard through the grapevine also known as YouTube that this is like the premiere place to get ye a bowl of that good-good jjajangmyeon.

WHAT IS JJAJANGMYEON you might be asking and look maybe it’s time that you utilize that Siri or Google bullshit. And this is where Henry reminds me that I have chased all my blog readers away with  my poor attitude, so fine I’ll tell you what jjajangmyeon is….in another post. Because this post is about killing time before the jjajangmyeon.

It took about 2 hours to reach Incheon’s Chinatown by subway (several transfers were necessary and then there was that whole bit where Henry left me on a train platform) but overall, it was relatively easy to figure out how to get there (and by that I mean I let Henry and Chooch look at the maps and I followed them blindly with outstretched hands while wobbling to and fro with big dumb glasses on my big dumb face).

The gate is pretty much right outside the station (which I also believe was the last stop): so um, you really can’t miss it. Even I could see it!

The downside to this excursion was that it was raining off and on. Plus, we had arrived just a bit too early so nothing was really open yet, but we did find a nice little garden area to take refuge and get our bearings.

You can tell even from far away that my eye was jacked!

A tour group arrived as we were chilling here and at the same time, it stopped raining. Suddenly, everything came to life in Chinatown!

It was so gloomy all day, but I liked the vibe. It matched my eye-pain-inducing CLOUD ABOVE MY HEAD.

We did some lunch pre-gaming by swiping some Hwadok Mandu. The vendor seemed impressed when I ordered mine and said “hobak” instead of “pumpkin.” I KNOW MY FOOD WORDS, OK. Henry got red bean and I already forget which one Chooch got. Apparently, the lines for this vendor get quite long so I was no longer that mad about that rain. I expect things to be crowded when I’m traveling, but we had this whole little town almost entirely to ourselves and it was bizarre yet wonderful. Especially when we got to Fairytale Village!

If there is one thing Korea loves, it’s murals and cartoon kitsch. There was no rhyme or reason for this section of Chinatown, and it actually felt pretty out of place, but goddamn if we didn’t peruse every last street and alley and take those photo spots up on their offers!

At first, Chooch was kind of like, “This is dumb…” but then he kept finding random dog murals.

The freshly wetted paths and gray skies added an extra layer of creepiness! Like some unsettling Slovakian horror fantasy. At times, you could almost forget that you were even in Korea. I

Just, you know, straddling a giant Pinocchio in Chinatown, nothing to see here.

Now I kind of wish this was in my living room. I’ve been looking for years for an adequate couch-substitute and this might actually replace my strong desire for a vintage bumper car TV-watching vessel. Just put some throw pillows down on his legs and get cozy, friends!

I’m not sure Henry was very enchanted by this.

Brookline needs to jazz up the town with some whimsical fiberglass tree things. I’ll mention it at the next town hall.

Well, then Chooch found this Bambi thing and freaked out. I don’t know what it is with him and Bambi, but Korea is the perfect place for him because Bambi just happens to pop up everywhere?!

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I wish a truck selling soondubu stopped on MY street.

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All over Korea, you will see trucks peddling food (like eggs and produce) while announcing their wares in a trance-like cadence over a megaphone. This particular guy was vending tofu.

All those lifestyle Instagrammers would have a field day here with ALL THE WALLS OMG. SUCH CONTENT.

I allowed photos even though I was wearing my hideous glasses.

Even Korea’s sewer grate things are excelsior.

More Bambi, inexplicably.

동화마을 = Fairytale Village (Dong-hwa maeul)

I guess I can’t hate on Chooch’s Bambi fascination too hard because I am definitely into Alice in Wonderland. I was excited when we came across this but it turns out it was just a trick eye museum and we did one of those last year in Insadong.

And you know what they say about trick eye museums: if you’ve been to one…why? you’ve been to ’em all.

ANOTHER FUCKING BAMBI.

So many possible captions here.

Anyway, that was the first part of our visit to Incheon’s Chinatown. Oh! We also went to a little sock shop because Chooch and I are obsessed with Korean socks (THEY ARE FUCKING CUTE AND CHEAP AND ACTUALLY GOOD QUALITY). When Henry was paying, he noticed some old-ass cellphone on the counter and thought it belonged to the lady who had been in line in front of him so he grabbed it and called after her but the cashier was like “yo bro that’s a pop-socket display, put it down!” except he said that in Korean and Chooch and I were like, to each other, “omg he is so embarrassing.” That was the catchphrase of this trip, definitely.

Anyway, the next part will be about how we finally got our jjajangmyeon which will include an explanation of said jjajangmyeon in case you haven’t already googled that shit.

Aug 122019
 

I’m sad to be home, but the transition back to reality has been less painful this time around. Maybe because it’s still summer so life still feels vacation-y in a way? All I know is that we left the house moderately clean when we left and my mom kept it in great condition for us so we got to come home to a clean house but that lasted less than a day….so, things are definitely on the regular up here in the Pioneer Ave Shanty!

I worked from home on my first day back, but the next day when I went into the office, my group had my desk all decorated for my birthday and they passed out party hats – it was super adorable and made coming back to work way less painful – especially since I had been awake since 4:00am. I even let Margie hug me! She told me I’m not allowed to be gone this long again and you know what it felt nice to be missed, OK?!

And then there was a double-stabbing right down the street from my office.

(Plus what it was it, three??? mass shootings just in the two weeks I was gone? But yeah, South Korea is the scary place to travel to. Come on, America. We can do better.)

Meanwhile, Chooch got kicked out of the library on his first day home so things were REALLY back to normal for him. (It wasn’t his fault though, you guys. He didn’t do it. The librarians are bitches.)

Friday was my work-from-home late shift so Chooch and I happily resumed our Summer Breakfast Club! I’m sure one day Future Chooch is going to look back on this blog and be so fucking thrilled at all the unflattering chewing shots I have of him. On this day, we walked to Mt Lebanon and gave Simone’s a try. I guess it’s relatively new and the reviews were hit or miss, but we had a lovely experience there and our waitress was super laid back and made us feel like we weren’t n00bs and then she called me by my name when she came back with my credit card and I thought to myself, “Hey, Liza, that was a nice touch and right before I calculated your tip, no less. SMARTIE.”

Anyway, Chooch got the Yo Yo Burrito and I had ordering remorse big time when he let me have a bite because it was everything I want in a breakfast burrito – eggs, black beans and lotsa sour cream. I got an omelette which was good but I opted for grits as my side because I can never remember if I like them or not and they were just ok. Are they supposed to be watery? I added some butter to them and then didn’t know what came next so I dumped in some sugar and it was fine but the bowl was HUGE so I didn’t finish it all.

Henry the Grits Enthusiast wasn’t with us so I didn’t know what to do!

Chooch and I both agreed later that this was one of the few times we had a breakfast filling enough to tide us over until lunch. I’m usually hungry again by the time we get back home!

(Unless I have pancakes, then I’m done for the day.)

Back at home, we sorted through more of our luggage. I hate unpacking. Like, who doesn’t though. Actually, I think my luggage is the only one that still needs unpacked and now it’s like a silent standoff to see if Henry will finally cave and do it for me. Anyway, it was fun pulling out the souvenirs and gifts though, like this shirt that Chooch spotted from a mile away in Harajuku, thanks to his strong Corgi-radar. I made him try it on so I could take a picture because I think it’s the cutest, most Chooch-centric shirt ever, perfect for school picture day!

Henry had to work on Saturday and I had been up since like 5am again, so I didn’t do much of anything aside from sorting through pictures, catching up on coaster vlogs on YouTube, and I finally started watching “Dark” on Netflix.

Saw this on my Saturday stroll around Dormont – definitely back in Pittsburgh!

The next day, Henry and I were walking around Brookline when I said, out of nowhere, that my new way of living life is to do everything I want to do instead of just whining about not being able to do the things I want to do. Now, I just say, “I’m going to do this,” and then do it!

Henry just sighed, because he knows what this entails and it’s less of me making things happen and more of me snapping my fingers and cracking the whip until Henry makes the things happen.

“I’ve been so much happier since I started living this way!” I said gleefully, and I think Henry wiped away a tear, I’m not sure.

Later, we went to Sugar Spell Scoops for some after-lunch vegan dessert and my friend Kara happened to also be there with her family, so that was a nice surprise! I still felt like a zombie though so I was not much of a conversationalist.

Anyway, I splurged and had a scoop of blueberry lavender and coffee cake – look, on any other day, that blueberry lavender would have had be doing cartwheels down the street (in my head, anyway) but that coffee cake scoop was THAT GOOD that it overshadowed my beloved lavender.

Seriously, this place is wonderful and creative, and the people running it are just plain old NICE.

And they have cool coloring pages!

Anyway, I pulled the trigger and finally unfollowed Millie’s on social media. The love affair is officially dead, you guys. No longer my favorite scoop shop in the city.

So yeah, that’s the…scoop (OH! I WENT THERE! I’M OFFICIALLY A CORNY 40-YEAR-OLD MOM!) on what I’ve been up to since I’ve been back from the best vacation of my whole entire life! I’m a little less depressed about being home now because Henry is finally on board with going back to Holiday World (and Kentucky Kingdom!) over Labor Day so I have things to look forward to! Turning 40 has not me any more of an adult!

Aug 112019
 

This is waaaaay more dramatic-sounding that it really was! You know how I do.

But my eye, you guys. My eyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

I thought I would be OK if we went back to the room so I could take my contact out, and then carry on with business.

I think this was in the City Hall subway station. All I remember is that it was the exit right next to some convenience store where Henry bought a cord for the wifi thingie. So, whatever subway station that is.

Weird family portrait in this mirror-y art installation thing.

Not even an eyeball hanging out of its socket could stop me from taking a picture of the adult shop by our guest house, which we pointed and snickered at EVERY SINGLE TIME and yelled, “IT’S HENRY’S STORE!” This was second only to a lingerie store elsewhere in Hongdae called Sexy Cookie, which I only just realized Friday on our walk home from Summer Breakfast Club that I never took a picture of it!! I tried one night to get Henry to stand in front of it for a picture after he was mouthing off about how things like this didn’t make him feel ashamed or bothered, yet he was super quick to snuff out any impending photo ops, so…

You tell me.

Went back to the room and peeled the contact off my eye.

THAT FELT GREAT.

I’m fucking kidding.

It felt goddamn awful, like several layers of my eyeball slipped off with the contact like fucking onion skin.

Holy fuck.

Now I was at the point where my eyelid was like, “Hey, I’m just gonna stay shut for the next 72 hours, cash me outside if you disagree.” But I kept fighting to keep it open and my eye actually looked like it was bleeding and then the whole fucking lid and area around it turned swollen, so I had to walk around THE FUCKING COOLEST AREA OF SEOUL with my hair flung over my right eye like a follicular curtain of shame. And it would sporadically well up with tears because, as Dr. Henry liked to remind me 87 times during this chapter of my life, “EYES ARE SELF-CLEANING.”

So then my other eye wanted to join the watering party and then it was also raining so my face was all oily with humidity and basically, I wasn’t bringing any Korean boys back with me at this juncture, is all I’m saying. Unless I could find some strange subgroup on the dark Internet of Korean men who like white American girls that look like freshly-punched glazed Easter hams. Then, swipe right boys!

Plus, I was shambling around with only one contact in, so my balance and depth perception were fragile.

Thank god this Taeyong birthday tribute was so gigantic or I might have missed it.

(It was painted over by the following week, in preparation for the next idol shrine to go up.)

It started pouring right when we were looking for a pizza place. (Chooch’s choice—I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes it’s easier to just let him have his way every now and then so that we’re all happy and it’s not, apparently, the Erin Show even though I AM THE REASON WE WERE EVEN THERE!)

My only requirement was that I wanted it to be a place that wasn’t super crowded so that people wouldn’t have to stare at the Mongoloid American. I considered getting an eye patch and pretending like I was healing from plastic surgery, which, in Seoul, no one would even think twice about.

We found a small little walk-up called Monster Pizza right by our room and it was perfect. We sat at a table outside and it was getting dark so my eye was less noticeable maybe.

We went back to the room to relax for a bit and I tried on my new pajamas that I bought in Hongdae after seeing this pattern EVERYWHERE, even in the shops in the subway stations. I was nervous because most shops like that are one-size (or free-size) which made me so nervous last time  to the point where I panicked and refused to buy anything, but this time, I took the (half) blind leap and bought it. AND IT FIT, WOO!!! So then I was just like, “BUY ALL THE SHIRTS!!” after that.

I wanted to see the Han River later that night so we had to take the subway to Yeouido and I thought Henry knew what he was doing but he had us walking for-fucking-ever on some trail which wasn’t actually all that bad because my eye was being a fucker still and it was nice to not have to be around crowds. Nearly ever person we passed on the trail was an old person which I thought was awesome – old people in Korea are so into fitness!  They’re an inspiration.

We saw this random BTS thing next a yacht club. I guess you’re supposed to write a letter to them and put it somewhere, I dunno. America’s oversaturation of them has kind of left a gummy taste in my mouth so I’m not as excited to see BTS stuff anymore. Interestingly, though, Korea doesn’t shove them down a person’s throat as much as you would think so it wasn’t BTS-overload for us at all.

Anyway, we were out by the Han for what felt like hours. The air was so soupy and thick with humidity and my eye felt like it had been removed and replaced with a shrunken Pinhead. I was in PAIN, y’all. However, when Henry suggested that we get our first bingsu of the trip before heading back to the room, I didn’t put up much an argument (although I did whine a lot about the pain I was in, just in case either of my healthy-eyeballed companions forgot).

It felt SO GOOD to be back in Korea’s underground again! Chooch and I developed a really weird attachment to Seoul’s subway system last year and when we first heard the “train is approaching” jingle this time around, I felt my heart skip a beat.

Also, I can’t remember if it was like this last year, but I noticed this time that the jingle for the airport train was a REMIX of the standard subway tune!

Subway art on point, Seoul.

The streets of Hongdae <3

I kept asking Henry if my eye looked OK and he would say yes without hardly looking, so then I would ask Chooch and he would do this sharp intake of breath and then say, “……well…..” with his face molded into a strong YIKES! expression, so if you ever want to know the truth, ask Chooch not Henry.

We went to Sulbing, which is a popular bingsu chain in Korea. Bingsu is a traditional Korean shaved ice dessert, but that description does NOT do it justice. It’s not like that coarse, watery snocone bullshit. This is a soft, velvety, fluffy concoction of what we believe is more of a milk-ice. There are all kinds of seasonal flavors, but the most original, I think, is the patbingsu – red bean. I prefer the green tea varieties, which also usually include a layer of soft, sweet red bean paste (don’t knock it, man—it’s a fucking crime that we don’t use this ingredient in American desserts) and an additional cup of green tea-infused condensed milk to pour over the whole thing.

It is our absolute favorite dessert in Korea! There’s a Korean bakery in Pittsburgh that makes it but they use regular ice and, well, that ain’t it.

Chooch got the tiramisu one, and Korean’s obsession with tiramisu never ceases to amuse me! I thought maybe it was a trend that would have died out by the time we came back, but no—you can find tiramisu-flavored treats in nearly every bakery and dessert cafe.

I always make Henry share a bingsu with me even though I’m sure I could easily clean a bowl on my own, and he gets so annoyed because I always order without consulting him and he dislikes green tea which is my favorite and I ask you, blog, for the 8087986th time, why are we still together?!

I was so miserable up until the bingsu was placed in front of me, but not even the invisible sword impaling my right eyeball could take my bingsu joy away from me. It was the best way to end the day, that’s for sure.

We walked back to the room after this and I went to bed hoping that my eye would be back to normal the next day.

Please look forward to my next post about Incheon’s Chinatown, but in the meantime, you can read about the next morning when Henry and Chooch abandoned me.

Aug 102019
 

After we left Onion, we set off for Bukchon Hanok Village. I recently saw an article about how it’s South Korea’s “best kept secret” and that made me laugh because this place can be a madhouse, just a bumbling conglomerate of tourists. When we were there last year, it was…pretty crowded. Crowded enough that it was difficult to get any decent photos. I wanted to try again, by going on a weekday morning and the streets leading to the village were nearly empty. It was ghostly!

Oh, also this time around, we made it straight here without getting lost in alleys and yelling at each other, so it was already a better experience! Please enjoy some pictures from our walk around the ridiculously steep streets of Bukchon Hanok Village!

Hanok translates literally to “Korean house.” Some of them have been converted to guesthouses, so you can actually go to Korea and do what is called a “hanok stay” where you sleep on the floor and experience what it was like to live in a house like that way long ago. I know, that doesn’t sound very glamorous, but I bet it’s still wildly interesting and fun!

Oh, and the floors are heated!

I’m in love with this architecture style. When I came back last year, I changed the picture on our shared Wiki page at work to a shot I took from a balcony of the hanok below and one of my co-workers was like, “Wow…a picture of…roofs.”

I was like, “THEY ARE NOT JUST ‘ROOFS’! GOD!”

Honestly!

Here is a picture of Chooch and me, pretending to get along. J/K we actually were  getting along for real at this juncture. Anyway, the street behind us is like the most iconic street, the one that everyone wants to photograph, and Psy even filmed part of music video here. It’s like, so Completely Korea, you know? Iconic. There are lots of other streets too, and some of the hanoks are open to the public and provide arts and crafts workshops, some are galleries, some are little boutiques. But also, a lot are actual residences (I imagine the people living there have some big ₩₩₩).

(THOSE ARE THE SYMBOLS FOR KOREAN CURRENCY, WON, YOU GUYS. LOOK HOW MUCH YOU LEARN HERE. I SHOULD HAVE A PhD IN MY FUCKING BLOG URL.)

Look how wet Chooch’s hair is! Wet with sweat! It was pretty rainy and humid for the first few days we were there, and then after that it was just humid. And Asian humidity is NO JOKE. I thought that coming from Pittsburgh, where are summers are typically hot and soupy, I would be somewhat prepared, but then we ended up having a pretty mild summer here so far so I WAS NOT PREPARED for the humidity and actually, now that I’m home, it feels CHILLY to me and I am sitting here with a blanket on my lap while I type this.

Something interesting that I noted in Seoul is the summer fashion. Here, people wear the least amount of clothes as possible when it’s hot. But in Korea, protecting the skin is a priority, so you would still see most people walking around in pants and long-sleeves. And if they were wearing shorts, then their shirt would be a billowy blouse. Or if you saw someone in a tank top (not very often) they would almost definitely have jeans on. This was appealing to me because I am so body-conscious that I was giddy to be in a place where I could stay covered and not get strange looks. And honestly, it made me feel even more comfortable.

I really think I would thrive if I lived in Korea, lol.

Also, I never did anything with my hair the whole time we were there. First, it was because my hair straightener didn’t work in our guest house because of the voltage and I considered if it was even worth buying a different straightener but the weather forecast app opened magically on my phone with a message that said, “ARE YOU DUMB?” So most days, I didn’t even dry it after showering, just let the humidity do it’s thang, lol.

Being here makes me feel like I’m walking through a historical drama.

This type of architecture has been around since the 14th century. Amazing.

I love how you can see modern Seoul in the background.

My calves would be poppin’ if I had to walk up this every day.

I wonder if they ever do any kind of walking/running challenges in this area. In Pittsburgh, we have a TON of hilly streets and there is a marathon built around that, I feel like it has something to do with “Hell” and “Hills” but I can’t think of the proper name for it right now. And actually, the alleged “steepest road in the world” is like, a mile away from my house. So there are some similarities to my home that is so interesting to think about. Because who would ever compare Pittsburgh to Seoul.

When we reached the top of this road, I looked at Chooch and panted, “Welcome back to Korea!” because our whole last visit was summarized by “TRUDGING UP HILLS.” Lol.

Chooch at the top. We never would have been able to get this shot last year! Or if we came later in the day, or on a weekend. Good lord.

Afterward, it was starting to get dangerously close to lunch time and Chooch and I need to be regularly-fed in order to maintain our angelic dispositions, so we had to start walking to Tongin Market before it got any later. Henry was legit racing the clock at this point because Chooch and I turn on the HUNGER faster than vampires at sunset.

Chooch and I stepped off the road when we saw a vending machine, because he wanted a Gatorade (which apparently tastes different in Korea) but neither of us told Henry so he kept walking and then we were pissed when he didn’t even care that he lost us, so that backfired.

Random art wall.

We got to walk past the Blue House, where the president lives! MUCH BETTER PRESIDENT THAN OURS, that’s all.

It was about a 30-minute walk to Tongin Market, but we somehow made it without getting lost and then we all stuffed our faces and were quite happy. I wrote about that while we were still in Korea, and you can read that here if you are so inclined. 

We were going to get bingsu after this but then we realized that the place I chose was actually a super far walk and it was starting to rain, and by this point, my right eyeball was SCREAMING and when I checked my reflection in the Tongin Market bathroom market, my eye was as bloodshot as one of those aforementioned vampires and it was straight screaming for me to take the contact out.

Aug 092019
 

Keeping with tradition, we started our first full day off with a nutritious (lol) breakfast from CU. CU is one of several major convenience stores in South Korea and there was one a block away from where we were staying. There was also a 7-Eleven across the street, and a GS25 nearby too. The Big Trifecta!

Chooch always gets some kind of sickeningly sweet breadstuffs, preferably ones that come with stickers.

And mostly every day I would have a soft-boiled egg and a samgak kimbap, which is similar to the Japanese onigiri. I never took any pictures of them, but here’s one that I got from the Internet:

Related image

You can tell that’s not my picture because I haven’t had bare nails in probably 10 years. 

They are SO SATISFYING. It was also provided as one of the snack options on the flight home and I cried a little, knowing that it would be my last one for God only knows how long!

And I usually would have banana milk or some type of cold coffee drink. This one is a special BTS Cold Brew and that’s supposed to look like J-Hope but doesn’t really.

Oh, and Henry always had the exact same red bean and cream bun.

Every single morning.

I can’t remember if I mentioned this already, but for this trip, we were based in my favorite neighborhood of Hongdae. We opted for a guesthouse this time, and it was basically an apartment that a college student would use and it was perfect for our needs because it had a kitchenette and a washing machine which came in handy because it was a billion degrees and humid nearly every day so it was nice to be able to wash our clothes after a long day of trekking around town.

Waiting for Henry outside of the hotel. My eye was hurting that morning but I still put a contact in because I’m an asshole and it would start to be REALLY FUCKED later that afternoon, so good job, Erin.

First thing’s first – gotta get a TMoney card for the subway! The subway is always a cause of contention between Henry and Chooch because Henry naturally wants to take the lead but Chooch Knows Everything and wants to argue about the routes Henry chooses. I just go along with whatever line they tell me we’re taking and pray that we’re going to get there. And to be fair to both of them, we spent way less time spinning in circles on  the streets of Seoul, trying to get our directional bearings. Henry said that Google maps got a lot better to use in South Korea so thank  you for saving our vacation (and family), Google.

Last year, we didn’t get to pick our cards because when we were at the machine in Seoul Station, trying to figure it out, there were these two German guys who had just taken the subway one last time before headed  to the airport, so they gave us their cards (you have to pay for the card itself, so it was really nice of them but then I was stuck using an ugly card all last time! THESE THINGS MATTER TO ME!). I conned Henry into getting couples cards with me, lol. Poor Chooch got stuck with some ugly yellow card with a weird heart, because it was the only youth option. You can even go to various convenience stores and have even more design options, like Kpop groups or whatever, but I figured it would just be like, BTS and Blackpink so I was fine with the Line Friends choice.

(Even though I REALLY wanted a Kakao one but that machine wasn’t in the station where we got the cards that morning, ugh forever. I focus on these little things!)

OMG it felt so amazing to be inside Seoul’s subway stations again! I swear, you could build an itinerary solely around exploring all of their subway stations, they’re amazing and quirky and you can do a lot of shopping in some of them too! Chooch grabbed breakfast in one of them at some point because he didn’t like the thing Henry chose for him at CU one morning.

My itinerary for the first day changed numerous times. Originally, we were going to go back to Changdeokgung Palace because last year, we didn’t do the optional garden tour. But when we got there at 9am, it said that the tours of the garden were guided, and the earliest one didn’t start until 10:30.

But we stayed long enough for Henry to take a horrible, tilted picture of us.

The next plan was to revisit Bukchon Hanok Village because it was pretty crowded last year and they were doing construction on one of the hanok on  the main, most photographable street. However! On the way there, we ran smack into Onion, a cafe I wanted to try and it was such a good call!

The cafe is built into a hanok, so you get a real traditional Korean vibe being there. And the staff was so nice!

Their bread selection was top tier. I wanted Henry to get one of those giant dusted pencil looking things but Chooch made him get some chocolate thing instead because Chooch does this thing where we all have to share our treats with him but then he doesn’t share his with us so I have no idea how delicious his strawberry thing was but I can guess that it probably landed somewhere on the scale between VERY and MOST AMAZING.

I mostly just got an iced Americano at every cafe because it was hot and humid as fuck everyday and I wasn’t craving all the sugary drinks I had last time around.

I chose to sit outside on one of the pillowed steps and Henry was so annoyed because it was really only meant to be a two-seater so he had to alternate between standing and crouching, hahaha. Chooch already has chocolate on his mouth in this picture because he reached straight for Henry’s chocolate roll thing before even tasting his own selection!

I got this masterful thing that had a large smear of red bean on top of a veritable slab of butter. Holy shit, it was delicious but Henry the trash compactor ended up having to finish it for me, with pleasure I’m sure.

There were two ladies sitting next to us who asked me to  take their picture, and then in return, one of them wanted to take ours too so we had to pretend like we liked each other even though Henry was still griping about where I chose to sit and I was like SORRY THAT I WANTED TO HAVE A MORE TRADITIONAL EXPERIENCE, HANK, WE CAN SIT AT A TABLE AT THE NEXT ONE. God.

Then we burned off all those calories by walking around Bukchon Hanok Village, which we found immediately this time around instead of wandering around a maze of twisted streets and alleys last year like a bunch of asshole tourists looking up at the sky, but that will be a story for another day. Like, tomorrow maybe. Or maybe later today. I’ve been up since 4am so we’ll see where the day takes me.

Aug 082019
 

The performance video for Taemin’s Japanese single “Famous” just came out a few minutes ago and for once I am thankful that jet lag has me awake for this. I could watch him dance all the live-long day, folks.

I would never say folks in real life. I don’t know why I wrote that.

Anyway in other Taemin news, a few weeks ago there was a rumor that his agency, SM, was putting together a supergroup consisting of members of various boy groups like EXO and NCT. Taemin’s name was dropped in that rumor mill as well so my ears perked for real. I guess he was spotted with 6 others leaving one of SM’s practice rooms but some people pointed out that maybe there was going to be a one-time collaboration stage at the upcoming SMTown event in Japan.

But yesterday, SM announced that the rumors were truth–they are debuting a supergroup consisting of Taemin (OMG why am I crying while I’m writing this let’s just chalk it up to exhaustion) from SHINee, Kai and Baekhyun from EXO (crying again lol), Mark and Taeyong from NCT, and TEN (!!!!!!!) and Lucas from WayV, the NCT Chinese subunit.

All of these artists are fucking gold but you’re telling me that I’m getting a chance to see Taemin and Ten perform together in the same unit?!

I can’t even handle this.

Their name is SuperM (not stoked on that name though) and they’re expected to have a US debut (!!!!!) in October.

If this means there will potentially be a tour…no, I can’t even get my hopes up.

Photo cred: SM Entertainment.

This is the teaser that was shown at a Capitol Records event yesterday and I am actually shaking.

The talent in this group is sickening.

That’s all I have for now. It’s finally late enough in the morning for me to start getting ready for work and I’m gonna roll in to the office on an imaginary people-mover made up of my current kpop high.

Aug 072019
 

We came home last night around 10 and must have stood by this clown for a solid five minutes going through the mail before I noticed that it was new – so that tells you:

  • How many clown things we have in the house that this was like ET sitting in a pile of Bertie’s stuffed animals,
  • How desensitized we are as a household to clowns,
  • How fucking exhausted we were

It was probably the worst travel day I ever had but in hindsight, it could have been a lot worse and we were still fortunate enough to at least get home on the same day. Having a mood-swingy teenager doesn’t help things though and he was actually angrier about it all than we were! He was like That Person in a long line who loves to state the obvious. “This is line is ridiculous!” “I just want to GET HOME.” And it’s like YES, EVERYONE DOES, YOU CRANKY WALLSTREET BUSINESSMAN. Jesus, Chooch!

On the express train to Incheon Intl :( Chooch got a new Apeach plushie (his favorite Kakao character that he calls Peachy Boi); he calls this one Bumble Boi.

Mostly he was fine though and we were giddy because on our Korean Air flight home, Henry had to sit in the first row of our cabin and we were in the last. It was actually the last row of the whole plane and was glorious because the bathroom area was so spacious and I took ample leg-stretching breaks back there.

Everyone in our entire row was awesome–Chooch has a Korean girl (about 9 or 10) and her dad next to him. I was on the aisle but the guy across from me was so quiet and inoffensive and I felt blessed. However, there was a family in front of us with three very young girls, I would say 6, 4, and 3 if I had to guess. Look, I’m not one of those people who shoots parents scowls and whatever when their baby is crying because that’s what babies do and I had a baby once and understand that it is not always easy to get a baby to shut it down. But these kids were fucking out of control, jumping off the arms rests, scream-talking to each other, watching videos on a tablet with the volume on and no headphones, putting their feet on the backs of the seats in front of them (god be with those people), dropping their shit constantly (I picked up pillows for them more times than I care to admit) while their parents slept and watched movies. It was so out of control that one of the flight attendants came over and shushed then because BOTH PARENTS WERE SLEEPING and they were using their playground voices x10. Korean Air, you guys are way nicer than I would have been if I was working on that flight. It was an absolute mess.

Also, Chooch bought one of those long fucking non-retractable umbrellas in Seoul because it was rainy while we were there and it didn’t fit in any of our luggage so GUESS WHO INHERITATED IT FOR THE 24+ HOURS OF TRAVEL BACK HOME? CHOOCH AINT IT YALL.

Also x2, I was mad because we saw them when we were boarding and two of the girls were fighting so I said, “LOL I hope they sit behind you, Henry.” He came back to visit us at one point (we told him not to because we didn’t want to be associated with him) and he was like “haha I see you guys got the kids” then he was in the flight attendant’s way and we were like GO AWAY YOU ARE SO EMBARRASSING!

He tried to make a joke when we were checking in because the seat he was assigned was one of the designated baby seats. “I’m not taking the seat from a baby, am I?” he dad-laughed and the Korean Air lady said “no” with no signs of getting his lame humor.

Our catchphrase on this trip was DEFINITELY “Oh my god, he is so embarrassing.”

Anyway, once we landed at shitty JFK (what a shock to the system after being in beautiful Incheon), we were told our flight back to Pittsburgh was delayed by three hours. That wasn’t great but whatever. We had just sit down at some Irish pub thing to eat and before we had a chance to order, we found out that flight was outright canceled. If I was a kid, I would have been like YAY MORE VACATION TIME GUYS! but I’m not a kid and both Henry and I had to work the next day because we’re crazy people who are like “fuck you, lol” to the face of jet lag and our only options were get a flight in the morning or go to an entirely different airport and fly out at 5:25. It was already after 2:00 but the Delta lady said it was an option and that we would “probably” have time which sounded super reassuring, let me tell you. I wasn’t about to sleep in shitty JFK airport or pour more money into a hotel in fucking NYC, so…we took that option. Of course, Delta couldn’t be expected to find our luggage fast enough so the guy at the baggage counter was like “Just go, don’t miss your flight over this. We’ll get the luggage to you” which hopefully doesn’t turn out to be Famous Last Words but we took his advice and got a Lyft to LaGuardia where we had to go through another security check in but at least this one only took 15 minutes as opposed to the nearly 90 minutes at JFK. (They’re going to be hearing from Chooch the airport critic.)

Anyway, in the bathroom at LaGuardia, two woman came not even that close to walking into me and both were like OMG EXCUSE ME SORRY! and I was actually startled because after two weeks in Korea and Japan, I had grown accustomed to being plowed over unapologetically.

Then that flight was delayed to the point where we took off at the time it was supposed to be landing – at 7:20pm. But…it was a short, safe flight and a lot of the people on there were in the same situation as us where they transferred from JFK, so the flight was like a college mixer – it was the chattiest flight! There was a total love connection blossoming behind me (good luck, Stephen and Kendra!) and it was kind of nice to be on a flight with so many people going home to Pittsburgh, Yinzer accents and all.

According to Delta, our luggage is supposed to be delivered to our house today (just checked the tracking and it’s in PIT customs as of 4AM so there’s that at least) which is great but then Chooch and I decided to walk to Dunkin’ Donuts because we obviously have very limited foodstuffs in the house right now and I wanted coffee and he wanted a breakfast sandwich but then I realized that I packed the little purse that has my credit cards in it because I didn’t think I would need it at the airports since I had my passport in my backpack and Henry had all his cash and credit cards on him. So we had to scrounge up all the cash and change we could find all around the house (I had $3 in my eyeglasses case for some unknown reason and Chooch found quarters in his room) so we had like $5 but somehow our total was over $6 because of bad math on our part so we had to redo our order like sad orphans with a line of people behind us and then slide over our crumpled monies and mound of change and it was so depressing. So depressing.

So now it’s 7am and I’m properly caffeinated (got to drink out of one of my new coffee mugs from Korea which somehow ended up in a carry-on, yay) and I’m just soaking it all in now, all the things we did and experienced and how much I appreciate it all! And how happy I am that I got to give Chooch this chance to see some of the coolest places and how we have so many new inside jokes and how Henry didn’t murder us in Tokyo and how the first order of business for Chooch today was to find Perks of Being a Wallflower on Roku after reading it in Korea and falling in love with it. (He’s watching it right now and is so happy lol.)

I have so many pictures and thoughts to organize but I’m excited to start recapping the trip on here because it’s like reliving it all over again and it was the best vacation of my life!

(Also, my mom spoiled the cats so much that they couldn’t care less about our return home. But they had no problems chowing down on the Korean cat treats we brought back for them!)

Aug 052019
 

“I’m so sad that this is our last day,” I said to Chooch this morning. He considered this and said, “Yeah….me too but I’m also kind of excited to go home too.”

WRONG ANSWER.

I know a lot of people feel that way during the tail end of vacation and I definitely had these guys running for two solid weeks. But I am definitely not ready to leave. I burst into tears about it at one point today ughhh.

We got back to Seoul after our G-Dragon pension adventure around 1pm today and then booked it all over Seoul in an effort to get in all of the last minute gift-buying, food-eating, subway-riding as humanly possible. We were all over Jongno, Dongdaemun, Myeongdong, Seoul Station, and our homebase of Hongdae.

Chooch, after previously being in Korea and eating in numerous Korean restaurants at home, suddenly realized on this trip that he likes bibimbap, so this is what he chose for his last lunch.

I got sujebi which is a soup of hand-torn noodles – so satisfying!

Then we went to Gwangjang Market even though we already ate because we wanted to get some snacks to take home.

Those ajummas selling snacks are smart because they kept feeding Chooch samples and then he’d be all, “We have to get this stuff” and then we would get it and the ajummas were probably calling us suckers in Korean as we walked away.

There were countless times on this trip where Henry lamented the fact that our hotel last year was right across from this market and we only went there twice. I AM SORRY BUT THERE ARE MANY THINGS TO DO IN SEOUL, HANK, AND WE CANNOT STAY IN ONE PLACE.

Had to get a traditional twisted donut before leaving!

Wouldn’t be the same if Henry didn’t get us lost at one point which is what happened when we left Gwangjang with the intention of going to Myeongdong and practically walked the whole way there until he finally found a correct subway station.

But then when we got to the subway, Henry’s card wouldn’t let him in but Chooch and I were already through so Henry was motioning for us to get a subway worker but we just stood there and laughed. Finally, a yellow-vested lady noticed Henry-in-Distress and went over to save him.

(This just in: we just realized that Henry completely repacked our suitcases after Chooch and I worked really hard on it just kidding we did a pretty half-ass job that took about 10 minutes tops.)

(OMG Chooch is acting like he chugged some soju when no one was looking and is being so slaphappy and Henry wants to leave us here FINE BY ME.)

OMG we found another Taemin billboard in the subway station!

Myeongdong! It’s the best place to go for makeup and kpop merch.

Grabbed some makeup and last minute kpop gifts (this is the only place that has these certain kpop keychains that I love) then continued on to Seoul Station specifically to buy some foods at Lotte Mart.

Can you believe we never went to Lotte Mart last year?! I made sure we went this time though and Henry was in grocery paradise. “Why did we wait until the LAST DAY to come here,” he cried.

I have two favorite parts: Chooch freaking out over all the samples (he made friends with a lot of the sample-givers) and Henry irritably standing aside when Chooch assured him that he could tape up the box on his own (you don’t get bags there – you grab a box, unflatten it, and tape it up with the packing tape they provide).

Finally, Henry was like,”Yeah that’s great, and when you pick it up, I can’t wait for everything to fall out,” and then shoved him out of the way and took over, mumbling about how he “does this for a living.”

Seoul Station is amazing. Last trip, it seemed like we were there everyday but this time we were only there twice, and once was when we were getting the train to Jeonju (it’s not just a subway station but also a train and bus terminal as well).

Chooch noticed that the BaskinRobbins there had kakao friends stuff, and then when we took the escalator down to the next level, there was another BR so we figured it was fate and he got a scoop of ice cream (some crazy Simpsons-themed banana ice cream with pop rocks) in an Apeach cup but as you know, he calls her “Peachy Boi.”

No one will be surprised by this but BR in Korea is a billion times better than the ones in America.

We went back to Hongdae after this because I was carrying approx 5 bags of makeup and kpop stuff and Henry was lugging around a box of non-perishable Korean groceries and booze and we needed to drop that shit off!

One last evening view from the 12th floor of JYP House before going back out.

Hongdae is freaking magical.

You can buy flowers from a vending machine. Couples are SUPER into giving flowers around here so Henry would not thrive here at all.

It’s going to be an adjustment being back in Pittsburgh and not having the ultra-convenience of Seoul.

And not having a Gentle Monster! I almost bought a second pair of their sunglasses. I was so close but there were two pairs that I couldn’t choose between so I had a freak out and left but let’s be real, the true cause of my freak out was that we’re leaving tomorrow. :(

We went to Ediya Coffee for one last bingsu (this one was black sugar which is the latest craze and every bubble tea place has it. It was good but only made the pain of leaving EVEN STRONGER).

And when we went to 7/11 afterward and when Henry the American Oaf dropped stuff on the counter not once but twice causing the TOTALLY ADORABLE CASHIER to cry out “Oooh!” and girls in line behind us to chuckle, I was too sad to giddily fall into pee-squat position.

So now I’m sitting here, eating my last Inkigayo idol sandwich with a glass of makgeolli while Henry struggles to pack all our shit (we had to buy an extra suitcase).

I hope I will be able to come back again someday. Coming here so soon after our first time was a real struggle because we are not rich motherfuckers but I’m so grateful that we were able to make it happen and managed to do pretty much everything on my list. I am utterly exhausted but still ready to do more, if only we had the time. This was the best trip of my whole entire life! I think Henry and Chooch had a decent too haha.

Aug 042019
 

We made it to Ildong today around 11:00am and took a taxi to Pocheon Art Valley for some super sweltering hot fun times before it was time to check in to Dolce Bita (G-Dragon’s pension), all of which I will post about later because right now I’m sitting in the VIP room of G-Dragon’s pension, eating a strawberry sandwich & drinking banana milk with Running Man on TV – exactly where I belong! Korea is my favorite forever.

Family portrait in the mirror of the VIP room’s foyer!

There’s this guy staying in one of the rooms below ours who was laying out earlier and he was SO NICE LOOKING so I was calling him my boyfriend. Later, Chooch was like OH YOUR BF IS ON THE MOVE! I SAW HIM AND ALL OF HIS MUSCLES WALKING AROUND and he told me to look, so I did and he called me a creep?! HE WAS THE ONE WHO WAS LOOKING!!!

We’re supposed to be “relaxing” today since we’ve been so go-go-go for this entire trip and that seemed like a great idea until I got here, in the Middle Of Nowhere, Korea, and remembered that I do not have the ability to relax, ever.

Oh and for anyone who thinks G-Dragon isn’t popular anymore because of BTS, this joint is all booked up.

I brought a book with me so I guess I could try and be a lazy oaf like Henry and read that for a while but it’s not that great – It’s called Baby Teeth and I didn’t know it at the time I checked it out of the library, but it’s written by some broad who lives in Pittsburgh so its super Pittsburghy right down to some stupid comment about how the main character had travel ALL THE WAY TO THE SOUTH HILLS for a doctors appointment, like go fuck yourself, really. All of the characters are insufferable. It’s about a 7-year-old girl who won’t speak and hates her mom and starts doing terrible things to her when the dad isn’t around, and the dad doesn’t believe the mom, who has Crohn’s and every fucking chapter talks in gory detail about various Crohns-related surgeries she’s had and fistulas and packing wounds and I can’t even feel bad for her because I hate her and I hate the daughter and just wish she would die and the dad is such a fucking Swedish creepball, I hate the whole damn family and want a meteor to hit their stupid Hygge house in Shadyside.

I think that’s Danish.

So, yuppie IKEA house in Shadyside.

Meanwhile, Chooch has read two books since we’ve been here (in Korea) and loved both.

Speaking of Chooch, he was straight stalking a Corgi at Pocheon Art Valley today. First, the dog ran up to him barking but his owners called him back and Chooch was like HE WASNT GOING TO ATTACK ME, CORGIS LOVE ME. So then suddenly the Art Valley was super interesting to him and he was determined to pet the dog, to the point where he google translated “can I pet your dog” in Korean.

Here he is at the bottom of a hill, hot on the corgi’s trail. When I caught up to him, he was searching Instagram for the Corgi because according to him, it looked like the owners were doing a photo shoot with him and, like, “all corgis have an Instagram.”

I pointed out that Spencer, the local Corgi, doesn’t have one so now Chooch is going to suggest to his owner Bob that he start one and let Chooch be Spencer’s social media manager.

Anyway, tomorrow is our last day here and I’m panicking about it. We did so much more this time but it still feels like NOT ENOUGH.

Oh well. I will have a full report on the pension, and the Ildong and Pocheon area once I get home and get my thoughts together, but this place is definitely idyllic, especially if you’re the type of person who enjoys vegging out with beautiful nature and pictures of G-Dragon around you!

Ok, Henry just brought out the soju so maybe relaxation won’t be so hard to achieve after all.

UPDATE: GD’s dad is here!!

He was sitting outside when we went out for a walk and very cordially said hello to us but I did NOT have the nerve to ask for a photo, I’m a failure.

Also, some black dog left his owners who were hanging outside of a neighboring pension and decided to tag along with us and it was super awkward bc we were like “go home doggie” but he opted to go down and chill alone by the lake.

Meanwhile, a group of drunk disorderlies stumbled past us and I was like “oh god please don’t be American, you’re going to make everyone here hate us” but one of them screamed, “WE’RE RUSSIAN” to the dog owner who was walking with us in an attempt to get his dog back and I was like THANK GOD and also once they were close to us it was obviously they were Russian because they all looked like hockey players. I stereotype.

Anyway we walked to this cute cafe for an evening iced latte (me), a strawberry smoothie (Chooch) and a Hoegaarten (Henry the Hoe) and it was one of those times where being able to read Korean cane in handy because the whole menu was in Hanguel. A really sweet young girl waited on us and she seemed happy to help us bumbling foreigners. It’s tough the farther you get outside of Seoul because English is rare but it really says something to be on the other side every now and again. Americans take so much for granted!

Now we’re sitting on our patio, Chooch is in the pool, and we’re listening to the people below us talk while barbecuing and maybe slowing down for a night isn’t so bad after all.

Aug 032019
 

I haven’t been able to keep up with micro-blogging on here like I had hoped to. Last time I was able to do it because I had jet lag so bad that I was up everyday at like 3 or 4am, so….plenty of time for blogging! This time around, my jet lag blessedly only lasted two days so I haven’t had time to kill.

But today, we’re going to G-Dragon’s pension in Pocheon (!!!!!!) which is like a two hour bus ride so here I am with a Korea Update!

We’re just standing here waiting to get on our bus and Henry is obsessing over how korean girls walk around with giant curlers on their bangs and the girl standing near us is “wearing hers differently” according to Hair Expert Henry. Speaking of hair, my flat iron wasn’t compatible with the voltage in our room (or some other blahblahblahage that wafted from Henry’s mouth) so my hair has been Status: Miss Frizz for basically this whole trip. Wish he cared about my hair as much as he cares about Korean bangs!!!

I guess I will tell you about yesterday since I’m on the bus now and have some time!

We spent the whole first half of the day on a tour of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) and the JSA (joint security area) which I wanted to do last year too but was too nervous. I will do a proper post on that when I get home because there is so much to share that it will probably be a multi-post series!

We got back to Seoul around 6 and spent the evening in Hongdae, which is where we’ve been staying this time.

But first we had to take the subway back. This is what the City Hall station currently looks like. Probably construction but maybe art installation because…Seoul.

This is how beautiful the evening sky was from our room when we popped in to change!

I promised Chooch earlier on that we would go to an animal cafe if he didn’t act like a dick, and he chose Thanks Nature Cafe, which is the home to two soft and beautiful sheep named Tom & Jerry.

We went to a raccoon cafe last year and that was a lot of fun but the staff was kind of meh and I don’t remember it having that great of a menu. The raccoons were awesome though!

This cafe was a lot better in my opinion because the guy running it was super congenial and their dessert menu was A+++. They had bingsu which is what I had wanted to get after our DMZ day but the place I wanted to go to wasn’t conveniently accessible and I didnt want to be on a bus anymore that day. So this worked out perfectly because Chooch got to “bum bum pat” sheep and I got to inhale some sweet melon bingsu.

Presentation is everything!

Little known fact about me is that we had sheep as pets when I was growing up so I love me some sheep. The best one we had was named Squirt and she would always try to sneak into the house. She would put her front hooves on my brother Ryan’s back and they’d run around the yard together. It was the cutest thing ever! When I go to my mom’s house, I can’t even look at the area where the pen used to be because it makes me miss Squirt!

Chooch was satisfied after that. Good job, Thanks Nature Cafe!

Afterward, we went up the street to Isaac Toast because I have been craving it! They’re basically just breakfast sandwiches but they have this sweet mustard/mayo-ish sauce on them that elevates it to the next level.

You can get all kinds of meat-stuffed varieties but I went with egg and potato. Ugh it’s so good. I kept saying that Henry would probably have to eat half since we just ate bingsu and I was full but then I scarfed the whole thing like how Trump sucks down Kellyanne Conway’s soul before bed every night.

Update to show you beautiful Korean mountains from the bus:

After Isaac Toast we just walked around Hongdae and shopped.

Hongdae is my favorite area of Seoul. It’s where Hongik University is located and it’s just so full of creative energy and Fun Times.

We always make fun of Henry when he orders street food and then he storms off.

We also promised Chooch that he could go back to the stupid claw machine arcade and I swear to god this place is HELL ON EARTH for people like me who do not enjoy seeing perfectly good money getting sucked away into machines with nothing in return.

Chooch gets SO STRESSED OUT HERE. Especially when people all around him are like YAY I WON and he’s like WTF HOW?! There was this one super tall guy in glasses who was winning so much shit that his gf was following him around carrying BAGS OF HIS BOUNTY.

Busride snack time, BRB!

OK, I’m back.

We have seen so much more of Korea this time around and I’m so happy about it. I hope this doesn’t make me sound bratty, but being in Japan for two days, while great and exciting, made me realize just how much I love Korea. I was so happy to be back when we landed in Incheon Friday night! I would move here in a heartbeat if I was single, I swear to god.

My busmates *eyeroll*

Henry is obsessed with this drink. I tried it yesterday and was struck with nostalgia.

“That tastes just like a Squeez-It!” I cried enthusiastically but Henry couldn’t relate because when I was drinking Squeez-Its in elementary school, he was out drinking BEERS.

Anyway, I guess we will be arriving in about 20 minutes so I’m gonna peace out here and maybe try to update again later on once we get to the pension! BLOG, I MISS YOU!