Mr Toilet House Field Trip

Standard

A few months ago, someone posted pictures from what they called “the poop museum.” Clarissa saw the facebook pictures from their adventure and immediately wanted to go. Tim wasn’t super interested, so when our homeschool group planned a field trip there Clarissa and I planned to attend.

Mr Toilet is in Waze. The Waze directions can be confusing because the exit numbers are incorrect sometimes so our 45 minute trip turned into closer to 90 minutes. Thankfully we were riding with friends so the ride wasn’t miserable.

Mr Toilet House has two parts. On one side of the road is a giant building that looks like a toilet. The person who brought western toilets to Korea used to live there. It is a museum to the history of toilets now. It was actually closed for renovation when we visited.

Thankfully the outdoor sculptures were still available. It was interesting to see some of the old versions of toilets. Each sculpture had a wooden sign that was written in both Korean and English so that everyone could learn.

Across the street was a Culture Center. Behind the building were a few pretty toilets and urinals.

If you go upstairs to the fourth floor, you can look out and see the big toilet and giant poop sculpture.

On the second floor of the Culture Center is a playground of sorts for the kids. Clarissa and her friends had a great time going down the toilet slide. There were also a few games like putting a ball through the digestive system and watching it come out the other end. There were many displays about poop as well. Again, most of the displays were in Korean as well as English.

We were in and out in less than two hours. The kids had a great time! I think they would enjoy going back again. Admission is free. Like many museums in Korea, Mr Toilet House is closed on Mondays. They don’t sell food there but there is a drink machine outside the giant toilet so plan accordingly.

My first Korean wedding

Standard

We have lived in Korea for three years. A few times I have heard things about Korean weddings, but I was never invited to one until recently.

We attend church off post. There is an American pastor for the English congregation and his brother in law is the pastor for the Korean congregation. The daughter of the Korean pastor got married (my pastor’s niece) and the entire church was invited.

Most Korean weddings take place in a wedding hall. It is a very efficient process. The bride typically rents her dress. The package includes hair, makeup, and pictures as well. The groom’s family usually pays for most of the wedding.

We arrived to the wedding hall about 40 minutes before the wedding was to begin. They put out the full parking lot sign a few cars behind us so everyone else had to park far away and create their own parking space (totally normal thing to do in Korea).

We parked on b4. Every floor we went up, the elevator became more crowded. Korean elevators can hold a lot of people. There is no such thing as personal space.

We arrived on the 5th floor where our wedding was to be. The first stop is the money envelope. There is a line for the bride and a line for the groom. The person in charge of your line will give you a white envelope. You can write a note and then put your money inside. If you are not super close to the bride or groom, you can give 30,000 won (about $30 USD). The closer you are to the person getting married, the more you give. If you get married at a later date, they are supposed to give the same amount to you.

After you turn in your envelope, the person in charge will give you a ticket for the buffet. You can choose to go to the buffet before or after the ceremony. This is your wedding gift. There are no registries for what the bride and groom want in their kitchen.

Next, the guests visit the bride and take a picture with her.

The parents of both the bride and groom will be in the lobby. You are supposed to greet them. The mothers will be wearing traditional hanbok.

During the wedding ceremony, the mothers walk in together, light a candle, bow, and go to their seats.

Next, the groom walks in followed by the father of the bride and the bride (in a Christian wedding otherwise the bride and groom may walk in together).

There are no bridesmaids, groomsmen, or flower girls. The people who work in the wedding hall make sure that the ceremony runs smoothly. They hold the bouquet when needed or fix the bride’s dress.

The bride and groom recited vows by reading them.

 

Next, the father of the bride spoke to the couple. He encouraged them to love and take care of each other. The father of the groom welcomed everyone to the wedding. Then was special music. The bride and groom stood together for two songs sung by different people.

At this point in the ceremony, sometime the groom has to do something special to prove his love. I heard stories today about push ups and running down the aisle. Our groom today only had to say “horray!” three times.

To end the ceremony, the bride and groom bowed, first to her parents, then to his parents, and finally to their wedding guests.

They then walked down the aisle to the end where they kissed and flower petals fell on them.

Pictures were at the end of the ceremony. First were pictures of the immediate family, followed by pictures of extended family, and finally friends. The bouquet toss is usually staged so that you know who is catching the bouquet.

With the official ceremony over, we headed upstairs to the buffet. We had to give our ticket as admission. There were guests from several weddings in the same buffet. There was so much food! Most of it was labeled in Korean and English.

Sometimes you don’t see the bride and groom after the ceremony. We were at the buffet long enough that they came out in their traditional hanbok.

I had a wonderful afternoon with my friends. The wedding ceremony didn’t seem that different from an American wedding. The venue was interesting because there were so many weddings happening at the same time.

15236832905211720400495.jpg

Airport limousine bus to Incheon

Standard

One nice thing about living in Pyeongtaek is that we live closer to Seoul. It makes for a nice day trip. But the airport is actually in Incheon, not Seoul, which is at least a 2 hour drive.

On our vacation to Okinawa, we decided to try the airport limousine bus instead of messing with traffic, tolls, and airport parking. It was very easy.

We called a taxi to pick us up at about 730 and then waited at the bus stop. It is the same bus stop as the 20 bus by the main gate (in front of the Volvo dealer /Christine Realty).

The purple bus was right on time, 7:55 AM. The driver got off the bus to help us store our luggage. He asked if we were going all the way to Incheon because the bus makes several stops.

The cost is very reasonable. Adults pay 13,300 won (a little less than $13) and children pay 6,700 won so our family of 3 paid a little less than $30 to get from base to the airport which I think is great for a 2.5 hour trip. You can either pay with won (exact change) or your tmoney (subway) card.

The bus was a comfortable temperature. The seats recline. Each seat has a vent and a light. There is even space overhead to put your coat and bookbag.

On the way back, you actually buy a ticket. Once you clear customs in Incheon go straight and there is a sign that says airport limousine bus. There is even a desk for foreigners.

There are two options for your trip home. You can either take Anjeong-ri outside the main gate, or you can go to Pyeongtaek Station. The bus for Pyeongtaek Station comes more often and is the same price, 13,300 won for adults and 6,700 for children.

We chose to go to Pyeongtaek Station because the next bus was in about 50 minutes instead of the 2.5 hours we would need to wait for the bus to Anjeong-ri.

The bus from Incheon to Pyeongtaek took about 2 hours (1.5 if you are going to Songtan). The bus station was closed for the night when we arrived. After leaving the bus station, turn left (towards Daiso). In a couple of blocks you will arrive at AK Plaza /Pyeongtaek train station where there is always a line of taxis waiting.

The taxi from AK Plaza to somewhere near the Anjeong-ri gate of Camp Humphreys should cost about 10,000 won ($10).

Both busses were easy to use and comfortable. I think next time, we will see which bus fits our schedule better to decide if we will leave from Anjeong-ri or Pyeongtaek bus terminal.

Shopping near Pyeongtaek 

Standard

One of Tim’s favorite places in Daegu was Shinsagae Mall. When we first moved to Pyeongtaek, he realized that there was a Shinsagae Mall in the nearby town of Cheonan so we decided to check it out. 

The parking was awful. People walked in front of the garage entrance and it was necessary to make a uturn at the light to get anywhere near it. There were nine floors in the garage but it was very full on a Saturday at noon. We ended up with one of the last spots on the roof. The mall was attached to the bus station and had an emart in the basement. The layout was confusing, not much was in English, and the elevators were hard to find. There also weren’t many stores that we were interested in. 

I did buy this bag from H&M. Couldn’t resist for 9,000 won (about $8). 

There was a Korean Subway restaurant across the street. Tim has wanted to go to a Korean Subway since the ones in Japan had interesting sandwiches. But the line was so long we couldn’t get in the door so we just left. 

Another weekend we decided to try First Village in Asan. First Village is an outlet mall about 15 minutes from Camp Humphreys. The parking was great. They had plenty of shoe stores and camping/outdoor type stores. The prices didn’t seem very discounted for what we were interested in. However, I did enjoy the store Ross by Asia. It did remind me of the Ross in the US in that there were lots of cheap, name brand clothes. They were just Asian and European brands. But I did manage to find a shirt, leggings, bathing suit cover up, and two pairs of shorts for 35,000 won (like $30).

There was a dressing room. It was a typical Korean style fitting room. Very small with the mirror on the outside of the fitting room. 

There was also a really cute area with French looking shops and restaurants. Clarissa was over it so we didn’t get a chance to explore and take pictures. 

We have been to the Lotte Mall in Suwon twice. The first time we drove and the second time we took the train. Either way is fine. The parking wasn’t bad there. 

There is a Lotte Mart, Lotte Mall, and Lotte Department store all in the same complex. The Lotte Mart is 3 stories and contains a Toys R Us with two different play places, a Daiso, and a Hi Mart. For our first visit, we dropped Clarissa off at the smaller play place (6,000 won per hour) and let her play while we bought her birthday presents at Toys R Us and explored the rest of Lotte Mart. 

After we picked her up, we played some of arcade games before heading to the mall part of the complex. 

The mall has 7 floors with stores, restaurants, and a movie theater. They do have a TGI Fridays if you are in the mood for American food. The Bandi and Lunis does have a small English section of books and movies. On the roof is a very nice playground. 

Next is Lotte Department store, which is like your typical Korean department store with a food court on B1, expensive stores with any kind of shopping you can imagine, and restaurants on the seventh floor, including Tim’s favorite curry place, Coco Ichibanya. There is a kid cafe on the seventh floor as well. The eighth floor roof was probably our favorite. It had some beautiful picnic areas, a city view, coin machines for children to ride, as well as a free train ride for the kids.  

There is a covered bridge walkway from the Lotte complex to AK Plaza Suwon (train station), or rather there will be when they remove the construction equipment. It was still quite easy to get from one to the other. There seems to be two different sides of the Plaza with the train station on one side and a mall on the other. There were several name brand clothing and shoe stores as well as cute stationary stores, restaurants, and a movie theater. I bought some cute things for homeschooling and our kitchen at a store called Butter. It reminded me of a small but upscale Daiso. Tim was excited that a Gundam store will open July 1. 

AK Plaza in Pyeongtaek is also attached to the train station and considered “downtown” near several stores and restaurants. The Plaza itself is similar to the one in Suwon with restaurants, a movie theater, clothes, and shoes. If you are in the mood for American food, there is an Outback. Tim’s favorite is a Japanese place called Teriyaki. 

Downtown, my favorite stores were Daiso and Artbox, which you can pretty much see from the bus stop in front of the train station. 

3/8 Market Tour with One Stop Realty 

Standard

On Saturday, Danny from One Stop Realty  offered a tour of the 3/8 Market in Anjeong-ri. The market meets on days that have either a 3 or 8. I have been several times but didn’t recognize everything in the market. 

The tour began at One Stop which is on a road that runs parallel to the main shopping cobblestone street in Anjeong-ri. There is ample parking near his office if you have a car. 

We left shortly after 11 and headed to the market. The first stop was grains. Plain white rice is bad for your cholesterol. Often at a restaurant, your white rice will be mixed with a grain to make it healthier. The black one turns your rice purple and it is supposed to keep your hair black instead of turning gray. 

Then we passed the river fishing nets. The rivers in Korea look wide, but most are only knee deep. This fishing tent collects smaller fish that would feed one person. 

We learned two important words as we passed the stands that sold dried fruit, nuts, and other snacks. “Mott” (like the applesauce) means “taste.” So if you see something you are curious about, point to the food, say “Mott” and point to your mouth. The other word was “service” which means “free.” So when you pick out your food say “service?” and they may add something extra to your bag. 

He explained about the various seafood. Apparently the small octopus are not babies. There are just small species of octopus. You tell the man which fish you want, and he will debone it for you. 

Danny’s sister in law was on the tour as well and was very knowledgeable about herbs and spices. She explained about different herbs that could be used for to make medicinal teas. If anyone on the tour had a question she could not answer, she or Danny would just ask the stand owner and then translate the answer. 

One of booths sold eggs. These eggs are the same color inside as outside. They are slow boiled all day at a jimjilbang (bathhouse). The rice cakes are made from the rice that sticks to the bottom of the rice cooker. 

The market also had plenty of fruits and vegetables, desserts, as well as fresh homemade seaweed, tofu, side dishes, and noodles. Sometimes you pay a little more for the homemade items at the market than the store, but it is usually made fresh that morning or the day before. 

After our tour, we went back to One Stop for lunch. The tour itself was free and then he served a traditional pork belly barbecue lunch for 10,000 won (less than $10). The food was delicious, though I forgot to take pictures. 

In addition to offering market tours, One Stop Realty also offers cooking classes. He does not even have to be your realtor to attend these events, he just does it as a service to the Camp Humphreys community. If you need a realtor or need help with translation, airport transportation, or a local move, Danny is your guy. 

Girls trip to Osan and Mother’s Day 

Standard

One of the perks of Tim working at Camp Humphreys is that we are still in Korea. We are also close to Osan, which is where many of my Daegu friends like to go shopping. I was very excited that some of my friends came to Osan last weekend so I joined their fun. 

The girls went to Happy Quilt for a couple hours of fabric shopping. It is a massive warehouse full of cheap fabrics in Pyeongtaek. 

Then we met up at Chili’s for lunch. We were clearly craving Mexican food because we all ordered either nachos, quesadillas, or enchiladas. 

We stopped at the px for some things not available at the Daegu px. Then we headed to Songtan shopping area for some socks. 

There were many to choose from. You could choose 3 pairs for 5,000 won (less than $5). I found some for Clarissa, myself, and Tim (Star Wars). 

On our way to another fabric store, we walked past an antique store that the ladies wanted to check out. Mike’s auction house has a ton of cool Korean antiques. He goes to demolition sites and picks up things like traditional old doors and roof tiles and turns them into really cool furniture. He has an auction on the first and third Saturday of each month.

Mike is a really friendly guy. He is American so he speaks English. He has a truck and will deliver items to the Camp Humphreys area. 

My favorite was the roof tiles. His wife paints them. For $20 you can choose a tile and she will write something on it for you. We each chose one and will have our last name written in both English and Hangeul. 

Then we crossed the street, went under the train tracks, and to the main road to turn right and found the Stinky Knit (in Waze). It smelled a little like mothballs but there was cheap fabric everywhere. 

After I said goodbye to the girls, I went home to celebrate Mother’s Day with Tim and Clarissa. Clarissa made me a card with stickers. They also chose something for me in a local souvenir shop. 

Then we headed down the street to The Big Bite. They had delicious American food at good prices. Plus it is like a quarter mile walk from our apartment so Clarissa could ride her bike there. The waiting area outside was nice as well. I know we will go back. 

Market Day 

Standard

One of the reasons we love our new apartment is the location. We can walk to base in about 10 minutes. I walk through Anjeong-ri “the ville” to get to base. There are several shops and restaurants. 

On days that end in either 3 or 8, there is a market day. Clarissa and I went to our first market day on Thursday after storytime. 

Along the Anjeong-ri shopping street, on the end away from the base, you will see tents set up the length of the side road. The stands sell fresh produce, snacks, clothes, handbags, live seafood, toys, and even birds. 

Clarissa was most excited about the live crabs and octopus. She kept trying to touch them. She thought that the birds were pretty but too loud. 

She was also very adamant about buying a watermelon. I told her that if she didn’t eat the watermelon, she would not be allowed to choose things on market day. 

She did eat her watermelon. I will definitely make market day part of our regular schedule. The produce is way cheaper and more fresh than the commissary because it is local.