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Monday, December 1, 2014

Small Adventures (or, Would you rather...)

November was an oddly busy month with lots of small adventures.  Pretty much anything one does outside one's apartment is an adventure, actually, because any expectations you might have are usually wrong.

(1) Roasted Coffee:  Apparently, our little town (well, ok, Pohang's the size of Omaha but relative to the size and self-declared sophistication of Seoul, it's like a distasteful relative who shows up empty-handed and vaguely smelly).  Where were we?  Oh, yes, Pohang apparently has some of the very best coffee roasters in Korea.  Not that I care in the least, because coffee is the substance that anchors our family's Awfulness Rating Scale. To wit: "Mama: would you rather jump off a cliff or drink coffee?" or "David: seaweed soup or coffee?"  And so on.  Nick, of course, chooses coffee every time, not really understanding the game.

The coffee roaster shop is called something like
"A Couple of Guys Who Really Like Coffee." I forget the exact
translation and I can't read "handwriting" yet.
I believe I have lost the thread of this post. Ah, here it is. My friend Grace (of Expat Lunch fame) had a beloved coffee snob relative in Seoul with an upcoming birthday and she wanted to get him The Best. She did her research and we found the gorgeous little roastery fairly easily (near the end of stream street).  The attached coffee shop was surprisingly cozy and had lots of informative posters on the makings of coffee; I might not drink the stuff but I enjoyed learning more about it. The cafe's little grass yard and quiet atmosphere were an unlikely retreat in such a busy area. A little shot of happiness, despite the smell of burning beans.

Stream Street (photo from friend and gifted photographer Zachary Thomas).
(2) Undergarments: Grace and I next hunted for a nearby shop rumored to sell items that fit, well, women with curves. After some unscheduled exercise along stream street (I love that landmark), we finally found Triumph. (Literally. That's the name of the store.)  Now you American readers need to stop imagining a mall-sized store. Stores here are closer to the size of a bucket of popcorn and nearly as crowded with merchandise. So upon entering we were immediately pressed all around with racks of lacy goods and plush piles on tables.  I had done my research and cleverly written down my calculated Korean size.  I'm not sure the saleswoman was terribly impressed with what I'd written on my hand; she barely glanced at my relevant parts before declaring (and I suspect Grace softened the blow in translation) that the number was, shall we say, understated.  Harrumph.  Why couldn't we have moved to a country of plumpies so I wasn't mortified every time I have to buy clothes?

Anyway, the lady found some sale items that might fit (clearly these were on the very far end of store's capabilities) and she ushered me into the fitting booth.  Alone, which I appreciated.  I appreciated somewhat less that this was actually a tiny hallway/stage of some sort, with 4 doors leading who knows where.  Ah, well. I found a couple of near-winners and resigned myself to devising some sort of system to lengthen the contraption. Happily,we discovered that the company offered alternations (!) - so for the sale price of $29 plus $5 to the seamstress to add an extension to the back, I am the proud-if-curvy owner of two new items that FIT.  So: coffee or bra shopping? Triumph, indeed.

PT guy checking Nick's shoulder.
(3) Physical Therapy: I went with Nick to an "orthopaedic" to look at his shoulder, which has been ailing since his marathon beach volleyball tournament and softball game at Pohang’s International Festival last month.  We walked in (remember: no appointments needed in Korea), Nick flashed his alien registration card, and we waited perhaps 2 minutes. A short 45 minutes later, we walked out and he was virtually healed.  Want to guess the cost for the consultation, two x-rays, and 30 minutes of physical therapy (with heat, massage, stretching, and electrical stimulation)?  The grand total was $11.00. I know: unbelievable. There's nothing fancy, private, or even comfortable about this place from a US perspective, but efficient and effective? Yup.  Two thumbs up.
Nick enjoys some heat on his shoulder.
 I waited until the guy in the bed next to him left before taking pictures.
Yes, the beds are really that close together. 

Can you find the red-headed Elisabeth?
(4) Concerts/Shows.  We attended Handong University’s orchestra concert (Elisabeth has been playing with them for the last several weeks) and the kids' school Variety Show (David was an emcee for his class presentation; Elisabeth sang in Korean).  We're very pleased to see them stretching in new ways; you sure wouldn't catch me on stage in front of, oh, 300+ people.  I won't miss the random schedule, though, like "oh, in 20 minutes we have a 2-hour rehearsal that will actually last 3.5 hours and SURPRISE you'll miss dinner AGAIN."  

Not a great photo of David (center) doing his emcee work.

Elisabeth just finished her Korean solo.

(5) Thanksgiving: Three apartments in our building hosted a potluck Thanksgiving dinner for about 100 expat faculty families and random Americans associated with Handong. I volunteered our apartment (again) this year because I want to be a better person than I actually am. I forget that I can't cope with being a conscientious food-provider AND a gracious conversationalist AND refrain from whapping kids jumping on my couch. Arg. (Coffee or party?  We're going with coffee on this one.)

I fancied up our balcony and put out borrowed tables/stools to feed the masses.

The living room was ready.

Then we added food and people: here we see Koreans, Americans, Canadians, and Australians. 

(6) Bonus: And now a bonus for the faithful reader.  Would you rather wear Korean farting duck socks or drink coffee? Yeah, me too.  :)