Tuesday, November 25, 2014

SARAH GOES TO SOUTH KOREA: 2014 LANTERN FESTIVAL

Saturday morning arrived and we got ready for the trip into Seoul for the weekend. We walked from the base to the nearest train station and headed out on a one hour 45 minute train ride into Seoul. It wasn't that bad of a ride. Jeff was able to get us Internet on our phones so we looked at funny pictures and videos. I looked out the windows and people watched. It was just amazing. South Koreans are on their phones ALL. OF. THE. TIME. Like take the one person you know who is constantly on their phone and multiply that by three and that's how much the average South Korean appeared to be on their phone. Even the kids were on phones. They would rarely interact with each other. South Koreans are also very put together. They take their image very seriously. You never saw anyone in sweats or sweatshirts. The girls were usually dressed in skinnies or dresses with tights and they all had super cute coats. Most of the time they were on the train, the girls were reapplying makeup or painting their fingernails (I saw that a couple of times). Guys are also very well put together. We made it to Seoul around 2:00 p.m. and walked to our hotel at Yongsan. We stayed at a really nice military hotel there that's very close to everything. We were early to check in so Jeff and I grabbed a bite to eat at a Mexican restaurant in the lower level of the hotel. We found that ironic.
Once we'd checked in, we got ready to head downtown for the 2014 Lantern Festival.
 
Waiting for the train.
 
Dragon Hill Lodge
Mexican food in South Korea!
Cake pop while waiting to check in and walking around our hotel grounds.
Waiting for Jeff to get ready.
 
We set off from our hotel and walked by the Korean War Memorial on our way to the train station.
We hopped on a quick five minute train ride into downtown Seoul and immediately were overwhelmed with the volume of people. I can't even begin to describe how many people there were. It was a bit suffocating. South Koreans don't have personal space issues like Americans do, so they are right up on your back or at your side all of the time. In a scenario where there are going to be lots of people (like we were in) you will more than likely be touched all of the time. They would bump into my back or step on the backs of my feet. If they don't think you're going fast enough they will just elbow or shove their way in front of you and continue doing that through the line. It's just a cultural thing, but I really had to bite my tongue a few times and take some deep breaths. We hopped into the longest line I'd ever seen to get into the Lantern Festival and found ourselves in a line that was six people wide and moved the entire hour we were in line. We seriously didn't stop moving up through the line that's how many people there were and that's how long the line was. I was impressed at how quickly they got people through though. And then we were sent down into a boardwalk area where there was a large stream with walkways on either sides and the lantern creations-which were amazing- were set up in the middle of the water. So people could walk down the boardwalk on either side and see the beautiful lanterns and the lights. Another thing I noticed is that people rarely stopped to enjoy the sights. They would speed walk and take pictures at the same time. It was almost like a race to see who could get through there the quickest and with the most pictures. Jeff and I got shoved a couple of times because we would be stopped to look at a particular lantern and someone didn't like that we'd stopped.
One monument from the Korean War Memorial with Seoul Tower in the background. This is similar to the Space Needle in Seattle.
They had pretty little accents like this everywhere. This just so happened to be outside of the police station.
Jeff quote: So many selfies in just one picture. 
Downtown Seoul. Waiting in line. Look at all the heads at the bottom. This tree/tower was cool. No matter what angle you looked at it, you could see the markings from the South Korean flag in the middle. Kind of an optical illusion.

Proof that we were there.
So gorgeous. 
The dragon blew smoke out of his mouth. 
Those sails went up and down. 
It really was just phenomenal. Just gorgeous.
I will never forget that night.
More from our night in Seoul tomorrow.

Monday, November 24, 2014

CADERYN SAYS


While watching college football on a Saturday night.

My Dad: Can Caderyn stay up later and watch the end of the game with me?
Me: Sure, can you just help him brush his teeth and make sure he goes potty?
My Dad: Uh no, that's Mimi's area. I guess he'll have to go to bed now.
Me: What? Mom just helped me put Gibby down, she's off the hook.
Caderyn: Mommy, Mommy. I've got this. Papa, brush my teeth and make sure I go potty.

My Dad just sat there with a bewildered look on his face.

Friday, November 21, 2014

SARAH GOES TO SOUTH KOREA: TRAVELING AND DAYS ONE AND TWO

Have I mentioned I have travel anxiety? Because I do.
On the outside I may look calm and undisturbed by everything going on around me, but on the inside I am so full of teenage angst and motherly worry. That's a terrible combination. Terrible!
So I went to South Korea the first week and a half of November. This was my first ever international trip. I flew to Seattle on Sunday night and tried to Space A out of Seattle on Monday. Space A is basically where I try and hop on military flight standby, but it is entirely contingent on the space available and the weight limit. Ticket price for a Space A flight: $17.50 NO JOKE. Doesn't that sound magical and worth the fight and struggle rather than having to pay $1000+ for a ticket.
So I tried to Space A out on Monday but didn't get it, but that's okay because we found out there were more documents I needed to get in (of course). Tuesday morning at 4:00 a.m. arrived and the flight was at its weight limit. So I wasn't getting on that flight. The next Space A flight out was Thursday and that one only went to Japan. I had planned on being gone Monday-Tuesday, so just a little over a week. That didn't fit with my schedule.
So I walked around the airport for 30 minutes talking on the phone with Jeff before going up to the Delta ticket counter and finding out how much a place ticket to South Korea, round trip, would be. Got the price, it wasn't horribly frightening. So we talked about it some more. Jeff said no let's not spend the money. I balked at his answer. Usually its the other way around, I'm the one who's concerned about the finances and spending money, but this time it didn't feel right to say no. It just didn't.
I miss that man.
I miss him so much that my usually tight-budgeted mind walked up to the ticket counter after an hour on the phone with Jeff and my parents and bought a plane ticket to South Korea that left in two hours.
I got upgraded to Economy Comfort and knew the second they brought me a lavender scented towel that I would never fly anything less again (internationally anyway). The flight over wasn't too bad. Slight bumps, so I couldn't freak too much. The girl I sat next too was really nice and they brought us snacks like every three hours. Oh yes I would love an ice cream sandwich!
The movie selection was AMAZING. I never get to just sit and watch movies to my hearts content and so I fully took advantage of this trip to indulge. 22 Jump Street, Guardians of the Galaxy, Lucy, the entire first season of Flight of the Concords, the entire third season of Veep.
The only problem?
I couldn't sleep. Oh I tried. I had my contacts out, I had the little eye cover over my eyes. I had blankets and pillows. But no. Sleep evaded me. I'd been up since 2:15 a.m. that morning and I stayed wide awake for the next 11 hours and 15 minutes of that flight.
When we finally started to descend, the fatigue started to hit me.
I rolled up my window and saw the gray sprawl of an evening ocean with little pods of land and saw Korea for the first time.
The word I would use to describe South Korea and I would say this is how I felt about it from the second I got off the plane until the day I left was INTENSITY.
Everyone and everything is going and moving and busy.
Luckily for me, I rolled in with a crowd of military guys who kind of knew where they were going so I followed them down the escalator, hopped on the train, and then rode up the four flights of escalators to customs. Once I was through customs and had my first ever passport stamp, I made my way through the baggage claim area to the exit where I found my handsome husband waiting! He was able to leave work early to come and pick me up. :)
So happy to see this guy. 
Oh just an ice rink inside the huge Incheon airport. No biggie.
From the airport we got train passes and hopped on the train for a four hour journey (we missed a few trains and had to wait longer than normal) back to where Jeff is stationed.
I fell asleep pretty much the second we got back.
I slept most of the next day (Thursday) until Jeff got me up to get signed in and fill out some paperwork. I got a bite to eat and then got to go and deliver letters like this:
To the guys Jeff works with for Veterans Day.  Those are evil sharks FYI.
 
And that was pretty much it. Jeff had to work. I cleaned his apartment from top to bottom and then we met some of his friends out for a few drinks before calling it a night.
The time difference thing weirded me out. When it was 12:00 p.m. on Thursday and I was having lunch, my parents were just putting the boys down for bed at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday night. It just made my mind freak a little.
 
Friday Jeff had to work and everyone there gets up at the butt-crack of dawn so I watched some shows (Hello Gilmore Girls on Netflix!) and exercised before hopping on the bus and taking myself to Starbucks for coffee and a muffin. Let me tell you, I'm not usually a Starbucks fan, but the coffee over in Korea...AMAZING. I don't think I had a bad cup of coffee when I was over there.
And that's not a muffin, that's a macaroon. I bought that after I ate my muffin.
That was also very good.
Jeff got done with work late on Friday and we took a taxi with Jeff's captain into town and joined another military family for a traditional Korean dinner. It was good. My stomach wasn't terribly happy, but I ate as much food as I could and then we talked and laughed and told stories before the hour came where we all just hit that tired wall. You know, that wall all of us late twenty-somethings, maybe early thirty-somethings hit when it gets to be past 8:30 p.m. when you are so tired that even though its Friday night all you want to do is crawl into bed and watch New Girl. Yeah that, we all hit that. So we caught another taxi who took us on a freaking joy ride through town (holy crap) before we made it back home and crashed for the night.
 
And that my friends was essentially my first two days in South Korea. Hold on to your horses though, because we're about to have a picture explosion and go on a fantastical journey filled with lanterns, and palaces, and weird looking statues.
I hope you're ready.