Friday, October 1, 2010

Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo

I haven't had a chance to write captions for the photos from my trip to Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo, let alone a blog post. So for the time being, the pictures will have to speak "a thousand words."

Today marked my five month anniversary in Seoul...30 days until I'm "back from the future."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Heart and Seoul

Today marks my four month anniversary in Seoul. Can you believe it took me this long to use the saying "Heart and Seoul?"

Well, I've actually figured out some legitimate connections that make using a twist on this idiom quite applicable to this post.

Four months ago I arrived in Seoul to work on-site for Samsung (a client of Edelman, my employer). Samsung was founded in 1938...the same year Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser wrote the song "Heart and Soul."


Well, duh, of course it is.

The real topic of this post is my visit to Namsan Tower. Similar to Seattle's Space Needle, the Tower is one of Seoul's most distinguished landmarks and can be seen from nearly everywhere in the city - even from my office window (look really closely in the center of the picture to the left of the crane).

Or, a bit more clearly, from the War Memorial.

We visited at night and made it more of an "adult visit" by having cocktails in the bar while enjoying the view. Unfortunately, I don't own a camera that is good enough to capture the night time views, but trust me they were spectacular.

There was much activity going on - from photographers honing their craft to hip-hop dance routines to outdoor art installations.

But what I found most interesting was that the Tower has become more than a symbol in the heart of Seoul, it's also become a symbol of the hearts of Seoul.
From what I understand, somewhere around late 2006 couples began placing "locks of love" on the fencing around the Tower. There are now literally thousands of locks on the fences.
The couple places a lock on the fence - usually with some sort of inscription on it - and then throws the key away.
I couldn't resist taking a photo of this young couple who had placed a lock on the fence and were taking pictures of themselves.
They look about 14.
I'm sure they're very serious.

And, I couldn't help but wonder how soon one of them is back with a bolt cutter...
So, four months in the future - literally - and all is good in Seoul.
But make no mistake, my heart is still grounded deep in the heart of Texas.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Living in the Past, Present and Future

One of the places that I've wanted to visit since coming to Korea is the DMZ. I know, probably not the smartest place to go with the heightened tensions between North and South Korea right now.
And it was definitely not the most wise decision to go on July 25, the day that South Korea and the U.S. began joint military exercises to send a "strong and clear message" to North Korea.

But I did.
Seriously, I had visions of tripping over the border (no doubt very dramatically) and being the next equivalent of Lisa Ling's sister needing Bill Clinton to skip Chelsea's wedding and get my my klutzy dumb ass out of a hard labor camp.

Thank god that did not come to be.

The photos of the trip pretty much speak for themselves. It's a bit surreal to realize that what you are seeing is actual history in the making - history that's been being written for 60 years.

There were many restrictions on what could and could not be photographed. Notice when you can take pictures into North Korea how far the photo line is from an actual view.
I guess if you're Magic Johnson or happen to travel with stilts or a pogo stick you'd have some great pics. Not so much for the rest of us average height folk.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Life Happens - Even in the Future...But Sometimes You've got to Reflect

It's been quite a while since I've had the opportunity to sit down and write. Reality is that if I tried to capture everything I'm experiencing, well, I'd miss out on actually having experiences.

August 1 marked my three month anniversary here in Seoul. In many ways I can't believe how fast the time has passed. I am also accutely aware that my life in Dallas remains "on hold" and while I wouldn't change one moment of this experience (okay, well maybe a few...) there are defintiely times when I'm looking forward to the comforts and familiarity of home.

The experiences I've had, the people I've befriended and others I've, let's just say "encountered," have been amazing. Or at least provided a good story. Which in my book equates with amazing, because good or bad, experiencing things is what life is all about.

I won't lie - there are days, particularly when I'm experiencing something completely out of any realm of context for me or am extremely tired that my patience is thinner than a sheet of tissue paper. Luckily, those are fleeting moments that pass very quickly - or are eased with a good Skype session, a glass of Soju and a good laugh at whatever insanity I just experienced.

Life is "happening" here for me, and I'm happy to say I can look back on my time here and recognize how much I've experienced, learned, grown and best of all, laughed, as I've lived in the future. Because even in the future, you've got to take time to appreciate the past.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chez Liberace

For the first time since I arrived in Seoul on May 2 I had the inevitable "What am I doing here?" moment. It was fleeting, but definitely was brought on with good reason.

To keep a long story short(-ish), last Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. I found out that I had to move out of my (second) apartment within the next 24 hours. Evidently, the tax laws related to serviced apartments changed and reclassified them with hotels. As best I could understand, serviced residences had previously been allowed to operate similar to US timeshares and with the tax change the owner of my apartment pulled it out of the pool.
I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves, but here's the synopsis of Tuesday through Thursday.
  • Tuesday - Notified I had to move at 5:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday 2 p.m. told I could move into another unit in my current building
  • Wednesday 2-4 p.m. pack and move two months worth of "settled" living
  • Wednesday 4 p.m. vomit after beginning to move in and inspecting the "new"apartment closely
  • Thursday night I relocate into "Chez Liberace" where I'm perfectly pampered and just fine with the gaudiness that I now call home.
So we'll start with the first option. And trust me, these picture do no justice to just how filthy this very "ultilitarian" apartment was. In fact, the pictures help it out...

Well, the pictures help it out because you can't see how stained and dirty the furniture is.
But you can tell that the bedroom looks like the room Nicolas Cage rented in "Leaving Las Vegas."
In case you didn't see the movie - he went there to die.
This room would probably make you want to speed that along.

And if the bedroom didn't then the bathroom would.
When I found this in a cabinet that's when I really lost it...
I mean, what was this from, who put it in the cabinet and how long had it been there?
At least it coordinated with the shower curtain.
Sooooo, here's where I now call home now.
Chez Liberace. I have no doubt he'd have felt quite comfortable.

It even has an electric bidet toilet...

It's sort of like I went from being on "Good Times" to "The Jeffersons."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Panty Hose, Perms and Parasols

I'm not going to lie, this post has been developing in my mind since the moment I landed in South Korea.

I'm an observant person. I notice the details. Always have.

There's a story that my mother tells about me telling my grandmother that her shoes and purse didn't match. I think I was in kindergarten or first grade. So you can imagine how my blunt acknowledgement of, well, "mistakes" has evolved over the years.

The title of this post sums up the three main "fashion" staples I've noticed for Korean women. (Please note, this is about Korean women. I'll get to the shiny suits, "Dancing with the Stars" platform shoes and rhinestone ties in a separate post.)

So, let's start with the panty hose.

I'll admit, I live in Dallas, Texas where more often than not it's warm - or most of the year, down right hot - and women don't have a practical purpose to wear stockings or tights. And notice I'm using the terms "stockings or tights."

Korean women where panty hose.

Thick, nylon, have-to-be-hot-as-hell, panty hose. And, they wear them in many shapes and sizes.

Full leg.

Foot bootie.

Knee high.

The commonality? They're the color of the ugly "skin color" crayon that was in the Crayola box when I was growing up and they have a toe seam.

You know, circa mid-70s through the 80s. "Nothing beats a great pair of Leggs!"?

Did I mention I notice "mistakes?" Or that I have a camera?

Lets take a look at some of the women I've come across here in Seoul.

It's typical to see sidewalk stands that sell panty hose. All shapes - I assume sizes - and colors. I guess they just pull them off the cart and send you on your way.

No fancy "eggs" like L'eggs used back in the day. Hell, you don't even have to be awake to sell them.

As I said, panty hose are appropriate for any shoe or outfit here in South Korea. Just take a gander at this group I spied on the subway.

Rhinestoned, wedge flip-flops (yes, you read that correctly) and panty hose.

Her friend in the be-jeweled white ankle pumps and pastel green toenail polish gives her a run for her money, but it's her "sporty," sensible friend with the khakis and red Vans that really seems out of place.

When I saw this next woman I thought, "How do you think she went about purchasing these gems?"

"Can I help you?"

"Why yes, as a matter of fact you can. I have this great pair of baby blue coolots and some white ankle high nylons. I was thinking that something with a bit of a heel and sort of a combination of a shoe and a sandal would be perfect. Oh, and if there's an open hole in the back, even better!"

I wish this next one came with a sound effect. Remember in Sixteen Candles when the wedding coordinator walks down the isle and her thighs are rubbing together?

Where do you think she was coming from or going to in a knit skirt and red, velcro sneakers?
And panty hose.

With a MAJOR run.

Enough about panty hose. Let's move on to Korean's apparant fascination with perms.

Yes, perms.

They are rampant.
And, having bone straight hair and an inherited addiction to hair products, I kind of get it. I've been told that even children in kindergarten and first grade get them.

I'm pretty sure most children don't care for even getting their hair cut. Can you imagine how pleasant the idea of being hooked up to this with a bunch of stinky solution soaked on your head would be?

Me either.
And then, at least for young men, the result can be something like this....

Which I guess isn't all that bad considering it would confirm that yes, you are in fact an illegitimate son of Gene Simmons.

As summer began, and the heat set in, I noticed there was yet another major commonality among South Korean women - their desire to stay as fare skinned as possible. And the best way to do that while also staying a bit cooler on the city streets? A parasol.

Yes, an umbrella. One that's not waterproof, but that protects that perm from getting too dried out and, in all likelihood, may be made out of the leftover "product" that was used to produce their panty hose.

And, like panty hose, these can be purchased just about anywhere.

If you'll notice in the next section of pictures that it's not hard to score a trifecta of South Korean fashion - panty hose, a perm AND a parasol!

And, if you're really lucky, maybe you can find someone who will set down the parasol and start a pick-up game of hoops.

Personally, I'm thinking I should have connected her with the "sporty" Vans wearing girl on the subway.

But what do I know?

I think I'm just going to stick with a tradional Korean look.