Apr 30, 2012

a most welcome home....

ok....the idea of living in a "love motel" might seem quite romantic in theory but after 2 weeks of it (most of that time for Nicole by herself)...it was time for a home with clean sheets.

What you don't see in the collage below is the countless hours of work Nicole and I put in (again..more Nicole than I) trying to nail down a place to live in South Korea's second largest city.

Apr 27, 2012

Its only 3 1/2 hours

I guess we left off blogging last week...things have just been a bit crazy here in The Land of the Morning Calm... Adam is on the other side of the country, currently about to board a bus to come and see me (it takes 3 1/2 hours, unless the bus driver drives like a mad man and makes it in 2 1/2)

I have my visa and have started work. It is absolutely the best place I have worked. I will explain more at another time, but I can honestly say I am very happy here.

We have our apartment, and it is beautiful. It isn't furnished yet, although it has a bed. There really isn't much room for anything else. I will say that one of the best aspects is that we have a bidet!!! (but no bathroom door)

Our new address is:

Adam and Nicole Damiano 
Seomyeon Yulim The Blue Officetel
888-1 Jeonpo-dong
Busan, Korea 


아담 앤드 니콜 다미안노
부산시 부산진구 전포동 881-5
서면 유림 더블루 오피스텔 #1332

This weekend Adam is coming to Busan and will see our apartment for the first time. I am so excited to see him. This long distance this is a Biatch. It is really difficult because I don't have internet yet in the apartment due to the fact that I need my alien card first. That should be another month. I can't get paid until I have it either, although I was told I can get an advance if I'd like. 

A sweet coworker Amelia came to the apartment to help me translate all of the machinery (ill explain in another email) and asked our concierge (yes we have one, they even serve us breakfast on the weekday mornings) and he said I can sit in their kitchen when it is closed and use their internet. So, at least it makes things a little easier.

That is all for now, but I promise to update and write more later. 

Apr 21, 2012

Visa Run

I just returned from Fukuoka Japan where I went on a 33 hour Visa Run for teaching in Korea. I want to write this so it is helpful for anyone else needing to go, because I had a hard time finding the facts on the internet.

You can only go on a Visa Run if you have already been issued a Visa in the past. If you have never had a Korean E2 Visa, you have to have an in person interview in the states. (This is written for americans, and of course the information may be changed by the government)

Bring your passport and one photo copy of it to keep with you when you turn your passport into the consulate. You also need your visa issuance number that the school gives you. Bring the address and phone number of the school with you so you can fill out the forms and you can use that as your housing address. Bring 1 passport photo.

Be sure to book the earliest flight possible, mine left Busan at 9:15 which really cut things close. We landed in Fukuoka within 40 minutes of take off. Go as quickly as you can through immigration (the consulate only accepts visa paperwork from 10:30-11:30).

Head out the front doors of the international terminal and jump on the shuttle bus to the domestic terminal. Then, turn to your right and go into the subway. Buy a ticket for 290 Yen (exchange money when you are at the airport in Korea) and take the train to TajinMachi K5 stop. 

Use Exit #1, turn around 180 degrees when you come up and walk to the intersection. Make a left and walk down following the canal. Head W toward the ocean. Go about 1/4 mile to the next big intersection. Cross the street. Make a left, walk over the canal. The Hawks Mall should be on your right. Pass the mall and the consulate is on the right just past the mall. 

Fill out the forms, pay 4,500 Yen, turn in your passport and you are done for the day. Roam around, find your hotel and enjoy yourself. You have to go back the next day after 1:30 to pick up your visa.

I stayed at the Hotel Sunlife at Hakata Station. Thursday night I walked around and found a restaurant near to my hotel. I had some fish (I don't know what kind it was, it wasn't tuna...but it was so good!) Some edamame, a few beers and an amazing waffle with ice cream for dessert.

The next day I had a traditional Japanese breakfast at the hotel. It was large and delicious.
 I had about 4 cups of coffee to get my day moving. I put on some sneakers and hit the road for a few hours of roaming. 
This was the route I took. I found a really great temple. The weather was perfect, the sun was out and there was a breeze. I sat on a stoop and read my book for an hour or so before I ventured on.

Here are some of the sites I saw. I have to say, I did not have my iPod on and did not listen to music. I had no one to speak with, no phone to ring and really I can't speak Japanese (can you believe it) so I really was on my own. It felt absolutely unexplainably empowering to roam a country where you feel safe and without anything or anyone to see or do.

Anyway, I ended up back at the consulate for 1:45 to pick up my visa, bought a pair of shoes, and headed back to Hakata on the train. 

I will say though, as I was boarding the airplane to Korea, this is what was next to us...
Ahhh...I know, Hawaii...Next time, I just may be boarding that plane (but I think Adam should come with me)

Apr 17, 2012

The Gist

My visa still hasnt come in which means we have been paying for a love motel and won't stop until who knows when. My school emailed me and told me I couldn't start training until I had my visa, so we said ok.

We went to a coffee shop to get Adam to start searching for jobs using the internet. The problem is, his FBI documentation expires at the end of the month, so his visa has to have been applied for by then. 

So, at the coffee shop we got an IM from our old boss who wanted us to call her. She said she would call our hotel when we got back. So she did. She said they had a couple that up and left in the middle of the night and now have no one to cover the classes until new teachers are hired and are able to come to korea...and alot of her current teachers have scheduled vacation this month.

So, I told her Adam and I would chit chat and get back to her.

Long story and discussion later. We decided that Adam would take her up on her offer if she put through his visa paperwork for him this month...that way he can be released from her "sponsorship" when the new teachers arrive and he can work elsewhere.

So, I came with him Saturday morning to Gwangju. We saw all our old friends. All the old adjumas and people who work at the convenience stores we frequented etc. remembered us and were so happy to see us. We are in a large 3 bedroom apartment (it needs work but is the biggest place we have ever lived in). 

As soon as my visa comes through I will head back to Busan and we will have a long distance relationship for awhile. 

Thats about it for now. I am going to Yoga in the morning with my old teacher. We both cried when we saw each other. There is something sweet about this small town. We also went shopping today and found some great deals at the cheap ole Time Zone. We have to furnish and live out of two homes...so Adam is living very frugally here...but the couple that left in the middle of the night left behind a lot of things so that is good for us.

Thats about the gist of it.

Apr 15, 2012

Pretty Weird, Strange and Kind of Cool

So, there is a long story to precede this post, but I had to share. We are back in Gwangju for a few months (will explain later). Our old boss moved us into a large (the largest apartment we have ever lived in together) three bedroom apartment. Some of the furniture looks familiar and since our old apartment building is now torn down, we were guessing that some of the furniture may be from our old place, but we weren't sure.

As I was hanging up our clothes and putting things away in the drawers, they drawers weren't shutting properly (like the last time) So, Adam took out the drawers and began hammering to fix them... 

Just then he felt some clothes falling down from the back of the closet....and when we looked closely...

There were three pairs of Adam's boxers (no...noone else owns banana boxers with santa hats on them) They had 2 years worth of dust on them...but they were definitely Adams.

So, yes, that used to be our wardrobe...2 years ago.

But, whats more surprising is that at least 2 other sets of people have lived with this furniture and no one has thought to take out the drawers and fix them so they work...and that no one cleaned anything thoroughly enough to find them.

Bonus, Adam now has some new underroos...once they are washed a few times. 

Apr 10, 2012

Magic Straight

This weekend, the girls convinced me to get a straight perm...with my huge frizz come humid summertime, I thought...perfect girlie time activity.
So I ventured into Juno Salon. 6 stylists sat down with me and using limited English, chokum Korean, and a calculator we agreed on a price and they got to work.
I have no idea how many times they washed my hair, or gave me a scalp massage so intense I thought my eyeballs would pop out of my head and the wind was definitely knocked out of me.
I do know:
1.on the first hair wash, they gasped extremely loud and said, "hair terrible" and "treatment" over and over
2. The kept saying, "high nose, long lash, big eyes, small head...beautiful" I kept saying "no no no, Koreans beautiful" we fought about it
3. They did most of the hair treatments at a table in front of a coffee bar and only straightened my hair in front of a station.
4. My hair is stick straight now and I can't wash it for 2 days
5. I was given a point card and coupons to come back

So, now, all I need my straightener for is to create curls when I feel the need...but I should just be able to blow dry it normally and magic! Straight!

2NE1 - I am the best

Sherlock by ShinEE

Korean Commercials

We have spent a ridiculous amount of time staring and laughing at funny commercials and comedy skits... here are a few of the latest. 10 minutes before the show are commercials, then there are none interrupting the show.

(this one is on all the time!)

Apr 8, 2012

Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival

We made plans to meet our friends from Gwangju (we worked with them in Gwangju, but now two live in Seoul and one in Jeonju) in Jinhae and were very excited for the Cherry Blossom Festival. We left our motel around 8:45 and hopped on the subway heading to Sasang Station. The exit to the station is right next to the bus station using Exit #3. There we went inside to buy a ticket to Jinhae and it seems that all of Busan was going to Jinhae for the festival. The line to get on a bus literally wrapped in a spiral formation through the lobby of the bus station. 

We bought our tickets for 4,200 and jumped in line behind 3 Koreans decked out in hiking gear. I would imagine they were in their early 50s and even though they spoke no English, we kept smiling at them and pretending we were now a group of 5…being sure to all make it on the bus together.  We lucked out and all got the back row of the bus…there are 5 seats.

They broke out their picnic in true Korean style and fed us coffee, pringles, boiled potatoes and pretzels. We took pictures together and then exited the bus, shook hands, bowed and parted ways.

We walked around the festival for an hour or so, looking at the flea market type tables full of goodies, seeing the traditional Korean folk comedians, staring at all of the festival foods and then went to wait for our friends to arrive. They were driving in and the traffic was quite heavy for the festival.

2 hours later we saw them drive around the corner in their little matiz, we jumped in the car, screamed, hugged and laughed. From there the weekend just got better and better. We found a parking spot and the 5 of us headed into the festival. We were all a bit hungry so we decided to grab a bite to eat before exploring. A bite to eat ended up being hours of eating and Makgeolli drinking (rice wine). We were there for a good 3-4 hours…sitting in the food tent, near the back with the server glaring at us. Two Korean men were loving our enjoyment and bought us another bowl of Makgeolli (it comes served in a bowl and you drink it out of little copper bowls).

We then decided to leave because it was beginning to get dark (we had a DD, thank you Kelsey!) just to find out the battery had died on the car. So, we were a bit inebriated, standing in the road, trying to get someone to understand battery, jump…and of course my hand sign language looked more like driving a motorcycle, Adam tried flashing some leg, I tried flashing some shoulder….Many people told us no no no…one family parked and walked over to our car, but was unable to help. The police told us to call their equivalent to 911… eventually 2 men in a SUV of somesort jumped the car and off we went.

We headed to a Pension the girls had rented in Myreong. It was up in the country/mountains a good 2 hours away. The ride was a bit of a blur of laughter. I know we stopped at a grocery store to get some meat and wine and breakfast food… we made it back to the Pension. (A pension is a condo that you can rent…it has a kitchen and this one had a hot tub)

Kelsey and Adam cooked up a schmorgasboard. Felicity, Kaisa and I ate chips and salsa, drank wine and I made guacamole. We had a feast for dinner and then all got in the metal wash tub of a hot tub…stayed up talking about who knows what then all crashed.

The next morning Kelsey and I made breakfast while everyone else packed and cleaned…Adam was still sleeping. We ate then jumped in the car and headed on a mystery trip to find brown signs on the highway (nature spots)

We found a beautiful Dam, some windy roads and a huge Temple.
We ended up in Masan for a late lunch, (which cost the 5 of us 41,000 won to eat...about $35) we were dropped at the bus station to head back to Busan, Kelsey and Felicity took the train back to Seoul and Kaisa drove back to Jeonju.

It was an absolutely fabulous weekend and I can’t wait to see everyone again. I think what is so perfect is that we come from three different parts of the country, almost in the shape of a perfect triangle…Seoul being at the top, Busan being in the East and Jeonju being in the West…but with a great public transportation system we are all able to meet up anywhere for super cheap and a lot of fun.

Apr 7, 2012


We are back in Korea. We have not blogged yet, but have a ton to share. We just thought we'd share with some Kpop. I love the song and video!


Apr 4, 2012

Lexus Love

Deciding to jump ship from Japan to shores of Busan early required some deliberation. One such bullet point was certainly which country would be a more responsible choice on our finances if we were to find ourselves in a 2 week holding period awaiting Nicole’s visa. Lodging for that time really came down to be the key ingredient which in the end was a fairly easy choice. While our 7 square foot Japanese bento box home was cozy….the view was stale and the thought of ingesting another 8 pounds of rice to conserve funds seemed less than a less than desirable future. On the flip side, we knew a love motel had our name on it somewhere in Busan and so we enlisted our good Korean friend Park to make a few calls and find us a good spot to crash for a week or so if necessary. 

The love motel for those not familiar is a pretty simple concept. In Korea, the youngins tend to live at home until marriage which offers very limited privacy and so the love motel offers easy access to that luxury at a very affordable rate. I think it goes without saying that there are other recreational activities going on down each dimly lit hallway that are less admirable but hey…I’m not here to judge.
Our weapon of choice was the “Lexus Motel” which runs roughly 30 bones a night and is nicely equipped with A/C, a 52 inch flat screen, internet ready computer, king sized bed, sofa, water cooler, fridge, and a wetroom with a western toilet, tub and shower. Not a bad setup and more than enough for us. The front desk guy is very smiley and is limited to the phrase, “Hi” in English so while convos are usually quite short, he finds a way to make you feel welcome nonetheless.

Located in Bumnaegol (exit 8 on the subway) with close proximity to shops, eateries and a plethora of apartment options, its been a solid spot for us to get our bearings back on the ROK.


Apr 3, 2012

Korea Round 2

We left our wonderful guest house nice and early on Tuesday Morning. Sweet Nishibe drove us to TamaPlaza where we took the Limo Bus to the airport. It runs every 30 minutes or so, costs 2,800 a person and takes 2 hours.

We arrived at the airport only to find out that a nice storm coming from China was going to delay our departure. We noticed immediately the noise coming from the terminal. It was nothing but the joyous Koreans laughing and discussing their vacations in Japan.

I switched my travel hat for my Gwangju Kia Tigers hat in support of the wonderful KBL.

We eventually boarded Korean Air, were given exit seats and also they didn’t charge us for our extra bag! Yay for the little things in life. We were served a meal of fish and veggies with rice. It was quite unexpected especially since the flight was only 2 hours.

We arrived in Korea, went through immigration with no problems even though we only had a one way ticket and were quite concerned with what troubles that may bring.

We collected our bags and headed over to the subway station on the airport grounds. We switched trains twice and then exited the wrong way at a station and ended up jumping in a cab for the remainder of our trip to the motel. It was only a short ride. Korean cabs start at 2,200 won and doesn’t start to accumulate an extra fee for a good 5 minutes into the ride (2,200 is equal to about $2).

Our driver began to ask us  a few questions in English and then told us his other job is singing opera…and belted out some amazingly deep tenor or baritone (I am not sure)

He dropped us off a few feet from our motel and we immediately felt at home.

Can't Wait's

1. Kimchi
2. Tomato Juice from Kenya Coffee
3. Hiking Trails
4. Serious News Casters
5. Bibimbop
6. Random Hellos
7. Galbi
8. Cheap Clothing
9. Potbingsue
10. Kpop
11. Bulgogi
12. 1000 Won store
13. Soju
14. Funny Commercials
15. Kimchi Jiggae Soup
16. Vegetable Markets
17. Chamchie (Tuna)
18. Kias and Hyundais
19. Easy to use Cheap public transportation
20. Visors
21. Camping...
22. Love motels!
23. Fast Internet
24. Emart
25. Ajumas
26. Jinjilbang
27. Heated Floors

as you can see the list goes on and on!

(Notice every other one is food!)

Sayonara Japan

50 days later and our time here in Japan has come to an end. For many reasons we have decided to move on. The country here is beautiful, but it is much more of a tourist destination for us than a home.
Today, we board a plane to Busan, South Korea to make it our home for at least the next year.

When we arrived in Japan,  We had 3 more bags than what we are leaving with. I can't believe we cut out more than 150 lbs of our life's stuff. Above is when we arrived, below is how we are leaving. 

We have had quite an adventure here, but are now ready for a little bit of stability (or a lot). 
We found a great noodle house at the end of our road where the ambiance was perfect, the chef super adorable and the prices not bad. Adam and I had a nice dinner there. 

Yesterday I had coffee with sweet Akemi who lives upstairs and at night, Mie and Nishibe who run our guest house, First House Fujigaoka, Interwhao Inc, ltd brought over some snacks and wine to chit chat and have a nice little goodbye party.

We will miss the friends we made here, but know that Korea is awaiting our arrival and our list of "can't wait" for is huge. 

So, with that said, we are off to the airport. 
Sayonara Japan

Odaiba, Japan

Odaiba (お台場?) is a large artificial island in Tokyo BayJapan, across the Rainbow Bridge from central Tokyo. It was initially built for defensive purposes in the 1850s, dramatically expanded during the late 20th century as a seaport district, and has developed since the 1990s as a major commercial, residential and leisure area. We highly recommend Odaiba as a place to visit when the sun is shining and you have all day to roam.
Here a few guys dressed as huge Elvis fans twisted and sang out on the promenade. You can see Tokyo in the distance

We few weeks ago we took the subway train to  Shibaura-futō Station and walked across the rainbow bridge. It was a nice 30 minute walk or so, adding time of course for Adam to take pictures. (Take the North walkway, it had a really nice view of Tokyo Tower and the city.

we walked around Odaiba, and saw the seashore which was really nice. There was a ton of shopping and restaurants. Toyota has an open showroom where you can see a lot of the latest models of cars. 

This is a good link to read more about Odaiba and what there is to see. 

If you have a whole day to spend there, I recommend picking up the day train pass at any of the JR Yurikamome  stops. I can't remember how much it is, but the train (like a monorail) runs all through Odaiba and that way you can get out and see all of the sights.

Here is a list of what you can see there taken from Japan's tourism site. 

Fuji TV Building
Hours: 10:00 to 18:00 (some restaurants until 19:00)
Closed: Mondays (or Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday).
Admission: Free (observation deck: 500 yen)
The headquarters of Fuji Television, one of Japan's private, nationwide TV stations. You can see some exhibits on popular programs, buy Fuji TV goods at a shop and access the futuristic looking building's observatory deck housed in the sphere shaped part of the building.

Decks Tokyo Beach
Hours: 11:00 to 21:00
Restaurants: 11:00 to 20:00 (some restaurants until 24:00)
Closed: No closing days
Admission: Free (trick art museum: 900 yen)
Decks is a shopping mall featuring various stores, boutiques, cafes and restaurants. The mall also houses the three story "Tokyo Joypolis" arcade (closed for renovation until mid July 2012) and a trick art museum. A Hong Kong themed food theme park and the Muscle Park were closed in 2010.

Aquacity Odaiba
Hours: 11:00 to 21:00
Restaurants: 11:00 to 23:00 (some restaurants until 5:30)
Closed: No closing days
Aquacity is a shopping mall featuring various stores, boutiques, restaurants, cafes and a 13 screen cinema complex. The fifth floor houses a ramen food theme parkwhere you can try different ramen from all over Japan. There are nice views of the Rainbow Bridge from the wooden deck in front of Aquacity and neighboring Decks.

Rainbow Bridge
The Rainbow Bridge connects Odaiba to the rest of Tokyo. The two story bridge is an iconic symbol of the bay and is especially beautiful during its nightly illumination. The bridge supports an expressway, a regular road, the Yurikamome train line and pedestrian walkways along both sides.
Telecom Center Area
Telecom Center
Observation Deck:
15:00 to 21:00 (weekdays)
11:00 to 21:00 (weekends and national holidays)
Closed: Mondays (Tuesday if Monday is a holiday)
Admission: 500 yen (400 yen in combination with a Yurikamome day pass)
The Telecom Center is a major hub on the information highway with several large satellite antennas on its observation deck. The observation deck also offers nice view of the bay area and as far as Mount Fuji on clear days.

Museum of Maritime Science
Main building closed indefinitely for renewal, ships remain open
Hours: 10:00 to 17:00 (weekends and holidays until 18:00)
Closed: Mondays (or following Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday)
December 28 to January 1
Admission: Free entry to ships during renovation
This museum looks like a large cruise ship docked along the Odaiba waterfront. The main building with exhibits on the history and technology of ships and shipping is currently closed for renovation. Outside you can board two real ships that are on permanent display.

National Museum of Emerging Science
Hours: 10:00 to 17:00
Closed: Tuesdays and December 28 to January 1
Admission: 600 yen
Also known as the Miraikan, this well done, highly interactive and bilingual science museum includes exhibits about environmental issues, robots (starring Asimo among others), information technology, biology and space exploration.

Oedo Onsen Monogatari
Open: 11:00am to 9:00am (last entry 7:00am)
Closed: One evening per month for cleaning
Admission: 2900 yen (2000 yen from 18:00 to 2:00, 1900 yen from 5:00).
An additional 1700 yen overnight fee applies from 2:00 to 5:00.
Opened in 2003, Oedo Onsen is a hot spring theme park which reproduces the atmosphere of the Edo Period. Here you can enjoy various types of indoor and outdoor baths which are fed by hot spring water pumped from a depth of 1400 meters. Restaurants, massage, games and other entertainment, as well as overnight stays are available.
Palette Town
Palette Town is a large shopping and entertainment complex consisting of the Venus Fort shopping mall, Toyota Mega Web, a Ferris Wheel, the Zepp Tokyo music venue and Tokyo Leisureland.

Venus Fort
Hours: 11:00 to 21:00
Restaurants: 11:00 to 23:00
Closed: No closing days
Admission: Free
Venus Fort is a shopping mall in the style of a 18th century South European town. The mall features over a hundred shops, fashion boutiques, cafes and restaurants on three floors including a few outlets shops on the upper floor.

Toyota Mega Web
Hours: 11:00 to 21:00 (some attractions end 1-3 hours earlier)
Closed: Small number of irregular closing days
Admission: Free (test rides: 300 yen)
Mega Web is a giant Toyota showroom that shows off all of Toyota's latest models, car accessories and technologies. Attractions include test driving of cars (requires driving license valid for Japan) and a museum exhibiting cars from past decades.

Ferris Wheel
Hours: 10:00 to 22:00 (until 23:00 on most Fridays, Saturdays)
Closed: No closing days
Admission: 900 yen (entire cabin: 3000 yen)
This 115 meter tall ferris wheel is one of the world's largest and offers nice views of Tokyo Bay and Odaiba below. Each cabin seats six (or four in the all-glass cabins), and the complete revolution takes about 15 minutes.

Hours: 10:00 to 23:50 (some parts open 24 hours)
Closed: No closing days
Admission: Free (attractions are paid)
This huge entertainment complex features a large game arcade, bowling alleys, slots, batting cages, karaoke, darts, table tennis and sports games. There is also a ninja illusion house, a haunted house and food court.
Big Sight Area
Tokyo Big Sight
Hours and admission fees depend on the specific events.
Also known as Tokyo International Exhibition Center, Tokyo Big Sight is Japan's largest exhibition and convention center and one of the bay islands' boldest architectural creations. A wide array of events are held at the Big Sight throughout the year including the Tokyo International Anime Fair, the Comiket comic fair and the Tokyo Motor Show.

Panasonic Center
Hours: 10:00 to 18:00 (entry to Risupia until 17:00)
Closed: Mondays (or Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday)
Admission: Free (Risupia: 500 yen)
The Panasonic Center is a showroom for the latest products and technologies by the Panasonic Corporation. On display are the newest cameras, TVs, computers, Nintendo games, home appliances and more. The third floor is Risupia, a hands-on math and science museum.

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