Hello Kitty Cafe

Saturday was a freakishly cold day and we were trying to come up with fun indoor activities that would keep us out of the icy wind. I suggested we grab a warm beverage at the Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae, which we had seen before, but had not spent time in yet, and my wonderful boyfriend said yes. How many boyfriends willingly agree to being dragged to a pink Hello Kitty Cafe?! I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

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I have always loved Hello Kitty. I can’t explain why, I just do. When I was little I could spend hours inside the Sanrio store eyeing all the goodies. Places like Korea are wonderful because it is perfectly normal for a grown woman like myself to adore Hello Kitty. I am currently sporting a Hello Kitty cell phone cover, which would probably be considered embarrassing at home, but is totally acceptable here.

When we first arrived at the cafe, I was a little bummed because it didn’t look like we would be able to find a seat. This seems to be a perpetual problem in Seoul, so we’ve learned to hover around seated people, eventually somebody is bound to get up. After a few minutes we snagged a table. I held down the fort while Dave got me a hot chocolate, a latte for himself, and a Hello Kitty waffle for us to share. The line to order was long, but he eventually came back with a Hello Kitty buzzer and said it would be about ten minutes.

In the meantime, I played the role of tourist taking pictures of everything. I usually feel awkward doing that, but everybody else was doing the same thing, so I didn’t feel like we were standing out too much. Dave was one of three other guys in the cafe the entire time we were there. The other two dudes fit in a little bit better, mostly because they didn’t look as manly as Dave. His furry beard and broad shoulders didn’t quite fit in with the pink, white, and red Hello Kitty decor.

We sipped our toasty drinks and munched on our waffle, as the girls around us took pictures and applied makeup with their compact mirrors. The waffle left much to be desired, but it definitely got style points. On our way out, I purchased a small Hello Kitty cell phone charm to go with my Hello Kitty cell phone case. I don’t think we’ll be going there every weekend, but I’m sure I’ll be back there again with my patient boyfriend.

See Dave’s perspective here. For directions to this glorious cafe, read my comment below.

Thanksgivings Far Away From Home

I’ve spent three Thanksgiving holidays abroad now, which makes me a little sad because Thanksgiving at my house is the best. Yeah, yeah, your mom makes the best pie or turkey, whatever. My mom seriously makes the most wonderful food. She makes everything from scratch, and on top of making the turkey, two pumpkin pies, a pecan pie, a crimson pie, cranberry sauce, salad, green beans, gravy, and stuffing, she also makes vegetarian friendly stuffing and a tofurkey for our non-meat eating family members.

Thanksgiving 2010 in Seoul!

My mom rocks and so do our gourmet Thanksgivings, but as we all know though, Thanksgiving isn’t all about the food. It’s also about the family and friends gathering around a huge table and being thankful for all of the love in your life. If you have to be abroad for Thanksgiving, you have to work a little bit harder to find both the food and the company to share the evening with. Having at least one of these two things while abroad for Thanksgiving is lucky.

My first Thanksgiving abroad was five years ago while I was on Semester at Sea. We were in Spain on Thanksgiving Day, and my friends and I ended up spending the entire Thanksgiving evening in an Irish pub. I think I ate half a bag of chips that night. Not a successful turkey day because there was not a bit of turkey involved or much food for that matter, but it was filled with lots of good friends and love.

Unfortunately, my second Thanksgiving out of the country wasn’t nearly as successful as my first turkey-less turkey day. I was living in Khon Kaen, Thailand at the time, and my American buddy invited me to a Thanksgiving buffet at the Sofitel, the nicest hotel in the city. I was very excited to actually get to celebrate one of my favorite holidays with other turkey lovers! Thanksgiving night I called to confirm what time we would meet and I was informed that we had missed the dinner. They had held the Thanksgiving dinner for the foreigners the Saturday before and we had missed it! I was heartbroken. Who celebrates Thanksgiving on a Saturday?!? No turkey, no pie, and no one to spend Thanksgiving with. I ended up eating fried rice alone at one of the restaurants I frequented. It was not a good Thanksgiving.

This year I knew that I would be missing Thanksgiving again, so I made sure we celebrated before I left the home. It was a much smaller Thanksgiving than usual because not all of the usual attendees could make it in October, but it was perfect nonetheless. I figured that if I ate a Thanksgiving dinner before I departed, then I couldn’t complain about not having a fabulous holiday with all the fixings in November, little did I know that I would get to have a real Thanksgiving dinner here in Seoul too.

I really lucked out getting two Thanksgivings in one year, and the best part was that I didn’t have to celebrate in Korea alone; all of the other teachers at the school I’m working at, even the Canadians and British, partook in the festivities. We ordered a Thanksgiving dinner to go from Dragon Hill Lodge in Itaewon, which is close to the US army base (hence the availability of a Thanksgivingtake-away meal). For around one hundred bucks, you get a meal that serves ten to twelve people, as advertised. The package includes a turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, vegetables, mashed potatoes, gravy, and a pumpkin pie. Altogether for fifteen of us, including the cab fare to pick up the meal, it cost around eight dollars per person. Not bad for a Thanksgiving feast.

The feast!

Concerned that there wouldn’t be enough food, we each brought side dishes. I made my mother’s delectable cranberry sauce, so even though I was away for Thanksgiving I still had my mom there in a way. Others brought mashed potatoes, two extra pumpkin pies purchased from the always reliable Costco, a broccoli pasta dish, scones, rolls, sweet garlic bread, and spring rolls. We had our feast in the gym of the school, each of us seated in the tiny kindergarten chairs making our glasses of wine and beer seem slightly sinful.

After the meal was over the girls talked over the leftovers while the boys played some form of football/basketball, reverting to the traditional Thanksgiving roles. We divvied up the leftovers, put the wine and beer bottles in the recycling, and moved the kindergarten tables and chairs back to the classrooms where they belonged. Tomorrow the kids will be none-the-wiser about what their teachers were up to the night before. Although nothing comes close to mom’s Thanksgiving dinner, this year’s was as close as a Thanksgiving abroad can get.

This post was originally written for diwyy.com.

Leave It at the Trash Pole

At home we don’t think about our garbage disposal system very much, and we would probably be surprised if somebody was confused by it. Some garbage systems are more confusing than others. In Thailand, the trash system was very easy to figure out. You put your trash in one of the bins on your street and can litter as much as you want because every morning the old men on the block sweep the litter and leaves into small piles, and set them on fire. I didn’t like this system too much because I can’t stand the smell of burning plastic, but it was an easy disposal system to figure out.

Seoul is a different story. For the past two weeks I’ve really felt like I was going nuts. Buildings seem to have designated trash spots, ours is a pole to the right of our building. One of our fellow teachers explained that to us, so it was easy to figure out. She also explained that by law you are supposed to buy government issued regulation trash bags. There are two different types, white bags for trash and green bags for food waste. Recycling can be in any type of bag you like. Now, I understood this easily enough, but finding the regulation bags was impossible.

We determined that we could get away with not purchasing the white regulation trash bags because the school’s cleaning lady re-bags all of our trash into regulation bags. Nobody else at the school seems to use the green compost bags, but being the environmentalist Boulderite that I am, I got very excited over the idea of an easy compost system. I wanted the green food-waste bags, and I wanted them as soon as possible.

I looked in all of the possible places to buy them; not just once, but two, three, four times! I seriously could not find them. They weren’t in the kitchen sections of the grocery stores or in the cleaning sections. They just didn’t exist. When I checked the small corner store where she said she bought hers, I really felt like I was blind. The store has a small amount of goods to look through, unlike the massive grocery stores I’d been looking in. If I couldn’t find them in there, then they must not exist. I tried playing charades with the guy working in the shop and he understood that I wanted a bag, but he pointed at a reusable cloth bag, and then we both gave up.

Last week I was telling a different coworker my problem and she said I would find them at the checkout counters in the grocery stores. So the other day I spent a good chunk of time inspecting every single checkout counter in the grocery store. I was determined to find these mysterious trash bags and in the process I’m sure I looked completely deranged. How could such a simple task be so difficult?! I finally gave up, bought my groceries, and left, defeated.

Having one ounce of hope left, I popped into the corner store by our apartment. Outside there was a trash can with a blue trash liner. I brought the woman working in the store out to see it, and she looked at me like, “Yeah, so what?” I knew it was time to whip out my awesome charades skills and give this trash bag search one last effort.

There were potatoes next to the garbage bin, so I pretended to peel the potatoes into the bin. Her expression didn’t change. She showed me the blue plastic shopping bags hanging from the door and held up one, two, then three fingers. How many do you want? My expression was pained. I looked to my left and there was a green bag and pointed between the vegetables, the blue trashcan liner and the green bag. She was still confused, and quite rightly. Then I got an idea.

I was told they would be at the register, so I held up one finger, the universal sign for one moment, and walked over to the register area. I scoured the shelves for bags. There was still nothing there, just like the last time I looked, but I was hoping that she would put two-and-two together. This crazy girl is looking for green plastic food-waste bags, and now she is looking around the register. It clicked, and she turned to a small cubby behind her and brought out a folded pack of green plastic bags. YES! She got it! We were both so proud of ourselves. I never ever in a million years would have noticed that cubby or even seen the folded bags sitting inside it. It just goes to show that charades is not just a fun game to play at parties; it gives you tools for the rest of your life!

Finally, the elusive green food-waste bags are in our kitchen!

We’ve been using the bags for about a week now and I couldn’t be more pleased with our waste system. I have bags for paper recycling, other recycling, trash, and compost. It’s amazing how much food waste you produce every week. I have been keeping our bag in the freezer so our filthy cockroach roommates don’t have easy access to food and so our apartment doesn’t start to smell. I am very happy to live in a city that makes it easy to compost even when you don’t have access to a yard to set up a compost bin. I love Seoul!

Picture of the Week

Asia is well known for English signs, t-shirts, translations etc. that barely make sense. Many times these English encounters are hilarious, so I’ve decided to start sharing them on my blog. Today I am introducing a new weekly post on Wake Up and Dance! You can now expect a silly pictures from Korea once a week for the next year. Enjoy!

We found this notebook and I just had to buy it. It was less than a dollar and makes me laugh every time I see it!

Can’t Stay Away

I am back in Asia yet again. This is trip number four; I just can’t stay away. I’ve always been drawn to this part of the world, it’s almost like it was written in my genetic code to yearn to travel in these parts.

I am currently setting up camp in Seoul, South Korea, specifically in the Gangseo district. For the next year my boyfriend Dave and I will be teaching English to kindergarten and elementary school students. Dave started orientation two days after arriving here and today was his first day teaching and running his own classroom. I don’t start teaching for another two weeks, so in the mean time I’m wandering around the city and observing.

All of the housing for the teachers is on the third floor of the school, which makes the commute to work very easy. We are living in a single apartment for the first month, until the apartment that is fit for two people opens up. I will post pictures once we get that apartment set up. Unfortunately the girl who lived in our temporary apartment before us wasn’t super clean, so there is still a mysterious mildew smell and a few cockroach families residing with us. Each morning I kill five to ten of the little buggers, but I know it’s futile. It’s nice to at least feel like you are attempting to solve the problem. I’ve set out some cockroach traps with the same hopes, but I’m not sure if they work.

In other news, I have opened a store on www.etsy.com. Etsy is a place where people can buy and sell handmade goods, supplies, and vintage items. I am selling feather earrings and hair clips, necklaces, and a few sets of my infamous cards. Please browse (and buy) and show your friends my creations at www.wakeupanddance.etsy.com. Even though I am in Korea, the items will ship from the States thanks to my wonderful parents. Remember holiday season is quickly approaching! Here are few things that are for sale:

White Sea Glass Necklace
This is a wire wrapped white sea glass necklace. Click on the picture to see more pictures of this item or other sea glass necklaces for sale.
Feather Necklace
This is a one of a kind feather necklace. The feather necklace is felt-backed enhancing its durability and making it soft against your skin. Click on the picture to see more pictures of this item.
This is one of the many hair clips I am selling. I have a wide variety of colors and styles. Click on the picture to see more pictures of this clip or to browse my shop.
Here is one of the pairs of feather earrings I am selling. I made a wide variety of styles and colors. Click on the picture to see more pictures of this pair or to browse my shop.
Handmade postcard style cards and envelopes. Click on the picture to see more pictures of these cards or other cards I am selling.

 

More exciting things will be happening to Wake Up and Dance…you’ll just have to wait and see!