Friday, July 2, 2010

Monday, June 28th

While I title this blog entry, Monday, June 28th, it is actually Friday morning, July 2nd, as I write it.  Kelly and I have hit the USA running and it does not seem like we have stopped running yet.  But back to our last day in S Korea-back to Monday...

We were up early in order to finish packing and finish cleaning Dan's apartment. We cannot thank Dan Sadley enough for the use of his apartment while he was back in the States on his one month break. Being in the same apartment building and only one floor above Aaron during our adventure here was a real bonus!

Kelly walked to McD for my last black coffee and after finishing cleaning the apartment, we watered Dan's plants and fed his fish before heading to Aaron's at 7:45 AM Incheon Time.  We then went downstairs to the front of the apartment/office building to wait for Jeong Mi and her father.  He graciously volunteered to take us to the airport this morning.

Principal Kim gave Aaron permission to travel with us to the airport, so we said our goodbyes to Jeong Mi there and then Kelly, Aaron, Jeong Mi's dad, and I headed to the Incheon Seoul Airport traveling over the same roads that we had explored during our 10 days with Aaron.

It was a nice morning weather wise and traffic was not bad at all. We arrived at the airport and after saying our goodbyes, (hugs and Kisses to Aaron!), we went into the airport to find the United Airlines Reservation desk in order to get our boarding passes and our luggage checked in.  We arrived around 8:40 AM and had to wait until 9:10 until the desk opened.

But we did not have to wait long until we were checked in.  My checked bag needed further inspection by the baggage officials so Kelly and I headed to the baggage inspection room.  That small change bag alerted bells and whistles but after showing the inspectors, we were cleared and headed to security.

They had flip flops handy for us to wear after leaving our shoes in the bins.. very kind, organized, security officials;  then to immigration to have our passports examined and stamped that we were leaving S Korea.

Then to the Monorail to ride and then find our  Gate #123.  Since we still had an hour, we got a coffee and we were able to email family that we were waiting to board our plane to Tokyo.

We boarded and lifted off at 12:10 pm.. Goodbye Korea!

We landed without incident, at Tokyo-Narita Japan airport and followed the international connecting flight signs through their security area.  No problems with change purse this time around!! We used the restrooms while waiting for our flight out and loved the bidet that was in the commode area!  Too crowded in there to play with the features but next time...  even has a button to play "flushing sound".. very cool!

We boarded our plane and were seated on the right side in a three seat area.  We had hoped to have had an empty seat between us, but at the LAST MINUTE a gentleman from Peru was seated in our row.. so we gave him the window seat and Kelly and I took the aisle and middle seats.

The 11 hour 40 minute flight began... another marathon to get through.. they continued to provide food, drink, hot wash cloths, to keep the "hostages" happy but I just wanted it to be over...  we tried to get some rest and sleep.. we watched some movies as well to pass the time.  We also tried to get up out of our seats every couple of hours to stretch our legs, get the circulation moving, and use the restroom when we could.

We landed safely at the Houston airport and followed signs through customs/immigration/security screening. We then had to take our checked bags through security again and they were then loaded onto the Houston to Cleveland plane.

Horray... could now use our own phones!!! We called Mart to tell her that we were in Houston... and then Melissa Called.. She was following our flight path and knew that we had landed safely.  We were able to email Aaron and text Jeremiah, and we loaded the plane for Cleveland.  I guess there was a huge storm that went through Huston about an hour before our arrival.. in fact, the pilot said they even closed down Houston Airport for an hour.. so the planes were backed up and it was another 30 min wait on the tarmac before the pilot was given the go ahead.

So that backed us up getting into Cleveland by 20 minutes or so.

But at 7:50 PM, Monday, June 28th (Kelly said it was like the movie Groundhog Day: the longest June 28th we have had to endure..hahah)  we landed in Cleveland (where Kelly kissed the ground). We got our baggage and Marty was waiting for us to take us to her house for a wonderful meal of fresh bing cherries, pulled pork and cheese sandwiches, and chips and carrot sticks.  American food is still the best!

We were able to visit on the phone with Jeremiah and Melissa, call mom and dad, Kathy, and Day, and head on home to Franklin.  We made a stop for coffee and worked at keeping awake the last 20 miles of the trip. It was good to get home to see Chornie and Nipsy and sleep in our own bed.. we were home by 11:30 and in bed by one AM or so..

So we continue to work at getting our jet lag out of our systems.. we find ourselves taking huge naps during the afternoon and then not getting to sleep until much later.. but we are confident that it will work itself out eventually. We end this adventure with some random thoughts about Korea...
Korea has A LOT of steps and hills to climb
Modern Clean Subways
Many taxis, good bus system..
Efficient Airport system.. kind, polite workers...
Most signs in Korean and English
Everyone has cell phones and they use them A LOT
Everyone carries umbrellas and they have umbrella plastic bags to hold wet umbrellas in stores/restaurants
We saw only brown shelled eggs and there are frozen ice cream freezers in or by every
convenience store in Incheon!  Kelly could not find decaffinated coffee.
Koreans share/eat  from the same bowls and Edie is not an expert at using chop sticks and a table spoon
Koreans  use large scissors to cut meat.
No dryers to be seen.  Wash clothes in small washer and hang clothes to dry
Many exercise stations in parks and even on trails
Heavy large hulla hoops are part of their exercise regime.
Koreans were very kind and often stopped to help us when we looked lost and needed their assistance.
In Incheon there are lots of bars, small restaurants, churches, singing rooms.
We did not feel that Incheon was a clean city
We never felt unsafe
Many people out (even children) late at night walking the sidewalks and/or playing in the park.
There are  lots of schools, and lots of Private Academies for parents to send their children to-to learn how to speak English.
Many of the Korean dishes we sampled were hot (spicy!)
Wonderful monuments, palaces, plenty of things to see and places to explore
American restaurants are there if one looks hard enough
No Tipping in Any Restaurant and no tipping the taxi driver
Their currency is the Won and the rate of exchange was 85 cents to 1,000 won
Large stores, grocery and department...
There are Chinese in Korea and we ate at an Indian and a Chinese Restaurant.
We met some wonderful people and we're thankful to get to know Jeong Mi and Her Parents; staff at HamBak Elementary School, and Bamboo Dance Academy. And to visit with Franklin Guys and some of the other Westerners that Aaron hangs around with during his down time.

So lots of hours on planes each way but well worth it!  Thanks Again Aaron for Everything!
See you and Jeong Mi in August!

Check out our Picasa website for last set of Pics!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday, June 27th

Sunday, our last full day in S Korea... Kelly decided to attend Mass in the Korean Catholic Church down the street. While he was unable to understand the spoken language, he had a basic idea of what was occurring during the service.  Kelly said that they give out plastic wallet size folders with the bulletin when the parishioners enter the church. About one third of the way through the service, the acolytes bring out these wooden boxes to the front of the church. Then row by row the parishioners get up and go up front to put their plastic wallet size folder into the boxes. Kelly figured out that the folders are for the parishioners offering for that week. The parishioners bow to each other during the Peace with hands folded in a prayer-like formation.

Upon leaving the church, youth gave to all a rice cake with raisins. Aaron's head teacher, Ridia said it was because it was the Priest's Birthday and that was a gift to parishioners at the 9:00am service. She said at the 11:00 am service, everyone got noodles.

Kelly got my delicious black coffee from McDs, and we did some sorting, cleaning up, and then went to Lotte Mart to get some pictures made and buy  frames.  When we got back, Aaron was up and moving from just getting to bed at 6:30 am that morning after the USA lost to Ghana in overtime during their 2010 World Cup championship soccer match.

So the three of us headed out to eat at a Chinese Restaurant where we got some sweet and sour chicken, and black bean  noodle with assorted veggies, shrimp, and squid.. Kelly was brave enough to eat the squid pieces while I stayed  clear of that delicacy!

We did our last trip to Lotte Mart where we got Aaron some groceries for the week and we enjoyed an ice cream cone from Baskin Robbins before coming back to the apartment to rest.

We dressed and headed out at 7:00 pm for a wonderful dinner engagement with Principal Kim, two head teachers at HamBak Elementary School, Ridia, Aaron's head teacher in his English Center, Geoff (other English teacher in Aaron's Center), Aaron, Kelly and me.  What a wonderful Korean Restaurant that Principal  Kim drove us to!  We enjoyed a number of wonderful food items, good conversation, and the opportunity to get to know Aaron's principal and staff at HamBak Elementary School.  Principal Kim is a warm, generous, kind man,  and we so appreciate his generosity and his invitation to dinner this evening! They all spoke so positively of Aaron and appreciate his teaching and his contributions to their school.

The 1 1/2 hour dinner was a wonderful way to end our adventure in Korea.  During our 10 days here, we met some wonderful people, ate interesting and delicious varieties of food, saw some awesome monuments and sights,  rode in buses, taxis, subway trains, and walked (and STEPPED) our way through a variety of settings.  Thanks Aaron for sharing your Korea with us!  Check out our day's pics!

Saturday, June 26th: Aaron's 27th Birthday

We never would have imagined 27 years ago, while at Brown Memorial Hospital in Conneaut, Ohio, that our son, Aaron Thomas Bruckart, born 6/26/83 at 7:27 am assisted by Dr. Moon K. Yoon  (a Korean doctor), would be celebrating his birthday in Incheon, Republic of Korea, and that Kelly and I would be celebrating it with him!!

The day began with my kind hubby who walks to McD every morning so that I can get my coffee Americana!
Then, while uploading our Friday pics and updating our blog, Kelly began cleaning Dan's apartment...

Later that day, Aaron enjoyed opening his gifts from his Grandma and Papa, and Aunt Kathy and Uncle Chris..(hahaha.. he just finished his last box of Jordan Almonds Kathy!).. we got his first Birthday pic, and we headed out into a rainy day.

We had purchased umbrellas at the beginning of our adventure, and  fortunately this was the first day we had to use them.  Aaron had originally planned on us going to Muido Beach, but decided to tour Inha University instead because of the rainy forecast.

We treated ourselves to a taxi ride to Inha U and walked the Inha Culture Streets and enjoyed Mr. Pizza for lunch.. a salad bar and yogurt bar first.. and all eating salad selections for the same bowl.. humm... the use of the umbrella bags to hold wet umbrellas was a first and the device can be seen in our pics at the end of this blog.

Aaron ordered a New York Style Pizza and we enjoyed sharing it together.
We then were introduced to Inha (Incheon Harbor) University where Aaron spent some time in the University's Library, providing English lessons to some college students during his first year in Korea.

We then walked to Home Plus Department Store.. while we thought the Lotte Mart was large, this store was GIGANTIC! We had some pics developed for Jeong Mi and her parents,  and picked up some other items..always fun shopping in stores here!

We taxied back to the apartment where after resting we dressed for the evening and taxied to Old Song Do where we were "wined and dined" traditional Korean Style, through the generosity of Jeong Mi's parents!

 Check out all of our unique and delicious course items in our  Picasa link at the end of this blog.

We enjoyed the company of Jeong Mi and her parents and we shared some interesting conversation.  Aaron was our Korean translator and a fine job he did!

Jeong Mi created Aaron's birthday cake and the waitstaff did a wonderful "Korean birthday" song for Aaron in which we all clapped along!

We had our pictures taken by the massive tree which is growing inside of the restaurant.

We caught another taxi and headed to Bamboo Dance Academy where his instructors and other dancers waited impatiently for Aaron to show up to do the SOLO birthday dance.  They also sang Happy Birthday to Aaron and then Aaron and Jeong Mi began the Solo Dance line.. other dancers joined in to dance with Aaron as well.. it was fun to watch the excellent Dancers in this Academy doing their Salsa routines.  He has many good friends here!  What a joy to spend some time with them again we before we leave.

We taxied back into Incheon where we met up with Aaron's friends, and had a drink in a 'westerner' bar, Route 66, and watched Korea lose 2-1 in the World Cup Soccer Championship.  Kelly and I left around 1:00 am or so to head back to the apartment while Aaron and his friends stayed to watch USA lose (boo hoo) 2-1 in overtime to Ghana!  Aaron said he got to bed at 6:30 Sunday morning... a long day for him for sure!  One more full day and then Kelly and I say goodbye to Aaron and to Korea!
Check out all our pictures from this day on the link below:

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday, June 25th continued...

      ...after working hours on catching up on our blog and downloading our pictures of the last couple days, Kelly and I headed out of the apartment to do some more exploring before Aaron came home from work. Kelly had seen a sign "Sharon Christianity Department Store" on a nearby building, so he wanted to check it out.

Located on the Second Floor, it was a true Christian Book Store, that had everything for sale from large murals of the Last Supper and Moses Crossing the Red Sea, to Wooden Pulpits, to Vestments, to trinkets, to tables and shelves of books, and "Sunday School Materials".  Kelly had a nice talk with a lady there. She attends a  Korean Presbyterian Church. They had an interesting talk about Christian authors.. (Joel Osteen and Rick Warren's books were for sale there...) She spoke excellent English and helped us translate some Korean note cards.

We enjoyed an afternoon treat at a fun cafe and headed back up to wait for Aaron. After he arrived we put our last load of dirty clothes into his apartment washing machine, and headed out of the apartment.

It was our hottest day so far this vacation. Aaron said it was around 30 degrees C and with the humidity the 86 degrees F was uncomfortable and made walking to the subway no fun picnic... so we hailed a cab!  We are real pros now with the subway as we headed over to Bupyeong Station...
We were treated to quite a sight so far!  Massive amount of people... elbow to elbow and the largest subway station so far that we have experienced!  The Bupyeong Station boasted a large underground Shopping Mall of rows and booths of Cell phones... clothes... shoes... jewelry... food court...

We found ourselves in the Indian Food Booth where we dined on Chicken Curry, Lamb and Chicken Kabab, and Samosa (filled pastry with potato, chick peas, green peas, and curry).. Yummy!

After exploring the underground shops, we traveled upstairs and out where we were treated to more stores, vendors, and people enjoying the Friday evening.  We had a beer and Coke in "Woodstock". A bar frequented by "Westerners"... We listened to familiar "English Lyric Songs", while a Korean Soap Opera ("Drama") played on their flat screen TV...

We returned to the underground shops and then headed back to the subway to return to the Woninjae Station.. we purchased and enjoyed a pastry (hard boiled egg wrapped in a donut like pastry) as we walked back to the apartment.

We visited with Dan Schwanbenbauer and Aaron for a bit.. before they headed out and we headed to bed.. a relaxing day and evening... as we get ready to celebrate Aaron's 27th birthday, on Saturday, June 26th...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Friday, 25th June 2010

Kelly and I find ourselves in Korea 60 years to the day, after the start of the Korean War and this day looks sunny and hot. We have enjoyed exploring the monuments and exhibits in Korea commemorating the  Korean War and we think of all who have lost their lives during this three year battle. (The war began on 25 June 1950 and an armistice was signed on 27 July 1953.) 
But we are getting ahead of ourselves!  Because Wednesday, June 23rd, was important to us because
Kelly and I traveled without our Korean Speaking Son to Shinsegae Department store using the Incheon
Metro!  Our goal was to see Jeong Mi and see where she works. We were armed with Korean directions/names and numbers from Aaron and we arrived safely!  We met some wonderful Korean people along the way who really want to help the "looking lost Americans!"

Shinsegae Department store is a very large upscale store that has some gorgeous merchandise that people can purchase for their homes.  Jeong Mi works in the bedding section on Floor 5. She was certainly surprised to see us and we were able to share a Starbucks drink and time with each other before she headed back to her area and we explored the other floors.  She speaks very little English and we speak very little Korean but Kelly had his trusty Korean Dictionary and she had her translator in her phone so we managed... she kept apologizing to us for not speaking English...she is a very special lady...

We checked out the park near the department store and returned on the subway to the Woninjae stop where we were able to then walk to the apartment.  We picked up a great pizza from the pizza store located on the second floor of Aaron's apartment building and after a little rest we headed out with Aaron to the subway (AGAIN!) to travel to the ...

Bamboo Dance Academy to see where Aaron has his dance classes, and to meet the co-owners,   instructors,  and his dance friends of the Academy.

They were all quite gracious and kind to us and gave us fruit and tomato slices to enjoy and a gift-box of tea. We can see why Aaron enjoys this group so much!  It was wonderful to finally put faces to names of people we have heard about from Aaron and see how much they enjoy having Aaron in their class. We are planning on returning to the Bamboo Dance Academy Saturday evening after Aaron's birthday dinner with Jeong Mi
and her parents.

The day continued on because we returned to Aaron's neighborhood to meet up with Josh Castonguay, Dan Schwanbenbauer, and the other "Westerner" English teachers who were gathering together to watch USA versus Algeria!  What a game for sure!  Great to get that goal within the last couple minutes of the game to win and move on in the 2010 World Cup Soccer Championship!
We enjoyed getting our Franklin Group picture taken.  Only wished we had Dan Sadley with us to make it complete...
Kelly and I continue to enjoy exploring the local Lotte Mart ... such an odd assortment of food items on display...we were able to pick up some Kentucky Fried Chicken from within the store to take to Aaron to visit with him during his lunch break on Thursday. We explored traveling to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) north of Seoul but tours were booked and it required more time than we have at this point in our trip.  Another time if we find ourselves back in Korea...
Korean War Montage.jpg

Thursday afternoon found Kelly, Aaron, and I on the Bus 16 line to Old Song Do to see the Incheon Korean War Memorial. Found on the top of a HUGE HILL (AND MORE STEPS!),  we were amazed at the sights and view to meet us!  
We checked out all the vintage war planes, tanks, etc on display and Aaron even signed the banner on display there as well.  
Last night found us at a restaurant with more meat cooked over hot coals, traditional Korean side dishes, and Edie struggling to get a handle on using chopsticks accurately...then it was on to a "Singing Room" (Noribong), where for an hour (15,000 won), we chose songs with English lyrics and we gave it our best shot! Hope we did not embarrass Aaron too much in asking him to turn the sound down!  He has such old parents!  hahahahha... but by the end we were giving it our best! It seems that this is a preview for when we will be singing again!
The amount of people (and small children) out late at night continues to amaze Kelly and me ... a couple more nights here and we head home.. we look forward to celebrating Aaron's 27th birthday with him, Jeong Mi, her parents, his Bamboo Dance Friends, and other English Teaching friends.. our adventure continues..
Check out more pics from these two days..

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday, June 22nd

The day began dreary with hints of rain in the air. My wonderful husband brought me back coffee from McDonalds and washed two loads of our laundry, while I updated our pictures and blog. Using our
energy saving "clothes dryer" we positioned our clothes to dry (in two days!) hahaha.. and then headed out to the local BYC and Lotte Grocery Store.

The BYC is a very very well known store here... in fact, when we were "slightly" disoriented from our Mountain climbing adventure, we told the taxi driver, "BYC".. ye,s a good landmark to find here especially considering how many Korean restaurants are THE SAME as well as many other stores...

The Lotte Grocery Store is a blog in itself.. but suffice to say, if you can not find it at the Lotte, it is not to be found anywhere.. this 6 story wonder boasts a couple upper floors of parking, a floor for dry cleaning sevices, hair salon, skin and beauty store.. it has even more to offer than a Wal-Mart... Kelly and I enjoyed using the strange wheeled cart and traveling from floor to floor on the moveable ramp.
The sections of fish choices and korean cuisine ares a little overwhelming to this Franklin, PA couple but we enjoyed looking... (but not buying!). We bought some drinks and munchies for the ball game and returned to the apartment where we tested out Dan's two burner electric stove to make some scrambled eggs (thanks Aaron and Jeong Mi), and enjoy a delicious berry scone made by Jeong Mi!  Yummy!

The afternoon skies looked like rain so Kelly, Aaron, and I armed ourselves with our umbrellas, drinks, and munchies, and headed to the subway station to take the train to the Baseball Stadium. (Yes, you can take drinks/food into the stadium!)
We bought dinner at the Burger King in the baseball stadium and after enjoying the Whopper with chicken nuggets (yes, no french fries here as a side) we sang along with the chants, clapped our Thunder Sticks together and enjoyed watching the SK Wyverns beat the LG Twins 11-4!
So a win for the team and no rain!
 A great night!  We returned to the subway and headed back home.

Check out all our pictures from this day and the rest of our Korean Adventure:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday, June 21st

After getting up and ready, Kelly and I headed to Mountain Cheongyang following the route we had traveled the day before with Aaron. We managed to find one trail that began our hiking journey that we will never forget!! The trail consisted of steps, steps, and more steps.. many Koreans traveled this trail and even exercised on various pieces of exercise equipment along the way! We visited with some friendly Koreans (Kelly always has his phrase book ready to go!) We made it to the top of one of the ridges and a very friendly couple took our picture there. (They were Korean Mormons who attended College in Utah!) They encouraged us to hike to another peak which they said 10 minutes away by pointing... hummm... maybe 20 for us.. with a lot of rock climbing involved in between!.. but we did reach the top and sat to cool off in the pavillion provided.

Now it was time to climb down.. but the many trails were confusing and we ended up at the bottom of the hill in a far far far away place from where we entered.. we in our broken Korean asked in a real estate office where the BYC was located and she replied that it was "far away"! She told us the bus number to take, but we decided it would be safer to hail a taxi.

So we stopped a (twenties-something) Korean man who with Aaron's Korean directions/address, was able to walk us to a location about a block away, hail a cab, and explain in Korean to the driver where we wanted to go! So thank you Aaron for your Korean address, "The BYC" that everyone knows about... and he drove us right there!! So we were quite quite a distance away.. and the 3.5000 won was well worth the price!!

After a much needed lunch at McD. we rested at the apartment, then "walked" to Aaron's school!

We met Jeong Mi and her father, who graciously offered to drive us to The Yellow Sea, explore The Boardwalk, take a 1.5 hour cruise on a ship, walk and eat in Chinatown, and experience Jayu (Freedom) Park, where General Douglas MacArthur's monument was erected to commemorate the September 15th, 1950 landing, which turned the "course of the war to the triumph of freedom and the salvation of this republic". What a wonderful monument... and to think that Kelly and I were there in Korea with Aaron... and with Aaron's girlfriend, Jeong Mi and her father...

It was an afternoon and evening we will never forget.. Check out our pics of the day: