SoKo Coffee Haus

coffee 4

When we were living in Korea, I discovered that the play wasn’t the thing, but coffee; or rather, coffee shops were the thing.

My office was/is situated in a little neighborhood near Gangnam (yes, THAT Gangnam). Surrounding said office, were three Starbucks, two Dunkin Donuts, at least two Coffee Bean & Tea Leafs, as well as the elusive Caribou Coffee.

In addition to those main-stream, corporate coffee houses, there were a plethora (and I do mean this) of smaller places. Places like Ediya, Tom N Tom’s, Coffee Factory, Seven Monkey’s, Coffine Gurunaru, Yellow Tree, and Serendipity (these last two were actually in my neighborhood specifically, while the others could also be found just about anywhere in Seoul) JUST to name a few. There are literally hundreds of these places, many of them in hidden locales, holes in the wall, off the beaten path.

A Google search of coffee houses in Seoul and there are listing of places I’ve never heard of! There is (or was when we were living there) even a bird themed house (in which live birds are free to fly about) and a cat themed house (in which coffee lovers can drink their cuppa in the company of random cats). The logistics of these two are interesting to ponder and should we make it back to Seoul anytime soon, I’ll be dragging my husband and son with me to check them out. And the one my boss would take us out to, without fail, whenever the occasion called for coffee, doubled as a flower shop.

If you find yourself in Seoul, please, please visit the local chains, you will NOT be disappointed.

Coffee

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Baby-Moon Rising

Any plans we might have made regarding taking a baby-moon went out the window when I hit 30 weeks. My friends, Katy and Chris, went on theirs to Durango a few weeks ago. I was jealous.

I can honestly say that the last several weeks, nay, months, have been almost a dream. I’ve had mucho swelling, some lower back pain, and strange finger numbness, but all in all, nothing that was so unbearable that I was ready to induce labor. So a baby-moon would have been OK.

We had talked about going back to this place, where we’d gone last fall (BEST eggs Benedict ever). An artist friend of ours was participating in an art show last year and is doing it again this year. But it’s three hours away and everything I’m reading these days says that I should make sure that should I go into labor on the load, my insurance will cover it…meaning I need to know where the nearest hospital is in this small town, otherwise it’s a three-hour trek home!

Now, with 6 weeks and 5 days to go, I haven’t had any signs of premature labor. No Braxton Hicks contractions, no spotting, nothing… just a very kicky baby looking for more room in his….room.

I so want to go back to Abiquiu though…

Homecoming

Hello! And welcome home!

This is what we (Jason and I) were hearing, left and right, one year ago today. A few days before arriving home (Albuquerque) we had left Seoul, S. Korea out of Incheon International. I remember that I had mixed emotions.

If any of you read back to some of my more pessimistic blogs from 2010 and 2011, you’ll see that I wasn’t the most happy living in the foreign country. With cultural differences, as well as nearly constant uncomfortable feelings of being stared at by everyone and their grandmother, I was just so ready to come home.

On the plane that morning, as we lifted off, I did tear up though. There were, of course, things I was going to miss…things that I had actually gotten used to and even enjoyed about being there.

Nearly 15 hours later, we landed in LA and met the very first familiar (to me) faces in nearly two years. My awesome cousin and his awesome wife drove up from San Diego to retrieve us.

I was so glad to be in America, to be back amongst people who could relate easier to my cultural background, and to understand what people were saying all around me–well, this last part has its pros and cons.

My cousins put us up in a beautiful apartment for the night. Pamela shared her amazing cheeses with us and the next day we were on our way east.

From San Diego, we made our way through California to Las Vegas, where my best friend Susan put us up in her living room. I can’t tell you how great it was to not have to worry about hotels while we were driving home.

And the drive was pretty rough, I’ll tell ya. Try driving from San Diego, via Las Vegas, to Albuquerque almost nonstop while acclimating to the time change and going through the initial stages of jet lag. Not easy. I had to eat crunchy, fruit-flavored rice cakes constantly just to keep from dozing. The AC was blasting and the music was blaring.

In defense of Jason (who I’m sure all of you are wondering why he wasn’t sharing the drive time), he didn’t have a valid driver’s license at the time and he wasn’t really allowed to drive the rental, per the rental car place.

So, on August 1st, 2011, Jason and I pulled up to my parents house (my home until I moved to Korea). That was just an amazing feeling. I missed my family!

And in the year since? Well, we bought our house, got married, and are just ten short weeks from having our bouncing baby boy.

In celebration of 365 (366 since it’s a Leap Year?) of being back, we went here for lunch:

 Jason ordered their fish and chips, and I partook of their spicy mac and cheese. YUM.

Then, to celebrate further, we went to another local place, Quarters for dinner. I ordered a blackened catfish sandwich with green chili and cheddar (let’s just call it an Albuquerque Catfish Sandwich).

And so concludes another Preggo Girl’s WIAW (#6 for those who are counting).

Korea: A Retrospective

Today, three years ago, I was Korea-bound for the first time. After six months of emails and phone calls with Jason, who’d been there already for four years, the reality of the next leap was not only hitting me, it was engulfing me.

There were so many things that worried me about living abroad. What would I eat? What would I wear? How would I communicate? What was I going to do there? How were Jason and I really going to get along; together; in person; after not physically seeing one another for four years?

What would I eat?

For those who know me, this was a big fear. A big hesitation. I pretty much don’t like anything. I don’t like most veggies, I don’t like most seafood. In fact, a big part of my diet up to this point had been beef or chicken, potatoes, and one of three kinds of canned vegetables: Peas, corn, green beans. My mother and I thought for sure I would lose weight from the mere fact that Korean cuisine was based solidly around the foods I didn’t eat. I was so sure, that I packed all my skinny clothes in anticipation of fitting into them in no time.

But I wasn’t going to the 3rd world. I was going to Seoul. And Seoul is like going to the opera. The variations of sounds, smells, foods all co-mingled in the atmosphere. They didn’t just eat squid or noodles or mushrooms; they had everything. They had restaurants  serving American food I’d never heard of. (Restaurants I’d never heard of, that is) To my chagrin I wasn’t going to get skinny here. I actually gained a lot over my two years there. Very disappointing.

I did find A TON (by my standards) of food that I have since fallen in love with. Well, three dishes in particular. But I also discovered a heartfelt love for fresh broccoli (gasp) and cooked mushrooms (double gasp). There were also snack options that blew my mind.  See? I wasn’t going to starve. And when were weren’t eating those things, we could easily pop over to BK, KFC, Micky-D’s, and other fine dining establishments. And the grocery stores had pretty much everything we could possibly need to make ‘home-cooked’ meals. And if the grocery stores didn’t have it, Costco did.

What would I wear? 
Plus-sized clothing in Korea is pretty near impossible to find. At least for me it was. I went to the Gap and found a few things, only tops, and generally had to beg my family to send me clothes or buy online from LL Bean. And I survived for two years on four pairs of slacks from NY & Company, two pairs of jeans from Torrid, and about 15 shirts from random places like Target, Wal-Mart, Old Navy, and Torrid (again). The situation was far from ideal, and would have been better had we been able to get back to the US at least once in those two years. Oh well.

How would I communicate?

This was easy. Pantomime. Actually a good percentage of the people in Seoul speak English or broken English and we were able to ask for basic items. And most of the menus in chain restaurants were partially in English, so we made out OK. Subways and taxis had a good amount of English as well. My coworkers were always helpful, as were Jason’s, when we needed to make bank transactions, call the electrician, order a special pizza from the place around the corner, or order chicken deliciousness for delivery.

What was I going to do there?

Aside from starting my job as an editor for a Korean-based publishing company, we did all sorts of touristy things. We went to temples, visited museums, went shopping. When the newness of being there wore off, we bought bikes and went on rides, we went to an indoor amusement park, we checked out the zoo, bussed down to Andong for our friends’ wedding, flew down to Jeju for a long weekend.

How were Jason and I really going to get along; together; in person; after not physically seeing one another for four years?

If you’re not into mushy, romantic gestures, skip this part. The very first thing Jason did when we saw each other outside of the security check and customs area was kiss me.

OK, you can resume your enjoyment of the blog now.

We had our ups and downs. Jason and I had each other for support during our time in Seoul, and I think that from that we’ve been able to build something that few people have. The shared experience of living in a foreign country, while struggling with the day-to-day stuff of creating a foundation for a lasting relationship was something I think we’ll both cherish forever. After a year and a half of living together, Jason took me up to Seoul Tower, got on one knee, and asked me to be his partner in life, to be his wife.

I said yes. You can read more about that story here.

Since then, our lives have pretty much been a whirlwind of moving back to the US, buying a house, getting married, and starting a family. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

Have Kittehs, Will Travel

As the countdown to departure for Jason and I continues, Abner and Ebenezer will be making their trip home sooner. Temperatures in Albuquerque are getting warmer, and that means airlines are less and less willing to accept pets (or any animal I would imagine) on their flights. In fact, United, which is the airline we’re hoping to have fly our babies home, won’t accept them if the departure or arrival destinations are 75°F or above.

If you’re in a more temperate location, that’s fine, it’s February and no big deal, right? Well, we’re not from a temperate location, we’re from the desert, and that means that 75°F comes early and it comes fast. Like April. SO, to avoid all that drama, we’re shipping them home sooner.

Months and months ago we started looking for information on shipping the boys home. After adopting them nine months ago, we knew what we were getting into.

Abner and Ebenezer (2.5 Mo)

 At first, we looked at the airlines, and it was ridiculously difficult to decipher what the real rules were. On top of that, try finding the right crate for the cats in a foreign country. Not so easy. We had to find other means of transport. Aside from the boys, we also have to ship home three bikes, some art, clothes, two computers, and our collection of coffee mugs. We decided against shipping our furniture and will be trying to off load all that and our wired for Korea electronics.

After some research, we finally found an impressive international organization with the only function being the shipping of pets. This organization puts the pet owner in contact with a myriad of companies who have years of experience in the organizing of pet shipment. The companies are endorsed by this organization, which also means the companies are good. The company we’re going with is Pet Airline, so far, they have been infinitely helpful. Since they are here in Korea, they are able to even help us talk to our vet to get the boys their Rabies Certificates. We pick them up on Saturday.

So, once that is taken care of, I think we will be saying “see you soon” to our boys. They will be met by my wonderful aunt and promptly taken home where the rest of our menagerie awaits.

Abner and Ebenezer
Niki and Copper
 
Lillith
Millie