Monday, September 2, 2013

Breaking Down Barriers with Love & Understanding

Two of the benefits of travelling so much are 1) I get to catch up on all of the movies I never seem to find the time to see in theaters and 2) I have a lot of time to think.

During this past trip, I had many, many hours on the plane.  I'll post about my trip later, but, before I do that, I want to tie together some movies that I saw & the thoughts that they provoked.

I saw two movies that got the wheels turning in my head.  They were completely different, however, after giving it some thought, I realized they shared some common themes.  I'll get to that later.

The first movie is called Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey.  Here is the trailer: 

The movie is a documentary about the band, Journey, and their search for a new lead singer.  They end up finding this person in the most unexpected of places, Manila, Philippines, in the most unexpected of ways, through a search on YouTube.  The new lead singer's name is Arnel Pineda, and, prior to getting this break of his life, was a singer in a Journey cover band in Manila.  

The second movie was 42, the story of Jackie Robinson, who was the first African American to play in Major League Baseball.  Everyone has heard of Jackie Robinson, but I guess I never really thought about WHAT IT WAS LIKE when he entered into a league where he was the only man that wasn't white.  It was beautifully made and brought tears to my eyes.

So, how the heck are these two movies related?  Well, both of them in my mind are about breaking barriers and stereotypes.  Arnel Pineda had to endure much doubt & heckling when he tried to replace the former white "big hair" singer from Journey.  Jackie Robinson was attacked, both verbally and physically.  However, both rose above this and let their actions do the talking, rather than retaliating.  It's people like this who help to break down the barriers of society & make the world a better place.  It's shocking to me how hateful people can be, and for reasons that have nothing to do about who a person actually IS, but rather what they look like, what religion they practice, or who they choose to spend their lives with.  

I also spend a lot of time reading during my trips.  One of the magazines I read as much as possible is the Economist.  Going through the headlines this past trip, I found myself feeling really sad.  There is so much conflict in the world right now, and so much of it comes from pure hate.  What if people learned to love one another, to let each other live their lives as they want?  What a better place this could be. What different headlines we could find ourselves reading.

Over the years, being a member of Facebook has been fun.  Since college, it has been an interesting transition... the newsfeed has moved from college parties, to weddings, and now, it's a flurry of new babies being born.  What a perfect opportunity we all have to let this kind of hatred end.  It can end with us.  One of the most moving scenes in 42 was a short conversation between a father and son watching a baseball game.  The father stops talking to his son, and then starts screaming derogatory comments at Jackie Robinson.  You can almost see the light bulb click in his son's head, and then the little boy starts to scream the same things.  Our children repeat the things that they hear us say, whether or not they understand them.  The beliefs that they have are in many ways formed by us.  That is why we are all in a perfect position to help build a better world for tomorrow by teaching our children love instead of hate, to appreciate people for WHO they are, not where they come from or what god they do or don't worship.  

I apologize if this message seems "preachy" to some, but, I couldn't get these thoughts out of my head and my heart aches for all of the people in this world that are suffering because of hate.  We can make a difference in this world.  Let's start.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Around the World in 30 Days!

Go big or go home.  That's kind of the way we unintentionally roll.  Brian and I returned to Hong Kong on July 22nd after a whirlwind trip that literally brought us all the way around the world.  Since Brian is a teacher, he has the summers off.  Since I work for a European company, I get a crapload of vacation and no one blinks an eye at taking multiple weeks off at a time.  Which works for us.  So, Brian and I started scheming what we wanted to do for our "home leave" back in January.  We knew that we definitely wanted to see friends & family, and we also knew that we wanted to save some time just for the two of us, kind of how we did last year.  At the time when we were booking our tickets, I was supposed to have a business trip to Germany the 4th week of July, so we decided to spend the first two weeks of July in the US, followed by one week together in Europe, and then going on to my business trip for the last week.  In the end, the business trip got cancelled, but we had already booked our plane tickets and were too excited about going to Italy together to change the plan.  I also had had an unusually spontaneous moment (my friend politely pointed out that this spontaneity occurred about 5 months before the event occurred... but STILL...).  Brian and I both love music, and appreciate a good concert.  Hong Kong is sort of void of a lot of good concerts... it is kind of where old bands come when they are in retirement and want to play a few gigs here and there.  So... when we found out that Mumford & Sons, one of our favorite bands, was going to be playing in England at the time we were in Europe, I decided that we should just go to England too,  and we proceeded to book tickets.  Brian was shocked that this idea came out of MY mouth, but I think he was pretty excited too.  

So, the original plan was to go to New York to see Brian's family & have a sort of family reunion at his aunt and uncle's re-union, but things sort of changed a few months before we booked our tickets.  Unfortunately, Brian's dear grandmother has started developing Alzheimer's disease, and so we decided that it would be good for him to go to the US a bit ahead of me so he could spend some time with her.  In the meantime, some training that I needed to attend for work got scheduled in Portland around the same time.  A trip to Portland?!?  Sign me up.  So, Brian left ahead of me, got to spend some nice time with his grandmother and family in Phoenix, and then we rendezvoused in Portland.  

Portland will always hold a special place in my heart, and I take every opportunity I get to go there.  I never have enough time to see all the people I want to see, shop at all the tax-free stores I miss, or eat at all the new yummy restaurants that have opened since the last time I was there.  I only was in Portland for three nights, and tried to pack in as much as I could in the time when I was not at work.  I managed to see quite a few friends, but of course left wishing I could have seen a few more.  And, of course, we got so busy talking that I didn't take any pictures.  But, Portland will always have a special piece of my heart, and, though, I don't know if we will every live there again, it will be a destination whenever I can make it there.  

Some very special people in Portland that we DID get a chance to take pictures with are the Kelly family.  Brian's best friend, Erin, was a big part of why he moved to Portland, and I love these guys as much as Brian does.  It's hard to only get to see them once a year.  The 6 month old baby that we met last summer at the beach is now a walking, noise-making little BOY.  I couldn't believe it!  We had a really lovely evening catching up, and it was like no time had passed.

Erin & Alex - Alex was super stoked about his new hat!
After way too short of a time in Portland, we made our way through the hellhole that is O'Hare to get to a place I had never been, Rochester, New York.  This is where Brian's mom had grown up, and all of her brothers and sisters had returned for the week.  When I say ALL, maybe that doesn't sound like a big deal to you... until I tell you that there are eleven of them.  Yep, Brian and I BOTH come from gigantic families (there are 15 in my dad's family).  So, while it was chaotic, it felt pretty normal to me.  Same chaos, just different faces.  I'm totally used to it.  I guess maybe that is one of the reasons why Brian and I click so well.  We actually didn't stay in Rochester... instead, we stayed at a beautiful location about an hour away, in the Finger Lakes area of New York.  Brian's mother had found a perfect rental for our family - it had three cute little cabins, so all of us had our own space, but we were together when we were awake.  It was right on the lake, and just a nice location to get away from the hustle and bustle that is Hong Kong.  

Our cute cabin on Canandaigua Lake
View of the Lake from our Cabin
Our first family dinner - this was the chaos I was talking about... as for the next few days, rinse & repeat

The Reichardt Siblings
One of the things that is hardest about being away from the States is that we only get to see our families once or twice a year.  Which makes it hard when one of your family members is a cute little boy named Oliver.  I might be biased, but this kid is just one of the cutest kids I know.  It was fun getting to spend so much time with him & see all of the things that have been developing since the last time we saw him.  I love his little voice saying "no" (although it is probably not so good that I smile every time he says that) and his little giggle which means "yes".  Our last night together, I was in a chair pretending to sleep, and he crawled up in my lap and gave me a huge Oliver hug.  I have no idea where that came from, but it was just the sweetest little thing. 
Brian and Ollie
About 4 hours away from Rochester is another beautiful part of New York near the Catskill Mountains.  This is where Brian's other best friend Gavin lives with his wife, Katie, and their newest addition, Neva.  Brian and I made the trip out there to see them, and I'm so glad we did.  We had a nice time catching up, and their place was even one more step removed from the craziness of Hong Kong... I actually could see stars through the skylight in our room, and it. was. so. quiet.  

We drove back to our cabin just in time to celebrate the 4th of July with Brian's family.  We had a BBQ with the whole gang at our place, and watched the random fireworks all over the lake area. 
Well, we tried!  :)

The day after the 4th, Brian and I had booked plane tickets to fly from Rochester to Columbus, Ohio, to see my family, but we were once again spontaneous (hehe), and changed the plans that week.  Brian's sister, Lisa, and her husband, Ryan, were in the process of moving to Alabama from the DC area, and Joan & Randy were taking the dog & Ollie for the week so they could pack.  They were going to be passing right through where my parents live, so we decided to just drive with them.  Yes, in case you are counting, that makes 4 adults, two dogs, and one toddler.  Luckily, Lisa has a minivan, and we all fit pretty comfortably.  
This was pretty much the configuration for 7 hours.
We made it to Ohio without any major hiccups.  Brian's family members are pretty much all experts at the art of the road trip, so they have car travel DOWN.  It was so great to get to my parents' house.  Though I've lived in many places, there is just something about coming back to the place where I grew up that puts me at ease.  And... we had a special occasion to celebrate.  The upcoming birth of my parents' first grandchild.  My sister & Matt will have a little boy December 21st. 
A snake baby for the Wolf Family!
I've been pretty bad about being a penpal, but there are a few friends in Ohio that I try to see every time I come home.  Two of those are my best friends from college, Mandy & Ellen.  We met our freshman year & made it out at the end of 4 years all in one piece.  Times are a little different now.  We've gone from chasing boys to... well, chasing boys.  Little ones.  Mandy has three sons, and Ellen just had her first.  The whole gang came down to Enon for the afternoon, and we had a great time catching up.  I really enjoyed getting to see all the kids.  They were a ton of fun!  :)
Love these girls
If I've been a bad penpal with my college friends, I'm even worse about keeping in touch with my friends from high school.  Luckily, my friend Verity reached out to me when she saw I was coming to the US, and we had a great time catching up at our old Friday night hangout, Young's Jersey Dairy.  She's also got two absolutely adorable kids, and Brian and I had a great time hanging out with the whole family.  She hasn't changed a bit since our days in high school, which is a very good thing.  It felt like no time had passed at all. 
Verity & I at Young's
July is a very busy month for us... we have what we call the tri-fecta... July 15th is our anniversary, the 16th is the day we met, and the 17th is my birthday.  Brian and I decided that we would follow the traditional wedding gift plan... you know, paper for your first anniversary, silver for your 25th, etc, etc.  Well, I had somehow gotten into my head that the 2nd anniversary was WOOD, so Brian and I both planned our gifts around this.  Until... one day at work, Brian called and said "Um, honey... 2nd anniversary is Cotton... 5th is wood.".  Well, we both had already gotten good wood ideas, so we have decided to swap wood & cotton.  I got Brian a humidor to keep his cigars in, and he got me what he thought was a wooden jewelry organizer... which ended up being made out of metal.  But, oh well, it's all just getting too complicated.  I love it, and that's all that matters.  The whole thing was just funny!

Exchanging gifts
Of course, my mother wanted to organize a family photo where we are all wearing the same thing, so this is this year's production... not bad if I do say so myself!  :)
Brian is teaching AP US History this year, so we thought we would take in a little culture while we were in Ohio.  We all went to the Underground Railroad museum in Cincinnati, which was fascinating.  I would highly recommend it.  While we were down there, I got to see my oldest friend, April.  We met when we were 7 and have managed to keep in touch all these years despite several international moves on both of our resumes.  It was great to see her.
Last year, I came away from my time with my family feeling like, while I had SEEN everyone, I hadn't really TALKED to anyone.  It's easy for that to happen when there are a lot of people around.  So, this time, I planned individual time with everyone so that we could really have some quality time and really talk.  Brian & I went fishing with my dad, and Em, Mom & I had a ladies lunch & then made these cute onesies for Em's new baby.  It was nice to do things that way, and I walked away feeling better than last year.  It's still hard to be away, but it's the little things, I suppose.
I'm holding my favorite one - "Miso Cute"
The time in the US went by way too fast as usual.  Brian and I kind of had a "moment" in the Newark airport as we were preparing to fly to Italy.  We both looked at each other and kind of went "Um, I just kind of want to go back to Hong Kong right now.".  This trip was awesome, don't get me wrong, but it was kind of exhausting.  But, anyways, we got on a plane, and, when we woke up, there we were... in  Rome.  We got in at about 7 in the morning, and, while I was jet lagged, I was super excited and ready to GOOOO!!!  My dear husband, on the other hand, is not really a morning person to start with, so, pile on top of that jet lag, and what you get is a poor comatose guy just trying to keep his eyes open at the Colosseum.  I felt so bad... here we were in the middle of some of the coolest historical sights in the world, and my husband was in a fog.  So... lesson learned.  I will budget one day of "catch up on sleep/don't plan much" any time we do something similar in the future.  I have to say, going to Italy in July is not the best... first of all, it is hotter than hell.  I'm talking like, you better bring an extra set of clothes for every day kind of sweating your buns off hot.  Second, you think you are all clever going to Italy for a romantic vacation, but so does half of the rest of the US.  So... it's kind of jam-packed with tourists, which makes it a little less "quaint".  Here's my tip - go in October.  I've been to Italy two different Octobers, and I had a much better trip both times.  I am a pretty good trip planner, but I did make one mistake in Rome.  I had pre-booked tickets for everything except the Colosseum... and with all the tourists, the wait to get in to the Colosseum was nearly 2 hours.  The wait for all of the other locations, which we had thankfully booked tickets for in advance, was probably at least that long or even longer.  I can totally see how someone could come home to the US saying "that was a terrible trip.  All I did was wait in line".  Because, if you don't pre-book your tickets.  So... note to those of you who might plan a trip to Italy in July.  PRE-BOOK.  EVERYTHING.  Okay, you get the point.

He looks awake... but was SOOOO tired!
Our second day in Italy, we went to the Vatican.  We had pre-booked tickets for the Sistine Chapel, so we sailed by all the people who unfortunately had not... and the line was probably three hours long at 9 in the morning!  In the rooms that lead up to the chapel was Brian's favorite thing out of our whole trip to Italy... which kind of surprised me.  We got to this room, and I said, "Oh, yes, in this room is the School of Athens" painting.  Brian was SOOO excited.  You see, he references this painting all the time in his classes, so, to see it in person, well, pretty much rocked his world.  I was so excited to see HIM so excited. 
The School of Athens
After seeing the Sistine Chapel, along with about 500 of our closest friends, we went over to see St. Peter's Basilica.  This is one of the most amazing churches in the entire world.  I think the thing that is the most impressive is just its sheer SIZE.  The letters that run along the entire ceiling are 7 FEET TALL, but they look tiny from the floor.  Everything is just massive in size.  It's good just to wander around at leisure and try to take it all in.

Michealangelo's Pieta in St. Peters
That second day also happened to be our anniversary.  Brian has a few Italian kids in his classes at HKIS, and so he got recommendations for restaurants from them for both our anniversary & my birthday.  Both recommendations were a little more on the "local" side, and it was nice to get off the beaten path a bit.  We have promised to try to make this "tri-fecta" special every year, and this year was definitely that.
Celebrating our Anniversary with a walk through Piazza Navona

The next day, we took the 1.5 hour train from Rome to Florence.  Florence is my favorite city in the whole world, so that was where I wanted to spend my birthday.  We stayed in an old castle, which was absolutely perfect.  The staff was excellent, and they had a rooftop terrace with a fantastic view of the whole city.  On my birthday, we were eating breakfast when the staff popped over to my table with a fruit tart with "Happy Birthday" written on it.  Brian hadn't even told them it was my birthday - they saw it on my passport.  This hotel definitely gets two thumbs up from us!
I was unfortunately sick for my birthday, so we took things pretty easy... strolling from one Piazza to another, eating & drinking our fill.  It was truly a lovely day, and Brian once again had booked a really nice restaurant for that evening.

Dining on the Piazza della Repubblica on my Birthday

The Duomo

Lunch by the Ponte Vecchio

Our Terrace - best view in town!
The next morning, it was time to be on our way... next stop - London!!  We decided to just take a taxi from Heathrow Airport to our hotel near the Tower of London, which ended up being the most expensive taxi ride I have ever taken, but... on the positive side, we went by many of the famous London sights, so I considered it more of a "guided tour" than a taxi ride.

Tourists from the Taxi - Big Ben!!
KP & Brian with Tower Bridge.
We had just a few hours in London the next morning until we needed to head down to the concert, so we decided to go to see the Tower of London... the sight of many beheadings & where the Crown Jewels are stored.  Once again, I was so happy to get to see another awesome historical sight with my history teacher husband.  He always brings things to life for me, and I only wish I could be so lucky to be a student in one of his classes.
Tower of London - Off with their heads!!
After that, we went BACK to Heathrow and picked up our rental car.  Brian was cool as a cucumber when driving on the other side of the road.  I, on the other hand, opted to just close my eyes when we were getting just a wee too close to the trees or cars or whatever on my side of the car.  He did great in the end, and we returned the car without a scratch.

Brian rocking the right-hand drive car
The concert was in a town called Lewes, about 90 miles South of London.  When we found out about the concert, we immediately e-mailed several B&B's in the area to find a place to stay.  Most were booked up already, but one e-mailed back telling us they weren't sure if they wanted "concert-goers" to stay at their place.  After assuring the woman that we were responsible adults in our mid-thirties, she agreed.  The B&B was absolutely perfect, and the husband and wife that run it were adorable.  They were a cute little British couple in their 80's and we had a lovely time chatting with them for a few hours in their home.  I think they realized we weren't so bad either.  ;)

At the concert - Finally!!  Yay!
The concert was two days long... the first day, the only band we really knew was Vampire Weekend.  They did not disappoint - we had such a fun time!!  :)

 Vampire Weekend - Awesome!!
During the next morning, we decided to check out the British coast & went to Brighton.  It was a lovely little town.

The real highlight of that day, however, was getting to see Mumford & Sons.  I still remember the first time I heard a song by them.  It was Chinese New Year in 2011.  Brian and I thought we should somehow celebrate, so we went out for Chinese food at this gross little Chinese food place in Tigard, Oregon.  We were sitting there eating our gross Chinese food, when I heard this catchy tune with a lot of banjo.  We shazzamed it, and saw "Mumford & Sons".  We immediately went home and downloaded the whole album.  We were hooked.  Since then, we have been dying to see these guys in concert.  They did not disappoint.  One of the best concerts I have ever been to.  
Mumford & Sons - bring on the banjo!!

We were flying out the next day, but not until late, so we pondered what we should do with a full day in the UK.  There was little question on what to do when I found out that my dear friends from Holland, Stefano & Rixt, who had moved to England, were free.  They had just had a new little baby, so it was great to get to see them and meet him in person.  With good friends, it doesn't matter how much time as passed - it is just as comfortable after a few years of not seeing each other as it is if you had seen them the day before.  This was one of the best afternoons of our entire trip, and went by way too quickly.
On the way to see Stefano & Rixt, we went right by Stonehenge.  We didn't have time to actually go into the sight, but we could see it from the road.  Good enough, I guess!  :)

My dear friends, in Bath
That night, we flew back to Hong Kong.  I have to say, we were ready.  Every single part of our trip was fantastic in and of itself, but putting it all together, it was a long time to be away from home.  I am so thankful that we have the time & resources to do all of this traveling, however, maybe we will spread it out a little more next time.  :)

So, there you have it.  Around the world in 30 days.  I wish I could say that I'm never going to do this again, but, in fact, I am doing it again only one month later.  I'll be leaving for the US on August 17th, then flying to Brazil, then back to Hong Kong via Europe.  So, maybe I'll just try to make a record of how many times one person can go around the world in one year instead.  Or, maybe not.  :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A city with Seoul!

Last weekend, we had a three-day weekend, as the celebration of Buddha's Birthday was on Friday.  It was definitely a special day:
Shop door in Insadong, cute
Not ones to let a three-day weekend go by without making some sort of plan, we decided this would be the time to go to Brian's homeland, Korea!  For those of you that don't know, Brian's mother, Joan, found out she was pregnant soon after Brian's father, Randy, deployed to Korea with the US Army.  I believe, as the story goes, Joan sent Randy a telegram to inform him of his impending new role... and moved to Korea shortly afterwards.  Brian was born at a military hospital in Seoul, and lived in Korea until he was about 6 months old.  He had never been back to Asia until we were on a flight moving to Hong Kong, and this was certainly his first trip back to Korea since he was six months old.  I was wondering if the smell of kimchi would bring out any strange behavior, but, alas, it did not. 

Randy & Joan circa 1975
Joan & Brian - doesn't she look like Lisa (with Brian's nose??)  ;-)
Downtown Uijeongbu, 1975
This trip wasn't so much about seeing the sights in Seoul as it was trying to find familiar buildings from when the Olivers originally lived there.  We had quite a few pictures from 1975, and the address "Sam Dong 117".  Joan & Randy lived north of Seoul in a town called Uijeongbu, which was where the military base, Camp Stanley was and still is.  On our first day there, Brian and I took the train up to Uijeongbu, and immediately checked out a map:

Sam-Dong.  Check.  Basically means "District 3"

Next, we had seen a very distinct church in a few pictures, so we decided to try to get as high as we could to try to find this building:
Uijeongbu, 1975
You might be wondering why we didn't just google map it... we tried, but the map couldn't find this address... so, we thought either the address was wrong, the address had changed over the years, or possibly the building had been torn down.  Things had changed a bit, you see:
Uijeongbu, 2013
This was actually the building we climbed to the top of.  We took the elevator to the top floor, and then found a little staircase that took us out to the roof... was this something I would have done without my dare-devil husband?  Probably not.  But, it was kind of fun to feel like we were on a spy mission.  We got to the top of the building, but, unfortunately could not find this church for the life of us!
Feeling disappointed after our mission failed
What we did find was a sort of shady "spa" on the top floor.  It was for men only, and the owner definitely was not happy to see me there.  He slammed the door, and we got the hell out of there. 
all I got a picture of were the sandals outside the door...

... and the name of the shop, which roughly translated into "Station of Sour, 24-hour"... okay.
We walked around a bit, and stopped first at a bakery for some snacks.  We had brought the iPad with all of the pictures on it, and I thought "heck, let's just try".  So, I pulled out the iPad, and started trying to communicate what we were doing.  The people didn't speak very much English, but they understood what we meant.  They were very excited, and RAN to get their friend that spoke English.  She confirmed that that address no longer existed, but gave us the number of the local real estate office thinking they could help.  Really sweet, kind people that totally went out of their way to try to help.

We next walked toward the base to see if we could find the church.  While we couldn't find that, we did run into a very cute little old Korean lady who was also very excited to see us.  She kept pointing to our noses and saying something over and over again.  I later confirmed that, yes, she was telling us we had big noses, and, yes, that is a slang term for Americans.  She was too cute to be mad about it.  Okay, and it is kind of true anyways.  ;)

We stopped for lunch feeling pretty bummed that we couldn't find the apartment, the church, or anything at all in the pictures from Brian's parents.  We picked the right place to eat lunch though... there were pictures all over the walls of all the GI's that eat there.  Turns out this place had been open since 1965, and the owner just happened to be there.  We enjoyed our Korean lunch (Brian had a pork-a-palooza), and then "Mr. Lee" insisted on taking us to try to find the church and the apartment.  He was probably in his 70's, and, while helpful, a bit senile at times!  ;)
Brian and his pork

This was the restaurant we ate at

Mr. Lee and my husband... fast friends
First, Mr. Lee thought that the church had been knocked down, and that a barber shop had been built in its place.  So, we went to the barber shop to confer.  I didn't get a picture of all the Korean men getting their hair dyed black, but it was pretty funny.  I have never seen so many men coloring their hair!  There was a lot of conversation in Korean, but then they determined that that was not right.

Shot through the mirror... the consultation with the barber
Next, we stopped at a shop... I think the owner was Mr. Lee's friend.  They looked and looked at the pictures, did a lot of talking in Korean, and finally...
Conferring with the shop owner...
 ... the shop owner took us to his car, where he punched the address into the GPS.  No dice.
GPS says... address does not exist...
 And then we were walking again...
We stopped at another one of Mr. Lee's friend's places... when Brian asked what they did here, the answer was, "you know, poker, smoking...".  As you can see from the pictures, there are no books on the shelves, and it was a big open room with just one computer.  We are not sure what this place was, but pretty sure it might have been Korean mafia.  They determined that one of the shops in one of the pictures was a pharmacy, so this guy is pointing out his friend's contact information.  This guy had been a pharmacist in town for 40 years, so he thought this guy could help us...
 So, next, we took a taxi with Mr. Lee across town to visit the pharmacist...
 Unfortunately, the pharmacist had NO idea where this place was.
Please, can you help us??
By this point, we had spent 2.5 hours with Mr. Lee, and, to be honest, we were getting a little weary.  We had seen a map that pretty clearly showed that "117" was no longer, but Mr. Lee wanted to keep trying.  After the pharmacy, we told Mr. Lee bye-bye and thanked him for his help. He was such a kind man, and wanted us to come back the next day to try again.  We just smiled and waved.  :)

We did find one thing that Joan and Randy should recognize:
Camp Stanley!
 We returned to Seoul, and the lovefest with the Koreans continued.  We walked through this park, and I kind of noticed that there were a lot of old men there:

Pretty consistent demographic
 When we came out of the park, there were even more old men... one of them came up to us and said "This is where the old men hang out.  They have great coffee."  He insisted that we have a cup, and insisted again that he pay for it.  Very kind people!  And, darn good coffee too!

Old men drinking coffee!  ;-)

My favorite old man. 
We had an amazing vegetarian dinner that night at a place that served "temple food", or food like monks would eat at a monastery.  I'm pretty sure that they don't consume the QUANTITY that we had, but the food was quite nice.
Gorgeous lotus flower lamps at the restaurant
 Check out this spread!  This was only part of it!

And there was a dance show afterwards!
After dinner, we went to a bar, which they call "Hof" in Korea... funny that they adopted this German word for "garden".  :)
Brian says "I like Korean beer"
The next morning, we wanted to do a few touristy things... but we didn't get far before my husband got pulled aside by some school kids wanting to do a survey about "K-Pop", or Korean pop music.  He even did the "Gangnum Style" dance with them!

After the interview, we took the subway to the part of town that was made famous by Psy, Gangnum.  Gangnum just means "south of the river", and it is the part of town with lots of rich people and glitzy buildings.  Like this:

I couldn't resist...

We also stopped by the Korean palace... very similar set-up to what we had seen in Beijing, but to be honest much, much smaller and not nearly as impressive!

That night, we did a food tour of Seoul with 6 other Americans visiting the city.  It was super fun, and I loved trying all of the different food and drinks... although by the end of the night, I was about ready to be done with kimchi!!
Tofu & Kimchi - one of the many kimchi dishes we had!
All in all, it was a fantastic trip.  We have fallen in love with a few places in Asia, and Seoul is definitely one of them.  It reminded us a lot of Japan - the people were very kind and friendly, and the city was very clean.  But then there are parts that also reminded us of China - the palace & architecture definitely share some similarities.  As always, I just feel so lucky to get to be seeing all of these places with my best friend.  We are going to keep trying to see as much of Asia as we can, and sharing as much as will fit into our blog with you!!  Big hugs from us to you!
Good night, Seoul!