Thursday, February 28, 2013

East Union St & 14th Ave

Today I wanted to head to the Toyota dealership but after breakfast jet lag started to kick back in and all I could really do was take a nap. That set the tone for the rest of the day as I didn't really do much. But I had a wonderful time last night with new pals at the restaurant Skillet. The title of this post is the street directions for this place. It's kind of a play on how the show Portlandia does things.

In the time that I've been absent in America food trucks have really taken off. The restaurant we went to was a diner version of their original food truck. From a Airstream metallic trailer they serve classic American dishes. The food truck is still puttering around Seattle, and in fact I passed by it on my outing the other day.

Inside the diner things were fun and pleasant to be around. On the wall they had put up actual skillets, water was served in Ball jelly jars and early 90's music was blaring overhead. An atmosphere for the sore traveler.

Although I didn't take snapshots of my food I can tell you that I had one of the best meals I have had in a very long time. I had the salmon dinner plate, which consisted of orzo pasta with tiny kale chips, and they were delicious.

It seemed everyone enjoyed their meals, one of fried chicken and another a salad. I got the hot fudge sundae, which was incredible!

As a newbie to this town I am starting to grasp the different names for each neighborhood. This place was in the "Capitol Hill" district, which wasn't too far from my area. Nearby I could see more restaurants and shops that looked interesting. But what I enjoyed was the walk from the bus stop to the diner. The dampness in the air and grassy lawns next to old style homes, reminded me of my dad's town. It felt good to breathe in that air.

Another perk of this adventure was that it walked me right next to my campus. So I was able to get a glimpse of it and the area.

Tomorrow promises to be a full day so I'm going to get my rest. :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sights Unseen

On this morning the sky outside my window started with a blueness and then faded into clouds. I woke up knowing it was the day I venture out of the house and take the bus into downtown. I was a little nervous inside because this meant going out of my comfort zone and finding out what Seattle is like. When I lived in San Francisco I could recall the stench and unfriendliness of street people. Maybe it was me but for the most part the urban life of San Fran felt sometimes dreadful. Don't worry it wasn't like that all the time, but it kind of put me in a frame of mind for heading downtown.

I took these snapshots while waiting for the bus, which is not too far from my house. I love the old Western style architecture you can find out here. Even though it can look shabby in some places I had to admire it. In Seoul, the only real signs of old architecture are in the palaces or narrow alleyways. Hanoks were lovely to look at and I'll miss seeing them, but the reality was that I didn't see thoughtful or historical architecture on a daily basis when living there. Certainly the frenzied array of neon lights and varying storefronts was interesting, but after five years that got really repetitive. I will give Korea credit for the way they built up their cities, is that you can take care of most daily activities quickly due to everything being so close together.

My first bus ride into the city was as mundane and simple as it could be. Yet I noted the differences between a bus ride in Seoul and one here in Seattle. Wheelchair riders sat in the front hooked up to the bus and were lifted down to the street (I've seen it before). In Seoul, I mostly saw handicapped riders on the subway. Indeed, Korea has a long way to go to make their facilities, including sidewalks, friendly to those in wheelchairs.

I also enjoyed seeing the sites out my window, which was first the International District of Chinese and Vietnamese noodle shops. I scoped out some places that looked like they would be a good place to eat.

Then, as we approached the downtown, I found the height of the buildings somewhat comforting and the layout familiar. The urban space seems to have become a part of me, and I no longer feel like a tiny person amongst the towering cityscape.

When I got off the bus I was surprised to see the majest Public Library to one side and a body of water on the other. I'm going to need to brush up on my geography here!

On this trip I had some missions I needed to get done. First was get my WA license at the DMV. I don't really know the last time I was at a DMV, so it was a fun experience. I took my number and waited patiently. The process was fairly simple and I didn't need to take any tests except one for my eyes. There was a snafu with my debit card, but luckily I had the right amount of cash on me. I got a temporary license for now, but should have the plastic version in a few weeks. One happy note was that they didn't take my California license, instead they just punched a hole in it.

My next mission was to get a new phone and have it be attached to my family's family plan. I got that done although have some issues to resolve with the phone company. Afterwards had a light lunch of sushi. Actually, I missed Americanized sushi a lot and this was a real treat for me. The place I went to had the "Seattle Roll", which was really good. Sorry no pics, I'm not sure if we are allowed to take pics of our food anymore.

Spotted this food truck on my walk around town, which got me excited as it has been a craze lately. I visited the City Target and picked up a trash can amongst other things. Then before I headed to the bus stop I took a peek at this Ferris Wheel and admired the view.

Even though I didn't do much touristy stuff I got to see the layout of downtown and get a feel for it. My impression so far is that this city is not too dirty, people are somewhat friendly and it's not too crowded. Really not crowded! Especially when you consider where I am coming from. I suppose the place might be different on the weekend or during rush hour.

Plus it was just one bus ride into downtown and that helps. Although I might still end up with a car! Who knows ~

People say one experiences "reverse culture shock" when returning to America and get all sad about it. I feel like I'm having the opposite affect...more like "reverse culture appreciation"...haha. Maybe it will hit me later when all my bills come in. ;)

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Little Things

Today was about squaring away all the stuff I brought over in my three suitcases and picking up some items at Walgreens that I needed. But it mostly seemed to be about appreciating the little blessings that come with American life.

For example, I enjoyed my Decaffeinated "British Blend" tea with a lime wedge in it and honey.

And then as I was picking up and putting away my things in their new places I also got to enjoy a full afternoon of sun shining in my room. The buzz around living in Seattle is that there are more rainy, cloudy and cold days than you would experience in other parts of the country. I think this is very hyped up and you kind of have to remember where you are geographically. Living at this longitude and close to the Pacific, it makes sense that days are going to be rainy or cloudy. But with global warming one can't really rely on old weather patterns. In fact, on the drive to my house my Taskrabbit told me that this was a pretty mild winter and that there might be an early spring. I'll take that!

Don't worry all that stuff found its way somewhere. I'll also try to take better pics of the final product and around the house.

Another thing I have been appreciating being out here is how clearer the air smells and feels. Living in Nowon, Seoul a black dusty grime would settle on my balcony. Out here there seems to be a more crispness to the air, which is a nice change. I'm also pretty glad I get to skip hwangsa (yellow dust) this year.

As much as I was enjoying these little treasures in life, Tom came along and did a very bad thing. In the living room the owner has up some window shades. They are like a paper screen type that fold accordion style up and down. The top part can fold down so that the top half of your window can be seen. Tom thought this was something he could perch on and was wrong, instead he punctured two holes in it. Thankfully the house owner was forgiving and said she will keep it that way in case something else happens. But later on will ask for help in replacing it. Tom, please don't destroy this new place?!

Otherwise, he has been adjusting well and the other cats seem to be use to him. I don't think he will ruin anything else but I'm going to try and keep an eye on him as best I can.

Tomorrow I'm going to try and venture into the city to pick up my WA license and phone. I'm thinking I could wait for the Galaxy S4, but by the time it hits stores I might not be able to wait. Ok Tom, you be a good boy!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ikea Challenge

On my first day back here in America I spent most of my time arranging my room, but also enjoyed some nice moments recognizing where I am. There was the moment I looked out my window from my new desk and saw the American flag waving in the distance. Or admiring the limes at the supermarket, while getting my groceries.

Mostly I tackled making a bed frame, desk, chair, and bookshelf. My hands were already fatigued from picking up and carrying my suitcases. But I managed to use them to screw in the many parts that Ikea furniture requires. Thankfully, one of my roommates was home and helped me out.

As soon as the mattress was up on the bed, Tom crawled underneath the blankets and had his afternoon nap. Even though he went around the whole house yesterday he seems to be hanging out mostly in my room.

I didn't get very far from my house today and just ventured to the nearby Starbucks and grocery store. It was of course an exhilaration to hear English when ordering and be around English speaking people. But for some odd reason it didn't feel as impacting as it use to feel when I would visit. However, I feel like I need to get back into that American vibe where I know the right gestures and responses to make when in public. Like I learned a code of conduct living in Korea, and now need to shed that and put back on America's style. I hope I make some sense, jetlag can make your brain turn into noodles.

It was also fun to shop at the grocery store and see a whole place filled with what use to be "foreign food". I gave a little smile when I passed the "Asian and Mexican" food section. But I didn't really shop for much beyond breakfast food, since I needed to carry it home. I did buy 3 limes, cause they were 3 for a dollar. I don't even know what I'm going to do with them... haha

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics in of the new arrangements in my room before the sun went down. So once I tidy things up more I'll put up pictures.

Well I'm going to watch the Oscars (via an online feed) and maybe doze off from a hard days work!

Today's Weather: Cloudy
Today's Feeling: Tired, Excited, Determined

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Day Zero

Do you see it? The sign says, "Good-bye Seoul". Goodbye, indeed. My trip back to America went relatively smoothly. I didn't start getting nervous till I was at the airport and had to do everything to get Tom ready. I'll post a more detailed account of how I got Tom on the plane and what you need to do.

But for now just know he made it through to the other side just fine, and is a real trooper.

When on the plane and looking out over Incheon, knowing this was my last moment in Korea, I couldn't help but feel sad. Mostly for all the times and memories I had, but because it was just that final moment. Tears did come out when I was saying goodbye to my friend and on the plane. But for the most part I focused on the tasks ahead and tried to enjoy the flight, which wasn't too bad of just 8 and a half hours.

Looking out at my plane in Korea:

I have to say Korean Air didn't really live up to my expectations or experiences in the past. Maybe cause the flight was short, but they didn't do or show me anything that was different from what I experienced on Asiana or Singapore airlines. However, they did get Tom to America well and carefully so I'll give them that. But the food was okay and everything else was pretty standard on an Asian airline.

Goodbye Korea ~

I managed to get a few winks of sleep on the flight but was kept awake with my enthusiasm for Seattle and worries for Tom. I knew he was down there under the plane and was hoping he wasn't too scared.

When we were landing in Seattle I got a glimpse of the downtown and the Space Needle. This got me really excited and so exhilarated for my future. I could see water, mountains and trees and felt such a huge relief at the sight.

The Space Needle is in the following picture, but you have to look through the clouds in the lower portion.

Going through immigration and customs wasn't as difficult as I imagined it to be, and everyone was very friendly and helpful. A staff member from the airport helped me directly with making sure I got my cat. She was waiting there at the end of the walkway with a sign. Turns out the Quarantine office is closed on Saturdays so I had to wait a little bit longer as they cleared Tom off the plane and checked his papers. I was a bit nervous during that time whether he was okay or not.

However, I was reunited with him when I went down to baggage claim. One of his towels was soaked from the water bottle but otherwise he didn't use his carrier as a bathroom. He seemed shaken up but was calm and curious. He attracted an onlooker who I spent some time chatting with as I waited for my task rabbit. She was a sculptor so it was fun to talk about arts and the city.

Task rabbit was a huge success and met me on time and helped me with everything. Actually wasn't too hard hauling my three heaving bags and Tom. Plus he was a nice guy and we talked about Seattle and local radio stations. I think this service is a great way to get things done and also fun.

On the way to my new house I saw downtown Seattle and the Space needle again. It was such a good feeling seeing this sight and I'm filled with curiosity to go out and explore it.

My new place is a three story townhouse where I and another roommate live on the second floor. My new roommates are really nice and very welcoming. They let Tom roam around and get use to the place. He seems to be settling in quite nicely with finding spots to claim as his own. But he still comes to my room and sleeps with me on my bed, or follows me around the house. I'll try to post pics of my new place.

I had a good time talking with my roommates and having a small bite to eat then headed to my new bed. I bought a bunch of Ikea furniture but was too tired to set it up so just arranged the mattress and am making do with that. There is so much I need to get done and started on in my life here in Seattle, but first is tackling jet lag and filling up the fridge with some groceries.

I do miss Korea and have that sad feeling in me knowing it is all far far away. Practically all of my Facebook is friends and things from Korea, so I am reminded of it. I hope I never forget all that happened there or the people I met along the way.

Well back to getting some shut eye and dreaming about the future. :)