Friday, May 8, 2009

Seoul Shopping & Night Life

Since the Hopkins sisters are androids, we had to recharge our batteries to the fullest to enjoy our first full day together in Seoul.  We went to lunch with her Aussie friend, Stephanie and Alex, a fellow American, where I had my first kimchi experience - as authentic as it gets! Eating out at restaurants is so cheap compared to back home. That meal, for example, cost the equivalent of a little over $3.5o! I learned some table manners...most of which I broke unknowingly (of course). No sneezing at the table (or anywhere public if you can help it), no blowing your nose at the table, pour drinks for others and only have others pour your own drink, don't pick up the bowl you're eating from (different from other Asian cultures), and don't eat rice with chopsticks, use a spoon. Wow, I have terrible etiquette in every country, awesome! Oh and kimchi isn't as spicy as I anticipated, but it did get my nose running a bit, hence the nose blowing at the table. Mints ARE necessary afterward though, you'll be tasting that cabbage all day. Eating vegetarian is more difficult than any other place I've traveled, besides maybe Forks. Meat and/or fish seems to be Incorporated (even if only small amounts) in just about every meal. I'm trying not to be a snob about it either. So far, it's worked out, even though I'm really missing cheese as a daily part of my diet. 

Shopping commenced a few subway stops away in Dongdaemun. The subway is actually fairly clean, easy to understand (complete with English signs) and follow, and it's relatively cool! Dongdaemun had a ton of fabric stores and shopping centers that went stories high. The one we checked out had 7 floors and each floor has tiny booths set up almost like a carnival with varying styles of clothes. We haggled the salespeople and dropped all of my cash, but we got some sweet buys. I found the sizes to be ridiculously small. I mean, I would look at a skirt and then put it down after noticing the size. The saleswoman at one place shook her head and said "will stretch, will stretch!" I continued on and pulled another skirt out somewhere else that looked about right. The woman pulled it up my legs where my thighs stopped it from going any further, so she reached in the depths to grab a large, a size most clothes didn't come in. One woman was so helpful though, and she hugged me after I finally bought something. The fashion is made for the leggy. I rarely see girls with shirts too far below their collar bones. Not for me. I do appreciate the flowy on top, tight on bottom look, flattering if done correctly. 
Once we finished up, I heard a weird rendition of "Dancing Queen" and I instantly thought of my roommates' weird thing they have for Mama Mia. We followed the music and see a stage with four Asians doing a sexy song and dance to all the musical favorites. Somewhere around "Take a Chance on Me," Liz started video taping and I was cracking up at the choreographed girls playing electric strings and keytar. 

We went back to campus for dinner and found Kimbob, which most would call sushi. Actually, it originated from Korea and then morphed into something a little different. I had an amazing veg roll with what I think was cheese. 

The night began at a Hookah bar, pretty interesting concept in Korea, I must say. It was called the rainbow room and we met up with Bich there, the awesome San Jose native who hung out with us all night. A DJ played techno music and on his breaks, Jason Maraz scarred my ears; they love him here, who knew? It was decorated with tapestries that looked kind of like a college dorm in the nineties of someone who'd wear a drug rug and be reading a copy of Siddhartha on their chai tea break. Vic described life in California and Liz tried to convince me to stay in Asia. It was a great beginning to the night. Right after we got some deep fried street food; sweet potatoes, boiled eggs and cabbage. YUM.

Club Eden was on the list first since we got free admission for being facebook friends. Admission is usually ~$25, way more than the clubs I went to in London. We only stopped in before heading to Club Answer, the top club in Seoul, where Liz's friends were hanging out. She got the three of us in for FREE and in VIP, just for name dropping. Amazing. We danced and showed Seoul how to move, especially after the amazing Korean DJ came on. I met even more people, got hit on by some creepy Hungarians and saw Seoul from a rooftop. Liz knows how to turn out a good night, that's for sure. 

Seoul > Dayton(a)

As I mentioned months ago, my sister, Liz, is studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea. As impossible as I thought it was to visit during her four month+ stint across the world, here I am. It was entirely by generosity that I managed to get over here. I graduated 6 days ago and my gift from Mom & Terry was either option A (some help with my college debt) or option B (take Terry's frequent flyer miles to go to London). My dilemma was resolved when I opted for option B, but chose to use the miles toward Seoul instead of London. (Don't misunderstand how much I want to go back to London, just under different circumstances). Since my summer job starts in a few weeks, it was a "now or never" scenario that ended up with me having two days to anticipate the trip. With little preparation and very little knowledge of Korea, I find myself in Seoul, and can't think of a better way to have spent those miles. 

Completely by chance, my entire flight to Seoul was business class. I honestly spent the 14 or however many hours from Atlanta to Seoul in my own bungalow, complete with privacy shields and noise canceling headphones. My chair said "Business Elite," but my curiosity, intrigue and sweatsuit screamed "girl on vacation." Being the youngest sitting there and one of three females, I couldn't help but feel like a bratty kid who forced her parents to purchase an "anything but coach" ticket. I'm beginning to see how lucky I am. Business class is nice though, it made for my best flight yet. Free drinks, brie, and too many in flight movies later, my excitement got to me. Smiling like an idiot, I just wanted to land, plus I was too gassy for confinement. Luckily I slept a few hours, more than I've gotten in recent nights. Escaping Dayton for a while is a good way to ignore the fact that I've just graduated. 

Somehow, exchanging money and finding my bus to the city was fairly easy. Liz met me at Paris Baguette, a cafe near campus, and she didn't even recognize me come in. She's thinner now, with shorter hair. After 30-40 whole seconds of shrieking and hugging, we left to explore. For my first night, we did quite a lot. We breezed through her closet size room in the international dorm (Crimson House), then on around campus. Just in our little jaunt I met so many friends of hers. The campus is really nice; some English inspired buildings mixed in with contemporary ones. 

We walked to Anam, the school's own sort of district, I guess. Liz described it as "KU's Brown Street, but bigger...and Korean." We met up with even more friends and had a traditional Korean dinner. Shoes were removed before entering ( a HUGE deal for me since my feet always, ALWAYS, smell) and we were seated on the floor with the other 10 of Liz's friends. I had a gigantic bowl of noodles, that my neighbor thankfully cut with scissors (necessary!). I struggled with chopsticks more than I anticipated, so for the entire first half of dinner, I just stared at my food and pretend to stir. One of the guys (Lukah) asked me if I needed a fork, which I declined, so as to not look like a complete fool. I struggled and ate one noodle at a time, but with Liz's help and some practice, I sort of got the hang of it. Everyone was so kind to me and eager to meet me. A girl we sat next to asked where we were from. "America...Ohio" is what we usually say. Then maybe "'s close to Chicago." Then the girl perked up and says, "Do you know .. uhh..Dayton?" Turns out she wants to go to UD! No shit! Why would she want to come to Dayton? I guess we have an exceptional international program for education and her secret second major, english. who knew. 

After dinner we all went down the street to the convenient store for ice cream and beer (great combo, eh?) and met even more people. With a million options for things to do/people to hang out with, we decided to go to the N Seoul Tower. A taxi took us up this mountain where we walked a short ways to the top. Really it reminded me of the space needle, but with a park that in itself looked over the entire city. It wasn't worth it to go up, but the views we did see were incredible. This city is hardly centralized and it just sprawls in all directions. The park area had great sculptures and a music/lights show. Since you can seriously drink anywhere here, we brought beer, soju and Korean snacks and made it a party. Almost everyone had their cameras out, so I didn't feel like too much of a camera freak. In fact, I've felt comfortable photographing almost everywhere so far. Apparently this area around the tower is quite romantic. Couples bring two locks and lock them together on this huge chain linked fence around the viewing area of the city. They write some sentiments on a heart and throw the key down the mountain; cute and sickening all at the same time. My jet lag finally kicked in and left me falling asleep on Liz. Since it was too late (1am) for a taxi to come up the mountain, we had to walk down to get one home. It was maybe my scariest cab ride ever, rivaling Skye, but we made it back to Crimson House where Liz and I shared a bed in her torturously hot room. Getting 11+ hours of sleep though, was so worth the sweat.

Spring Break 2K9

As most probably went home or departed the UD ghetto for the beach, Amanda and I, of course had an adventure. For our one week break from our last semester at school, we went to Washington. For almost no reason, except to satisfy our curiosity, we went to Seattle for a few days and then spent some time in the Olympic Peninsula (Forks, to be exact). Instead of keeping a diary, I took photos, which really doesn't help explain anything. Anyhow, here are my facebook albums: click here for Forks and click here for Seattle. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

D.Y.T. to D.C.

To view photos from the Dayton to D.C. whirlwind road trip, click HERE.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Impromptu trip to our nation's capital

Washington, D.C. better get ready, the Hopkins sisters are making a late night (err early morning?) trip to the capital city! As I mentioned before, Liz will be leaving for South Korea on Saturday (2 days!). So why this journey, you ask? Well, as nothing can ever go smoothly for either of us while traveling, there is a complicated story:

Thanks to the u.s. visa policy and the unhelpful people working alongside of the university, Liz's visa never came. She had to resend her transcript today and it turns out it her visa won't actually be available until tomorrow afternoon, making it too late to reach her by mail. So driving to D.C., for the win! We will leave at 3am, drive straight to D.C. and quickly arrive by noon. After giving a holler to my boy Barack and seeing the marvels of Washington, we will be making an equally quick trip back to Dayton; 491.14 miles each way. Yessss.

Besides all of my homework, namely catching up on reading assignments from my bout of sickness, I'm very much looking forward to this spontaneous trip. I haven't been to Washington, D.C. since I was probably 10 or 11, the height of my educational family vacations. I still have most of the memorials imprinted in my memory, but it's mostly a generic view I have of the City. If I'm lucky enough to swing it, I'll take any down time to check out the National Gallery of Art. Robert Frank's entire collection of The Americans will be exhibited and I've been anxious to see his work for years. Even so, I absolutely love driving and this is the perfect trip to have right before my sister leaves for four months, even if the circumstances aren't the most ideal.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


My sister, Liz, gets to study abroad in Seoul, South Korea for 4 months beginning next spring. She'll be going through the University of Dayton, but it will be a completely different type of program than my London program. The experiences she'll have are beyond comprehension right now. She will be attending Korea University (one of the most diverse of its kind), taking classes and immersed in culture. I can't imagine saying this a year ago, but I'm going to miss her so, so much. Four months is a long time. She'll miss my graduation (which I'll get over)...maybe I can visit her??

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

London Photos!

Yes, I finally got around to uploading the hundreds of photos I have from the trip. Here's what I have so far, including the first batch:

Album 1 (London)

Album 2 (London

Album 3 (London)

Click on the above links to view the album and enjoy!