Wednesday I went to meet a group of people as part of the Language Exchange Cafe- a meetup group – they rent out a coffee shop in the popular Gangnam area two nights a week. The cost is about $10 per person and you get a coffee drink and a free refill of either juice or an americano. Everyone gets a name tag and you can stamp what languages you speak. Then you just sit around and chat with whomever. I met several interesting people, including a Korean girl named Wendy who teaches Kindergarden English.
Anyway- we were talking about different things and one guy whose english wasn’t as proficient had me speak into an app which would then translate to text what I said into Korea. I realized it was the Google Translator App so I downloaded it to try it. So helpful! I can use that in a bind!
I also asked about the subway. I had taken a taxi by myself there while Tony stayed with Charlotte – but we hadn’t explored the subway yet. They showed me an app that worked well – which I actually had but didn’t know how to use. They showed me how to use it – and it’s great. You can map between whatever destinations you want and it will show you the fastest route, the shortest route, when the next train is, how many stops there are, and how much it costs.
An express route may cost twice as much as a longer route for example.
Very cool! It was fun, hopefully I can go again and continue to meet new people and maybe learn some Korean.
Yesterday we had a subway adventure. There was some sort of command test going on that Tony wasn’t a part of so there wasn’t anyone to help us check in. Tony was told he could help take care of “family things” so we went adventuring on the subway.
We decided to figure out where the subway was closest to base and then connect to the subway near our new apartment to see if that was a viable option for Tony to commute to work.
From the bus stop Tony has to catch on base to get to his work site (and the hotel conveniently) it is only about a 10 minute walk to the subway right out of Gate 1.
We figured out the subway cards (T money cards) You can either buy one reusable card for about $3 or you can buy the key fob that will dangle from your cell phone for $5. You can load them in the next machine with however much you want. We got one of each to try them.
The subways are clean, well lit, and almost all have signs in English- as did the machines to purchase cards. YOu can buy just a one way ticket if you aren’t traveling for long periods of time- but everyone agrees the rechargeable card is the best value.
I’ve traveled a lot and subways aren’t really intimidating – the prospect of not being able to read the signs *is*. Luckily, like I said, they’re almost all in English as well as Korean.
I gave Tony the tips I had read. He’d never been on the subway before – ever- so I had to kind of explain that Seoul’s gorgeous subways are nothing like others I’ve experienced.
Some cool things – Lots of maps directing you, Lots of shops of things you actually want – food – books- socks – coffee- desserts. People are busy and personal space is different but no one is mean. There was almost always an elevator for wheelchair access – or stroller access in our case. We had a pretty easy time navigating – especially with the help of the cool subway app I learned about. Also there is Wifi in the subway stations – and ON THE SUBWAY. That was amazing.
We stopped at the station near our apartment (literally half a block) and decided to explore around our building. We found a neat little restaurant, very traditional. We took off our shoes and sat at the low table which was already filled with side dishes. They brought a carafe of water and two metal cups for us. On the table was a box of spoons, metal chopsticks, and napkins. There was a trashcan next to the table. Tony couldn’t understand the menus on the walls so we looked at the side with the pictures and chose a beef plate. They brought out a burner and put it on the table with a huge metal plate and rolls of beef. There were green onion strips on the burner also as well as kimchi. We got to cook our own beef. It was kind of like a thick beef bacon with some meat and some fat. We got bowls of rice, and a kimchi soup with tofu. We also got lettuce and garlic, which we roasted with the meat.
The hostess immediately started playing with charlotte – she gets a lot of attention – in the subway for example – no less than two people stopped to give her candy. Anyway – she picked charlotte up and cooed over her and gave her a yogurt drink while we ate.
The sides were plentiful, there was some kid of bean sprout salad, two kinds of kim chi, a veggie dish with eggplant, a bunch of greens that I couldn’t identify, and fried spam. Oh, and a sweet chili paste. Basically we took the lettuce leaves and made wraps with the cooked meat, garlic and the sides. Rice went into the soup as well as on the lettuce wraps.
It was A TON OF FOOD and it ended up costing about $14. So far all the food I’ve had tastes amazing. Charlotte seems to like a lot of it. I have found kimchi to be better than I thought – but a lot of it is too spicy so I kind of temper it. Tony chattered with the ladies in the restaurant in KOrea and told them we would be there often because we lived so close. Several of the young guys who were patrons started playing with Charlotte and asking her name and taking pictures. A lot of people take pictures of Charlotte. I expect she is on 20 different facebook pages now.
After exploring the area we went to a nearby neighborhood a few subway stops down called Dongdeamun which had a lot of Korean shops and a HUGE mall of textiles – everything you’d need to make your own clothes. There were stalls of nothing but buttons, or late, or zippers – and fabric upon fabric. Kind of makes me wish I still had my sewing machine LOL!
The subway had lots of cool socks they’re comfortable – cheap- and very colorful or silly- I have now acquired several pairs.
Charlotte loved the subway – in her stroller she would wave at all the people passing by like she was in a Parade. She got a lot of attention. Tony carried her for a bit and she wanted to hold onto the subway straps like he was. Pretty cute. We also found some great hats and sunglasses.
Babywearing is also super common – I saw a lot of women wearing their babies and a few families with small kids on the subway also.
So that’s the update. It’s been quite an adventure!!