Thursday, June 25, 2009

Immigration, Legalization, Fortification...

Soon, Malachi and I hope to be legal.

Yesterday afternoon we went to Suwon (a neighboring city) to visit the Immigration Office. We had meticulously prepared for the the appointment... we thought. Upon presenting our documents and passports and forms and certificates, the kindly gentleman behind the counter indicated that, though he did not speak any English, he wished us to understand that we had it all wrong.

After much subdued gesticulation, he finally decided to rally his broken English skills and say "You needn't have filled out this form, you see. You are already a sojourner, and need only fill out this purple form indicating that you desire a change of status, thus enabling you to apply both for your F3 visa, and for your Alien Registration card."

Why he is working in an immigration office and not writing modern screenplays for Henry James' novels, I do not know. But we are grateful to him, and to the generous Korean government for putting us on the fast-track to legalization, and saving us multiple visits to the Immigration office. We now only await the return of our documentation and the arrival of our Alien Registration Card (which also means, library card!).

We were so relieved that we decided to be adventurous - and in the middle of the week noless. Suwon is a city with history dating back to the Silla dynasty, and they've preserved as public grounds massive portions of old palaces, watchposts, and, most interestingly, a long and winding fortress wall. We saw portions of it during our bus-ride, and wanted to see more.

We were fortunate - we happened to climb the mountain on the foresty side, and were therefore both surprised and pleased when we crossed at the top to the other side, and saw the view of Suwon city, the wall, and the temple below. I like to be jarred into view of something beautiful...

Our evening was completed by eating Curry Pizza, drinking coffee at a less-than-crowded coffee shop, and then attempting to amuse a screeching 1-year-old Malachi for the 1 1/2 hour bus ride home.

View pictures (of all but the screeching son-son) by clicking the thumbnail on the right.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Day in the Life of Rebekah Markovna and Thaddeus Charlesovich...

It occurred to us that we have not done a bland "daily life" post, which might be interesting, and at the very least will assure everyone that we neither starve nor even lack in the indulgences of our vices...

First: we buy water almost every day, in jugs like this:

And almost everyday, Malachi eagerly awaits the prized 'empty-bottle' toy. We let him play with it for a day or two, and then it goes into recycling. We recycle everything, by the way, which deserves a more extensive blog-post....

Next: Yes, we like Korean foods. Thaddeus tries more than I do, because he eats lunch at school everyday. Traditional Korean meals are composed of many smaller portioned 'sides,' and everyone at the table shares from the central dish and places it on his/her little plate, sampling each side. Here's some examples of recent (and common) foods we have eaten:

Thaddeus said that in many restaurants this is more noodly and less meaty. But from the place we were eating that night, it was like very marinated (very moist, very tender) roast-beef.

Now, the famous Kimchi:

Koreans eat kimchi with every meal. We don't, but we do like it - particularly the spice of it. It's fermented cabbage, but that doesn't really express much about the flavor. The taste is unique and somewhat an acquired thing, but we pretty much liked it from the start.

This is Malachi's opinion of kimchi.

The last food item of which we can provide a true-life picture is Gimbap, which is a variety of vegetables and meat wrapped inside of rice and sea-weed.

I think that the ingredients in our gimbap that day were: ham, cucumbers, carrots, eggs, and radishes. But any variety of vegetables would be ok. It's quite delectable, and the aftertaste serves as an excellent reminder to brush your teeth.

Finally, beverages. With effort, nearly any beverage to which you are addicted could be found here. We don't drink pop, but we do see coke and pepsi everywhere. Juices (orange, grape, apple, and mango!) are also available, and tasty.

Western alcohol is available and slightly less expensive than it is the U.S., but - Korean alcohol is extremely cheap. We recently tried a bottle of wine that cost 1,500 won (about $1!). Sadly, it tasted like medicine with the flu... I have high hopes for traditional Korean rasberry wine, though. It sounds good, and looks classy and is slightly more expensive - we have not tried it yet.

We have tried (tried is a tame word) their Soju. It's clear, nearly tasteless, like a very modest offspring of vodka, and extremely cheap.
A bottle is around $1, and six pack is around $4.50.

And... Coffee.

Coffee has been the bane of our Korean existence. Entire evenings have been spent searching the town for real (not instant) coffee, and, more recently for a coffee grinder. Thaddeus' brother sent us 2lbs of whole bean Starbucks coffee (for which we are truly grateful, ZACHARIUS) but we could not find anyone to grind it for our french press.

In a slightly larger radius than our immediate neighborhood, however, there are many options, including multiple Starbuckses. That will definitely be one of our weekend activities...