Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My 30th

Despite all my trepidations about entering my 30s, and much like one of my favorite children's books- The Monster at the End of the Book-, there was nothing to fear.

It started at the stroke of midnight Seoul time, with calls from my two Swiss besties, Ashley and Yann simultaneously on skype. After a quick hello from Ash, I took Yann's call. He sang Happy Birthday to me in French and then presented me with a homemade cake that he "shared" over the net :)
Yann showing off his work of art 
When we got up in the morning, I finished my 30th mile of the week- just a little personal goal of mine to welcome the new year and came back from breakfast to a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from Nicholas.

From there, we headed to the Hyatt for a fancy lunch with a great view. But to my surprise, when we arrived, instead of heading to the lounge with the great windows, I was whisked away to the lower level and entered the spa. After the massages and facial, I re-entered the world in a zen state and sat with Nicholas for our lunch with a view accompanied by a beautiful violinist and piano music.
video

Although I could have stayed there for the remaining hours of my birthday, we had to head to the restaurant where we were meeting old and new friends for a relaxed Thai birthday dinner. There I literally met some of my guests for the first time and saw some of my favorite friends from Lausanne :) I was blessed with an amazing evening and meal! I even received some lovely gifts, including a box of real Swiss chocolate, a great makeup bag, a bouquet of flowers and whitening soap* and a luxurious silk scarf. To end the dinner, our dear friend Mamta had brought a cake to share.
Nicholas and I with two of our friend's children in the background 
To finish off the evening we headed to a pub to have a last drink. The pub was hilarious, below is the sign on the front door :) 

All in all, my 30th may have been my best birthday yet. I am eternally grateful for my wonderful family and friends for making it so special, starting from the beginning of the month til the actual day. 30 is fabulous and I am loving it! 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Well,...

Crap.

I knew this was going to happen. I secretly hoped and prayed it wouldn't, but it has. Here's the thing, I am turning 30. Now, I know that there is no escaping the passage of time. It's just it's...

The big 3-0.

I am not sad to be entering my 30s. On the contrary. Just a little emotional. I need some more time to be prepared to enter into this new chapter of my life. I am not ready for it. Like Grover in one of my favorite children's books "The Monster at the End of This Book," can we stop turning the pages and give me some more time? Please?
In the story, Grover is told that there is a monster at the end of the book and he spends the whole book trying to stop the pages from being turned so he doesn't have to face the monster. At the end, the monster is him. Lovable, furry old Grover. Could this be a metaphor :)
10 years ago, I was still a teenager, for one more day. It seems so long ago, but just 10 years ago, I was in my teens :)

Tomorrow, 10 years ago I was/would be in my 20s!

I already got to celebrate my early birthday with my family and dear friend Stace in Chicago and will celebrate with old and new friends tomorrow with a birthday dinner thanks to my sweet husband.
Awesome ice cream cake surprise courtesy of Stacey :) 
So if celebrating with some of the people who are most important in my life is any indication, maybe 30 won't be so bad after all :)

Bike Transporter in Subway

Smart way to get your bike up the stairs at the Subway stations! 



Thursday, March 22, 2012

Age

As this is my birthday week, I found it interesting to learn that in Korea they measure age differently than we do in the western world. We had a nice brunch with the cousin of a good friend from the US this past Sunday. He brought his sweet wife and two adorable sons. They spent the past 5 years in CA where he got his PhD and recently returned to work with Samsung.

I had asked his wife, Jaewon, how old the boys were and she told me 5 and 1.5 years. A few minutes later, I turned toward the older son to start a conversation and figured all little kids like telling you how old they are. So I asked him and he replied, "7." I smiled politely and glanced at his mom to have her correct him and she said nothing... Strange.
Me in my Korean "uniform: leather boots over knees with long, quilted jacket 
After brunch we went for a walk through the neighborhood, which is where Jaewon attended university, and they explained that they count age differently in Korea. They start counting age at conception, not birth. Not only that, they also do not count your birthday as the point of adding a year, but the calendar year. So, their 5 year old is actually 7 here and there 18 month old is 3!

Talk about being happy we are from the West. I do not want to add any more years than I have to... that being said, they also view age differently. The older you are, the more respect you are given, the more you are looked up to and revered. Not such a bad thing. Makes sense why they would want to speed up the process and add a few more years :)

We found an apartment!

We move in a week! Although it has definitely been a fun change to live in a hotel for the past few weeks- a fairy comes in when we are away and does our dishes and makes our bed! -this part will be missed, but living in a hotel is a bit too sterile for us.

I am looking forward to making our apartment our home for the next couple of years. Pictures to come when we make the official move. We cannot wait to host our family and friends in our new home. First visitor is the fairy godmother, Aunt Laura!

I googled the building and this is the image it came up with:

I honestly cannot tell you if this is what the building looks like. There are so many buildings in this city and after a while, I cannot keep them straight. I am really excited. The part of town is called Samseong and it is next to the World Trade Center, a large mall, movie theater, casino, and aquarium amongst many many more things. Just my style, in the center of it all! 



Saturday, March 17, 2012

Traditional Meets Modern



Our First Night Out

Even though we have practically gone around the world to settle in our new home, we have been greeted by several familiar faces from IMD :)

Our first Friday night was an IMD reunion. We spent it with old and new friends from Lausanne at a famous restaurant serving temple food. When we arrived we had to take our shoes off, which is customary here, and then wash our hands at the sink. From there, we wandered to our table that was just high enough off the ground that we could sit comfortably on cushions.

The meal started off with many small dishes and soups and continued through the night til we all could eat no more. About halfway through the dinner, a traditional Korean show began.
First there was a man who painted calligraphy on large sheets of paper and then gave them away to the diners. Nicholas was one of the lucky recipients :) Then several dances followed, along with a show with drums. It was a fun introduction to our new culture.

We had a special dessert for the birthday boys at the table- David and Adi :) 
After dinner we went to a Noraebang, or song room, to sing karaoke! Karaoke here is done in small rooms, sometimes equipped with instruments, a large screen and several large volumes of song books. I read that many of these places don't serve alcohol but do serve all you can eat soft-serve... interesting. Luckily, ours did serve beer and a fruit plate.
IMD-GSGers
When you start a song, the room dims automatically and neon colored lights start to flash around. After you sing, a score appears on the screen depending on how well you did. I have no idea how it judges the singer, because we all sang just a bit better than a tortured cat would, but the scores seemed quite good. When the only Korean out of our group took over, we were all stunned. He had a beautiful, soft voice that I imagine can only come from years of singing in these small rooms! Posting video, please ignore all of our horrendous voices that block out his spectacular one...
video

It was an excellent first night out!

St. Patrick's Day Celebration



Nicholas worked with a friend of the Irish Ambassador to Korea in Geneva and after a few email exchanges, we were invited to the Embassy of Ireland's St. Patrick's Day Celebration. It was held at a beautiful hotel in the middle of Seoul with a gorgeous view of the city at night.

We had a great time celebrating the patron saint while enjoying some Irish brew and incredible food. The ambassador and his Irish-American wife were wonderful and introduced us to many people. Talk about a small world, they introduced us to one of Nicholas' soon-to-be GSG colleagues, Kevin, and his wife! Kevin is Irish and his wife is French. His wife knew me from the FB group that was created for all the partners and a recent post that I had wrote. We had a good time getting to know each other and sharing stories about our experiences so far. 

With the IMD guys who are in his work group and other IMD folk who just live in Seoul, as well as the GSG guys and their partners, we are starting to feel right at home!

We have arrived!

We arrived last Thursday morning to a barely awake Seoul. The sun was just starting to rise as we got off the plane and entered the pristine modern airport.
After communicating through the use of English and maps with some staff at the airport to figure out our ground transportation to our temporary home, we were escorted by a charming older gentleman who drove us the hour + voyage into the city. Since it was an international taxi, he spoke decent English and gave us a bit of history and guide of our new home. Arriving to our hotel, we were informed we could not check in until 3pm, which gave us 6+ hours of time to kill. Luckily, our hotel is located in the center of the city near the old palaces, city hall and many other tourist sites.
map shifted 


Although we were warned before we arrived that the weather in Seoul is comparable to Chicago, we were still not prepared. Since both Nicholas and I have spent the last 7+ years in mild climates (him longer with his SoCal days and then Colombia), we have both been shivering around the city. Everyone keeps telling us how nice the weather is and how Spring is almost here. And, it is true. The sun has been shining and we had two days of blue-ish skies. But man is it deceiving. We walk out and immediately have to put on the gloves, scarves, hats and stay bundled! Brrrrr... what is winter going to be like?? :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Whirlwind tour of US

Arriving in the US on January 31, we swirled through the East Coast the first two weeks making stops in DC, DR, CT, NY and PA visiting so many great friends, tasting our way through our favorite restaurants and generally trying to stimulate the economy. We had reverse culture shock at how inexpensive everything seemed from Switzerland.

We finally arrived to Cleveland mid-month, just in time for the Rotary auction dinner and dance with the infamous Triple-Double crew. Although, because my better half was down for the count with a cold, I had to go stag. Then we repacked our bags and headed to visit family for a couple of days just south of Cleveland.

We had a great time in mild Cleveland. We were pleasantly surprised to be greeted with spring-like weather in the normally frigid NE Ohio. I had the chance to spend time with both sides of the family, playing Pinochle, eating comfort food and got in some good runs and yoga sessions with my fabulous godmother.

The last stop on our itinerary was Chicago to see my brother and his family and celebrate the first birthday of my awesome nephew Carter!

I had a feeling once I got here, I would have so many exciting things to share that the amazing times we have had in the US won't make it to the blog :(  We have so many great stories, pictures and memories from our trip that I hope to get to soon.

To all of our amazing friends and family who shared the past month with us, Thank You! We had a magical time and we are so blessed to have had the opportunity to see each of you. We cannot wait to see everyone in Asia! Our door is always open.