Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Seoul Train Part IV - Seoul-dering On

The whole Pinas contingent went exploring the DMZ (demilitarized zone aka JSA - Joint Securities Zone) with Jean (from the US office), JinSoo, KiKeun and his two adorable sons (spitting images of their handsome father) - JunHyuk (10) and JunHwan (9).

The JSA circa 1970's - from wikipedia
Not being one who is good in history but interested in knowing, I bet wikipedia will give you a better explanation of what the DMZ is, how it came about and why the heck I wanted to see it.

The entire trip was an exercise in patience, restraint, endurance and adventure. I will expound on that in a few moments but before I do, let me say I enjoyed it immensely and I hope I enjoy the rest of my stay here in South Korea. Much as I miss the Philippines and I am excited as heck to get on that plane home in less than a month, I am looking forward to coming back here in early January of next year.

Patience, little grasshoppers!

It took Kikeun and the rest of the group (we were 12 in all) more than two hours to get to DMZ in Paju City, where there are tour buses that leave every 30 mins and last approximately two hours. Along the way, we laughed over how simple words are said in Korean (JinSoo, KiKeun and the kids), Tagalog (the Pinoys), Bisaya (Adam, Terence and yours truly) and in Bahasa (Jean). A few of the things we laughed over are:
** How a rooster crows (Kukurakoo/Tiktilaok/Tugtugaok/Tuktukaroo)
** How a dog barks (Mong-mong/Aw-Aw/i forgot the Bahasa equivalent)
** How a baby cries (Ingee/Uhaaaa/Iwee)
** Turkey sounds (No words can describe this one. Suffice it to say, we laughed until we developed rock-hard abs)

After all that, we sank into pensive silence. Contemplating the barren landscape of ricefields (all empty now), brown mountains (no more leaves on trees because of the coming winter) and people walking quickly, most of them holding closed their jackets at the neck (that day, the temperature was a "balmy" 3C).

The snoring began a few more minutes later. First it was Meng (Adam got a good shot of that). Then it was Joan (Adam also has a picture). The loudest snore of all came from Jean. Of course, Adam got a shot of that too!

The two young men were well behaved during that leg of the trip.

It cost us just 8,700 KRW (approximately 7 USD) to go on that trip but I spent way over 70,000 KRW (about 55USD) buying stuff for people back home. I also bought a pair of pale pink wool gloves to match my winter jacket. Mwehehehehe...

(After that trip, we had dinner at McDonald's - thanks Jean! - where sodas get free refills then went to Lotte Department Store. I spotted a nice jacket with stars on them at Zara and a way-too-cute LeSportsac shoulder bag... but I postponed my shopping to next week because I did not have enough KRW's and they don't accept USD's. I bought a couple of pairs of black wool leggings instead.. so I can wear my skirts even during winter. Next on the shoping list: heeled pumps!)

We descended the Third Tunnel after we saw a short movie, went through the memorabilia display and took pictures where they were allowed (in most areas, it's not allowed). The Third Tunnel was discovered in the 1970's when water sounds were heard from underground and it was an effort by the North to invade Seoul. To get to the actual tunnel, we descended a man-made one that ends where the Third Tunnel ends as well. Must I say, that damn modern tunnel was really steep. Going down was a breeze.

Coming back up is another story altogether.

After we walked through the cold, damp tunnel (riddled with dynamite holes where the NKors shoved explosives to blast the granite away), drank from the cold water that trickled down the walls (there was a faucet that dispensed the stuff. It smelled, looked and tasted clean. I had but a sip just to try it), tried looking for North Korean soldiers on the other side of the blockades... the task of ascending back to civilization began.

My hip "popped" about five times during the whole uphill walk and I had to stop to "re-align" it. I got to the top after about 7 minutes of huffing and puffing, red-faced and my throat burning from gulping in too-cold air. But what the hey, I must have burned 500 calories in the process!

After we were rested and human-looking again (a Texan I was ascending with had been climbing 20 minutes when I chanced upon her on the way up. Before I left, she appeared at the mouth of the modern tunnel, red-faced and with her female companion handing her a bottle of Pocari Sweat), we went out to see the Imjiang station of the EuroTrain.

It was marvelous! NAIA looks like a dump beside it.

The Eurotrain connects one to Europe, China, parts of the former Soviet Union (I map-reading skills are B-A-D) and the rest of the freaking world! It's just so sad that it can't be used to ferry people from South Korea into the rest of the Earth - North Korea won't allow the rails to go through their country. In that way, South Korea is cut-off from the EuroTrain universe.

I said to KiKeun, "well, why not just build an underwater tunnel and have the train go that way? Or a long bridge so you don't have to go through the North."

He laughed (his eyes disappear when he does) and replied, "It will take South Korea another 50 years to have that technology!"

(On a not-so-unrelated note, is it just me or does Korean-accented English sound so cute?)

Outside the station, there is a section of the railroad in front of a memorial plaque of sorts (I couldn't read it. It was in Korean).

In true baliw spirit (Kass is not Kass if she were not crazy), I laid down across the tracks - sprawled like a drunken idiot about to be decapitated and de-calf-ed by a coming train. Reminds me of the time my whole family went to Caliraya, and in the same true baliw spirit, all five of us laid down in the middle of the highway.

I picked up lots of souvenirs for my friends back in Manila. I just hope I see them before I need to leave again a little after New Year. Leaving again isn't such a bad thing, it's the being away from my loved ones that suck crap.

But that's another story altogether...

Listening to: I Kissed A Girl - Kart Perry

"I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry Chapstick...
...It felt so wrong, it felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight"

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Seoul Train Part III - Sleepless in Seoul-tle

It's 11:00 pm here and I can't sleep. Considering that I have consistently been getting only 3 to 4 hours of sleep every night (including weekends), I am still functional. I think... Hehehehe.

Tomorrow we're going on a roadtrip to the North/South Korean border, so I'm preparing myself to face temperatures lower than -7C. It snowed yesterday but it was very light... I am simultaneously excited about and dreading the full-blast snowfalls that will come in a couple of weeks. Hahahaha... No worries though, I'm armed and ready for battle. Mwehehehehe...


We had nilaga-like soup for lunch. It had thick glass noodles, enoki mushrooms, beef ribs boiled until fall-off-the-bone tender, a flavorful broth (look Ma, no MSG!) and with the usual sides of pechu and radish kimchi.

Yes, I was hungry and no, I was not in a good mood so I completely forgot to take pics.

After lunch, I went walking around on the main road with Joan and Meng. I have been wearing boots since I got here (I only brought three pairs of shoes: black mid-calf high boots with heels, brown leather mid-calf high slouchie boots and blue-and-silver Nike running shoes) and it amused me that Joan got a pair this afternoon. If Meng gets one, tatlo na kami. Then we can show up at work with black stockings, short skirt and jackets - ala schoolgirls! *LOL*


So sleep deprivation + chilly weather + mind drain from work = non-functional brain. With that said, here's another tag by the wonderful DENominator. Ihad nothing to do this morning before work (aside from attempting to nap but failing) so I filled it up. I think the title of the quiz is Ek-Ek-OLOGY. I LIKE! Hwahahaha!


What is your salad dressing of choice?
** Olive oil and balsamic vinegar! Yum yum yum...

What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
** In Manila, Pho Bac. Here in Seoul, Paris Baguette (actually, it's a bakery but baked goods are fast foods right? *LOL* )

What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
** Manila: Dome and Max Brenner. None in Seoul at the moment.

On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant?
** Around 10% to 15% if the service is good. ZERO to 5% if I wasn't satisfied... May kasamang kausap sa manager if I was pissed.

What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of it?
** Sinigang anything (except sinigang sa bayabas...eeww!). Gawd, eyelurve sinigang!

What are your pizza toppings of choice?
** Not a big fan of cheese in general but I love quattro fromaggio. Hihihi... Craving!

What do you like to put on your toast?
** Butter and Nutella or strawberry jam. Otherwise, tuna spread with lettuce and cucumbers.

What is your latest food discovery?
** Lotte Black Crunch bar. Think Pinipig Crunch but with a thicker, lusher (and more chocolate-y) coating and cruched cookie bits enveloping rich vanilla ice cream!

What is your wallpaper on your computer?
** My picture of the shore in Punta Fuego. I miss the beach.

How many televisions are in your house?
** Here: two. Manila: just one. I have a studio apartment. I don't need many TV's... I could put one in the toilet though. *LOL*

What is the most recent gadget you bought?
** Cowon O2 32GB. Whee!

What gadget are you planning to buy next?
** A Powerbook.

In your opinion, what is the most important appliance in your house?
** It's a toss-up between the fridge and the TV. *LOL*

Are you right-handed or left-handed?
** Depende. *LOL* Right handed for most things.

Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
** Aside from my teeth, wala pa naman.

What is the last heavy item you lifted?
** My eyelids. I'm sleepy...

Have you ever been knocked unconscious?
** Yeps, I fainted from extreme fatigue and I did not wake up until the next morning - half my body on the bed, the other half on the floor and still wearing one sneaker (the last thing I remember is bending down to put on my other sneaker).

What is your favorite part of your body?
** Hmmm... my eyes.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
** I want to be taller. Don't we all? *LOL*

If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
** Hell no! And spoil the surprise?

If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
** I like my name. It's unique. Palagi akong No-Hit sa NBI. *LOL*

What color do you think looks best on you?
** Aside from black? Pink, I think... and beige.

Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake?
** Yes, intentionally and non-intentionally *LOL*

Have you ever saved someone’s life?
** I dunno. Maybe.

Has someone ever saved yours?
** Literally? Nah... I'm not worth saving. *LOL*

Would you kiss someone of the opposite sex for $100?

** Hell yeah! If she were hot and pretty, I'd do it for free!

Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000
** No freakin' way!

Would you never blog again for $50,000?
** Add another zero and I might just say YES!

Would you pose naked in a magazine for $250,000?
** I'd do it for a million. Not that it'd be worth it! *LOL*

Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000?
A. Heck, why not?

Would you, without fear of punishment, take a humans life for $1,000,000?
** No way! Not in this lifetime nor the next!

Will you eat a live goldfish? How much would you do it for?
** I'd do it for a thousand bucks, yo!

What is in your left pocket?
** My Blistex

Is Napoleon Dynamite actually a good movie?
** What the eff is that? Is that actually real?

Do you have hardwood or carpet in your house?
A. Wood

Do you sit or stand in the shower?
** Stand. Sit, when I'm lazy...

How many pairs of flip flops do you own?
** 12? 10? Thereabouts...

Last time you had a run-in with the cops?
** A few years ago when an armored van slammed into our car.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
** Happy. Hehehehe...

Who is number 1 on your top 8?
** Adik ka ba?

Friend you talked to?
A. Tati

Last person who called you?
** KT

Person you hugged?
** Jeni

Person you kissed?
** Jeni

** 1

** To be jolly? *LOL* Autumn

** Purple and orange

** My birthday suit

** Flip-flops

** Alcoholic? Tequilla Rose. Non-alcoholic: water

Missing someone?
** Hell yeah...

** Not in the mood. *LOL*

Listening to?
** Transatlaticism - Death Cab for Cutie

** Cold Case

Worrying about?
** Jeni's trip to PG tomorrow and my trip tomorrow to... Hehehehehe... Sikretong malufet!

First place you went this morning?
** The bathroom to take a shower

What can you not wait to do?
** Fly back to the Philippines!

What’s the last movie you saw?
** I don't remember. I'm not into movies.

Do you smile often?
** Too much, maybe...

Are you a friendly person?
** Generally speaking, I think I am.


Listening to: Transatlanticism - Death Cab for Cutie

"The distance is quite simply much too far for me to row
It seems farther than ever before, oh no...
I need you so much closer
So come on... "

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Seven Years Bad Luck


Yes, you!

I am so F*CKING sick of YOU!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tagged Again!

Ladies and gentlemen, I interrupt my regular ramblings with a short message from my sponsors.


I was tagged again... but by email. Frienships, I am blogging again! I'm sorry I did not tell you about the demise of the old Stargazer blog but I'm blogging again ok? Huwag nang magalit, I'll post your tags, ok? OK!

As I was saying, I was tagged by email and the questions are:

1) Single, Taken, Naked, or Flirt? Depends on the circumstances, location and the person asking. *LOL* I'm kidding. Taken. Very much so. *wink* (Flirt? Everyone, I believe, has a "flirt" gene. It's just inactive most of the time)

2) Are you happy with your current situation (see above question)? Yes, I am.

3) Would you still kiss your ex? Which one? Hahaha, I'd beso her. A chaste, friendly kiss would be the most, if at all.

4) Have you ever had your heartbroken? Who hasn't? *LOL*

5) Do you believe that there are selected circumstances where cheating is ok? It is never OK to cheat. N-E-V-E-R. Those "selected circumstances" do not exist. In the real world, they're called "lame-ass excuses". Harharhar...

6) Have you and your SO ever talked about marriage? With my current SO, yes. But we've also talked about how it wouldn't matter anyway, seeing as it's not legal in our home country. Unless we move and stay where it's legal then that'd be a whole new topic altogether.

7) Do you (personally) want children? I'd like a kid or two... eventually. In the next ten years maybe?

8) How many would you like? As I said, one or two. Preferably twins para isang irihan na lang. Hahahaha!

9) If someone liked you right now, would you want him/her to tell you? His/her choice. I'll just react to it if/when it happens. But for me, if I also like her and she was brave enough to tell me about it, plus points yun for her.

10) Do you want someone you can't have? Who doesn't like a challenge? I know I do. Envy won't be a deadly sin and God would not have said "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife/husband" (or girlfriend/boyfriend) if it were not such a common human affliction.

11) Have you ever been in love? Yes. Yes! YES!

12) Do you and your SO celebrate your anniversaries? Of course. It's a milestone... so we ought to celebrate it with... the whole nine yards! For month-saries (no such word, I know), we just greet each other. Like saying "hey, we made it through another month!" *LOL*

14) Is it a good day today? Yes, weather is perfect. Air is cool and crisp. Sun is shining. Leaves are perfect. Perfect day... to stay in bed. Hahaha...

15) What would you like to say to your most recent ex? Recent official ex: the past has passed. I've let it go. I hope you would to. Recent-not-so-official-ex: thank you and I'm sorry. It was good while it lasted.

16) Does your ex still have feelings for you? Again, which one? Hahaha! One ex once said she wanted us to be friends. Does that count as a feeling? But that same ex also said she doesn't give a flying monkey on a trapeze so... I guess that counts too. *LOL* (Off-topic, I blame the milk for my psychobabble. The milk. Yes, the milk.)

17) Do you still have feelings for your ex? Again, which ex? *LOL* I'm not ready to be friendly-friends with one of my exes but I know I can talk to her and stuff about little things. Small talk, in other words. As for the other exes, either we're ok or we just are no longer in touch.

18) Do you believe in long distance relationships? What I have right now is already LDR. It sucks, it's hard but what the hey! We survived! So I guess I believe in it now. What does not kill me makes me stronger.

19) Do you believe in love at first sight? No. Lust at First Sight is more believable. Or Attraction at First Sight. Or Like at First Sight. Love, in my opinion, is like wine: can't hurry it.

I'm not tagging anyone... so just repost if you'd like. Oh I take it back... DOC! I tag you! Rev, I won't tag you back since I know it's not allowed but I still think you're cheating by tagging me by email! Hmph!


*sigh* Temperature dropped another couple of degrees. No longer in the mood to go for a walk. Going back to sleep... Zzzz...

Listening to: Superhuman - Cris Brown featuring Keri Hilson

"...But that's the moment you came to me
I don't know what your love has done to me
Think I'm invincible;
I see through the me I used to be
You changed my whole life
Don't know what your doing to me with your love
I'm feeling all super human,
You did that to me
A super human heart beats in me
Nothing can stop me here with you..."

The Seoul Train Part II - De-kimchi-fication Galore

November 11.


On that day, Tuesday, it was Pepero day! As TaeWoong explained, it's like Valentine's Day or some other modern holiday. It's in honor of the snack called the Lotte Pepero. It's a line of pretzel-like snackfoods that have two distinct looks: like a thin Champola wafer stick or like those mini-pretzels with sugar outside. Only there's more variety to those two major types.

For the Champola look-alike, there's one filled with lemon cream (think Rebisco sandwich), mocha cream, and some chocolate-with-something combination that's absolutely addictive!

The other form reminds me of Jack and Jill Pretzels. There's a variety exactly like that: thinner pretzel sticks dipped in chcolate. There's also the "naked Peparo", as KiKeun calls it: like sugar-coated Mini-Pretzels of our childhood. My favorite variety is the one that's double-dipped in chocolate then rolled in crushed almonds. Mmmm... I am so addicted to it that i vow to bring home BOXES of that stuff. Perfect for Christmas!

It's my twelfth day here and so far, my life is made up of: the cold, the food and the new discoveries.

Discovery number 1: Persimmons

Robby's old entries declare her love for persimmons. Back home, I have seen and eaten persimmon only once: Mom and I bought a few pieces (it was about 3 dollars per kilo. Doh!) while Christmas shopping. When I peeled, sliced and took a bite I found them bland. Like papaya sucked dry of its flavor.

Ohho, but Seoul's persimmons are a revelation. That delicate thin skin. That juicy flesh. Those perfect brown seeds that remind me of oversized Coffee Beat candies. Luscious... Mmmm... And at around 1.50 USD per kilo, it's a great buy!

Discovery number 2: Unknown plant life in the form of kimchi-like salad

It's sour, it's salty...a little bit spicy but crisp and fresh! It's not kimchi but it sure looks like it! There's a salad with frissee-like greens, another with what looks like Money tree leaves that taste like gumamela leaves (let's not talk about why I know what gumamela tastes like), and yet another that reminds me of oregano (only this one is less fleshy and is a darker green). After walking around the grocery store, I discovered that they were sesame leaves. Yum!

Discovery number 3: "Fishballs"

They're actually sheets of mashed fish, flour... and Lord knows what else. They look the way orlians do, only rolled flat and without the anise aftertaste. Here, it is sauteed in chili (served as a side-dish during meals), cut into strips and dropped into hot soup, pierced by huge wooden skewers isaw-like and simmered in spicy broth and sold off the street for about 50 US cents. I happily chomped on one in front of the Doota mall in Dongdaemun (shopping isn't my thing but street food definitely is!) and yet again outside the office before heading on home. Yum yum!

Discovery number 4: The Typical Korean Meal

It has four major components: rice, soup, kimchi, at least two other side dishes aside from the kimchi.

I think I have enocuntered kimchi if at least ten different sorts in the two weeks I have been here. Off the top of my head: radish, bokchoi (Chinese pechay in Manila), cabbage-lettuce hybrid...thing, the aforementioned money-tree-tastes-like-gumamela, the frissee-like thingie, something-that-resembles-sponge-gourd-in-life (patola in Tagalog), and a yellow rootcrop (not kamote, not potato, no idea what it is).

I have also seen different sorts of stuff thrown into soups: mung bean sprouts at least 3 inches long, tofu blocks, fish balls (sheets), radish strips, leeks, celery tops (or what looks like celery tops)... even shreds of chicken and beef bones.

Rice...ah, the rice! The rice is absolutely gorgeous! Those sticky little grains of starchy deliciousness... Mixed with barley, rye, purple rice (traditionally called tappol), and on its own - it's a meal in itself!

I love rice. I can never survive South Beach Diet... rice is just too good to pass up!

Discovery number 5: Chilsung Cider

It's a soda drink by Lotte. It's clear like Sprite, but the flavor is more like Mountain Dew with more of a lemony-limey taste. I buy the stuff at the grocery by the bottle (a liter and a half each). It's cool, refreshing...and makes great chaser for Soju. Speaking of Soju...

Discovery number 6: Soju

Soju is an amazing thing! It's 20% alcohol, a bit like your regular vodka or gin or tequila. It's clear and has almost no alcohol-y smell. The taste? It's smooth and crisp. Swabe... and it's easy to down one shot after another and not feel dizzy at all. But try standing up and you'll feel it hit you in the face... and everywhere else.

Ah, I hate traitors but when it's in the context of an alcohol kick, then ILOVEIT! Hahaha...

Hmmm, I think above entries would have been more appropriate in the other blog... Oh well!


The weather is great! It's nice and cool with a little bit of wind. This week, it averaged 7 degrees at noon - bearable without a jacket, provided there is no wind. Jacket-weather or not, I go walking around the blocks surrounding the office, just observing and enjoying the weather. I will miss this when I come home to Manila.

During my walks, I encounter lots of convenience stores and vendors. I try to buy something from vendors when I see them. They're nice and chatty, even when I don't understand 99% of what they're saying. Most of all, they provide lots of new discoveries for a Seoul first-timer like me.

I have about five more weeks here before I come home to Manila. I'm sure there are new adventures waiting for me out there. You can bet your pwet I will blog about those too.

By the way, Yahoo Weather says there'll be scattered snow showers on Thursay. Looks like winter is finally here. Brrr...

Now excuse me while I bury myself under the sheets.


Listening to: Mariposa - Sugarfree

"Nagsisising matatapos ang gabing alam naman nating
Mayroon nang taning;
Nagsisising nagising sa katotohanang
Di ka naman talaga akin;
Di mo lang alam
Inaasam ang panahong
Makapaling ka sa una't huling pagkakataon"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Seoul Train Part 1: Stargazer Gets Kimchi-fied!

Greetings with my breath condensing as soon as it leaves my mouth, my knees knocking and my hands freezing in 8 degrees on a windy day so my hands are shoved into the deep pockets of the thickest trench coat I have ever had to wear in my entire life.

I arrived in Seoul at around 6PM on the second day of November so it has been 4 days that I have been living in an apartment in Gwangju (an hour away by bus from the office in Seoul), cannot be reached by cellphone, wearing knitted sweaters, tights, knee-high boots and trench coats, eating spicy (and surprisingly good) food and having to take a bath with heated water.

I love the weather and the city is cool (literally) so this afternoon I took a walk around the city by myself. I was careful not to go too far from the office as I might get lost and I might not be able to get back. Hahaha...

My team is planning to go sight-seeing this weekend and KK has promised to bring us to an amusement park. He was surprised when I told him I like to ride roller coasters and such. He was surprised that I smoke and have been for the past ten years. Do I really look THAT conservative? Imagine me, being conservative. What a hoot!

During my walk, I had several residents (of other cities, most probably) come up to me and talk to me, presumably asking me for directions (they had maps of the subway and some other maps of the country). They stopped and bowed, apologizing with words I did not understand when they saw the huge question mark in my eyes. On the plane, the flight attendants would speak to me in Korean first before switching to English after seeing the baffled look on my face. Eerrr... I know I have small eyes and I dress pretty much like a typical Korean girl but my complexion is about ten shades away from the usual. Still, it's funny.

While was walking around, I went inside several convenience stores to ogle all the things that are "fast"...and bad for the health. I got some Lotte Peparo, which are similar to the more Pinoy-familiar Pocky pretzel sticks (but those are from Japan). I got one each of "lemon cream", "chocolate filled", "chocolate covered" and chocolate covered with crushed almonds. It tasted GREAT! I also got some Chilsung Cider (a caffeine-free soda similar to sprite but tastes more like Mountain Dew with more lime flavor), a 200-ml carton of strawberry milk, and a 330-ml bottle of "rice tea". Hehehe...

Anyway, I'll be updating my blog and my flicker. Until I get my multiply site up, I won't be posting pics. So just swing by my flicker account. :)

Nyt nyt!


Listening to: Just Fine - Mary J. Blige

"Feels so good, when you’re doing all the things that you want to do
Get the best out of life, treat yourself to something new
Keep your head up high
In yourself, believe in you, believe in me
Having a really good time, I’m not complaining
And I’m a still wear a smile if it rainingI got to enjoy myself regardless
I appreciate life, I’m so glad I got mine"