Thursday, February 2, 2012

From Seoul to Milwaukee and back

[Originally written on 29 Jan 2012 and edited on 2 Feb 2012]

From 19 to 29 Jan, I came back to the States on vacation to spend time with family and friends. My plane to Korea leaves tomorrow. It's been one hell of a good time here with seeing everybody. Some relatives from out of town even came up to visit us and we had a great time this weekend. I won't name names, but you know who you are, you who reveled in Wisconsin.

There'll be more posts about this in the future--coming back felt strange as hell. After 5 months of living in Korea, seeing jacked up 4x4s, sprawling parking lots, and abundant Mexican food seemed alien, as though I'd forgotten they existed. Here are a few other things that I ruminated about while I was here:

  • The sheer diversity of food in restaurants.
  • Friends and family haven't changed--and that's for the best. No one's gone and jumped the shark.
  • The massive size of Pick 'n' Save. E-Mart and Lotte Mart may have big grocery sections, but they've nothing on American supermarkets for sheer size and selection. On the other hand, Pick 'n' Save can't match the food and drink samples that the Korean supermarkets offer every day.
  • Wisconsin's liquor laws seemed unnecessarily restrictive. More than once, 9pm passed and I remembered that unlike Korea, no store will sell booze.
  • I kept wondering where the soju and the 1.6l jugs of Cass were.
  • On a similar note, getting ID'd was a change of pace.
  • Metered parking doesn't exist in Seoul, but it certainly does in America. Seeing halfway ordinary parking jobs right away seemed strange. Someone did hit my parked car at a shopping mall when I was home though, so I guess normal parking jobs don't mean much after all.
  • Parking lots take up too much space. Whatever happened to parking garages and building upward instead of outward? So much space gets wasted on parking lots.
  • It felt good to see more recognizable street addresses and signs.
  • Driving at night gets more monotonous than I remember.
  • Coffee tastes better here. Korean coffee's on the weaker side, but the cafes can make a decent Americano.
  • Though Korean energy drinks are cheap and they get the job done, they don't taste as good as Rock Star.
  • The cigar I smoked at Lake Country Cigars tasted quited good.
  • After decades of disliking spicy food, I've officially made the great leap into Spice Land. It took some time (and a whole lot of kimchi) to get used to it, but once I got back to WI I came to miss it.
  • Jamming the blues with Jonny T-Bird and friends in Milwaukee rocked! They backed me up on a few numbers at an open jam at the Astor Hotel. The last time I saw any live music? The Seoul Record and CD Festival in November, where the band played blues and sang in Korean.
  • Having to wait for the waiter/waitress to come around to the table in restaurants got to be a drag after being able to push a button on the table or call out "Yeo-gi-yo!" Also, many Korean diners and restaurants will let patrons get water themselves, to saving to wait for that got a bit annoying after a while too.
  • I did remember to tip for stuff. I do have to wonder if it's necessary at coffee shops though. After all, it's not like I'm ordering an entire meal. All I'm asking the person to do is grab a biscotti and a coffee for me. Korea's not a tipping culture, so you pay what the receipt says and no more. This includes bars and cabs. Cab drivers will insist you made a mistake if you try to tip them.
  • A childhood of long car rides to visit relatives in OH paid off with being able to do 12-13 hour plane rides easily.

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