Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Very Korean Christmas

The 22 hour journey to Korea was uneventful - did get an exit row on the flight to Korea, which was a nice bonus. When I landed, I knew that I was not in Samoa (or even Kansas) anymore. One of the first things I noticed was the cold. It was about a 60 degree swing in temperature. The flight attendant took pity on me when she saw me with my windbreaker. Eric picked me up and we head for home. Once I defrosted a little (thank goodness for seat warmers), I noticed that I was in a city of millions, instead of an island of 60,000. The four lane highway and crazy drivers gave me a little fright, I was fascinated by the hour long traffic jam we got stuck in. Golly gee, I guess I am in the big city now.While not AS random as Am. Sam., Korea as it moments. The ex-pats call it NQR (Not Quite Right). For example, during my visit to Seoul, I stayed with my friend Eric in the diplomatic compound on the army base that is the middle of Seoul. Having an army base in the middle of Seoul is a bit weird, but the inside is even stranger. It is like a little suburban neighborhood surrounded by barbed wire, dwarfed by huge Korean skyscrapers and armed Korean police officers guarding the gates. The Korean police officers are armed, but not with guns, but large battons. Don't get me wrong, I am not going to mess with them, but NQR baby.I quickly realized that this army base had more stuff in it then all of Am. Sam. Beyond the traffic lights, they had a bunch of restaurants with a wide selection of food that did not have mayo on everything, a movie theater with current movies, a Target-type store, a HUGE (well stocked) supermarket, a Starbucks and the best part a Taco Bell. Perhaps some of you are saying, Taco Bell? You are in a wonderful Asian capital and you had Taco Bell four times? Yes. I am not ashamed. Live in Samoa for a few months and let me know what you crave. While the base was a magic wonderland, it also played a cruel joke on me because I did not have a military ID, so I couldn't go into a bunch of the stores, including the supermarket. I did put my face up to the window and dreamed of fresh salad. hmmmm...salad.

Eric's little suburban home was lovely - a three bedroom ranch home. I quickly adjusted to having solid walls and no bugs crawling or gecko poop. However, he did have a cat - Oreo - or the Devil. I am very allergic to cats, and I wondered what might happen to me. The first few days Oreo had the upper hand - my face was redder then normal (a mighty feat in itself) and my nose and eyes were a constantly watering (nice image, huh). By Tuesday, I thought I was going to die. However, my body finally had enough. I went to bed Tuesday night, woke up about 13 hours later and rested for the remainder of the day. By the end of the day, I turned to my normal red color and the snot stopped running from my eyes and nose. sweet. Not sure what happened, but I might have made a major step in my cat allegeries. Oreo and I maintained an uneasy truce and formed a DMZ (similar to North and South Korea). He stayed out of my bedroom and the TV room, and I didn't kill him. It worked out well. I can't say we were friends by the time I left, but I did pet him once, but then ran to the bathroom and washed my hands like I from MacBeth.
My first Christmas away from Mom & Pop was pretty cool. Christmas Eve was at Eric's neighbors house - who work for the Department of Agriculture. Did you know that Korea is the only nation that still bars US meat? The funny part, the army base ships in US meat for the supermarkets on base. Christmas was spent at Eric's friend Helen's house. Helen and her sister, visiting from England, cooked a darn good Christmas meal. Even though I was in Korea, I kept up the tradition of stuffing my face. good times.

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