Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Because every blog needs two Olleh posts, right?

Yesterday I brought you Darth Vader in Seoul, courtesy of Olleh KT. Now, pre-Darth (and back when I had a TV), you couldn't go a single commercial break without seeing a 'do do do OLLEH!' commercial... specifically this commercial:

The tune's pretty catchy, and I can't see or hear 'KT' without singing 'do do do OLLEH!' to myself... although I never got what the very non-Korean black guy running around Seoul had to do with cell phone service. About as much as Darth Vader and his Trek universe WARP, I guess. Anyway, it never occurred to me that the tune wasn't actually created for KT advertising purposes. I never would have guessed that it had a life anywhere outside of Korea. Then it popped up on my friend G's Pandora station. So now we know: the Olleh KT 'do do do OLLEH' song is Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis.

Monday, February 27, 2012

That whole Darth Vader in Yeouido thing...

So, you remember back in December when my supervisor saw Darth Vader and a whole herd of Storm Troopers marching around Yeouido and didn't call me right away? Well, I now have the answer to why they were marching around Seoul (and I suspect that if I had a TV I'd have known about this ages ago): They were filming for the Olleh LTE WARP commercials. Olleh is Korea Telecom's mobile service.  

My problem with this has nothing to do with Darth Vader seeming like a pansy (although, really!) - it has to do with the whole WARP thing. I mean, I understand that WARP can be made to look like WARS in the Star Wars font super easily. But there was no warp in the Star Wars universe, dammit. Warp drive is a Star Trek thing. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mochi's first walk!

As you may or may not know, Mochi has been terrified of going outside. Luckily, he's pee-pad trained. Prior to today, if we went outside, he'd pretty much plant his feet and quake, refusing to go anywhere. Not sure what made today different (although it was above freezing...), but he actually walked all the way around the block with me, and even seemed to be enjoying himself, sniffing at everything and trying to play with his reflection in store windows. I snapped a few pics with my cell:




Saturday, February 25, 2012

Critter Pictures

Today was supposed to be sunny and warmish (mid 40sF). I woke up around 9:30 to discover fog and drizzle. By 11:30, the fog had lifted and the drizzle had stopped, but it was still overcast, dreary, and barely above freezing. I had planned to spend the day out taking photos, but the day was thoroughly uninspiring. So I spent the day as I've spent many a day recently: hanging out with the critters. The following photos were shot with my cell phone.







Thursday, February 23, 2012

Weird shit seen every day

Every day when I'm riding the number nine train from Dangsan to Yeouido, I get treated to what I consider a rather odd thing to be in regular rotation on city public transportation: The Korean cartoon 'Larva' - a combination of cute, disgusting, and gruesome. Very Korean. You don't have to know any Korean as they're silent. The ones below are just a few of the first ones that popped up on YouTube - there's plenty more where that came from if you're into it. I personally have mixed feelings.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's closer than you think...

I have literally been counting the days for MONTHS now. One of the first things I do when I get to work is click on the calendar on my computer and count how many work days I have left. I started this back in November. Every morning I have a debate with myself: do I count today or not? I mean, if I've only been at work for four minutes, I should really add today into my tally, but I always prefer the lower number. It makes me feel better. This morning I decided I wasn't counting today, and therefore only had eight more work days. The rest of this work week, then next week Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday (as Thursday is the national holiday of Independence Movement Day), and finally, my last day of work on Monday, March 5th. Then, after lunch I learned that in some sort of miraculous occurrence, my company is having a company holiday on March 2nd - giving everyone a four day weekend! After which I still have to come back to work for that one final day... But hey, seven more work days!! And 19 days total left in Korea. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ten more work days!

I'm quite relieved to only have ten more work days left. In celebration, I've made my own version of this meme, based on my life for the past six months.

Okay, maybe I don't actually faceplant into my keyboard all the time,
but I sure as hell feel like doing that. A lot. 

And in case you're curious about where I've spent the past six months,
here I am in my office.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How to keep your dog from snacking out of the litter box

It took a few weeks, but Mochi - like most dogs - eventually discovered the tasty snacks in the covered pink box next to the fridge. Yeah. The dog was snacking on cat shit straight out of the litter box.  Yuck. The solution, suggested by my friend G:

That's the litter box on top of Mochi's crate. I wasn't sure that Charlie would be willing to jump up there to use it, but luckily for me...



Saturday, February 11, 2012

Brin is Back!!!!

Brin is back!!! My mom's dog, who went missing nearly two weeks ago, is back!! I'm so happy to wake up to such wonderful news, that I just can't stop over-using exclamation points!! He was picked up by animal control about a mile from home, and is now happily back on his couch. :-)

Bukchon? Meh.

Today was pretty gorgeous out, so I figured that cold weather be damned, I was going to go out and take some photos. I decided to go to Bukchon Hanok Village, next to Gyeongbok Palace. To be honest, I didn't find it that interesting. The neighborhood reminded me of the more run-down parts of Banyawol (the area on the outskirts of Daegu where I used to live: see here, here, and here for pictures) - only instead of going to seed or being replaced by brand new high-rises, the traditional Korean homes (hanok) have been spruced up, and the area, while still mainly residential, has become somewhat of a tourist trap. The place is home to tons of guest houses located inside hanok, as well as a large variety of places where one can make and/or buy traditional Korean crafts. There were also a lot of art galleries and museums. I have to say that I give Seoul props for encouraging the sprucing up of the more traditional neighborhoods, instead of letting them crumble and decay until they're replaced by high-rises, but I really just wasn't all that into Bukchon. Not being into craft-making or art, not being in need of a guest house, and having seen plenty of hanok (lived in and not) before, there wasn't much about Bukchon that was all that appealing to me. I think that were I new to Korea I probably would've enjoyed it more. As it was, it was a lot of stuff I'd seen before combined with things I just didn't find all that interesting. Still, it was a nice day to be outside, and I got a few decent photos.



I heard barking and turned around - a relative of Mochi was atop this wall!


You could see Seoul Namsan Tower from certain spots.


National Folk Museum of Korea @ Gyeongbok Palace as seen from Bukchon

Daewoo Matiz police car!! (And you know I love me some Matiz...)

There's a new (and huge) art museum under construction at the nexus of Bukchon and Gyeongbok, called the UUL National Art Museum. It has an... interesting faux-graffiti advertising on the walls surrounding the construction site. More info here.


At the intersection between Bukchon and Gyeongbok Palace (which I blogged about here if you're wondering why it doesn't feature in this post).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bye, bye, Brin :-(

Dammit, dammit, dammit.

The past six months haven't been the best for animals at my mom's. Two cats had to be euthanized due to chronic illnesses. Cylon was hit by a car. Koala just... died. And now Brin has been missing for over a week. He was always a bit of an escape artist, but whenever he got out, he was never gone for more than an hour (if that), except for the time he got picked up by animal control. We checked; they don't have him.

Brin had to be confined when he was home alone. Otherwise he'd force his way out the cat window, or knock a screen out of an open window. Neighbors weren't too keen on a pit mix roaming the streets.

Brin was shut in a bedroom while my mom was at work. Something triggered him to knock the window out to escape. Not a cat window, not a window screen... a WINDOW. He apparently knocked the glass out. Someone was riding by on a bike. The initial story was that Brin chased the person on the bike and knocked him down, injuring him and sending him to the hospital. (Later that person told my mom that he ran into Brin on his bike and fell over. Nothing was broken, although he was on crutches for two days.)

The cops were called.

They told my mom that they hadn't been able to find Brin. All the neighbors claim that they haven't seen him.

The erstwhile bike rider and his family swear they didn't kill him.

It's been more than a week.


Me and Brin, when I was home this August.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

K-Pop: Girls Generation Reviewed by Americans

K-Pop group Girls Generation appeared on Letterman on 1/31. Take a look at their performance:

Now, appearing on Letterman is a big freakin' deal for any musical act, so the fact that they scored this is pretty impressive. Of course, just because you've appeared on Letterman doesn't mean that your career is made and that you'll be taking the US by storm.

There have been several posts in the expat-in-Korea blogosphere about this over the past week:
From A Blog Abroad: It's an Asian Invasion!! Maybe.

I should probably add before I write anything else that if it's not oldies or 80's pop, I don't dig it, so I'm hardly the one to judge the potential for success of ANY pop act.... still, my thoughts:
1. It reminds me a little of Who Let the Dogs Out? Something about the way the phrase we bring the boys out matches up a little too well with the phrase who let the dogs out, and after hearing this song, it was Who Let the Dogs Out that was stuck in my head.
2. My least favorite part was every time they did the 'Girls Generation make you feel the heat' refrain, which just sounded wooden and rather ridiculous to me.
3. One of those chicks totally looks like she went to Janet Jackson's plastic surgeon:

It's the Korean Janet Jackson!

Anyway, I decided to post the GG video on Facebook to see what the reactions were from typical Americans:

American Man #1, never been to Korea: Well, as a man who likes women it obviously has a certain appeal... but basically, Pussycat Dolls. Now, don't get me wrong... Asian version of Pussycat Dolls > original Pussycat Dolls, but if they do break into the US their appeal will likely be superficial and ephemeral. I just didn't see much other than the fact that they are visibly Asian, attractive by some standards, and doing music that sounds similar to a lot of stuff on mainstream pop radio.

American Woman #1, lives in Korea: The chick hunched over on the left at the beginning looks like she really needs a toilet. I have a feeling that a clip of Dave saying 감사합니다 is going to be all over TV.... forever.

She really looks constipated.

American Woman #2, never been to Korea: I agree with [American Man #1] it was the pussy cat dolls all over again. they reminded me of a group of cheerleaders... no offense to any cheerleaders out there but I was waiting for the moment they would make a pyramid. 

American Man #2, lives in Korea: IMHO Their Korean version of that song and their performances in general are much better than what they displayed on that show. 

American Woman #3, never been to Korea: i like it. the ladies are very pretty. i think it's about time asian people were more in the spotlight. i mean lisa ling and lucy liu are like the only asian people in popular culture that's not a whole lot. and really where is the asian sitcom. 

American Man #3, lives in Korea: Here are some reasons why I think K-Pop will not "make it" in the states: Their biggest selling points aren't really anything special. Sexy people, yawn. What pop star isn't sexy these days? The dances are snap locked to the track with no fluidity or emotion (for the opposite, watch Beyonce's "Single Ladies"). Their singing isn't really singing. Backing track my ass. If it is the same volume as the singer, its not "backing" anything. They can't really be interviewed in English, and will have a more difficult time connecting with an audience, hence why Letterman didn't interview them. They exude gimmick. And in a group with 10 or so members, none of them really distinguish themselves from each other. Its a parade of forgettable people with no personality. Granted, before you start telling me how different they are from each other and talented and all that crap, please bear in mind I'm not referring to them personally or individually. Their persona as a group is forgettable. On the other hand, I bet they could sell a hell of a lot of chicken in the USA.

American Woman #4, used to live in Korea: It's as good as I've ever seen them, which means it's much better than the choked-up Wondergirls on So You Think You Can Dance a few years ago. However, I find the girls' gen to be really awkward in this song--it should be more in your face sexual and they're too cutesy cutesy to pull it off. In that way, they are inferior to the PCD. Just an opinion. I think 2ne1 with Will i am have a better shot at true notice in the US. 

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Traveling From Korea With Pets: Booking Update

If you've read my depiction of my horrific experience booking Charlie and Mochi on my flight home, you're aware that the last Delta representative I spoke with told me that there was no way that Delta could provide me with written/emailed confirmation that my animals were booked for the flight. I just had to take his word for it. This morning, I logged into my account on delta.com... and whaddyaknow:


Thank goodness they're both listed for both legs of the trip... but seriously "There is no way for us to give you written confirmation"? It's on delta.com! Sheesh. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Traveling From Korea With Pets: My Logistical Booking Nightmare

As you know, Charlie, Mochi, and I will be leaving Korea for the US on March 10th. This isn't my first time flying internationally with an animal - this isn't even my first time flying from Korea with an animal. However, while previous trips were arranged with minimum difficulty, this was a horrific logistical nightmare that had me reduced to tears several times, and that makes me  unwilling to fly Delta ever again. (However as both Aeroflot and Korean Air are partners with Delta, it seems pretty unlikely that I'll be able to boycott them, considering that Korea and the former Soviet Union are my most common destinations!)

The madness started about a month ago. This was before Mochi came into my life. I called Delta (foolishly thinking it would be easier to avoid the language barrier and to speak to the carrier that would be covering the second leg of my trip), and reserved a flight for me and Charlie. The woman I spoke with was very friendly and promised me that everything was taken care of, and that Charlie and I were booked to travel on 3/10, and that Charlie was approved to travel in the cabin with me. (I gave this woman all the information on Charlie's species, breed, carrier size, and weight.)

On 1/19, when I decided that Mochi was coming home with us, I called Delta. Again, I spoke with a Delta representative who was very friendly, and who promised me that everything was taken care of, and that Charlie, Mochi, and I were booked to travel on 3/10. In addition to Charlie in the cabin, Mochi would be in the cargo hold. (I gave this woman all the information on Mochi's species, breed, carrier size, and weight.) She then told me that she was unable to tell me how much it would cost to travel with Mochi, and that I should call Korean Air to confirm this.

I called Korean Air. The KA rep was very polite, but I was told that KA had no record of a request to travel with Charlie, and that they were missing about half of the information needed to book Mochi.

I called Delta. Yet another polite representative, but one who kept having to put me on hold while she verified various things. She was probably new. Her conclusion was that everything had been submitted to Korean Air, and that perhaps the KA representative had made a mistake because "this is very confusing."

I called Korean Air. Another KA rep told me exactly what the previous one had told me. I asked what specific information was needed from Delta. Some of the information I was able to provide to KA (Mochi's species, breed, carrier size, weight), but the main things that KA required were A) the fact that I was traveling with Charlie (because it was ticketed through Delta, I was told that Delta had to be the one to add the cat... even though I had been told the cat was booked when I bought my ticket at the beginning of January!) and B) confirmation from Delta that the animals were booked for the second leg of my trip. I was told that they couldn't finalize the confirmation until they received that information, and that the animals couldn't get on the first plane unless KA had confirmation that they were booked for the second one.

At this point, I was starting to get upset, although I was mostly angry-upset, not crying-upset. Also, this had taken about two and a half hours by this point. I had naively thought that I could add Mochi to my ticket before dinner, so I was doing it all on an empty stomach.

I called Delta. This time, I got a Really Bitchy Woman. For starters, she kept cutting me off while I was trying to explain the situation. Finally, she snaps, "Look, we've submitted two dogs in checked baggage twice. Korean Air has this information." OMFG. Two dogs? Both in cargo? WTF? When I (without profanity, amazingly) responded, "No! One cat in the cabin, one dog in cargo!" She said, 'Please hold,' and left me on hold for about 15 minutes.

When she returned, she was just as bitchy, although she then stated that they had the record for the dog and the cat, and that Korean Air did, too. At this point, I brought up topic 2 - Korean Air needed confirmation that the animals were booked on the second (Delta operated) leg of the flight. The Delta agent got even bitchier. She literally said, "That is none of their business! That flight is operated by Delta, and Korean Air does not need to have any information regarding it." I patiently explained several times that Korean Air would not let my animals on the plane unless they had approval from their SkyTeam Partner, Delta, that the animals were confirmed for the second leg of the trip. Each time I said this, the woman grew bitchier.

Finally she said, "I think you need to call the Consulate to determine what the problem is. Let me give you their number." At this point, I lost it. Any American who has traveled extensively knows that the Consulate can do very little of anything to help you when you're overseas. If you need documents, or you need to register a birth, death, or marriage - they're great. If you need anything else - that's not their problem. This woman was seriously telling me to call the Consulate????

I said (or tried to say, I started crying hysterically in the middle of what would have otherwise been a fairly scathing utterance), "I will go to a Korean Air office here in Seoul tomorrow morning. If they do not have the necessary information to allow me and my animals to fly, I will have no choice but to cancel this ticket and fly with a different carrier."

I don't know if it was my hysterical sobbing or the threat to fly another carrier, but at this point, the woman turned from Really Bitchy Woman into Super Sugary Sweet Nice & Helpful Woman. (Note to Delta: your representatives should be friendly and helpful even when your customers aren't crying hysterically and threatening to take their business elsewhere.) The suddenly nice representative uttered a bunch of pointless soothing things then said, 'Let me call Korean Air right now and find out what's going on.' Wow, what a brilliant idea. That would have been a far better thing to say compared to 'it's none of Korean Air's business' and 'you should call the Consulate.' Sheesh.

Again, I was on hold for about 15 minutes. When the rep came back online she told me that she had just spoken with a Korean Air rep, and that everything was confirmed, the animals were booked on both Delta and Korean Air. I asked if there was any way we could have a three-way conversation so I could hear confirmation from KA, but was told no, I'd just have to take her word for it.


And the sad thing is, this doesn't conclude the story.

The days after this incident were the Seolnal Lunar New Year holiday. I figured I would delay contacting Korean Air again until after the holidays were over. And besides, I was stressed out to the point that I was literally sick. It was horrible.

Luckily, Sofia (the woman who arranged for me to get Mochi in the first place) introduced me to Maya Shin from www.petairline.co.kr - Maya (who can be reached at maya@petairline.co.kr if you need her) was absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, Maya had to deal with the exact same nonsense I had to deal with. Korean Air told her they didn't have all of the info they needed from Delta (including species, breed, carrier size, etc), and that they needed confirmation for the second leg of the trip. Thank the gods for Maya, because I really couldn't have dealt with it.

In the middle of the week and a half that Maya spent working on this, my mother called Delta - they told her that everything was confirmed on their end and on the Korean Air end, nothing to worry about. The next day, Korean Air told Maya they still hadn't received all of the information from Delta. Yeah.

Finally, as of today, both Korean Air and Delta have told both Maya and me that everything is confirmed. Whew. Unfortunately, they are unable (?!) to email confirmation of the animals' booking, so I don't have it in writing. I'm going to be stressing about this until we're all on board the plane.

If you are planning to travel from Korea with your pets, here's my advice:

1. Do NOT book with Delta.
2. Try very hard to only fly one carrier. It seems that 'partner airlines' don't exactly communicate very well. If I'd known what a nightmare this was going to be, I would have booked the first leg through Korean Air, then rented a car and driven home from there. It would have been simpler and far less stressful.
3. If you need ANY assistance, contact Maya from petairline.co.kr, because she is WONDERFUL.