No matter how much you plan and prepare, nothing goes exactly as anticipated. With travel it is a little more crazy. I made sure to submit my last day to work as being about a week before I flew out. I figured that would be plenty of time to do all the last-minute stuff. And it was, but just barely. I am on flight right now, just getting into the glacial islands of Alaska. About 8hr 20min till arrival, flying 133 Km/hr. A good time for working on this update since it’s been a little while.
Wednesday night ended with a delicious dinner with my best friend and her husband at my brother’s place. They had never been and it was about time I took them since my brother is head chef now. I can’t say enough about Mirabelle Cafe. Since working there Nick has worked hard to make the food fresher and higher quality. They now make their own bread buns for the hamburgers and sandwiches. He has also brought his own creative tastes and diversity to the menu. Most people just pop in for a coffee and fresh made pastries. If you ever have the chance (and time) to try it, you should go for a meal. Don’t expect to speed through it though, it’s not a quick in and out restaurant. It’s a small place with, at most, 3 people in the kitchen. However, the food is well worth the wait. Everything on the menu is delicious. We got a veritable feast. An appetizer of diablo shrimp to split. It had just enough heat to add to the flavor with this avocado aioli. For dinner I got the braised short ribs with garlic mash and roasted vegetables. The sauce over the ribs was so good, a thick wine reduction with a hint of sweetness. The ribs fell apart on my fork like butter. My best friend got the chicken sandwich with a salad of mixed greens. It was so good she couldn’t talk because that meant she would have to stop tasting the glorious food. Her husband had one of the daily specials, the shrimp risotto. I had some of that, it was so smooth and buttery with just enough garlic. It also had a medley of vegetables mixed in. Now, he’s not big on vegetables and he loved every last little bit. By then we were all pretty stuffed, but you can’t pass up desert. We got the desert crepe to split, and some baked goods to take home for later. The crepe is huge, probably the size of my hand when folded up and about 2 inches thick. We got the one filled with berries, custard, and topped with whipped cream and a bit of cinnamon and powdered sugar. It’s my favorite. I go for brunch a lot and order either that crepe or one of the Eggs Benedict selections. As for those pastries I took home, they were demolished the next day. A chocolate cake, layered with raspberry mouse, covered in dark chocolate ganache and topped with a fresh raspberry. My other pastry was a passionfruit mousse with a thin shortcake layer, a peach slice between that and fresh fruit on top, topped by a white chocolate curl. Yeah. This place is no standard coffee shop and bakery. It’s a wall of real gourmet cakes and pastries. The next few days I just worked on knocking out my packing, cleaning, anything I still needed to do. That’s when it started getting crazy. On Friday we finally got ahold of the moving company I got a credit to from my mom. They proceeded to tell us that the $89 for 2 hours of moving services we got was only for labor. It would be an additional $50 for gas to have the movers get to the house, $150 if we need to rent and use their moving truck. Any boxes or packaging gear would be additional. I was incredulous. We called and canceled and got our money back. We’ll just do it ourselves. I was worried now about time and finding people to help me move everything over to the storage unit since we are all on different schedules and working. It was Friday afternoon so we actually went right then to rent a small Uhaul truck since we would have the most helpers around that night. It went pretty swiftly. But it was still a pain in the but to deal with, and something I hadn’t anticipated needing to do.
Saturday night I went out to Faces night club with my best friend. We were out dancing and drinking and hanging out till late in the night. It’s always so much fun going out with Adria. Though there was one short black guy that was really wanting my attention. He was very annoying and going about things the wrong way for me. Kept passing by me and doing the strong man arm flexes. Adria got All possessive after a while. I could always tell when she spotted him approaching again because it would return to sexy lesbian lovers club dancing. I was too buzzed at the end of the night to drive home, so I crashed on her couch. I wish I could have slept in Sunday morning, but I was up early again and back to work. By 8:00 I was out picking up signs for our yard sale to try making a bit of money from the stuff I was planning to get rid of. We did ok, but still had to take most of it to the local goodwill.
I got so caught up in all the packing that I nearly missed the cut off time for sending off Einstein. We had just finished taking the remnants of my things that didn’t sell to the goodwill when I got a call from Korean Airlines checking to make sure I would be dropping Einstein off later that night. That’s when the mayhem started. Einstein had just wandered off outside and was gone, prowling the neighborhood, and would not come when I called. At the same time I was scrambling getting everything of his together, running to get a cashiers check to pay for his flight, and freaking out over the time. He finally came around and was chilling on the back fence just 2.5 hours before the deadline and I managed to walk out and grab him without him running off. He was then unceremoniously crammed into the kennel and Mom and I rushed off to San Francisco.
He wasn’t happy, but there wasn’t much I could do for him. After getting a little turned around finding the cargo office for the airline we pulled up just three minutes before the deadline. I thought all the stress and running was finished as we rode the elevator up to the office. Not at all. The paperwork was all in order and everything was smooth up until it came time to pay. The cashiers check was missing. It was also blank. I was freaking out a bit since it wasn’t anywhere to be found and they only accept a cashier’s check as payment. We called home and they found it on the floor in my house. Must have fallen out as I was leaving with Einstein. Luckily they allowed us to pay cash this time since we had it and it was just lost. So mom and I were off again trying to find an open ATM in San Bruno at 11 o’ clock at night. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? No. We were driving around for an hour before we found one. They were all closed down for the night, even the ones at the major banks. So, by the time we got back to the cargo office and paid it was past midnight. Luckily we had a place we could crash for the night. The next morning we got up early and drove all the way back to Sacramento to get my own stuff together. I had too much to take care of yet to grab it last night. At least we could take our time with it. My computer and the last package got mailed off. Suitcases packed. And off again we went back to the bay. I got some good photos as we were crossing the Bay Bridge at sunset. We were all tired when we got to the hotel room and decided to stay in and just relax. We did our nails and went out to BJ’s for dinner and relaxed over a drink. Everything went smoothly the next day for my flight. We didn’t have to rush at all in waking up or getting breakfast. The gentleman that helped me at the counter was very nice. Even though one of my suitcases was just over the weight limit he let it go through with no problem since my other checked bag was a little under weight. We still had to jumble things around a little bit though, moving some of my carry on items to the lighter checked baggage since it was overweight as well. Mom and Grandma were more fussy and worried than I was, but it all went well. We hugged goodbye since I had to head through right away and off I went! The flight felt a lot longer than it actually was. At least the seats were roomy and comfortable enough even in Economy. I couldn’t sleep though because I had a center seat. The adorably cute Panda microfiber flight pillow I bought in the airport failed me. It was too much padding and pushed my neck forward in an uncomfortable way, even with my seat back. At least there were movies and my book to read. My neighbors were nice too. We talked a little bit. I was so tired when I got in to Inchon. It didn’t take me long at all to get through customs and baggage claim, which didn’t end up working out in my favor. John got stuck in mandatory meetings on base and couldn’t get out to pick me up for another hour or so. I was half asleep as we made our way down to our apartment in Songtan.
I’ve been here for about a week now. Songtan isn’t the prettiest thing, and is at times smelly. But that’s to be expected. It’s seems to be a farm community, so you get the agriculture smells from the cows. The city smells like some areas of San Fransisco: the occasional whiff of something good cooking, garbage, and that other human smell. The main strip is mostly clean and doesn’t smell too bad, but as you move away it becomes more prominent. The city’s economy and growth definitely built up due to the Osan Air Base. The main shopping strip is just outside the main entrance to the base, offering copious amounts of bars, dance clubs, fashion stores, restaurants, souvenir or trinket shops, and food vendors at night. It’s much more active and fun at night when all the lights are on and everyone is out socializing. Everyone just calls it The Strip but it’s official name is the Sinjang-dong Shopping Mall. Some of the businesses are well known food chains like McDonald’s and Baskin-Robbins; however, most are small and individually owned. Because of its relatively large American presence due to the military most stores, restaurants, and establishments are bilingual (English/ Korean) and accept US dollars as well as South Korean won.
I’ve been exploring some of the streets and shops leading off of the main strip and have come across a few good finds in addition to the places John has taken me.
The illustration along the windows of this shop are initially what drew me in. It’s all hand drawn with a white chalk pen and very detailed. The fact that it was a coffee shop just made it so much better. I first found it on Chusack, a Korean holiday similar to Thanksgiving where they also honor the dead. It was closed due to the holiday but I was able to find it again. It’s a bit of a walk from the main gate, down the right hand lane of the triangle of death and off to the left. This place offered the best espresso I’ve had here yet, and I liked the atmosphere of this little place. It’s a small place but feels open with all the natural light and minimalist design with just the right amount of creative elements. Their menu board is in Korean but they offer a printed menu in English at the register. The espresso was really sweet and smooth with really dense micro foam. I tried their special, an almond latte. It didn’t have that artificial flavor chain syrups get and was garnished with almond shavings. I was very excited to see that they also had a selection pour over coffee brewers for sale. I’ve been looking for one. It then became a debate choosing between a Chemex or the ceramic Melitta pour over. Ended up getting the ceramic because it was cheaper and easier to use. I just got the top part since I’m the only one that will be drinking coffee at the apartment. The lip is wide enough to pull directly into my mug. Can’t get fresher! I might go back for a tea brewer, though I’d rather have one of the nice handcrafted tea sets you can find around the strip. I’ll definitely be back. Price ranges from ₩3000 – ₩5500.
Just down the way from the coffee house is Bread Store Bunny. I was expecting this to be more like the specialty cupcakes and pastries, but was pleasantly surprised. It certainly had the case full of ready made cakes. From chocolate to passionfruit, it all looked delicious. They have fresh baked snacks like croissants, doughnuts and danishes in the window. Affordable too, most were ₩500 or ₩1000. I’ll definitely stop in when I’m in the area again to try some. Along the side wall were shelves of bread. They had large french bread baguettes, loaves of cut bread, seasoned and filled breads, and bread toppings. Again with affordable prices. I got the baguette to have with dinner and I think it was only ₩2000 or so. The front counter offers 2 glass cases on either side of the register filled with nicer pastries and cakes. This is where some of the more specialty pastries were. They all looked delicious. I got something that looked like a doughnut cit in half and filled with chocolate and cream. Haven’t tried it yet, but I’m looking forward to it. All together I spent ₩3500. I’ll be back. The lady working there was also very nice.
I’ll probably write again later about the other places I’ve visited along the strip.
At home Einstein has been doing very well. It took him a couple days to get accustomed to the smell and noises of the new place. I’m sure he was also a little mad about the transit and the ensuing bath he needed afterward. I set up the potty patch in the corner next to the litter box when I got in and he has been using both regularly now. It’s convenient that he goes #1 on the patch (which is easily rinsed off) and his other business in the litter where he can bury it. Occasionally he still goes in a corner of the house, but that is happening less and less. Guess we just had to push him past his stubbornness.
The apartment is nice and very new. We had to clean the instillation dust out of the cabinets and take the plastic covers off appliances. Everything is pretty much unpacked and set up. It’s also a little ways away from the strip, surrounded by fields and farm area, so it’s quiet and green and doesn’t smell much like the city does. It’s not quite close enough to walk to on a regular basis, but the Taxi’s are affordable if a little crazy to ride in. They speed through making it feel more like something at an amusement park. I’ve been trying to find an affordable street bike to use for my commute.
These flowers are growing wild amongst squash along the road between downtown and my apartment. It was a beautiful day, you could see the mountains clearly.