People of zee wurl, Relax!


A place where doggies roam free
I take Sienna to University Lake, one of the dog parks in Anchorage, almost every night. It's great because it's a place where dogs can truly be dogs and can swim, run, chase, fetch, wrestle, and play with logs of dogs and their humans. However, tonight seemed remarkable for a wide variety of reasons.

The first reason happened early on in the venture. We made it around to her favorite beach by the water and I started throwing sticks and tennis balls for her. By this time Sienna had thoroughly established that she was going to be a Turdbucket today, but I figured that just getting her exhausted would deplete her reserve stash of turdiness. But no, she was not listening and running everywhere and harassing other dogs that were giving her very clear I Don't Want To Play With A Puppy And Yes, That Means You signals and displaying the various accoutrements of Turdbucketness. This got to be even worse when she hit the puppy jackpot and happened across a group of about three young puppies. Now, Sienna loves other puppies because she figures they will have similar desires to play, but unfortunately, at five months she is already a monster puppy and is even way too much for other dogs that are a few months older than her. She just plays too rough with them. So I had to break up about twenty potential Puppy Incidents, apologizing profusely to the owners and trying to explain how Sienna is feeling more Turdbucketish than usual.

When I had had about EEE-NOUGH (yes, two very distinct syllables), my saviors arrive: Sienna's favorite friend Riley and her two doggie housemates Benji and Bart. Riley is a black Lab, about a month older than Sienna, and the same size, and they will wear themselves completely out wrestling. This is the perfect solution to the puppy problem, so I draw Sienna's attention to her furry friends and soon they are frolicking like two puppies that haven't seen each other in ages. You've gotta love that Lab enthusiasm!

The playing migrates to dry land and they are chasing balls, frisbees, and other dogs (what could be better?), having a great time, when a man on a bike with a huge Husky on a leash enter the scene. Before I have any inkling of what is happening, ten-pound Benji trots by the Husky and it goes off like a time bomb and jumps on him, growling and snarling. Benji is screaming like any tiny dog that has been assaulted by a something at least fourteen times heavier than it and the owner runs over screaming and rescues him from the aggressive dog. About fifteen seconds after the rescue it occurs to the man on the bike to scold his dog and then he says not a word to anyone else, not even an apology to my sobbing friend, and leaves. Had I been in my right mind I would have said something to the guy, but during the attack I had been totally frozen to the spot, horrified, my hand barely covering my gaping mouth. I have never seen anything like that -- the dog was totally unprovoked, and I have never seen such an irresponsible owner at the park before. Later I remembered that I had seen him last week with the dog and complimented him on the beautiful animal (it really is a magnificent -- if scary -- Husky) and I could tell in his very delayed response and the way he spoke that he has, at the very least, some sort of social issues. If I ever see him there again I'm going to have to do something to get more information on him.

Luckily, the night wasn't ruined. Benji, Riley, and Bar left shortly thereafter, but I remained in the field because the dangerous dog had departed and a delightful yellow Lab that gave me a very good idea of what Sienna will look like when she's older had arrived. They were playing and frolicking and having a great time, and while they were oblivious to anything outside of their sphere of dogginess another great dog arrived on the scene. She is an Australian Shepard that I was having a blast throwing the ball for because someone had taught her the greatest trick ever: when you said "roll it!" she would crouch down with her front paws together and perfectly even with each other, put the ball on top of her paws, and then use her nose to roll the ball to you. This was both awesome and cute on its own, but when she looked at you with those big blue eyes of her you felt as though you would be committing a grave and evil sin if you didn't throw the ball for her immediately. Naturally, I ended up throwing the ball for her until the two Labs had totally exhausted each other (and if you've ever known a Lab puppy, you know how seemingly impossible that prospect is!) and the Shepard's owner had to go.

Did I say that Sienna was totally exhausted? I misspoke. I swear, perpetual motion machines have already been invented, and they are Lab puppies at dog parks. We went back to her favorite beach since it looked like there were more dogs playing there now, and when I was about two hundred yards away I realized what my brain had been trying to tune out for, oh, about five minutes: the ever-insistent yap of Poopsie. No, I am not making that up. The dog's name is Poopsie. I hate Poopsie. She's basically a miniature Jack Russell and barks incessantly. She's got a total Napoleon complex. It takes a lot for me to say that I don't like a dog, but I really loathe not only Poopsie, but her owner too. He makes no effort whatsoever to make her shut up. I'm definitely going to print out the part about "Owners should control excessive barking" on the Dog Park Rules page.

Come to think of it though, I've never met a Jack Russell Terrier that I didn't loathe. The one I met when I first started going to the dog park would try to hump Sienna incessantly even though she was already bigger than him when she was two months old. The second, Jester, runs amok, jumps on everyone, and is really, really obnoxious. Poopsie is the third and her doggie brother, Itchy, harasses bigger dogs, jumps up on people, and also runs amok. Not looking like this breed has a good track record, or maybe their owners all really suck. Someone needs to tell those dogs that they are tiny and they need to come to terms with that and leave other dogs the fuck alone. Stupid Jacks.

Some more full-grown Lab-sized dogs arrived on the scene shortly after me, which meant that they could run around like crazy with each other and Sienna and play Chase Me Chase Me without bothering anyone else, so that was good -- there's no way those insecure Jacks could keep up with them. Even better, a really big stick washed up on shore so I got to throw that for Sienna a bunch to try and seal the tiredness deal. Right now, I'm pretty damn sure it worked because she is completely conked out at my feet as I write this.

I hate to be telling bad stories the first time I write about the dog park, but if it was ever like that on a regular basis I wouldn't take her there every day. It's definitely one of her favorite places, and it's great for her to meet other dogs and get socialized properly. It's just that once in a blue moon you have a bad or scary experience, just like with anything else.

Mission: Exhaust the Puppy
Measure of Effectiveness: Said puppy flops around uselessly until bedtime arrives
Assessment: Mission Accomplished!

G sine theta! G sine theta!
I went cross-country skiing for the third time today. We've been having a lot of crossover temperatures (below and above freezing) and so the snow conditions are getting really bad, leading to very slick ice/snow and quite a bit of difficulty going in a straight line or snowplowing while doing said skiing. This made hills terrifying, so I tried to stay in the tracks as much as possible because they could guide me more than the slippery surface could.

There was one hill where the curve at the bottom was pretty sharp so my gurus advised me to not take the tracks and to snowplough down the hill instead. It was rather steep, and as I stepped up to the top and tried to get the hang of digging in my skis like a madwoman before I actually stepped into the cruel, unforgiving grip of gravity, all that I could hear was the panicked physicist in my head screaming "G SINE THETA! G SINE THETA!" This, of course, would have been the acceleration that I experienced just before death if I messed this hill up.

Digging in my skis one last time while attempting to point in some semblance of a straight line down the hill, I figure, "what the hell!" (I know, famous last words) and give myself the tiniest prod down the hill with my poles. In about 1/30th of a microsecond I'm going three times the speed of sound in a direction that is distinctly not straight down the slick slope, trying desperately to bend the ice to my formidable will, and attempting even more desperately to stay upright and navigate not only the hill but the sharp turn at the bottom -- all so I don't die.

Somehow, I prevail. It isn't pretty, but I stay upright with a minimum of flailing. I'm not sure how this happened -- I was so sure I was going to wipe out. Elated, I ski on, feeling accomplished and distinctly not dead.

So the moral of the story is to make sure snow conditions are favorable when you are learning a sport that, as evidenced by the fact that your survival depends on the planks of wood that you strap to your feet, is as dastardly as cross-country skiing.

BONUS: I saw fresh moose feet on the trails! In several locations! And on the drive into the park where we skied I definitely saw a moose chowing down on some bark. Be patient, Mr. Moose, the grass is starting to show through the snow and soon will be the season of plenty!

Anniversaries, eavesdropping, and a charming reminder of Hitler
Yesterday, to mark the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, our classy Vice President Dick Cheney spent the day not visiting maimed veterans of the war or the families of those who have lost loved ones or even anything reverential at all, but rather raising money for the GOP giving a speech in Ohio. During this speech he devoted some time blasting Democrats for wanting to censure the President for his domestic wire-tapping program. This is a subject that I was frankly too exhausted to write about when this made it big in the media the first time, but now that it's being brought up again, the time is ripe.

This program has a huge amount of support in the population, which angers me to no end. Sure, the program may be good, may be necessary, I'll give it that, but to condone the program while ignoring how it came into use is criminal. The American people do not seem to be bothered by the fact that the executive branch just decided it was necessary and circumvented the necessary judicial means to get it approved, even though they could do so after the fact. People, this is why we have separation of powers -- so some power-hungry President doesn't decide that he can do whatever he wants to. Bush may claim that this program is legal, but I've got news for him -- unless it is approved by the FISA courts, it's not, by definition.

This is a scary precedent to be setting. The possibilities of what the executive branch could just arbitrarily decide are and aren't legal is too staggering and frightening for me to fully comprehend in the time in which I have to write this. So, by all means, let your imaginations run free on that! Spend some time and think about it, because this administration is really lapping up the fact that a lot of Americans aren't engaging their brains on this one.

Proof of this? One woman who listened to him speak shared this reaction:

"I don't even know what he said, it was just fun to see him!" [Laughs] "Wonderful to see him! Makes you feel, anyways for me it made me feel like a real American."

That is exactly what people said when they saw Hitler speak!

Congratulations, Bush and Cheney. This is your base. Something to be proud of, no?

Up for grabs
In swimming, one has to accept a certain level of risk.... not just of drowning, not just of swimming in water that some six-year-old has invariably peed in, but of getting grabbed in all sorts of places that you would only let someone very intimate with you touch.

It's neither rare nor inconceivable, especially when doing backstroke. Hands just end up traveling in paths primed to intersect with your fellow swimmer's ass. And that's if you're lucky and he or she is swimming backstroke just like you.


If your fellow swimmer just happens to be male, you'll end up grabbing his nuts.

This most recently happened to me about a month and a half ago during a Saturday practice at Chugiak High School -- not our usual swimming locale. A man I didn't know was swimming in the lane next to me and I was swimming backstroke when all of a sudden, just like I was the first prospector on the site of a lode of precious stones, I got a handful of jewels. Having been out of serious swimming -- and hence out of "it's totally ok to randomly grab someone else's balls" risk-management mode -- for about seven years, I was mildly mortified (enough to not be able to so much as glance at the other lane), but not so mortified that I couldn't immediately tell my fellow teammates all about it at the next stop.

The worst part? One of my teammates got out to use the bathroom in the middle of practice and ran into the molested man in the locker room and he decided to start gushing to my teammate about me, about what kind of swimmer I was and blah blah blah. I hear about this after practice over coffee, and of course I'm thinking that this guy definitely got the wrong idea -- it was just a harmless, random nut-grab that happens between swimmers now and then. It certainly wasn't anything that I needed a cigarette and some cheesy pillow-talk after.


I was reminded of that this morning in practice. I was swimming backstroke next to a teammate who just happens to also be a co-worker when all of a sudden I feel my hand come into contact with flesh. Freakin' ALARM BELLS start going off in my head before I realize that my hand just brushed along his side and didn't do the infamous nut-grab, thankfully. Hey, random molestation was all well and good when we were in high school, but this whole work thing is a whole other story. Let's not even bring rank into this either. The consequences and implications are too horrible to imagine!

So the lesson I learned today is that grabbing intimate bits of someone else's person is all fine and dandy if you do it to a stranger, but it is bad beyond bad when you're swimming with an NCO and you risk something far worse than your standard MEO violation in the pool!

Swimming upstream
look down
Went to swim practice this morning for the first time since I've been back. I couldn't go back earlier since I had either the Korean Death Flu or SARS -- maybe both. At the same time.

This was a very good thing to do -- it was step one of re-establishing my routine and re-learning the way I lived before I went to Korea. My routine is important because it helps make the wonderfulness of Cory a little bit more remote, and as horrible as it sounds, I need it to be a little remote so it doesn't hurt so badly that he's not here.

Things are going to be ok for this Staceyfish.

Awe-inspiring Turnagain Arm
adventures of a girl and her camera
I used to think that the drive along the Columbia River Gorge was one of the most beautiful in the world.

Alaska, however, has proved me ignorant: the drive south from Anchorage along Turnagain Arm now takes the cake and reminds one of the Gorge farther south, yet is many times more majestic and breathtaking.

Further travels around Alaska may prove me wrong again, and I intend to give you the photographic evidence to prove it. Until then, I leave you with this, one photo of what should have been a panorama, if only I had the money to spend on a professional-level photo-stitching program.

( I still can't believe I'm getting paid to live here )

Awe-inspiring Turnagain Arm

Wax on, rip off
Note: This entry was written on 13 February but was scheduled to post the day I arrived in Korea (to preserve the surprise), but, uhm, didn't. Here it is now, with a little extra tacked on to the end:

So here's something that will shock and surprise almost anyone who has known me for a decent amount of time -- like since college or before.

I, Stacey Moore, made an appointment today.....

to get.....

my legs waxed!

Those of you in in the category mentioned above will surely be wondering whatever has become of their beloved Stacey who was not only content but proud to have some of the hairiest legs around, who was known for her furriness, her Birkenstocks. and her fuck-it-I'm-going-to-hug-a-tree-dammit attitude.

What has happened indeed.

Believe it or not, I'm going to be going to be paying someone a good chunk of change to rip each and every hair out of my leg from the root because the next day I will be seeing my boyfriend for the first time in four months. I'm doing this for several reasons:
a) My hair grows tremendously fast. I'll be traveling for almost 24 hours before I get to him -- I would be totally stubbly by then.
b) I'm going to be there for almost a week, and I'll be damned if I'm going to use any of my precious shower time with him to scrape hair off of my legs.
c) He'll like it.

Notice that what I would have termed the "oppressive male" reason back in college is last. Sheesh, I haven't changed that much. I still like granola, camping, and wearing shorts, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and a pair of Birks that I've had since high school. Still the same old Stacey.... just less fuzzy.

This section written post-waxing:
Through much of high school, I was, yes, a dork. Not like the coke-bottle lenses, pocket protector, pants pulled up to my armpits, snorted when I laughed dorks, but I liked math and science, hung out with people who did too, and eschewed the so-called popular kids. When they were acting particularly dumb or obnoxious I would often just say to myself, "they may think they're so cool now, but my friends and I are going to do something meaningful and successful with our lives and they're going to end up barefoot and pregnant" or some other similar line of thought.

Well, during my appointment the rail-thin "aesthetician" and I were talking about me going to Korea and such, and she mentioned that she's heard that you can get some really great clothes there but they're sold as smaller sizes because the people were smaller over there and "my god, I think I'd have to rip the tags out because I could just not deal with having them say extra large!"

And as I was laying on that bed in the salon getting my hair ripped out by the follicles, I thought to myself, "she was one of those girls I so despised in high school! And now I'm giving her money to inflict all this pain on me!"

Let this be a warning to all of you other girl geeks -- living better and making something of yourself may be the best revenge, but those other girls will still find a way to hurt you -- and make you pay for it!

Kamsahamnida! -- part three
hands and face
Our third day in Seoul also marked our last. We slept in late, grabbed breakfast and set out. Cory wanted to check out the Korean War Museum just down the street from where we were staying, so we struck out to go see it.

I had first noticed the museum on our way back from the tour the day before when I saw the huge, telltale vertical stabilizer of the B-52 -- I'd know that anywhere. It was visible over a wall and some trees, and when seen like that it totally looks like a Land Shark. But I digress.

As you've no doubt surmised by now, the museum grounds had some static displays of aircraft. Aside from the B-52 most of them were pretty unremarkable, except for the An-2 COLT. Cory definitely wanted a picture of this one, and he even graced it with SNAKES, the official salute of his squadron.

As we wandered, we sadly realized that the museum itself was closed on Mondays so we weren't going to be able to get inside. It was a nice day out though, so we wandered around the grounds more and took in some of the other static displays that were out, like tanks, SSMs, AAA, and subs. We also spent some time taking in the impressive monument (though I would artistically disagree with the foot-to-body ratio that was used!).

After we had exhausted the sightseeing options there, we walked to Itaewon to see if there was any further shopping to do. I was on the lookout for silk pajamas and robe or kimono similar to the stuff my Dad brought back for me when I was about ten, but alas, I was unable to find anything of suitable quality. We decided more relaxing was in order before we started scavenging for dinner so we went back to the hotel and finally finished watching Wallace & Gromit. Ahhh, I love watching that movie with Cory so much. This was followed by some quality jacuzzi time and napping.

At this point we started trying to decide where to go for dinner. I had literally woken up in the middle of the night multiple times salivating at the thought of more samosa, so knowing that I could get some more good authentic Korean food in Kunsan, we decided to go back to Moghul where we proceeded to stuff ourselves silly to the point of actual pain. It was SO GOOD though. If I could live on mutton, palik, samosa, the flat bread whose name I can't remember, curry rice, and jasmine tea for the rest of my life, I would probably choose to do so.

Sadly, after dinner we had to leave the Dragon Hill to go to Kunsan so Cory could get back to work (on the way our bus stopped at a rest stop that had heated toilet seats! How badass is that???). Luckily his work hours were pretty short that week so we got to spend lots of time together. On Tuesday he took me to eat at the Korean restaurant on base where I tried bibembap. Apparently the cooks didn't get the memo that I possess the wussiest tastebuds ever to grace the Korean peninsula and put TONS of red pepper paste right in the bowl. The dish was tasty, but oh, so so much fiery death for my mouth. Dinner that night was much, much better -- we had beef bulgogi and yaki-mandu. Mmmmm, tasty Korean food that doesn't have me running to douse my tastebuds in milk.

Cory had been sick the week before I came out to visit him, and of course, I started coming down with whatever bug he had had at this point. This was good timing as there isn't exactly a huge amount of stuff to do in Kunsan like there was in Seoul, so we were able to just really concentrate on spending some quality down time together, which is really what we needed at that point. I was very not happy about having to leave a couple of days later, but I suppose that's life.

That day was literally the longest day of my life. It lasted 42 hours, which is a nice effect of crossing the international date line. The flight back home was relatively pleasant. I tried bibembap on the plane since I knew I would be given a tube of red pepper paste that I could apply myself in Stacey-appropriate quantities, and oh my god. Heavenly. I love Korean food, I just wish that it was less spicy!

Upon landing in Seattle it really sunk in: Holy crap, I was in a foreign country! For some reason it had never really hit me while I was over there, but once I got back to the states and could read all of the signs or order a sandwich or say "excuse me" to a stranger without having to worry if my language could be understood I fully understood that I had been a long, long way from home. Sweet!

Overall, even if you take out the Cory-factor which obviously made the trip unbelievably awesome, I still had a great time. It's kind of humbling and somewhat uncomfortable to realize that your tall body with its wide bone structure with white skin marks you as an outsider right off the bat, but is definitely an experience I would say that everyone needs to have. It certainly gives you a very basic understanding of what it's like to be a minority in a country and how unconscious and easy it is to gravitate towards other people that look like you. It's a little scary, frankly, just because I don't think that I ever would have anticipated doing that.

With any luck, I'll be heading back to Korea in five or six months to visit Cory again before he returns stateside for good. I'll definitely learn a lot more basic Korean phrases before I leave, try a lot more Korean food, and do more research on what Seoul has to offer. Korean culture is definitely interesting and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about it.

Kamsahamnida! -- part two
Our second day in Seoul Cory and I decided that hey, we were in Korea so we should go to the DMZ. Our tour bus picked us up at 8 and off we went.

I've heard it said that a lot of parts of Korea are similar to America, but something is just not quite right. The first stop on our tour definitely fell into that category. We were at Freedom Bridge right on the border of the DMZ where POWs from the Korean War were allowed to go north if they so chose. There were monuments and statues and remembrances of the war and..... an amusement park. It's somewhat analogous to a local carnival setting up permanent residence near the Vietnam Memorial. There was also a fairly intrepid dog who kept crossing under the fence -- he obviously knew not his peril! If I were to cross under that fence it would spark some sort of international incident, no doubt. Must be nice to be a dog and have free reign of the place!

Our next stop was the Dora train station. On the way there our guide told us about how farmers near the DMZ are not allowed to use any chemicals in their farming (which makes sense) so everything they grow is organic and very tasty and they're some of the richest farmers in the nation. Well, in our second instance of Something Is Not Quite Right that day, there were bags and bags of this rice on display in the station.

DMZ Natural Good Rice -- barbed wire included!DMZ Natural Good Rice

This was by far my favorite -- I love the juxtaposition of "natural good" and the barbed wire. Classic. I really wanted to bring a bag of the rice home with me, but I wouldn't have been able to take it through customs. Cory bought a bag though.

There was also a sign for trains departing to Pyongyang, and oh, I wanted a picture of Cory and I under that sign so badly, but it didn't work out. Alas.

Cath a train to Pyongyang!
Catch a train to Pyongyang!

It was very bizarre to see that sign after studying so much of the current situation there from a military perspective. We hear so much about how North Korea is such a closed society that it's hard to imagine being able to freely go up to the capitol like that. Not that I would be able to do such a thing, but it's good to see such progress being made, so long as it is used for good and not for evil.

Our next stop was the third infiltration tunnel (no pictures allowed, sadly). Yes, it's what it sounds like -- a tunnel built under the DMZ by the North Koreans to move troops surreptitiously in an invasion. It was discovered about 50km from Seoul, and after hearing about how many troops could be moved through it I have to wonder why people aren't terrified to live in Seoul. The great thing about the tunnel is that when it was discovered by the South Koreans and accusations were made to the North Korean government, they tried to cover by saying that it was a coal mine. Well, the rock is black so perhaps that story is plausible -- until you realize that the rock is painted black and the coal concentration in the surrounding granite is about 0.002%. Silly North Koreans. I thought it was a great commentary about the differences in the North and South Korean societies -- the North is so much more closed and its citizenry would be far less likely to question such a statement.

We also took in a short film about the DMZ at the tunnel site, which was one that thoroughly confused me. I can understand that the division between North and South and the DMZ can be viewed as a source of national shame, but they really tried to put this "The DMZ is where our children can frolic with bunnies and other fluffy creatures in the future" face on it.

A silly, fanciful side of me had been hoping that there would be soldiers stationed about the place that would be similar to the guards at Buckingham Palace where you could mess with them and they would have no reaction whatsoever. The closest I got was with a caricature-ish statue outside the DMZ theater:

Cory, me, and a pseudo-soldier
Chillin' with a caricature

Next stop: Dora Observatory. From there you're supposed to have a great view of North Korea, including the Propaganda Village (that weirdly enough is starting to be inhabited by real people), but the day was very foggy so we couldn't see much other than a few guard towers.

This was our last stop, so after a lengthy drive back to Seoul, we got dropped off at the hotel, upgraded to a VERY posh suite, grabbed some food, and agreed that a nap would be a good way to combat my "waking up at two in the morning and conking out by seven at night" jet lag symptoms. After waking up I decide that it's definitely bogus that I have been in Korea for two days and have yet to have an authentic Korean meal. While waiting for a taxi, we get a recommendation for a beef-on-a-leaf place nearby.

I really wish we had had the camera on us, because this place was great. It was one of those tiny Korean storefronts that had about five or six tables in it and no English anywhere to be seen. Since "kamsamida" is the extent of my Korean language skills and Cory had been in the country for almost four months, I told him that I was going to let him do all the talking. So we take our seats at a table, which had a hole in the middle of it that a very, very hot stone was lowered into and a grilling grate was placed over. Cory then begins to order in what is probably the best way in a country that you don't know the language of which consists of pointing at food that's been served at nearby tables (I'm a fan of this method because it doesn't make you look like some jerky tourist who expects everyone else to know your language even though you are in their country).

A few minutes later a generous-sized piece of pork, kimchee, a delicious soup of unknown ingredients, a small dish of what appeared to be a cross between grass and green onions in a thin red pepper sauce, garlic, and daikon radish. Also served was a large basket of huge lettuce leaves. The idea is that you put the meat, garlic, and radish on the grill and when they're done, put the meat on one of the lettuce leaves with whatever else you would like to garnish it, roll it up, and eat. Delicious. At the end of the meal I felt very wholesomely fed -- everything that had been served was either vegetable or fresh meat and extremely flavorful. Bonus surprise: the garlic there is to die for. It's got some of the same spiciness that our garlic has but it's also slightly sweet and much more flavorful. I think I could sit there all day and eat the garlic by the clove.

Happily fed, we leave and walk out of the restaurant and head back to the hotel, ruminating on life in Korea in general and Seoul in specific. Once back, we make another attempt on Wallace & Gromit but only make slightly better progress through the movie than last night before I'm exhausted again. We retire, and thus end another excellent day.

Kamsahamnida! -- part one
look down
On the second of March, I struck out on a grand adventure to Korea whose primary purpose was to go see Cory.

Since Korea is on another continent, heading out was quite a lengthy process. From Seattle it was an eleven and a half hour journey, made considerably more comfortable by the fact that it was on Korean Air instead of an American carrier. That is a nice airline -- they give you socks, an eyemask, and a toothbrush in addition to two very good meals. There is also free in-seat entertainment like on-demand music and movies. The only thing that really irked me about the flight is the fact that I had to fly to Seattle to get on the plane, which then proceeded to fly up the remaining west coast of North America, over Alaska and Anchorage, and along the Aleutians. Seriously, if I could have just flown out of Anchorage I would have spent eight fewer hours in the air that day (or rather, that would have been the case if I hadn't started traveling from Dallas that day due to emergency re-scheduling).

Towards the end of the journey we fly over Seoul. My first impression of the Korea peninsula is that is it flat, very very flat, with very perfectly rectangular buildings poking up in clusters, like some sort of three-dimensional bar graph. Then I realize it looks so eternally flat because there is so much smog that the ground is totally obscured more than a few miles away. Well, we land, and after taxiing for about six miles, deboarding, going through immigration and customs, I am spewed out into a lobby where I see CORY! There ensued much rejoicing and hugging and my luggage falling over and me not caring because I was so happy to be in his arms again.

We catch a cab for the hour-long drive to the Dragon Hill Lodge on the Yongson Garrison. I'm rather engaged in talking to Cory and taking in some of the sights around me, so I don't notice too often that the driver is terrible -- which is good, because I would have feared for my life I had been paying attention to the traffic around me. Apparently this is typical of Korean drivers. I make a mental note to walk everywhere we can.

We check into the Dragon Hill, and let me tell you, that place is nice. It's prettymuch a luxury hotel on an Army post, which seems incongruous but is awesome nonetheless. We had intended to get some food at one of the eight or so restaurants in the hotel, but I had been traveling for about 24 hours by this point and, despite my best intentions, I passed out and never made it to food.

After waking way before a decent hour and falling back asleep again -- sleeping in admirably in the process -- Cory and I take it easy for the first chunk of the day. Hey, we hadn't seen each other in a ridiculously long time, so we were entitled to laze about and simply enjoy each other's company. The second half of the day we ventured out to Itaewon where we were bombarded by people selling stuff. I resisted mightily, but we did encounter an exquisite double mink blanket that Cory snapped up for himself.

We ended up wandering into what is known as Restaurant Alley, which included -- I kid you not! -- a JACKIE CHAN Chinese place. We also encountered my favorite instance of Engrish:

A place to get poisoned!
Lounge, Bar, and... Poisoning?

Oh, if only I knew what they were trying to translate from. Priceless.

If you ever find yourself looking at this sign, TURN AROUND because right behind you is the best Indian/Pakistani restaurant in existence. It's called Moghul and my tastebuds danced with utter merriment during my dinner there. Oh, samosa, mutton curry, and palik, how I love thee so! Cory and I did an admirable job of stuffing ourselves there, then wandered back to the main road and did a bit more shopping before heading back to the hotel. Once there I really truly tried to watch one of Cory and I's favorite movies but jet lag plus food coma did me in and I fell asleep with my head on Cory's stomach even before Wallace could brainwash the bunnies ("Their tiny bunny brains are being saturated in my veg-free mind waves!").

Thus ends the first day.


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