New Year’s resolutions, anyone?

Last night was very busy and a lot of fun.  We’re on our way out soon to join friends for a New Year’s party, so I’ll write about it tomorrow.  Today I’ll write about a bit more concise topic–New Year’s resolutions.  Dear Reader, did you make New Year’s resolutions for 2006?  I tend not to, because they’re usually too difficult to fulfill.  I did last year, though.  How did I do?
  1. Finish Korean language class with an adequate testing score
  2. Arrive in Seoul safely
  3. Take a real vacation
Well, two out of three ain’t too bad.  I finished Korean language class last year with the required proficiency level.  However, I should have resolved to maintain it, because my Korean language ability has receded precipitously.  I am not taking any Korean classes right now, and I rarely speak Korean, unfortunately.  I speak a little once in awhile, although I never carry on conversations in Korean anymore.  Even my Chinese ability has decreased a bit.  My German improved, although not by much.  I plan to retest in German in January before I bid for my next assignment.  If I test well, I would be qualified to bid on German-speaking locales early next year (read Europe).
We also made it safely to Seoul.  However, we did not take a vacation this year.  My wife and son went to Shanghai, China in April and May, but I haven’t left Korea since we arrived here.  Interestingly, I feel like more of a homebody in Seoul than I did when we lived in the U.S.  We spent a few days in February in Hawaii en route to Korea.  We also made overnight trips to Gyeongju and Seoraksan National Park, but that’s all the traveling we’ve done together.  However, none of these were really "vacations."  We had planned to return to the U.S. over Christmas, but that trip has been postponed until next summer.
I thought about what resolutions I want to make for 2006.  Here’s what I came up with:
  • Lose 10 pounds.  I need to lose more weight than 10 pounds, but I need to be realistic!  I can never achieve unrealistic weight loss goals.  Can you relate?
  • Increase our net worth by 15%.  By aggressively saving, I think we can do it.
  • Spending more time reading for pleasure and reading what I need to read.  I never seem to have enough time to read.  It’s probably because I spend too much time on the computer.
  • Improve my Korean.  It would be nice to leave Korea speaking better Korean than I do now.
  • Take a real vacation.  This one carries over from last year’s resolutions.

So, Happy New Year, Dear Reader!  I hope you have a wonderful and prosperous 2006.  If you make any resolutions, I wish you all the best in fulfilling them.


From the "Things that Make You Go Hmm" Department:  This morning I found my son in the pantry trying to reach something on the shelf.  He was using a case of bottled water as a step chair.  The first thought that crossed my mind was, "Wow, my son can even walk on water!"  Now if he could just let us know when he needs to use the potty.

Distracted by Jumbotrons

Driving in Seoul is bad enough that drivers don’t need any further distractions.  Call it a clash between the highway and Korean digital superhighway.  Seven giant Jumbotron digital billboards are strategically placed around downtown Seoul in order to maximize viewership and inadvertantly distract drivers.  I usually don’t pay much attention to them while driving, but tonight I could not help it.  I was driving south towards Namdaemun in heavy traffic when I stopped and waited for the red light to turn.  As I waited, I couldn’t help but stare up at a monstrous digital advertisement featuring tennis sensation and stunningly beautiful Maria Sharapova.  The giant, digitized Wimbledon champion hits a few tennis balls that precisely hit a faraway target.  Then she suddenly hikes up her tennis skirt to reveal a portable media player strapped to her attractive, shapely leg.  I did not catch which product she was pitching–perhaps it was a Motorola product.  (When the beauty outshines the product being marketed, it’s overkill.)  No matter–the whole scene was rather distracting.  As the majority of drivers in Korea are men, I suspect that I was not the only male driver distracted by this huge, seductive advertisement overshadowing my line of sight.  When the traffic light turned green, I drove on and immediately thought about how easy it would be for this type of advertisement to cause traffic accidents.  While that speaks volumes about Maria Sharapova’s beauty, it doesn’t bode well for Seoul’s traffic safety.

Relishing the sweet pickles

I am moving to a new job soon.  I’ve been in the same area for about seven months, but next week (heck, next year) I will move on and do something else.  I can’t believe my time there is almost finished.  It’s been quite a ride, and I’m going to miss it.  I took my coworkers out for lunch today to thank them for all they’ve done.  They’ve all been a huge support, and I appreciate their help immensely.  I took them out today for a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant highly recommended by a friend of mine.  Her tastes are impeccable, and her restaurant choices are excellent. 
The meal was delicious as expected.  I wouldn’t have expected anything less from an upscale Italian restaurant.  The garlic bread with vinegar and oil, leafy green salad, rice pilaf, spaghetti carbonara, espresso, and gelato took me away from Korea for a brief respite.  I soon came back to reality when the waiter brought out a plate of red chilis and sweet pickles.  Chilis and sweet pickles served at an Italian restaurant?  You’ve got to be kidding!  Oh, yes.  Sweet pickles are a nod to the Korean palate.  Western-style restaurants can’t very well get away with serving customers a vat of aromatic kimchi, so they subtly substitute innocuous sweet pickles instead.  I can’t get away from sweet pickles at my favorite Italian restaurant (another one) near my office, nor at my favorite Indian restaurant, and I couldn’t escape them when I ate at a fabulous French restaurant in Busan.  The only foreign cuisine I’ve found in Korea not subjected to the tinge of sweet pickles is Mexican cuisine.  Of course, chili peppers are a staple in Mexican food, so Koreans merely substitute chilis for kimchi. 
It seems that no matter where you are–in Korea, the U.S., or elsewhere–you just can’t get away from food localization.  Restaurants serving foreign cuisine will always tailor it to local tastes.  That’s fine, but I think I’ll pass on the sweet pickles.