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I'm a Marine Corps Officer, a Comptroller, a grad school graduate, a loving husband and a proud father. I've been serving my country for the past 10 years. In those 10 years, I've been stationed in a few places and have been lucky enough to visit many others. I've lived in tropical Hawaii, prepped my brain in historic Newport, RI, studied in New York and am now living in Okinawa, Japan. My travels abroad past, present and future are opportunities in which I am both grateful for and lucky to have, all of which I have made my mission to capture in the form of colorful and creative photographs. I'm not much for adventure or trying unusual foods but I think it's time to break out of my confront zone and experience the many oddities and sites the world has to offer!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Week Three


Land of Kimchi and Worst Cab Drivers!

Okay, so I'm going on my third week in Daegu, South Korea.  For those of you who don't know, Daegu is the third largest metropolitan city in South Korea with over 2.5 million people.  Anyway, I just recently decided to blog my stay here so I'm starting two weeks late.  

Oh and about the title, most people know about the kimchi, but regarding the cab drivers.  OH MY GOD...these cabbies are insane.  Aside from their erratic driving habits and missing seat belts, many of them will not take you where you ask if they're not going to earn a big enough fair.  On top of that many of them won't drive you to where you ask if it requires them to go in the opposite direction in which they picked you up.  The worst part is that they'll pretend like they don't speak or understand english, but they do.  And that is why being a taxi cab driver is an occupation Koreans who can't get a job anywhere else take up.  Oh did I mention that they watch TV while driving.  Yeah, I better make sure my insurance is up to date.


Here is my home away from home.  Although my room number begins with a 5, those of you who are familiar with Korean superstitions can figure out what floor I'm actually on.


Here's a daytime view.  I was waiting for a cab so I decided to take a quick snapshot of the front.


Some of these taxi cabs are fairly new vehicles with custom interiors, a far cry from the cabs in Okinawa which are the same ones that were there when I was there back in 2002.  This one had an all leather interior to include the roof.  Not bad for the most disliked occupation in South Korea.


This here is the office I work out of.  As you can see, my clerk is sitting in front or our Superbowl feast.  Okay, not much of a feast since I only ate some of the chicken wings in the red box.  The rest was local Korean food, some of which made you want to run to the bathroom by just looking at it.  I played it safe!


Here's the chicken I munched on.  A bit spicy but actually rather tasty.


On my way to grab some dinner downtown, I snapped a picture of this guy sitting down by his boxes of tangerines.  A bit random but I thought it was interesting.


Making our way through one of the streets in the downtown shopping district.  Just a couple more blocks until we reach our destination.


Ah, we made it!  This burger restaurant comes highly recommended by many.  Looks pretty cool from the outside, let's check out what all the hype is about.


This must be the owner...or maybe dinner?!


Gentlemen, are we ready to order?  Yes, I'll have the roast duck with mango salsa.  Well, unfortunately that wasn't an option on the menu so I settled for the burger named after the restaurant, the "Gorilla Burger". 



Okay, so here is the Gorilla Burger.  It came with a beef patty which I believe is actually ground steak.  It's topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, bbq sauce and served in a somewhat over-sized bun.  The fries were extra.  At last it's time to put this burger to the test.  And the verdict is.......eh.......okay not bad but I've had better.  I can't complain though...my belly was full and my hunger was satisfied. 


Bennigan's?!  WTF...I thought they went out of business.  Obviously the Koreans didn't get the memo.  Well, I have a confession.  I actually ate there about a week ago.  I've eaten at one back in the states a few times and always enjoyed the food.  Although I've been let down in the past by American chain restaurants in foreign countries, I decided to give it a chance.  I was hungry, I saw something familiar so I bit.  After scouring the less than familiar menu, I eventually ordered the grilled chicken ceasar salad.  How hard can that be to make?  Stupid me!  The lettuce looked and tasted a day old.  The dressing was more like watered down mayonnaise.  The chicken had the texture and taste of canned tuna and the croutons were, well I really don't know what they were.  Epic failure, but I didn't have the stomach to send it back.  As far as I know, this is how they make grilled chicken ceasar salad in Korea.  Who am I to judge.


Here is the Novotel Hotel.  This is the hotel I would prefer to be coming home to every night, however it's a bit beyond my budget.  Well, I can't stay there but who said I can't snoop around a bit!



The view from a 7th or 8th floor outdoor patio.  This is the highest I could go since you need a valid room key in order to go any higher.  Damn Nazi's!!! 


Hey I can see my hotel from here!


This is for my mother-in-law who has a thing for these motorized safety manikins used at construction sites instead of paying someone who in the states makes $70k a year to wave a flag.  It was up and running too earning every penny used to make it.


Approaching my hotel.  It's nice being within walking distance from endless shopping and restaurants.  Must...stay...the path...must...save...money!

 
Alrighty.  What we have here is an apparent attempt to probe.  Of course I've got no hard evidence, however why in the world would some random Korean want to be friends with me.  One of which who has very few friends, no pictures and has my hotel listed as an interest.  Obvious!!!

Oh about that evidence.  After asking around, I find out that I'm not the only one to get these random friend request from random Koreans.  I'm on to your shenanigans random Koreans! 
 

  
I pass by this cool looking thing on my way to and from work everyday.  I used it as a landmark during my first week in Daegu as a sign that my stop was coming up. 


This little coffee shop is practically across the street from my office which is very convenient.  Aside from the coffee, lattes and krispy kreme donuts, it has free wifi which allows me to skype it up with Melissa before work and during my lunch break.  Now if I can only get them to turn down the ridiculously loud music so she can hear me. 


You wanna talk about convenient, the chowhall is right behind my office building so skipping out on a well made, tasty, fit for human consumption, military grade meal should never happen.  Sense my sarcasm?!  Most days the choices aren't too bad, however the servers are stingy has heck when it comes to portions.  Oh well, I can always grab another piece of cake!



Staying on the topic of convenience, it just so happens that the taxi stand on my Camp is about 50 ft from my office door.  Makes nice for those days when it's freezing outside, I can watch for taxi's from my office window instead of waiting outside.  

The Original Duck restaurant directly in front of the main gate.  Although duck isn't particularly unusual to most, I've only tried it once when we served a turducken for Christmas one year.  Only 13,000 won...shoot I may stroll in there one day and order me some duck something!


Toll Tuesday
Well today a couple of my co-workers and I had to go purchase a sh!t load of toll passes from one of the local toll plaza's in Daegu.  Although a mini road trip, it was a road trip nonetheless.  Traffic can seem to make any drive into a journey. 


Here is my co-worker counting some Korean won.  This what you would call our prep-time in the fiscal world.


Yoooooour prep time is over...stand-by to make it rain.  Any guesses on how much won is in this picture?  Keep in mind, that's a money band around the stack on the bottom.



On our way to the toll plaza to purchase the toll passes.  Okay we got lost, but in getting lost we actually ran into a different toll plaza so it worked out.


We made it to the toll plaza.  It's wasn't the one we set off to find but it'll do the job.


I believe the characters above us translates to, "Americans Enter at Your Own Risk".


Me doing what I get paid to do, crunch numbers.  With the aid of my iPhone of course.


Count, recount, then count again.  


One of the things I like about the Asian culture is their hospitality.  Here we are buying toll passes at a busy toll plaza and we get served a cup of delicious coffee and some sort of traditional Korean rice cake.  Really?!  At a toll plaza.  Did I mention the coffee was delicious?


Time to head back.  Now how do we get back on the highway?  Thankfully, we were able to figure out the directions given via hand and arm signals on how to get back on the highway.  The language barrier can be a bit of a challenge at times.


Calling all Koreans, calling all Koreans, be advised, it's February.  It's time to take down your Christmas decorations.  Although this is probably more the extreme, there are a good deal of Christmas decorations still up in the city.  I guess they really, really like the Christmas season.   Hey, I'm not complaining.  I've found a country after my own heart!


Ah, found it.  During one of my two or three trips to the train station, I saw this department store and noticed the Louis Vuitton label on the building.  Since Melissa likes this designer, I tried to google it to see where this department store was located just in case I wanted to check it out.  Okay, after like an hour I could not find it for the life of me.  I thought maybe my eyes were mislead but nope, here it is.  Found ya!


A bit hard to see but here's another one of those construction site mechanized manikins at work.  They need to come up with a sign that says, "Robots at Work".


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