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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Daily Duluth Photo of Lupins - Pick of the Day!

My photo was picked for today at Daily Duluth Photo

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ben pitches another great game in Korea! 6/7/11

A great big WOW for the game we just came from - amazing!

We left the hotel with Ben and got to the stadium about 2 hours before the game.  Ben left us and we went to the gift shop to get souvenirs.  The gift shop was closed, but someone that worked at the field, told them to let us in.  We got to shop and get everything we wanted before the shop even opened.  Our first taste of being treated different because of Ben.

The game was against a rival team that Ben has struggled with before, but he did a great job!  He pitched 6 2/3 innings and had a shutout!  He had 10 strike-outs.  When he left the field, the fans shouted 'Jukichi' very loud several times!  They really love him!  His team won 4-0!  He got MVP for the game again and was interviewed on the field and then again with their national sports station.  We had to wait for him and went to the front and then his interpreter (JD) asked us to wait in the business office.  We waited there with the general manager of the team and manager of operations from the team and JD.  Ben met us there and they talked some about his great game and hoping he would be back next year (or the next 10 years!).  They told Mark, they had wanted to have him throw the opening pitch, but it didn't work out - they said hopefully another time.  They gave a gift to Kathryn and one to me.  We didn't know the 'etiquette' of opening there or not and Kat asked - JD said it was up to us, so we took them with us.  The whole evening we felt like we were being treated like 'royalty'.

We left there and went out the main doors and the fans swarmed Ben and shouted 'Jukichi' over and over.  He signed autographs and had photos taken with several of them and then we made our way to the subway.

We went back to our room and opened our gifts - we both got beautiful Korean jewelry boxes!  We had admired them when we were shopping at the Coex Mall, but they were way too expensive to buy, so we were both amazed.  We had not expected anything like that!  It was very generous and kind of them.  

We went for some food and a beer at a bar in the lower level of the bar.  They servers all shouted 'Jukichi' when he came in.  He signed a few autographs there and had his photo taken with fans, too.  One of them even wanted a photo of him with his family.  The whole thing was all so surreal!  Mark was flying high - no early to bed for him tonight!  Tomorrow we are going early to the game so we can meet more officials of the team. What an amazing day!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

South Korea Trip - 2011

We left Duluth on Thursday at 1pm - arrived in Korea at 10:30pm on Friday. Long flight from Mpls to Tokyo - watched 3 movies, read, ate 3 times, took a couple of cat naps - was daylight the whole time - sun just setting when we go to Tokyo.  Had 2 hour layover there then on to Seoul, South Korea. Ben and Kat met us at the airport - both look great. Kat is now 6 months pregnant and looks so cute! Ben had told us not to sleep a lot on the planes so we would be tired when we got there - we just took short cat naps, so got to bed and to sleep by midnight.

Day 1- Saturday: 
Mark was up at 5:45 - he went for a walk to look for coffee - didn't come back til 7:15 - nothing opens until 7 am. Met Kat for breakfast - big meal - eggs, french toast, potatoes, bacon (wimpy, just the way I like it), sausage (we think it is spicy tofu - very good), salad and large glass of orange juice - all for about $12 US with no tax and no tip (they say it is included and are offended if you try to leave a tip). Walked a couple of blocks to the subway and took that to the Coex Mall. Walked there and went to a Kimchi Museum - learned about how they make kimchi - basically like sauerkraut, but spicier as they use hot red peppers as a spice along with salt, garlic, ginseng and white radish. Ben came and met us for lunch at LeGrille (American food). Then we went to the Aquarium in the mall - lots of stuff to see there - very interesting! Came back to the hotel - watched part of Ben's team's game on TV (they were on the road). Went across the street to a Korean Barbecue - it was awesome! The meat was cooked over coals at our table and was delicious! They had lot of food to go along with it - salad, cold spicy soup and several other items. As you eat the salad, they keep bringing more. Mark was stuffed and tired - he went to bed at 8:30pm, I went at 9:30.

Day 2 - Sunday:
both of us awake at 4am after our early to bed and leftover jetlag. Mark got up at 6 and went for a walk for coffee - came back with 'warm coffee in a can' - nothing opens until 7am. The have they glass displays that look like a cooler but they are actually heaters - they have hot coffee in cans in them. Went for breakfast at 7:30 - I had just coffee ($4 for coffee and they don't do refills). The waitress must have felt sorry for me - she brought me a large orange juice - 'on the house'. Mark and I went for a walk after that - very nice cool morning - very few people out at that time of day on a Sunday).

We took the subway and met Ben at the stadium for a tour.  The Bears and the Twins share the stadium and the Bears had a game that night, so the festivities were already under way to get ready for the game.  We got to go out on the field and actually stand on the pitchers mound.  We got a tour of the clubhouse and Ben gave Mark and I hats of his that he no longer wears as the sponsor on the hat has changed.

Then, we went to lunch with Danny - the      that found Ben.  We had a wonderful lunch with a ton of food - way more than we could all eat!  Danny mentioned that it was about $30 a person and he paid for all of us.  He speaks very good English and was fun for us.  He is hoping Ben will return - he would like him to keep coming back for 5 years!

After our meal, Danny drove us to the Olympic Park and dropped us off - amazing!  The Olympics were in Seoul in 1988 and Olympic Park was made for that.  It was beautiful and we only saw a tiny portion of it - we would love to go back and spend a whole day.

We left Olympic Park and went back to the stadium for the ball game - Danny bought us VIP tickets between home and 1st base.  It was really nice and shady - it was really hot in the sun.  The game was fun to watch - very different for Ben to sit with Kat and us to actually just watch a game.  The Bears didn't win and Ben's team (playing out of town) lost, too.  Got back to watch the highlights of Ben's team's game, then off to bed by 10pm.

Day 3 - Monday:
Both awake at 4am again.  I went back to sleep.  Mark got up and tried to go to the gym - they didn't open until 6am, so he played his mandolin until then.  Today is the Korean Memorial Day - most people don't work on this day.

We went for breakfast and then on our tour.  Sunny was our tour guide - very sweet.  Saddly though, she lost her iphone while at our hotel - maybe in the washroom. We went to a Buddhist temple that was right downtown.  It was beautiful. We were able to go inside - had to remove shoes and only whisper.  They were several people in there on floor cushions praying.  There are 3 huge golden Buddhists in the room that the people pray to.

After that we went to the Royal Palace.  Another amazing place.  Huge gated complex where the King and Queen lived.  Lots of history and beauty there.  They have a museum there that we spent 1/2hr in and Mark and I would love to go back to just the museum for a whole day - only saw a part of it.

We went to Outback Steakhouse in Etamal - a shopping district kind of like Mexico - lots of vendors and stores and you can bargain with the people.  At Outback, Kat had NY Strip steak and Ben had ribs - said they were only ok - there steaks have not been good here unless you go to the Korean BBQs.  Mark had a chicken and pasta dish that was good, but way too many noodles for him.  I decided to just have dessert - after a little bread and bloomin' onion.  I had a brownie with ice cream and chocolate - it was delicious!  Even that was a huge portion, so Mark and Kat helped me.

Went shopping hoping to get a dress for Kat, but no such luck - no maternity clothes and no sizes big enough to use as maternity.  She only has jeans that fit her, so she gets very warm.  Ben bought a colorful striped wallet that Kat thinks is pretty weird and Ben loves.  Kat got a scarf and I got  a blue camera bag that doesn't look like a camera bag.  I was able to bargain for mine ($5 off).  Took a taxi back to the hotel to rest up for our evening at the Seoul Tower - dinner and the view.

Day 4 - Tuesday:

We actually slept until 6am!  Mark went to the gym until 7am.  We went for a long walk, had breakfast and then took a taxi to a part of Seoul that had musical instruments - actually was kind of an art district.  We found another small palace-type area.  Found the musical instruments and wandering through a huge 'mall of music' of 2 stories.  Only found a few mandolin's - no one knew what Bluegrass music was.

After the music shopping, we wandered the streets and back alleys for a few hours and did some souvenir shopping.  We even walked some the back small back alley-ways that let to several little restaurants - very quaint!  It was so fun getting a glimpse of the way the people live there.  Lots of store to see.  Taxi back to the hotel to wait for the game - Ben pitching!  See my separate post for the details.

Day 5 - Wednesday: 

Ben called Mark at 6:30 and they went for coffee - Mark was just waking up and Ben couldn't sleep because his should was hurting.  After he came back, we went for a walk around here.  Ben and Kat had a doctor appointment with an ultrasound.  Went to Bennigan's at the Coex Mall for lunch then back for a nap and to the ballgame.  It was an exciting game - the umps did a terrible job and in the end the Twins won due to the other team trying to steal home and being questionably called out.  The game was delayed twice due to rain and there was one loud crack of thunder (yes, I did grab Kat's leg and Mark's and jumped).   During the game, Kat, Mark and I were interviewed for about 15 minutes and photos taken by a journalist (his card said jounalist - with no 'r').  After the game we witnessed the fan mobs again - even worse than the night he pitched!  This time it went on until we got off the subway.  Went to Ben and Kat's room and his agent called on skype.  Ben has several teams interested in him - Japan, Oakland, White Sox and the Twins and of course, Korea.  Ben went over some of the details of what he wants and Justin will start dealing from now until August - he really is a star!  We didn't get to bed until after 1am!

Day 6 - Thursday - sadly, the last day!

We actually slept in today - I got up at 8am and Mark at 8:20.  Mark and I went to the 'Tombs Memorial Park'.  We took the subway all by ourselves and did pretty good.  Came out on the wrong side of the street, so had to go back down and across - almost impossible to cross the main streets.  The park was very nice - lots of greenery and big trees.  Lots are area to walk in the shade.  Found a little back street restaurant to eat lunch and they back to meet Kat and go to the game.  Was a tough game and the Twins lost.  The team goes on the road right after the game.  Ben and Kat had to say their goodbyes - tough for both of them.  Kat said she didn't know it would be so hard.  Her and her mom are going back out in Sept when the baby is about a month old.  Back to pack and get ready to leave at 7am for Duluth.

Day 7 - Friday - home again...

Danny arranged for a ride for us to the airport - takes about 45 minutes - he even went with to make sure we got off ok.  Left for the airport at 7:30 - to Tokyo then to the cities and home.  We got to Duluth at 5:30pm on Friday - took us 22 hours to get home.  I slept quite a bit on the long ride, Mark couldn't sleep much at all, so he crashed at 6:30pm.  

Cultural notes:
  • Coffee is served, but have to ask for 'milk' and sugar - they don't automatically refill.  There is no coffee in the hotels, only hot water for tea.
  • They serve orange juice in large glasses - beverage along with water is included with most meals.   Some restaurants serve coke, some pepsi - most in bottles that they open at the table.
  • The servers are so nice and eager to be of service - they are very quick to clean up plates and ask what more they can do.
  • They do not take tips - ever! Kat said they even chasing her to the elevator to give her tip money back - they are offended by tips, even the drivers. Tips are included in the price, one server told us.
  • Korea prefers you only have one child, they pay for school and college and medical for the first child and you pay for the next one (or ones).  We did see a lot of families with two children, some with one and seldom any with more than that.
  • They eat lots of vegetable and very little if any bread.  The only starch is rice.  A little bit of potato at breakfast.  Their food varies from very spicy to sweet and mild dressings on salads.
  • Their closet doors and cupboard go all the way to the ceiling.  
  • Their toilets are very low and in the hotel and the baseball clubhouse, they have bidets with lots of buttons for different options.  The toilet seat at our hotel is heated, too. 
  • Napkins at meal time are not a regular thing - you have to find them or ask - not at the table 
  • There are very few left turn lanes and those are usually only for buses - buses have their own lanes in the center and in the center of the main streets are the bus stops.  They do have U-turn lanes, so you do that instead of a left turn. 

When we were people watching at the mall and went for walks:

  • Many young men wore neon colors in their tennis shoes - greens, oranges, yellows.
  • Saw a lot of different school uniforms Women wore either flats or very high platform shoes
  •  Everyone walks very fast - a lot of them are on their phones and don't watch for you, you have to move out of their way
  • When you press the 'walk' button on a corner - in just a short time all traffic stops so you can cross in either direction
  • The girls/young women wear very short shorts or skirts, but never anything low cut
  • The guys wear either dress shoes or tennis shoes - no casual shoes - only saw one guy wearing crocs
  • The children are well behaved and we never saw a parent yell at a little one and very seldom heard a baby or child cry or scream.
  • The young men wear huge black framed glasses 
  • We even saw 'high heeled' tennis shoes - that's also what the cheerleaders wear. 
  • There are very few waste receptacles in this city!  In all of our days here, we have only seen about 4 not counting our hotel room.  One of them is near our seats at the stadium.  Even with this, you don't see litter in the streets.  Once in a while, near a construction site you may see an empty box with a few coffee and pop cups in it.   

At the ballfield:
  • Fans can bring food and beverages in
  • They have NO hotdogs or nachos!
  • They have Burger King and KFC all over
  • The fans are amazing - they buy Thunder Sticks and use them to make noise
  • Each team has cheerleaders that keep the crowd going throughout the game - they even changed uniforms part way through - they keep the fans 'electrified' the whole game!
  • They have a 5th inning break to groom the field, but no 'stretch song'
  • People bring lots of food for families to eat