Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Career Changing Decision Made

Good morning,

Well, after CeCe and I journeyed to Pudong last week, we've decided NOT to pursue pearl stringing as our next career move. As you can see, this is a strand of cultured pearls. It is NOT finished and it probably won't be unless I travel to the Pearl Market and ask my friend, Alina to fix it for me.

The Pearl Stringing Class was a nice thought. Oh, we met Valerie who told us she used to work for DeBeers in marketing and public relations. She is originally from Hong Kong and she recently moved here from there. She took up Chinese jewelry making as a hobby and now she teaches expats to do it.

She's very talented. She had on a beautiful strand of sea pearls - both black and white that incorporated Chinese silk cords. I thought it was beautiful. And her watch was made with freshwater pearls and it was beautiful as well.

She provided all the tools and supplies necessary for the class

CeCe and I have decided that we are not cut out to do this type of jewelry making. You must place a knot between each pearl and you must be precise and well, we just don't have what it takes to complete this project.
For those of you who have pearls, please take a minute to read what I've added below. This is the handout Valerie gave us and I think it will help you take care of the pearls you already have. I learned some things at this class I didn't know, like the perfume and cooking information. I will be more careful going forward.
Six factors determining the quality and value of a pearl

1. Color – intensity of color
2. Luster – surface brilliance. Luster is determined by nacre quality.
3. Surface quality – amount of imperfections
4. Nacre quality – the thicker, the more luster and the durability
5. Shape – roundness of the pearl
6. Size

Although size plays an important role in the evaluation of a pearl, color, luster, shape and surface quality are of primary importance. There is no international standard grading system for freshwater pearls or cultured pearl as in the case of the diamond. Each jeweler adapts his own system.

How to differentiate genuine and fake pearl

1. Imitated pearls are glass, plastic or shell beads dipped in ground fish scales and lacquered with the pearl appearance, such as Majorca Pearl and Swarovski Crystal Pearls. When putting pearl stimulant and pearl together, you can see that cultured pearl has an inner glow, but pearl stimulant has only surface shine.

2. Try the “Tooth-test” – if you run the pearl along the biting edge of your tooth, the genuine pearl will give you a gritty feel, but the fake pearl has a smooth surface.

How to clean and care for your pearl jewelry

1. Use a soft cloth to wipe your pearls after wearing and put a drop of olive oil on the cloth to help maintain the luster of the pearls.
2. Only use jewelry cleaner that is labeled “safe for pearls” to clean your pearls.
3. Never use an ultra-sonic cleaner to clean your pearl jewelry.
4. Avoid using any chemicals such as perfume, vinegars and lemon juice to come in contact with your pearls. That means put your perfume/cologne on before adding your pearls and certainly be careful of using these items around your neck, ears, or wrists.
5. Take off your pearl jewelry when applying make-up, perfume, hair spray, cooking, showering, swimming or exercising.
6. Never put your pearl jewelry with other gem jewelry to avoid scratching and keep them in a jewelry pouch.
7. Dry air can damage pearls so do not store them in a safe deposit box or wall safe.
8. Restring your pearls once a year if you wear them often to avoid breakage.

What is a cultured pearl?

Nearly all pearls sold today are cultured pearls. Cultured pearls are a product of nature with the help of technology. A nucleus is implanted into the mollusk to stimulate nacre (mother of pearl) production and over a few years, the nacre builds up layer by layer ultimately creating the pearl.

Types of Pearls

There are two main types of pearls: Salt water cultured pearls and Fresh water cultured pearls.

Akoya Pearl

A saltwater pearl comes from the Akoya oyster. It was first cultivated in Japan by Kokichi Mikimoto in the early 19th Century. It is round or near-round in white or cream color with overtone of rose, silver and cream. Japanese Akoya Pearl is used to be known as the hallmark of classic quality and grace. With the improvement in technology, today Chinese Akoya pearl is as good as the Japanese pearl. In fact, most of the small size (below 8mm) Akoya pearls in Japan come from China and are “assembled” and marked “Made in Japan”.

South Sea Pearls

South Sea Pearls are saltwater pearls found in the South Seas which encompass an area around North Australia and Southeast Asia). Pearls are silver or gold in color around 10-20mm in size.

Tahitian Black Pearls

Tahitian Black Pearls are gown in the waters of French Polynesia. They are saltwater pearls and they come in gray to black colors with red, green or blue overtones. They are also found near Cook Island, Fiji Island, Tonga, the Philippines and sometimes near Panama and The Gulf of Mexico in the Western Hemisphere.

Mabe or Blister Pearls

Mabe or Blister Pearls come from Japan, Indonesia and Australia. They are half spherical cultured pearls grown on the inside shell of a mollusk. The blister pearl that is produced is cut from the shell and the follow inside is filled with wax or glue. A mother of pearl backing is often added.

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater Pearls come from freshwater mussels and are produced in Japan, China and in the United States. The most famous type of freshwater cultured pearl is a Biwa Pearl which used to come form mussels grown in Lake Biwa, near Kyoto, Japan. Because of the pollution, production has stopped. Now, over 20 different species of freshwater mussels are commercially harvested.

Today, China is the largest producing country of freshwater pearls.

Furniture / Rugs / Art

Good morning everyone!

First off, I'd like to thank all those who DO send me emails telling me how much they enjoy the Blog. I enjoy writing it. I AM having a good time here. I know Mike has to work very hard and the language barrier is always there. It can be frustrating! I do think he's enjoying himself too. He's playing golf each week - last Saturday he played 18 holes - he didn't do as well as he wanted but he had fun. And again this Saturday, he's going to play another 18 holes of golf.

Today I got an email from my friend, Beth Marko Fox, Class of 1972, Beaver High School. She asked me for some photos of some fabrics and some cloisonne. I have bought some cloisonne items - not much but I will include them in a future blog. Tomorrow I'm going to the fabric market - again. I need to pick up some slacks and have a fitting for a silk jacket. Mike went to have a fitting for his winter coat last Sunday.

If you've got special requests like Beth's, please let me know. A request forces us to make a field trip and my friends are always up for a field trip - today we're going on the Jewish Ghetto Tour on The Bund. CeCe and I have to be in the lobby here at Shama at 8:30 so her driver, Skip, can take us on the cross-town journey during rush hour. It should be very interesting. More about that next week.

The weather here is pretty good still. Yesterday; however, it was dark and gloomy all day and it drizzled for a while so my friends, CeCe and Ellen and I went to the Furniture Street. It isn't too far from our house and it is close to Ellen's house - but I didn't take my camera with me. I think the best way to describe it is this: It's a street with some furniture malls on it. We went into one Mall that had four floors of furniture stores in them. We stopped in at a carpet store too - beautiful carpets - no, I didn't take any credit cards - I'm leaving them at the apartment - but I did see some beautiful rugs.

These malls remind me of a huge Wickes store. Remember Wickes? Each store had a theme - either leather, contemporary, futons, children's furniture, kitchen, family rooms, some very interesting "Gone with the Wind" furniture and much, much more. We saw things we liked and things we walked right by.

We saw Natuzzi, La-Z-Boy and another brand I cannot remember. I know that Suzi has a chair and ottoman made by these people. It is a Scandinavian brand and the chairs are leather or suede. CeCe's husband, Brian wants one of these chairs in the worst way and they run about $5,000 back in the States. We figured one of these chairs here would run about $1,900. So I'm sure she's taking him over there to check it out.

We also saw some traditional Chinese furniture - some absolutely beautiful things. I will try and go back to take some photos of what they look like. There was some contemporary Chinese furniture that I didn't like too. Some stores don't want you to take photos because that might mean you're stealing their designs. You and I know that I can't steal designs - I can only appreciate them. I'm not talented in that realm - I just recognize great beauty! You know - your child's first crayon sketch, the American flag, the Grand Canyon, a Pittsburgh skyline? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I like what I like.

Speaking of beauty, we also saw an art street that had some good and some bad art. I'm taking Mike back over there because I saw some great Chinese calligraphy and some beautiful watercolors. My Gunny - we called my maternal grandfather that name when we were kids - was a fabulous artist. My Aunt Frances is a fabulous artist herself but she has grandchildren to have fun with now so she doesn't dabble anymore. Sure wish she did though -I've been trying to get her to draw/paint/sketch me something for many years. My cousin, Tommy New is also an accomplished artist. God grants certain gifts to each of us. I can type. . . that's my gift!

Anyway, back to Gunny - my mother gave me two paintings he did that were in her dining room for years. They need re-framed but as all good art. They are currently at her house because I didn't want to put them in the storage facility. Yesterday, I saw some nice pieces that I'd like to buy for our apartment here and they will complement my other pieces at home too.

We also stopped by a porcelain store that had ginger jars, bowls, vases and the most amazing sinks. Yes, sinks. I saw some of the same thing last weekend at the Hongqaio Flower Market. I went there with John while Mike was golfing. The woman at the Flower Market told me that the plain sinks (usually one color) are about 150 RMB - about $20. The more detailed or those with lots of color range from 180 RMB to about 300 RMB. I will definitely be bringing back one or two of those. I will try and get some photos of those too. You won't believe how gorgeous they are.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mail - Ma'am - I've got mail for you!


A little over a week ago, I was talking with Mary Louise on Google Chat and then I called her in Clearwater, Florida. We were discussing China and she asked me what I missed most. Well, after my family and my friends, I have to admit I miss my magazines the most. I would get all kinds of great dinner ideas from them. I've been reading them online but it is just NOT the same.

SO **************************************************

Mary Louise Cookson (Diogardi) sent me SEVEN - count them 7 magazines in a big envelope last week and they arrived today. It only took 7 days to reach me and they are in great shape. Better Homes & Garden, OK, People, US Weekly, SELF, Bon Appetit, and Southern Living (yes, Cris - I'm so excited to read it). I'm in heaven now! The concierge was amazed and now I have to share with him too so he can practice his English!

CeCe and I went to Just Grapes, a great wine bar and small cafe down the street and took the Better Homes and Garden - there are crock pot recipes in it and I'm going to do sauerkraut and pork tomorrow in CeCe's White/Westinghouse crockpot. I tried to buy one at Best Buy but the model she has is out of stock. They are ordering me one but God knows when it will be here. This model has Chinese markings so she has to give me the English translation so I don't do anything rash but hey - my house will smell so good tomorrow. I cannot wait. Kate, I know your mouth is just watering. . . don't drool sweetheart!

I am the envy of all the American women in my building and elsewhere in Shanghai. I hope to look through them all before I lend them out! Wait until Mike gets home tonight!

Mary Louise - you will never know how much I appreciate this. It probably made our whole week!

Tomorrow CeCe is getting her sea shipment so she's going to be in heaven tomorrow - today - well, TODAY - it's my turn!

The British are Coming! The British are HERE!

Yes! They have arrived. The British department store, Marks & Spencer opened their Chinese flagship store here in Shanghai on October 2nd. Mike and I went after Mass last week and we had a great time. They have "large" sizes for regular Western people and great food! Check out the roasted red peppers, the horseradish sauce and the free trade coffee! Such a find!
Last week was a good week. We met Mae-Ling Tien, a lovely young Chinese American housewife from California. She and her husband have a 7 year old son. CeCe, Ellen and I went over to Anfu Lu to meet her at iiiiT which is lovely cafe in a gated community called The Summit. Very nice atmosphere. Then we dined at the Cafe Montemarte. It was lovely restaurant in the French Concession. We stopped at the Hu & Hu sofa store and found some great buys on Chinese furniture (I've been looking for tables) and some lovely sofas that Marybelle Hu can make up for clients in no time at all. Neat fabrics - colors you'd never imagine and some neat accessories too!
Saturday, Mike and I did a romantic thing. We grabbed a taxi and journeyed out to Hongmei Lu. We jumped out in front of the Pearl Market and dashed across the street to the Movie Store - yep, that's the name of the store. I had bought some great DVDs there a week or so before for 16 RMB which is about US $ 2.50. I cannot understand why they are so cheap especially when the quality is first rate. We've seen some pretty poor movie quality from some other stores but this store has 3 floors and it is absolutely amazing. I think I'll buy the MASH series for 64 RMB the next time I go out there. I would love to watch all those old MASH reruns. The problem - you cannot take them home with you. It is not legal to take them back to the States - I can understand why but the quality is first rate. Maybe they buy in such quantity, do you think that's why the prices are good? So we bought some CDs so Mike could download some music to his MP3 player - I stored all our other CDs - I wasn't thinking when United Van Lines came to pack them. And we bought The Kite Runner - I cannot wait to watch it. Read the book and read about the movie.
Then we went to Mexicolindo, a cute little Mexican restaurant on the Hongmei Pedestrian Street for dinner. Margarita and shrimp fajitas for me and a margarita and taco platter for Mike. I think it cost us about US $45. Not bad for a nice dinner and a seranade by the local Rolling Stones band. We didn't get there in time for Happy Hour but we were happy!
I still haven't been to Walmart yet. I don't have any plan to go either. Just thought I'd let you all know that. . .
Today I picked up a sweet baby gift for Miss Karina and Rob's new baby boy. I'll send it off this weekend after I get some wrapping paper at Taikang Lu on Friday. CeCe's driver, Skip will take us there on Friday. This Saturday is a golf marathon with the Westinghouse guys - they are playing 18 holes so I'll be alone all day. It's a shame - I'll have to get a manicure or something.
Today, one of our friends was sick so Skip took us to a Chinese pharmacy. I was expecting roots and bugs and stuff and guess what we found there? Tylenol Cold for 25 RMB which is about US$3.50. Enough for ten days. It's just up the street and they had Robitussin there too. I was amazed. It was so clean and the clerk spoke a wee bit English. China amazes me every day!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On A Magic Carpet Ride!

Good morning everyone!

The American Women's Club had a fundraiser - they call it "Shopping for a Cause". It was last Saturday evening and Mike and I went along with Kirk, Devin and Sandy. The event was a Carpet Auction and it was great. Denice missed a good time and I bet she would have bought one - We DID! We won one too! It was the Luck of the Irish!
The cause was the Starfish Foster Home Foundation. Amanda is the director there and she was in attendance at the event. Their web page is listed below - check it out - but be ready for some tears - it's very hard. You must realize that these beautiful children have basically been abandoned because their parents cannot afford to take care of them. They have been born with some disfigurement like cleft palate or spina bifida. Amanda is known for her kindness and these children somehow find their way to her. She arranges for the much-needed surgeries that the children need - the surgery that gives them a second lease on life. You will see that she brings these children to Shanghai for these surgeries and it is quite expensive. Some of the doctors donate their time so if you know of a doctor with these special skills - please refer them to her.
So click on her webpage and check it out.
The event was supposed to be held at Shama Luxe at Xintandi which is the upscale Shama property near Xintandi - the South Side Works of Shanghai. Mike, Kirk and I took a taxi over there and were amazed at the lovely location. The apartment building was beautiful but the Clubhouse that all the apartment buildings in that gated community building share was breathtaking. When the carpet company arrived at Shama, they realized that there would be too many carpets AND the group of people who had RSVP'd was growing by leaps and bounds so they had to move it to the Clubhouse - it was a great idea!
I didn't take my camera so I don't have photos of the property but the carpets - the one on the left is the one we won - it's about 2' by 3.5' and is mostly maroon and grey (Beaver Bobcat colors) while the one we bought, which is about 4' by 6' is gold and green with some red in it. It looks love here in our apartment (OR it will once the housekeepers help me re-arrange the living room Thursday afternoon). We have the smaller one in the hallway leading to the bathrooms and bedrooms. The larger one will look wonderful with our mossy green sofa and love seat that is now in storage in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania.
The food was great. Little nibbles that consisted of small shrimps sitting on a lettuce base in a remoulade sauce. Sauteed mushrooms on a puff pastry shell. There were little pieces of chicken in teeny pita pockets with cheese and a mustard sauce. There were many other things too numerous to mention. The cheesecakes were yummy too - blueberry and chocolate. The wines were great too.
The CARPETS - well, I had no clue what to expect. None of us knew what to expect, but the gentlemen from the carpet company in Singapore were excellent. I found maybe about 14 that would have worked for us. There were some huge ones as well.
Edmund started began the auction explaining what was expected - reasonable bids - and then of course, when people bid low, he would attribute that to the world-wide recession. Some of these carpets retailed for upwards $15,000 and were going for $5,000. We were very pleased that ours was much, much, much cheaper than that because it was much smaller and because Mike was sitting quite close to me holding my arm down!
Each attendee received a book so we'll know what to look for next time. It talks about the care of your carpet and how to hang it on the wall should you want to do that. There were also some points to make on the history of knotted carpets and where they come from. It is very interesting and I intend to sit on the balcony some morning in the sun and digest it from cover to cover.
They did pull about four carpets that did not elicit any bids and then the prizes were awarded. My friend, Sharyn pulled my number and I won the little carpet. I was so surprised. Very happy and surprised. Mike was able to carry both of them home in the taxi. Needless to say, we will go again next year and try and coerce other couples to go as well.

Le Cheile - It looks French BUT It's Irish!

And it means - together! Of course we all know the Irish know how to party and Party We Did a few weeks ago over on Tao Jiang Road.

Most of you know Mike and I were married on St. Paddy's Day - our 30th Anniversary is next year and we are most excited about it. However, we'll be here in China and so we had to investigate how we will celebrate.

My friend, Kristin, author extrordinare, told us about this Irish group here in Shanghai.

O'Malley's is a wonderful Irish pub close to where we live. Before I got here, Mike and the team would go there on Saturdays and watch some "football" - you know the European style. . .
But for this party, we went with some of our Westinghouse team and the Corning team jumped in the van and traveled to O'Malley's. The food was great but the people were even better.

When I walked in and saw the band, they were singing "Whisky in the Jar" and I shed a wee tear. It reminded me of the many St. Patrick's Day Parades we went to with the Doheny's and the Koehler's. There was lots of Guinness and another Czech beer that Sandy said was a very popular beer in the Czech republic. So Michael Stay - check it out! I've posted a photo of the label from the beer.

And we met Sidney who is Czech and he was dancing up a storm. Denice learned how to play the harmonica - move over Bill Slaman - and we had a great time. The food was spectacular - small burgers - grilled outside and they were just the way I like them - medium - and Irish stew with carrots and potatoes in a rich beef gravy. Mike like the grilled oysters and that made him smile.
We joined this club and now we'll be able to party with them whenever there is a reason - which should be quite often.

A good time was had by all!


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Korean Folk Village

This was a real treat for us. There were tons of Korean kids in matching outfits denoting their schools running around everywhere. They were absolutely adorable and we enjoyed their greetings and their requests for our photos - YES, they asked if they could take our photos with their cell phone cameras! We were touched.

We met a nice young man who is a teacher at one of the schools. He's from Connecticut and he was extremely proud of his students.

Then we met another young man who was from Los Angeles, California who was visiting Seoul for a conference. He was waiting for his friend to text him the score from the Pittsburgh - Baltimore game. When he got the score - it was not to our advantage and I was so worried about what the end of the game would bring. Kate went to the game and she must have fallen asleep without texting the final score - we didn't know for two days that we WON! Hey Mr. Rooney - you need Alan Faneca back!

I'm adding quite a few photos here - I still haven't mastered posting photos - in the right order as you can see from the previous posting but hey, I know you are all smart people and you'll find the right photo and match it with the right paragraph.

There is a photo of a woman who is spinning silk. And a photo of a woman who helped me in the gift shop. I bought a lovely wallet and some magnets for Kate and Katie Mo's refrigerator. I hope I remember to bring them home with me.

You'll also see some photos of the farmer dancers who have drums and these really neat. Then we went to a Traditional Korean Wedding ceremony. It was very interesting. The groom has blue on and the bride has little red dots on her cheeks. She is pictured here with her attendants. Then they put her in a really neat box that some groomsmen carry. Her new husband rides alongside her on a horse. In that photo, Mike and I are standing in front of the groom -he's behind us on his horse. It was so wonderful.

I think Mike really enjoyed me meeting his Korean friends. I so liked them all - I wish I could have seen DY and met his wife, Okhee - he is such a gentleman. DY - Get Well Soon!

Land of the Morning Calm

Hi Everyone!

It was Golden Week in China last week. A national holiday, so Mike and I jumped a plane and took a little trip to Seoul, South Korea. Mike used to travel to South Korea in a previous capacity at Westinghouse and he has friends there. So, he thought it would be great for me to meet them. He was right - it was a great trip!

We took a China Eastern Air Bus to Seoul on Monday evening, September 29th. It's just a short flight - one hour and 45 minutes. It was smooth flying and landing in the Land of the Morning Calm. Here's Mike beside a huge Korean folk drum.

Immigration was easy and fast so after we grabbed some cash (Korean Won) we jumped on a bus we thought was going downtown to the Korea Air Terminal. It stopped at every telephone pole and hotel/apartment building so when we got to the Ramada, we hopped off and grabbed a taxi. Kate got us a great rate at the Renaissance Seoul and we were very impressed. The lobby is spacious and well appointed and the best thing about it was we could drink the water from the tap in the bathroom! We decided to grab something to eat so we went to the Trevi Lounge where there were three Fillipino singers belting out some great tunes, a good club sandwich with a great glass of Savingnon Blanc!

Tuesday morning, Mrs. Yun Hee Lee and Mr. O. H. Park from the Westinghouse Seoul office arrived to take us to the Korean Folk Village before 9 am. We quickly crossed the street to Dunkin Donuts to get an iced coffee and a Boston Creme donut - can you believe it? Another great thing - (I still think about YOU - Jeff Abraham every Friday - this is a little hint only the EDMC staff will know about).

The Korean Folk Village is south of the city about one hour. The roads here are amazingly good. Lots of traffic but nothing like Shanghai. All very orderly and clean. The taxis all have GPS and TV screens in the front of them so you can watch Korean TV. It was cool! The Korean Folk Village reminded me of Williamsburg, Virginia - all the staff were in their traditional Korean costumes and there were different types of houses that you would find in different parts of Korea. I will write more about the Folk Village in another blog. Stay tuned.

Then we went to Itaewon which is a street near the US military base in Seoul that has lots of bars and Western restaurants and little stalls with Korean souvenirs and silk goods, celadon pottery and jewelry stores. Mr. Park and Mrs. Lee took his to a shop in the basement of a building. The woman who owned the shop is going out of business and Mr. Park wanted to buy his wife a Christmas gift. Mike bought me a lovely amethyst pendant, earrings and ring. All are set with an emerald cut stone and the color is amazing. Amethysts are recent finds in Korea - probably within the last twenty years. A man found a mine and didn't know what the purple rocks were. So he sold it and the second man kept it around for a while and then sold it to another man and woman who have now made a killing on the stones.

Then we went to a lovely restaurant called Korea House. Here we met Mr. J.K. Yang for dinner in a small dining room. It was lovely - there were some things I didn't care to try - like the eel - but for the most part, I tried lots of different things. I had some vegetables and bulgogi (bar b q beef), pumpkin porridge, rice (of course) and some great sweetened pecans and sesame appetizers. Then we went to a large auditorium to see some traditional Korean musicians and dancers. Their costumes were truly beautiful and each dancer was more beautiful than the next one. They were all very graceful and the men dancers were very talented. We couldn't take photos here but I did send Kate and my mom and sister some postcards. Please see Mike and I above with the Korean dancers!

Wednesday - October 1st was the Korean National Day. There were military parachutists into the Olympic Stadium about a mile down the road. There was also a martial arts exhibition which reminded me of the Chinese drummers in the Opening Ceremony at the Olympics - complete and utter precision of hundreds of military men and women who performed board breaking and concrete breaking movements. It was very impressive. Then there was a parade of hundreds of military men and women and military equipment down the street in front of our hotel.

On Wednesday morning, we ventured out early after our second Dunkin Donuts experience and walked down the street to the Intercontinental Grande Hotel - Mike used to stay at this hotel during his previous stays in Seoul. It is right next to the Hyundai Department Store that was very nice - although the prices were high and there wasn't anything there I could wear - I won't buy designer fashions and really, I've lost quite a bit but I'm not a size 2 yet! They had a grocery store in the basement of this store and a food court with all kinds of interesting items - wine - chocolate - bakery items - coffees and teas. Very classy place.

Mike made dinner reservations for us at the Sheraton Walker Hill. I know, we've crossed from Marriott to Hilton to Starwood properties and well, you have to see them all to appreciate how lovely they all are.

I truly wanted to go to see Walker Hill. Back in the day, when I worked at Westinghouse for Bill Thornton, he would travel to Seoul quite often to negotiate contracts and when he would return, he would go on and on about the Sheraton Walker Hill hotel. Good food AND a Las Vegas Revue! The dinner was lovely - it was a package deal and it cost us $300 for the dinner and show - yes, it was exorbitant but hell, I'm worth it! Mike and I both had a lovely scallop and salmon appetizer, a nice salad, a fabulous filet that was done perfectly and tasted divine and then a lemon cheesecake for dessert.

And then it was "Onto the show!" It consisted of some traditional Korean dancing - much like the ones we'd seen the day before and then the beautiful show girls. I had to work hard to keep poping Mike's eyes back in their sockets!

There was a magician, and a weird sort of South American guy who had long hair and used some kind of metal balls on strings that he twirled around and hit the floor with. Odd sort of thing, he was. And there were the five Brazilian motorcyclists who road their motorcycles in a metal ball - all five of them at once. It was amazing.

Thursday we went to the DMZ. And for those of you who are young and naive - that is the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. It is a strip of land about one hour north of Seoul that is a "no man's land" with barbed wire and lots of Korean soldiers who patrol. I felt very safe on this tour. There are 153 families who live in this area farming and selling their local produce.

We boarded a bus about 7:30 am with Jason Kim, our tour guide. (I don't think he was related to John Kim - this is a hint for my former Westinghouse colleagues). Then we drove to Imjingak park where we disembarked and got on another larger Greyhound-type bus for the ride to The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel in the administrative district of Panju. This is one of 4 or 5 tunnels that the South Koreans found that were designed to serve as a path for 30,000 North Korean soldiers on their way to Seoul during an invasion. This tunnel is just 52 km away from Seoul. It is 1,635 meters in length and 2 meters in height and width. Mike descended into the tunnel - I chose to stay up. It was hard because he is taller than 2 meters and it was pretty steep.

Off to the Dorasan Station which is a train station situated at the northernmost international train station in South Korea. It was designed to be the symbolic place of division but also the completion of the Seoul-Sinuiju railroad line. After the South Koreans built this beautiful train station, the North Koreans decided they didn't want to play anymore - they would not accept any trains through their country into Siberia where they could link up with other countries - China, Russia, Mongolia and move people into eastern Europe. This is also where sometimes relatives from the North meet their families from the South - those who they have been estranged from due to the Korean conflict.

Then onto the Dora Observatory where we could see over the abyss into North Korea. There were those high powered viewers that you could use to see but you could not take any photos - except from behind "the yellow line". See the photo of Mike and I with a smoggy North Korea in the background. . .

Thursday evening we enjoyed a wonderful Hot Pot Dinner with Yun Hee Lee, her husband, Mr. Park and their lovely 8 year old daughter Rebecca. See photo of us at dinner. . .

Friday was another lovely day - 70's and lots of walking. We decided to go visit the Buddhist Temple near the Intercontinental Hotel. I know you will agree with me that this is a beautiful temple - the colors are so vibrant.
By and large, our short trip to Seoul was both wonderful and truly a pleasure! I'm so glad I went and I'm so glad I finally got to meet the wonderful people in the Westinghouse Korea office in Seoul.
We're back in Shanghai now - living the life and counting down the days (70) until we can see you all again in Chicago - DePaolis cousins (December 12th) and in The Burgh (December 15th). Rita Gismondi has already scheduled Happy Hour for Tuesday the 16th (for me). Mike will stop by the K of C - Penn Allegheny Council 4242 for some much-needed catch-up.
I hope all my EDMC friends can stop by - place to be determined but I bet it will be the Renaissance Hotel (Kate's place) on Sixth Street. I am so looking forward to seeing you all and share some Christmas Cheer! It will truly be a blessing to be back in the Burgh with family and friends.
Until something else exciting happens. . .