Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sushi Ai, O'Fallon, MO

Post number 100!! Woohoo!!

Alrighty, enough of that.

Next up is Sushi Ai. Sushi Ai has several locations in the area, but the only one I've been to is the one on Hwy K in O'Fallon, MO (so I can't attest to the quality of the others). More specifically, it's located next to Dierbergs at 2981 Hwy K, O'Fallon, MO 63368. Their website offers the menu, ordering online for pick-up or a quick dine-in, and the ability to make reservations.

In addition to a full menu of Japanese food, they offer an all-you-eat sushi special for lunch and dinner. The all-you-can-eat lunch special is just $12.99 while the dinner version is $17.99. Also, it's available 7 days a week. Now, you may be thinking that your selections are fairly limited and it's not very good, but that isn't the case here. You're given a pretty robust sheet to fill out with how many of an item you want. The options include some appetizer items, like miso soup and vegetable tempura, a selection of 7 or 8 sushi items, and a wide variety of rolls to choose from (I'm partial to the California roll and avocado roll).
The all-you-can-eat menu

Here are some shots of some of the food that either I or my dining mates have ordered.
Greg's selection. I don't remember what he ordered, but that's a Missouri roll on the end closest to the camera.

Matt's selection. I don't remember what he ordered, either.

My noms: a cucumber roll, California roll, avocado roll, and avocado sushi.

After we received our order, we put in another for our second round. It took forever and a day to get our second order, so if you're going during the week on lunch break from work, put in everything on your first order. Now, I'll warn you that on the menu they say that if you don't eat all of what you order, they will charge you extra for what you didn't eat. I'm not sure of the truthfulness of this, but we finished all of our orders so it wasn't an issue. Now, I don't eat a lot of rolls or sushi since I don't eat fish, but what I ordered was really good. So good in fact that I made my brother, Wes, and Doug go back with me on the following Saturday so I could gorge myself on sushi-goodness again. The guys ordered off of the menu and I ordered a buttload of sushi.
Why yes, that is seven rolls of deliciousness. And I ate them ALL, bwahaha!

Doug ordered the chicken yaki soba, I think.

Wes ordered the teriyaki chicken.

My brother watching the teriyaki chicken sizzle.

My brother had ordered the Missouri roll and gyoza (dumplings), but I didn't take a picture of them. I think I was too busy eyeing my plate of rolls. Anyway, everyone said their food was really good so I didn't feel as bad for railroading them into going here with me so I could fulfill my avocado roll fantasies. As for my grub, the avocado has always tasted really fresh and creamy, the seaweed doesn't taste fishy, and the rice is, well, sticky :)

The servers here are friendly enough, but I'd watch the floor. The floor is very slippery for some reason. It feels like they've polished it too much or maybe they have too much soap in their mop buckets and it dries with a soapy film. It may also be from humidity, I don't know, but just watch your step when you're walking.

So, if you're looking for some good Japanese food at a reasonable price, definitely check out Sushi Ai. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with the selection, quality, and price.

Bonus pic from today's lunch (7/16/2013):
Avocado sushi, avocado rolls, California rolls, and a honey roll.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Apartment Hunting in O'Fallon, MO

So, upon coming back to the U.S. in January, I needed a place to live. I had the apartment in Springfield with a roommate still, but driving 3.5 hours to work from there everyday just wasn't feasible. I needed a place in or near O'Fallon, MO. In the interim, I was staying in a hotel. And oh what a joy that was.

Since my new job was in O'Fallon, I wanted to live reasonably close to the workplace (within a 20 - 30 min drive maximum). Unfortunately, a lot of the apartments in the area are crazy expensive and nickel and dime you to death for everything.

"You want to flush your toilet? That'll be 50 cents per flush."

So I made a list in my mind of requirements for the apartment:
  1. Pet friendly
  2. Two bedrooms
  3. First floor
  4. Under $800/mth preferably
  5. Clean, quiet neighborhood

I found that this list was workable, but the price point was going to be higher. Every complex that I looked at in the O'Fallon area between Hwy 64 and Hwy 70 was nice and in a good neighborhood, but finding a two bedroom under $800/mth was impossible with my salary. I did find several complexes that were based on income that had 2 bedrooms available for around $600 or $700, but my salary was too high for those. Most of the 2 bedroom/1 bath places I found ranged from $850 - $1000 as the base cost. You may be asking why I would want a 2 bedroom apt since I'm single and just live with my cat. That is reasonable. I wanted a place with 2 bedrooms so I could have some storage space and have an extra bedroom if anybody wanted to come visit. I looked online for places in St. Peters and St. Charles, but the prices were about the same if you figure in how much I'd spend in gas each day going to and from work, so I stuck to O'Fallon.

It also seems that the few companies that own the apartment complexes are about even on the prices for extra amenities and deposits. An odd thing that I found was that some complexes would quote you a price for rent, but that rent amount would only be locked in for a few days: they adjusted rent based on supply and demand. I don't know if other places do this, but it's the first time I had ever heard of apartment complexes doing that and was very surprised. Every complex that I looked at also had a crazy-high, non-refundable pet deposit ($250 - $400) in addition to the regular deposit. They also have application fees when you apply to live there and will run background checks at most of the places. Due to this (yet another) extra fee, I only applied to one place. If I was rejected, I would've applied to another, of course.

As far as the nickel-and-diming you to death that I mentioned earlier, tons of things cost extra. Want a car port to park under? That'll cost extra each month. Have a pet? That'll raise your rent a bit each month. Want a garage to park in? That'll be more. Want a storage place? Well, that's not free. Need a washer and dryer but don't want to buy a set? We have some available, but that'll cost ya. By time it's all said and done, you could potentially raise your rent by $200/month if you have a pet, want to rent a washer and dryer, and want a covered place of some sort to park your car. Not to mention that this doesn't include any utilities or cable/internet.

So, did I finally settle on a place, or did I decide that Bessie and I should just live out of a tent along the river? Well, I'm horrible at fishing and don't eat fish, so we finally found an apartment. It met most of my criteria: it's pet friendly, has 2 bedrooms, and is in a good neighborhood. Unfortunately, I'm on the third floor (ooohh, my poor bad knee) and not exactly close to any of the parking areas, and it's definitely not under $800/month. But, I suppose the good outweighs the bad: friendly staff, nice clubhouse (gym, pool table, business center, and a movie theater room), swimming pool, tennis court, sand volleyball court, a trash compactor instead of open dumpsters, gated community (granted, the gates aren't working), package holding at the office, large bathroom, spacious other rooms, easy access to the highways and to work, and it's in a nice subdivision (Winghaven).

The bad would be that ants are horrible (but I've heard they're bad everywhere this year for some reason), stairs kill my knees, a parking spot is difficult to find near my apartment, sidewalks by my apartment flood when it rains, I can hear everything going on outside as if I'm on the first floor with my windows open, and the trash compactor is on the back side of the complex, so I have to chauffeur my trash there. I suppose the "bad" things would be a problem at most places in general, so eh.

Overall, the apartment hunting experience in this area was eye-opening and very different from apartment hunting in Springfield, MO. The extra fees and much higher rent were probably my first major shocks. If you're looking in the area for an apartment (or anywhere), here are my recommendations:
  1. research online first to try to weed out some places.
    Check,, or Google apartments in X city to get a starting list of potential places.
  2. Have a list of must-haves to narrow down the search.
  3. Read reviews.
    The apartment websites and Google will both have review sections from people that have lived there. It's been my experience that the majority of the reviews are negative reviews, so check those out for any potential red flags. It just seems that most people that are happy with their apartment complex don't take the time to post a review.
  4. Scope out the neighborhood.
    Do a drive around the area to check it out, look at crime maps available online, and check the school ratings (if that's important for you.
  5. Finally, go look at the apartment and talk to the staff of the complex.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Farmhouse Sandwiches, O'Fallon, MO

Alrighty, one of the first places I want to blog about is Farmhouse Sandwiches. Farmhouse Sandwiches is located in a shopping center on Technology Drive just off of Hwy K (1120 Technology Drive, Suite 113A, O'Fallon, Missouri 63368 is the address).

I've tried a couple of different sandwiches here and thought they were both really good. They use Boar's Head meats and fresh bread. They also sell soups, salads, and freshly made cupcakes. They aren't exactly cheap, but all of the food is of excellent quality. A full sandwich w/ a bag of chips or fruit will run you about $8.50 depending on the meat you choose. You can also do a combo thing with a half sandwich and a cupcake for about the same price. They even have vegetarian options and a few kids' items, too. You can also purchase the variety of meats by the pound to take home with you, and they're cheaper than the local grocery stores on that.

According to their website, they're open from 10am - 7pm during the week, 10am - 4pm on Saturday, and closed on Sunday. However, the last time I went there (in May, I think), their hours were 7am - 1pm during the week for breakfast and lunch. I'll have to go back by sometime soon and check on that.

The employees were always friendly when I would go in and make a point to try to get to know what you like on your sandwich and remember you for next time. The service is also always quick. While it's more expensive that Subway, Quizno's, or other sub shops, I think the quality of the food more than makes up for it.

A Farmer Joe's Italian sandwich (half of it). It also comes with their homemade banana pepper mustard, which is tangy, a bit spicy, and a bit sweet. It's a bit strong and can be overpowering, so I ask for it on the side so I can apply just a bit.

Pastrami on marble rye bread. I think this is the only place around here where I can get a pastrami sandwich.

Turkey on wheat. Delicious.

I'm fairly picky about the meat I eat on sandwiches and otherwise, but all of these were absolutely delicious. It might be a bit pricier than your average sandwich shop, but it's totally worth it for good quality!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Future of Yeongtong Yummies

So, I’ve been taking a bit of a hiatus from blogging for the past few months while I was getting settled into the new job, city, and apartment. I also didn’t know what I wanted to do with the blog since I had left Korea. I still have some things rolling around in my head about Korea as far as information for expats and places that I visited that I hadn’t got around to blogging about before I left.

I think I’ve decided that I will keep the blog going: it will just have a different focus now. I’m back in the U.S. now living in a city that I had never been to before, so there are plenty of new places to explore and visit. I also had to go through the process of re-furnishing a new apartment, searching for that apartment in O’Fallon, and learning a new area.

I will also keep the blog name Yeongtong Yummies since I like it and it’s become part of me in a way after a few years.

So! Expect some new blog posts very soon!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Goodbye, Korea.

Oh, Korea.

I think that is one of the phrases I uttered most during my 5 years living there.

Wow. Five years. I can’t believe that I lived in Korea for five years.

I finished graduate school and zipped to the other side of the world to teach English while still looking for a job in my chosen profession (technical writing). I taught some brilliant and amazing kids at Avalon. I met and worked with some amazing people: Korean and foreigners. I miss every single one of them. I also loved Korea – I loved the people, I loved the culture, I loved the history. I embraced everything about it. I also spent a lot of time with Koreans, so that helped.

I loved the pride that the Korean people have in their culture and history. I loved seeing the old buildings mixed in with the new, modern architecture. I loved how they preserved their architecture and other cultural artifacts. I was just as sad as everyone else while watching Namdaemun burn down during Lunar New Year in 2008. Koreans are intensely proud of their country and their heritage. I believe this is because over the course of their history, other people kept trying to take it away from them.

However, it is that intense pride and homogeneousness of the culture that began to irritate me the last few years. Many Koreans very much have the mindset to follow whatever the masses are doing or whatever is "Korean" and refuse to think for themselves or outside of the box. I have a friend whose parents would complain to her that she needed to "act more Korean." Another friend would get upset with me if I ever said anything remotely negative or critical about Korea even if Korean media had said the exact same thing I expressed just because I was a foreigner. Another friend still believes that "fan-death" is a thing because it's been so ingrained in the culture even if it's wrong. Yet another friend had been told that the grandchildren of mixed couples (Korean and non-Korean) would be mentally handicapped.

I know foreigners that have been spat at, yelled at, cursed at, or just given the stink eye by older Koreans because they are out with a Korean of the opposite sex (friends or dating). I have friends that have refused to teach lessons in Korean schools because they blatantly promote racism or racial stereotypes. I have a friend that was told by a 5-year-old student that she (my friend) "lived on the street because foreigners couldn't have apartments, couldn't cook or anything because foreigners are stupid and can't do anything" (paraphrasing from a rusty memory). I have been shoved out of the way while standing in line for something, I have been cut in front of in line, and I've had rude little Korean children just shove past me simply because I'm a foreigner and, therefore, non-existent. Even though Korea may tout itself as a modern, hip, and progressive country, in many ways it is just like America in the 1950s and still has a long way to go before it actually has the face that it shows to the world.

When little things began to irritate the crap out of me (see earlier blog postings), I knew it was time to leave and go back to the US - plus I missed my family and friends. Despite all of the things that bugged me, I will still miss all of my friends (Korean and foreign), Korean BBQ, Suwon, and many other things about the country.

So I leave a little over five years later more jaded and cynical, but I do still love Korea: Suwon was my home for so long, how can I not love it?

And I still can’t believe I'm gone.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Treasure Island Hotel & Casino; Canter's Delicatessen - Las Vegas, Nevada

So, when I go to Las Vegas, I like to stay at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino. It's not very expensive and I like the location - towards one end of The Strip. You can get some great deals on Expedia including this hotel, or you can sign up on their website for some great specials.

Probably the biggest reason that I stay here is the beds. Oh my god. Best sleep ever. The beds are apparently so popular here that they even mention them on their web site. The casino itself has a nice variety of games and is a good place to pass time. I'm partial to PengWins since I won on that game quite a bit. I liked the cows.

The resident shows at Treasure Island are Mystere by Cirque du Soleil and Sirens of TI. Mystere is absolutely amazing and a definite must see if you're in Vegas. I've never seen the Sirens of TI show, but it seems to get good reviews.

There are also a nice variety of restaurants inside Treasure Island, too. I'm a big fan of The Coffee Shop. The name can be misleading - it's a full restaurant open 24 hours. I think I've eaten the majority of my meals in Vegas here. The servings are huge, so bring your appetite. The morning of the day that I was going to pick up Dougie at the airport, I decided to get a light breakfast of oatmeal and toast.

Ha! "Light". Foolish mortal.

Yeah. I don't think "small portions" is in their vocabulary. The bowl of oatmeal was huge. I chose bananas as my topping, so it came with a whole banana sliced up in a bowl along with some brown sugar and milk. The wheat toast was two slices of buttered toast. I don't know what it is, but buttered toast at a diner always taste better than at home...

There is also a deli called Canter's Delicatessen. I ate here twice and wasn't disappointed at all. The prices are a bit steep, but everything in Vegas is.

This is half of my pastrami sandwich

My takeout for dinner one night: patty melt

The Buffet is the buffet inside TI. The name isn't very creative, but eh. I ate here twice since I received some coupons for free buffets when I checked in. There's a decent variety of food for lunch and dinner - I don't feel I ate enough really to make it worth paying for a buffet, so I'm glad they were free. The food was good, though, but I recommend sitting at a table instead of a booth. The tables in the booths are really high and really close to the seats - I asked to move to a standalone table so my food wouldn't be at armpit level while I was trying to eat.

Also inside TI are The Seafood Shack, Senor Frog's and Gilley's. I haven't been to any of these, but they seemed to always be packed when I would wander by them.

This is one of my favorite places to stay and I definitely recommend checking it out at least for the food in the restaurants.

Goodbye, Samsung.

So, my last day working for Samsung was Friday, January 4th. To my credit, I did not cry when people left work on Friday and I saw them for the last time: it helped that I was busy working on something, too. I had lunch with my teammates on the Thursday before for the last time. After lunch, we went to a photo studio to have a group picture taken as a gift from my team to me. The posing that we had to do and rearranging of people had me laughing non-stop.

They aren’t all that white – they were photoshopped to match my pasty skin tone. I wanted to wear bunny ears, but the guy said that were for babies :( I have a small head…they would’ve fit.

I absolutely adore all of my teammates and the ones that we left behind when our team split the week before, especially Yoon. Yoon was my one teammate that had been with me my entire four years at Samsung. I think it’s good timing that I left Samsung when everything was rearranged.

There are good and bad things about every company. Most of the problems that I personally had with Samsung involved being a Westerner working for a very large, very Korean company at their HQ in Korea. Communication, culture, procedures…I never felt like I truly knew what was happening around me. While that allowed me to avoid nearly all of the politics that were going on around me, I only knew what people felt I needed to know, which wasn’t much.

My colleagues, foreign and Korean, were accepting, though, and made efforts to get to know me. But, I know that I was thought of as the “weird American” on my team…maybe in the whole division even – who knows.

Everything must come to an end, though, and it was just time for me to leave Samsung (and Korea). I think I had learned all that I could there and I felt stagnant in my job. I wasn’t growing anymore, I didn’t feel like I was contributing much anymore, and I was getting bored frankly. Now, most of that more than likely has to do with an uninvolved manager. I leave Samsung happy with my team, happy with myself, and happy with the contributions I was able to make. I would like to think that during my time with the Printing Division/IT Solutions that I helped improve the English quality and overall usability of the projects that I worked on. I wish nothing but the best for the future for my former teammates and other colleagues. I will always cherish the time that I spent with them.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Korean National Pension Info

So, as some of you know, I have left Korea permanently (blog post on that coming soon). One of the many things that you need to do is apply for your pension...if you've been paying in to it. Some nationalities don't pay into the pension because of agreements between countries - you'll have to check the NPS website to see if your country has an agreement with Korea (the US does). Also note that some hakwons will screw the teachers over and not sign them up for the National Pension. I won't give a lot of information about the pension itself and such because you can find that information on the NPS website, but I will say that most nationalities can apply for a lump-sum refund, which means that you will receive all of your pension funds in one big deposit.

The process to apply for your pension is actually pretty easy if you do it before you leave the country. The earliest that you can apply for your pension is one month before your leave date. You will just simply go to the pension office that is most convenient for you - they have a list of locations on their website. You'll need to take these items with you:
  • Passport
  • Alien card
  • Proof that you're leaving (like a one-way ticket or release letter from your employer)
  • Bank information
  • Application (or you can fill it out there - it doesn't take very long)

You can get more information and the form here (link to the form is at the very bottom). Looking at that form there, though, I don't see bank info provided. If you want the money transferred to your bank in the US, you'll need the same information that you need for a transfer: the ABA number, routing number, account number, and the bank's information (address, name, etc.). If you want it deposited to your Korean bank account, you'll need your Korean bank book and be able to assure them you'll be able to access it (I have internet banking, so I did this) or have someone in Korea that will access it for you. It will take about a month for all of the processing to occur and for you to receive your pension.

Now, the office in Suwon has moved. Any address you find online will probably be wrong. The NPS office used to be in Ingyedong across from the New Core Outlet, now it's in Ingyedong across the street from the Gyeonngi Arts Center. Here's a link to a map for the Arts Center. Where it says "kyeongin ilbo" on the map is right next to the NPS building: there's a big NPS logo at the top of the building.

Here's one of my lovely maps to give you an idea of where it is located:
Gimme mah money!!

I believe the 13-1 bus (from Yeongtong) stops at the Arts Center - I know it stops at the Yeongtong-Gu Office, which is a block or two closer to Samsung. I think the offices are on the 3rd or 5th floor - I can't remember, but the guy at the desk will tell you when you walk in.

So, if you decide to leave Korea, best of luck with the pension paperwork!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Here, Have a Blanket

Expect buildings in Korea to get colder for the rest of the winter.

From what I understand, Korea is shutting down a nuclear power plant or has shut one down. I'm not exactly sure - the details in English from a colleague were a bit fuzzy. However, I found an article from November that may shed some light on the situation.

As is such, the government is encouraging businesses to lower the thermostats to lessen the demand for energy. Samsung is going to do its part by lowering the heat in buildings in the complex. If you're friends with me on Facebook, you've already heard me whine about how cold the building my team got moved to already is - we'll popsicles if it gets any colder at work.

But, never fear, Samsung is thinking of its employees and has provided us all with blankets.
In its very own monogrammed bag

Plain blue blanket, but it is soft

So, for all of my friends in Korea who don't have employers that care enough to give them blankets to keep warm, I am sorry: I guess you all will be freezing your asses off while wearing your winter coats inside until the power issues get sorted out.