Saturday, September 29, 2012

Chuseok Day 1

Well, it's Chuseok! I woke up this morning with a mission. I knew I needed to find a good pillow, because I have been experiencing the worst neck pain. The pillows I have aren't bad, but they just don't support my neck at all. I need a good down pillow that I can whack into whatever shape I need.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Finally Friday!!!!

Today is finally Friday before Chuseok!!!!!!!!! I can't express how happy I am!!!!!!!!!!!! I almost wish it wasn't here yet because all the anticipation for it is now arrived, and the pressure is on to enjoy my 5 days of freedom!!!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monthly Exam Day

This week is proving to be a difficult one. The main reason is that today was the Monthly Exam for 5/6 of my classes. Monday I could only do so much, and Tuesday was basically even less. Beyond simply my day to day responsibilities, I couldn't get out ahead of the storm that came today. I'll explain what I mean...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Highs and Lows

Well, it's Monday again. I'm going to keep this short, since I am exhausted. Having to be at work an hour early makes a big difference on Mondays... Plus, the kids don't want to be there, I don't want to be there, we make each other miserable.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tornado Potato

I didn't plan to write a blog today. Throughout my day I felt like nothing interesting was happening, but after recounting my day to my mom on FaceTime tonight, I realized that it was a pretty good day, and some things were worth writing about.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mt. Achasan

Earlier this week, Erin Teacher invited me to a hike on Saturday. She invited everyone, but only a few people said they would definitely go. More accurately, myself, Erin, and one other person. Well, this morning I got a Facebook message from Erin notifying us that she was up all night sick, and wasn't feeling up to a hike. I decided that I would go regardless. It would be nice to be able to make my own decisions regarding where to go and when to do things.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Conjunctivitis, Maybe?

No blog yesterday, sorry folks! Not much of interest happened at work, besides getting a box from my mom, and having a girl's night dinner with Michelle after work. When I got back home, I was so tired I was actually IN BED by 11:30. I read until midnight then couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My First Parcel

My Wednesday wasn't too terribly exciting. I made some eggs and toast (made in the pan) for breakfast, and attempted to drink the soymilk I bought at HomePlus the other day. Well, apparently in America I have always drank vanilla soymilk, and this stuff was straight up soy bean juice. It was even slightly green. I don't know, all you hippies: is this normal?! (LOL) Anyway, I couldn't drink it and opted for orange juice instead.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Apartment Update and Mail

Well, today was a good day. Just a Tuesday... nothing special really. Except 2 awesome things! My apartment has a slightly new look, and I got MAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Musings at Work

On Tuesdays, I have an extra 40 minutes of planning period, but today I am prepared well ahead of time. Today, I am using my free time to read the news, and I can't believe what I'm reading.

Baseball in Korea

This weekend was absolutely exhausting. It's what I get for complaining last weekend about being stuck in my apartment. My motto this weekend was Go with the Flow! Yes-man style.

Saturday night, I was thankfully holed up in my apartment, blogging and watching a movie (Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2, if you must know...). Sunday was so long, though! I woke up at 9am, and had to get out the door by 10am. If you know me, you know that I usually require over an hour (at least!) to get completely ready for my day, including hair, makeup, breakfast, and finishing touches. So, waking up a bit late on Sunday put me in a rush. I skipped breakfast since Tab and I had plans to get an earlier lunch.

Right before I left, I checked my email and saw I had an email from a guy I had contacted from Craigslist about a table. He had previously told me someone was going to buy it already, and I told him to contact me if it falls through. Well, he was emailing to let me know it was back on the market! I gave him my number and we planned to meet in the afternoon to do the deal. And with that, I was off to Itaewon for church...

We had planned to meet at the Itaewon subway station around 10:45, in order to make it to church at 11am. Well, I got there at 10:40, and planted myself on the stairs leading to the exit we had planned to meet at. 10:45... 10:55... 11:00. Where is this girl? Around 11:10, I finally get a text that she is outside waiting on me. Wait, what?! How did she sneak past me?!?!?! I hurry out the exit and see her immediately. Apparently, she had a subway mix-up situation like I did Saturday, and somehow ran right by me on the stairs. I still don't know how this happened, but regardless...

We walk down the road towards the Itaewon Methodist Church. Tab said she had looked up service times, and there was an 11:00am English service. We finally get there, figure out which door to go in, and head up the elevator. I got a little suspicious when we were in the elevator with 6 old Koreans, and no other white people. We walked out, and saw a man in a suit that looked to be a greeter. I think he asked if we were lost? (I could be remembering incorrectly, but he definitely assumed we were not in the right place). Tab asked "English Church?" and he responded "Oh, it's over. It was 9am!" I look at the sign right next to us and see, sure enough, English - 9am. Korean - 11am. Guess the internet is not always our best friend and most accurate source of information!

Tab was upset about this setback, but honestly, we were almost 20 minutes late by now, anyway. I said we will just try again next week; let's get some food. Before we could do that, I needed to go pick up a package Kristen sent me (my ZTA big sister who lives in NYC), and one from my mom. When that was accomplished, we set out to find food! Unfortunately, neither of us had done any research about where to go, so we attempted to find WiFi to get us on the right track. After a brief stint at McDonald's with no luck, we decided to just wing it.

We walked down the street, and I made the impulsive decision to turn down an interesting looking alley. We walked and gawked at the different wares being sold outside the ecclectic neighborhood. It was cute... and then it got residential. I had a vague sense of where we were at, and expected us to come out on the main street. Well, after another 10 minutes of walking, I decided we were definitely not going in the direction. We cut and curved back in the general direction we came from, although going through different streets. Finally we saw familiar sights and knew we were not lost for good. While I was mildly freaking out, Tab was taking photos of the little houses and the view... at least she was in a good mood and not blaming me for having to hike up about 10 hills!

We finally got to the alley which I expected us to originally come out at, and I saw a restaurant whose name I recognized from expat blogs: Wolfhound Irish Pub. We made a beeline, starving and tired. When we were seated at the wooden bench style table, we went over the menu. Tab decided on an English breakfast, and I went with fish and chips. (Interesting we decided on British fare when in an Irish pub in South Korea!) My fish and chips was pretty good, but nothing too special.

When we left, I let the Craigslist seller know that I was available in about 45 min (as long as it would take to get to the station). We chatted back and forth until we decided to meet around 3pm. That left Tab and I about an hour and a half to do whatever, then 30 min to get to the station. Since Itaewon doesn't have much by way of shopping, we headed to Myeong-dong to the Forever 21. I needed some tights to wear under skirts to work, so that was the best place I could think of...

We got there and I ended up getting some great blush-colored tailor pleated pants, some tights, and a couple clearance things. After that, we headed to meet the Craigstlist guy. I asked him would the table be one piece, or broken down. He said it breaks down, and was carriable, but a little awkward. After much debate, Tab and I decided to carry it together to her place. We had plans to go to a baseball game in the evening with some of her friends, so rather than take the table to my place then rush back to go to the game, we would just leave the table at her place during the game, and I could take it back afterwards.

This worked out well enough, but was pretty annoying and cumbersome. We rested for about 30 minutes at Tab's, then headed to the stadium. Luckily, Tab lives very close to the Seoul Sports Complex and we didn't have to trek all over Seoul to get there. One bus ride later, we were at the stadium. We got our tickets ($17) and headed inside.

Apparently, unlike American stadiums which use the health code as an excuse to exploit the hungry and thirsty fans, Korea lets you take your own food and drink into the stadium! There were vendors outside selling pizza and chicken in a box (literally). We passed in favor of getting smaller portions inside the stadium. Tab ended up getting a hotdog (a welcome surprise she wasn't expecting), and we both got some beers (which were also much more affordable than in the states at $2.50 a pop). We got our seats with the rest of the group, and settled in for some great American past time!

A few things popped out at me - 1) Rather than straight up cheering, the fans of each team had songs they sang during the time their players were at bat. 2) Similar to what the Aggies have at Texas A&M, there seemed to be a yell leader who directed the crowds in songs, dances, and other general hooliganisms. 3) There were cheerleaders. Well, not really cheerleaders - more like hybrid dancer-backup singers. They had quite conservative dances (compared to the American standard), and while they showed their stomachs, their necklines were so high even the Pope wouldn't have been able to complain. 4) While I still have not figured out the system on which Korean baseball is based and played, I figured out that anyone can play on these teams. I figured this out when I looked up at the pitcher, then leaned over to Tab and whispered: "Is it just me, or is that pitcher black?!"

Now, you can't call me a racist - there are literally no black Koreans. It just doesn't happen. Some of my American readers may not be able to understand this, since in America you get called a racist for anything. But seriously! It is not possible to be black, and be Korean. While being an "American" is a question of citizenship, being a "Korean" is a matter of race. Therefore, someone being black and being Korean are mutually exclusive. Okay, off my defensive soapbox.

We kicked back and enjoyed the people watching, and of course the sport of baseball. Apparently, we were rooting for the wrong team, since it was a shut out. The other team won, and their fans seemed to have a better time overall as well. If we had not been in a group, Tab and I would have traded allegiances and gone over to the other side. But, alas, we mostly observed.

Halfway through, Tab insisted that I eat something, having had nothing since noon, and been drinking a beer. I agreed to go check out the fare. I ended up deciding on some chicken. I would call them nuggets, but a better word would be pellets. Not like rat droppings, but more like short Cheetos. Does this give you a good idea? They came with a sauce, but I opted to have that on the side.

All of my skeptics who think I should have eaten the dumpling last week, you will be proud. Rather than dissecting the "chicken" to confirm it's variety, I just bit into it. It was cold, but otherwise not bad tasting. I looked at the other side which I still held in my hand. It didn't look like chicken. I smelled it, then had a recollection that Koreans like dark meat chicken, rather than white. I shrugged and popped the other half in my mouth. This was quite an accomplishment. I didn't eat the whole cupful, but I did eat quite a bit. I even tried the sauce, and enjoyed it!

We stayed til the end of the game, then trekked all over creation to find the bus to take us back to Tab's apartment. When we finally got there, it hit me how exhausted I was. And now I have the dilemma of taking this obnoxious large and awkward table back to my apartment on the other side of Seoul. So, my options:

1)Take it on the bus and subway alone (risk bursting into tears spontaneously, hurting myself and/or others, breaking the table)
2)Take an expensive cab ride (between $25-30) with it (benefits would be the ease)
3)Have Tab assist me on the subway then she can turn around without having to pay for an additional ride back home, then take a cab a short distance to my apartment.

This last option seemed to have both the financial and physical aspects under control, so that's what we decided to do. I carried the heavy part this time (Tab had it last time), and we headed out into the rain (which started as soon as we left the baseball game), on the bus, through the subway station, onto the trains, and out. Tab said goodbye, and I was burdened with the entire thing. This consisted of 1 large tabletop (not actually large, but bigger than was comfortable), which bent together but not all the way, only until a 45° angle remained. Also, 2 rectangular sets of metal bars, plus another 2 straight bars in a bag with the hardware. I wish I had a photo, because I must have looked ridiculous carrying this through the subway. It was slow-goings, to be sure.

I was actually kind of disgusted with the lack of assistance. Everyone felt it appropriate to stop and stare at me, but no one felt the need to help me take it even a short ways, up the stairs maybe, or to the end of the hallway. Maybe it's just that I grew up in the South and therefore most men have some sort of gentlemanly blood, but I was not impressed with the Koreans at that point in time.

When I finally got the thing to the top of the subway, I was totally dejected to find there were no cabs waiting at the curb (a frequent habit of empty cabs). I saw a boy, and asked where I could get a cab. He pointed across the street and I headed that way. He was just standing around and I couldn't believe he wouldn't help me, even when he knew I was only going across the street. I hobble over and the one available cab gets taken right before my eyes. I want to cry, but keep it together.

And then, like a ray of sunshine beaming down through the night sky, a yellow cab pulled right up to me and popped it's trunk. I gratefully put the table down into the trunk, and get in the cab. My hands are shaking and my body slumps into the seat. All I can manage is "Kamsahamnida, Kamsahamnida, Kamsahamnida!" (Thank you, thank you, thank you!). He smiles and laughs, and I give him my address. He types it in, and we're off.

I sincerely think God sent this taxi driver straight to me. Every cab driver I've had in Korea so far, no matter how nice, has spoken no more than 2 words of English. This man, while by no means fluent, asks me where I'm from, how long am I in Korea, etc. When I say I am from America, he starts singing Oh Say Can You See. I can't do anything but laugh and clap for him, despite the extreme fatigue making my hands weigh about 10lb each. He goes on to tell me that he loves "America human" because we are so "smile and kind... and beautiful!!" I just laugh and say thank you. He sings for me in Korean and tells me that it's "his song." Wow...

We get to my neighborhood, and I live on a one-way street. This guy goes in the wrong way and pulls me up RIGHT next to my door. I was so happy I could cry. I thanked him profusely and got the table out of the trunk. When he left, I was shuffling up the driveway to the entrance, and saw my landlord. I wouldn't be able to open the door with the table in my hands, so I give him my most desperate eyes and look at the door and back. He gets the hint, comes and opens the door. Then he does one better, and takes the table top from me, gets in the elevator with me, and takes it to my room. I wanted to hug him.

After that, I relaxed and then, I have no idea how I got the energy, but I put that dang table back together. I still don't know how I did it, but it's put together and I love it. It was worth the horrible time transporting it, I'm happy to say.

My Sunday was so exciting and jam-packed that my Monday is utterly boring in comparison. Today,  Typhoon Sanba was supposed to hit. Well, I guess it did. It was pretty rainy and windy this morning. But work was not cancelled, so I sported my rain boots. It was pretty chilly, too. I loved it.

After work, I got some groceries and I am happy to say I found some decent veggies!!! I got home and made some awesome pasta and chicken. Now, my bed is calling me and another day of work is at my door tomorrow. Happy Monday, Blogosphere!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bars Don't Close Here

So much to talk about today, I'm not sure where to begin! So much has happened in the last 48 hours since I've written a blog. When I got home after work yesterday, I was tempted to write out a short quick blog before heading off, but time was my enemy and I had to run. So now that I'm actually sitting down, I'm not really sure what I had to write about yesterday. :(

So, I supposed we will start with last night. After work, I walked home and immediately started to pack a bag. I knew I was going to stay over at Tab's after we went out, so I put together some clothes and toiletries I would need. I used my shoulder strap bag, which would ultimately prove to be a bad decision, but alas, it's what I used. On the way to the bus, I realized I probably should have taken something easier to carry, but I don't really have anything so I just kept walking. I got on the bus, knocked into a few ajummas that gave me the stink eye, and headed to the subway. I felt like I was running late, so I hurried down to the trains. When I was waiting on my train, I realized I did not have my cell phone.

Analysis: was going to meet Tab, whom I would be with all night, and we had already determined where and when to meet at the subway. No problem not having cell phone. I decided to just stay my course, since going back to my apartment would be a 30 minute detour, and I was already running late.

I hopped my train and got to Euljiro station where I needed to get on another line. My route calculator on my iPad told me the train was leaving in 2 minutes, so I hurried to the platform. Just as I got there, the train was leaving. No big deal, I sat down and waited. Another train came along about 6 minutes later, and I boarded.

The whole time while I was waiting, and on the train as well, I was reading my book on my iPad and listening to music. This was a bad idea; while sitting at a station two stops into the train ride, I look up and realize my train was at a station in the wrong direction!! I jumped up and flew out the door, right as the doors were closing. When I finally figured out where to get on the same line going the opposite direction, I looked down and saw two sets of barriers between. Essentially, I had to "leave" the subway, and repay to go back in, only on the other side. Annoyed, I did what I had to do, since there was no real way to correct the situation without going back to where I should have been.

Once I finally got on the correct train, going in the correct direction, I had no seat and was packed like a sardine with my big shoulder bag knocking over anyone who got in my general vicinity (which, on a train packed like sardines, is everyone.) I was not popular on the train ride.

Finally we got to Tab's station, and I exit (along with about 200 other people on my car, and about 3,000 on the train itself) and follow the crowds toward the exit. Going down the escalator, I look up and see that the sign that says "Way Out" also says "Exits 8-12." I needed Exit 2. When I got to the bottom, I looked around until I found a little food stand, and asked where Exit 2 was. Thankfully they understood well enough to tell me how to get there. 10 minutes later and out of breathe from going up and down stairs, I had gotten a complete tour of Dangsan Station and finally found Tab waiting at the exit.

We headed out and caught a bus to her place, to drop off my duffle bag before heading to Hongdae for dinner, drinks, and dancing. The bus was crowded as well, and I was getting a headache. The whole trip over to her side of town was a headache, no wonder it was manifesting itself in my head. We finally got to her stop, and she warned me that her place was at the top of a hill. I said, oh, no big deal. And then I saw the hill. Granted, it wasn't that bad, but halfway up, it felt like the mountains that surround Seoul. Panting, out of breath, and sweating, we made it to her apartment. I took some Ibuprofen and we took a little breather. I met the little old lady that lives beneath her and watches out for her. Sweet old ajumma!

By the time we got to her place, it was around 10:20pm. I had gotten off work at 8:00. *Sigh...*

Waiting for a cab
We headed out and towards the bus stop to go to Hongdae. Tab decided that since we are so hungry, we should just take a cab to Hongdae. It wouldn't be more than $8 ($4 each), so I agreed. For about 15 minutes, every cab that passed was full, and the two that weren't were on the opposite side of the road. We finally flag one down and tell him "Hongdae!" and he nods and repeats "Hyundai." I look at Tab suspiciously, and she repeats "Hongdae! Hongik University!" And again, he smiles, nods, and says "Hyundai." Tab just shrugs and gets in, so I follow suit. I'm fairly suspicious about this, but Tab seems confident that we will get there.

On the way, Tab decides to throw every Korean word she knows at this guy, who laughs and starts singing Gangnam Style. If this isn't the song of my trip so far, I don't know what is. He even brings up the music video on his oversized smartphone, and we jam out as we cross the Han River. It was a fun ride, those first 5 minutes....

Then, the trouble began. You guessed it, Hyundai is NOT the same as Hongdae. At $12, cruising down the strip by the Han River, I go "Tab, when are we going to tell this guy that we are NOT going in the right direction?!" I'm getting quite annoyed, since this is money we are wasting. I think the guy caught my upset tone, and calls the free translation number that everyone in the service industry in Seoul has on speed dial. Tab yells into the phone "HONGDAE. HONGIK UNIVERSITY!" ... "yes, HONGDAE!" She hands the phone back, and the guy listens a moment, puts his phone down, and goes "... HONGDAE!" and slams his fist down on the wheel, and pushes the windows down in the car, like he needs some air to cool down. Damn! He went from impersonating Psy to being a grumpy old Korean taxi driver in 2 seconds flat!

He turns around and starts yelling at us in Korean. Okay, maybe not yelling, but we both knew we were getting a talking-to! He starts pronouncing Hongdae with a nice hawking sound at the beginning, and then making us repeat it. Then saying "Hyundai!" with an emphasized "huuuun" at the beginning. Apparently we were getting the talk, and Korean lessons. I repeated him to appease him, and Tab just kept giggling nervously.

We finally made it, and the guy only charged us $20 ($10 each), rather than about $25 on the meter. Well, I didn't even expect that much, so we were grateful. He left us smiling, but I knew he was glad to be rid of us. Since we took a cab, my directions to the burger place I had researched were useless, as they directed us from the subway station. We looked around, and asked a group of girls behind us where it was. They had no idea, asked some other girls, and we got pointed down the alleyway behind us.

Menu at Burger B in Hongdae
We crossed the street, and low-and-behold, there was Burger B... right there. We could not get over what great timing the taxi had to decide to boot us out at that exact spot (we hadn't told him anywhere specifically in that area...). By now, its around midnight. We order burgers, fries, and drinks and sit at this awesome bar overlooking the street and all the interesting people in it. We talked and waited for our food, got asked to take photos with some weird men from who-knows-where (not Korea, but not American either!) We laughed and made weird faces when they took the photos, and then tried to ignore them hitting on us from their table in another language.

The food was absolutely delicious. I ordered the BBQ Burger and fries (pictured left). I was so ravenous by the time the food came, I took a bite before I remembered to take a photo. You can see the view we had in the background. It was just fun to sit at a bar overlooking the street and hill below. Tab ordered a cheeseburger. We both enjoyed our burgers immensely, sitting in silence for about 10 minutes just soaking up the goodness. We chatted for a little while longer, trying to decide what to do and where to go for the night. Since we had spent much more than expected on the cab (Tab kept insisting it was like paying for a scenic view of the river), we decided to just stick around Hongdae. She's gone out in the area before, so I trusted her judgement and we headed out.

The great thing about Korea, or just about anywhere besides Houston, is that bars don't close. Actually, in Korea, many places besides bars don't even post closing times. Online, I've literally seen "Open: 9am Close: when the last person leaves" well... that's specific!

We walked around for a while before deciding to hit up a bar she'd been to before called Zen Bar. We went in and it was anything but "zen." It was raging! We navigated our way around the throngs of dancing Koreans and expats alike, and hit the bar. Tab had had a beer at the restaurant, but I had stuck to coke (both for financial and energizing reasons). We decided to start things off with a bang, and had a little shot. I won't say what, gotta keep my reputation classy. But, the liquor was so cheap! This did not lead to overconsumption, FYI. But it was great prices! We both got a beer and started doing some rounds.

I realized going out with one other person, to a place where you know nobody, and run a 0.0001% risk of running into anyone you know, is kind of awkward! We just danced with each other for a bit, and circled the bar aimlessly. At one point, a girl surrounded by Korean guys dancing on her grabbed my arm and mouthed "Help me!" I pulled her out of the crowd, and she looked a little freaked out. Well, maybe it was a mistake to help her, because the void she created needed to be filled and it seemed I was the closest thing. I got grabbed and pulled in; I tried to get Tab's hand, but we were separated. (Don't freak out, here, people. It wasn't that creepy, just weird as heck.) These guys were dancing on me, and one even tried to take my beer. I snatched it back and smacked his hand away. Finally, I ejected myself from the crowd and met Tab on the other side of the bar. What craziness!

American guy dancing on Tab
We kept a low profile for a while, just dancing and sipping our beers. Apparently, we looked good enough because some Korean guys came over to talk to us. It was pretty awkward since only one of them spoke decent enough English to make conversation, and even that conversation wasn't the best. We hung out with them for a bit, though, just dancing in a little circle; being with other people is better than being awkward on the side of the room. At one point, a short Asian guy with two beers in his hands came by and, I'm not sure how, started talking to Tab. He was extremely outgoing and loud; he was American.

Koreans at the bar
Long story short, apparently this guy, who was not hitting on us at all, intimidated the Korean guys we had been standing with, and they told him to back off. It was a super awkward situation, made only slightly better by the lubricating factor (alcohol). I gave Tab the lets-get-out-of-here-eye and we "went to the bathroom" aka snuck out the other exit. Finally out in the fresh(er) air, I realized how smokey it was in the bar. We sat down by another club entrance, which looked pretty awesome. We decided to try our luck there, but when we realized there was a $15 cover, and gave her the heck-no sign and we left. We sat in some plastic chairs by a closed convenience store, with about 20 other drunk people. Some were falling over, and no one seemed to care. Thus is Korean nightlife!

Trash everywhere in the streets. Weirdly, no Asians in this photo... hmmm....
Tab said there was a cool park in the area, so after a little break, we set off to find the park. Somehow, on the way there, we ran into the short American guy from the bar. Good thing he was too drunk to remember we ditched him! He had a friend with him this time, who did not seem very drunk. He also kept looking at me, and I decided to play the drunk card. I was feeling good, to be sure. But I kicked it up a notch (thanks to my mad drama-skillz), and he thought I was quite past the point of inebriation. They said they would show us where the park was, so we followed them. I whispered to Tab that I was not that drunk, and she said she didn't think so.

We got to the park, and decided to be Korean and get some "mart beers" from the convenience store across the street. Inside, there was a line (which I strictly enforced to the pushy Koreans behind us), and  Tab decided it was a great time to bust out with her extensive knowledge of Gangnam Style. She starts singing and we start dancing. The Koreans are laughing at us, but who cares. We walk outside, and as fate would have it, Gangnam Style is playing. Tab and I immediately start the dance. Within the 3minutes of the song, we had gotten about 10 people to dance with us in the middle of the street. We had cars stopped. It was pure awesomeness.

found this art on a building, for Michael :)
After it was over, we couldn't stop laughing for about 5 minutes. We managed to make our way into the park, still being tailed by the American guys. We sit down to drink our mart beers (I opted for mart wine), and about 10 minutes later, we hear loud music from behind us. I look over and see a crowd in a circle. Tab and I immediately jump up and rush over. And, of course, for the 3rd time in about 20 minutes, Gangnam Style is playing. As soon as it comes on, Tab and I jump in the middle of the circle and start dancing. I actually have a video of this (some guy behind me offered to video when he saw I was videoing just Tab), but I'm too embarrassed to post it. Plus, it's blurry... you guys don't want to see that... (hehe!)

After Gangnam Style, we sat down in the circle and watched. There was a black guy who spoke fluent Korean who break danced, a Korean guy with muscles who danced soooo well (and acted a little light in the loafers, but I don't think he was), a Russian girl who did Katy Perry dances, and other really talented people. By the time we left, I felt like maybe we shouldn't have partaken in the Gangnam Style dance because maybe we weren't really good enough! Haha! But it was so much fun, we didn't really care. :) We can blame it on being foreigners, like we do for everything else.

After a while, we decided to head out. We had finally ditched all the creepers, and decided that if we made it 45 more min, we could get some food then get the first subway back to Tab's place. It was about 3:45am. We headed into a coffee shop and sipped some water. As soon as we reached that point, I realized I could not make it much longer. We decided not to wait it out, just to get a cab. We walked out on the street and asked a cab to take us to Mokdong (Tab's neighborhood), he waved "no" to us. Okay, we tried another. Another "no". The third cab told us yes, but for $25. We knew the cab should only be $8, so we said heck no. Another 3 cabs all wanted between 20 and 25. We said no to all of them, and I was ready to give up and wait on the subway. Tab asked one last taxi, and he said yes. Tab made him put the address from her card into the GPS, so there was no excuse for taking the "long way." We got there in 6,300W (~$6). Awesome! We got in, and immediately hit the sack.


This morning, we woke up around noon. I was fairly impressed we did not sleep any later, having gone to bed around 5:00am. We got up and decided to get some pizza from Costco. We made our way there and ate lunch. Then we headed to Itaewon to help me get some things from my friends on base. Unforunately, this is where my phone being MIA hurt me. I wasn't able to communicate effective with them, and that was 100% my fault this weekend! I wasn't really frustrated, since it was my fault. We decided to get some Turkish ice cream we saw last time we were in Itaewon, and I'd read about this week.

Apparently, tons of Turks have moved to Korea in the past decade and have since brought a lot of their food and culture into Seoul. Specifically, their taffy-like ice cream has been a hit. They usually put on a show when getting you your order. We went to a low-key place tucked away behind other shops, so we didn't get as much entertainment. The guys getting us the ice cream did play around a little, but nothing compared to what I've read about (which basically consists of getting the entire tub of ice cream on a long pole and stringing it out and doing little tricks with it while getting your portion.)

it was like a hybrid of ice cream and taffy
I enjoyed my cone of Turkish Ice Cream!
Well, after we ate our ice creams, we said goodbye and headed back to our respective neighborhoods. I did pretty well on the subways, managing to read and figure out when and where to change trains without getting lost. When I headed for the bus to head to my apartment, there were at least 50 people waiting. I just kept reading my book and waited. I got on the first bus that came, and headed down the road. 

And suddenly, my bus turns. This is not correct. I live directly down the main road. Uh oh... I get off at the first stop on the side road, and realize I am quite far from my apartment and now have no bus. I decided to just start walking in the general direction I know my apartment to be. I ended up walking about 10-15 blocks. It was annoying at first, but it was such a beautiful day I couldn't be upset for more than 5 minutes. I got home around 6pm, and flaked out on the bed for a good 15 minutes before doing anything else.

Now, I've got my window open, been working on the blog/photos for about 4 hours, and I deserve a movie night. :) Tomorrow, I am heading to church in Itaewon with Tab and then to get my things from Itaewon. :) We are expected to get a typhoon Sunday night or Monday, and it looks pretty fierce on the radar. I'm not sure how this will turn out, since the last one was such a disappointing show. Work on Monday will be interesting... But for now, I'm enjoying my weekend!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Street Dumplings

This week has gone by so fast! I love it! I managed to get to bed by around 12:30 last night after talking to Michael for a while. I naturally woke up around 6:30, thinking I should be getting up. It was wonderful to realized that I had another hour and a half to sleep. I knocked out again, and woke up to my alarm.

My first thought was "What did Apple announce last night?!" So I got on my iPad and start typing "apple news..." and nothing popped up. That's strange. Normally this stuff gets a lot of press, and is a huge search topic. I searched and found on MacRumors about the announcement. All in all, I was not too impressed. Of course, it looks cool. But, what I was hoping for was a game changer. Something revolutionary! Like the iPhone 4 was when it was released. This is cool, but in my opinion, the 4S is a better deal... Good thing I won't have to make a decision on getting a phone for another year. Maybe even the iPhone 5.5 will be out ;)

Moving on... I made pancakes for breakfast. Last night I got a measuring cup (the big 4-cup size) and a measuring spoon. I was actually able to measure out my mix and water, and pour from the measuring cup. My pancakes came out golden brown and were as good as, if not better than, IHOP.  (Maybe this isn't true, but in Korea, they are the best.)

I watched Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol all morning and got to work right at 1pm. It was a rainy day today, so I sported my yellow wellies (of course!). Classes were good. I decided on which is my favorite. It's my 3SAP kids. They are only on T/Th unfortunately. I absolutely love them. I think all my good classes are T/Th actually. But these kids are the best. They all participate, there isn't a single one that ignores me when I say to do something, or to stop doing something. While some are brighter than others, they all participate and seem eager to learn. These are the kids that were singing with me on Tuesday. Today we were talking about dancing (actually, I was filling time that I had accidentally left open on the lesson plan) and the different types of dancing (I chose this because their unit is actually about a dance performance). And... I can't believe I did this, but... I did Gangnam Style.

If these kids did not love me before, I'm pretty sure they do now. If you don't know Gangnam Style, you might want to learn, quick. It's a song by a South Korean pop star named Psy who is taking the world, and the US, by storm. Almost all my friends back home are obsessed with this song/music video. The dance is hilarious, and the tune is catchy. So... watch and just picture me as the main guy with the glasses, but in a school classroom, accompanied by giggling Korean children rather than electro-beats. (While you are watching, check out the females' attire - they wear the shortest skirts/shorts, but barely show their chest. Also, the bus scene - the old lady with the visor, I can't go a day without seeing an ajumma like her!)

Well, that was a fun class. :) Otherwise, my day was fairly normal. On the way home, I decided to go out on a culinary branch and try these dumplings. I pass the cart that sells them everyday, on the street in the neighborhood I walk through. They have 3-4 varieties, and Erin Teacher told me they have some kind of meat, BBQ pork she thought, in them. I decided that my severe lack of meat/protein demanded I try them. So, I stopped tonight. I got 4 large dumplings for 2,000W, a pretty good price. They were warm in the bag on my way home and i couldn't wait to try them.

Being the careful eater that I am (there are negative connotations with "picky"), I pulled one apart before I bit into it. The dough outside didn't taste like much, but the juice from whatever meat it was, was kind of sweet. I inspected the "meat" further and decided it wasn't pork. It had the consistency of overcooked beans (kind of mushy), but I couldn't tell what it actually was. Then it hit me... It looked like bug larvae. I couldn't even swallow a bite once my mind got on that idea. I ate the dough around it and put the rest in my Food Waste bag in the freezer. Bummer.... but at least I tried, kinda.

The contents of my dumpling.

In other news, tomorrow is FRIDAY! And this Friday, I have plans. Yes, I'm actually going out, at night, with other people, and socializing! I am so excited! I would hold off to disclose my plans until they have actually happened, but I won't be posting a blog until Saturday afternoon or night, so I might as well.

Tab and I decided we need to go out together, since I haven't been out once since getting to Korea. We decided to go to dinner and get drinks, then party it up in Hongdae (the university area). I get out at 8, and she doesn't get out until 9:30, so we will meet somewhere around 10pm. (I might just take my things to her apartment early since I will be staying the night). Today at work, Michelle was feeling down. I invited her out tomorrow, to take her mind off things. She excitedly said yes! So, she will be joining the festivities. She will come over to my apartment after work, and we will get ready together.

When we decided this, she asked if there was anything I needed. I looked at her a little confused. She explained that in Korean culture, if you go to someone's home, you must bring a gift to thank them for their hospitality. I told her to just bring a bottle of wine she likes :) I can't wait to hang out with both of my favorites in Korea at the same time, and also get my party-on!!! It will certainly make up for my boring Saturday last weekend.

I think that about sums up my Thursday. Sorry I will be skipping tomorrow's blog, but I think it will be worth it for the adventure that will come of it. :) Goodbye until Saturday...

**UPDATE: Erin Teacher and I decided that the dumpling must have been 'red bean paste', a Korean thing that they love that no Westerner really understands... **

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apartment Decor and Work

This morning was awesome. I slept late, like 8:45, then got to talk to Michael for a little bit. I also spent a lot of time doing some Craig'sList research. I am officially desperate to make my apartment "home." Yes, it's getting there... but it still lacks a lot of homey-ness. Last night at one of the other foreign teachers' apartments, she had an armchair. And she had a western-style desk. It made me realize that, while I like that my furniture is not overpowering the room, I also think my room is very low to the ground. Like, the desk I have is a floor-desk, the hutch is very low as well. And of course the bed is low. I have no chairs, no rug or anything to sit on. I decided I need some things!!

First, I want an armchair. Like, something comfy I can sit in and blog, or read a book, or anything. Nothing too big, just a chair I can put in the corner and have a place of my own. This beats getting a large desk that hogs the room. If I did get the chair, I would give the hutch (that is really not very useful to me) to another teacher in the building.

Second thing I want is an area rug. I have faux-hardwood laminate that is pretty crappy. It's not ugly, but cheap. I want something to draw the room together, give it warmth! I would love a rich color, but honestly I'll take anything at this point.

I also would like some alternate lighting - a floor lamp and desk lamp to be precise. I hate my overhead lighting, plus the switch is on the other side of the room so at night it's annoying to turn off the light before bed.

Finally, I want wall decor. Some floating shelves, or some paintings/art. This is getting out of the "need" and pretty far into the "want," but oh well.

I went on CraigsList this morning to start some research. FIRST - the armchair. I only found 2 currently listed - one for 20,000W (~$20) it was not the prettiest, but it looked leather and wasn't too ugly. Only problem with that one is it was listed back on July 31. It is most likely sold by now, especially for such a low price! The other one I found did not have a price listed, only asking for an offer. It was originally 250,000W (~$225), so I would probably offer maybe 80,000 to 90,000W. The thing with either of these two is transportation! How the heck to get it from one side of Seoul to the other?! I emailed a guy I found on an expat forum about moving, and he quoted me around 70,000 to move it totally (from 1 apartment to the other). Woah! Alternatively, Erin Teacher told me at work I might could find one on the street that someone is getting rid of; several of the teachers have done that. I might just have to go hunting in my neighborhood one day!!

SECOND - the rug. Basically, no one has a decent rug. Awesome. THIRD - a lamp. One, single, solitary floor lamp listed. I emailed the seller, and she was selling it TODAY. Grumble, grumble.... FINALLY - I stumbled upon a pretty cool piece of art and made an offer on it. I think the same person, I made an offer on his kettle, rice cooker, and power converter. I also attempted to get a Brita water pitcher, but that deal fell through :(

Finally, I made it to work. I will summarize my classes:

First - my worst class. Jackie Teacher observed and helped put the kids in line. I made sure to use everyone's name so she sees that I know names!

Second - Belle was surprisingly participatory today. But the entire class seemed to have eaten straight sugar before I came in. They could not stop giggling, chatting, and generally being disruptive. We were talking about emotions, feelings, and how we feel. I was trying to explain "terrible" to them, and got a very sad look on my face. I said "How do I look?" Benny, my most hyper and disruptive student, said "Ugly?" .... I guess I should have clarified better! I got a shocked look on my face, and then he says "Oh, oh, oh... surprised!" Haha... these kids!

Third - Jackie came back again. It was a great class - very participatory, got some great responses, and felt like I generally had a good grasp on the class and the material.

Fourth - 2SAP girls... This class was a fiasco! I was checking homework and realized the girls had the old homework checklist, rather than the updated one that I had. Therefore, today was supposed to be a review, but they had not completed all their vocabulary. So, I made a teacher-decision, and we worked on the homework that should have been done last night, and then took the Word Quiz. Good decision, since I realized the W.Q. had words on it that we did together in class. Oops! Also, I think the girls did better since we had gone over the words immediately before taking the quiz. So, instead of reviewing in class, I sent the review home, and they will test tomorrow, right on schedule. Phew! Crisis averted... except that I had 1 student absent. So, she would be extra behind tomorrow. I had my partner teacher, Hannah Teacher (Korean), call Rachel's mom and explain the homework. So, Rachel will take the exam on Friday, instead of tomorrow. What a confusing and crazy day in that class!

Fifth - Jackie observed again (I was thanking Jesus and my lucky stars she had not chosen the previous class since it was so chaotic). I think I achieved something amazing - when explaining the vocab words with the class, we came to the word "rule" - I had them read the definition and then I asked "do we have rules at school? what are some rules at school?" I could only get 1 reply, "don't talk when teacher talks," so to dig myself out of that one, I said "Right, so here in SLP, we have a rule - don't speak Korean! Remember?!" (All of the kids speak Korean, but we tell them not to so they will practice their English) Well, I looked at Jackie Teacher and she is sitting in the corner just cracking up. I didn't realize it was that funny, but she thought it was hilarious. So, score! Jackie isn't mean, but a true laugh I have yet to see come out of her. Yay!

Sixth - my boys. I am so lazy with them. By the end of the day, I am so tired that I usually just sit and verbally go through everything rather than write it all on the board. They are so smart, anyway. Today I had my first trial run with the creative writing. I had them write about a trip they want to take, to go anywhere. They had to talk about what they would do, what animals they would see, etc. Using their vocab. I had two boys write about going to the Sun, and another to a lost island paradise under the ocean. I thought that was fairly creative. I was proud :)

Really, that is about all that happened today. I made Kraft Original Mac & Cheese when I got home (yay!!!) even though I was really craving a burger (I didn't want to make the trip to Itaewon just for that...).  This week is going by much faster than last week, thankfully. I am also feeling much more in control with my classes, since I am organizing their lesson plans, homework, etc. I am actually starting to enjoy it. I get the most frustrated when I am trying to teach and they won't stop talking!!! I want to shake their little faces until they pay attention!!!!! Haha!

Tonight my goal is to be in bed going to sleep by midnight!!! Looking good so far... Really excited for the Apple announcement tomorrow (well, I'll see it tomorrow. I'm not staying up til 3am to watch it tweeted live!) GOODNIGHT!!!

Rock, Paper, Scissors

A few things hit me today. One, I'm living in Seoul. Like, not just Asia, or South Korea, but SEOUL. It's pretty amazing! I've never lived in a huge city; well, Houston I guess. It is big! But, it felt small. I compare Seoul to New York. I teach kids who are growing up in a city like this. It is absolutely massive. But, the culture, tradition, and homogeneous society all contribute to the distinctly different atmosphere of Seoul compared to a city like New York. I think each day my mind opens a little bit more, and a little bit more to the idea of what I am actually doing here.

Another thing that I realized, even just in a small way, is that I am the TEACHER. Obviously, I stand in front of the class and talk. But, I gave a test in my Leap High class today, and when I was grading their essays, the feeling that I get to decide how tough or lenient I am going to be! I get to make decisions in class. If we are running out of time, I get to choose which item to drop, or if I should assign extra homework. In my mind, it's not necessarily power, but authority. I'm not just controlling the classroom and making the kids do whatever I say. It is legitimately my position to make decisions, which ultimately affect my kids. I think this concept also has a lot of room for growth and development in my time as a teacher.

Today was a really good day. I am learning to love my job. I think I am relatively good at it; I mean, considering I had no formal education in this area and almost zero experience with kids. But, the days go by fast, I feel a great sense of accomplishment after each class (which I LOVE) and I am getting used to the courses and their requirements.

Before classes today, I had a lot of extra time to work. I had prepared for my day's classes, and still had almost 2 hours before my first one. So, Erin Teacher suggested that I work on my lesson plan for 2SAP. This class is my only everyday class, it's the most intense workload, and it's the curriculum that I have to work at the most. Each Unit, the lesson plan in the book must be adapted to our school's specific needs.

I share the class with Sean Teacher (he teaches another group of kids, but we are on the same material at the same time), so we take turns making the lesson plans and homework checklists each Unit. This month was my turn, so I used all my extra time during Office Hours to work on that. It's not needed for another week, but with the time I had I decided to just knock it out.

Erin Teacher walked me through a lot of it, but I also figured it out quickly. I really enjoyed it (despite it being a lot of work) because it required a high level of organization. The lesson plan for that class was something I was quite nervous about doing beforehand, but after I completed it and turned it in for approval from Jackie Teacher, I felt wonderful. Like a real teacher :)

It's too difficult to go into the details of what all I had to do to get this thing just right, but I'll tell you that I had to reference: the Teacher's Guide, the Writing Workbook, the Activity Book, the Student Book, the SLP Writing Workbook (different from the one above), book club workbook, book club storybook, SLP Practice book, and SLP Grammar Practice book. For ONE class... of 7 year olds. My mind cannot grasp the idea that these kids are so organized they actually know the difference in all these books. Most 7 year olds I know can't keep up with 1 book, let alone 9.

Anyway, I also had my 3SAP kids today (similar program as 2SAP, but only T/Th and slightly farther along than 2SAP). They are my best large class. I have 9 or 10 students, and they work as hard as my smaller classes, or sometimes even better. Today was awesome! They read when I asked them to, they all wanted to answer the questions, and almost all of them had memorized the Daily Oral Expression they had for homework.

One part of the lesson involved looking at a poem in their student books. They tried to get me to do some game similar to Rock, Paper, Scissors (which they endearingly called "Po-ta-to!" in the same intonation as R,P,S...) in order to determine the order of which they read aloud. I had no idea how that was supposed to work so I made them all sit down and just went in order down the rows (like any sane teacher would do). They read it through once, each student reading only 1 line. Then, again, with each student reading a paragraph. The poem was very rhyme-y and easy to memorize. It repeated a lot of phrases (the lesson was to understand alliterations...) so the kids got the hang of it quickly. I told them how song lyrics are poems too, so we put the poem to a tune and I got them all singing and participating. I loved it! They were all smiling and happy and learning, too!! Great sense of accomplishment. I also think this is the class that likes me the best. I really try to get animated and involved with them in the lesson. I hope it's working :)

Also, I forgot to mention that yesterday I had a little meeting with Jackie Teacher at the end of the day and she told me her observations from watching my classes. She said she was impressed with my organization and the presence I had in the class. The only real suggestion/criticism was to learn the kids' names. Well, I'm trying! I have 10 classes, many of which are larger with 10 or more students. I feel like I'm doing well, and have almost got all of them memorized. It just so happened that the classes she watched were the classes that I have a hard time memorizing the names of the kids. I think that my lack of having developed prior habits in the classroom (not having gotten an Edu degree or done any student teaching) has actually helped me. The school seems to be pretty set on how things should be done, and without any previous habits, I have none to break! :)

After classes, I graded LH exams. I didn't have much time for anything else, and went home at 9pm. I also got my official work badge! It has my name on it, too! :) I use it to clock in and out. After work, one of the morning teachers made everyone dinner and had a little get together at her apartment. I decided to attempt to be social, and went. It's kind of hard, because while everyone is nice, I don't feel like a connection with anyone. It also doesn't help that there is only one other female teacher in afternoons, so I don't get to know any of the morning teachers at work. I also have a semi-shy personality in that I don't operate well in groups of people I don't know well. I kind of stay quiet, don't want to draw any attention to myself. One-on-one, it's a whole other story! But, I don't know any of these girls in a way where I would feel comfortable. But, I went and stayed for like 30 minutes so it's a start. :)

One final observation: the days go by very quickly, especially once I am in the classroom. I love this! Maybe it's just that I enjoy what I do (for the most part), or it's having to do so much in such a short amount of time, but by 8pm I feel like the day flew by! Tomorrow is mid-week again, and I've got lots to do when I get there in the morning :) And with that, goodnight!

**update: doing some research on the rock, paper, scissors thing. I'm wondering if the kids weren't saying something in Korean, any my American ears just heard "po-ta-to"? I read online some say "kai-bai-bo" which I suppose could sound like "po-ta-to" to the untrained ear. with my students, who knows...**

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Manic Monday

Today wasn't really manic, actually. More like monotonous. I mean, it wasn't bad. It's just typical Monday! That horrible day when you're the farthest away from a weekend you will ever be in a week. Thankfully, Monday is almost over.

I wasn't going to write a blog tonight. I didn't think anything of any interest happened today. But, as I was about to get in bed to go to sleep, I realized that I felt significantly under-accomplished without spending the time to write a blog. Granted, it takes me around 1-2 hours to write each blog (not exaggerating), but today wasn't a grand adventure; I am thinking this post will be shorter...

Anyway, back to how I hate Mondays. Monday mornings suck in particular, because we have to be at work by noon, rather than 1pm. So, less time to myself in the mornings. When I got to school today, we had a teacher's meeting with the other foreign teachers and Jackie Teacher. I found out two things - one was almost bad, and the other was bad.

First, one of the classes I teach was announced to be changing some curriculum around, and I would now teach an additional book, which had no Powerpoints or resource material prepared. All needed to be made from scratch... But, then I found out it was not my class after all! It was the other class with the same name as my class that Sean Teacher teaches. Dodged a bullet; I feel for Sean :(

The other piece of news was that the only Saturday in my entire contract that I will be required to work is ... *drum roll* ... the weekend my mom will be in town. That's right. The only Saturday my mom will be here in Seoul with me, I have to go to work. I even kind of mentioned to Jackie Teacher that my mom will be in town, but she definitely did not get the hint to let me off work. Double :(

I really tried not to be too upset about this. Really, really hard. But, I couldn't help it. I'll have waited 4 months to see my mom, will not be able to see her again for another 8 months, and I will get 1 single day off work to spend with her (Sunday), out of the week she will be here. One day. I'm actually extremely depressed about it. I am considering being "sick" the Monday after that weekend... or maybe, I'll just tell Jackie, "Sorry, I can either miss Saturday when we have no classes, or Monday when you will have to find someone to replace me. Your choice." (Ha! Yeah right! I could never say that to an authority figure.)

After the meeting, I worked through Office Hours and got extra prepared; not only for today, but tomorrow as well. Classes were decent. I am definitely feeling the "growing pains" of my patience. During times when I want to sit down, cry, pull my hair out, and yell, I think of my Dad and the other really good teachers I had. They didn't do that. They just got things done. They chose their battles, not yelling at every single child every time one of them talked when they weren't supposed to, or did something stupid. It helps a little...

During my first class, the heathen children, Jackie Teacher observed my class. Thank goodness I thought she was just in there to help me keep the crazy kids under control rather than "observe" or I might have done worse. I actually think I did a fairly good job. I wasn't stuck to the computer as a script, could walk around and ask questions, got the kids talking and answering questions. I felt good about it.

In my second class, my problem child, Belle, decided she didn't want to be awake during class. I tried talking to her, touching her, even shaking her a bit; she did not budge. I finally had to ask Jackie Teacher to come in. She took Belle out of class, and returned her about 15 minutes later. Jackie Teacher told me later that Belle told her "a bad thing happened, and she does not want to study." Well, alright then... This girl absolutely baffles me.

Next class was okay, but Jackie came in and rather than observing, starting yelling at the kids to do something I had not told them to. Listen, lady, I know what I'm doing! I actually had it under control. I told her what we were doing and she said okay and left. I was actually a little confused by her random interruption and abrupt departure...

My 2SAP girls were okay. Sometimes they can be quite frustrating - these are the 3 sweet girls who just can't seem to get it together for school. We read their textbook and did some workbook pages. Nothing exciting there. My last two 1-hour classes were also uneventful. Well, in my first one, I had a student make a 0 on her vocabulary quiz. She has to come retake it tomorrow. I felt bad for her, but a 0?! Come on... My last class the boys just whipped through their work. I decided to make extra work for them when they do that.

During my last hour of planning, I made little essay packets for that last class, with prompts based on their Student Book lessons and using their vocabulary words. This is just something for them to do when they finish all their work early like they've been doing recently. It is creative writing type stuff. They need to work on their writing anyway... I am pretty proud of my little creations (the essay books, not the children....)

As far as the "social" aspect of my life (I say that with a great deal of irony), I had a heart-to-heart with Michelle at work. She had some personal things going on, and confided in me. Of course, I wouldn't break that confidence just to have something to talk about on a blog! :P So, suffice it to say that I was there for her in a time of need. I don't think I can say it enough - I love this girl! She's such a great person and friend :)

After giving her my best counsel, she headed home and so did I. My feet were absolutely killing me and my stomach hurt as well. I had Cheerios for dinner and watched TV on my computer. Then Tab and I talked about our Chusoc plans. That is Korean Thanksgiving, and we get 5 days off (including weekends, but who cares!?). It is from the end of September to the beginning of October.

We thought about going to China, but there was too much to think about for such short notice. The price wasn't bad, especially for an international trip. But, it was still more than I have to throw around before my first paycheck. I found a website called Adventure Korea - a Korean travel club. They host trips around Korea. The Chusoc trip looked perfect - it's in Korea, but still out of Seoul. It looks like an adventure with volcano climbing and beach time and cliff diving! I want to go so bad! It's a little pricey, but it would be worth it to take advantage of one of our only vacation times! I am waiting for Tab to give us the "go" and we will book it.

That's about all I have for today, and thank goodness because it's already taken 30 minutes to write all that! Time for sleep and hopefully I won't be so tired tomorrow. I need all the energy I can muster for the rest of the week.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Moohak, Happy Birthday, and Costco

I can't believe its already Sunday night, and I have to go another 5 days before the weekend comes again. Boo! I definitely appreciate my weekends a lot more now that I have to work so hard for them. Which is why this weekend was so frustrating...

Saturday, I didn't have any definite plans, but Tab and I had decided to meet up in the afternoon, after she went hiking with some other people. I declined the invite since it was still undecided until the moment they left. I figured I would sleep in, get up and clean, then meet up with Tab around 2. Well, 2pm came and went, and still no word from Tab. Around 4pm, I messaged her, thinking maybe she had gotten home and fallen asleep. Around 6pm, I was legitimately worried. She had told me she would be home at 1pm, and this is getting close to 6 hours later... By 7pm, I was mad. I spent my entire day waiting for her to contact me. Finally around 7:45, I got a message from her that she had just gotten home. 

While I know she did not have a phone to call and let me know she was going to be 7 hr late, I was still pretty upset. I value my weekend time so much, and I want to make the most of every moment. I did nothing but clean my apartment, watch movies, and lay around. I know some people would love this, and it was nice, but I also determine the quality of my day by the sense of accomplishment I feel at the end of it. I felt like I had completely wasted my Saturday. When I finally spoke to the outside world around 9pm, I was in tears. 

I am a planner; no, I am an obsessive compulsive maniac planner. I had been trying to reach my friends on the military base in Seoul to try to figure out when we were going to meet up on Sunday, and had gotten no where with that, had spent my Saturday like a hermit, and all that combined made me extremely homesick. The key to not being sad when you're away from home is to do something, go somewhere, experience something awesome and new! I had done zero of that, and felt miserable. (On a side note, I think some hormones were probably a participating factor in my completely distraught state.)  

I finally dried up the tears and went to sleep before midnight (a rarity for me these days...). I woke up today with plans to meet Michelle (my Korean BFF) for church. I left my apartment around 11am and caught a taxi. Have I mentioned how cheap cabs are here? I was in this cab for around 25 minutes, and paid less than $6. I mean... seriously? It's more expensive than public transportation, but when you need a cab, you can be glad it's this affordable!

Looks like a mega-church, right?
When I got to the neighborhood the church was in, I had to ask a little old Korean woman where it was. She sweetly pointed in the direction that the masses of people were walking (duh, should have known!). I followed her family up the slope to the church - Moohak Presbyterian Church. It reminded me of a mega-church in the states with a coffee shop, kids play area, elevators, and sleek contemporary design. I waited for Michelle by the information desk, which I thought was quite unhelpful since they offered no assistance when I was clearly looking around confused. (I mean, obviously I was there for the English service, they could have pointed me in that direction!) 

But I waited for Michelle and when she arrived, we set off for the English service. We headed in the direction of this big sancutary, and I got excited - it reminded me of several churches I'd been to before. When we got to the door, Michelle asked where to go, and we were pointed down a back alley, and told to go in the far building and up to the 4th floor.

Performing Amazing Grace
I couldn't help but laugh; sure, shuffle the foreigners off to the corner! We made our way in that direction, and finally found the room. It was the size of a small classroom, with about 15 people in it. I felt so awkward; I was 1 of 2 white people. They were in the middle of praise and worship when we entered, so we found a seat in the back and joined in. 

Well, at least these guys had a projector... the only musical instrument was an electric piano, and the vocalists... well, let's just say they should probably pursue a non-musical profession. I knew a few of the songs (although at times, between the horrible pronunciation of the words and the skipping around of the verses/chorus, I didn't totally recognize them). After we finished singing, there was a little performance of Amazing Grace by a choir-ish-thing. (A line of 5 people and a violinist). THEN the preacher came up... 

Sneaky photo taken of the pastor
I said I was 1 of 2 white people - he was the other. And he looked about 19. When he said he had a wife, I think my jaw literally dropped. The kid was young. And Canadian. I attempted to take him seriously, but he just didn't have that commanding presence. Plus, the way he talked, I'd be surprised if the audience (all 12 of them) knew what he was talking about. I mean, he didn't have an accent that was hard to understand, but he used phrases that I was fairly certain most intermediate-level English speakers would not know.

After an hour, I asked Michelle if her husband was ready to go (he had gone to the Korean service), and she said yes. We left before the service was over, but I don't think we really missed a whole lot. When we stepped out, a guy followed us. He wanted to put my phone number on a text-messaging list for the people who go to the service. Michelle explained I was just visiting and lived far away, so not sure if I would return (all of this said in Korean), and I was so thankful she saved me! I wouldn't have known how to decline politely :( 

When we were far enough away to speak freely, we both had a little laugh over the situation. She felt bad, because she didn't know it was so small and basic. I told her I didn't mind, but it wasn't what I was used to. She said that the Korean service is much better, and I told her that I actually would be interested to experience that, even if I couldn't understand any of it.

I want to add that, despite the service being lackluster, it was actually really amazing to be with brothers and sisters in Christ all the way on the other side of the world. About half of Korea is Christian, the other half is Buddhist. I didn't realize how much Christianity had permiated their society, but it was amazing to see. And, you could tell they were not there out of obligation or tradition. They wanted to be there. They love Jesus too. Just like me! We don't speak the same language, we come from totally different lives, but we were connected by a savior. Pretty amazing to experience...

We met up with her hubby (I taught her that word - she thinks its hilarious), and set off for lunch. We ended up going to a shopping complex that had a lot of food options. When we were driving into the parking garage (since they have a car! which is awesome!), the attendant was wearing a baby blue sash over his uniform. From the back seat, I couldn't see it too well, but I did see that it said "Happy BirthDay!" then had some Korean underneath it. So, being the friendly American that I am, I yelled, from the backseat of these Koreas' car, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!" .... The guy looked completely bewildered. Michelle and her husband just start laughing so hard, and he quickly rolled up the window and scooted the car inside. Between fits of giggles, Michelle managed to get out, "Chelsea, I think it's the store's anniversary!" Hahahaha!!! Oh man... I explained to her that occasionally, in American, some people wear things like that to celebrate birthdays or bachelorette parties, etc. Not that they usually wear it to work, but I seriously thought this guy was just really excited about his birthday. I was wrong... Later, inside, I got a photo with a mannequin wearing the sash.  

Happy BirthDay!
When we got to the food court, they went through each place and explained what it was to me. I ended up getting some seafood pasta with cream sauce (without the "small fish spawn," please and thank you!). They got Korean hot-pot. We chatted, I taught them the word in-laws (they were going to see her husbands parents after lunch), and got to know each other better. I absolutely love her, and her husband is great, too. He doesn't speak as much English as she does, but he understands some. I just know that they will be friends for life, and hopefully we can all (I'm including Michael in this despite that he has no idea I've volunteered us) meet up once in a while, maybe go to Australia (where Michelle lived for 9 years) or Thailand! Couples vacations! :D

They took me to the lower level of the shopping complex to show me around, but then they had to go meet up with the in-laws, so we said our goodbyes. I called Ed and found out that I could pick up my stuff from him in the evening. Rather than go home and wait, I messaged Tab to see if she wanted to go to Costco, since there was one relatively close to where I was. I waited for her to get ready and catch the subway to where I was at (which ended up being around 1hr 45min...), and we set off for Costco.

I had known I wanted to go Costco, even if only for cheese. But, since they only sell in bulk, I knew Tab and I should go together. When we got to Costco, we split the price of the membership card (~$35), but since she was the only one with an ARC, she got to be the "holder" of the card. We will be going together all the time anyway, so it doesn't really matter. First thing, we got some food. Even though I ate 3-4 hours before, I was hungry again. We went to the food court, and I got the best food I've had in Korea: American style pizza!!!!! It was so good, I took a picture! And, to make it even better, a fountain Coke! (Convenience stores only sell bottles, and the only fast food I'd been to had Pepsi.) It was glorious!!!

While we were sitting, we had a Korean family in front of us. The little baby waved at us, and Tab and I discussed how extremely small children knew how to wave in Korea. Like, babies their age in America can only drool. I decided intelligence is not only a product of constant study and endless schooling, but it must be genetic, too. When we were throwing our trash out in the many different bins ("food waste", "plastic" "plates" "silverware" "cups" "paper" etc), I saw something that both grossed me out and intrigued me. An onion grinder machine. Apparently, Koreans love their onions. I knew I had smelled it while eating, but I didn't realize the mass quantities in which they were consumed. Literally, plates full of onions with mustard. *Shiver*

Onion machine
Each Korean had a plate full of onions.
We finished up and made our way into the insanity that was Costco. There were so many people, and they do not observe the walk-on-the-right rules we Americans stick to. They park their carts wherever they want, and don't take a hint to get out of the way! We stuck to the food floor, since that was what we came for. Both of us had our goals: mine was parmesan cheese and cream sauce for pasta. Tab's was granola and granola bars. We found all of that, and more! I found my pasta sauce and parmesan cheese very quickly, and we got Fiber One bars like in America. I also got some croissants, pancake mix, and eggs. Tab was having a hard time finding granola, so I asked a worker. He motioned me to follow, but the crowds were so thick, I had to leave Tab with the cart behind. I literally ran after the guy, and he took me to 2 different people before they could direct me to the appropriate aisle. But, in the end, we did find it! I also grabbed some frozen chicken breast, and Tab and I decided to split it, since it was all individually packaged. On a side note, I'm kind of proud that I am figuring out how to cook and eat without the use of a microwave. I mean, it sucks in a lot of ways, but I'm sure it's healthier too. 

We realized when we checked out that they don't offer to sell you bags at Costco. This is probably because 90% of what they sell would not fit in a bag. But, neither Tab nor I brought our reusable bags. Thankfully Tab had a backpack, and we were able to cram some stuff in that. The rest we carried. We flagged down a taxi and headed for my place. Walking to the cab, and from the cab to my apartment was ridiculous. I have a photo to prove it, too.

Oh, did I mention, this entire time I've been wearing HEELS?! Yes, my feet are absolutely killing me. When we got to my place, we split up the things we had decided to share. Then, we headed back out to the subway; Tab heading for home, myself for Itaewon to meet Ed with my package from home. 

So, more time on the subway, walking to the gate, and back to the subway loaded down with a backpack full, a bag of groceries, and a box with my foam mattress pad from the sates. I thought about cabbing it back home, but the fare is around $12 from Itaewon, and I'd already spent almost $10 in taxis today. I decided to just hack it on the subway. It wasn't that bad, besides taking a while. 

When I was waiting for my connecting train, a Korean guy came up and asked me how to pronounce something in English. And another word. And just kept talking. He got on the same train as I, and was telling me about how he is studying English, and wants to practice and there is no one to practice with, and would I be willing to talk to him, etc etc. I couldn't be rude; I talked to him for a while and he got my Kakao (Korean text messaging app) name, and wants to meet up sometimes.

He was very nice and I felt guilty telling him no, but I felt slightly uncomfortable with that idea. I politely told him that while he is welcome to text me to practice, when I am not at work, I prefer not to work. I think he understood. On the subway, he jabbered away. He was so excited to talk to an American; wanted to show off his knowledge of American things. He asked me to quiz him on the states and their capitals. Then he asked me one, and embarrassingly I didn't know. Well, no, I just couldn't think of it on a dime. Plus, he pronounced "Vermont" as "Beaumont" and I told him I didn't know that state. He probably thought I was an idiot. But, an English speaking idiot who was nice to him. Poor kid...

I finally made it to my home station, onto the bus, and finally to my apartment. First things first was to put my new mattress pad on my bed. Oh, man... does it make a difference or what!! I love it!! So happy I got something. The Korean mattresses are only slightly better than sleeping on concrete. 

All in all, my day was good but exhausting. I am looking forward to sleeping tonight, and maybe I'll make some pancakes tomorrow!! :)

My amazing, incredible, beautiful Korean BFF!!!

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I'm starting to get really annoyed at Korea. Yes, I said it! I've been having issues with my door. Last night when I got home, apparently my door did not shut all the way (it usually closes by itself, and then has an electronic lock). Before I went to bed, thankfully I caught it. I had to fiddle with the locking mechanism for a minute before I got it to auto-lock. Then, this morning when I went to work, I sat there and made sure I heard the lock turn before I left. Apparently, I didn't wait/look hard/long enough, because my door was OPEN when I got home tonight. No, not wide open, but it was not shut. I think the lock did turn, but the door had not fully sealed. I pulled it open without having to punch in my code. This freaked me out! I checked all my things, and everything was still there. Thank goodness I live at the end of the hall, and Koreans are generally very honest with non-criminal tendencies. I'm starting to get pissed at this door situation.

But, in other news... IT'S FRIDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I literally did a happy dance when I woke up. Been waiting for this day alllll week! :) I woke up a little late, again, but no matter. I treated myself to a waffle for breakfast. When I got there, I decided I wanted the choco-nut waffle, but I wanted whipped cream. Last time I ordered this as well, but without whipped cream. It would have been infinitely better with whipped cream, so I asked for it this time. What I got instead, was ICE cream. While I'm certainly not complaining, it was hilarious. And absolutely delicious. Best lost-in-translation mistake EVER. On the way back to my apartment, I got a Iced Chai Tea Latte, but I don't think the girl knew what I mean by soy milk, and my latte tasted a little funny. Who knows what ended up in my drink?!

I finished getting ready, talked to mom and dad, and left for work. When I arrived, I got all prepared, even doing the things I don't usually like read over the lessons entirely, and made the extra things like laminated cards. The laminating machine was so fun!

Classes were fairly normal. I officially can't stand my youngest kids. They are WILD, have waaay too much energy, absolutely no attention span, and have the blankest looks on their faces when I speak. My next group of kids is not much better, but the class is smaller. One girl, Belle, sometimes I wonder if she has much more than crickets going on in her head. She just stares. Today, I asked her to do her work, did she understand, and why wasn't she working? She just looked at me. Then she dropped her pencil, and when I asked her to pick it up, she looked at me like I was speaking another language. (Oh, wait... I was...) I knelt down and asked her in my most patient, simplest words, to pick up her pencil. She sat there frozen. I finally had to grab a Korean teacher to ask her to speak to Belle. The teacher had to stay the whole class to help her. Extremely frustrating. The other kids all get it. It's like some kids just don't try, don't care to learn, don't give a you-know-what that their parents are paying out the @$$ for them to come to this academy to learn English to have a better chance at a successful future!!!! *heavy, angry breathing going on as I type* Well, actually, all that is probably true, unfortunately.

My other classes got gradually better after that. The kids were extra-rowdy today. I guess they were as excited about the weekend as I was. My 2SAP girls took a quiz, which they all promised me they studied for, but I still had to not only give them a word bank, but break it up into sections so there was only 3-4 choices vs. 12 choices. Does this make sense? Like, instead of 12 words as options for #1-12, I said "#1-3 has these words as choices" etc. I was quite frustrated. I feel like I really try to help these kids, and they can't even do well then. Ah, such is the life of a teacher. We feel like we fail when our students fail. Or maybe that's just a rookie mistake.

Well, my last class was great, as it usually is. The boys were pretty hyper, but they all got 100s on both quizzes I gave them (Hallelujah!), and I was able to sit down at the table with them to work on most of the lesson. It's nice to sit down, and it's nice to be on a level with them. Maybe in Korea, this is frowned upon because the teacher seems less of an authority figure to be respected (they're all about the hierarchy), but in America I think it's a good thing. Teachers don't seem so cut off from the kids, like they are there to help and can be approached for help.

By 8:00pm, I was dancing another happy dance! I decided to make a significant effort to be friendly with my fellow foriegn teachers, and asked if anyone wanted to get dinner. We decided to go downstairs to the bottom floor of the building to get shabu-shabu. This was described to me as a soup. I will take you through my culinary journey...

First of all, we sit traditional Korean style: on the floor. Now, I'm all for the fung shui and all that, but my legs fall asleep and my back starts to ache after about 10 minutes of this business. But, when in Korea....

Thankfully, we had a Korean with us at dinner. She was able to order for us and we knew exactly what we were getting. (Well, Erin and Brian Teacher already knew since they've been here quite a few times before.)

We ordered, and they brought a bowl of broth and turned on the burner. Once the broth was nearly boiling, we added veggies. Once these had shrunk down to a normal size, we added the meat. The meat cooked very quickly, so we had our first "course" - meat and veggies. We had been given 2 bowls of spices/sauces, and I found that I really enjoyed one of them. Don't ask me what it was, because I have no idea. I greedily ate as much meat as I thought was socially acceptable, being that the whole table shared the pot.

After this "course" was finished, we let the broth heat back up and added a plate of noodles (flour, not rice, thankfully). Those cooked a while, and the broth became more of a gravy consistency. It was absolutely delicious. The best really Asian dish I've had so far (I would say "Korean" dish, but I don't think it is Korean... I think it's Japanese...).

After the noodle course, the waitress added some more broth (we were all sipping it, so it evaporated quickly), and when it was good and boiling, added the rice and egg concoction. It got very thick and was actually quite nice as well.

All in all, it was an extremely good dinner, and I tried a sip of "sansachun" which is some Korean wine made from "red fruits of the sansas" - anybody know what sansas are? Me either... It wasn't bad, though. Almost like a cider... I only had a small cup (and by Korean standards, when I say small, I mean less than a shot glass size), but I would like to try it again.

I left a bit early, giving some money to Sean for him to pay my portion of the meal, and headed home. I had left my phone at home, and felt naked without some form of communication. Mostly because Tab and I had briefly talked about our weekend plans this morning, and we hadn't decided anything when I left, so I wanted to get back and make sure she wasn't expecting me to be over there or something. And then, of course, I discovered my door is a POS and I need to get it fixed.

I decided to just stay in tonight, and good thing because it's raining now. I love that I can hear the pitter patter on my window. :) I found a few really cool things while I was procrastinating writing my blog. I love/am addicted to Instagram (photo taking app which puts cool filters on your pics). I have previously used Postagram, an app that takes your Instagram photos and turns them into postcards. It's awesome, because the price is less than buying a postcard here and mailing it, plus I can put my own photo on it! I brought to Korea a few Postagrams I had sent to myself and also received. I put one of the photos on my desk under the glass top at school, and I loved looking at it all day. I decided I wanted some more photos! So, I found two awesome websites: StickyGram and Printstagram.

StickyGram is a website that you can turn your Instagram photos into magnets! It's $15 for a sheet of 9 magnets. They also offer free worldwide shipping (awesome!!!!) and if you fancy getting some, use the code FRIENDA771 and you can get $2 off! I am super excited to get mine in the mail. I already have some photos on the fridge, but these will really help my room look more personal.

Printstagram is a website that you can get simple prints of your Instagram photos. You can do regular squares, or minis! You can also make albums and other goodies. I wanted regular squares to put on my desk, so I got a set of 24 prints for the incredible price of $12!! Unforunately, you do pay shipping here. To a US address is $7. But, including tax, my total was still less than $20. 

I am super excited to get all these photos in the mail! I am obsessed with Instagram, and I definitely see more orders for these prints in the future! **Sorry for the tangent about these companies, I am just so excited!**

I wonder what this weekend will have in store....

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