One downer was that my supervisor told me that I had to come in on the Saturday we were required to work. (If you didn't read before, my mom will be in town that day and it's the only weekend we will have. I had asked if I could have the day off to spend with her). I was pretty let down when she said no, mostly because I had been told by older teachers that they were positive I would be able to get off. But... that proved not to be the case. My supervisor is extremely by-the-book, and tries to be hard about stuff. Oh well...
One more thing about school, then I'll get to the weekend, I promise! In my last class on T/Th, I have had a boy, Daniel, who is extremely frustrating. He doesn't seem to comprehend anything, never follows along with reading, I have to repeat instructions 15 times for him, he never knows the answers, etc. Well, Thursday after Chuseok, I came into class and when I asked for the answer to the first question, Daniel raised his hand. I couldn't believe it. I called on him, and my jaw dropped. He knew the answer. We were doing a reading comprehension and the questions were not easy. As we continued, he knew every single answer, even answers that the "smart girls" in the class didn't know. At one point, I wondered if I had forgotten to take out the answer key from the back, but I checked and it wasn't there. I was seriously floored. After class I made a point to tell him that he did excellent today. I also told the Korean teacher about this, and she promised she would call his mom and tell her that he did so well. I'm so proud of him! Honestly, I don't know what it was that turned it around. It was just as if suddenly a lightbulb turned on....
Anyway, to the weekend! Saturday, Tab and I decided that she needed a phone. It has been quite frustrating at times when she runs late and has no way to inform me. I just wait and wait and finally she will show up. After she leaves WiFi at her apartment, we have no way of contacting each other before we meet up. So, we planned to check out places in Itaewon, since we figured they would speak the best English. Also, I had received a package at the base and needed to collect it. (It was my 24 Instagram prints by Social Print Studio! They were awesome!)
We checked out a couple places for phones, and I advised Tab on where was too expensive, etc. We got super hungry so we headed to a place we had read about called Pancakes Original Story. We had to take the subway a direction we'd never gone, and it took a little while. When we came out of the subway stop, we saw another phone company we had not talked to yet (also, the company I am with, SK Telecom). We walked in, and Tab fell in love with the worker at first sight. We asked for prices, and with the help of a translator named Steve who happened to be in the store, decided that this was the best deal. Tab ended up getting the same phone as me, and the same plan! Finally, after nearly an hour of filling out paperwork, and a lot of flirting (from both of us, myself directing the attentions to Tab), we headed in the direction of the restaurant.
We started to feel lost when we finally saw the intersection it was supposed to be in. It was a 5-way intersection, and we had to just guess which corner it might be on. We picked right and saw it after nearly getting squashed flat by traffic while running across the crosswalk. It was 2pm by now, and since neither of us had eaten, we were excited to see that they had a table readily available. The place was teeny-tiny but so cute.
After much deliberation, Tab and I ordered breakfast sets, mine with french toast, hers with pancakes. It was absolutely delicious. I cleaned my plate (except for the Korean sausage links that I couldn't bring myself to eat). There was also a sign on the wall behind Tab that said "Warning: drinking distilled spirits, beer, coolers, wine and other alcoholic beverages can cause pregnancy." I thought it was hilarious! And completely out of place at a brunch joint. We filled up on our delicious breakfast, then sat on a bench outside, mooching internet off another restaurant down the street.
We had previously planned to go to the Seoul International Fireworks Festival, but both of us were tired (physically, not mentally), and fireworks didn't start for another 4 hours. We decided to just go now to the park and get a good seat on the lawn and chill, read a book, etc, until the fireworks at 7pm.
We made our way to Yeouido, the park we went to Wednesday, and there were already crowds heading to the river. We joined them, bought a Coke and popcorn, and headed to the river. We saw everyone had these mats that people usually take hiking or on picnics, and we decided we should invest so we don't sit on the grass and get green on our pants, or in case there was dew or mud. We picked one up from a street vendor for 4,000W, and made our way down to the river.
We luckily found a spot between some Korean families and couples, and set up shop with the mat. It was a great investment! We sat and ate our popcorn and people watched. After a little while, the bathroom lines got enormous!
|The line to the bathroom early on.|
When night started to fall, we noticed there were more and more people flooding into the area. The bathroom lines tripled from the photo above, and people started squeezing their mats onto every available patch of ground. We started playing with this very outgoing little boy near us, and taught him highfives. He kept wandering around between us, a Korean couple behind us, and his family next to the Korean couple. We thought he was so adorable, so we used my iPad to lure him over. We wanted photos with him, but it was hard. His mom and dad came to talk to us, and it turns out the dad is a Korean soldier and is going to Texas in the Spring to work with the Air Force. I assume he will be in San Antonio (maybe?). The mom asked where we were living and I told her I lived in JangAn near Bauhaus and she exclaimed "Oh! I live near around there as well!" She invited me over for dinner one night during the week, and I told her I work late, but if that was okay, sure! We exchanged contact information. I'm very excited: she was so sweet! Her husband took some photos of us with the little boy, and he is going to email them to me. :)
Pretty soon after that, the fireworks started. We expected them at 7, but they didn't start until 7:30. They began with a big introduction, a huge explosion and streaming lights that looked like a lit-up willow tree, massive in the sky. Everyone exclaimed and leaped up. We watched the show for about 30 minutes, and then the fireworks stopped.
We figured it was time to go, and we wanted to get out ahead of the crowds that had amassed. We packed up and started walking to the road. It took us about 30 minutes to go half a block. If I had thought Psy was crowded, that was a cake walk compared to this. The photo below is a fraction of the people we had to fight our way through. I am definitely having to face my phobia of large crowds here in Seoul, especially when Tab keeps dragging me to things that every Korean in the country wants to go to, too!
I am not going to go into details about the experience of trying to get through these crowds, but in the process of fighting our way through, the fireworks started back up and continued for another hour while we were making our way to the subway. Part of me wished we had stayed for the whole thing, another part is so glad we got out while we did. We hid in a coffee shop off the main street for a while, hoping to let the crowds die down. That was a false hope, as was trying to find some kind of food that was not squid or bug larvae. We finally made our way to the subway at nearly 10pm (having left the park at 8pm). It was absolutely exhausting. We decided to go our separate ways, and I made it home around 11:20.
My road had been shut off, and therefore the buses stopped running, in order for some kind of festival to happen. In the morning, I had seen it being set up (again, no buses) and I believe it said "World Street Dance Festival." Hmm... All I had seen of this was the setup and tear down, but from the trash littering the streets, it looked like it had been fun. There is so much to do in Seoul, even if you try to do it all you never will succeed. I passed out pretty quick after getting home, and today I am going to head to church with some coworkers. We will see how this goes...
Ah, a few photos taken by much better photographers than I of the Fireworks Festival, and parts we missed: