But this is the English Zone!

26 02 2012

Okay guys, I just have to share the ridiculousness that is happening in my office right now.

Last year, all 5 of the teachers here in my office were English teachers. We are in the super fancy, never-gets-used-because-it-cost-too-much, English Zone, after all. Now, all of the long term teachers have been moved up to the 2nd floor main office, and I’m the only one left in here.

The other department heads (NOT English) have been moved in here, and now they’re moving all the English materials out of my office and into the hallway, and moving science/math/Korean stuff in. I really want to protest, since the English materials (DVDs, games, books and other supplies) are all on open bookshelves and are going to be destroyed by the kids in about 4 days, and they moved in lockers that are lockable.

They’ve now detached the water dispenser from the pipes, moved it over about 3 feet and put a paper shredder in its place. Why they couldn’t move the broken fridge and put the shredder there, I still don’t understand. I asked if we could move the mini fridge out to the closet in the English Zone (since it is broken), but they said no, we must keep it in this office. GGGAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!

Godzilla, you understand, right? So why haven't you come to Korea?!?

Though it’s been said, many times, many ways,

Korea is where logic goes to die.

On the bright side, they’ve just demanded that the principal install walls that are real, not the loading dock door and the plastic dividers with windows like we currently have. Let’s hope that we can get in and out after that… since the maintenance guy said that our door lock can’t be fixed until July.

Where’s the tool box? I’m my mother’s daughter, I’ll do it myself.

Nothing like being underwater on a hot day…

27 06 2011

Legit swimming pools: they’re really hard to find. Monsoon season hit my beloved little city last week and I think it may have decided to take it easy today. Right now, Yongin is hot and muggy, and it feels like the tropical rainforest… just minus the trees, animals and delicious fruit. As stuffy as it is, it makes me want to hit up a pool like no other.

A few weeks ago, Laura, Jessica and I decided to check out the pool at the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon, Seoul. It was one of the only pools we could find, plus it was on the roof of a tall building, so there was going to be some sun in order. Not to mention that Itaewon is Little America, so there wouldn’t be a lot of criticism of swim wear like there is everywhere else. Also, it was an Adjumma free zone. No perms, track suits or flying elbows to be found.

It was pretty pricey to get in at W16,000, but it was a nice hot day so it was worth it. It was pretty hilarious for people watching. You have the Korean body builder guys in Speedos workin’ on their fitness, the Korean girls wearing bikinis, but covered in a shirt, hat and sunglasses under an umbrella, and then you have the Waygooks. We’re all shapes and sizes, and if we’re by a pool, we’re getting tan and just maybe a little drunk.

Believe me, with some of the people there, the beer in hand rule applied BIG TIME. It was hilarious to see some of these people. Lots of US military guys and an international slow-pitch softball team from St. Louis. They gave Laura a lot of crap for her STL tattoo on her arm, which was a funny story in and of itself. The funniest part of my day (mostly because it wasn’t directed at me) was the um, ridiculously well-endowed Marine in a poor choice of swimwear who caught Jessica checking him out. Once he noticed her, he proceeded to follow her like a puppy and hit on her for most of the afternoon.

“You’re so hot. Your eyes are so exotic.” Blah blah blah. (Please push play on the link.)
“Yeah, and I’m smart. And rich. Really rich.”

Was she provoking him or directly making fun of his failed attempts? I think a little of both. Either way, it was funny to me and Laura.

Back to serious matters. Two things from that trip that I didn’t understand. 1) Why on Earth would a man wear a flossy little G-string to a pool? and 2) If you’re going to pay $16 to go to a pool, why don’t you get in the pool? Maybe it’s me being the aquatic type, but I didn’t get it. Although I was really glad that Mr. Flossy of G-string fame steered clear of the water…


Jessica and Laura at the Hamilton Hotel pool

Make it happen, Cap’n– err, Robocop.

23 06 2011

I want this to happen to the next kid who swears in my class.

One big problem I have at my school, and all over the place with kids in Korea, is that they swear like sailors. I’ve made it a rule that if I hear a bad word in English, the student must stand at the back of the classroom holding up a desk. Yes, a desk.

It’s like the swear jar, but worse. 4 minutes for a 4-letter word. It’s gotten a little bit better, but there are still the kids who insist on running around yelling “Oh SHIT!” when their friends are chasing them in the hallway at break.

My current project of the day is learning the proper way to say, “If your mother knew what you just said, she would murder you.” This was actually brought about by being sick and tired of the 3rd grade ELEMENTARY school boy next door who yells out the window, “Hey man, F*** you!” every day when I walk by. Teachers obviously don’t pay much attention to the bombs being dropped in English every 5 seconds. The sad part is that the teachers all know what the kids are saying, but just ignore it.

Teachers out there, what do you do to combat swearing in class? Help me out here!


Things That Make Me Feel 5 Again

19 04 2011

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a Wednesday ritual after school. I live about a block away from a Baskin Robbins, which is delicious and dangerous, because they have Rainbow Sherbet. Or, if you’re me and my family, “Sherbert.”


Momentary childhood flashback time! I lived in Pendleton and Mom worked for Gramma at “Lynne’s Poodle Palace” in Hermiston. (Billy, this is where all the jokes come from.) We would drive there every day to work, and I would play with all the animals and generally love life. On the way home, in our awesome, slightly sparkly Chevy truck, we would occasionally stop at the little cafe place that served ice cream. Mom and I would rumble up to the Wheatland Dairy’s drive through window and get a couple sugar cones with our favorite flavor scooped right on top.

Our favorite employee was an older guy. He knew what was up. There was a tight corner on the overpass, and he squished each scoop down so that if you were barreling around that corner at 60 or so, that delicious gob of colorful goodness stayed put.

We developed a tangible hatred for the younger woman that worked there. She was dainty and frail in her work, and in the ice cream business, that just doesn’t cut it. Her scoops would sit lightly on top of the cone, as if she wanted it to fall off. It was like a company selling equipment that will only last a short while and then crap out. (cough cough Dell cough cough) It’s good for business, but terrible for the consumer.

I remember one time Mom and I got sherbert and were heading home, across the overpass. The dumb chick served us, and I was 5 year old oblivious Dani, enjoying my after work treat. (Don’t worry, no child labor laws were broken!) It was hot out, I was happy, and we headed home… Right towards the monster corner on the overpass.

If you’ve ever met my mom, you know she likes to go fast. Cars, trucks, whatever. That dreadful day was no different. We went sailing around that corner like always, and it was like watching a glass fall from a high cabinet and shattering: it all happens in slow motion and you’re helpless. My happy scoop of rainbow goodness became a mucky mess on the floor of the Chevy, changing from my treat to Patsy’s treat in an instant.  Ultimate feeling of bummed. Maybe that’s why I always felt bad for the big guy on Lilo and Stitch!


Back to the future, err, recent past, and I’m getting some delicious rainbow sherbert from BR’s down the block. An older Ajumma and her family work there. They’re really friendly, and the youngest girl always tries to show her mom/grandma? how to say things in English to me. Last Wednesday, I walked in and got my usual. It was nice out, so I paid and decided to walk down the street to the park by my house to enjoy the warm weather and my reward for not strangling the Ke$ha-esque boy, U~Ganda in class.

As I was walking out the door, a delivery motorcycle zoomed past, bumping my bag and sending me flying. Again, slow-motion helplessness kicked in, as my bag hit the ground and I saw the beautiful colors go flying right onto the doorstep of Baskin Robbins.

Really?!? Awww...

Ultimate bummer. I felt completely defeated by that stupid motorcycle delivery guy. I picked up my bag, completely bummed, and started to clean up the ice cream off my pant leg with the napkins I got for my cone. Just as I was throwing the whole mess in the trash, the old Ajumma walked up with a new cone, patted my shoulder and asked, “Are you okay?” I said that I was fine, and I was so shocked by the fact that she actually asked me something in English that I didn’t realize that she was offering me a fresh scoop of wonder. “Here, for you.”


I tried to pay for it, but she just wasn’t having it. I thanked her again and went to the park. I’m pretty sure that second cone tasted way better than the first. Minus the motorbike jerk faces, I LOVE MY NEIGHBORHOOD!

Fish Penis Soup

29 03 2011

Every day, I go to lunch with two of the four Korean women that work in my office. They’re both English teachers and really interested in America and teaching me about Korean food. The taller of the two, Mrs. Young, has much better English, and the significantly shorter, Mrs. Kim has speaking skills that are well, definitely proportionate to her height.

We walked in and as we were getting our trays to dish up lunch, Mrs. Young realized that she forgot her phone, so she went back to get it. “Don’t worry, I’ll catch up soon,” she reassured, “I’ll find you.” As if I’m a vulnerable toddler just learning to walk. But don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have someone to talk to and explain what exactly I’m eating, since not many teachers at Gugal speak English, and Koreans eat way more random things than even Indonesians do.

Each tray has 5 sections: 1 for rice, 1 for soup, and 3 smaller ones for the “side dishes,” which usually include kimchi, some sort of green vegetable on its way to being kimchi, and something saucy and/or meaty. That day was no different. Koreans tend to mix things into the white rice when preparing it, making it ever so slightly less monotonous. (Can’t fool us! It’s still white rice, just with sesame seeds in it.)

Kimchi? Check.
Unidentifiable vegetable? Check.
Something saucy? Check.
White rice disguised as not-white rice? Check.
Red soup with veggies and bits and pieces of a random animal? Check.

I sat down at the teachers’ table and started poking through the veggies and kimchi. I tend to try the new things first, as I don’t want to leave lunch with funk breath or a bad taste in my mouth. You should also know that I’ve become somewhat of a chopstick master since I’ve been here.

Usually, you eat the chunks in the soup with your chopsticks instead of the soup spoon. I picked up a piece of cabbage that was on top of the soup. Nice and spicy. As I was happily munching on what was probably just leftover kimchi tossed into soup, I realized that there was something in my soup.

Something very peculiar looking. Very, very peculiar.

Phallic, covered in veins, and definitely shaped like finger-sized man junk. I had no idea what I was looking at, but I knew it looked out of place. The first thing that came to mind wasn’t, “What is that?” but rather, “That should not be in my soup.”

The shorter English teacher looked over at the mini-member in my soup and said, “Oh, you have a big one! Haha!”

“What exactly is that?” Please don’t tell me something gross. Please don’t tell me something gross. Please don’t tell-

“It is male reproductive organ.”

A what?! Oh god. Ohgodohgodohgodohgod. What were the chummy cafeteria ladies trying to feed me?!?

Mrs. Young sat down as I was looking at my tray, absolutely bewildered. She dug right in to her soup, and I couldn’t help but feel a little green around the gills. She looked up as I dismissed the soup entirely and moved on to the rice.

“Dani, do you not like the soup?”

“I’m not exactly sure yet.”

“Oh, it is quite popular in the spring, when fish start to reproduce.”

Fish. It was some part of a fish. I was a little bit thankful at that point. Just a little bit. “What is it from?”

“It’s the egg sac of a female fish. Like the eggs on sushi.”

No way, it’s something I’ve eaten before? I was taken aback for a moment, since the thing in the metal bowl looked like it had no need for a little blue pill.

I couldn’t bring myself to finish the soup, but I definitely made sure to review a few masculine/feminine terms with Mrs. Kim on the way out of the cafeteria.

“Female fish, Mrs. Kim. It was from a female fish.”


Dinner with the English teachers 3/29. Not the day of the Fish Junk debacle.

Naked Culture Shock

22 03 2011

A couple weeks ago, Mychaela planned on coming to visit and stay for the weekend. She has a really nice apartment in a high-rise that has a roof with a killer view of her neighborhood. As we’ve discovered here in Yongin, I can’t exactly say the same for my living situation. There are a few major pros and cons, but there is one huge difference that I’m perfectly okay with: I live in a real neighborhood. The kind where you get to know your neighbors and know which students from your school live nearby. The kind where there’s a neighborhood cat and the new baby next door whom you can hear so clearly sometimes it was as if she were in the room. The kind of neighborhood that has apartments that are visited by religious missionaries… but more on that later.

Friday night, we had planned on meeting at Bojeong Metro station at 7:30, then come back to my apartment to drop off her wonderful gift (A PILLOW!!!). Friday night traversing Seoul by subway apparently takes 3 hours, not the 2 hours it took me on a Sunday night. Mychaela finally walked through the gates at 8:54 PM, just 6 minutes before I was ready to leave the station and go home. While waiting, I had been chatting with an older Korean gentleman who appeared to be waiting for someone as well, speaking English really well. He said that he worked with US soldiers during the Korean War and became a teacher afterward. His daughter lived in Philadelphia, teaching Korean at a school there. “You two would be great friends, but you seem to have traded places.”

Bicycle chain heart: North Seoul Tower

We got back to my apartment to realize that we were both exhausted from a trip much longer than expected. We got dinner at an Italian place and had a Korean beer in a “German Beer Garden.” (False advertisement!! They only had Cass, which is the Korean version of Coors.) We crashed at my place and got up to make plans for Saturday and all its wonder. We had planned to go into Seoul later in the day so that we wouldn’t spend 10 hours walking around. The irony of that statement would later come back to bite us.

We grabbed lunch at my favorite cafe, Coffee Verdi, and saw a few of my students. They’re still in the “She’s a real person who exists outside of school” realization phase. We caught the bus to Ori station, where we decided that traffic was so bad that we’d just take the subway. First destination was to Seoul Station, where Lonely Planet says it should be a 15-20 minute walk from the station to the tower. Lonely Planet lies. [I feel like I should edit those books for a living. I could re-write the Indonesian version with a little help from my Fulbright and Indonesian friends. That book was a mess.] That short walk was actually about an hour from the station to the tower. For the distance and the fact that it was 90% stairs, we made really good time. The view was worth it! We got to the tower around sunset, which was the one thing LP got right. Transitions in major cities are always really cool to see. That was always my favorite thing about Jakarta: seeing the sun go down and the lights turn on. Flashy.

Photo Island view of Seoul


Locks of Love at North Seoul Tower

The North Seoul Tower is known for its locks on the fence. Couples in Korea see this as their Mecca. The migrate toward it, hike up the hill, sign their lock and latch it to the fence. Some messages are really heartfelt, others are friendly, others have Bart Simpson on them. There are strange benches, which at first I thought would be weird to sit on, as it would look like you broke the bench, but in reality, they were designed so that when a couple would sit on them, they would inevitably lean together, inducing snuggle.

After it got dark, we walked down the hill on the road that has the buses we apparently didn’t know about. We checked out the Namdaemun street market, which is a 24 hour market up and down the streets of the neighborhood. Fake bags, ginseng gift shops, fake sunglasses, delicious food, and a boatload of optical shops and camera stores. Once I save up, that DSLR will be mine. Oh yes, she will be mine.

The chaos that is Myeong-Dong

I had heard the week before that there would be a fundraiser for a women’s rights group in Itaewon, the multicultural hub of Seoul. The fundraiser was to have a burlesque show and dancing. It could be fun, and if not, the money goes to single moms. (I really don’t mean that in a stripper joke sort of way, either.) Turns out, every single foreigner in Korea had heard about this show. The place was packed and we all had to get pretty up close and personal, and unfortunately that included with the drunk US Army guy with the bottle of Cuervo who incessantly shouted, “I LOVE VAGINAAAAAA!!!!” All in all, it was pretty fun. My favorite act was a girl with a hula hoop. She killed it. Check out the video of Betty Hoops:

I really appreciated her friends’ comments after her performance. “Where did she learn to do that?” “It’s a Northwest thing. Everybody can do something awesome like that here.” Haha, we do all have really random hidden talents!

Borrowed flash at the Burlesque show

Borrowed flash at the Burlesque show

After the show, everybody performed a mass exodus from Bedlam out into the streets of Itaewon. It was about 11:30, so Mychaela and I figured it would be time to head back towards home. We get on the subway, and when we were supposed to transfer to the line that would take us home, we ran into a terrible dead end. The station was closed, we couldn’t transfer, and the train we were on definitely left already. Yaksu station. What the hell is in Yaksu? Nothing. A taxi from there would cost us $50 to get home. A dingy hotel would set us back at least $40.

Then it dawned on me. Audra’s suggestion. “If stranded, find a jimjilbang.” A jimjilbang is basically a spa, but open 24 hours, and you can sleep there. Game on. Now, we just had to find one. We walked around for about an hour trying to find one. It wasn’t too cold, my feet were fine, and I really didn’t mind. The logo for a jimjilbang is basically a soup bowl with three wavy steam things coming out the top. I feel like I’ve seen it as a ramen noodle logo before. After talking with a random Korean man at about 1:30, he showed us in the way of one of the nearly sacred, gender-segregated, traditional public bath houses. We wandered some more and finally found it.

steamy hot soup? or a hot tub?

steamy hot soup? or a hot tub?

We checked in at about 2:15 AM. We were given what looked like a cross between prison inmate uniforms and the robes of a Buddhist monk. Orange and stretchy. After walking in to the ladies’ section, we were immediately faced with about 4 stark naked, middle aged Korean women. They must have seen our obvious looks of confusion, since they instantly tried to help us out of our shoes and show us to our lockers. Once we got our inmate robes on, we wandered around, checking the place out. A giant tub with two women scrubbing the life out of the skin of another. A mother and her 20-something daughter sitting on the ledge of another, hotter pool, chatting as if it were time for afternoon coffee, not really noticing that it was 3 AM, or that they and everyone else around them were naked or nearly so. No wonder it’s such a lively tradition. You have a pure and simple goal: Relax and get clean.

Downstairs, there was a large common room with about 40 sleeping mats and foam blocks for pillows. At first, we didn’t see any women. I was a little apprehensive to sleep in a “common area” that was clearly composed only of men. As I loitered and stalled to try and convince Mychaela to sleep in the “cave” between the floors where I saw women sleeping on mats, another woman walked in, sat down near the TV, and made herself at home. We decided it was a legit common room, and not just a place for the boys to hang out and watch the boob tube. We claimed our territory and crashed. And by that, I mean me. I crashed. Mychaela doesn’t really sleep anyway. I, on the other hand, can sleep anywhere, anytime, and under nearly any circumstance…

…except when the guy on the next mat down tries to snuggle with my feet. I had been dreaming that something fish-like was trying to bite my feet, and when his hand grabbed my foot, I’m pretty sure I kicked him in the face. Fight or flight reaction? Definitely. In my dream, I was swimming away. Mychaela was awake at the time and watched the whole thing. I guess it was hilarious. Creeper-sleeper probably didn’t think so.

We made it back to Yongin at about 9 AM, where we immediately crashed, yet again. Just a short nap, right? Well, you might know me and my napping habits; they’re just like my ability to sleep anywhere. They can never be short naps. Around noon, a knock at my door woke us up. I looked like a slob in a ratty t-shirt, so I threw on my peacoat to class it up a little bit. At the door was one of my students and her family, who were going door to door passing out Jehovah Witness magazines. My hair was, well, morning hair. If you know me, you know the terror that is. They didn’t run away frightened by the sketchy fuzz ball waygook (foreigner) when she opened the door, so I’d say they’re good people.

Free Hugs Korea: Way less sketchy than Warped Tour.

Time to explore my area a little more. I’ve spent a lot of time in Seoul for the weekends, which is spendy, but really cool. Here’s to checking out Yongin and the outskirts! Cheers!

Is this for safety or being realistic? (Please see any K-drama show if you don't get it.)

Introducing: My Apartment! Video Tour.

7 03 2011

The grand tour de france of my Korean apartment!

Cleaning adventure!

And the best surprise of all!

I really didn’t know it was an oven at first. I thought it was a vent or something. Not able to cook a Thanksgiving turkey, but I can make a cookie or two!

Teaching Korean Kids: Day 1

7 03 2011

Why is it that I’m always kind of off to a rough start? On the first day of anything, I’m always so worried about making a mistake that I inevitably end up doing just that. And usually it’s something dumb. Grabbing the wrong manilla envelope, for example.

I had prepared enough random English-enough names for the entire 8th grade. There are about 300 8th graders, about 50/50 girls to boys. I had gone through Facebook and my phone’s address book for names, trying not to have any repeat names. Well, I had listed them all and miraculously had more than enough. Win! I put everything for the activity of the week and my pictures to show the kids in one envelope, and everything for next week’s activities in another. Guess who labeled them wrong and then brought what was labeled to be the correct envelope? Yeah, that would be me.

I asked my co-teacher if I could run home during 1st period, since I have it open, and grab it. She said I could, so I literally ran. It’s a 15 minute walk, and if you know me at all, I’m not at all the runner type. I hustled anyway. Up the 3 flights of stairs that smell like Granny Wyss’ house and into my apartment, to find the stupid envelope sitting on my desk. If it had a face to give me a look, that look would have been, “I told you so.” I had considered bringing both envelopes just to be sure, but I decided that I might need to work on it later. What an idiot I am.

I booked it back to school to find my other co-teacher looking for me. “The schedule has been changed, you need to come to class!”

Of course. The schedule for first period changed IN THE MIDDLE OF FIRST PERIOD. I have to say that it’s actually pretty typical of schools in Asia from what I’ve experienced and from what I’ve read about. It really is true what they say in the papers. Asian schools are chaos, and I thrive off of it.

I got a message from a Fulbright friend of mine who is also looking to come back to Asia. She mentioned a similar sentiment of mine, saying how she was drawn to chaos. Maybe that’s what sets Indonesia apart from other places. Loosely controlled chaos. She’s about to re-apply for the Foreign Service, which is something she was already accepted for but declined in order to accept the Fulbright grant. She’s interested in going to the Middle East or back to Indonesia, which is something that to this day weighs heavy on my heart. I’m definitely going back to Indonesia for break. Definitely.

Skidding into class after running all that, thankfully the kids are a bit timid, as I’m still a little spent from my run home in a peacoat. I introduce myself and start explaining a bit about where I’m from and what I do, which for some reason I can do for English students, but I can’t explain that to anybody else who asks. The kids notice that I have a stack of pictures on my desk and want to see them. They’re shy, but they are so curious. “Where is this?” “Who is that?” “What are you doing?”

I explain a picture then pass it around. I learned something today from passing out pictures, and that is to receive everything, no matter how small it may be, with two hands. The girls saw a photo of Branden, Thomas and me at Cascade Head with me and started giggling. “Oh Miss, they are so handsome!” I kind of had to laugh. Then the boys saw the picture of Hannah and Smemily, my two favorite girls, and one 8th grade boy said, “A blonde and a red-head. So rare, so majestic!” I feel like this guy is either going to grow up to be a beatnik/poet, or a creep who lives with his mom at the age of 40 and lives off of/for video games, Cheetos and 2 liters of Mountain Dew (If he were in America. )

Even with my long list of names, many of the kids wanted to use their own “English names.” That’s in quotations because a few of them decided to make up their own names. I also use “name” in the vaguest of ways. One boy decided he wanted to be called “Uganda,” and a girl wanted to be called “Arrow.” I was so confused at the time that I asked them to spell it for me. Nope, I heard right. The Uganda kid wanted me to write it out like it was Ke$ha’s name. There was an asterisk and a tilde involved. I was so taken aback by it that I offered up an umlaut just to push it a little farther. At the end of the shenanigans, Uganda’s name became Ü~gAn*da. I think I’ll just call him Kesha.

After school, Mrs. Lee took me to the immigration office. First, we had to go to the hospital to pick up my test results, which were fine, by the way. Off to Suwon we went, and it’s actually a lot closer than my maps seem to be telling me. It’s only about 10 minutes away from my house, not the 50 minutes Google Maps seems to think. Walking, maybe. All the stress of the hospital and the waiting in the lobby of the immigration office brought back memories of DMV trips from Hell that many of my friends have endured. I’m lucky with that 3-letter acronym, but I think I got what I had coming to me with this trip. I had to fast for 22 hours to go to the doctor’s office because my early morning appointment got pushed back to 5:50 PM. BOOOO. Then, hurry up and wait. Once the ball finally got rolling, I was done in 5 minutes. Not too bad. Fast forward to today and Immigration, and the “hurry up and wait” mentality hit hard. I can’t wait to have my residency card. Once I do, I’ll be connected to the rest of the world via a phone and internet, and most important, GET PAID!

The immigration office pulled an AMINEF that still makes me uncomfortable. They have my passport and will have it for at least 10 days. I have no legitimate identification in the meantime. It makes me really nervous. Not that I’ll be getting myself into a situation where I’ll need it, but it’s a nice security blanket. Plus, it’s being mailed back to me. I just hope that Korean mail systems aren’t as nosy and “Oooh, I’ll take that” like Indonesia’s. One can only hope. (I still stand firm in my belief that about half of my Dove chocolates from Mychaela and Donald’s Christmas box were nom-ed on by the customs people.)

Tuesday is an exam day, so I get to work in the Teachers’ room all day. No lessons, but I still have to be there… for some reason I thought benchwarmer days were taken off the contractual menu. I’ll have to dig around in my GEPIK documents again to find out for sure, but I hope I understood the contract right and don’t have to vegetate for days on end like some of the previous teachers and friends at other schools have to. Seriously, I am useless unless I have students. Either give me something to do or let me go. I can accomplish things elsewhere. Learn about my surroundings, for instance. I can’t really do that in an office where I stream 94.7 or watch the Daily Show and sit entranced by social media for 9 hours. It just doesn’t happen. Hopefully I’ll learn something new.

Welcome to South Korea!

3 03 2011

Hello beautiful people around the globe!

I have arrived and gotten situated safe and sound in Gugal-dong, my new home for the next year. At the airport, Mychaela and I went our separate ways within seconds of getting out the security area. Our respective Mr. Kims (because nearly 1/3 of all people here are some sort of “Kim”,) took us to cars heading in different directions and we loaded up and took off. Another girl, Sofia from Texas, rode with me. She lives about 45 minutes from me. She seems pretty cool. Adventurous. We could be friends. I got out of the car and packed all 5 of my bags up 3 flights of stairs to my apartment.

It looked like somebody still lived in it and never cleaned up their mess from dinner the week before. Upon moving things into the room, I broke the rule of “no shoes” and kept my boots on. It was freezing, but my floor was radiating this wonderful warmth, like heated seats in cars. BUT IT WAS THE ENTIRE APARTMENT FLOOR. It was too icky to appreciate it to its fullest (and by that I mean snuggle up and lay on it,) but that would come soon enough.

Mrs. Lee, my primary co-teacher, met with me about 20 minutes after I arrived. I was gross from being on an airplane and lugging around what could have easily been corpses in my bags. (They were that heavy, but I didn’t get charged!) I tried to get myself looking cleaned up and orderly, so I tried to push buttons to figure out the water. (Yes, buttons.) No luck. Wet hair is better than the fuzzy ball I was wearing on my head, so I just went with it. As soon as my head is drenched, she knocks on the door pushes the doorbell that rings with her voice through the wall. Everything is so techno-savvy. I really gotta catch up with this country.

She comes in and says, “Oh, the cleaning lady from our school came here.” And by that I think she meant, “Look, washed dishes on the floor.” I then learned that it is considered bad luck to clean a place before the new person moves in. Not emptying ashtrays is not something I would consider being good luck. I consider that something that gave me a nosebleed. It was that smoky. That and the fire-damaged walls and the smoke filled wall paper from a fire across the hall that took place over New Year’s. Apparently my neighbors are idiots who smoke and take off nail polish in front of one of the heater fans on a couch. Brilliant. Let’s hope they learned a lesson… or three.

I walked around the neighborhood with Mrs. Lee to see what’s around, and I was kind of surprised at what my tiny block had to offer. Full sized gym with a POOL ON THE ROOF on one side, a grocery store that sells $4 tubs of ramen noodles in the middle of it all, a Dunkin Donuts, a 7-11 (snicker… Thailand… haha) and a Pappa Roti on the corner. Roti Boy is far superior, and I found one on a map. It’s on my weekend adventure list of things to do.

On Tuesday, I met up with friends Audra and Clayton who live in the next town over, so they hooked me up with tons of information and goodies from the end of their Korean adventure. I got at least 4 pages of notes in my journal just from getting to their apartment and going out for dinner. I might have a new favorite Korean dish (since you know, this is about the 4th time eating Korean food. First time with Donald, second time making my own hoddeok at home, third time on the plane… actually, it was the 4th time. haha!) Cooked in giant pan, there is a giant stack of mushrooms, sprouts, onions, tomatoes and tofu. It simmers in a spicy red sauce like soup. Delicious! Apparently translated to “Boseot Jeongol.” Whatever it’s called, it’s delicious. I may have to go back.

I still have to buy sheets and blankets, but I have yet to get my relocation payment… so there are all of these sneaky fees and doctors appointments that I have to pay out the ears for. I’m not even going to mention the 2o hours of fasting due to time constraints and lunch breaks for doctors. (I am far more thirsty now than I ever was in Indonesia while fasting.)

Anyway, the few kids that want to talk are cool, the rest are shy. The English teachers are all women and are all super cool and friendly. I have my own desk right off the bat, along with a dinosaur of a work computer, but it lets me listen to 94.7 fm (WIN!) I feel like I’m adjusting well, and I am ready to dive in head first to teaching on Monday.

Off to get me a phone that works. Talk to you soon, lovely people! Pictures up when I have internet at my apartment 🙂


29 12 2010

“But it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the nationalist, scared of infection, penetration, miscegenation, when this is small fry, peanuts, compared to what the immigrant fears – dissolution, disappearance.

— Zadie Smith

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