Monday, March 29, 2010

Weekend Update

Another weekend has come and gone, and this time, instead of lazily linking to a friend's post about it, I'm going to do my own work! NOW YOU ARE STUCK WITH MY WRITING MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Ahem.

This weekend was fairly quiet, as I had approximately one mountain of laundry to do on top of ::shudder:: lesson planning (cue Bernard Hermann score). But on Saturday, I did manage to have a dynamic* day filled with Kim Yuna in Seoul.

It started out auspiciously enough, as I arrived at Nambu Station to meet friends about an hour late. It wasn't entirely my fault, however...I got off the train at the wrong station. But that's because there were two stations named Seoul National University! And they aren't even right next to each other! When you have a subway system as extensive as Seoul's, you're bound to run out of names eventually, I suppose. Anyway. I got there, which is all that matters, and we made our way to the Coex shopping mall to grab some lunch.

And that's where we saw her. Kim Yuna, plastered ALL OVER the walls. This girl is EVERYWHERE, and with good reason! She is amazing! She is all that anyone could ever hope to be and more! She is the very pinnacle of female beauty, talent, grace and awesomeness! And she has like six billion sponsors, all of whom pay her seven
figure contracts! THIS GIRL IS LOADED.

Pictured: Me, being very nearly as awesome as Kim Yuna at the Coex shopping center.

The mall was pretty blaise, insofar as these things can be in South Korea (read: the mall was about fifty million times more intense than a standard American mall). We had lunch, looked around, and then took our leave to Jamsil to find a Teddy Bear Factory or whatever for Alanna. While there, we headed to the Lotte Department Store and let me tell you, THAT is a store. You may think, "oh the Macy's flagship in NYC is better," or "oh the Marshall Fields in Chicago was better," but no. Just...no. NONE of these stores have anything on the unbridled consumerism that is the 12 floors of the Lotte Department Store.
Everything, but everything, can be found here, from the grocery store on the basement floor to the wedding planner on the 10th. It. Was. Heaven. I will be back (they have a Nespresso boutique AND an Apple store), and I will spend way too much money here.

None of these adventures, though, could compare to what was in store for Alanna, Jill, and me. The main goal of our day was now to get to Namsan Park and head to the top of N Seoul Tower, the tallest building in South Korea. And if you know me, you know how
much of a sucker I am for a view.

Working under the impression that we could find this place ourselves in a reasonable amount of time, we followed our guide book to what we thought was the appropriate station, and immediately decided to take the wrong exit. It's not entirely our fault, though, as the sign did
say it was for Seoul City Tower. Which is, apparently, not N Seoul Tower. Two very different buildings.

After ignoring the advice of some less-than-helpful Korean guys, we found the appropriate exit from the Seoul Station (which, btw, has like 14 exits), and after a few minutes of
walking caught a glimpse of the tower. Success! Or rather, not quite success. We were still quite a ways away, so we decided to take a cab. Advice when in Korean cabs: know where you're going, and know how to say it in Korean. We
climbed in the cab, and proceeded to drive RIGHT BY the entrance to Namsan Park and ended up just as far away from the tower as we were when we started, and just as unsure how to get there.

Our initially hopeful sighting of Seoul Tower


Look. I know what you're saying. "Why didn't you just get a map? Or ask someone? Or try again with a different cab? Or give up and find a nice dinner someplace and then maybe go
noraebang? What's wrong with you people???" Yeah well shutup. This is Korea, damnit! It is a dynamic place, and we are going to be dynamic people and go with the dynamic flow and if that means taking seventy billion different forms of transportation to get to Seoul Tower (including a glass Wonka-vator and a cable car), then well that's what we're going to do!

And we did. And it was pretty worth it. By the time we arrived at the top of the tower, it was nighttime, and the city was all lit up. It's a shame that none of my photos of the view really turned
out, but it really was kind of awesome. They put on the windows the names of cities in those directions, and the distances from that point to those cities. Which was cool, but it also really drove the point how far away from home you are.

Best shot of the view I could find.

It was getting late, and we had heard tell of a Thai place in Yongsan, so we decided to head over there for a late dinner before heading back to our little corner of southern Gyeonggi-do. Of course, when we got there, we had to spend about a half an hour trying to find it. And of course, when we did, it was closed. So of course, we headed to a convenience store in the train station for our dinner: Korean doritos and Cass beer. DINNER OF CHAMPIONS, SON.

Yuna would be proud.

Yu-na-it.

*A note on dynamism: Korea's slogan is "Dynamic Korea". Everything in Korea is super dynamic. The sights, the sounds, the smells. Dynamic. When you think of South Korea, you must think of dynamism. It is the law.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I need to blog about this RIGHT NOW

This morning, I was walking to school, listening to my iPod as is my wont. As I was climbing the hill to get to my school, a police car drives past me and pulls over up ahead. I don't really think too much about this, because...it's a car pulling over. Who even notices that? Well the policeman gets out of his car, and starts walking toward me.

ME (bowing): Annyeong haseyo
ME (in my head): ohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrap whatdoidowhatdoidowhatdoidowhatdoido
OFFICER: Are you very busy?
ME: Oh, I am walking to school right now
ME (in my head): oh god no now he's talking to me

So then the officer beckons me into the backseat of his car. His POLICE car. Now I don't know about you, but the backseat of police cars is neither a place I have spent much time, nor a place I WANT to spend much time. So mentally I'm FLIPPING OUT at this point.

Anyway he starts talking to me, asking the standard Korean questions for when you first meet a person: "What do you do?" "How old are you?" "Are you single?" "How's your sex life?" (I'm only kidding a little about the last one, very few people have asked me that). Of course the natural American response is "Are you coming on to me??" but here in Korea these questions are just a way of putting you in the social hierarchy.

As we're talking, two things happen: first, it comes out that he just wants to practice his English. Which, great. I know I'm here to be an English teacher, and I don't mind talking to you, but I'm seriously on my way to my job for which I do NOT want to be late, thank you very much!

The second, and more distressing, thing that happens is that we drive past my school. JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL. Turns out that he misunderstood me and thought I was teaching at Osan University. Wonderful. After much negotiation, and my one post-it note with the address of my school on it, he understands that I am an elementary school teacher and drops me off at school. Late*. Wonderful.

I gave him my email address, and I think he wants to email me to have a conversation time, so I guess I made a new friend...yay?

*I was only five minutes late, and we are supposed to be at school 20 minutes before class starts, so this only really cut into my prep time before class. Still sucky, but not the worst thing in the world.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

SO CLOSE

I came THIS CLOSE to getting my own Korean ajosshi, but was thwarted by the short train ride. It was awesome, though, he came up to me on the platform while we were waiting for the train to come and just started talking to me. We had a whole long conversation about him growing up in poor post-war Korea and how kids these days! and his children and grandchildren (one of whom is going to go to school in the United States, or "stateside" as he called it) and his coming trip to the US and his niece who is married to a 1st Lieutenant in the Army and lives in the United States and all sorts of things and I basically didn't get a word in edge-wise. It was basically a giant run-on sentence, just like this one. Exhausting and awesome.

You guys, this is becoming my number one goal while I'm here. Of course, no one could replace my own grandparents, but having my very own Korean grandfather would be, frankly, the best.

Oh and for a good write-up of my weekend last weekend, check out my friend Jill's blog (she's an additional Jill, not a replacement Jill. Don't freak out)

You Had Me at Annyong Haseyo

Monday, March 22, 2010

My apartment!

My apartment in Osan, South Korea in two parts. (I only just realized, after like a week of trying, that I needed to divide up the video to get it to actually upload. Jerk.)

video

video

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wow two posts in one day! Aren't you all lucky!


























































So it snowed AGAIN this week here in South Korea - this time I actually took some photos! This is my walk to school, the morning after the snowfall. We were forecast to only get about an inch, but as you can see we got quite a bit more.


Eugh

I desperately need some games focused on Early Childhood Education, specifically language development - any ideas? Cause I got nothing, and I am rapidly losing my ABCs class.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I have SUCH a good teacher voice

Today, I felt like a real teacher for the first time. The class that just let out, my low-level Continuing English class, has quite the mix of ages and personalities, ranging from 2nd to 6th grade, and they can really get crazy. Today, I had to break up a near fight between two boys because one of them was sitting in the other's seat, AND I had to yell at them to be quiet. I think they got the message from my face and the tone of my voice, because they went dead silent. It was AWESOME. I think this is one of the little secrets of teaching that actual teachers won't tell you - it is REALLY cathartic to yell at the kids when they are acting up.

Yikes that makes me sound mean. Clearly I should not be an elementary teacher. Muahahahahahahahaha.

In other news, it warmed up a little this weekend! But it's cold again now, so...suck. On the upshot, this weekend I went from absolutely zero plans to actually having things to do on both days! On Saturday, I met up with a friend I met at GEPIK Orientation in Songtan, where he teaches, for dinner and boozin' it up. Songtan, incidentally, is where the actual location of Osan AB is, so there are a TON of American servicemen and -women there...it's basically "little America". It's nice to know that there's a vague outpost of America out here, when I need it, but for now I'm comfortable being in the "real" South Korea.

Sunday I (completely randomly) ran into one of the other foreign teachers who lives in Osan when I was on my way to do some grocery shopping, so what started as an hour's or so trip out ended up being the entire afternoon and evening. It's so nice to have company on Sunday afternoons - it helps to stave of the long, dark tea time of the soul. 10 points to whomever picks up that reference.

Looking forward, tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, and while I don't have huge celebrations planned for tomorrow night, I will be doing a quick lesson in all my classes (4th grade and high-level Continuing English) on the culture of the day abroad. This weekend, though, my recruiting agency is having a party for all the KorVia people teaching in ROK, so I'll be going to that for sure, and then maybe staying in Seoul for the big St. Patrick's Day festivities there. Apparently they light up Namsan tower (the largest building in Seoul) green in honor of the holiday. Not as awesome as dyeing the Chicago River green, but pretty cool nonetheless, no?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's been One Week

It's a song, and it's how long I've been in South Korea! It works on so many levels!

Since I last posted, things have gone pretty well for me here. I start teaching my Continuing English classes tomorrow, which is a little daunting, but I finally have my own computer in my classroom! Now I don't have to borrow my co-teacher's anymore.

Even more exciting, on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, it snowed here! It was fairly light, only a couple of inches...yeah, I know DC people, you can be jealous of a snowfall that WASN'T thigh-high. Very pretty. Though I think my town is too small to plow any roads but the couple main ones. And apparently no one has ever heard of salting the sidewalks outside of the US. Still, it was nice to look at.

Perhaps the best thing, though, is that yesterday I was invited to a new GEPIK teacher welcome workshop, and I got to meet quite a few people who live in my area, so now I know some other actual humans with whom I might do stuff! Hurray!

Brief update for now, still wating on my laptop charger to get her via mail. Apparently it was sent via USPS, so I'm not sure if it will actually be deliver-able to my house, given that it doesn't have a street name. Also, apparently USPS has issues delivering mail outside North America. So we'll see. Maybe photos in the near future, but that's also contingent on my charger. As is my ability to lesson plan, etc. You don't really realize how dependent on computers you've become until you are without one for an extended period of time.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Kids these days...

So today in class, I was helping the kids write out namecards with their names on them in English. As an option, if they had previously picked out an English name, they could write that in parentheses next to their real names. One of my kids (who is so far my favorite) had picked out the name Sheep. Which...I mean, of course. It made me smile.

In other news, I found out today that my schedule is getting pretty significantly changed. I am losing one day a week of sixth graders (which is good, I did not like them much), gaining a day of fourth graders, and losing my conversation hour for the teachers. I am most bummed about the last one because I think that was what I was most looking forward to teaching. I had so many ideas about songs, videos, poetry, and short stories to read and tentatively discuss (some of which, I guess, can be transferred to the highest level of my Continuing English classes, but some of it I'll have to skip all together). Bummer.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

BAH

Well I'm an idiot. OF COURSE I would leave my power cord to my macbook in the airport. OF COURSE I would. JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL.

On the plus side, I'm a FRIGGIN ROCK STAR at my school, my co-teacher is amazingly sweet (and we are the EXACT SAME AGE), and I found a really nice cafe right across from the Lotte World (think Wal-Mart, only with LITERALLY everything, and infinitely less terrible. I think).

So anyway, only a brief update (no photos of the apartment, sorry), trying to save power. Also, I will have no consistent internet for like...three weeks? but w/e, this cafe is pretty awes. So there ya go.

Oh and I wanted to add, international flights are THE BEST during Oscar season. I watched An Education (Carey Mulligan was fantastic, Peter Saaaaaaarsgaaaaard should never be allowed to do a British accent again), Up in The Air (again some great performances by the ladies), Rebecca (not an Oscar contender this year, but still BRILLIANT), and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Lots of George Clooney, apparently. So now the only one I need to see to be completely caught up for this Sunday is The Hurt Locker.

Oh PS. Hooray for being in the future! Just FYI, Thursday turns out chilly and rainy. RUINED IT FOR YOU, SUCKAS!!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

'Twas The Night Before-

THERE WILL BE NO POETRY HERE DON'T KID YOURSELVES.

Tonight is it. My last night at home before setting out on this long journey. I'm kinda freaking out about it. I mean, I know it's going to be a great experience, and I know I'm going to have a great time, but this...is BIG.

Eugh okay enough seriousness for now. In other news: PACKING. And by PACKING, I mean sitting on my couch watching The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (watch. this. movie.) while my laundry is going on. Packing, for those of you who have never done it, is hard. It is no easy feat to pack up one's life into a few suitcases and move, and it is doubly hard to do so when one is moving to a foreign country. I have various medecines, clothings, books, movies, school supplies, and all sorts of miscellany that I need to shove in my suitcase. I suppose I could eliminate some things and just buy them when I arrive, but I am NOT willing to part with (let's be honest, any) of my clothes. Or shoes. It's seriously out of control, but I guess that's the price you pay for being as amazing as I am.

I think I've purchased everything I will need to purchase here, and have done just about everything I need to do except throw things into my suitcase, get a haircut, and officially change my address at the post office. And I have just a few hours to do it tomorrow. I'm leaving for SFO at 7pm and will fly out to Incheon the next day at about 1pm. Wish me luck!

PS possibly some photos to follow soon of the epic mess that is me packing.