Monday, October 12, 2009

Ups and Downs

September 28, 2009

So I received my first package today from HOME! After I got back to the English Classroom from lesson-planning with Christina in her office, Anne told me, “Davis, I think your package arrive”, hah. I felt such a rush of happiness because I know how much trouble mom went through to mail this thing to me, and how worried she was that it wouldn’t make it through customs! But alas, it made it safe and sound, thank god.

Anyways, I open the package at school because I can’t wait to open it at home, and I read the IRS document that is supposed to exempt me from paying income tax while over here. Well, uhhh, looks like it may not be that easy! Either I’m really stupid and filled out the initial form wrong, or the IRS is even more stupid because they’re the ones who told me how to fill the damn thing out over the phone! Either way, I don’t have the form I need yet, and it looks like I’m going to have call the IRS and get this straightened out ASAP. I’m a little pissed right now, mainly at the IRS. They even deposited my check for this form, yet didn’t give me the form! Not cool.

However, on a more positive note, the package is great and couldn’t have come at a better time! I can’t wait to open the brownies and the icing and the sprinkles, oh my god! And the Mexican food!! And the marshmallows. And the chocolate! Thank you so much mom!

Getting to meet my co-teacher's family

September 24, 2009

Both of my co-teachers (Anne and Christina) are extremely nice and hospitable, and are usually looking out for me and my well-being over here in Korea. I really don’t think that I could ask for much better co-teachers as I hear horror stories from other native teachers like myself. However, Anne and Christina have almost taken me under their wings and have invited me into their lives with such embracing arms. Take for example the following:

Christina’s husband, whose English name is Lion (he chose Lion because his favorite baseball team is the Samsung Lions, hah) apparently really wanted to meet me and “practice his English.” So he had invited me out to baseball game in Seoul with him. However, due to the teams that were playing (his team wasn’t playing apparently), he no longer wanted to go, haha. Christina then invited me over to her house (well, actually her mom’s house because that’s where she’s living right now because of her 1-year old baby boy) to meet her family. I had no opposition to this.

We take the subway from Bugae down like 7-8 stops to where her mom lives, and we literally just have to walk like a minute from the subway stop to the apartment complex (talk about easy and convenient). Once we get off the elevator and start walking towards her door, I see her mom outside the door, cleaning some food in like a plastic bowl. Interesting. Her mom doesn’t speak any English, of course, but is the nicest Korean grandmother ever, haha. We then go inside the apartment, and find her baby (his name translates into “Kind”) asleep on the floor in her bedroom. The cutest thing I’d seen in a long time! Christina and I then just sit in the living and talk about life for awhile, waiting for her husband to get home. Her husband, Lion, works for the court in Seoul, and while I tried to ask him a few times what exactly he does in the court, I never got a straight answer, haha. Anyways, Lion’s English is probably on par with Christina’s, which is far better than I was expecting when I first got over here. Lion also apparently served in the US Army for close to three years in an area called Yongsan (I think that’s in/near Seoul). Anyways, the three of us just continue talking, and I almost feel like I’ve known them for far longer than just the one month I’ve been here. It was an eerie feeling almost.

The baby, “Kind”, decides to wake up, and started crying the first time he saw me, haha. Great! He finally warmed-up to me after like 30 minutes of scoping me out, and by the time we went to dinner, he wasn’t afraid to touch me, hah.

All of us (Christina, Christina’s mom, Lion, “Kind” AND Christina’s very preggers sister who also can speak good English) go to a traditional Korean BBQ restaurant for dinner. While there are literally thousands of this type of restaurant everywhere in Korea, each one is unique and prepares its meats in a slightly different way, which makes each dining experience different. Lion and I shared a few beers and bottle or two of soju (he informed me that since he works for the government he drinks a lot, haha) while thoroughly enjoying our bulgogi and kalbi, and kimchi of course. We finish off the meal with some very spicy ice-noodles (you’ll have to try some when you come over).

After dinner, we head back to her mom’s house and literally just sit on the living room floor and play with “Kind.” They even call me “Uncle Davis” (sorry Alli  ). It was by far one of the most fun nights I’d had since coming to Korea. While I’m half-way across the world from my family back in North Carolina, I felt like I was part of Christina’s family here in Incheon, and it made me feel soooo much better about missing home.

Monday, September 14, 2009

N'Seoul Tower -- I think Seoul kicks Incheon's ass

Sunday September 14, 2009

Today, I went to N’Seoul Tower (just Seoul Tower from now on) with Anne, Ryan and one of Anne’s teacher friends Sally and her Native Teacher Liz (a Korean-Australian who speaks no Korean). Most of us met at Bupyeong Station at 11, and we caught the train into Seoul. We stayed on Line 1 all the way into Seoul, and got off at Jonggok Station or something like that (I’ll look at that later). We spent some time in one of the big book stores in Seoul (YB), and then explored the area a bit. I know that where we were is not really the main center of Seoul, but it feels like Seoul may be just one sprawling city, with no clear downtown. Either way, the area was pretty cool, and not too crowded when we got there around 12 or so.

We then walked to an area/road called Insadong. Anne described it as being a “traditional Korean street”, and it basically just turned out to be a pedestrian walking mall/tourist hangout spot. It was fun to go to once, but I don’t think I’d go back again. We did get to see a festival/parade going on in the streets, and it reminded me of the closing ceremonies we had in
Jeonju with EPIK.

We then hop back on the subway, transfer a few times, catch Bus No. 2 and rode it up to Mt. Namsan to see Seoul Tower. Seoul Tower is definitely NOT in the center of Seoul…it’s removed from all the hustle and bustle, and is actually located on the top of a small mountain. It was my first experience dealing with buses in Seoul, and they are perhaps more jerky than the ones in Bangkok (although much newer). Maybe it was because I was standing and not sitting, but I felt a few times that I was about to topple over and make a fool out of myself.
We make it up to Seoul Tower, and it too is a very big tourist attraction. There were lots of what I suppose to be Koreans, but I also saw more Westerners than I’d seen in a long time! We just walked around the premises, taking in the massive views of Seoul, and taking lots of pictures (thanks to Sally’s persistence, hah). Sally was absolutely hilarious—every like 2 minutes, she would whisper in my ear (with a smile), “it’s time for a photo, do you want your photo taken?”. It was almost as if she was trying to be sneaky about it, but it just came off very flirty, hah. I have a few more stories about her later…

One cool thing about Seoul Tower: married couples come here to place a lock on one of the many fences and throw the key to their lock over the edge of the mountain, symbolizing ever-lasting love. It was really cool to see the thousands of locks everywhere, and it put a huge smile on my face. It’s stupid, but I love that kind of stuff (reminded me of the pole at the top of Mt. Kinabalu in Borneo where you can leave something personal forever).

We don’t actually go up the Seoul Tower which kind of bummed me out a bit, but I guess you have to pay to go up and I don’t think they wanted to do that. I just kept my mouth shut! Gives me something to do with mom when she comes, hah.
We then walk down the mountain (remember, we took a bus UP) because Sally insists that we get really good views doing so, and we really did. And we were walking DOWN the mountain, so it wasn’t that hard at all. Sally takes us to an open-air market really close to an area called Meyongdong. The market had every type of imitation name brand imaginable. Reminded me of the JJ market a little bit (though much smaller). In fact, it was just like any other major Asian city I’ve been to—they all sell rip-offs for incredibly cheap prices.

We then work our way over to Meyongdong, which is famous for its shopping and is a very popular hangout spot for university students. It was like a Franklin St on steroids, and I’ll definitely go back to that area with some of my friends in Incheon. We don’t buy anything other than ice-cream from the street, but just taking in the whole vibrant atmosphere and chaos was so much fun! We ended up eating in some Korean restaurant on the second floor of a building, order some spicy chicken dish that was really hard to eat with chopsticks hah, and I have my first BEER with my colleagues! It was soooo nice to actually have a drink with them for once, for two reasons. One, I’ve heard a lot of the other Native Teachers have gone out with their coteachers to drink before (while I hadn’t), and two, my colleagues are always telling me how they DON’T drink and how they are so Christian! So I felt like it was a minor triumph for me! Now I just have to get ready for norebang (karaoke) on Friday night with them (I’m hoping booze will be involved with that too, hah).

After dinner in Meyongdong, we decided to call it a night and head back to Incheon. We get back around 7:30 or so, and that was it. It was a very good, and I’m so happy that Anne invited me to join her and her friends.

Okay, a few funny things about Sally (Anne’s teacher friend). She came off as very flirty, and she ALWAYS whispered things in my ear, with a smile. I just think that’s how she is though, because she said some of the most ridiculous stuff. For example, on the subway back to Incheon, she asked me why do blacks have “white” palms but black arms, hahahaha. She of course whispered that in my ear though, and then proceeded to laugh after asking me, as if she knew it was a funny/ridiculous question. Also, she told me that when she first met me a few days ago, she was very excited because I had some facial hair (I hadn’t shaved for about a week…) and that she really likes that on guys (she told me her “ideal guy” is someone with lots of hair). I decided that I should shave for Sunday so I’d look nice, but apparently Sally was wanting to see me with the facial hair, hah. I also got a haircut on Saturday, so that really threw her for a loop. At first, she said she was “disappointment” (haha), but then she corrected herself and said she liked the way I looked. And then, when we were at dinner, she once again whispered in my ear, “I need a beer, you want a beer?”. I of course said yes, and luckily Anne and Ryan joined in on the fun as well. Overall, Sally just seemed a bit more fun, outgoing, and just plain more out-there than the teachers at my school. I wouldn’t mind hanging out with here more, as I found myself laughing a lot more than I already I do at her questions and comments.

First haircut in Korea, phew

Saturday, September 12

Got my haircut! Cost 17,000 won (about 15 USD). I was very hesitant to get my haircut because I’ve heard of horror stories, especially here in Korea, when foreigners who can’t speak Korean go to a hair salon and get a horrible haircut. However, I think I chose a pretty nice, up-scale salon, and although they didn’t speak ANY English, I was able to get a decent haircut, along with wash and styling, hah. I’ll probably end up getting this done like once every three weeks cause it’s so cheap and it’s fun to get a little spoiled, haha.

Later that day, a few of us saw the movie “Nine” in the Lotte cinema. The cinema was nothing to ride home about (it wasn’t even as nice as the ones back home, and was far less impressive than the ones in Bangkok). It was good to see an American movie though, hah.

Dealing with Korean accents...

Friday September 11

During one of the exercises, a student asked me how to spell “curry rice.” However, because Koreans roll their “r”s, I thought he asked me how to spell “colored lights”, so I wrote “colored lights” on his sheet of paper. He probably thought I was crazy. Woops. I felt bad afterwards, but maybe this way the students will learn NOT to roll their "r"s, haha.

Anyways, later that night, Stephen and I went to a pool hall to learn how to play pool Korean-style. Korean pool is played on a different table, with no pockets, and three balls (white, red and yellow). Say I was the white ball, and Stephen the yellow, then it’s my job to hit both the red and yellow balls by hitting the white ball. This style of playing pool involves much more angles and calculation than the regular pool we’re used to back home. However, I still kicked his ass.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

2 things...

1. My co-teacher Anne called me her "son" yesterday. She went on explaining how if we were in dynastic times, she would have loved to have had a "son" like me, hah. This simply sprang from me helping her move some test papers from the third floor to the fourth floor. Also, she told me her age, voluntarily, even though when I first met her she told me she would never tell me, haha. I think she's starting to really trust me and we're becoming good friends now. It's a good thing!

2. Every day, when I get back to Bupyeong Station and I walk to my apartment in the underground mall, I always walk past the same stores and same people. And there is always this one really cute girl, probably around my age, who is sipping on her iced-coffee while just waiting for customers to come into her store. Whenever I walk by at like 4:55, she always waves and says "hiiiiii" and smiles at me. One of these days I'm going to stop at her store and buy something from her, haha.

That's it! I hope everyone has a good Friday, even though it's 9/11. It's weird being in Korea for this day, and it'll be interesting to see if anyone over here even notices it's 9/11...

First try at going to a Korean baseball game

So someone started a facebook thread about going to a baseball game in Incheon this week. I knew that baseball is pretty big here in Korea, so I really wanted to experience at least one game while over here. One of the guys decided it'd be best to go on Wednesday because he saw that the Incheon team was playing home that day. I thought, "perfect, I'll have just enough time to go back to my place, change, and make it to the stadium by 5:45 and then watch a baseball game!". WRONG.

First off, I had my first experience with the Incheon Subway (I always use the Seoul subway line because my school is located off that line). So navigating the incheon line was a little more tricky simply because I'd never used it before! And it turned out to be a real subway (The Seoul Line 1 is more of a "train" because it's above-ground). Anyways, I thought I got off at the right stop, but as it turns out, I got off one stop too soon somehow. So I end up having to walk like 30 minutes until I could finally see the stadium. Literally as soon as I'm across the street from the stadium, I get a call from one of the guys I was meeting up with to watch the game, and he informs me that there is in fact no game today. You gotta be kidding me! I mean, I guess I should have been a little concerned when I noticed a severe lack of people walking to the stadium, but it never really crossed my mind that there was no game.

So I'm right by the stadium, and I see the subway stop that I should have gotten off at. I think, great, I'll just catch the subway here instead of walking back that 30 minutes to the other subway stop. WRONG again. I couldn't figure out for the life of me how to cross the road to get to that fucking subway stop. I feel like some parts of Incheon are very pedestrian friendly, and other parts couldn't care less, and this was one of those spots. Defeated, I head back to the wrong subway station, catch it back to Bupyeong, and of course I somehow manage to exit the Bupyeong station in a direction that I was totally unfamiliar with. It just seemed like if it could go wrong yesterday, it did go wrong. I realized I'm pretty much out of the "honeymoon" stage by now, and I'm getting annoyed much easier by certain things (ie my inability to effectively navigate the city using public transportation). I may just start using cabs more often now...haha