A Pause To B*tch

I apologize in advance for the negativity that’s going to out pour in this here post, but I’ve had to get it off my chest in a documented fashion for a few days now. Though, however negative it may be, hopefully in reading this back down the line I’ll get a good ol’ hearty kick out of my Korean aggression!

On with it now. I don’t know if I’m just going through a phase of “Koreans can suck it!” or my tolerance is just outgrowing my welcome, but lately I have been so unbelievably anti-Korean and I’ve really begun to notice it in my actions and thoughts way more than the usual average everyday annoyance.

Or, maybe Andria passed her torch onto me when she departed this tiny crazy weird country. Love ya mean it toots. Smooch smooch.

Whatever it is, I find some semblance of comfort in supposing such feelings are normal whenever you live somewhere other than your native country for any extended period of time.

Well, my time is now, dammit! And, well, I’d like to invite you on the journey of my rage.

About a month ago now, I was transferring from line 4 to line 1 to meet Jee for an unlimited bomb diggity sushi go-round dinner. I’m standing on the platform waiting for the train to come, and some old ajussi (Korean man) with his fat ass designer hiking backpack equipped with double hiking sticks jutting out on each side, decided he didn’t need to open his eyeballs and observe the human being standing directly in front of him. Instead of making the conscious effort to be mindful of his surroundings, he side-swiped into my human body as I stood there, leaving his 2nd hiking stick to trail behind and gash straight across the left lens of my spectacles, which I actually use to SEE THINGS WITH.  If it weren’t for the plastic protection of my glasses, I surely would have gotten my eye poked out, or at the very least been rendered blind. A lose-lose situation if you ask me.

Of course the man just carried on his way, unaware (or uncaring?) of his attack on my seeing apparatus. So, with the fire boiling in my belly, I lunged and smacked the back of his backpack to spark some, ANY, attention, while shouting some expletives in his direction. Of course he turns around, and gives me the most blank stare you ever did see. Oh, I’m sorry man, did you not notice when you plowed into another human being? Don’t give me that look! Needless to say, the lone foreigner made quite the stink on that platform in front of line 1, my second least favorite line in this city, just to top it off.

To anyone not living in Korea, you’re probably thinking “WHOA DANIELLE! Why’d you hit him?!” But, I can wholeheartedly say I am not alone in the hit-back.  Sometimes you just really need to stand your ground in a country that likes to relentlessly save face and basic societal manners are lacking, and that’s the only way to be heard. This kind of stuff really drives me mad, because it’s not even a matter of living in such a densely populated city that makes shoving and walking into people acceptable. I mean, yea, there are a CRAPton of Koreans, but I’m sorry, there are a CRAPton of Japanese and New Yorkers but they don’t act as if you are as invisible as the air they’re breathing. They’re not walking into walls so they shouldn’t be walking into me! Or maybe they are, and if that’s the case, I should poke your eyeballs out and let Darwinism run its course.

Oh, and as a nice souvenir of the altercation, I have a long, beautiful hairline scratch on my left lens now. Which by the way, will not come out, and yes, is annoying. My lenses cost more than my frames, I’m that blind, and now a little more blind.

End rant 1. Begin rant 2.

As most know, I moved out of my old apartment at the end of August. When I moved, my maintenance man had prorated my gas and electricity bills and tacked them onto the monthly maintenance bill, which in retrospect still seemed a bit higher than I usually paid. I usually got those two bills sent directly to me so I paid the companies on my own separately.  However, since I moved out earlier they said they’d divvy up the money if I just included it with the monthly maintenance fee.  After calculating, maintenance man told Jee to have me wire all the money in one lump some, which is what I did. He literally harassed her about this while she was helping me move out, so there is no way we f’d anything up.

Flash forward 3 months (almost 4!) later, my horrendous excuse for a landlord decides that the maintenance man miscalculated the bill and didn’t factor in the gas and electricity bills. 3 MONTHS LATER! Which um, he clearly did, because what the hell else was he adding to my bill if it wasn’t that? And the big elephant in the room, why are you just now “noticing” this miscalculation 3 months down the line? Is it because you are incompetent? Or because you didn’t fill the apartment yet and thought “Oh! I’ll trick the impure foreigner into paying it!” Whatever it is, I’m not buying any of it. You will have to pry my bank information from my cold dead hands before you get the 14,000 won you are arguing over.

Yea, 14,000 won.  The equivalent of $14.

But that’s not all. She didn’t call with just 1 story, not even 2. But 3 stories with 3 different amounts of money she was claiming me to owe. First it was the electricity bill for August. Then it was electricity AND gas from June, which is a crock because like I said before, I paid those separately to the companies themselves. Third it was for water (which I never paid for in 2 years) and an elevator fee. AN ELEVATOR FEE?! Should I have paid to breathe in my apartment as well if I was being charged for each time I stepped on the blessed elevator?

Of course this was all funneling through Jin, who at first was hearing her out, and then got more and more fed up with her and started getting snappy and ignory (mostly at my advising). She felt weird at first yelling back at this woman because age is the end all be all in Korea. It doesn’t matter if you are old and a moron, or young and brilliant. If you are old you are right, if you are young you are wrong. Anytime Jin snapped back at her, the landlord had some condescending tone with her, and even had the audacity to tell her that she doesn’t know anything about paying bills because JIN’S NOT MARRIED.

Jin ended up blocking her number, but clearly that didn’t matter because the landlord CAME TO MY SCHOOL last Thursday. Unannounced and completely inappropriate, she took a day off work (and 70,000won worth of a day’s pay) to come and argue over 14,000won that she was not going to get. If I was not at school, with children coming in and out of my room and running in the hallways I would have surely given that landlord a verbal cutting, but instead I completely ignored her, dashing in sprinklings of biting words and devil eyes whenever I saw fit. Jin said the lady was most definitely scared.

I have seriously been so outraged, especially because just a few days before she showed up, I read a blog posting about another foreigner’s horrendous experience in Korea. Her foreigner status was completely used against her and her boyfriend by the Korean system, and it totally disgusted me. It’s not uncommon for Koreans to completely take advantage of foreigners simply because we are not Korean, and then we are made out to be these awful, dirty, lying thieves.

So in the end, it’s 14,000won that this woman is fighting over, which is petty change, and she could have gone to work that day instead of harassing me at school and gotten her 14,000won. But it’s the principle. I sent my bank statements showing everything that had been paid and she STILL keeps telling Jin “make her understand the situation”, even as Jin has told her innumerable times “SHE UNDERSTANDS PERFECTLY AND WILL NOT PAY!”

I don’t normally hate on Korea, aside from the general “this place is f’ing weird”, but lately little things, and bigger things, have really been digging at me. GRRRR. I’m sure I’ll be back to lalalalalaDanielle soon enough, but I had to paint the dark side of the moon for you.

In happier news, mark your calendars, diaries, sundials ~ whatever. I will be home for a 2 week visit from February 14-28.

A Thanksgivukkuh Miracle

The holidays are always a little odd whilst being abroad. It’s definitely the being thousands of miles and a Skype screen away from everyone that’s close to my heart, but I think it’s also in combination with the fact that as an expat in Korea we have to work right through our amazing Americana holidays.  And then it’s not til the last minute when we all realize that we need to get our shit together.

My first year here was the most depressing of the three. One, it was my first ever away from the world back home, and second, there were big talks of getting a group of us together and buying one of the big turkey dinners from the Army base, but that did NOT come to fruition.  Ultimately Steph and I spent our first Turkey day in Korea with 2 big piping hot bowls of pho in front of our faces. Don’t get me wrong, pho warms my soul on any other day, but on Thanksgiving it was pathetic and majorly deserving of a sadface.

Last year was much better. Though still accompanied by the lingering sadness factor, it felt a bit more like the holidays.  I had Josh “Gay” Rich visiting, which was a wonderful blast from the past, and my beautiful family over here managed to get our butts in gear to make a tasty spread of thanks in our microscopic kitchens.

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We even took these gorgeous family photos to top it off.

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Not ripping a page from years past, this year the holidays have begun to feel a bit more like the holidays should, and that makes Danielle a very happy camper! Korea obviously doesn’t get the right ring for an American Thanksgiving, and then Christmas likes to usually follow suit, except this year! This weekend began with a trip to the European Christmas Market that is held at Hansung University, which also happens to be 1 subway stop south of me, or a quick 20 minute jaunt. Nothing ever used to be close to me! YAYAYUYUH!

Joshy, Jee and I all met up Friday night after work for some piping hot Glühwein, a dinner made up of some mediocre excuses for European delicacies, a fully decked out Christmas tree and an extremely miserable looking Santa. But miserable Santa aside, the holidays were alive and thriving in the air, and it was a wondrously toasty night with my loves. It got me super in the holiday spirit!

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On Saturday we had our Thanksgivukkuh feast! It still took us a good nanosecond to get our lives together, and come to grips with the fact that of the 20 people we invited to our potluck, me, Tim, Joshy and Jee, plus a couple others, were the only ones to respond to be in our company. Hard feelings for all others aside, the few of us managed to slave away all day to pull off what actually ended up being my most favorite Thanksgiving feastgathering to date. Quality over quantity, as the saying so rightly goes!

It came fully equipped with a delicious homemade spread filled with some unsuspecting chefs (super impressed), and photos of said attendees taking photos of said feast. We are in Korea afterall, where the foodie photo reigns supreme, or you didn’t eat it.

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Greasy latkes were flipped by the token Jew on the block, in honor of the Thanksgivukkuh miracle of some 79,000 years.

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Fattening up was then followed by a few rigorous rounds of Apples to Apples (thanks Andria), Pilgrims and Indians arts & crafts hour with supplies hijacked from school, and a screening of the 2013 film most deserving of a Razzie Award, Sharknado.

I guess I can say goodbye to any form of political office with these totally un-PC photos of me sporting headress.

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The evening wouldn’t be complete without a family photo in front of a screenshot from said Razzie-deserver, of a man chainsawing himself out of the belly of the beast.

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It was a wondrously delicious evening with those I love most in this damn country that I live in.  A holiday which started out feeling a bit bittersweet with so many friends having already left really redeemed itself, and most of my homesickness as of late has begun to dissipate, thank God!

Even though being away from home during the holidays is sadface but has become my new normal, nothing says home, I love you or Happy Thanksgivukkuh quite the way a wacko Skype sesh with the Schaeffs does!

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Happy holidays from my crazy faced family/ies (sans Brotha Schaeff) to your’s!

Gettin JAPpy With The Japs

As many of you know, I have been super top of the pops over here in the visitor department.  So popular in fact, I actually can’t even keep track of how many people have visited me over the past 26 months, but I’d ballpark it somewhere around 15 or so.  October marked by faux-teen visitor, and one of my most anticipated because it has taken her forever and a freakin day to get her JAPPY ass out to see me! But let’s remember, all good things come to those who wait!

Well, it had been nearly 2 years since Cori and I painted ourselves florescent on the beach of Koh Phangnan, so we were long overdue for a reunion of loving and bitching and bickering til death do us part.  She came to the land of pig, where we ate lots of chicken, for 6 days, and then we flew our JAPpy selves on over to Tokyo for some bright lights, robots, green tea Kit Kats and some Japanese culture.

Starting with the Kokoness of her journey, I took her to all the visitor must-see hot spots, and she met most of those awesome folks who are left of my friend circle in the country. That was actually maybe the weirdest thing.  This was my first visitor since nearly everyone left, and part of the fun of having visitors is introducing them to your family in your home away from home. But c’est la vie and on with the show!

First things first, I’d just like to say how impeccable our timing was upon meeting at my subway station after her arrival! As I was coming up the escalator on my way home from work, Cori was walking just past the exit! It was pretty perfect. And there was embracing and extremely loud laughing, because it wouldn’t be a Diamond & Schaeff reunion without it.

Now let’s take a little jaunt through some of the highlights shall we. As it turns out, the spicy dakgalbi with an over-abundance of ramen, was her favorite meal in Korea. The chicken, vegetable and rice cake dish is also one of my fave Korean foods as well. Nom!

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We tried to kick her jet lag by going to Hongdae for some makkoli and dong dong ju times with Tim. We wanted his opinion on our new hairstyles. What do you think?

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Next we visited ZEN 1, a VERY old faithful staple of Hongdae times, where we met up with Jee, and I ducked down to look like a midget for this photo.

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The next day was filled with the clusterfuck that is Seoul shopping. We paraded around Myeongdong, then headed over to Namdaemun where she got acquainted with the efficiency of purchasing fancy new spectacles accompanied by prescription fillage. She also ate her second hotteok of the day while enjoying the ever-so-slight constant drizzle.

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Next came my super slutty moment. We hiked up Namsan Tower and locked our love down overlooking the glorious city of Seoul. Our 23 years of sisterly love is officially locked down forever. I am a slut because this was my third display of love to be locked up. But I guess as the saying goes, third time’s a charm.

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We even did this cute lovers pose on a love bench.

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We began our day of culture with a smidge of a bust, as I had no clue that the huge palace, Gyeongbukgong, is closed on Tuesdays. Here we are in front of the palace door, but we could really be anywhere with massive red doors since you can’t actually see the ornateness of the palace! Grrr!

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We did however meet a new friend, Darshan, who was very taken by the giddyness of the elementary students who were swarming around us. It does feel good to be a celebrity, I must admit! And in Korea’s homogenous society, there’s no shortage of celebrity status.

I ended up playing tour guide to both of them for a little bit, and introduced them to King Sejong and his concoction of Hangul (the Korean alphabet).  Then in Gwanghwamun Square, we got dragged in by a very persistent ajumma for a rendition of the “Conga”, and got a taste of traditional Korean dress, dance and song before heading off to a naengmyeon and bulgogi lunch in the traditional Hanok Village.

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The most fantastical part of our “Day of Culture” was by far our afternoon of traditional Hanbok dress up. We went to a place on the main Insadong road that Veny actually told me about. There you have several different options ranging from getting full hair and makeup done for a professionally airbrushed photo session, to the bare minimum of just trying on the hanbok to take your own cell phone photos in their gallery.

We opted to have our hair done in full traditional Korean fashion, and then couldn’t have chosen our hanbok any more appropriately. Cori was the Queen, and I was her faithful entertainer.  We took the professional photo and then tore up that gallery area. I’m surprised we weren’t asked to vacate the premises prematurely.

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The next thing we did, which I have done more than a handful of times since moving here, is something I am EXTREMELY proud of Cori for trying! Before coming, I kept telling her I was going to force her to try the live octopus, which is a super Korean thing to do, and every time she squirmed with a big fat HELL NO. Well, that got flipped upside down!

My favorite person to do the Noryangjin Fish Market with is Joshy, because he will pretty much try any slithering sea squirt that lies in those tanks.  So he met up with us for the venture and helped initiate Cori into the world of live octopus eating!

On her final day in Seoul, she came to school with me and got the chance to see what a Korean elementary school is like, and meet my most adorable 4th grade baby dolls. Unfortunately my 5th and 6th graders were gone for the week so she didn’t get to meet them. I thought the 6th grade girls would especially love her because they are obsessed with all things girly and fashionable. Bummer!

Most importantly, these little peaches were SO excited to meet her, and have since thrown her name into the greeting each class! “Good morning Ms. Jin and Ms. Danielle and Ms. Wanda and Ms. Candy and Ms. Cori Di-A-mond!” Pardon the awful bottom picture, but, please take note that my little peach Paul is holding Cori’s hand. Not enough hearts to go around!! ❤

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And with that, two Jewish American Princesses were off to get all kinds of Jappy in the land of Japs!

To begin, I absofuckinglutely LOVED Tokyo! I already knew I loved Japan after going to Osaka and Kyoto, but Tokyo really solidified it. As the cliche goes, it’s like a breath of fresh air stepping onto Japanese soil from Korea. People dress to their own heart’s desire instead of blending in with the next, and something about Tokyo just feels HUGE. I love Seoul, but Japan just has this huge heart pumping through it. The buildings seem bigger, the lights seem brighter, and the people make a conscious effort to not shove into you like you’re some inanimate object.  Aside from their facockta subway system and the radiation, Tokyo is one of my favorite cities I’ve traveled to.

We were there for 3 glorious days, and our feet shlepped us and our wallets so many places, each offering its own unique vibe, of which I’ll highlight my favorites.

1. Robots vs. Pandas vs. Dinosaurs vs. Pole Dancers in Kabukicho, Shinjuku’s Red Light District

Yes, I know what 3 letters come to mind. WTF. And that’s exactly what you should be thinking, because we were thinking it during the whole show, and I’m still thinking it now, even though my mind was utterly blown into fantastic smithereens.

After getting a few snickers from asking where Kabukicho was (this is the Red Light district), we could not find this Robot “cafe/bar” for the life of us.  We actually thought it was just a cafe/bar type place where robots served you and you could come and go as you pleased. But no no. After scouring the district for quite some time, passing it unbeknownst to us several times, we decided to give up, til we met our new friend Frank, who was innocently looking for a Penguin bar while on a business trip. He remembered seeing the robots, and threw searching for said Penguin bar out the window to come find this Robot joint with us.

We found it, and it was NOT a cafe, bar, whatever you wanna call it. But rather, it was a full blown show encapsulating the above title header. And it was worth every last penny of those 5,000yen (~$50), even the horrendous bento box dinner we were served.

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2. Barbie Lingerie In Harajuku

Cori’s top priority in terms of districts to see was Harajuku. These are the girls made immortal by Gwen Stefani in the early 2000s. We actually went to Harajuku a couple times over the course of our trip, but we only really saw 2 true Harajuku girls, which kind of bummed us, but mostly Cori, out. That, and we didn’t ask to get a photo of or with her because we thought for sure we’d see plenty more. Negatori Yakatori.

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We may have missed out on the Harajuku girls, but we did find the Barbie lingerie store, which to me is equally, if not more, fascinating, and a bit deranged.

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I also was overly and oddly excited about this Sanrio Surprises on Takeshita-dori, which smelled of gumdrops and cotton candy. I am made more aware of my Asian-ness in such moments.

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There was also this creepy rabbitequin.

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3. Writing A Note To Hang On the Tree Of Life At Meiji-Jinju Shrine

Cori and I took a break from Harajuku girl stalking to add a little Japanese culture to our lives.  We visited Meiji-Jinju shrine, located right by Harajuku station, which is the largest Shinto shrine in Tokyo and was built to honor the soul’s of Emperor Meiji and his wife.  The shrine was dedicated to them in 1920, and completed in 1926.

It’s a beautiful walk into the shrine, filled with Iris gardens and so much lush greenery.

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And absolutely no shortage of decorative fermenting Sake.

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Once reaching the shrine, you are face to face with what I instantly called the Tree of Life. I don’t really know if that’s what it’s called, but it seemed properly suited. Here visitors have written hopes and wishes for the future, or struggles they hope for their family or friends to overcome, and just need some sort of little mighty push.

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I decided I had some things that needed some push, so now they are fully displayed for the daily world to see.1382924_10102721202275657_1361541361_n

4. Taking a Magic Carpet Ride & Meeting King Triton At Tokyo Disney Sea!

For starters, I had no idea that Tokyo Disney and I have been in the same grade all along! We just so happened to be there during its 30th Anniversary party! Lucky us!

If you sense an air of irritation in the photo, it’s because we were so rudely being pushed out by what I believe to be an intrusively rude Korean couple.

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We went to Tokyo Disney our first night, and actually barely rode any rides. In fact, the only ride I rode was a magic carpet in Agraba. It was a solo ride though, because Miz Diamond feared her tummy would act up. Hmph. At least I was thrilled with joy to have King Triton grant me such a warm welcome to his kingdom beneath the sea!

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5. Shoving Takoyaki Balls In My Face

One thing I regretted when I went to Osaka and Kyoto was being too scared to try Takoyaki, which are these fried octopus balls that are served slathered in mayo (vomit), and crispy onions. Well, I told myself that I would definitely shove them in my face this time around.

Turns out I didn’t see them anywhere, until our last day while visiting Senso-ji shrine. Due to the scarcity of them, I’m led to believe that Takoyaki is primarily a regional food of the Osaka area.  Either way, I grabbed 6 balls, NOT slathered in mayo, and ate 3 of them before contracting a stomachache.

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One little side note while on the topic of food, I did eat a fair amount of sushi whilst in Tokyo, because it would be an utter shame not to. But, one thing I was very aware of was the amount of searing being done to the sushi.  I’m not sure if this is normal in Japan, but I saw it done so frequently that I figured they were doing it to maybe sear out some of the radiation in the fish. Who knows, but just a thought!

6. Cleansing Our Dirty Mouths & Fortune Telling At Senso-ji Shrine

On our last day we decided to actually stay in our neighborhood, Asakusa, which was a remarkable hub for all the super cultural attractions. We visited Senso-ji shrine, which is another huge Shinto shrine.  Despite the rain, I really loved the walk into this shrine. It felt like real old Japan, and women in traditional kimono and parisol were not a scarce site.

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The shrine was gorgeous and massive on a rainy day.

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And there were tons of people dropping coins into the prayer boxes and carrying on with their prayers. One of us saved the praying for later after we chose our fortunes from these here boxes.

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You are supposed to politely shake that silver box, make your wish, and then pull out a numbered stick that corresponds with one of the numbered drawers. My fortune was a “small fortune” and said I have many good things coming my way if I put in the work.  Cori however, well, she got bad juju and went to smirk thru her prayers.

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Then we both cleansed our mouths. Nice try holy water, but not sure this is strong enough.

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7. Sensory, Porn & Anime Overload in Akihabara

This was by FAR my favorite district of Tokyo. Not because of anything I very much enjoy, but because it was SO (pardon my French) fucking bizarre! Akihabara is the electronic district, which also boasts a huge porn and anime scene.

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While here we saw so many different kinds of cafes being advertised, ranging from Maid cafes, to Domestic cafes, whatever the heck THAT means. Not to mention, I have never seen so much anime since my family’s family friend’s cousin used to dress up as Sailor Moon just on a regular Saturday. It was ODD.

Maybe the funniest thing though was the 6 floor porn building prominently situated right by the subway exit. The walls were plastered in Polaroids of naked girls and naked girls having sex. Then once on the floors, there was anime sex props up the ying yang, whips, dildos, vibrators, pretty much anything imaginable. And tons of people were just perusing at their leisure.

I especially loved pausing behind some creepy old man staring rather intensely at a leather whip.

Here I am with my gazoongas and kimono ready to get educated in Japanese sex culture! My, was it a thorough education!

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Kind of fun fact: This is a great district to do your duty free shopping in, as duty free shops are EVERYWHERE. I had a really early flight out the next morning and wasn’t able to buy my green tea Kit Kats at the airport, so I just did it here.

8. Romancing A Spider For An Exquisite View Of The City At Roppongi Hills

Prior to visiting Tokyo, I read that going up to Tokyo Tower for the city view was quite overrated, and that the view from the 54th floor viewing deck of the Mori Building in Roppongi Hills is far more breathtaking.  Not to mention, you get to see Tokyo Tower as part of your view and seduce a giant spider before making your way to the top.

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It cost us between 1,500-2,000yen ($15-20) and an ear pop in the speedy elevator to the top!

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9. Failing Miserably In A Japanese Photo Booth

I think it’s just an East Asian thing, the whole photo-booth-make-your-eyes-ginormous thing, but even coming from Korea, a photo booth in Japan was high marked on the to-do list! Especially since there are some pretty stunning glamour shots in mine and Cori’s past that desperately need recreation.

We found a Cherry Cherry booth and scurried in, only the whole thing was in Japanese so we had a few minor difficulties in navigation and procurement. Once we took our photos, filled with a heaping amount of awkward face, we waited for definitely over 5 minutes at the photo retrieval machine to no photos being dispensed. We then realized that we had skipped part 2. Part 2 being doodle all over and make your eye balls HUGE, obviously the most important step! Well, the language barrier interfered again and we ran out of time sans huge eyeballs, plus lots of Cherry Cherry baby.

Maybe our “thing” is just taking awful photo booth glamour shots! That’s it, it’s settled.

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10. Starf*ckers Come To This Starbucks

Located smack in the middle of Shinjuku’s busiest intersection, lies the busiest Starbucks in the world. When the lights turn red, the entire intersection opens up for pedestrians and it is a massive clusterfuck of humans, which can all be seen in perfect flourescent light stricken view from the top of said Starbucks. Stopping in the middle of the intersection, you know, to document it or something, is apparently similar to asking for a death wish.

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Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to highlight a couple things we attempted, but much like the glamour shots, failed at.

1. Radiation Overload At Tsukiji Fish Market

We had read about the tuna auctions that happen every morning starting at 4am on the docks at Tsukiji Fish Market. The fishermen catch fresh (radiated) tuna straight from the water and auction them off to bidders, and then everyone somehow kills themselves with radiation for breakfast.

We weren’t 4am ambitious, but we didn’t realize that the entire fish market shut down by early afternoon.  Coming from Seoul, I assumed it would be open all day, but just more insane in the wee hours. I was wrong, and after mazing through the endless back warehouses of the market, this is all we saw.

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So, if you decide to go to the Tsukiji Fish Market, plan to get there EARLY. I imagine they close by 12 noon, so plan on making a Japanese breakfast out of the venture.

2. Hopping A Moat To The Imperial Palace

We didn’t really jump over or swim through any moats, but we didn’t get to tour the gardens surrounding the Imperial Palace where Japan’s Imperial family currently lives, as it was closed the day we went. We did however get this documentation of us in front of the moat in the rain.  The palace is also behind us in the distance.

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3. Bicycle Riding In Nakemeguro

Biking around Nakemeguro was highlighted as a must do in Tokyo, and since one of my favorite activities to do in a foreign country is whimsically bicycle around, I was all about it. Unfortunately we were totally let down when we couldn’t find where to rent the bikes! We found a bike parking lot, but our lack of Japanese speak and the worker’s lack of English provided for no such luck.

It wasn’t all a bust though, seeing as two vintage loving gals found themselves wandering down a quaint street lined with pink lanterns and littered with vintage shops GALORE. We ate our eyeballs out!

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To get here, you’ve got to get to Nakemeguro Station, and after exiting, it’s going to be down the first street you can turn down on your right.

After 10 days with each other, my Diamond and I had a wonderful trip, with a smattering of bickerings here and there, but overall just lovely!  Twas another adventure to add to our chronicles of taking over this fascinatingly beautiful continent!

A Less Than Peppy Pepero Day

This past Monday I had the pleasure of celebrating my 3rd Pepero Day since moving to Korea.

What is Pepero Day you ask? Well, it’s one of the handfuls of monthly lovey dovey holidays that Korea designates as a day to express your undying love to another. Pepero are essentially the Korean version of the Japanese Pocky, and are cookie sticks dipped in chocolate, or covered in almonds or strawberry and sprinkles. The day falls on November 11th each year, because when you put 4 Pepero sticks next to each other it looks like 1 1 1 1.

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Great marketing, Lotte!

Well, in honor of Pepero Day, virtually every mart decks out the front of their store as if Valentine’s Day threw up, and Koreans try to find the biggest and best display of Pepero to show their love to their friend who’s face they love to fondle beside me on the subway.

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As you can see, Pepero Day had me a bit bitter this year. Not because I don’t have someone to flower me in Pepero, I can, and do, do that for myself on the regular (my personal fave are those dipped in chocolate and almonds), thank you very much. But rather, because I realized I’ve truly surpassed the honeymoon phase with my students at school.

My first Pepero Day had my desk drenched in chocolate stick goodness and love letters, and last year there was still enough to give me a stomachache. But this year was a rude awakening. I got ONE measly box from my 5th grader Diana, and a bunch of “Teacha! Teacha! Give me da candy!!!” Hmph. My, how the tables have turned.

I imagine if I were to stay a 4th year I’d get absolutely nothing. Just a hunch.

And that there is the reason I will be leaving next August. Just kidding, that’s not the reason, but it is a valid one.

In any event, Happy (belated on the blog) Pepero Day!

Happy Rocky Horror Freak Show Halloween!

After quite a wonderful but oddly emotionally draining year dos, and with a third year full swing underway, I really felt the urge to throw myself into something fun and new and out of my comfort zone that was totally my own.  That was when I decided to get myself notified about theatery things around Seoul.  I figured I always used to want to act, and love being on stage, I might as well revisit that old love and see if something was still bubbling down there. Well, when I got over my high schooler nerves and threw myself into auditioning on a brilliant whim, it was quite possibly the best most exciting thing I could have ever done!

Before auditioning, I had only seen the movie once or twice, and forever ago, so I wasn’t too familiar with all the nuances aside from the obvious pop culture references that you’ve been living under a rock if you don’t know.  After securing my role as Magenta, I watched the movie about 20 times with the additional uncountable amount of listens to the movie on mp3 whilst riding the subway to and fro. I ate, slept, breathed, peed and any other bodily function you can think of, Rocky Horror for the past month leading up to the most fantastical Halloween weekend I’ve celebrated to date. I also never thought I could know any film so.damn.well.

After less than a month’s worth of weekend rehearsals, the 2 shows went down last weekend, October 25th and 26th at Bull & Barrel in Itaewon.  On Friday before the show began, everyone was done up, pumped up and whipped up with madd amounts of anxiety and before show jitters. Well, we all through those into a huddle and shouted “Antici……..PATION”, and on with the show we went!

Here we have my sexy balding brother, Riff Raff, head tranny and master, Frank N Furter, and eternal groupie, Columbia, alongside my frisky elbow-sexing alien maid, Magenta, just before show time.

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Most of the shadow cast hadn’t actually seen Rocky Horror live before, so it was an exciting and unique experience to all be performing it together. If you’re unaware, watching the movie with a shadow cast is a very interactive experience. The audience shouts out lewd comments in response to the movie script and throws things like toilet paper, toast and rice at particular parts of the show. After a few minutes on stage, it’s entirely impossible to not be high off the insane amount of audience interaction. At one point on Friday night, someone was yelling about Riff Raff’s hair looking like soft serve dick from Dairy Queen, and I about lost it!

Friday night was NUTS, Saturday night was like Friday pumped up on a lethal dose of steroids with my garter belt secured firmly in place.

I’m gonna toot my own horn and say that playing the “domestic” really got me in touch with my sexy side.  Not typically one to bare the cleave, all that noise flew out the window the second the final button came undone on my little black dress during the opening number.  It was pretty much breasts and sassy eye rolls on a platter for the rest of the show.

I opened the show with a very odd interpretive dance to Science Fiction, Double Feature with Angela who played Dr. Everett Scott, and Lauren who played Columbia. There was a lot of heavy petting and crawling on the floor, and in true Korean fashion, I even got ddong chimmed up the butt.

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Just after Janet and Brad get caught with a flat tire in a rain storm, and are met with a creepy greeting from ol’ Riff, here I am making my grand entrance with a “he’s lucky, you’re lucky, I’m lucky, WE’RE ALL LUCKY!!!”

With a swing of a leg over the bannister (and zero falls), the flailing maid has arrived.

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Which brings us to an old Halloween favorite….

If you’ve never seen Rocky Horror, you’ve at the very least seen or heard Time Warp.  Here’s a little snippet and a glance at what Saturday night’s full capacity looked like. It’s really fun to watch us along with the movie and see just how well we synced up!

Here we’ve got Frank molesting “her” breasts, as Rocky, the perfect male specimen, is brought to life in small metallic gold undies.  This scene also boasts my fashion mask debut and serious amounts of crazy face.

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With a “shanananana” and a blonde bimbo chase through the audience, we hopped our way through the making of a man in just 7 days.

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Stacie and I used to be a couple of awkward Disney sibling-esq peeping Toms in college. This time I got to be on stage and peep, but it was more like trying to keep face and refrain from my typical bursts of laughter. Especially when our male Janet got his legs thrown over his head.  I also have a very VERY sexy romp of elbow sex with my brother. As you can hear, the audience is really into this incest thing!

After the show, Columbia and I recreated our balcony scene from Toucha Toucha, looking nothing short of alien from Transexual, in the galaxy of Transylvania.

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Then everyone sat down to an awkward birthday dinner for Rocky, where Columbia had a tantrum, and Dr. Scott sang about Eddie, who everyone ate for dinner. Meanwhile, Riff and I enjoyed the tune and flirted behind our master’s back.

Kayla (Riff Raff) and I were on stage for the entire show, except for the final floor show where everyone pranced around in the almost nude.  When we came back, we came back with a vengeance and wreaked havoc on Frank N Furter and his perfect man.  Only to revel in taking that glorious step to the right once more, so we could all have elbow sex, and most importantly, do the Time Warp againnnnnnnnn!

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Rocky Horror is by far the best worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it is so damn bad it’s excellent, and partaking in the shadow cast was the most fun I have had my whole time living in Seoul!  I always heard that Rocky Horror shadow casts have some crazy love affair, and it’s so true. After Saturday night’s show, the entire cast bonded so quickly and fell so hard in love.  I’m so happy to have been a part of it, and met some awesome people along the way, even if it means I have Dammit Janet and Time Warp on a repeat loop in my head. My only wish is that this could be a regular thing, and not just a Halloween jam.

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I have always loved being on stage, so celebrating Halloween in this fashion really sealed the deal. It was the perfect way to celebrate my favorite holiday, crack out of my shell and kick off year three with a bang.  I definitely see myself auditioning for more shows this year!

To top it off, this fan club of lovers got to share in the madness with me, even if some of them would rather choke on some fishnets than watch the movie ever again. Hey, it’s not for everyone, but I still question your sense of humor and taste if you can’t find the glory in this treasure!

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I’ll be shivering with antici……pation, until I have a chance to do this again!

I Battled Yo Mama, In 5-7-5

As I’m sure you all remember (because honestly, how could you forget), back in December my friend Jeremy, the head honcho over at Gosen Community Effort, had a fundraiser comprised of a 90s dance battle to raise money for those kids who want to attend high school way out yonder in Namibia.  Word To Yo Mama’s High Waisted Jeans won the glory of the champion title, and my ass got a beating on the concrete.  But a good ass beating is sometimes worth it.

Well, it was about time for another one of those fundraisers, and this time Polio swindled me into competing in his damn Yo Mama Haiku battle.  He wooed me with bribes like “it’s an opportunity for self growth” and “you’ll probably win”, along with the daily Kakao’d haiku for good measure.  I gave in, but as each day passed, I really wanted to bail because my nerves were rising. I couldn’t handle anymore nerves on my plate!  Then all the shit that Polio would give me for bailing, coupled with that damned opportunity for self growth, cancelled my escape route.

The fundraiser went down at the new Southern Sons bar, owned by some chingus from Texas, where 8 battlers competed for the best in Yo Mama shit talking. Each pair of us were given a topic ~ stupid, fat, bald, and so on, that we had to write 3 Yo Mama jokes in haiku form for, except for the finals, which consisted of 5 haikus on anything shaming Yo Mama.  For those who don’t know what a haiku is, I don’t know how you graduated 5th grade, but in any event, it follows a syllable format of 5-7-5.

After each battle we went around and hustled the crowd for raffle tickets that attendees purchased, and at the conclusion of each round raffle tickets were counted and winners progressed to the next round. The perk of having all your remaining friends still living in the country in attendance means you find yourself in the finals like so.

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I actually cringe when I listen to my voice in these battles, but you gotta put on yo gangsta face when duty calls. This clearly proves that A) I don’t have a good poker face and can’t not laugh at my competition, B) I am so white, and C) this was a good outlet for my vulgar mouth.

Now here I grace you with the awkwardness of a Haiku Battle.  A video of round 1 and the finals, and a photo of round 2 against the guy I thought should have won. HE WAS SO FUNNY! There’s no video of it though because I guess all of my friends were too enamored by my haiku spitting about yo mama’s mustache to capture a video.

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“Yo mama so bald, She used all your dad’s back hair, To make her own weave.”

In the end, I came in 2nd place, or as I like to put it, 1st is the worst, 2nd is the best. It turned out to be so much fun and I’m so happy I did it, even if I wasn’t the 2 time fundraising champion.  Also, given that I want to tackle doing stand up at least once in my life, ’twas a nice little segue.

I hope you enjoyed, and peace and yo mama’s mustache grease.

 

Rocky Horror Madness Impulse

With my 3rd year off to a lovely start, I have recently felt the urge to do more random things that I’ve always loved but never really had the figurative balls to do.  Well, a while ago I had signed up for Meetup notifications from Seoul Players, the group that puts on plays and those types of things around the city. Much like the dance Meetups, I never saw anything that quite tickled my fancy….until late last week.

There was a notification about auditions for a Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast that looked oddly enticing, and not to mention, a freaky little cherry to put on top of my favorite holiday that’s just around the river bend. So, I emailed the producers to sign up for the 2:30pm audition time slot on Sunday afternoon, and then cursed myself for the unnecessary nerves that I had bestowed upon myself as I took my ass to the audition.  I was asked to come back at 3:30pm because the other 2 auditioners failed to make their time and it would just be awkward to carry on by myself. More nerves. I wanted to just get it over with!

So I left and returned. And I was nervous. Nervous until the introductions by me, the director and producer and 2 other hopefuls were out of the way.  Then we did some warm up exercises.  Building an imaginary machine with motions and sounds, and running across the floor pretending different scenarios were happening.  Exercises that made me deathly self-conscious while in high school theater, that remarkably weren’t so bad 11 years down the line.  I’ve grown up! And with age comes more “I don’t give a fuck-ness!”

Even so, I had still checked off to be cast as a not so large part because A) I don’t want to be prancing around in just briefs and a corset. I haven’t shaken that ounce of self-consciousness, and B) I haven’t acted in a while, and didn’t want something so boisterous on my first go at it.

After a 40 minute audition, I left with a huge smile on my face, from all the unanticipated fun I had just had, and desperately hoped I got cast.

Well, I am happy to announce that as of Wednesday night, I have accepted the role of Magenta in the Seoul Players shadow cast production of Rocky Horror Picture Show! I am so freakin excited for the fishnets, big frizzy hair and french maid attire that lies in my future! And because I had no clue what a shadow cast was, and I’m assuming you don’t either, it’s when we perform in front of the movie that’s playing behind us. SO, I will not be displaying my tone-deaf singing voice or having to memorize elaborate amounts of lines.

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Rehearsals begin this Saturday, and we will be performing the weekend of October 25th and 26th in Itaewon.  Words can’t express my excitement to perform and have a massive fan club attend yet another one of my ballsy wacko impulses.

I must say, it feels really scary in a good way to get outside my comfort zone and do something different! Cheers to growing old and growing as a human 🙂

Weekly Travel Theme: The Moment

I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t traveling. Ever since I was little Dani Tami, my parents constantly took us out of Agoura and onto either the open rode in a 15 seater van, or piled us into a plane to some country at the other corner of the globe. It is something I’ve always known. Spring and winter break never meant staying in town, and while looking back, these are trips that I am so grateful to my parents for. From a young age, they made me have to wander, whether I knew it then or not.  So really, they shouldn’t be shocked at my current locale now should they? The answer is no.  So Mama and Papa Schaeff, it’s all your fault!

This week’s travel theme is about “the moment”. The moment that you know your life is changed by travel either by a place, thing, time, person, whatever.  I actually quite frequently get this feeling of absolute content whenever I’m traveling that’s much different from the feeling of the normal day-to-day. It’s one of those feelings that sparks so often, even in doing normal everyday things like taking a shower, that “real life” feels so far away in that second. Actually, since living in Korea, I’ve had so many of those moments. So many “I’m so happy I’m in Korea” moments, which helped me realize that moving here was the best decision I’ve ever made.

That being said, It’s kind of hard to pick just one moment that changed my life, so I’m going to pick two. The one that started it all, and a more recent one.  Full circle that shit.

I can pinpoint that moment when I knew I needed to live abroad. I was in 4th grade, on a spring break trip with my family to Paris.  I remember standing in a little street shop wanting to buy one of those collectors silver spoons that people used to collect like shot glasses. Maybe they still do, but I don’t.  Either way, my dad gave me a few Francs to buy it, and then we made a mad dash out to the main street and into a random burst of hail.  Across the street were the larger-than-life green and gold statues gleaming down at me in my yellow puffy jacket and red beret. The cars were driving haphazardly, yet somehow weaving in and out of each other in some fashion of chaotic order which I still to this day can’t place, even with my most likely ADD. We were trying to catch a Mercedes Benz taxi. A Mercedes Benz taxi!  Wow, “Paris is rich!” I thought!  That smell of the ice smashing on the pavement is one that I still catch random whiffs of in moments that are fleeting, and I am instantly transported back to Paris as the little girl in the jacket that could stop traffic.  After that trip, while wearing our matching Sorbonne University sweatshirts, my sister and I both told our mom that we were going to go to college at Sorbonne and live in Paris.

That didn’t happen for either of us, but I still look at that certainty as the pivotal moment of when I just knew I wasn’t going to spend my whole life living in the States.

Flash forward to adult woman “mature” life and my first solo trip to the stunning, magnificent, lush Bali! I had found a guy named Gusti who offered to take me on a half day excursion on the back of his motorbike to see some temples and a Luwak coffee plantation.  The plantation was actually something that I thought was going to be a scam and I’d be just nodding my head in a polite effort to get it over with. However, after about a minute of meeting Oher, and listening to him tell me about harvesting the different kinds of coffee beans, I was totally interested. I knew I wasn’t just asking random questions to appease him. Instead, I started to find him remarkably charming in a sweet old man kind of way.  After teaching about all the different kinds of beans, showing me how to crack them open, introducing me to the pooping Luwak, and letting me smell all the various herbs, we sat down to taste some coffee and indulge in conversation.

Over 10 little cups of coffee and tea, Oher asked about the places I’ve traveled, explained how he’s studied English for 4 years just by talking with customers, told me about his 10 year old daughter, Wayan, who loves Hello Kitty, and how he has been raising her on his own since his wife of 25 years passed away 2 years ago, a subject that actually brought him to tears.  As he teared up, it reminded me of why I am so in love with experiencing all the world has. I love meeting people on these journeys and getting a little glimpse into their world that’s so different from my own, but fundamentally so similar when you get down to the bare bones of being a human. Here I was sitting at a hand carved wooden table with a 45ish year old man who looked well into his 60s, who spoke remarkable English for being self-taught, some snakeskin fruit and 10 empty cups of coffee, enjoying one of the best moments I’ve had while on the move.

I actually happened to be wearing a Hello Kitty ring that I bought in Korea for 2,000won. I gave it to Oher as a gift for his daughter from an American girl. He was so shocked that I was just giving it to him. I said I could buy another, it was no problem.  He said thank you about a million times and was so eternally grateful for that small plastic piece of jewelry that it just made me smile.

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These are moments that remind me of why I’m so happy I’m staying in Korea another year. Another year of exploring this whack but stunning continent, and after that, who knows what the next moment will be 🙂

 

I decided to start writing some weekly travel theme pieces that other travel blogs will be changing up each week. So look out for some random variety 🙂

Farewell To The Dontgogay

As many of you know, I’ve become more Asian than any of my legit Asian friends back home, as I have signed on for a third year of life on the peninsula. I know, I know I’m crazy, but I really enjoy this whack continent that has become my second home! Who’d have thought!

One of my conditions for staying was that I had to move out of the no-man’s-land Danggogae, and into a lively, poppin place with more excitement and people walking around than just the barreling ajummas and drunk ajussis. In June I had to sign away my studio in North Korea and begin my hunt for an apartment elsewhere. I was a little nervous at first because I knew I’d be broke as a joke and that I wasn’t going to find an apartment as nice as the one I had been living in.

In Korea, when you rent an apartment you will typically go through a realtor and then have to pay them a realtor fee if they find you something, AND put down something called key money, which is essentially like a deposit, and when you move out you get that money back. Most apartments require anywhere between 5-10 million won in key money (roughly $5,000-$10,000). Some people’s schools will pay this amount, or some people just have a crazy amount of money in savings, neither of which I had! So, I was working with a measly 2 million won, plus the 500,000won/month that I will get each month for housing allowance. It didn’t help that the area I wanted to live in is super expensive.

Luckily I had Jee to help me apartment bargain hunt, and we found a a great little 1 bedroom apartment in the Sungshin Women’s University neighborhood just two subway stops north of Hyehwa, where I originally wanted to live. I’m just between two great subway lines, which now brings my commute to anywhere down to a huge fraction of the time it used to be.

Not to mention, I’m way more centrally located, my friend Matt is a 5 minute walk away, there are TONS of amazing shops and cafes, AND there are YOUNG HUMAN BEINGS walking around everywhere!!!! HELLZ NAE. When I walk to the subway in the morning, it’s about a 10 minute stroll along the river, which is a nice little cherry on top that I’m convinced has made me more wide eyed and bushy tailed at work. Ka-ching!

With that said, last weekend with Jee’s help, I packed up the bed of a Bongo truck with furniture, boxes and about 20 backpacks, threw the last of my unorganized trash in a pile for my crazy maintenance man to sift through, and kissed apartment 603 at Bernard Vil a hearty SEE YA NEVER AGAIN!

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I’ll post pictures of my new abode as soon as it doesn’t look like a college dorm.  In the mean time, I have a lot of Pinteresting and organizing and interior decorating to do, so you’ll get to see once it’s pretty.

For now, know I’m happy and moved and settled, and am now off to go explore some more of my new hood! YAYAYUYUH!

Seoul Dance Project: Dream.Flashmob.Success!!

When I first got to Korea I signed up to receive Meetups about dance classes and such around Seoul, but until about 2.5 months ago nothing ever quite tickled my fancy, aside from a Tango class that Joshua and I were supposed to go to until monsoon season interfered with his umbrella and our general morale, and we called that a no-go.

I had been feeling in a little bit of a funk and needed a way out of it, and then I got the Meetup event for Jazz classes with the possibility of participating in a flashmob. HELLO SWEET BABY MOSES count me in! The class ran for 6 weeks, every Saturday for 3 hours at a dance studio near Hansung University.  Twas perfect and super close to me! Nothing is EVER close to me!

The class was taught by a really sweet lady named Cheryl Obal, who has lived in many different countries, including Italy and India, and everywhere she goes she spreads her love of dance through dance classes.  Turns out she teaches charity classes every Saturday in Gangnam as well, with all proceeds going to the volunteer group Justice for North Korea to rescue North Korean refugees. She put those on hold for these weeks, as this particular class was for Seoul Dance Project, which is an effort by the city of Seoul to spread happiness to the people of the city through dance. Several classes are held around the city, and this was the only one specific to foreigners or Koreans who like to speak English. The class had people from America, Malaysia, Korea, and Uzbekistan to name a few, and was open to all levels, as long as you wanted to dance dance dance!

During the 6 weeks we learned two dances: 1 “Theme Dance” which is specific to the Seoul Dance Project, as it is the number to be performed with alllllll the other groups around Seoul in several giant flashmobs, and “Raise Your Glass” choreographed by Cheryl to be performed whenever and wherever there is an event to perform it.

Since Cheryl volunteers with Justice for North Korea, we performed at one of their awareness street campaigns on July 27th in an effort to draw attention to their cause.  Fun facts: July 27th also happened to be the 60th Anniversary of the Armistice Agreement signed by North and South Korea after the Korean War, AND National Dance Day in America! To top it off, Cheryl also donated the money she raised from her classes, totaling around $1,200.00, which is enough to rescue 1 North Korean refugee. Amazing I say!

We performed “Raise Your Glass” twice in Insadong, and I must say, it felt damn good to perform again! I also had the biggest cheer squad in my corner which pumped me up even more!  Jee, Josh, Katie, Matt, Tim, Veny, Andria and Steven all came to watch me NOT FALL, therefore Jee owes me 500won, and Joshy and Jee got pulled up to boogey down with me at the end.  Teehee suckas!

You can see in this video that I messed up a couple times, which pissed me off considering I nailed it in class, BUT, nonetheless it was soooo much fun and felt so awesome to get out and dance again (without falling…..).  I even accomplished my cherry-on-top wish of scaring Koreans with public dancing by ripping a girl’s hand right out of her boyfriend’s and forcing her to dance with me. She frightfully came, nervous laughed and then ran away. Ch-ch-check it OUT!

I will definitely be frequenting Cheryl’s donation classes going forward! Dancing and raising money for a wonderful cause is the perfect combo of feel good 🙂