3 Month Anniversary and the Firsts Just Keep Comin!

It’s November 17th, 2011 which means I have been living in freakin Seoul for exactly 3 months today.  I remember that day quite vividly.  On the 16th I was a damn waterworks show while saying bye to the Schaeffs at LAX, and all that I could think was “WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING?!” In the end, I grew a pair and whimpered my way through the security line like a little bitch. Here are the last known (and sexiest) photos of Rudolph and the fam before peacing out.

The sexiest photo of me on the planet.

I landed at around 6:30pm in Seoul, and as soon as I walked off the plane and into the airport I was SHVITZING…and I hadn’t even stepped outside Incheon Airport yet. My plane buddy named Kevin (wow, I remembered that) was a skinny little Korean boy who helped me hoist my life-of-luggage onto my cart and we were on our way to exchange some dolla dolla bills for some wonios.  I then meandered around the airport by myself for a bit trying to get oriented and figure out where the hell I was supposed to go to meet the EPIK/Korvia peeps.  I found them after walking in a few circles.  My internal compass needs some work, clearly. I met my plane buddy Casey in the flesh and met Henry Oh from Korvia who gave me my cell phone.  I also thought my eyes were playing tricks on me when I thought “WOW. He’s cute.”  Casey and I ended up talking talking talking and missed the memo to get on our bus to head to Kyung Hee University, AKA our orientation site. We got briskly shuffled out to the bus and I plopped on down next to little Miss Veny.  Who I l.o.v.e. LOVE. The rest is 3 months of history.

Fast forward to now, 3 months in, and yesterday I took my first sick day.  I never fully kicked my last round of sickness so I was bound to get sick again. I signed up for my first Yoga membership in Seoul after school on Tuesday with my co-teachers.  For 12 classes/month it’s only 80,000won, which averages out to about $6/class!! What a steal!  Tuesday’s class ended up being Pilates and it felt so good.  It was really funny though because I was wearing the least amount of clothing, but I was dressed how we dress for Yoga in the states.  Yoga pants, sports bra and tank top.  I felt a wee bit out of place when everyone was in baggy pants over their tights, longer sleeved shirts and no cleavage whatsoever.  Oh well!  I have the gift of sweat and could not do that!  Not to mention, the teacher paid extra attention to me.  I think this is because I was the lone big-bootied Waygook standing out in a sea of skinny Koreans in the class.  Needless to say, I felt amazing after, but as soon as I got home I started feeling shitty. I ended up going to bed super early (for me) that night, around 10:45pm, and when I awoke in a congested haze I was not about to get my ass out of bed and stand all day. I always take myself down that road and therefore I never get better.  So I stayed home and slept literally all day, and caught up on some guilty pleasure television between naps.  I also received my beautiful purple warm comforter, which coupled with the warmness of my Ondol (heating in my apartment that heats the floors!) made for an even better day of slumber.

I am officially the only Waygook who belongs to Lime Yoga!

Another first happened last week.  I shlepped my ass down to Hongdae on Wednesday for my first tap class in Seoul.  Well, that class was a rude and brutal awakening to my complete and utter rustiness.  I SUCKED ASS.  There were 4 of us in the class plus the teacher.  My friend Woo Sik, who is the guy I originally met, was in the class, his brother and then one other guy. I can’t stress how awful I was.  First, I haven’t tapped in probably 3 years or so, and even then it was like once a week since I began working, and second, they are legit Rhythm tappers which is a grittier style of tap than I am used to.  The class was fun, but I was super frustrated and nervous, and my feet and head were NOT working together.  On top of that, I was stressed about planning for my first Winter camp.  I told the guys I would definitely like to continue classes and they thought it would be best to take them on Weds and Fri (which I was kind of bitter about committing to on a Friday). I told them I would, but then last night decided since I’m gonna be traveling it’s probably not the best idea to buy a whole month’s package (100,000won/8 lessons) when I will probably be missing a bunch of classes coming up.  So, that’s out, but perhaps I’ll go take one off classes here and there when I feel like being made a fool of 🙂

On Tuesday was yet another first, and this was quite an interesting one.  You know how at home we have fire drills to practice what to do if there’s a fire?  Well, I found out in Monday’s meeting that in S. Korea they have War drills for if N. Korea and S. Korea ever go to war.  Yep.  Sorry mom.  So yea, during my Tuesday after school class with my 1st and 2nd graders we had the drill.  The principal said we didn’t need to go out of the classroom, but to just stay in the room and keep quiet.  Everyone else had to go downstairs and underground.  I’ve heard that not all schools have underground areas, but they go out on the field.  How that would protect you, I don’t know, but my school has an underground.  So, if anything happens I will be saved :). During this drill there was a radio announcement that was broadcast for 20 minutes in Korean, from 2:-2:20pm.  It really felt like we were back in WWII or something.  It wasn’t scary or anything, but just the foreign language and the way it sounded over the broadcast sounded very old fashioned.  While the broadcast was going I gave the kids a worksheet to do, then when they finished they just went and read in the playroom to keep quiet.  That gave Leni and I a chance to go over necessities for Winter camp.  So yea, Bomb Drills.  New and different thing to add to the ever-growing list!

Next week is Thanksgiving!  This will be my first Thanksgiving away from home and it’s so weird! A group of us are planning a feast for this weekend so I can’t wait to eat lots of nomz!  I’m also going to be teaching about Thanksgiving in my after school classes next week, so that is the perfect excuse to have kids make paper turkeys and bring in pumpkin pie for us all to eat. NOM NOM NOM.

In other FIRSTs news, I have officially booked my first flight out of the country for just before Christmas to New Years!  After much harassing from my favorite morning wake up call, Cori and I are almost set to go.  We’ve got our RT flights and hotel in Bangkok, just need to book the domestic flights, and we have an itinerary planned.  I am SO excited!  It’s gonna be so much fun.  It’ll also be nice to get out of the snow that will be covering Seoul.  Bret is also planning to come visit me end of January for my birthday, so I’m just waiting to see if he got the dates approved.  Then hopefully we can start planning!

That’s about it for now.  Sorry for no new pictures, but here’s a cute lil one of one of my munchkins and some creeptastic mannequins.  Enjoy!

Precious lil Gabriel

Creepiest mannequins of life. Why would anyone want to buy pj’s from this store?


Drugs, Discos and Other Decadencies

Pardon my excessive delay and the length of this post. But I know for many of you this blog is the sunshine in your life, so I promise it is filled with lots of eye goodies. Do enjoy the recent happs!

I must admit the last couple weekends I’ve been pretty lame because I’ve felt like a pile of crapola. But, you will be happy to hear that I took myself to the doctor to get some drugs like a mature (pronounced like matour) a-dult.  Back at home I was pretty bad about taking care of myself, mostly because I didn’t have insurance for a while (UGH), lived crappy paycheck to crappy paycheck, and tried to refrain from the already incessant credit card usage.  Therefore,  I would just let the fake smoker’s cough grow and grow and I’d slowly die at my desk in my thick cloud of Mucinex.  Well, you will be pleased to know that I will be taking care of myself over yonder because 1. I’m terrified of getting sick here, especially when it starts to snow, and 2. it is SOO freakin cheap! This jew likey!

My co-teacher Leni took me to the “hospital” (as they call the doctor here) down the street from my work on Monday.  It’s a bit like Urgent Care back home where you can just walk in anywhere and they will see you.  All I have to do is show them my ARC (Alien card) and it covers as insurance.  So, we left work early at 4 because apparently if we got there after 4:30 we’d have to wait for 1 hour.  I walked in, they took my temperature right in the waiting room, which I thought was hilarious, then I sat down and waited 5 minutes to see the doc. I walk in, sit down and he just looks at me.  I was expecting to need translation and just use big hand gestures, but once I started speaking a little slow he was like “yes yes, elaborate” and I was so excited to see he spoke damn good English.  I told him the usual symptoms, I coughed to show him how gross it is, he squeezed my glands to prove they were swollen (which hurt) and then did a lot of talking in Korean to Leni who then relayed all the info to me. The doctor was super nice and asked me where I was from.  When I told him LA he got excited and asked “where in LA? My-uh parents lives-uh in Las-uh Virgeneees.” Well isn’t that a small world. I told him my family is from Agoura Hills and he was vaguely familiar with the suburb. That made me feel a wee bit more at home.  We then said goodbye and thanks, I paid the measly 3,000won (about $3) to see the doctor and then walked next door to get my drugs. For 7,000won (about $7ish), I got a bottle of Nasonex, and 3 days worth of a cocktail of pills (I have no clue what I’m taking). I literally lept to pay and sign and then told the pharmacists (who also spoke English!) that a bottle of that same nasal spray (or one similar) back at home cost me a whopping $150 fat ones! Screw you American medicine.  Given the cheapness factor, I’m also highly considering getting Lasik done while I’m here.  Total it’ll probs cost be a little over $1k for both eyes.  Nice-uhh.  This is how my drugs came prepared for me. Silly Asians and their silly ways.  And yes, that’s and outdated copy Elle of Justin and Mila in the background. Nom. Girl needs her eye candy.

Moving on to the things that I HAVE been doing despite my glorious sickness. A couple weekends ago was a long weekend here, I think it was for the independence or creation of Korea.  One of the two. What that meant for us teachers was long weekend!  I got Monday and Tuesday off (all my other friends only got Monday off), so it was very very nice.  This was the weekend I began feeling not too hott, so I stayed in that Friday and Saturday night like a responsible adult in hopes of getting better.  However, I did decide to go on a rigorous hike on Saturday with my lady loves.  I don’t really know what I was thinking given the fact that I’m not a big hike lover to begin with, but I never want to miss out on an exploration opportunity so I just suck it up and go because I know I’m gonna want to see that amazing view from the top.  So, I went with Katie, Abby, Steph and Liz to hike Dobongson mountain, which is actually fairly close to where I like in NorKo.  What started out as an almost vertical incline at the base (UGH) turned out to be more like rock climbing as we got deeper.  That was fun, though I’m such a freakin girl when it comes to getting my hands dirty.  I kept commenting on how every time I place my hand down I’m looking for the least dirty spot, and then I always dust my hands off immediately after hoisting myself up. I am actually really glad though that it was more rock and rope climbing because it’s way more fun, even though I’m way more scared of climbing up things than jumping off them.  Normal right? Anyways, we trekked thru but didn’t end up making it all the way to the top.  We met a sweet little Korean man who befriended us and told us we should probably consider making our way down because we still had a little ways to go and wouldn’t want to get stuck up there when it got darker.  So we made our way down the very tricky trail.  We insisted our new friend come to dinner with us, to which he found us a little bibimbap place, ordered 2 bibimbaps for the 5 of us girls and thought that would fill us up. No no little Korean man.  We are North American women who like to eat and didn’t pack lunches for our hike. He ordered us 3 more with the most shocked look on his face, and then sat and watched us eat.  He later told us he wanted a hamburger.  Go figure.  Here’s some pictorals of the beautiful hike, view of Seoul, and the gorgeous temple we saw along the way.

God I love long weekends. That Monday a bunch of us met up for a day in Olympic Park.  It was such a gorgeous day out.  Twas super chill and just nice to hang out with good peeps and drink the Makkali (sp?).  Makkali is this milky soju alcohol that is sort of fizzy and weird.  But it’s aight. My lovely recruiter Dia, who I LOVE came as well, so that fulfilled the Korean quotient.  Some friends played soccer with the cutest little Korean baby, some lounged and read like scholars, some listened to music and drank to happy times, and all gazed up at the phallic statue towards the sky. It was a lovely lovely day had by all.  Take a gander will ya.

Then Tuesday rolled around, and I had been planning to venture into Hyehwa to show myself around the artsy part of Seoul since I had the day off and I had been dying to go there.  The day turned into a full on walking tour with a British lad.  He lives 2 stops away from Hyehwa,  so we met at his exit and walked there.  There wasn’t much going on since it was during the day, but I got an idea of the area and decided I needed to come back at night.  We then walked further to Dongdaemun, which is what I would compare to the Fashion District in Downtown LA, but with a huge temple in the center.  We walked along the river (at quite the brisk pace because he walks too fast) where there was some religious group performing on the river stage (interesting), and then got caught in the huge textile building that we thought was going to be a mall.  Holy hell was it hot and clusterfuckish in there.  Moving on, we made our way back through Myeong-dong, which is hardcore for the shopper.  My feet were killing me but it was a pretty awesome day, and the company wasn’t too shabby either. Shockingly, I snoozed on the photo taking, but here’s a couple of the ones I took.

Random street in Hyehwa

Love this!

Dongdaemun Palace

I did end up going back to Hyehwa at night, which I will get to in a bit.  Before that though, I would like to say that I can check off going to a silent disco from my bucket list.  God bless you Hongdae Park and your random happenings.  This past Saturday night I was about to send myself home early after a long day of voice-overing (saving that for another post) because I was feeling like crap again.  But thank god I didn’t.  The silent disco cost 3,000won for the headphones and it was just a party in the park and freaks all over the place.  I think you can imagine what it was like, so here’s some pictorals.

Back to Hyehwa! I went back Tuesday night after my plans to go to a soccer game got changed.  I went back with that British lad  for dinner and then a jazz bar.  I must say, it has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and just never did.  This one was called Jazz Story.  It was so cool and I’m glad it was my first. Twas delightful company, the ambiance was gorgeous inside (I kept thinking their interior decorator did a bomb job lol), and the band was divine.  It was an all Korean band but they sang pretty much all English songs from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s with a few Korean jams thrown in.  I think I really got off on the right foot when the first song they sang was the theme from “Grease” (aka my favorite movie ever). They also sang some Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and some Hotel California amongst others. LOVED. IT.  This is their sign which I just love.  It’s made from car headlights!

I know this was an intensive course in the past couple weeks, sorry, but I hope you enjoyed the visuals 🙂 Today and tomorrow my 5th and 6th graders are gone at some Halloween/Talent show camp so I’ve got my days wide open which is an awesome and welcomed break.  I got to Skype with Kayla and Mama, Papa and Brotha Schaeff and show them all my classroom too.  I will leave this post with 3 different images.  One that will leave a disgusting taste in your mouth (or eyeballs), and two that will make you giggle.  Enjoy until next time. Mwah!

Just some innards of a fish being sold on the street. nbd.

Drunk, passed out Korean man occupying a few too many seats on the subway, and oblivious business man.

This is what my parents look like when they Skype with me. Love you 🙂

An I’m So Happy I’m In Korea Moment

There have been a couple times so far since arriving in Korea where I had an “I’m so happy I’m in Korea moment.” The first was during orientation when we were at the folk village.  We were watching dancers do a native dance where they had these crazy streamers on their heads and it was like they were dancing with their heads, but they were also jumping and playing drums. It was just so cool.

Last night I had another one of these totally feel-good-about-my-decision moments.  It was my Vice Principal’s last day at my school and all the teachers went out to a Korean BBQ dinner at a super fancy restaurant close to school. My 2 co-teachers felt awful because I don’t eat pork and that’s what we were eating, so they ordered me this cold noodle dish in a super spicy red sauce. I completely forget what it’s called, but I thought it was bomb.  And their version of spicy is not comparable to mine.  I want more spicy!  We also ate probably the 100th different type of kimchi I’ve tried since coming to Korea, salad, raw onions in this soyish type of sauce, and some other dish which I have no idea what it was and neither do they.  It seemed sushi-ish and was tasty, but I’m clueless. For dessert we had this rice cake type cake that none of them liked, but I thought it tasted like bread so I enjoyed it haha.  The dinner was awesome because I got to actually hang out with my co-teachers and meet some of the other younger teachers.  Many of them don’t really like to speak English because they are nervous about the language, but they were speaking with me, so I felt quite happy about making them feel comfortable enough to talk to me. The night went on, we ate, talked, and drank. And drank. And drank. At one point I looked over and saw my Principal downing shot after shot of soju with some of the other teachers.  I think he kind of looks like my 5th grade teacher Mr. Miyamoto. Only I never saw Mr. Miyamoto taking shots.

Here are some pictures of the food and of my 2 co-teachers and some of the others. Leni is the girl on the left making a peace sign, and then Jin is the one in the picture with me 🙂

THEN the fun continued.  To those of you who don’t know what a Norebang is, it’s karaoke, but in your own private room.  The Koreans are nuts about this shit!  SO, you have about 15 happy drunk Koreans and lil ol’ American Danielle piled into a room, tambourines are handed out, water and more drinks are brought in on a tray, and the book of songs is opened for people to pick their song. I never karaoke.  As many of you know, you probably don’t want to hear me sing because I am that god awful. But no, I was forced to sing. And I was forced to sing a duet, in English, to a song I’ve never in my life heard before…with my Principal (who doesn’t speak a lick of English, but knew this random song).  He was dancing like a little Asian man and I was dancing and singing and laughing the entire time. OMG it was fun. Everyone has to sing, and Mr. Principal was not letting me get off the hook by only singing with him.  I had to sing again.  This time I sang with my adorable co-teacher Leni.  OMG she is so cute and loves to sing, and she’s super teeny so she was super drunk! We sang a song by Lenka that she chose because I didn’t feel comfortable enough yet to whip out some Bieber Fever.  In due time it shall come.

This brings me to the moment I had that “I’m so happy I’m here” feeling.  After everyone sang, we all stood in a circle in this little tiny room filled with tambourines and disco lights and held hands.  Principal sang a song in Korean which I had no idea what he was saying, but I could just feel it was a happy/sad song.  The Vice Principal then went around the circle and gave everyone hugs and cried a bit.  I only met her a few times but she was so sweet.  It was amazing how I didn’t even know the words, or really her for that matter but I really did feel overwhelmed, but maybe just because I was so happy in that moment to be there.  The teachers are all so kind and sweet to me, and I love watching them bow whenever they say hello or goodbye.  I used to think it was a little weird and awkward, well, I still kind of do, but it just comes off as so respectful and you can just tell they’re all such nice people. Anyways, I had my moment and it was awesome.

I’m sure I’m going to have many “get me the hell out of here” moments too (like when the little 3rd grader with severe ADHD came and took over my classroom yesterday), but it’s nice to know that these ones just pop up out of no where 🙂

Now I shall leave you with a video of my amazing duet with my beautiful co-teacher Leni.  Enjoy the norebang (before my memory card space ran out) and my super sexy singing voice!