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!

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A Pupu Platter Of 2012 Whathaveyous

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!

Wow, another year has come and gone, and I must say, 2012 was my favorite year of my almost-29 years gracing this planet.  So much that I had always dreamt of in years past same to fruition this year, and I can honestly say I am in the best place I have ever been in my life.  And it feels damn good 😉

I had made the resolution in 2011 that by the end of the year I would be living a life abroad ~ check.  In 2012 I promised myself I would do absolutely as much traveling of Asia as possible.  I came to Korea to conquer this continent like a blaze of fire, and in looking back I can say I did just that.  Along with the travel resolutions, I really put my best foot forward to work on getting what I really want, and making that start from within.  I try my best to communicate what I want, but a lot of time it fails when walls get put up, or life just gets in the way.  So, I’ve really tried to be as self-aware as possible just be the best version of myself and hope that it brings with it what I truly want.  That being said, 2012 has definitely been the happiest and most honest year to date 🙂

Now I’m just gonna throw together a few highlights from each month of 2012. Badabing herrrrrr goes!

I began the year on the beach in Koh Phangan, covered in florescent body paint and drinking liquor by the buckets with one of my dearest and oldest friends on the planet ~ my fave biatch and sista from anotha mista, Miz Diamond ❤

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January marked my first birthday to be celebrated away from everyone I’ve always shared my (obviously) favorite holiday with.  I felt a little down about it, then in flew a gift from THE BEST sista ever ~ Sista Schaeff in the flesh, in Korea!

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On her last night here, she snuggled my foot to sleep.  BY CHOICE! ❤

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In February I visited two of my favorite countries so far ~ Vietnam and Cambodia. I saw some of the most beautiful snorkeling waters, caught my first fish, shot my first gun, ate a bowl of pho a day, wondered why they allow Americans in, and saw my life flash before me about 1million times while in ‘Nam.

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In Cambodia I visited the most breathtaking temples I have ever seen, spent an afternoon with beautiful children in an orphanage on the river, saw insurmountable beauties in some of the deepest poverty stricken eyes, and struggled to hold back tears while walking through a living history at the Killing Fields and S-21 genocide museum remnants from the Khmer Rouge of the 70s~80s.

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In March I visited the happiest place on earth, AKA the DMZ, for the second time.  This time we rode bikes along the most intensely guarded border in the world, all while Obama paid the peninsula a visit and peered over to the North with us.

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April means Passover, which also means the sea parts in Korea.  I made the trek down south with a homie and we met Moses, crossed the parted sea and drank makkoli while doing so, obvi.

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Later in April, my favorite story to date came to be.  A couple morons went to a Lady GaGa concert.  They got all gussied up in the hottest of pink and the tightest of attire, only to miss the whole thing whilst trying to attain the most coveted seats in the house during the “GaGa cover band”…. *face palm* At least we looked sexy.

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In May, Wawa came for a visit.  We did many things, but by far our favorite day was our “Day of Culture.”  We visited Gyeongbukgong Palace, learned about the creation of Hangul (the Korean alphabet), ate a traditional lunch, drank tea in a lovely tea house, dressed up and cracked up in Hanbok (traditional Korean dress), and wrapped up with a journey to the Noryangjin Fish Market.  Twas a wondrous day!

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Then came June, and Buddha’s birthday.  A crew of us high-tailed out of Seoul to Gangneung, a little beach town on the East Sea. There were makkoli and soju spurred chicken fights, sexy man-wrestles, toasty bonfires, crashing of high class fancy Korean booking clubs and frisbee games resulting in broken pinky toes and racial slurs. The Buddhaman had an awesome birthday!!

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Then came July and two events which could be classified as the greatest events of the century. One more than the other, but one got more hype than the other according to the Facebook.  You can use your own judgement on that one.  One required us to dress to the nines to bid adieu to all the homies we grew to call family, and also the ones we grew apart from because a lot of people that came with us were weirdos, let’s face it. The other required some prior temple-sculpting, lots and lots and lots of soju, mudmudmud and practically no clothes. Mud Fest was by far my favorite event of 2012.  Shit was CRAY TO THE MAX!

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August was the most bittersweet month of the year I’d say.  It was sweet because I took a 2.5 week summer jaunt on over to the Philippines with my lovely lass from home, Brianne.  We saw some of the most picturesque islands, snorkeled and ate our faces off, hiked miles in our little warrior Havaianas, posed with stalagtites, missed the whale sharks, got in a fist fight with a very mean typhoon, and let tempers fly with shitty budget airlines.

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August was bitter because our contracts ended and some left KoKo and I had to face the harsh reality that the world as I knew it was shattering before me.  Well, that’s an over-dramatization, but that’s how it felt at the time dammit. I also got thrown into my deathbed by some plague I contracted in the Philippines.   So, not only were my friends leaving, but I was deathly ill and partying with an IV in the hospital, unable to hand out proper goodbye hugs. NOT COOL WORLD.

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Then on rolled September.  Grabbing my bearings on who was still left in my Seoul-cial circle happened naturally.  I got back in the go-out mode (at least for the time being), and some friendships from the previous year had the chance to blossom.  Late in the month for Chuseok holiday, a group of us gals decided to pop off to Osaka and Kyoto, Japan with boy toy Joshy. We frolicked by bicycle all over Kyoto, made the most of the typhoon stricken city by stuffing our faces with enough sushi and sake to fuel an army, and tore up (literally) a karaoke room.  Best weekend ever!!!

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October was of course Halloween, and we got down with our bad selves…and Bob the Builder.

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In November I actually had a REAL Thanksgiving, none of that Pho shit (pardon me, it’s just not suitable cuisine for Thanksgiving).  Josh Rich was also in town as my 6th visitor to the Orient. A Happy Happy Turkey Day it was!

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And last but not least, I think the winner for best December event goes to my dance crew’s (WORD TO YO MAMA’S HIGH WAISTED JEANS) epic ass kicking in the 90s dance battle for the African kids. Real winners put in the effort, and effort we put in. Obviously you would know this had you been at our latke-rehearsal party, our cheese and crackers rehearsal party where Matty ripped his jeans, and our final rehearsal party that almost interfered with us attending the actual party because we were too focused on perfecting our dance.  What a BOMB DIGGITY way send out 2012!!!

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As you can see, 2012 was quite the year, and it’s been a pleasure looking back on it with you. Here’s to an even better 2013, and going home to America in 10 days!!!!!!!

PEACE & CHICKEN GREASE, HOMIEZ.

I Came, I Fell, I Conquered

I know I’ve been a complete slack of a human being on the blog front as of late. I keep telling myself to post about the recent happs, but then life gets the best of me. In my defense, I’ve been a bit preoccupied with all the visitors I’ve had here in the KoKo.  I’ve been top of the pops lately if you hadn’t heard. In the past 2 months I’ve had 3 visitors to Korea: Jeff Davidson, one of my ATO homies from the good ‘ol SBeezy days, Josh “Gay” Rich, my old Santa Barbara neighbor and favorite non-homosexual gay person, and lastly, my long-awaited, MUCH anticipated visitor, Adam Allegro, photographer extraordinaire (http://catchthejiffy.com). It’s been awesome, and that brings my visitor count to 7 in the last 16 months.  Who’s next?!?!

To catch you up, because I’m sure Facebook doesn’t do that for you, I’ll show you some highlights from the past 3 months. It’s a bit of a time traveling experience, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.

The first highlight after Japan was Halloween.  Halloween is my favorite holiday, and last year it was a sour disappointment, despite my amazing costume.  However, the company I shared it with this year more than made up for last year. I got creative while exploring the world wide web and decided to go as a Roy Lichtenstein 1960s pop art lady (in case the uncultured folk out there are confused and just think I had really bad acne for the evening).

I kicked it with some saucy Japanese schoolgirls.

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Had my “damsel in distress” moment when I got rescued by Spiderman in a seedy alleyway in HBC.

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Then I went on to get down with Andre Agassi’s zombie circa 1990.

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A couple weeks later me and a bunch of Koreans decided to hit up a 1960s/Andy Warhol shindig.  Here’s me and Jee shmoozing with Mr. Warhol about being in one of his next films.

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Then we just got sexy with some spectacular wall art.

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Then I had an unexpected 5th visitor when Jeff popped over from Singapore for a few days on business.  Here’s us drinking somak (soju and beer combo) at Noryangjin fish market, over a plate of freshly killed sashimi and octopus.

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Shortly thereafter, I time traveled to a roller derby set in the 1980s. My closet and I love the 80s, and this was the perfect opportunity for me to cut up my newly purchased California Raisins sweatshirt into true Flash Dance style.  It also provided the perfect setting for me to showcase my wild agility and ability to stand on two feet.  My hands hurt for a good 3 weeks after this tumble.

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A couple weeks later Josh “Gay” Rich came for a week-long jaunt to the peninsula to learn what Gangnam Style is all about. I’m not sure if he discovered it or not?  He was my 3rd school visitor, and my kids thought he was very handsome and very TALL.  The girls were oogling at him and the boys were jumping to try and reach his head.  It was adorable.

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Then he met my 6th grade boyfriend, Jinho.  My little angel boy talked baseball with him and was so excited to meet him. I was like a proud mama.

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During Josh’s visit I also celebrated my 2nd Thanksgiving abroad.  Holidays are so weird in Korea.  They literally sneak up on you.  I swear I didn’t realize it was Thanksgiving til like 3 days before and we had to scramble for where we were doing our potluck because I was not settling for another bowl of Pho on Thanksgiving like last year.  Anyways, this is my beautiful Seoul fam plus Josh.  Every family has that one “special” member right?  Can you spot ours?

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This pretty much catches me up to present-day and my most current visitor.  Adam and I have been wanting to be on the same continent for a few years now, and the time finally came!  He just got out of the Navy stationed in Italy and has begun  his year of jet-setting across Asia to pursue his photography dream.  We started bonding over his beautiful photos a few years ago, so I’m thrilled to have him in my home-away-from-home to capture some stunning photographs of this peninsula that now holds a special place in my heart, despite all it’s oddities.  He’s been here since December 10th, and is here until January 4th popping all over Korea.

Aside from taking brilliant photos, I brought him to school with me as my show and tell special gift to my shithead 6th graders.  I felt they needed a little inspiration, and to many he was.  They were all impressed with his gigantic stature (6’4″), his ginger hair, a term I taught to my 3rd graders, and how his feet hung out over the back of his slippers.

Here he is with my best class of 6th graders.  They were amazing and had so much fun with him!

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He also handed out piggyback rides to my favorite 3rd grade babies.

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And met my 6th grade boyfriend again 🙂 Isn’t he just the cutest?

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He even arm wrestled my man co-teacher after my students dragged Mr. Jang over to the table.  Peep the video below to watch Adam kick his ass.

 

This week I also celebrated my 2nd Christmas abroad, but first in Seoul. I was actually feeling crappy all day, but was coaxed into going to my friend Keira’s for a potluck/housewarming party.  It ended up being really nice and quaint and I’m glad I went, because the holidays are already really depressing living over here that they shouldn’t be made any more by staying in bed by myself on Christmas day.  So, here’s another semi-family photo with some new Koreans that I met.  Once again, can you spot our “special” member?

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Last but certainly not least was the EPIC event that I partook in last weekend.  My friend Jeremy runs a non-profit organization (http://gosena.org/) where he raises money to pay for high school costs for a select group of students in the Namibian school that he used to work at during the Peace Corps. So a couple times a year he throws fundraisers where we spend an over-abundance on alcohol and have an amazing time and it goes to support little African kids.  Well, this holiday fundraiser was an In Living Color themed t-shirt tag party fully loaded with 90s dance battles.  However, the 3 other “crews,” if they can even call themselves that, didn’t even stand a chance against my craftily put together crew.  All hail to the 1st place champions: WORD TO YO MAMA’S HIGH WAISTED JEANS (or WTYMHWJ for short).  We featured a medley of jams sampling all the great hits from every NOW music CD you ever owned. We won the whopping prize of 100,00won which we generously donated back to the kids, and of course superstar status for the rest of the evening.

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If you want to relive the Macarena, Barbie Girl DDR style, the great Bboys, the amazingness of “The Carlton” or watch a tap dancer slam her ass so hard on the ground that she pulls her groin muscle, I beg you to please tickle your eyeballs with the video below.  I promise you it’s worth every second of the 4 minutes that it is.

 

I hope you enjoyed the speedy version of the past 3 months. I’ve felt like quite the sorority girl that I never was.

OH, and if you live under a rock, I’ll be gracing the United States of America January 12th~25th.  So, if you know what’s good for you you’ll accompany me as I eat myself a winter coat during the duration of my visit, and come celebrate my birthday the evening of January 19th.  SEE YOU SOON AMERICA!!!

WaWa & SchaeffSchaeff in KoKo

I just had my 9 month Korean anniversary last Thursday, May 17th. Holy shit! In the 9 months that I could have been with child, I have had 5 visitors, 4 of which hail from the Orient.  Damn I’m popular, especially amongst the Eastern folk. The last most amazing friend in the world to trek their ass across the world for me with a bag full of cheese and other American delicacies was my lil WAWA!!! Her 10 day visit definitely warrants a posting.

I was so freakin excited to see Wawa! I haven’t seen her since I think my birthday last year (I think), but of course we have kept up to speed on all the juicy gossip that’s gone on in our lives in between.  But, I was especially excited for 10 days of good old fashion girl talk, rehashing past relationships, current whatevers, what went wrong and adding further insight to the past, that we’ve since gained in our old age. Oh, and play tour guide of this country that is now my home away from home.  I was a little nervous to play tour guide because the pressure’s on, but it was probably the closest to relaxing yet jam-packed trip possible. Twas awesome.

Wawa and about 10 pounds of candy came to school with me 2 days of the week, so she helped teach and squeeze the cheeks of my 3rd and 4th graders with me and Jin.  My classroom is also on the 6th grade floor, and since she didn’t come to class on days I taught them or 5th graders, they could only get candy if they asked Wanda a question.  Most of them asked the same shit, “What’s your name?” “How old are you?” “Where are you from?” and just dug their dirty hands into the bag of candy, but then they had to actually ask her good questions.  Especially the smart ones. I made them. Some were actually good “Who’s your favorite Hollywood star?” and of course “Do you have a boyfriend? No? Why not?” Our favorite question EVER. Both days that she was here this is what it looked like just outside my classroom.  I had to play zookeeper to a bunch of candy crack babies  a couple times. That was fun.

Wawa is also no longer “solo.” I knew she’d come to Korea and find a boyfriend ASAP. This is her and her new boyfriend Julian. They even dress like a kouple.

Our absolute most favorite day of her trip was our “Day of Culture.”  That day we went shopping in Insadong where we got down to tradition and cried of laughter as we posed in Hanbok. We went to Gyeongbokgung Palace and got a taste of celebrity when some middle schoolers asked to have their picture taken with us, saw the King Sajong statue, ate some bomb tofu and pajeon (Korean seafood “pizza”), drank tea at a lovely little tea house, and went shopping for a fish and live octopus to eat at the Noryangjin fish market. I ate live octopus for my 2nd time. Jesus.

Here’s a video of us eating that octopus.

We also had some very ladylike evenings.  We caught a jazz show at  my favorite location in Seoul, Jazz Story, in Hyehwa, and had a night of vagina at Vato’s Tacos followed by some vagina pops at a Vagina Monologues show.

We went to Gangnam and did what you do in Gangnam. Take glamour shots and hang out with very sophisticated men.

We also hiked, or rather walked 50 million flights of stairs, up to Namsan Tower to lock up our love (next to mine and sista’s) to forever overlook the smoggy sky of Seoul, and found our first epic Geocache.

All in all, it was soooo much fun having my lil Wa here! I’m so happy she came and it’s always nice to have visitors because it gives me a chance to feel like a tourist once again 🙂 Here are a couple other highlights of her trip.

Our new Vietnamese family.

Eating fried potatoes with some new male suitors.

Eating a hot dog wrapped in a pancake.

Swapping manicure secrets.

Shopping with ajummas, her new favorite breed of people.

Schaeff Schaeff loves you WaWa! Now come back soon! Mwah!

Bucket Lists, Birthdays, Butchered Octopi & A Bomb Ass Visitor

 

When deciding to move to another country, especially one so different from your own, you obviously put together a list of things you have to do when you’re there.  I made a Korean Bucket List during my whole research and application process,which has continued to grow since getting here, and in the past month I can say I’ve successfully checked off 3 big things. Therefore, this will be a somewhat video-heavy post topped off with my old lady laugh in most.  Hope ya don’t mind-uh.

1. Eat octopus.

  • This first time I ate it in a fishy soup with co-workers. I watched it go from breathing to boiling to death in a scalding hot pot, then cut up with scizzors on my table. Sad but whoa, Koreans don’t mess around.

 

2. Eat octopus…again.  This time purchase a living, breathing octopus and then eat it while still alive.

  • I spent a lovely and smelly afternoon at the Noryangjin Fish Market with Steph, Abby and Nick, Steph’s boyfriend. We walked through a massive fish warehouse while we mustered up the guts to finally choose a baby octopus, go to one of the little inside restaurants with our bag of octopus, then have them cut it up and serve it to us.  I don’t think this video or my words could actually express how nervous I was to do this.  It actually didn’t taste like anything and I didn’t even really feel the tentacles stick to my throat or mouth like the others, probs because I doused it in sauce then threw it back.  So sick, but I’d do it again for the novelty 🙂

 

3. Go to the DMZ.  AKA the De Militarized Zone AKA the most heavily guarded border in the world.

  • I have been wanting to go to the DMZ since before I arrived, because honestly, who can say they have been to one of the most intense borders in the world?  Not many. Well, the perfect opportunity presented itself when Sista decided to put her impulse buying to the test and booked a flight out to see me for my birthday!  Me, Sista and my friend Casey ended up going on Sunday, which also happened to be Mama Schaeff’s birthday, so we decided to keep our plans to ourselves until we were back in the South in one piece.
  • There are 2 different DMZ tours that you can take, the one we went on that takes you to the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel (the 3rd of 4 discovered tunnels dug by the N. Koreans after the war, discovered by S. Korea), the Freedom Bridge (when the war was over, this bridge connected the North and South and allowed those to come to the South), the Dorasan Observatory (where you can look thru binoculars into the desolation of North Korea), and Dorasan Station (the station that will ultimately be the link between the North and the South, whenever, if ever, they unite one day).
  • The 2nd tour is the Panmunjeom, which is the most Northern location within the South Korean border.  Here civilians can go to the Joint Security Area (JSA) and see the North and South Korean soldiers guarding their territories together.  I must do this at some point!!

De Militarized Zone. There’s barbed wire with a flower on the “M”

The ribbons behind us have notes on them that many families have written to family they still have in the North, and hopes for a unified peninsula one day.

On the Freedom Bridge, where people escaped the North to the South after the war.

Just trekked it down and thru the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel.  Got our exercise in for the day!

It’s forbidden to take pictures past this yellow line.

Us with a backdrop of North Korean mountains.

South Korean soldier at Dorasan Station.

Creepy propaganda.

In addition to quickly checking things off my list, I celebrated my first Korean birthday.  And as if turning 28 wasn’t enough, I’m technically 29 according to Korea. Blah.  The way that works is that when you are born in Korea you are considered 1 yrs old, and then on the 1st of the year everyone gets another year older, then another year older on your actual birthday.  So I turned 28 on the 1st and then 29 on the 20th. Bahumbug.

ANYWAYS, digging myself out of that sad old hole, JACQUIE came to visit me for my birthday!  I don’t think anyone has ever done anything that nice for me before!  I made the 2 hour trek from the Dontgogay to pick her up at the airport last Wednesday (and another 2 hour journey back!) and she came to my last 2 days of camp with me on Thursday and Friday.  She of course fell in love with how cute the kids are, especially one little peach named Lisa, who gave us both matching gold rings on my birthday 🙂

One of my other most adorable 5th graders, Jena, gave me a notebook with glasses on it, a white board pen (because mine are always running out of ink) and some candy.  Adorbz and so thoughtful.  I love her.

When camp was over all the little girls wanted pictures with me and Jacq, so it was the perfect completion of Hollywood week.  Nothin like getting caught in the middle of a paparazzi storm, especially with little Koreans pumpkins.  Trust me, I’ve been involved in a paparazzi storm or 2.

My birthday was absolutely lovely, despite being a little sad that I wasn’t spending the standard January birthday-sharing with my MayMay lover, and of course all my friends back home.  It was definitely amazing having Sista here to fill the missing-home void.  That night a bunch of us went to a wine buffet at the Artnouveau Hotel in Yeoksam, which I must say, was quite the classy venue.  I’ve been invited to it a couple times in the past and always flaked, so when I wanted something out of the ordinary to do this year it seemed like the perfect idea…and it twas!

WOMEN.

California Girls…we’re unforgettable 🙂

I’m convinced that Texans are the best people everz ❤ Benji Boo Boo Bear

M.E.N.

Well, after who knows how many bottles of vino and how many pieces of delicious sashimi, the night took a turn for the trashy as we headed to the not-so-classy Monkey Beach in Apgujong (like the Beverly Hills of Seoul).  Since it was my birthday, I got a free bottle of tequila.  Eeep! Soon enough tequila shots, buckets of booze and Abby’s ass were flying all over the place.

See?

All in all, twas a wondrous birthday!  The rest of the weekend I took Jacq all over Seoul.  We were literally out all day everyday and we were exhausted and freezing!!!  Even though it was so tiring, it was nice to play tourist again and revisit some of the spots that I went to right when I first arrived.  One of my fave places in Seoul is Namsan (or Seoul) Tower, which we hiked with Abby.  It wasn’t so cold walking up, but once we got to the top we reached a level of cold that I have never felt before (except for the night in Insadong with Jacq!) Our fingertips felt like they were gonna fall off it was so cold, so we ate pancakes, took pictures with the love lock trees and even locked a lock of our own up there reallllly quickly!

It’s hard to believe that my 5 month anniversary just passed, that I’m off to Vietnam and Cambodia in 3 weeks and that my freakin sista was just here!!! Time freakin flies when you’re having an amazing (sorry for the cheesy) time! Now, I will leave you with this fantastic video of quite possibly the best, most enthusiastic teeny bopper of a cab driver ever.  Sorry it’s dark and don’t hate on my loud old lady laugh, I warned you.  Enjoy!  Now I sleep.

A Real Teacher! Jnet&Carmen! And the Aquarium!

I have completed more than half a week of officially being an English teacher…and it’s three things….fun, repetitive, and EXHAUSTING! I honestly always underestimated what it takes to be a teacher, because after teaching 5 regular classes and 1 after school class to 1st and 2nd graders, I was as pooped as they come, and my feet were throbbing from standing in slippers all day! This whole week has been about me introducing myself (over and over again) to each class of students.  I made a powerpoint with lots of pictures of me and my life back home, which the kids really seemed to love.  Their favorite is this picture of me eating a fried twinkie at the rodeo in Texas, but I just tell them it’s a hot dog, it’s easier to explain haha.

I also feel like a celebrity walking the halls which has pretty much been my dream since I could talk. You know this if you know me. Attention whore. Well, South Korea is giving me the attention I desire.  Little 5th grade boys yell out in class “I LOVE YOU TEACHER!” and stop in their tracks and stare at me.  I showed them a picture of sista too and she’s a mini celeb as well. “Teacher’s sister Ja-kwee is BEAUTIFUL!”  They don’t get how to say her name (Jacquie). They also now refer to my brother as Michael Jackson since his name is Michael 🙂

I must say these kids are damn cute, and their English names are so freakin hilarious.  On Monday I had 3rd graders who were named King Kong, Vanilla, Boss, Money, Albert Einstein and a little boy named Rainbow. I also had some other kids named Good, Nice, Percy Jackson and Obama. How creative these youngins are. I often find it hard to keep a straight face when calling on some of them (you know me!) I also received my first penpal letter from my student normal-named student, Olivia. If my memory serves me, she’s in one of my 4th grade classes.  Here is a letter she wrote me 🙂

As far as classes go, all of my classes are taught with one of my two co-teachers, Leni and Jin.  During my normal school hour classes we do a lot of stuff out of the book and CD-ROMs that go with them.  I’m assuming as I get more well-versed in teaching I’ll help get more creative with them.  I also have 3 after school classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Mondays and Tuesdays are 40 minutes each and with the baby 1st and 2nd graders who don’t speak a lick of English. I want to squeeze them and put them in my pocket. Instead of being a creep, I pat their backs and let them give me big hugs, and then I let the little girls pretend they are putting my earrings on as they press them again their cute little faces lol. I also started teaching them the ABCs. I was pretty nervous for these after school classes because they’re entirely open and up to me.  I started playing them songs, did some matching games and had them create name tags with their English names which was fun. With the 3rd and 4th graders, it’s an 80 minute class once a week.  I told them about my summer vacation and what I did, and then had them all write or draw me postcards of what they did.  They then had to get up and tell me about their trip.  I’m going to take some pictures of the really good ones tomorrow so I’ll post for you! I’ve got some budding artists on my hands! All in all, the first half of my first week has gone amazingly well which I’m so relieved about.  Maybe I am a good teacher after all 🙂

Aside from the work ish, Jnettybear and Carmennnn came to visit me in Seoul this past weekend! It was AMAZING and I’m so excited that some of my friends from home got to see my new life and meet my new friends and fall in love just like I have 🙂 I love when new friends meet old friends and begin a love affair. It was also so nice having them here because it gave me an excuse (other than living here) to go out and explore my neighborhood of Danggogae (Dontgogay), which I like to refer to as North Korea since I’m so far North in Seoul.  We met a precious little Korean woman who served us noodles (Jnet, picture please!) a couple doggies who we have fallen in love with, especially Mr. Kim Chi, and we dined out at a lovely establishment across from me called “Chicken The +”  with Cricket Mr. Name Awesome.  We also found some cute boutiques which could prove to be danger on the dance floor.  As far as the nightlife goes, we ended up staying out later than I have ever stayed out in a ridiculously long time because I’m old and get tired by 2am. We partied like we were Katie’s age (aka in college again. Love you).  We stayed out til 5am both Friday and Saturday night and I honestly can’t believe it.  They also had to book it by 7am on Sunday morning.  Apparently Jnet had a fun trip to the airport.

Sunday a group of us made like kiddies and went on a field trip to the COEX Aquarium which is south of the Han River.  It took about an hour for me to get there for NorKo. It was a really nice aquarium and some of the things really made me laugh. For example, they had some sort of rodent there running in a wheel as part of an exhibit, weird, and some of the fish tanks had Korean style temples in their tanks so we knew they were Korean fish, and the foreign fish from Holland got to swim thru windmills.  How thoughtful to make the fishies feel right at home.  The coolest part I thought was the shark tank, obviously. There was a moving sidewalk that went alongside and under the whole shark tank. Bomb diggity.  Check out some pictorals below!

Here is a photo of a cute Korean baby to meet my creep quota for the day.  Enjoy!