31 Times I Instagrammed My Life At 30

30, as it would sound, was quite the transitional year for moi. Transitional sort of makes it sound like it wasn’t a good year, but au contraire my friend, au contraire. Transitional in the way that the year had so many types of ups and downs, but all for the good I’d like to think. I started my thirtieth year on the planet dedicating my day to the fashion of a rapist (unbeknownst at the time), went a bit viral on the interwebs, got heart-swollen and then heart-crushed during the wind-down of my Korean life, left the continent I never thought I wanted to live in to put a new twist on my life in the continent I dreamt of since the age of 10, found out what I’ve always been wondering – do I have a BIG VOICE? and had a couple reunions to set my heart aflame along the way.

And all of these lovely happenings were documented via the Instagrammer. So, to ring in my 31st, and the Age of Aquarius, without further adieu, I give you my thirtieth year on this great planet of our’s through the lens of my iPhone 5S and a filter or two.

1. Puddin’ Pops & Rapist Fashion

I don’t think much needs to be explained here, as the fashion is self-explanatory. However, if you must have your hand held, I rang my 30th birthday in with a dinner in which we were all required to wear a Cosby sweater, alla Bill Cosby. I made chocolate pudding cups and we enjoyed an evening in our old-man best. Naturally, my first thought once the allegations came to be was “Holy shit, I themed by birthday around a rapist!” Not many can say that and…laugh.

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2. Lunar New Year In The Organ Black Market of Seoul

In Korea, and Asia for that matter, Lunar New Year is the big deal when it comes to new years. So, to fully immerse ourselves in the Lunar New Yearsness of it all, a group of us went out to China Town in Daerim, also known as one of the sketchiest parts of Seoul, and where you could very well find your organs for sale if you walk down the wrong alley. We all came back to the safe side of Seoul with all our organs in tact, and a gut full of delicious MSG.  It was perfection, even if we did eat at a restaurant where dog was being served at the table just beside us.

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3. Hello Baby Gavin!! 

Gavin wasn’t the first baby of a friend to be born, but he was the first baby of two of my oldest friends to be born, and Auntie D met him when we was just 2 days old! Mommy Kendra was exhausted, Daddy Justin proved to be a baby whisperer, and baby Gavin had a big head from being a trickster in the birth canal. But my god, was he a dream to hold. Heart swells don’t even come close to how happy this moment made me!

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4. In N Out & A Date With My Boo

Collin came down from The Bay because I specifically ordered him to. However, he came home a little bit earlier because he got in a horrendous bike accident. So, I drove my toy car rental all the way down to Riverside, which beforehand, I had no clue where it existed. I had no service on my phone, and got lost on the return home, but before I left I did get to eat In N Out on Collin’s handmade preschool plate. It was a magical day with my boo.

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5. Fab 4 Bangin’ Booties

These 3 are my hearts when it comes to women. A trip around the world we are, and this winter after a champagne brunch in Manhattan Beach, we took my favorite photo of us. It’s just as perfect as those badonks.

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6. The Baby Tour of Los Angeles Continued

This was a special one. Sista and I thought we’d never get to meet Kian, the newest edition to our crazy clan! But we did, and shortly after he had surgery on his head, making him the world’s cutest little race car driver. He was and IS a doll and I am obsessed with his little face!!

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7. Tommy Boy & His Ego Came Back

Tommy and I got close fast, and this time he returned to Korea, professed his love, and we swapped each other’s rings for a day. We walked the Suwon Fortress on St. Patty’s Day, and drank expensive Yellowtail under a temple whilst overlooking all of Seoul. ‘Twas divine.

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8. Ultimate Finds Whilst Vintage Shopping

This makes me sound like a bitch, but oh well. These 3 words sum up mine and Veny’s sentiments to a tee when it comes to new friends, particularly those LBH’s in Korea. I still regret not making this purchase. OH WELL.

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9. Glamping & KPorn

We had been talking about going Glamorous Camping for quite some time, but alas that never happened. Until we stumbled upon the new Glamping bar in Itaewon on Taeho’s birthday. We sat around on beanbags and he was gifted this very special magazine by Joshua. He’s always so thoughtful with his gifts. Taeho very much enjoyed the black and white imagery.

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 10. Continuing the Love of Abandonment 

Abandoned places that is! Joshy is my breaking-into-abandoned-places partner in crime, and for this wild ride at Yongma Land we took our third member of Destiny’s Child along for the ride. Joshy, Veny, and I nearly broke into Yongma Land, though that is entirely unnecessary. Just leave it to us to find the more ‘scenic’ route to enter an establishment. We basically went off-climbing to get in here, and once we were in we had tons of fun riding broken rides and watching creepers have cosplay photoshoots.

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11. Slumbering With Snoring Ajummas

No one wanted to go out of town for this long weekend, so I took it upon myself to jet out of Seoul solo to Ganghwa-do just off the coast of Incheon. There I fulfilled my desire to do a sort-of temple stay, as I slept on a mat, in the sweltering heat, beside a bunch of snoring ajummas who kept throwing candy and fruit at me. It was an experience I will not soon forget.

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12. Life in Polka Dots

Kusama Yayoi is a Japanese artist who’s work consist of one of my favorite things – POLKA DOTS! She literally lives in a polka dot world and created it for the world to see. The end of her exhibit is a room where you get to put your own dots anywhere and become one with her polka dot world. It was stunning, and smelled like feet in there.

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13. Gone Viral Between Two Ding Dongs

My phallus-loving sister and I went to a penis cafe located about an hour outside of Seoul in Pocheon. The entire cafe is themed around the male ‘important part’, and after I wrote about it, my post got picked up by an online magazine and they used me and these two ding dongs as their enticing photo on Facebook. I was thrilled! What a way to make it big!!! Thanks internet!

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14. Saying Goodbye Is The Worst Thing Ever Invented

A week of saying goodbye to the babies who stole my heart was quite possibly the most miserable thing I ever did. After 3 years it was time to part with my kiddos, and these boys made it so hard!

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15. Lovers Getaway To Yang Yang

Perhaps one of my favorite trips done in Korea was this one to Yang Yang. Veny, Joshy, Dustin, and I rented a swanky Sonata and road tripped to the gorgeous coastal town of Yang Yang. It was bittersweet to say the least, and this photo with my first friend in Korea is perfect. We came full circle from looking haggard (if that’s even possible for her) on our first bus ride, to frolicking on the beach not wanting this amazing experience to ever end. Love my Venylove.

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16. The Fucking Core

Weeding through the nut bags we were surrounded by was some work, but at the end of those 3 years I found some of the most solid friends a girl could ever ask for. For our last weekend all together we ended up at some crazy club in Gangnam. It was loud, there was seizure music, there were tears, but it was the best.

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17. #tits

Korea is good for the Trick Eye Museums and the sex themed locales, even though the mere mention of sex causes a stir. But I’ll have you know, despite the contradictory culture, the Love Museum does NOT disappoint, as my kookster in krime and I discovered one rainy afternoon. After many phallic photos, this one of me helping The Hulk hold up some tits was a great indicator of the afternoon amazingness.

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 18. Dolled Up And On a Boat

What ended up being a failed attempt on ‘everyone’s last weekend together’ turned into a divine evening with these gorgeous lady lasses. We dolled up, took far too many posy pictures for my liking, and watched all the KKouples take romantic selfies of themselves under the Han River water show.

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19. Straddling That Border Up North

In the movie The Interview they show all the North and South Korean military hanging out in this room watching Kim Jong Un get his ass shredded on live tele. Well, it’s a bit different in real life. You actually only get like, 5 minutes in the room, and the guards take shifts for show. Mostly. But, here we are, checking off another BIG must-do on the Korean Bucket list of life. Straddling the most heavily militarized border in the world.

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20.  Asianization Meets Europeanization

Getting this Spanish visa was no easy task. As an American it is near impossible to get a work visa in Europe, but thank heaven that programs like the fakakta one I’m in exist! The day I finally stared at (and immediately snapped this photo) this visa gracing MY passport, I literally let out a giant squeal. No joke. I wanted this visa in my passport since I was 10, and 20 years later shit got real. Thank you Javier at the Spanish consulate in Seoul!

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21. The Saddest Day Of My Life So Far

Joshy holds the biggest chunk of my Korean heart, and being the last person I saw and shared a deliciously overpriced naengmyeon and jjigae meal with tore my heart out, despite what these cheesers may say. Saying seeya later to him turned me into a waterworks show and I did not stop crying until well after take off. It was the shittiest.day.ever.

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22. I’m A Bridesmaid!

First, don’t kill me for this photo. You’ll thank me when we’re old and grey. Second, Jeanelly found her wedding dress, then asked us all to be her bridesmaids, then we had a Fab 4 slumber party filled with dress up, sexual Korean face mask selfies, and of course, watching Bridesmaids. It was only suiting.

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23. Reunited With My Soldier 

What are the chances that the next time I visited NYC my Israeli soldier would be there at the same time, 4 years after our last rendezvous in the Big Apple? Well, he was, and he came to Kayla and Jeanette’s birthday, and my heart could burst I was so happy to see him in front of me.

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24. Imbibing Where Honest Abe Once Did 

With only 2 choices of beer to choose from, light or dark, we opted for the more delicious dark at McSorley’s in NYC. My reunion with my Sammy baby was long past overdue, and seeing Shika Shocka was the cherry on top.

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25. #grandmaswhorally Became A Thing

Here we have my first photo from Spain indicating that I do in fact have friends! This was also the night that the hashtag #grandmaswhorally stuck. What started out as a lazy night where none of us wanted to leave the comforts of our boudoirs (in my case, my hostel cell bed), turned into a delightful evening of sangria, homos all around, evening drinking on a terrace, and feeling old, but still young enough to kick it.

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26. I Found An Apartment, That Turned Out to Be Hell

After a solid 2 full weeks of piso hunting around Malasaña, I finally found one that I should have known was too good to be true. What started off amazing, and quite hilarious, with a naked David hanging in my room, turned out to be a horrendous experience. Let’s just say THANK GOD I’M OUT OF THERE, and someone’s got some (dog) shit flying their way soon.

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27. Mama Schaeff And Her Face Mask Came To Visit

My mother, the world traveler, finally came to visit me in one of my far away homes. We museum hopped, we fought, we ate tons of shitty fast food because Spain is all about the pig and Mama don’t eat the carne, and she walked into a nail salon and asked the nice ladies for a face mask because there’s too much smoke in Madrid. This is what she looked like for the duration of her stay.

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28. 1999 Meets 2014 

A reunion in Madrid that my 14 year old self surely would have died had she known would happen, happened. It was the best, and this cafe con leche from Federal pretty much sums up my feelings about said reunion.

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29. The Asian Who Always Visits Me

Jnetty was my first visitor in Korea, and was one of my first visitors in España. Surely I love her so! So much that I snuck her into my hell hole of an apartment late night, and the next day we popped off to Sevilla and Granada, where we wandered through the stunning walls of the Alhambra in the frigid cold. She even tried her hand at the Español, and failed when she asked for the ‘jambon’. However, she greatly succeeded in getting me kicked out of my dark dungeon of a penis hanging apartment. THANK THE JAMBON ABOVE. No one tells Dani ‘no visitors allowed’.

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30. Leaving Germany In the Most Jewy Way Possible

It might as well have been 1940something that snowy afternoon when I left Berlin headed for Prague. Upon entering the train, our first class tickets became null as our car was ‘out of order’. How, I’m unsure, since it was tagging along with the rest of the train just beyond the locked doors. But, out of order it was. So there I sat for 6 hours, along with about 5o other people, trying to find comfort on the train floor. Here I am finding some semblance of comfort under this man’s rear end. I could not have exited Germany in a Jewier fashion than this. It was utter perfection, and the story itself more than pays for the reimbursement we should be owed.

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31. Why Yes, I Do Have A Big Voice!

For my 31st birthday weekend I popped off for a romantical rendezvous in Brussels, which despite what this blow horn might convey, was quite the quiet little town. We indulged in delicious chocolate and beer aplenty, played with aluminum balls, and even enjoyed a side of terrorist scares in the city. It was a weekend I did not want to return from!

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And there you have it! My life as seen through most likely the Valencia filter with the sharpening tool on Instagram was divine. Though filled with lots of weird emotions, 30 was my favorite year yet and I can’t wait to see what 31 will dish out! If these photos left you intrigued, do follow along on Instagram at @dtschaeff

A Day At Auschwitz-Birkenau

I used to hate going to Hebrew school. Well not always, but mostly once I got to middle school and my once-stellar Hebrew slowly started to reflect my teenage years of not caring so much. However, my favorite parts were of course snack time (who doesn’t love snack time? My favorite were the little mini chocolate donuts that we’d get quite often), and history class. I LOVED my history classes growing up, and history, particularly WWII and Jewish history, really gets my water boiling.

One of the perks (that’s a weird word to use for a post like this, but oh well) of being a child in my generation is that we grew up with the aging survivors of the Holocaust. We are really the last generation that had the chance to hear first hand from the voices who lived the atrocities that the evil, yet intriguing, Nazis set forth during the Final Solution of the second world war. So, it was always a ‘treat’ when that time of year came around when about 100 of us children gathered around on the floor at the feet of this survivor who was to tell us their story. I still remember one of the survivors gushing about her favorite striped bathing suit that she brought with her when she was relocated to Auschwitz. They really thought they were going to resettle for a better life elsewhere.

Then she showed us her tattoo. Her identity number during her time in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the biggest death camp, responsible for over 1.1 million murders, about 90% of them Jews. That tattoo is something I never forgot, and knew then that I wanted to go there, to visit this horrible place.

Well, I finally went, and it was the greatest, most desolate, most fascinating, most important experience I’ve probably ever had. While it’s surely going to be one of your most depressing days, it is a situation that everyone should put themselves in so that this mass genocide never happens again. Or puts an end to it in parts of the world where it is still happening.

Jen and I took an overnight train from Prague to Krakow, where Auschwitz is situated about 1.5 hours outside of in Oświęcim.  During the winter, the camp is only open until 3pm, so we, along with our new friend Andrew, caught the first bus we could. Upon arrival, it was an absolute madhouse, as could be expected. Maybe it was because they had just switched over to a new system for guided tours, but it was madness. Thankfully for my Korean ajumma elbows, I was able to shove through a sea of clusterfuck and got us our tickets.

I was originally against doing a guided tour because I wanted to have my freedom, but I was told otherwise that the tour guides are phenomenal and really add to the experience, so we did that. And this is where the tour started, at the entry gate to Auschwitz I.

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The iconic gate at the entry of Auschwitz I ~ Work Will Set You Free

The tour took us through barracks that have been maintained as part of the museum, where they house remnant after remnant of those who had passed through its walls.

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I never knew how prisoners were distinguished, aside from their tattoos. But turns out (of course) there was a system beyond just everyone wears stripes and has a number.

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Wooden clogs and shoes that prisoners were given to wear. Summer or winter, rain or shine. It hurts me just looking at these, after my own toes felt like icicles. Most prisoners didn’t last longer than 3 months, and after walking the wall of prisoner photos, I noticed that many barely lasted a full month.

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The Death Wall, where many were lined up and shot.

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Auschwitz I started as a camp for political prisoners, and as it began to overflow, Auschwitz II-Birkenau was opened as a death/concentration camp. And let me tell you, it is massive, and filled with chimneys everywhere. The Nazis if nothing else positive, were efficient masterminds.

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The arrival point of cattle cars at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, where the selection process happened.

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These were the insides of a typical barrack. When I first learned you could see them many years ago, I knew I had to go. These three levels would hold sometimes 10 people per row, and the bottom level used to be made of mud or dirt, so when it would rain, people would literally be sleeping in a swamp. You can also see that there are many names carved into the brick, one of the most heartbreaking things to see. Leaving their mark, in some way.

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Visiting Auschwitz in some odd way was the highlight of my trip to Central Europe. I can’t even think of the proper words to express the feeling that comes from visiting a place like this that has such a sinister history, but must be preserved for generations to come. I can fully recommend taking one of the guided tours offered by the museum, as our guide did a wonderful job of conveying the history and emotion that goes along with the tragic period. I kept saying to myself  “can you imagine being someone who goes to work at Auschwitz everyday?” It’s so depressing, but those people are so important for the future.

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To get to Auschwitz from Krakow, I suggest just getting out to Oświęcim on your own, rather than arranging a tour. It’s quite easy. From Krakow Glowny train stain the bus station is just next door. You can ask one of the ticket counters when the next bus leaves, and they’ll direct you to the platform where you can just buy your ticket on the bus. I’d recommend getting in line pretty quickly because it gets so full. I heard that summer months are insane, and we went during the low season and it was still full. It costs 28 zloty roundtrip. I think it’s best to just buy the roundtrip since you can use it to catch any bus on the return and not worry about buying it again.

Once at Auschwitz prepare for insane amounts of people and no order whatsoever. You’ll have to take some initiative to get to the front of the ‘line’, unless it gets better somehow. Admission to the camp is free, however a guided tour is 40 zloty (~9 euros), and will last about 3 hours and cover both Auschwitz I and II-Birkenau, including the shuttle between camps.

Well, I apologize for such a morbid post, but I hope you enjoyed! Have you been to Auschwitz or another camp? What was your experience like? If you haven’t been, I hope at some point you have the opportunity. Bring plenty of tissue and wear waterproof mascara. It’ll be a day of hardcore feels. 

Co-Habitating With A Dictator

As many know, when I first landed in Madrid and was on the apartment hunt, it was exhausting and stressful and annoying all rolled into one pretty little ball of yuck. I saw so many dumps, was put on so many long lists of others in my same boat, and then after a little over 2 full weeks of searching, found a place. I sat and talked with the guy, who we will call The Dictator, for an entire hour and totally hit it off. The room was massive and complete with a balcony and azulejo tiled floor. I was obsessed, and an hour later told him I wanted to live there if he’d have me.

Oh he had me alright.

At first he was so nice, and even invited me to go watch a movie with his “cousin” and a friend. I had other plans, and frankly didn’t want to go, but still thought it was a nice gesture. This my friends is all building up the facade.

Then Mama Schaeff came to visit a couple weeks after I moved in, and naturally I was excited to have a visitor stay with me. The night before she arrived we actually had a roomie dinner because it was my Belgian roommate, Lorenzo’s, birthday, so he cooked for everyone. I casually told The Dictator that my mom was coming the next day and he put on this smile like “Oh that’s great!”

Dun dun dun!

During her whole stay she felt uncomfortable. The apartment is constantly kept dark, and she just didn’t feel a very welcoming atmosphere from the place. Which I don’t blame her. However, we were never home during her visit, except for during intermittent fights and to sleep. Then the morning that she left, I got a text message from The Dictator asking me when she was leaving and telling me that “it’s normal for visitors to only stay for a weekend”. Excuse me but no. Not when they are flying around the globe it’s not normal. This was the first WTF in a long list.

Dali is the opposite kind of weird.

Even Dali thinks this is weird.

Then my friend Kristia was over one Friday or Saturday night. We were hanging out in my room, talking and drinking some delicious vino because that’s what social people do. They talk and utilize spaces that are theirs. At 11pm on the dot I got a text message (note that it’s always via text), saying that my visitor had to leave now. Um, last I checked I am a grown ass woman, paying rent to live in my grown ass woman room, so as long as I’m not disrupting your life or your property I think I am allowed to have visitors. And also, last I checked I already have a father, and he wouldn’t even tell me to have my visitor leave. I wanted to stay and spite him, but I hadn’t reached the point of revenge seeking just yet. So we left.

This happened a couple more times, and each time pushed one more button towards hatred of The Dictator.

Along the way there were also little things. Like notes on the chalkboard in the kitchen saying not to open the kitchen window, or that the water and light bills were too high, which made absolutely zero sense to me, since we basically live in a dungeon where lights are forbidden. And as for the water bill, I obey the once a week laundry rule, doing mine about every 2 weeks. Meanwhile, I constantly see their fresh laundry hanging to dry almost everyday. To top it off, remember that “cousin” I mentioned up above? Well, The Dictator and his “cousin” share a bedroom, which was not disclosed to me upon renting, and frankly, it’s bizarre that two 40 year old male cousins would share a bedroom. I had a sneaking suspicion that the “cousin” was a cover for boyfriend, which has since been confirmed by a prior tenant.  That aside, I was told there were 4 tenants, which I soon realized was 5. Oh, and we aren’t allowed to have boyfriends or girlfriends spend the night, as was told (via text) to my Belgian roommate at 11pm one night while his girlfriend was over. Enter the double standard.

With the “no significant others” rule, and quickly becoming clearer, no visitors rule tucked in my back pocket, I alerted The Dictator the day before L was to arrive in Madrid. Shocked, but not quite shocked at all, I received several rude texts in a row saying that no visitors were allowed to stay over, and that my mom had previously stayed too long. EXCUUUUSE ME, but 1) who says that about someone’s visiting mother? And 2) when I first rented this apartment that was the first question I asked you and got a resounding “Of course visitors can stay! As long as they sleep in your room!” So sorry, but that is not flying.

He eventually bent, but for a hefty price of 20 euros/night per visitor. Preposterous. I came back to him with a counter offer based off what another friend’s landlord charges non-family member visitors. He told me to get a hotel for that price. I of course didn’t listen and L stayed over for the weekend, and I pushed him to not pay one cent out of principle.

During his entire stay we felt like we were being sneaky and tip-toeing around. Which forgive me if I’m wrong, but that is no way to live in your own home, except if you’re 16 years old and under your parent’s roof. Well, L left on a Monday morning, and on Wednesday late night Jeanette arrived, and without a mere peep to The Dictator. I thought I could be clever by sneaking her in late and he wouldn’t notice. But he would. More on that in a bit.

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Here I am tip toeing through an art installation.

On Thursday morning I got a text message from The Dictator saying “your friend is in the house”. No shit. He said (didn’t ask) you didn’t tell me this, and it’s not allowed. With every message he would send he would nip it abruptly, leaving it like that was the end of that and he has the final word. No no, sir. That is not how the world works. So I told him we are going out of town, so you won’t have to worry about losing your precious bathroom time, or whatever it is you’re so concerned with.

So we went out of town for 4 glorious days for the puente (long weekend). We got back late Monday night and Jeanette was leaving Wednesday morning. Well, Tuesday during my 2nd period class I clicked on my phone to check the time, and what do ya know? There was a string of nipped in the bud texts to me telling me “your friend is in the house” and that I’m not good to co-habitate with. Then the kicker……. I have 22 days and I’m out. I GOT KICKED OUT OF AN APARTMENT. It’s almost comical.

I didn’t respond to any of his nonsense, and then late that night, while Jeanette was using his precious shower water, he came and knocked on my door to just speak at me in Spanish and reiterate his text messages. I of course have a big mouth and I love to use it, and that I did by talking over him in English.  I told him that he’s a liar, and that I won’t listen to him because he went back on his word. I asked him how it affects HIM if MY visitor is in MY room, sleeping in MY bed, and occupying MY space? His response (in Spanish and ultimately in English when he realized I wasn’t going to shut up) “I need to use the bathroom!!!” Oh, you’re a big boy. You can hold your pee 2 minutes so my friend can shower. He also scolded me for turning on the lights so that we could see when we walk. Pardon me for wanting to use one of my vital senses in my own home. Not to mention, it’s also freezing because they don’t turn the heat on, so I sleep bundled up.

Flash forward to a couple days later as I’m perusing Idealista.com, the website used to look for apartments in Spain. I saw my room pop up and immediately posted it to our Auxiliares Facebook group to warn people not to rent from him. This proved to be the greatest way I could have ever used the fabulous internet to my advantage. Not 1 or 2, but 4 people chimed in who were previous tenants or had a friend who was, and EVERY SINGLE PERSON was either evicted after a couple months for having visitors, or had to get the cops involved because The Dictator tried to spin the situation. Nearly everyone was jipped out of their deposit, and everyone said this guy is a psycho. Oh, and remember how I said that I thought I was being clever sneaking Jeanette in late night? Well, one of the previous tenants alerted me that there is in fact a camera/motion sensor in the main hallway of the apartment. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a CAMERA IN MY APARTMENT. Specifically used to track comings and goings of visitors.

So naturally I went out to the hallway to look for it, and low and behold, high above there is a damn camera, and right when I get in shot a red light flashes. I also found some other suspicious wirings in the hallway, but I’m not sure what they are. Did a full sweep of my room and bathroom and kitchen, but thankfully haven’t found anything else. Needless to say, I feel extremely creeped out in my home now, and I’m pretty sure that is some illegal shit, especially if not disclosed prior to renting.

And there you have the apartment hunting and living nightmare that has landed in my lap wrapped in a pretty poopy brown bow. Many people who haven’t moved abroad don’t always take into account the real life things that go into the everyday, and finding a home is one of those huge things. It takes a lot of stepping out of yourself before getting to enjoy your new city, to get the answers you need when you speak a different language from someone. This has now happened in 2 instances, in Korea and now here. I have found out how easy it is to get taken advantage of as a foreigner in a situation like this. When it comes down to it, people basically suck and are money hungry and will exploit all they can to get what they want.

And you know what? THEY CAN SUCK IT.

Or sniff it.

Or sniff it.

Now you tell me! Have you ever had a horrendous living situation abroad? A psycho landlord? A person who literally chills you to the bone that you have to coexist with? Let me know all about it so we can bond over the nut jobs of the world.

 

 

 

 

What Have I Been Up To?

This weekend marks 2 months of living in España, and let me tell ya, my day-to-day life here is pretty damn busy. I don’t know what I was really expecting to expect from life in Madrid or working as an Auxiliar, but I will say that for the amount of work I do, I run around and am drastically busier than I ever felt the past three years.  It’s becoming quite clear that even though Spain is all about the siesta, the vino, and the “no pasa nada”, it’s also a place about the hustle. Since we are paid mere pennies by the Comunidad de Madrid and are allowed to legally tutor, I’ve been trying to pick up private lessons left and right. So far I’ve picked up 2, one with an adorable pudgy 3rd grader, and another with a 7th grade boy twice a week, who also happens to go to the middle school that I was originally assigned to.  The pay is crap compared to Korea, like literal crap, but like I said, it’s all bout dat hustle!

As if the errrday hustle of regular life here hasn’t been enough, I’ve also enrolled myself in a 9 month online course en route to getting my teacher’s license so that I will in fact be a certified teacher….in the state of Florida. But more importantly, the world of the International school is about to be at my fingertips. After much deliberation, and pretty much two years of sitting on my thumb deciding if I want to do the course or not, I’ve pulled the trigger. I’ve come to the realization that after 4 years living abroad teaching, I really enjoy it, and most importantly, love the amount of traveling I get to do. So, it’s about time to bulk up my resume with legit certifications. I’m a little annoyed with myself for waiting until I got to Spain to do this, seeing as I was actually making good money in Korea, but then I give myself a lil pep talk that Spain would have never been an experience in my repertoire had I done it then. So, even if I may be broke again after this course, it’s only for a brief nano. Then it’s 3 month vacas and $$$. Eye on the prize. Eye on the prize.

And I'd have never taken this selfie with my first real Dali.

And selfie eye on my first Dali.

In other news, while I still don’t really talk with my roomies (which I’m awkwardly okay with), I really love my apartment. Even though the heat hasn’t been turned on yet, or that my landlords are a little bit too “ruley” as of late, I can’t really complain. I’m in the heart of Madrid, in Malasaña, where life is crackin all around me. I’ve got an exquisitely azulejo tiled bedroom floor, a balcony that opens up to the noisy but fabulous street below, and closes me into a cave come nightfall. My roommates are super clean, and there is NEVER a dirty plate left in the sink. I can hang. Perhaps my one complaint in living with 3 males that I don’t know is that I feel the need to scurry from bathroom to bedroom when I choose to be a girly girl and give myself a beautifying mask. Oh, and the no visitors past 11pm rule. Excuse me but dinner isn’t even until 11pm here, and more importantly, I AM A GROWN ASS WOMAN. But…

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Despite my extreme distaste for being told how to run my boudoir, I have finally gotten around to decking the walls with homey things. I’ve become obsessed with the podcast Serial, and while I listen (read: finished) I’ve been hanging and decorating. It’s proved successful, and my room finally feels like a little slice of home. All my jewels are displayed, and all the faces and places that I love and miss are all ova da plizace.

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Yes, I’m aware there is a massive disaster hanging above my head.

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And when I haven’t been domesticating or tutoring, I’ve enrolled myself in clases de Español twice a week! If you consulted with me about 12-15 years ago, you would very well know that I was not particularly fond of my clases de Español with Señor Sanchez and I-totally-forget-my-other-teacher’s name. I actually hated them, like I’m sure most other high schoolers could attest to. At that point you’re just sitting there thinking WHY DO I NEED TO KNOW THIS? But now, a shocker to myself, those 2.5 hours per week have easily become some of my favorite hours. While I don’t think my speaking has progressed exponentially in everyday life, my listening has really grown. I do always surprise myself though when I remember lots of vocab from way back when. The classes are super small, the teacher is so sweet, I love the other people in my class, and it feels so good to use my brain for harboring knew knowledge. Especially that can be used on the reg.

I've also found one of my favorite Korean snacks in European form.

Behold, one of my favorite Korean snacks in European form. This was a Happy “Peppero Day”.

I’ve also made some efforts to break up the week with friends and food and film. Wednesdays have been dubbed Cinetaco Wednesdays with Jen and Kristia, as that is discounted movie night in Madrid, which we have been following up with either 1 euro tacos, or in recent weeks, trying out the Korean spot I had a hankering for. The tacos are bomb, the Korean was aight, but totally satisfied the craving. And to conclude my work week, Thursdays have been spent with my new very Larry-esq homie, Justin, grabbing 5 euro all you can eat Italian food and vino at Aío, perfectly situated right down the street from me. I’ve also acquired a little wine glass collection from Aío because my klepto sometimes gets the best of me when I really enjoy some glassware. Don’t worry, I’ve only done it enough for a pair.

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The kimchi was lacking, but Gayagum Gallery Restaurante totally satisfied.

And finally, when I’m not domesticating, or tutoring, or teaching, or learning, I’m enjoying being lazy. That’s right. Laying in bed in my cave until noon. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t really feel bad about it when I do. In Korea, even though I did it OFTEN, I always felt kind of bad about laying in bed until who knows when because I felt I should get my butt outside. Perhaps because the city is constantly moving and Koreans act as if the night before never happened. Madrid is always moving too, but in a more leisurely fashion. That, and people are out until all hours of the morning and definitely remembering it when they lay in bed all day the next day.

I’ve also given Tinder España a go, but that’s for its own amusing write up.

Until next time, enjoy looking at this picture of an extremely moist piece of double down dark chocolate cake from Federal Cafe in Malasaña. It was no Dark Baby, but oh my!

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Basquing In Basque Country

Before taking my first weekend jaunt out of Madrid, I didn’t know all too much about San Sebastián and Bilbao, aside from having previously had an intern when I was working at JLE who came from Bilbao. She spoke like, hello and goodbye in English, and even then I could barely understand her. She spoke with a strange accent and was a low talker, and it was beyond me why we took her on. Maybe because we were intern short-handed and we needed someone to fetch Simon his café or hold down the office when I had to relieve myself for 1 minute. Whatever the reason, that is all I knew of Bilbao. Oh, and that it was supposed to be gorgeous. Which you will see in this tale that that is indeed a true fact of life.

The face I likely made when I was told to hire low talker.

The face I likely made when I was told to hire low talker.

Mama Schaeff visited me for a week before Kristia and I decided to last minute crash Jen and her friend Jules’ trip to Basque Country. Mama left on Thursday afternoon, and that night after my clase de Español, we caught a 12:30am bus headed north to San Sebastián. It was a 6 hour bus ride, which I konked out on most of thanks to the scrumptious neck pillow Jerry gifted me earlier this year.  That means we arrived in the wee hours when the sun was still deciding if it wanted to rise or not.

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I was quite the physically and mentally exhausted camper, and Kristia was ready to run laps and shit along the river.

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Get out of my face!

I had plans to take a nap on one of the benches like a bum, but that didn’t pan out because eventually I woke up and we found a cozy café to get some coffee pumping through our systems, listen to the supafab throwback soundtrack being bumped, and of course, begin the pinxto (Basque version of tapas) inhalement. You’ll notice the jamon in this photo. Well, I decided that I’d bend my pork consumption rules to try it since it’s all the rage. And yea, it’s pretty bomb, and tastes kind of like my other pork allowance, salami.

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If there is one food staple in this country it’s the tomate, and that makes Dani very very happy.

When we (read I) were finally alive, we walked through the gorgeous streets to find our hostels in the old town. Though like me before her, Kristia was content with making a local bench her home for a few moments.

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After some showers and siestas, we regrouped and met up to satisfy our palates and fill our starving bellies. San Sebastián is known for its pinxtos (pronounced like pinchos), and the bars have gorgeous spreads for the choosing. A rule of thumb when pinxto hopping is to have no more than 2, maybe 3, at each bar, so we really tried to stick to this rule. But, we were totally spoiled by the first establishment we walked into. Ganbara had this ridiculous pinxto made up of goat cheese, sun dried tomato, walnuts and some sort of balsamic heavenly reduction. It was exquisite and we kept returning to the scene of the slaughtering. I don’t even know how many we each had. And we washed these down with a fabulously delicious Vermouth, which has since become my go-to Spanish beverage.

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I also found out I have a new obsession with mushrooms, but only the way this place prepares them. My name is Danielle and my favorite pinxto was a tower of shrooms.

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After deciding that we needed to be rolled out of there, we headed to Playa de la Concha and took in the views. The views of Jesus flipping us off from high above on the mountain top, the view of the people basquing (topless) on the pier, and the freakin gorgeous ocean. Twas divine.

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Token pensive emo shot of me in a mood.

We were going to hike up to Jesus, or take the funicular trolley up to the castle on the other side of the beach to see the view of all the beaches and lagoon from high above, but as it got darker and we got wanderier (that’s a word now), we decided to play an exhilarating game of catch the 1.50euro teeny tiny water bottle instead.

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And took an illegal spin on an artsy merry-go-round before getting scolded off. Note to the wise, you must purchase a ticket. Whoops.

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Some of my faves.

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The next day was spent devouring more, but before heading off to Bilbao, we hijacked some bikes, strolled through the gorgeous streets a little while longer, inhaled some more café (or straight up sugar in Jules’ Cuban case) and bought last minute souvenirs (read: Danielle finally bought herself a legit European beret).  We of course took one last goat cheese heaven pintxo to the face.

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Aside from heading to the airport and flying far far away, my absolute fave mode of transport is via train, and by train we were off to Bilbao, where I could be reminded of my long-lost intern whatshername. Train tickets were around 6 euros and took 1.5 hours to get there. Apparently many locals prefer to take a bus between the cities because the train makes so many stops, but we ended up enjoying the train regardless of the numerous stops.

We got in pretty late and made the amateur mistake of walking through San Francisco, AKA the immigrant area, AKA I have never felt more white and prim and proper and scared in my life. We were all on serious guard of our belongings and each other, and it took us forever to find our hostels and Airbnbs.

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A moody sky foreshadowed the scary walk.

The next day we got up bright and early and hit the gorgeous alleys of Bilbao. I was told it was stunning, and it indeed was. The cobblestone streets, the towering Cathedral, the quaint alleyways, and the rolling river through the center set a beautiful scene. We all ended up separating for most of our wander through Bilbao, which was nice and we all got to see whatever we wanted. I found my way into a little flea type market where I took two circles around because I LOVE SAMPLES.

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Olives, and pickles, and cheese! OH MY!

The last part of our jaunt was a far too speedy trip to the Guggenheim of Bilbao. This is a wild museum, and it took Kristia and I a year to get there because I couldn’t resist doing the Freddie (Troop Beverly Hills for the uncultured) riverside. 

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The museum was designed by Frank Gehry, and holy crap, it is a masterpiece in and of itself. You could be totally satisfied by just gawking at it if you don’t go inside, though the museum is bomb and has so many amazing artists within its walls, so you should venture in.  There’s an entire Pop Art exhibit that made me danisqueal.

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It was like looking at the future. Obsessed.

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Another one of those Roppongi Spiders by Louise Bourgeois.

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Way more than puppy love.

Then the rain came and that meant it was time for Kristia and I to bounce because we had to work on Monday. We hitched our bus (booked through ALSA bus), and took a ridiculously long 6 hour bus ride back to Madrid. But it was worth it. The north is exquisite and tasty and a place I will definitely be returning to! 

Well there you go! Have you been to Basque Country? What was your favorite thing about it? Did you have a favorite pintxo bar? Did you too find yourself wrongfully in the wrong part of Bilbao town? Let me know about it in the comments! 

 

 

It’s Hard Not To Compare

It’s been about a month and a half since I peninsula hopped. I know I haven’t written too much about it so far, and I’m not sure why that is, but it may be because I don’t feel like I’ve settled just yet. My heart is still wheeling for Korea, and I’d say all around I don’t have the feels I initially got when I began life in Koko.

I can’t stop comparing things, which I know is totally normal given the whirlwind I bestowed upon myself, but I also feel like maybe it’s hindering my enjoyment of Spain. That’s not to say I’m not enjoying myself – because I am. It’s just taking a little longer to wrap my heart around the continent that was my favorite just 4 years ago, before Asia and the family I made there stole it.

I guess this is what homesickness feels like. Just whack when it’s for your 2nd home and not the 1st.

In an effort to make this more than a sap story, I have taken mental, and when applicable, pictoral notes, of those noticeable differences between the 2 peninsulas that have had the great pleasure of hosting my American ass.

Because comparing is inevitable, here we go.

1. Drunk Ajussi vs. Señors Who Siesta

It is by no means a rarity in Korea to find a ‘salary man’ in his glittery tie passed out in his own vomit whilst molesting the trash laden curb, or passed out in the fetal position in a corner, or basking in his glory on a subway bench at nearly any time of the day.

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Or in his case, traditional ajussi garb.

In Spain this is nonexistent. Instead, you’ll find a gentlemen fully dressed to the nines having his afternoon siesta in the middle of the hustle bustle of the city center on a park bench.

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2. Ajummas vs. Señoras In Pearls

Ajummas are a breed all their own. They don’t care what they throw on in the morning (unless it involves hiking a mountain), and I’m convinced do not own mirrors and/or have someone to veto the clashing patterns they’ve got draped. When they hit a certain age, the only hairdo is one of tightly coifed curls, and their elbows can kill.

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My eyes!

The señoras in pearls are women who have not given up on life, and will go down looking their best. Perfectly tailored dress sets, strings of pearls around their necks and dazzling their ears, and the best designed hand bags to boot! Please note that this element of putting oneself together translates to the señors as well.

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Arguing the proper marrying age of a young woman. I’m officially on the shelf in case you were curious.

3. Early Bird Special Plus Round 2, 3, Noraebang vs. Tapas Then Dinner Whenever

I had never eaten dinner as early as I did than while living in Korea. School would finish at 4:40pm and then the whole faculty was off to dinner together en masse. We’d sit down for Round 1 around 5pm and everyone was prepared to get smashed. After a couple hours and a couple drunk falls by the maintenance man, or principal, we’d move onto Round 2 at some hof. I usually tried to duck out around this time. But if I stuck around, that would ultimately lead to noraebanging the night away.

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Germ swapping builds a strong immune system, and is good for health.

The Spanish will eat tapas at the time when we Americans would typically eat dinner (or really anytime), around 7-8pm, and dinner no earlier than 9pm. That’s even pushing it. I have come home on multiple occasions to a roommate cooking dinner at 11pm. Don’t they know that shit sits in your stomach and makes you fat?! Both enjoy their food though, there is zero arguing of that.

Tiny bites of bomb.

Never thought I’d crave mushrooms as much as I do whilst looking at this photo.

4. Korean School vs. Out Of Control Spanish School

Of course, the reason I am allowed to legally live here, duh. I must admit, even though this is only my 2nd teaching gig and I was in Korea 3 years longer than I have been in Spain, no one has anything on Korean kids. Maybe I’m biased, but then so I am, but they just latched onto my heart so much quicker. Maybe it’s because I was so novel to them. Whatever it is, Korean kiddos, even at their worst, are FAR more obedient and attentive to authority figures than Spanish kiddos. And that’s just the kids.

The teachers do NOT know how to discipline the students here and spend the majority of class talking over the kids because they don’t quiet them down. I work in a bilingual school, so all subjects are taught in English. They’re little, so obviously they aren’t going to understand everything and every direction being thrown at them. Yet, I have co-teachers who bark at the kids and expect them to understand everything right away. I have never experienced such coldness from teachers to children, or kids so out of control off their rockers. It’s like a vicious circle of non-discipline, shouting, students running around throwing pencils in class, crawling on the floor, and of course nothing getting done. I teach only 16 hours a week, and am in the biggest hurry to get out of that school when I’m done. By this time in Korea I had already sold my heart over for a 2nd year, Spain on the other hand, I’m majorly leaning towards negatory.

I will say though that the differences in schools are very telling of the cultures and how completely opposite they are of one another. Koreans strive to be the top of the tops and get into the best university possible, while the ability to finish school at 16 years old in Spain is a welcomed one.  Not to mention, I can’t help but notice how impassioned Spaniards are. While I hate the shouting with a passion, emotions and creativity run wild in the Spanish classroom, something that is 110% lacking, in Korea. You win and you lose I suppose.

Since I'm not supposed to take photos of my Spanish kids, here's a photo of me trying to squeeze my large ass into a child's photobooth ride.

Since I’m not supposed to take photos of my Spanish kids, here’s a photo of me trying to squeeze my large ass into a child’s photobooth ride.

5. Table Staples

Seeing the staples on any given country’s table is so fascinating to me. I was thinking about this the other day, how I guess in America it would be salt & pepper, maybe some ketchup and mustard. In Korea you’ve got one of the millions of kimchis and gochujang on every single table you sit down at.  Which also makes my mouth water and my mind explode with the notion that I have not stuffed kimchi in my face in over a month. It’s tragic really.

Well in Spain you’ve got extra virgin olive oil and what I missed with tremendous abandon for 3 years, balsamic vinegar, on nearly every table. If not balsamic, you’ve at least got oil and some other kind of vinegar. But it is ever-present and they slather that shit on every piece of jamon or pan con tomate they devour.

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Since you know what oil & vinegar look like, this is a sampling of snack time my first day on the job. Chocolate cake with sprinkles for breakfast.

6. Cafés Of Every Theme vs. Cafeterias

I could step out of my apartment in Korea and find a million cafes in every direction I turned, and they’d be of any theme imaginable. It was perhaps one of my hands down favorite things about Korea and something that that country reigns supreme in. Café culture in Korea is TOP.OF.THE.POPS. While some of my best cups of coffee were definitely not had in Korea, the best slices of cake were. HELLO HACKNEY DARK BABY AND FRANK’S RAINBOW CREAM ROLL CAKE. And anything Earl Grey flavored, because they have it.

Too bad I discovered this an exact week before my departure. ME-OW.

Too bad I discovered this an exact week before my departure. ME-OW.

Café culture in Spain isn’t so prominent, and that’s probably because Spaniards are a little more adventurous in their outings with other individuals. While the coffee is a million eons beyond Korea, the experience is lightyears different, and not really my style. I LOVE sitting in a cafe with my computer typing away, and so far that experience has been pretty hard to replicate. Most caféterias are bar style and you order a cafe con leche from the bar and drink it standing up alongside others who are also at the bar. They’re also not a very grab-your-coffee-to-go type of people.

Except for La Bicicleta, which happens to be one of the trendiest cafés, and also happens to be up the street from me.

Except for La Bicicleta, which happens to be one of the trendiest cafés, and also happens to be just around the river bend from me.

7. American English vs. British English

This is a bizarre as all hell thing people! It’s adorable slash makes me feel a little heeby jeeby inside. Hearing little Spanish babies speak in British accents might be one of the most precious things I have ever willfully exposed myself to, and hearing a 1st grader ask me everyday “Teacher, where’s my rubber?” will never cease to make me cackle with dirty abandon inside.

That aside, while my co-teachers encourage telling the students what we’d say in America, I find it to be hardly enforced. It’s merely brushed over, probably because it won’t be on the Cambridge Exams. Needless to say, I miss teaching American English, even if the kiddos thought every black person on the TV was Obama.

Well, there you’ve got it! Did you like that British English I just threw at you?! I thought you would. These are just a month’s worth of immediate observations that have tipped my senses. I hope I didn’t come off as so unbearably whiney about my new life in España, I’m trying here people! Now let me know about your experiences in your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th homes. What things really shocked your pants off, or merely stood out to you?

 

Yang Yang Up The Ying Yang

Joshy had been talking about this hippie dippy surfer enclave that pretty much straddles the 38th parallel on the east coast, called Yang Yang, for forever and a day.  Only he pronounces it like you’re pronouncing it if you live in the west, only it’s really supposed to be pronounced like they pronounce it in the east, like YahngYahng, but we’ll just keep pronouncing it like YangYang because it’s more fun that way.

Anyways, enough with the pronunciation lesson. Like I was saying, he’s been wanting to go FOREVER, but when his brilliant plan got thrown into road trip motion he went into mini freak out mode like OMG WE DON’T REALLY NEED TO GO. But we were getting the F out of Seoul, and we were utilizing that international drivers license that Dusty boy procured whilst Stateside.

So, after a minor hiccup and foreigner free pass at the car rental place, we rented our Hyundai and joined the swanky Sonata club of Korea.

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Of course no road trip is complete without a playlist, and my 7th grade crush’s recently dropped hit provided just that. Sean Sahand errrbody…while I crawl inside myself.

As much as everyone was enjoying the jam and the J’s, instead of the suggested 3 hours allotted for the journey, it took us approximately 7 hours to reach the glorious beaches of YangYang, and we forged through all types of weather to get there. I’m not kidding. We thought we were going to reach the beach and head right to the mart for hoodies and sweats. There is no shittier feeling than being dressed for summer in the middle of winter atop Mt. Seorak. But there we were, umbrellas turned inside out and eating piping hot hotteok to keep us warm.

They behaved for the photo, thankfully.

They behaved for the photo, thankfully.

Good thing we had our optimistic giant in tow, who knew the sun would come out tomorrow, because as soon as we hit the coast, the sun surely was a glistening. That was about the time we reached the vicinity of our beloved YangYang! Only we overshot it a bit, but that’s ok! We found the absolutely stunning oceanside temple shrine Hyuhyu-am and took a wander. It was so beautiful and magestic! You do not get to see these blue skies in Seoul, THAT’s for sure!

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Broing out.

When we finally got to YangYang, it took us a hott minute to find the pension that Veny took the reigns on booking after Joshua had booked a single bed in jumbled Korean for 4 of us. We love each other, but not that much. We didn’t mind the momentary confusion though because we were so obsessed with all the personality, tattoos and hairstyles in wild abundance. It felt like we stepped out of Korea for a weekend. Everyone was tan, and no one, NO ONE was sitting on their cell phones whilst in the company of another. It was wild. 

After dumping our belongings in our room that was the size of a California King bed (and that’s being generous), we took to exploring the oceanside town.

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This marks the first time I ever tried samgyeopsal. Couldn’t turn down pig from sweet ajummas. That’s a rarity. 

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These mushrooms looked quite phallic. So obviously I documented.

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Veny posed beside her unsuspecting fashion icon.

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Dusty boy got down ‘n dirty with his ajussi squat.

Joshy tried to shoot down a stuffed bottle of Cass with arms, to no such luck.

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And I hopped a fence (without falling) to sit on the wine cork looking things that break the waves on the dock.

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It felt amazing to breathe the fresh air and get that salt and sand between our toes.  And even though it was a sad realization that this was one of our last weekends together, I was so happy to be spending it with the ones who became my greatest family these past 3 years.

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That night we enjoyed each other’s company over some Sean Sahand serenades, some very strong beverages, some sparklers on the beach, and some cheese balls.

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We left a nice gift of cheese balls on the terrace for the next visitor.

Before hopping  back in our swanky Sonata back to the big city, we worked on our pasty city “tans” one last time, and enjoyed the gaggle of fully dressed Koreans enjoying  a day in the sun.

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To all those wishing to get the heck out of the landlocked concrete jungle of Seoul, I wish I had more solid directions than ‘just drive East’ to give you. But unfortunately I don’t because I didn’t drive, and I’m a moron with a map. While Veny was playing navigator for our Daddy Dustin, I was taking pictures of a sleeping Joshua in the backseat.

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If you get a chance, hit up YangYang. It’s definitely an unspoken about gem that’s more than worth the weekend jaunt.