I Finally Stood In North Korea

You could call me, in all my matourity, a DMZ veteran if you’d like, seeing as last weekend marked my 4th visit to that very very scary border to the North.

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I went once on Mama’s Schaeff’s birthday when sista came to visit me on my first birthday in the Koko. I went twice for 2 leisurely bike rides along the barbed wire majesty, and even got interviewed for all of Korea to witness. But, this last time, this last time I’ll have you know, is the most legit it has ever gotten, and will ever be gotten, unless I ever actually go to visit the North, which is highly unlikely. But never say never. 5 is a good number.

I finally got to check off that fatty trip to the Joint Security Area / Panmunjeom from my Korean Bucket List, and stood two feet in the North next to a soldier guarding the door to the Hermit Kingdom.

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I think many people are pretty out of the know when it comes to the two Koreas, so when they hear I live in Seoul and that it’s within an hour’s drive of the North, people are like WTF ARE YOU DOING, GET OUT OF THERE BEFORE YOU GET BOMBED. But it’s so not like that.  It’s so chill, and the North’s shenanigans are so far removed from anyone’s waking thoughts. 

I say this because I never get scared knowing that I’m so close to Kim Jong-un and his missles and $800 bottles of brandy.  But, last Saturday I could feel myself getting more and more tense as we reached the JSA. And honestly, it wasn’t because I thought anything would happen. But it’s just such an intense place, and the dress code was so strict, and the security just to get into the JSA required 2 busses, no pointing, no taking pictures of the building behind us, no walking behind soldiers and no touching of tables. There were so many rules and I really had to practice keeping my gestures to myself, because you know I like to gesture. I fucked up, as you’d imagine, but I’m still here so it’s all good.

The tour that we went on took us to 3 places at the DMZ. The first being Camp Bonifas, which, fun fact, is home of the world’s most dangerous golf course. One wrong move and your ball could land in a field of unexploded mines.  Camp Bonifas was named in honor of the Captain who, along with one other, was murdered by North Korean soldiers for cutting down a poplar tree, in what has since been deemed The Axe Murder Incident of 1976. Our tour guide could not stress this incident enough. Everything he spoke about, which I’m not sure his facts were all straight, always came back to this Axe Murder Incident.

First group shot at Camp Bonifas. Fun fact, the girl next to me refused to wear the skirt provided since her’s was too short.

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Just beyond Camp Bonifas lies the JSA, which is comprised of blue buildings that straddle a thin cement slab separating the North from the South, and are maintained by the UN. The particular building where tourists are allowed to enter is where the military meetings necessary to uphold the Armistice Agreement are hashed out. I’ve heard it can get pretty wild in there when they get going, stomping on tables and ish.

By entering the building on the left, you can legally say you have been in North Korea, but a photo will have to act as your passport stamp. Just beyond the blue buildings is North Korea, and if you look close enough, just up to the left of the soldier’s shoulder you can see a North Korean soldier standing post.

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Visitors from North Korea can also come to the JSA for a tour of the DMZ from the North, and apparently just the day before there were tons of North Koreans. We were told not to point or return any friendly waves or smiles if we encountered any North Koreans. Not because of anything malicious towards them, but because if we were to do so, they could take that as us believing that North Korea is great and use it to further brainwash their people. Pretty fascinating and I didn’t even think of that as an issue until told not to. Of course I pointed because my fingers have a mind of their own. Thankfully no North Koreans were in sight.

This soldier is standing directly on the border, and we found out the hard way that you are not supposed to walk behind him when Jenny accidentally did. Whoops.

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You’re also not supposed to touch or put anything on the tables, which again, we fucked up on. Well, Veny did. Triple whoops.

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No trip to a huge attraction would be complete without this guy, his big smile, and my “THIS GUY” face. We were also the last two out of the building. I’m seeing a trend since Dokdo. Token troublemakers.

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They also took group shots of us, where girls had to bend down like sorority girls. I’m also pretty impressed with their turbo airbrushing skills.

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Following in the haste of Dokdo, I almost forgot to get a picture of the room in its entirety, so here is the cockeyed shot I got as we were bolting out the door, last but not least.

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On our way out of the JSA we stopped at the Bridge of No Return, which we were not allowed to get out and see, but just view from the bus.  As the Korean War drew to a close, prisoner exchanges were done here. They were given the choice to stay in the North or South, but if they crossed over from one to the other they were never allowed to return again.

We just take selfies here.

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And our final, final stop was at Imjingak, where I’ve actually been on all my trips before this. Imjingak is home to the Freedom Bridge, which was used after usage of the Bridge of No Return was shut down following the Axe Murder Incident.  I didn’t get a photo of the bridge, but we did get this sick shot. That’s North Korean soju that I’m downing on ‘G” for Garry.

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Last fun fact for you. While military service is mandatory for men in both the North and South, service in the South is just around 2 years depending on your branch, whereas 10 years of active duty is required in the North.

If you’re looking to catch a tour of the most heavily militarized border in the world, the tour group that we went through was called Tour DMZ. We originally wanted to do the USO tour group that sista and I went through when she was here, but that is sold out for months, so we got the next best thing. For a half day tour to only the JSA the cost is 85,000won. There is also a DMZ and 3rd Infiltration tunnel tour, and another combining the two tours. 

I’ll leave you with a pointer for the wise. If you are hurtin’ to purchase some North Korean liquor at the gift shop at Camp Bonifas, I’d probably advise against it, unless you want to burn yourself from the inside out.  Spend the cash monies on some North Korean wons instead.  Now you tell me! Have you been to the DMZ / JSA or even North Korea? What did you think? Were there any differences between this tour and your’s? 

 

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Dicking Around At Deulmusae

I’ve been a total perv lately. Seeing as the time bomb is ticking quickly on my Korean journey, I’ve been trying my hardest to get myself and my fellow perverts to a Penis Park in this country, and to no avail.

BUT, I found the next best thing!

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Over the weekend I conquered two things: figuring out how to use the Seoul Bus app on my phone that has been lying dormant for 3 years, and visiting a penis themed PLACE. I successfully figured out what all the bus station codes mean and how to properly plug them into the app so that Chrissy and I knew exactly how much time we had until the bus headed for Pocheon was gonna fetch us from the non-existent bus stop stop at Wangsimni Station.

After a 2 hour traffic filled bus ride from central Seoul to the glorious green countryside of Pocheon, we landed at the station that came after the station we were supposed to get off at. In the theme of the day, we had a truly dickish bus driver who completely overshot our bus stop all together after we AND a group of Korean girls told him the station we would be exiting at. He exited the bus, turned off the motor, and lit a cigarette outside the mart across the street before we could even swipe our T-Money cards out. Don’t mind any common decency or customer service, for I am AJUSSI!

With that, we took a stroll backwards in search of the World Mart station, wherever it may be. We later discovered it was unmarked as well, and with no “World Mart” in sight.  Along our wander, we stopped to admire heaps of yellow Korean melon before stopping at the GS25 for directions to Deulmusae, the local penis cafe. The young guy working there had no idea what we were talking about, but a nice lady stopped to help us figure it out. Turns out she was with her hubs and 2 little daughters aged 6 and 8 or 9. This would begin the awkwardness of the day, surely.

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As her husband Navered the directions, it calculated that we were about 30 minutes away.  His phone was 100% incorrect. But, he told us to hop in the car and they’d take us to our destination. We tried our best to fenagle our way out of the generosity, but before we knew it, their 2 little girls were grabbing our hands, handing us a piece of candy for the road, and escorting us into their playground of a backseat. Sandwiched between our two little playmates and their Gak, colored pencils, and every toy under the sun, we were taken on a 5 minute drive, which resulted in the most horrendously awkward thank you and goodbye I have ever been involved in.

Turning right at the yellow sign we had been looking for, we drove across the penis lined bridge to the shrine that is Deulmusae. We were living up to the foreigner cliche that KBS tells the public is truth. Trying desperately to contain our laughter, Chrissy and I were graciously let out of the car by the giggling parents (who I could not look in the eyes), and were greeted by a garden of erections. A happy afternoon we were to have!

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This place is beyond unbelievable. As you enter there is a man baking penis bread filled with red bean in his penis mold bread maker.

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Then you’re greeted by a big ol dick, and a map of the world illustrated in…you guessed it.

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Walking through the cafe, it’s a pervert’s paradise, really. Dicks of every shape and size everywhere.

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Dick family portrait.

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In case one is curious as to what it feels like to be the opposite gender.

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Surprisingly, in a country so buttoned up about anything sexual, the place was overflowing with the elderly. Literally every other customer aside from us and one other group of foreigners were old people, and they giggled whenever their food was served and every time they took a phallic photo. Instant bonding with the monster breed in this country.

Double the fun. The bread was warm and yummy, though I’d like to make a suggestion for the Deli Manjoo creamy filling. More delicious and more realistic.

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Oh, and so this is a cafe/restaurant after all, so you’ve got to see the tableware! We ordered Dongdongju, fish donkkas and hamburger steak to share, and look at that presentation! The men are served their meals on vagina plates, and the women on penis plates, and the same goes for the cups. This is apparently supposed to balance out male and female energy, or Yin and Yang. Ok. Let’s just say a lot of thought went into every detail of this place.

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The also have tons of the makkoli jugs with faces of famous Korean politicians and actors on them. I even found one of Jin’s favorite politician, Ahn Cheol-soo, that we met last year when he was doing publicity by our school. I doubt they meant it, but how appropriate to put such people on a penis jug.

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I hope you found my brief tour pleasurable! Now, I will leave you with some more modelings, and failed-to-be-captured leprechaun jumps on the penis lined bridge.

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Twas a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, and I highly recommend for anyone wanting to get down with their inner perv and experience yet another of Korea’s oddly themed establishments.

Directions: If you’d like to get down with your inner 변태 out in Pocheon, you’ve got to hop on the 3201 bus. We caught it at Wangsimni Station, but it makes several stops en route to the north, so if one is closer you could surely do that. The Wangwimni stop also doesn’t have a designated bus stop for this bus, but rather just kind of stand in between the other two bus stops and wait for the guy to come and flag him down, kinda dealy. 

 

Chuncheon With Some Chappys

At present moment, I have embarked upon my final 2ish months of ROKin’ out in the Koko. It’s kind of hard to believe that 3 years have come and gone. SHWOOP! Where the flying F does the time go?! I’m actually quite sad about the wind-down because as weird as this place is, I really fucking love it. Not to mention, there are some people I’m not ready to have so far removed from my immediate life yet. I know some will bring madd waterworks. Oh well. C’est la vie! Time to start packing and shipping and all of that not fun stuff.

Yet, no matter how much I love the far East, my second home, I’m 110% ready for a new adventure. My feet are starting to get itchy and I’m hankering for a new place, new experiences, new culture and to meet a brand new slew of (minimally freakish) peeps. Topped off with guzzling wine by the bottle. Can’t forget THAT.

So then, with the impending departure rapidly approaching and a yadda yadda yadda, I’ve realized that I’ve kind of been a blub when it came to really getting out and exploring this country. I’m ashamed of it, but I definitely know I’m not alone in this state of getting land-locked in the big city and just getting too lazy to branch out. Seoul has become home, and as much as I hate monotony, I’ve gotten stuck in my ways and the day-to-day whathaveyous. With that out on the table, I’ve been on a mission to bounce my ass out of this city as much as humanly possible.

Chrissy and I have been meaning to get back to the Chuncheon/Gapyeong area for some time now. Both of us went on our own on two separate occasions about a year ago and visited Nami Island. Nami Island is a little lovers enclave, filled with lush towering greenery, and even boasts a “First Kiss Bridge” named for, as one would suspect, the first kiss of two characters on the hott Korean drama, Winter Sonata, which was apparently quite popular. The bridge is lined with melted and flattened soju bottles, which aside from most likely leading to many an inappropriate adult behavior, was super quirky and cool. They sold these bottle-dishes in the gift shop, and I played the tourist when I purchased my super Korean trinket so as to fondly remember all those wild nights I had with the Devil’s water. I hate to love you, little green 1 dollar bottle!

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These two couple-wear rockin love birds probably just shared a romantic kiss where many other fans did before them. Giggle worthy.

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You can leave your mark for all eternity on these special snowmen, just as Winter Sonata likely had on all those fans’ hearts. Maybe take a selfie with them while you’re at it?

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I strolled down this romantic lovers lane, hand-in-hand with myself.

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Lots of funkiness to break up the serene on this island. Do your boobs hang low? Do they wobble to-and-fro?

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Chuncheon is known for its dakgalbi and makguksu, which also happen to be two of my favorite Korean cuisines. Dakgalbi, a marinated chicken dish that’s stir fried with cabbage and rice cakes in a spicy pepper sauce, isn’t really an eat-by-yourself meal, so I knew I definitely had to return with a homie in tow. So I done did dat! After many poor weather days, Chrissy and I finally got ourselves out there together, along with two others, Sarah and Chrissy’s friend Sammy.

We took the comfy high-speed ITX train from Yongsan Station all the way out to Chuncheon, which takes about 1.5 hours. Chrissy, the ultimate snack queen, brought some long breaded sausage for everyone’s train noshing enjoyment.

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When we got there, we didn’t actually do much, but it felt sooooo nice to be out of the city and breathe the fresh air! There is green everywhere, and I even felt like I completely left Korea. We ended up grabbing a cab out to Soyang Dam, where we then hitched a ride on a ferry out to a secluded area which houses Cheongpyeongsa Temple, which we didn’t even make it to! During the 10 minute ferry ride I felt like I was transported back to Southeast Asia. It was absolutely stunning. Korea is seriously gorgeous once you really get into it.

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From the dock, it’s about a 20 minute walk to the hill up to the temple. We staked out a lovely riverside lunch at one of the little restaurants leading to the temple and stuffed our faces with dakgalbi, makguksu, and dong dong ju (a fermented rice wine much like makkoli, my Korean beverage of choice). The ajussi who worked there also took quite the liking to me, and grabbed my cup at one point to give himself one of several “service shots” of our dong dong ju. Hmmm suspicious old man! “I serve, you thank!” He also had a snappy way of clapping at us to get our attention from the restaurant above. We thought it was so funny, but when we did it back to him he turned a not-so-happy eye on us. Methinks we disrespected our elder in our fun and games.

Either way, the food, booze, and locale were sensational.

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What a nice mommy and daddy cooking my food for me.

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Korean pancakes are little bits of heaven, and that kimchi burrito thing was tasty too.

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When we were alerted to the last boat’s departure by our clappy friend, after having not even gone to the temple, we raced across this bridge back to the dock, but not without a quickie photo shoot, of course. This is me and Chrissy after all.

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Then we hauled our overflowing bladders and made the final boat, thank the heavens above!

I wish we got to see the temple, but alas, most temples in Korea all look the same, so I’m not too torn up about it. Chuncheon is beautiful and twas invigorating to breathe some clear fresh green air in good company!

Directions to Nami Island: Take the high speed ITX train either from Yongsan or Sangbong Station to Gapyeong Station. I had gotten a bit turned around when I went, but you should hail a taxi from Gapyeong Station to Namiseom Dock. Then from the dock you’ll hop a 5 minute ferry to Nami. 

Directions to Chuncheon & Soyang Dam / Cheongpyeongsa Temple: Follow the same ITX directions as above, only take the train all the way to the Chuncheon exit. When you arrive you can either hop the bus across the street from the station (I forget the number, but the Tourist Center could let you know that), or take a cab, which is what we did. It ended up being around a 12,000won cab ride. Once you arrive at the dock just purchase a ticket for the ferry and hop it! 

 

A Wild Ride At Yongma Land

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During my innocent high school days, Nick and I used to go back to his dad’s apartment sometimes for lunch. Whenever we would, I’d eat a can of Chunky soup from the pantry, some Carl Buddig turkey (there goes my absurd memory for detail again), and some Kraft singles while I’d wait for my soup to heat up. Then I’d plop down in front of the tele and turn on Unsolved Mysteries. Robert Stack always creeped me the F out in that brown trench coat of his, but I think I really liked it. He was the perfect host for my favorite creepytime show. All of the stories on Unsolved Mysteries were primarily from like, 10 years prior, and the acting on the show was horrendous, but it gave me my daily dose of eerie and it made me happy slash vigilant in always looking behind me.

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Why am I telling you this, you ask? Because I wanted you to know that I’ve always loved spooky things, ok?? Especially movies like The Shining which I watched for the first time in high school at 2am, and still haunts me to this day. That’s why I had to purchase the REDRUM t-shirt you see in the following photos. It was the perfect dress for the occasion, because you know I never miss a chance to play a little dress up.

Remember when I broke into that abandoned insane asylum last summer? That was so cool, and still tops my list of favorite things done whilst in Korea. Since then, I’ve read about quite a few other haunted or abandoned places on this peninsula, and one of them that happened to be closest to Seoul is Yongma Land, an abandoned amusement park. It looked like more of a carnival to me, but that’s neither here nor there, and it went out of business sometime in the mid-nineties due to a lack of Yongma Land-goers.

Since I’ve been dying to go, I grabbed my fellow abandoned places explorer, Joshy, and a very appropriately dressed Veny, to check it out with me. From Seoul, we all hopped the Jungnang line to the Mangu Station exit where we had about a 20 or so minute walk (if we hadn’t gotten lost en route) to the park. As you would expect, we took the very scenic route (read: the wrong way) after being detoured by some picnicing ajussis in the bushes. We walked along the path they told us to, but veered off to our other left instead of following this here sign like we should have. But should doesn’t make for the most enticing story, now does it?

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Our other left took us around a golfing range and into what we discovered to be the back entrance and what was probably at one point the water park of Yongma Land. Before dredging through the mushy hills and spiderwebs, we modeled in the once upon a time pool, and on the decomposing water slide filled with crap and a burnt teddy bear.

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We finally decided to try one of the staircases leading up to who knew where, and our first try proved to be a ghastly mess of monster ants and spider webs up the ying yang. Take two led us up this staircase on the left.

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And Joshy, forging the way for his ladies, took this route, which we did not.

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Instead, we went rock climbing, which Veny did not enjoy but cameraman up there did.

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If he’s anything he’s a gentleman!

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Behold! Back door entry to mounds of crap for everyone!

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Once arriving at the park, or sneaking your way in like us, the entry is 5,000won to Mr. Youn who still minimally maintains the grounds. When we arrived and dusted ourselves off, we thought we snuck in for free, but alas, a 6’4″ white man and his ladies stick out. The park has actually become quite popular for shooting k-pop videos and commercials, so we weren’t surprised to find quite a few groups there for photo shoots.

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Or this pervert and his muse.

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We let the perverts carry on as we explored and got our hands and butts a delightful shade of dirty. First up, dat Disco Pong Pong all the kids love so much. Joshy the giant was terrified during this photo opp.

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WALL-E!

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Office chair graveyard by Aladino and his magic carpet.

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Air vehicle graveyard.

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Always the gentleman, he carried our bags as we (dis)mounted large objects.

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K-Love bus buddies since day one!

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Hardcore rockin n’ rollin in this one. Their complimentary weights really balanced it out.

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Methinks I’m too big for this one.

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Jump on it, ride it, dat pony.

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Views at the top, in the castle and bumper car graveyard.

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Back to the future with this generic video game called…Video Game.

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And when we were ready for a bath and a meal, we left through the way we should have come in had we followed directions properly.

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If you are itchin’ to get out of Seoul, or want to fulfill the inner lust for the abandoned, shlep yourself to Yongma Land! It was super fun and an out of the norm way to spend a weekend taking colorful photos.

To get there, take the Jungnang line to Mangu Station exit 1. You’re going to walk straight out the exit down the main road where you’ll pass an Emart with a McDonald’s written all in Korean. Turn left when you get to the next main intersection. Keep walking straight until you come to the next major intersection. The road will sort of curve to the right into a smaller street. Walk down this street and keep following it. A little ways up when you hit a cake shop on the right it’ll curve around to the left and FOLLOW THAT. We made the “mistake” of just walking straight up the small street but that led us the super round about scenic route way (which you may enjoy). If you go the “correct” way, it’ll lead you up a street littered with little restaurants and straight to the entrance above. There’s also a sign with Mr. Youn’s number on it if you need to call him to let you in.

Happy riding!

Zumba & A Chop&Dye

As a foreigner in this far eastern land, there are a couple life necessities that are quite difficult to find that reach top notch western standards. One of those is a good hip gyrating Zumba class, and the other is a solid ‘do chopping. Well, the hair has actually been covered for quite a while, as my post on the gloriousness of Lucy has received much traction on the interwebs. However, I have recently tested other waters because, just because, and well, Danielle is happy.

And well, the connection between the two is that one who cuts yo hair also gets you to shake yo azzzzz! Sexy for sexy!

I Zumba’d quite regularly before coming to Korea, and the class was taught by a girl I used to dance with at Retter’s, so it was legit. Then I came to Korea and took a few classes, all totally made me sweat buckets, but totally sucked on the Zumbaness factor. The teachers just didn’t know what they were doing, or it felt like they were just making the dances up as they were going, or, um, they just didn’t look like they danced hardcore on a regular basis. Apologies, but you want your instructor to look like they get down and this ish works.

Then Veny enlightened me to the HOTT Zumbaboyz, who are HOTT. That’s with a double T. Dan and Jin are magical and so much fun and exactly what a Zumba class is supposed to be. They have classes that they teach together every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Latin American Center in Kyungridan for 10,000won/class, or you can get a card  for 10 classes and pay 80,000won. Win win.

Kyungridan is on the opposite side of Hae Bang Chan, so go out Noksapyeong exit 2 til the underpass and cross under. Cross the street by Noxa and just walk straight, it’s just past Millions of Milkshakes and a taco place.

Dan also teaches at the Body Star in Jongno-5-ga on Tuesday nights and Jin at the Body Star at Sungshin Women’s University exit 4 (my hood!) on Thursday nights at 9pm.

Token photo with them the first time I went to one of their classes. They had a big fancy opening party with disco balls and flashing lights. Totes approps.

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As mentioned above, this post is two-fold. Not only is Jin a mover and a shaker, he’s also a hair chopper! He recently opened up JP Hair in Hae Bang Chon, just up the main road when it curves around to the left. That wasn’t supposed to sound dirty.

You see, I started cultivating my glorious “Garden of Gray” at the ripe age of 25 while stressing out over JLo, but it was manageable until the day I turned 30. On that fateful day in January, the garden started looking more like a forest each time I gazed in the mirror. It was a minor horror at each glance. It had to be dealt with immediately. My virgin locks had to meet dye for their first time. That, and I needed life brought back into my limp mane.

So I put my trust in Jin.

Since I am not a #selfie #narcissist I don’t have any just-after photos for documentation, but I actually told Jin just as I was leaving how much I loved my hair and that I never usually like how my hair looks when I leave a salon. He curled it, which looked divine, but to be expected, they fell by the time I reached the bus stop. Stupid hair.

So foreign AND Korean ladies, you should totes check out Jin for your next ‘do revamp! He’s a pro, speaks perfect English and his studio is centrally located and greatly priced. 20,000won for a cut and 50,000won to have my roots dyed. Not too shabby.

To get there, just walk out Noksapyeong Station exit 2 and into HBC past the kimchi pots. Walk allllll the way up the main street, and when you see it fork off just turn left and it’s around the corner above the 7-11.

Happy thrusting and sexifying!

A Pause To B*tch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End rant 1. Begin rant 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Thanksgivukkuh Miracle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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