Farewell To The Dontgogay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

America, F*%# Yea!

The 4th of July is arguably one of my favorite holidays.  It’s been mine and MayMay’s *special day* since we spent it together in Zoo Bar with Sammy, his homies and a bunch of Brits in London on Eurotrip 2006.  Ironic place to fall in love with such a holiday, doncha think?! Well, whether we were in London, San Francisco, Newport Beach or Manhattan Beach, we’ve spent each together up until last year. Needless to say, I miss my MayMay tremendously more today than the usual huge amount that I always miss her (and everyone else for that matter).

London 4th of july

The holidays are always a bit odd while living abroad. While I find myself to be the happiest version of Danielle since transplanting into Korean society and traveling my face off, I do get a teency bit homesick on days like the 4th of July.  It’s weird knowing that back in the states it’s a long weekend where all my friends are together with fireworks and beer bottles popping everywhere, and here I show up to work wearing my red white and blue and it’s just any other day.  While teaching yesterday, I actually looked around my classroom and so many of my students were decked out in red white and blue.  Totally unintentional, but it made me smile and think “AMERICA, FUCK YEA!”  Despite noticing their wardrobe, I completely forgot to tell my kids that it was American Independence Day. There went that little cultural lesson.  I blame it on the humidity and the AC Nazis.

There are tons of times when I am totally made aware of my Americanness while living overseas, and one major way came when my co-teacher and I were leaving school. I’m in the midst of getting ready to move from my current apartment in “North Korea” to somewhere more central.  While I’m sitting here not stressing about being able to find an apartment, my Vice Principal has relayed countless times through Jin, and then this time directly to me,  how I should “hurry up and find a place”.  Most Koreans live at home until they get married, or have never made a big move across the world, so the idea of finding an apartment on your own is a big process and takes time and figuring out. After my VP told me I better hurry up, all I responded with was “I’m fine. My Korean friend is helping me. I’ll move when I get back from vacation”, and that was that.  When we left, Jin had told me how well I handled that. It made me very aware of my Americanness and how I’m so used to being independent, moving around (and across the globe!) and handling things on my own in the real world.  While  Americans are typically out of their parent’s house and figuring things out for themselves at 18 years old, many Koreans live at home into their 30s.

The rest of my 4th of July consisted of teaching all day and meeting up for some bomb burgers and a Root Beer float at Salt & Butter in Apgujeong Rodeo with Tim and our funny friend Brian.  Joshua, our *AMERICAN*, and our token Chinese PandaLin were supposed to come as well, but work and rain interfered with that fun. Sadface.

Now to flashback in honor of one of my favorite holidays, and to celebrate the greatest nation on the planet, here are some of my favorite 4th of Julys past spent with some of my greatest loves in the sun!

San Jose with the Baller & MayMay. 2007 was the year I learned that Bretty gets his *unique* dance moves from his awesome mother.

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Puppy time in Newport with my MayMay in 2008.

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Fanny Packs & sunkissed whistle blowing with my JeanellyBellyBluJ in Manhattan Beach 2011.

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Shenanigans in Manhattan Beach with DeBarros and a very patriotic Chizzy.

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Happy Birthday America! Even though you’re sometimes really messed up and I have no desire to live on your soil for a very very VERY long time, you are by far the best country in the world, and home is always where the heart is! Cheers to 237+ more years of beautifully celebrated diversity and freeeeedom!