Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Autumn At Last!

Whoa, sorry it has been so long since I last updated. I know this is going to sound crazy, but I've actually been doing some work at work rather than messing around online. Nutty!

Sooo let me consult my little pink notebook where I make notes about what has happened in my life between journal entries. I realized that I forgot to update about a major development in my daily schedule that occurred the Friday before going out to the Seoul Design Expo (which I talked about in my last entry.) Let us back up to Friday (a week before last). That was the glorious day that I could watch TV online at work without feeling bad about it! I had just (somewhat nervously) pulled up a tvshack window to watch some Grey's Anatomy when one of my coworkers walked by. "Are you watching Fringe?!" she asked excitedly. "No, I'm watching Grey's Anatomy..." I responded kind of bashfully. "Oh. I'm watching Fringe on my computer right now," she said as she walked back to her desk. And thus, all feelings of guilt were gone in a poof.

Now fast forward to Sunday after the Design Expo where I generally lounged around and ate some delicious Pizza School. I did nothing of value or interest.

Monday I went shopping after school for food, something I hadn't done in a really long time. I stocked up my fridge and cupboard with such timeless essentials as peanut butter, grape jelly, bread, Chilsung Cider (no really...I think I'm addicted to this delicious Korean Sprite), cereal, milk, and ramen. Then I stumbled upon a WONDROUS discovery: bagels and STRAWBERRY PHILADELPHIA CREAM CHEESE. Say whaaaat. My beloved breakfast from home! So pumped. I went home, enjoyed a sandwich and got ready to tutor. Sang Ah called, however, and said that she has a round of tournaments coming up and wouldn't be able to meet with me until the beginning of November. Faced with unexpected extra time, I decided to start watching the K-Drama Boys Before Flowers. People had told me I needed to watch it, but I was fairly ambivalent until I read someone's journal entry about how bad it was. Count me in. And let me just say, this drama was "bad" like Wendigo and Secret Life are "bad." Like totally sucking you in until it is all you think about even though it is heinously absurd "bad." Please note that for the rest of the week, all I did was watch Boys Before Flowers in every moment of my downtime. That is why my life sounds absurdly empty.

Woo Bin, Yi Jung, Jun Pyo and Ji Hoo.  Swoon!

Let me give you a little background here. And get ready, cause its a doozy. Much of this drama is centered around a fictitious school called Shinhwa. Shinhwa is owned by a corporation of the same name and goes from preschool to college. Of course. At Shinhwa, there are four rich and spoiled boys known as the F4 (which, bizarrely, stands for the Flower 4...for some reason). Jun Pyo is the son of the president/CEO of Shinhwa Group and is the heir of the business. He has the most power and is the leader. He is followed by three other characters: Ji Hoo, Yi Jung and Woo Bin. Ji Hoo is a classical musician, and the orphaned son of the former president of Korea. Yeah. Yi Jung is a world famous potter whose family owns one the largest art collections/art museums in Korea. He is a total playboy who looks like a Korean Zac Efron and therefore was the most adorable face to grace the screen. Woo Bin is the final member of the F4 and his dad basically runs the Korean Mafia. Oh how delicious. Then you add to the pot the lovely female lead: Jan Di. Jan Di is from the wrong side of the tracks: her family owns a dry cleaner and she works part time at a porridge shop.

Basically Jan Di goes to Shinhwa to drop off some dry cleaning for one of the students. This student has been viciously bullied by the F4, and is (at the moment Jan Di arrives) in the process of jumping off the roof. She stops him and there is all sorts of crazy press about the bullying situation. To make the school good, Jun Pyo's mom (the president of Shinhwa Group) gives Jan Di a swimming scholarship to attend the school. Whaaat? Awesome. She goes and is targeted by the F4 because she stands up for a friend who commits the MORTAL SIN of spilling ICE CREAM on JUN PYO'S SHOES! THE HORROR!!!!!! Aaaaanyway, over the course of the series she continues to be a sassy girl who stands up for what she believes, earning her the trust, friendship and LOVE of the F4. It is all very dramatic and often absurd, which is just what makes it so good. There is always some forced engagement, childhood trauma, or old flame that pops back up to keep things interesting. It is like an ultra dramatic American soap opera with about...110% less sex. You think I'm joking. I am not. In the ENTIRE 25 episode series, each episode being exactly an hour long, there was a total of FIVE shitty kisses. Once Jun Pyo got half naked with Jan Di, but that was only because Jan Di was dying of hypothermia. This show also has some of the worst fight scenes ever. Overall: AWESOME. WATCH IT. I got Erich hooked on it so that we can gossip about the cute boys and crazy story lines. Job: well done.

Clearly marriage material.  Look at all those Asian Poses!

---Here is your Korean lesson for the day. Watching Boys Before Flowers has also increased my knowledge of Korean terms of address.---

Sunbae- How you address anyone who is your elder, especially at school. I am all for making Anna call us Sunbae from now on. Amanda, same goes for you.

Unni- How you address a female friend who is older than you if you are a female. It means older sister. Anna and Amanda, I'll accept this as well. I guess this is what I would call almost everyone else (Liz, Monica, Shannon, Renee, Jo Anna, Lyndsay, Debbie, etc) since all of you are older than me.

Noona- How you address a female friend who is older than you if you are male. It means older sister. Bruno and Greg! This is how I expect you to address me!

Oppa- How you address a male friend who is older than you if you are female. It means older brother. Carl, you are totally my oppa. Gabe, you too.
Kyung- How you address a male friend who is older than you if you are male. It means older brother. Carl, demand that Bruno and Greg and Gabe call you kyung. We need to get them in line.

Dongseng- How you address any friend who is younger than you, regardless of either party's age. It means younger sibling. Anna and Amanda, I think you know what to expect in the future.

Ajumma- Old married woman. That is what it technically means. But in practice it means old woman with a tight perm who pushes you on the metro and wears an absurdly over sized visor and matching hiking clothes.

Ajossi- Old married man. I rarely use this one. And it is not usually said with the same level of frustration associated with ajumma.  Never during my time here in Seoul have I thought "If that ajossi pushes me one more time, they are getting punched in the face."  I have had that same thought for ajummas at least thrice today.
---Now back to the entry---

Tuesday morning I woke up totally psyched to eat my bagel for breakfast. I got my toaster out of the cupboard for the first time, set it all up, got out a big knife, cut my bagel in half and GASP! Cue shrieking violins. MY BAGEL WAS FILLED WITH BEANS! NOOOOOOOO.


Thanks to living in Korea for two months now I was able to roll with the punches and you better believe I just slathered that bad boy with cream cheese and chowed down. The taste was not so bad, but the texture definitely left something to be desired. I will just say that from now on I will be looking at the packages of food a little more closely, lest we have a repeat of the Great Bean Bagel Fiasco '09.

Tuesday and Thursday I went to after school as normal, and nothing out of the ordinary happened. As previously stated, in all of my unplanned moments I watched BBF. Let me just tell you how freaking pumped my co-workers were. The one who speaks the least English in my office wanted to talk about it all the time because it is her favorite K-Drama. It was definitely a bonding experience for us, as we gossiped about what was happening, and (of course) who was the cutest.

On Thursday I brought in a wedding gift for Eun Kyung/Sienna, my coteacher who got married on Saturday. She is from far southern Korea and told me that she really wanted to invite me to the wedding, but it was 5.5 hours away and I wouldn't know anyone. I appreciated the sentiment, and I also kind of appreciated not having to go by myself! Only one teacher from our office ended up going because that is mad far away for people in Korea. My mom had graciously (thanks mom!) gone shopping and sent over some gifts from the states. I gave her a garter, picture album, and an embroidered handkerchief that said Bride and had a little blue bow. I had to explain what a garter was and she laughed before saying "I would LOVE to use this and have my husband throw it...but I think it would not be acceptable at a Korean wedding." I also explained the whole Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue tradition which she thought was cool. She seemed really touched, so that was good.

Friday all my classes were cancelled because 4th and 5th grade had a field trip and a picnic (respectively) so they were off campus. I spent the day making a kick ass powerpoint for my class for Halloween. I also had a fight with Korea about their absurd restrictions on paying for things! I had talked Erich into going out to Seoraksan (Seorak Mountain) to check out the beautiful autumn leaves with me on Saturday. In order to do that, we needed to buy bus tickets to eastern Korea. I asked So Young if she could help me, as I could not even find a Korean bus line's website anywhere. She thankfully went through the whole process for me and figured everything out. Then came the time to pay. I gave her my Wachovia bank card. The site said it could not verify that the card was mine. I gave her my USAA visa card. The site said it could not verify that the card was mine. I finally gave her my Korean ATM card, which she was pretty sure wouldn't work because it was just an ATM card. Turns out it is actually a debit card, and we got through that step. Then she said "Ok, it is asking for the first two digits of the security code." Umm...what? After about 15 minutes of me asking questions like "Is it on the card somewhere? Was it assigned by the bank? Do I have it somewhere in my bank book or at my house?" I finally determined that it was my PIN number she was talking about, not a security code. Overall it took about an hour to book the damn tickets!

Saturday morning found me stumbling out of my apartment eaaaaaaaaaaarly. I left my apartment at 5:45am to be ready to meet Erich on the 6:03am train that came through my station. I hopped on and we headed up to Gunja and got on Line 7 to take us to the Express Bus Terminal. We timed it quite perfectly and had about 20 minutes to find the bus, go to the bathroom, etc before we left. The bus pulled out EXACTLY on schedule and I was very pleasantly surprised by how nice it was. On Friday, So Young had told me that it was kind of a "first class" bus, but I had no idea what that would actually mean. First of all, it was a regular sized bus and there were no more than 30 seats on it. The seats were huge! There were two seats on one side, a nice big aisle, and one seat on the other. You could pick your seats online, so I got Erich and I two singles so we could both have window seats. There was at least 1.5 times the space between rows as well, so you had plenty of room to recline without getting in the face of the person behind you. There was also a leg rest that popped out from the bottom of the seat like you were in a recliner. It was awesome!

I slept for a while and about 2 hours into the trip we stopped at a rest stop. Whoa. Talk about a sensory overload. There were a million buses and tons of people milling around. I got an eye-suh chock-o (iced chocolate, which is basically chocolate milk on crushed ice) before heading back to the bus. Small problem...I had no idea which bus was ours. Thankfully I had brought my cell phone and I called Erich who saved me. We got back on the bus and rode about another hour and 40 minutes before arriving in Sokcho. On the way we passed a lot of mountains and beautiful small towns, including Pyeongchang, which is one of three cities that have submitted a bid for the 2018 winter games (along with Munich, Germany and Annecy, France). It was kind of a "Whoops, you just passed it" town, but it is in an absolutely lovely place. I am sure the mountains get covered with snow in winter and it is really beautiful. As we got closer to our destination, we left the mountains and all of a sudden, there we were at the beach! Our bus took us to the city of Sokcho, which was right on the water. It was really quite beautiful. Apparently Sokcho is north of the 38th parallel, so it was technically owned by North Korea until the MDL was redefined. Very interesting.

After arriving in Sokcho, we boarded a local bus for about a half hour that took us to Seoraksan National Park. There were roughly, oh, ONE BILLION people there, but it was still great. We arrived at the park around 11:40am, and booked it over to the ticket booth to get our entrance ticket to the park. Then we headed directly for the cable car ticket booth because Brigid had told me they'd had a long wait the week before. Yeah, thank god she said something, because the first available ticket was at 4:50pm! Bummer! We bought our tickets and headed out to walk around the park and take some pictures since we had time to kill. We started walking around and stumbled upon a giant seated Buddha statue. It was so beautiful and the smell of sandalwood incense made me think about Yonghegong Lamasery in Beijing, which remains one of the most peaceful and beautiful places I've ever been in my life. We walked around the Buddha and found out that in the back there was an entrance leading to a small temple underneath the Buddha. We went in there for a bit and then headed back out to the park. While walking around we stopped to take in a traditional performance of music that was pretty awesome. The musicians had these hats with ribbons attached that they kept moving in beautiful circles and spirals as they played. It was kind of like a marching band performer meets a ribbon dancer. It was really cool. Then Erich and I found some rocks where we ate a delicious lunch he had packed: dumplings, chips, cookies, and Korean pears. I love picnics.

Buddha loves peace!

So pretty.

Where's Waldo?  Can you find me on the bridge?

Different bridge (that I am not on) over a crazy rock bed.  I bet after the rainy season this place looks completely different.


Beautiful view of the mountains in the background.

Seoraksan in all her glory.

Awesome traditional perfomers.

I seriously love fall colors.

After lunch we still had about 3 hours to kill, so we headed over the bridge towards the trail promising a waterfall in 2.4 km. While crossing the bridge I heard someone say "Hey!" and lo and behold there was Candice from two doors down. Totally random seeing a neighbor so far from home! We headed off to see the waterfall. On the way you would be walking through thick trees when all of a sudden you would pop out in a little clearing with restaurants and tables with colorful umbrellas. While in one of these were were offered tiny glasses of mountain berry "juice" (NO MONEY! FREE! NO MONEY!) that was quite delicious. Also, alcoholic. Definitely wine. We told the woman we'd be back through later and forged onward. The path to the waterfall was riddled with gigantic, slippery stones and tons of steps. I was pretty sure I would die and/or break some vital piece of me. But the scenery was just too gorgeous so we kept going. Finally we got to an area where it was just straight steps. And not just any steps, mind you, but the horrible open backed steps that I despise because I'm always afraid someone is going to cut my Achilles tendon. True story. Finally I stopped at the lower waterfall and told Erich to knock himself out climbing up the last 7 or 8 flights of stairs. I chilled at the overlook (and took pictures for a bunch of families and hiking groups) while he climbed up and back down. I do not regret my decision in the least.

Love this photo of Erich embracng the great outdoors.

In this photo, Erich had just thrown a big armful of leaves into the air.  What rained down upon him was also dirt, sticks, and bugs.  Not too swift.

My faaaavorite trees.

Waterfall.  With the steps I did not climb pictured at left.

Going back down over those huge slippery rock steps was even more terrifying than going up. But I made it! Intact and alive! Woo! We stopped on the way back to buy a bottle of the mountain berry wine before heading towards the cable car station. When we got there we still had about 45 minutes to kill, so we bought some tasty waffles (mmm, waffles) and played war for a while, which I haven't done in FOREVER. Finally it was time to board the cable car.

Cable cars meeting in nicer weather early in the day.

Getting ready to board and head up into the clouds.

By this point, it should be noted, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. The internet had informed me that it would be sunny and clear all day on Saturday. When we arrived it was more like overcast. Then cloudy. Then cloudy to the point where the top of the mountain was completely obscured. When we went up, there was nooo view. It was like being inside a not very pretty marshmallow. I was blown, I won't lie. We ended up hiking down MORE death steps to a little Buddhist temple. It was so quiet and pretty. Definitely brought me out of the bad mood caused by the weather at least a little bit. On the way back up the steps of death I stopped to take some pictures of the more colorful leaves. We boarded the cable car again and headed down to the bottom of the mountain, where it was already mostly dark.

Terrible "view" from the top.

Pretty little temple.

Steps of DEAAAATH.





Good luck rock pile.

Representing the wood on South Korea's tallest mainland peak.  Red eye unedited for emphasis.

Instead of attempting to get on the right bus (and therefore possibly getting on the WRONG bus) back to Sokcho, we opted to take a taxi. It dropped us off right at the bus terminal, where we watched the end of the Korea World Series (Walk off home run in game 7? People went APESHIT. There was screaming, cheering, jumping and crying.) and grabbed some tasty food before boarding the bus. It should also be noted that after narrowly surviving steps of death and slippery rocks all day, I slipped while coming out of the bus station bathroom and treated about 30 Korean people to a show of me falling in my ass.  Lovely.  The bus got us back to Seoul and we shared a taxi (only about $8 a person) back to our side of the city. I ended up getting in around 12:15pm. It was a long, but really great day.

Sunday I slothed it up, sleeping late and only leaving the apartment to meet Brigid and Natasha at Butterfinger Pancakes in the afternoon. On the way home I stopped at Sports Complex figuring I could just run in and do some shopping at the Design Olympiad quickly. Um, there were a TON of people there. Huge lines poured out of each tent, so I just turned around and left. Oh well. I'll have to find those things I wanted somewhere else.

Monday I finished Boys Before Flowers (and I kind of miss it, I won't lie) and bought some super tasty frozen dumplings at the store which I will be frequently enjoying, mark my words. I also had some fun teaching about Halloween with So Young. At one point I put up a picture of a witch and a kid shouted in a terrified voice "AJUMMA!" (Do you remember your Korean lesson? If not, see above.) I laughed for like 20 minutes. Another kid totally blew my mind when I put up a picture of a werewolf and he said, I kid you not, "Lycanthrope." I was like "WHERE DID YOU HEAR THAT WORD?!" A video game. Still. At least he is getting something out of the games!

Tuesday I taught with a sub for the first time and it went really well. She is young and rolls with the punches, so I was glad to work with her. After school went swimmingly and I went to bed early last night because I just needed to recharge.

Today I only taught one class because third and sixth graders had their midterms today. That was pretty sweet. AND the yogurt lady gave me a really cute, free tote bag for no reason. Awesome! In the afternoon so young came with me to help me transfer money home at KB and then we went off in search of a Hana so I could transfer my after school money into my KB account. One hour and four banks later, we ended up just withdrawaling the money at a random ATM and walking it over to KB where I deposited it. Dramatic!

Tonight I am going to see a traditional Korean concert with Liz and Angie (and maybe some others) so that should be interesting. We were offered free "Royal Seats" by the president of the local arts association. I'll let you know what that means.


  1. Thanks for the Korean lesson, that was fun. I feel like I should start studying now so I can know a few words come May. We'll see how that goes... Love you and your Korea soaps.

  2. i love that you spent a very big part of an entry discussing korean soap drama plots.

    ps: everyone here has swine flu, too.

    <3 shannon

  3. look at you, demanding the utmost respect from someone who is all of 2 months younger than you. YOU'LL see what I call you when you get home... haha. agree with Monica - thanks for the lesson!

    <3 Mandarin