Sunday, July 25, 2010

Warm Desks and Muddy Friends!

Sorry for not updating sooner.  My mom pointed out to me the fact that it is has been more than two weeks since my last entry.  I know that there are (at least a couple of you) besides my mom who read this, so sorry to keep you waiting!  Much of my time recently has been consumed by studying for the GRE...but I'll talk about that later.  Here's the update.

The truth of the matter is that all week, from July 11-16, I just deskwarmed and it was exceedingly boring.  Seriously all I did was sit at my desk from 8:40am-4:40pm every day.  I don't know how people with desk jobs do it...I find deskwarming a whole lot more exhausting than teaching.  The only plus to may hours at my computer was that I completed two more digital scrapbooks for Korea, bringing my total to three (which cover August 2009-May 2010).  If you are interested in seeing them, you can check them out online here.

Friday night (July 16), we went out to celebrate Boram's birthday.  We started the evening with some bowling in the Kongkuk University area (soooo much closer and more convenient for me than the usual areas we frequent) and then moved on to a restaurant where we gorged on samgyeopsal and galbi.  We ended up at a bar where we had a fantastic birthday cake and hung out until around 2:00am.  It was an excellent celebration.
Boram showing off his bowling form.  I haven't bowled in FOREVER...but it was a lot of fun and I still came in third.

Boram making a wish.

And blowing out the candles.

We didn't have any plates so we all just dug in like cannibals.  Cake cannibals.

The weekend of July 17-18 was one I had been waiting for...Boryeong Mud Festival!  Basically there is this coastal town about 2.5 hours outside of Seoul that had an overabundance of mud.  In a true "when you have lemons make lemonade" situation, they created this huge festival completed based around their mud.  They truck in in from fields to a local beach called Daecheon and have 10 days of crazy mud events.  It has more foreign visitors than any other festival in Korea.  To be honest, the few days before we left I was wondering if I was crazy.  I do my best not to be surrounded by drunk white people in Korea...why was I going to an event that was full of herds of waegooks who were not only annoying, but ALSO covered in mud?  However I had already paid so I talked myself into it and DRAGGED myself out of bed at 6:30am to get ready and go meet the bus.  (Yeah, please note that I didn't get home until like I was running on very little sleep.)  I was the first one to arrive so I snagged us some killer seats right in the front of the bus and waited for Ayzia, Laura, Julia, Dana and Erich to arrive.  One by one they all showed up...except Erich.  Turns out he overslept after our night out and he ended up missing the bus.  So that sucked.  We all settled in for the 3 hour trip and promptly fell asleep.

Fast forward to our arrival at Daecheon Beach.  We had come on the trip as part of the Seoulite Meet-up Group. As you may recall I went on another meet-up trip to Jeollanam-do with Carl and Monica, however that was through the Korea Travel and Tourism group.  Dana had made the executive decision that we should go with Seoulite because they were offering the tours the cheapest.  It is run by a NSET from Colorado who plans these trips in addition to her regular job (unlike William from Travel and Tourism who ONLY plans the trips...that IS his job).  I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the organization of this trip and the accommodations provided.  There was very little direction from the trip organizer so everyone was confused and just kind of going all over the place.  Dana and her friends Tina and Ava had run ahead and gotten a room, closing the door on everyone else trying to find a place to sleep.  We weren't told how many people were supposed to be in each room so no one knew what was going on.  It was kind of a mess.  The rooms themselves were fairly small (which isn't that big of a deal) and didn't come with enough floor pads or blankets (which is that big of a deal).  It ended up being Julia, Laura, Ayzia, and I in one room, with a teacher named Sunny and the event organizer.  Though we were all new to the show, Sunny had been at multiple Mud Fests before so she was able to give us some invaluable tips, such as the idea of buying one of the plastic pouches you can get at convenience stores by the beach to put your camera in so it didn't get ruined.  Good call!

Saturday was overcast and intermittently raining, but we got changed and headed towards the beach.  Along the way we bought some drinks and sat around for a while enjoying them as we waited for the rain to settle down.  Then it was time for the mud!  We started by walking all the way down the beach (maybe 20-25 minutes) to the regular mud.  Along the way we played in the ocean a little and just generally took in the sights.  There were tons of inflatables you could go in all muddy, including bouncy castles and mud slides.  There was also a major mud fight going on.  It was insanity!
Mud Festival madness.

Look at that mud fly!

Along the way we found that some fishermen had left their waders sitting out.  Ayzia couldn't resist modelling them.

Daecheon Beach.

Hahah, Julia is either selling tampons or deodorant...either way, I'm buying.

I miss being near water.

Don't fight the frolic.

At the far end of the beach, in front of a bouncy castle, there was a man pouring mud on people so we got in line to get dirty.  What a bizarre situation.  Standing in calf deep muddy water, tons of dirty Korean children laughing and splashing around you, getting buckets of warm, gooey mud poured all over you.  Only in Korea.  After getting covered, Laura, Ayzia and Julia took advantage of the mud slide and we did a mini photo shoot before going down into the water and getting washed off.
Muddy girls.

Muddy boys.  (For real, how adorable are these?)

Muddy inflatables.
(Can you spot which one of these things is not like the others?)

Laura was the first one to get muddy.

Then Ayzia and Julia took the plunge.

They are special.

Muddy to the maxx.

Whoa! Somebody stop that foreigner...she's stealing a kid!

Gaaah! Why is the mud so unexpectedly warm?

Eye love the Mud Festival!

I look like a swamp thing! With elephant skin.

Sploosh down the mud slide, haha.

Love my muddy buddies!

After rinsing off in the ocean we found a nice little place on the boardwalk to grab dinner.  Laura and I got pizza which took about 8 years longer to make than Ayzia and Julia's meals, so they were basically done eating before we even got ours.  And they were asleep before we finished, haha.  Playing in the mud and ocean all day can really tucker you out!  That night we turned in early, in fact I fell asleep and missed the big fireworks display.  Oops.

The next morning we woke up and...could it be?  gasp! was actually sunny.  Beautiful weather, with a cool breeze and little puffy clouds in the bright blue sky greeted us and we were PUMPED.  We grabbed some food, stashed our stuff in a locker, and got in line to get painted.  Basically at the Mud Fest there are two main ways to get covered in mud.  First, you can have the regular mud poured on you, as we did in day one.  Also in this category is jumping into one of the mud pits and getting tackled into the mud.  Second, you can have colored mud painted on you by a little old man or woman in a tent especially for mud painting.  Since we had already done it one way, we figured we'd get decked out in colored mud for our second day at the festival.  Sunny joined us, and in line we met Min, a guy who lives in Seoul.  We spent forever inching our way up to the front of the line until it was finally our turn.  They had all different colors - grey, blue, green, yellow, red - and the painters would just go town and decorate you however they felt inclined.  It was pretty sweet.  One thing that was really hilarious was that there was a HUUUUGE group of paparazzi waiting to take pictures of the foreigners as soon as they were painted.  Apparently there is a big photo contest so they were all snapping away, trying to get a good shot.  No photo permission required, I guess, haha.  Ayzia was a STAR.  I would so not be surprised to see her on some Boryeong Mud Festival flyer next year.

Day 2: Before.
Julia, me, Ayzia, Laura, Min

Mud "paints"

Ayzia is halfway to a masterpiece.

Looking forward to the next mud festival!

Julia and I as I was being painted.

Ayzia and her adoring fans.

Day 2: After
Me, Ayzia, Julia, Min, Sunny, Laura

We enlisted the help of a passerby to try and take a jumping in the air picture.  We failed miserably and repeatedly, but ended up with some absolutely hilarious shots.  In this one, Julia decided that we all needed to run and jump...clearly it was unsuccessful.  

"Now let's take a tribal shot."
Would we call this tribal?  Hahah, we (and by "we" I mean "Julia and Ayzia") are so menacing.  ANTM watch out.

The rest of the day was spent sitting in the sun, drinking beers on the beach, going in the ocean, and grabbing a quick bite to eat before we got back on the bus and made the journey back into Seoul.  Overall it was a HILARIOUS, awesome, bizarre, and entertaining experience.  I had so much fun with the girls and I really couldn't have asked for a better time.

You know what I could have asked for?  Common sense.  For some reason, I thought that mud would have some sort of natural sun-blocking properties.  Not the case.  I ended up with a totally horrific sunburn...probably the worst I've ever had.  More than a week later I'm still getting rid of it and peeling all over the place like a creeper.

This past week was my first week of summer camp.  The location can't be beat (less than a ten minute walk from my apartment), the kids are funny and creative, and the people I work with are great.  So I really can't complain.  I get there around 8:30am, teach from 9:00-10:20, have a twenty minute break with a snack that the school provides, and then teach again from 10:40-12:00.  We send the kids on their merry way, eat take out they order us for lunch, and I'm home by 1:00pm.  It is a dream.

My co-teacher, JiWon, and I teach about animals and the rain forest.  It is pretty chill.

I have been filling up my afternoons studying for the aforementioned GRE.  Uuuuugh.  Let me tell you, if I had any tiny little inkling that I might want to go to law school it has been quashed by this.  I don't think I would survive studying for the bar.  What especially pains me about this whole thing is that I have always been very firm in my beliefs that you cannot study for standardized tests.  But that was back in the day when I still had ANY IDEA HOW TO DO MATH.  I'll tell you this: "skills" such as finding the area of a circle and solving for y when x equals blah blah blah have been purposely removed from my brain to accommodate more useful knowledge.  Such as random trivia. (Did you know that SWIMS, I, and NOON are the only words in the English language that are spelled the same way even when turned upside down and backwards?  Or that a pip is a seed?)  Anyway, my mom was helpful enough to go out and get me a GRE study book and send it over in a package that I received last Monday.  I cracked it open, got right down to a practice test and quickly grew horrified.  More than anything this book has shown me all that I do not know...and all that I do not hope to learn in the next four weeks.  And, I mean, math is one thing, but the vocabulary section is also ABSURD.  I consider myself to have a pretty strong vocabulary, I am a voracious reader and I have a pretty good grasp of the English language.  But man, there are words on this thing I've never, EVER, read or heard.  Grandiloquent?  Nope.  Quiescent?  Definitely not.  Vituperative?  Not even certain how to pronounce it.  Sections of the book are also condescending, which makes me want to punch the writers.

"Antonym Questions
Helpful Hint #8: In Eliminating Words, Test Words for Their Positive or Negative Connotations!

(A) bold
(B) bright
(C) unsteady
(D) unforgiving
(E) unhappy

You cannot define chary.  You would hesitate to use it in a sentence of your own.  And yet, you are sure the word has a negative feel to it.  A person is chary about something.  You have a sense of holding back."

Uhhh...DO I?  I read the word "chary" and I think of delicious little red fruits hanging from a delightful green stem.  I most certainly do NOT have a sense of holding back...but thanks GRE book, for making me worry about the fact that I don't.

I also love the completely ridiculous examples they give for some of the vocabulary words.
"antediluvian: adj.  antiquated, extremely ancient.  Looking at his great-aunt's antique furniture, which must have been cluttering up the attic since before Noah's flood, the young heir exclaimed, "Heavens! How positively antediluvian!"

For the record, I am pretty sure no young heir has ever uttered such a statement.

I guess the thing that drives me the most crazy is the fact that when you're in high school and taking the SAT, or in college thinking about the PRAXIS or whatever, you can try to convince yourself that out there, later, in the "real world" you might need to know how to apply the distributive property to a binomial or find the area of an equilateral triangle whose sides are 10. But at this point, after living in the "real world" I can state with out a shadow of doubt that I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT NEED TO KNOW THIS SHIT.  And it is a little frustrating that I'm being tested on it.  Each day I spend from 2-4 hours studying, working my way through insipid vocabulary lists and impenetrable math reviews (you like how I opened my vocabulary review to the "I" section there?).  Thankfully it is only going to go on for about another month and then I'll be out of my misery, hopefully earning a high enough score that I'll NEVER have to think about the GRE again!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Ok, now that I have had some time to recover from how utterly pissed off I was at life when I lost that last post, I am ready to update you on what is happening in my life!  99% of the time Blogger's auto-update feature is a godsend...I just happened to experience the 1% of the time when it is viciously annoying.

I last left you on Saturday, June 19.  On Sunday, I went up to Itaewon and spent some time with signers in Seoul.  When I joined I discovered that one of the groups was for ASL users in Seoul.  I got really excited, because I seriously love sign language, but I always seemed to be out of town or otherwise engaged when they had their roughly monthly meetings.  The twentieth was the first time that I was free, so I was really excited to go.  These things are put together by a guy named Jimmy who learned sign in college.  Other attendees included Romaric (a Frenchman with no sign experience who ended up having to leave early), a girl from Mexico (with no sign experience), Diann (an older woman who has a fair amount of experience and continues to take classes), Lucas (a guy who has a much younger brother who is deaf that he wants to be able to communicate with better), and his girlfriend (a Korean girl with no ASL experience).  It was a motley crew, but we had a good time hanging out at Nescafe sipping hot drinks and signing about various topics.  It was a nice little refresher even though I knew almost everything we covered.  I will probably help Jimmy organize some meet ups in the future, so I am looking forward to that.  I'd like to make it a regular thing so people know when to expect it and can make plans accordingly.  Diann is moving back to the US to deal with some medical issue, so she was selling ASL books at the last meeting.  I picked up the Joy of Signing and a couple workbooks to go with it with ASL word searches, etc in it.  So random, but very cool. I've never seen anything like them.  The rest of the day I basically just vegged around the house.

Monday I had my regular day of teaching, followed by a meeting at Geowon Elementary, where I will be teaching for one week of summer camp.  Usually you work two weeks of district camp and one week at your school, but since my school decided not to have a camp I got farmed out to Geowon.  It took me over an hour to get there from work, thanks mostly to having to wait a long time for the correct train to come, and I was late to the first meeting, which I HATE.  The school is huge and the six NSETs working there for camp were quickly ushered up to the English room to meet with our co-teachers.  I will be working with Young-a and we immediately hit it off, which was great.  I think we will work really well together.  It just so happens that she is going on her honeymoon to the US this summer...specifically to DC, NYC and Boston!  I have already sent her an e-mail with all sorts of helpful hints (ie- take the Boltbus rather than Greyhound, go to Top of the Rock instead of the Empire State Building, the best Smithsonian museums to visit, etc) so that is cool.  She'll actually be there almost the exact same time I am, except I am staying a little longer than she is.

On Tuesday I taught with my male co-teacher who drove me 바나나s, as per usual.  Good god that man is annoying and unprepared.  After teaching I was talking to So Young and I found out that the meeting for the other school where I am working camp for two weeks happened to be at the exact same time the day before as my meeting at Geowon.  They had just informed us first, so she turned down Cheongdong (the other school).  This caused MUCH confusion and frustration later, but that is a story for another paragraph.

On Wednesday we got a random afternoon off for "professional development" so I got to go home at 2:00pm instead of 4:40pm.  That was awesome!  It was a beautiful day so I thought about doing something outside...but then I ended up taking a 2.5 hour nap in my cold, wonderful apartment.  It was an off week for Dasi Hamkke Center so I got to attend one of the "Fo' Sho" meet ups that occur with the Gangdong-gu Cru.  They rotate apartments and each week a different person hosts an evening of fun for everyone else.  This week it was Madeline's turn, and she planned a rooftop party at her apartment building, which is about a 5-7 minute walk from my house.  I am so jealous of their roof access; it is a big open space with planters and a view overlooking the open market in our neighborhood.  We had a great time just hanging out as the sun set: talking, laughing, and learning a dance a la Shannon.

Black eyed Susans on a pretty day make me homesick!  MARYLAND PRIDE, WHAT WHAT!

View of the market from Madeline and Justin's rooftop.  I am totally going to hang out there even after they leave!

Gildong by night.  I really love our neighborhood...I just wish it wasn't so damn far away from everything!

Around 9:00pm we migrated over to 4*C Garten to take in the USA vs. Algeria game.  The game happened to be at the exact same time as the England game, and as we sat around in our favorite booths drinking three story beers and talking, it became clear that the TV was showing the England game, not the one we wanted to see.  We talked to the waiter (who was about a 3 on the ability to speak English scale of 1-10) and he said they were working on it.  MD Julia called her Korean friend and they said that SBS was showing the England game live and delaying the USA game.  Whaaaat?  Makes no sense.  By the time that the game was already 5-10 minutes in we were slugging down our beers figuring we'd try and find somewhere else that was showing it.  But then the sweet waiter came and moved us to another section of the bar where they had hooked up a computer to the projector screen and were streaming the game live from online.  SO SWEET!  We once again had our own little cheering section as we watched the game with bated breath, able to turn around any any moment and check the score of the England game.  Oh man was that a tense 90 minutes.  Going into the injury time with no points on the board was PAINFUL, especially since we knew England was winning.  Then, after 92 freaking minutes of heartbreak, Landon Donovan scored that BEAUTIFUL goal.  Oh man, we were jumping and screaming and cheering.  Such a proud moment.

See how the world reacts to Donovan's goal in this sweet video.  It gets me a little choked up, I won't lie.

After the game I went home and crashed before an unexciting day at work.  Friday we had a school holiday so I didn't have to go in to work.  That was glorious.  I had a super productive day, including multiple loads of laundry and cleaning a lot in my apartment, so that was good.  Saturday I did some super domestic shopping (laundry detergent, dish soap, etc) and finished some school work I hadn't been able to force myself to complete while sitting at my desk.    I was prepared to be out all night and worthless the next day, haha.

Our plan was to meet at 4*C Garten for the 10:00pm Korea game, however when we arrived at 9:00pm we found out that it was already COMPLETELY FULL.  We walked around for a while in the rain searching for a bar with room for our big group, but we didn't have any luck.  Thankfully we eventually found a restaurant nearby with a TV so we ordered some beers and jeon and watched the game.  Korea put up a damn good fight against Uruguay, but in the end they just couldn't keep up.  We lost 0:1.  It was sad, but at the same time Korea fought hard and did better than many people expected, so that was a victory in itself.  After that game the plan had been to head up to Itaewon and fight for seats in a bar there to watch the game.  Instead we decided to go back to 4*C Garten, which by now had mostly cleared out, and rally with some Korean Red Bull (Lotte's Hot 6ix, which is amazing and only 1000won a can...roughly 80cents).  We played some games (Farkle and A to Z) before 3:30am rolled around and it was time to watch the US take on Ghana.  Damn that was a painful game.  I can honestly say that I've never seen a FASTER soccer team that Ghana...they just ran circles around us.  They were SO SPEEDY.  We fought damn hard, especially in the second half, but couldn't recover from the second goal that Ghana took during overtime.  Those guys played 120 minutes of BRUTAL soccer, and Ghana definitely earned it.  Once again it was sad to take a loss, but you can't beat the pride of a game well played.  USA! USA! USA!  DAEHANMINGOOK!  Couldn't be prouder of both of my teams.

Let's do this thing.

I went to bed around 6:30am on Sunday and woke up around 1:00pm in order to go meet Melissa, Jamie and Shannon for brunch at Bunch.  It is this new little restaurant and bar that just opened less than a block from my house...and it is fantastic.  The woman who owns it lived in Boston for 17 years and is an American citizen.  She and her husband own a diner in Massachusetts and her husband and son are still in the US where her son is a junior in high school.  I am not entirely sure what brought her back to Korea, but it is only temporary.  When I went last time with Carl and Monica I'd gotten lunch, but this time I made the correct choice and got breakfast.  Oh my delicious.  Scrambled eggs, pancakes, homemade sausage, homefries, bacon, and the most delicious macaroni salad I've eaten in ages.  It was just the perfect meal after staying up all night.  The rest of Sunday I watched some bit torrented TV and movies and called it a night.

Monday I went to school tired, still not recovered from the weekend, and while teaching went fine in the morning, the afternoon was one of the most stressful in memory.  As I mentioned before, there was a meeting for my Cheongdong camp at the exact same time as my Geowon camp.  I went to the Geowon meeting (not even knowing that there WAS a Cheongdong meeting).  That was on Monday.  On Wednesday I received an e-mail with the format I was supposed to use to make the lesson plan/textbook pages for camp.  I automatically assumed it was the Geowon camp, because that was the meeting I had gone to.  I had discussed all my plans with my co-teacher there so I knew what was going on and exactly what I was doing, so it was no problem to have the lesson plans done by the stated deadline: Monday, June 28.  On Thursday I got an e-mail from my co-teacher at Cheongdong, saying that I had to pull together a 40 minute lesson on "science" and that the supervisors from Cheongdong would be sending out a format to use for the textbook.  Sunday night rolled around and I still hadn't gotten an e-mail from her, so I sent her one asking if she had heard any more about the formatting.  On Monday I received the following response: Hello! I didn't know that You didn't receive the file from CheonDong elementary School teachers!!! Cuz I didn't get it till last weekend. They  told us that they would forward it to every KT & NT. You should have asked them for the file in advance.^^ But I don't think which form you use matters. If you fininsh making "the Science" section, please forward it to me ASAP. Cuz it's due on Today! See you on Thursday.^^ Bye- bye!"  

GAAAAAAH. For real?  Least helpful response ever.  How the hell was I supposed to ask for something I didn't know existed in advance?  And now I had to pull together a whole lesson that day.  I later realized that the earlier e-mail which I had assumed had come from Geowon was actually from Cheongdong (not that they ever mentioned that in the actual e-mail.  Then, of course, all the files they sent were in Hangul Word Processor, which my computer doesn't have.  And if you tried to convert them to Word files, all of the formatting got messed up.  Speaking of formating, I love how my co-teacher said that she didn't think the form I used mattered.  Uh HELLO, the first page of the file was literally a FULL page of directions in minute detail about the formatting (all in Korean, of course).  Title: Size 16 Tahoma.  Subtitle: Size 14 Times New Roman.  Text: Size 11 Batang.  On and on and on and on.  So now I have to wade through these Nazi strict regulations about fonts, ALL IN KOREAN, as well as fighting through using a brand new program, that is ALL IN KOREAN, on a co-worker's computer.  Now I want to make something clear here.  I am not someone who feels entitled to have English everywhere. I get that we are living in Korea, Korean is going to be the main language.  The other day someone was ranting about people in some public place not being able to speak perfect English to them, and I was like you know that you are living in Korea?  But when it is for things like this, where the common language of EVERYONE WORKING is English, is it crazy to expect that some of the directions be in English?  I don't think so.  AAAAAAAANYWAYS, I pulled a lesson on rain forests out of my ass and sent everything off within the deadline.  But I was stressed, believe you me.  I just wanted to get through it and never deal with it again.  Then, one of my co-teachers told me to "cheer up."  Let me tell you, if there was ever a phrase made to have the opposite effect of what it is telling you to do, that would be it.  I hear that stupid statement and it makes my blood boil. First of all, you don't cheer up from being angry, you cheer up from being sad.  Second, when has someone telling you to cheer up EVER cheered up anyone?  In history? Ok, rant over.

Tuesday I was hanging out after my classes were over and Yeon Ah says "So have you heard about the English Festival?" Would that be the English Festival you are apparently discussing around me in a language I do not speak?  No, I have not, haha.  Moral of the story, the school has an English "Festival" every year.  Don't be fooled by a carefree word like festival, it is actually a competition.  Each class must pick a representative student or group to come and perform something in English.  This may be a play, musical, song, or speech.  I sat on a panel with Yoo Mi (the fifth grade sub I've been teaching with since May 1 whose name I literally just learned yesterday because I forgot it forever ago and was too embarrassed to ask again) and Jin Tae (my ass of a male co-teacher), as well as the woman who is in charge of all the English programs at our school (who doesn't teach English...?).  Good GOD it was adorable.  All the stress from the day before melted away as I watched the cute, interesting, informative and impressive performances of individuals and groups from first through sixth grade.  Personal favorites included, but are not limited to: the group of about 30 first graders who sang DoReMi and Edelweiss from The Sound of Music (all while dancing in their matching outfits); the group of seven first graders who performed 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (complete with costumes and some of the most precious dance moves ever); a third grade girl who yodeled and sang the country song Cowboy Sweetheart; the two fifth grade girls who sang Defying Gravity from Wicked; the fifth grade girl who did an awesome magic show; the fifth grade boys who did speeches on pollution and (way more random) the American civil war through the eyes of Abraham Lincoln; and the sixth grade girl who sung a surprisingly good rendition of Good Morning Baltimore from Hairspray.  Overall there were 33 groups, and we had to pick the top 15, who would then get a chance to perform at another English Festival.  It was 100% worth leaving work 40 minutes later than usual.

5 Little Monkeys from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

The Sound of Music from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

Defying Gravity from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

Wednesday morning I slogged to work through torrential downpours and arrived at work before everyone else, as per usual.  I was sitting at my desk, gearing up for the day, when Jung walked in, shaking her umbrella off and making a huge puddle on the floor.  "Have you gone to Cheonggye Mountain today?" she says.  "Um...what?" I respond, with an inquisitive look on my face.  "Oh, sorry, WILL you have gone to Cheonggye Mountain today for hike?"  "Um...what?" I respond, once again.  Turns out that there was a mandatory hike planned on Wednesday for all the teachers, "for friendship"...which no one told me about.  Sometimes I honestly think they forget that I don't understand what the hell they are saying around me.  Moral of the story, there was no way I was going on a hike, in the rain and the mud, in the long jeans and short sleeved sweater I was wearing.  Had someone mentioned it ahead of time I would have worn appropriate clothing and MAYBE been more willing to go.  As it was I opted out and spent the whole afternoon in my office, alone.

Wednesday night was a Dasi Hamkke night and we were finally all reunited.  Julia and Rachel had been out for the previous meeting, and I was out the meeting before that, so it seemed like I hadn't seen anyone in forever.  It is sad to know that it was the last full meeting we're going to have, since Hannah is moving home to the US to attend law school in Chicago.  We were there a little early so I got to hear Julia's horror story about her vacation to the Philippines where she was befriended by a family who later drugged her, stole her money, and left her stranded in a village hours outside Manila.  Not fun.  Ladies, be extra careful when you're travelling alone...don't fully trust anyone!  At least she got back to Korea safely (and with all her organs!).  The meeting was good, as was to be expected.  It is incredibly exciting to see everything finally coming together like a REAL book.  Ahh!  It is going to be published sometime between August and October, so I am very excited about that.

Thursday I taught and then left soon after for a meeting at Cheongdong Elementary, the place where I will be working for two weeks this summer.  It turns out that it is seriously less than a 10 minute walk from my apartment.  SO NICE.  Let me remind you that for winter camp it was an hour commute, including a 15 minute walk.  Through 6+ inches of snow.  Not fun.  I met all my co-workers and I think it is going to go well.  I am teaching an 80 minute animals lesson and a 40 minute rain forest lesson on repeat, so its not like there is a whole lot of preparing to do.  We get fed lunch every day and I'll be home by 1:00pm, so I certainly can't complain.

Friday I just relaxed after school in preparation for a weekend of fun!  Saturday I got up around 10:00am and headed over to Yeouinaru to meet Melissa, Diana and Sarah for an Independence Day/Canada Day Cruise on the Han.  I had never been on a Han River cruise, so I was really excited.  Let's just say I look forward to going again when the weather isn't TERRIBLE.  


Let's pause a for a moment and discuss weather in Korea.  Koreans are fond of reminding foreigners that Korea has "four distinct seasons".  The part that they leave out is what those seasons are actually comprised of.  Surprise!  It goes a little something like this...

  • Two months of heart-breakingly beautiful autumn.  The trees are stunning, the weather is beautiful- cool, sunny, and clear.
  • Five months of arctic tundra.  Painful wind, numbing below freezing temperatures, untreated sidewalks, and snow (which is total bullshit when snow days are taken off the table).  Mostly gray skies, with brief clear days.   
  • One and a half months of spring.  This is split evenly between lovely days that are sunny and warm with flowers audibly blooming around you, and days where the toxic dust floating in from China is so thick you are advised not to breathe...and CERTAINLY not outside.
  • Three and a half months of rain forest.  Having literally been to the Amazon, I can say with certainty that the humidity here is ABSURD.  Sure, there are sunny days sprinkled through out.  However much, MUCH more often, it is either pouring so hard you consider building an arc or hazy to the point of fog as the moisture stubbornly just hangs in the air.  It is HOT and the humidity just makes you want to curl up in a refrigerator rather than braving classes full of cranky, sweaty kids who ask you why you can't turn the air conditioner to a cooler temperature than the school mandated 27*C (80.6*F).  
Please enjoy Simon and Martina's take on the rainy season:


We have, obviously, entered the rain forest season.  The afternoon of the cruise dawned gray and hazy, with the humidity so thick that you'd swear if you grabbed the air you'd end up with a hand full of water.  Thankfully the boat was mostly enclosed with air conditioning and it was a really fun time.  We relaxed, ate the food (hamburgers, potato salad and coleslaw), drank the beers (we each ended up with five beer tickets), and enjoyed the musical entertainment that was part of our ticket price.  The website said that the cruise was from 12:30-4:30pm...but we didn't even leave the dock until after 1:30pm.  Thankfully the music and kegs were started before we even left, so we weren't complaining.  There was also a costume contest with prizes, which was pretty funny to watch.  Sarah and I bought raffle tickets and we both ended up winning- she got a huge, BEAUTIFUL vase, and I got a free loaf of artisan bread from a bakery in Itaewon and a child's teeth cleaning and flouride sealant treatment ($160 value).  Obviously Sarah won that round, haha.  I ended up giving my teeth cleaning thing to So Young, so hopefully she can use it for one of her kids.  

Crappy Korean humidity.

Me, Diana (who we let hang out with us even though she was Canadian), Sarah and Melissa on the cruise.

This awesome Canadian girl won the Canadian costume prize.  She was dressed as a maple tree, complete with a bucket hanging on the front that said "TAP THIS."  Hilarious.

Sparklers are undeniably fun.

After the cruise I raced back over to my area to meet the Cru at Olympic Park for the R16 World B-Boy Masters Championship.  It was SO GOOD.  Oh man.  We paid 15,000won (about $12) for our tickets for both nights and it was amongst the best 15,000won I've spent recently.  The first night was individual performances by poppers, lockers, and b-boys.  B-boys are definitely my favorites.  I love me some windmills.  A big random white guy from Holland won the b-boy portion, while a Korean guy won popping and a Japanese guy (I think...) won locking.  It was just really quality, and our seats were quite good.

B-boys showing everyone how to work it.

The guy who is right-side up is the ultimate winner, from Holland.  The upside-down guy is (I think) from Brazil.

After the show, Jamie, Shannon, Frank and I went and grabbed some dinner at Gimbab Sarang...mmm dolsot bibimbap is one of my favorite things here.  It really hit the spot.  After we ate I took Jamie and Shannon up on their offer to accompany me to the big HomePlus since I freaking hate that place.  It was 11:30pm and still there were a million people and it was a total sensory overload!  Newsflash: they do not carry sour cream (though, apparently E-mart does if you really need it).  The good news is that plain yogurt tasted basically the same in my dip.  I said my goodnights to Jamie and Shannon and walked back to my apartment to mix up some dips and crash.

Sunday morning I woke up, bought some final stuff for the party, donned my red, white and blue, and headed over to Jamie and Shannon's VERY nice apartment to meet up with everyone for our Fourth of July extravaganza.  Justin was already there so the four of us hung out for a while and gorged ourselves as people began to show up over the next few hours.  We had SO MUCH delicious food!  Oh my lord.  Hot dogs, hamburgers/cheeseburgers, turkey burgers, potato salad, macaroni salad, salad salad, spinach and artichoke dip, bacon ranch dip, a strawberry cream cheese ball, watermelon, TWO cakes, etc, etc, etc.  It was fantastic.  We also took some time to listen to patrioticish songs, including watching the Animaniacs sing about state capitals. Then we finished it off by lighting sparklers in an ice cream cake, singing happy birthday to America, and playing with dry ice.  Couldn't have asked for more.

Grillmaster Jamie.

Chowing down.

Watching Animaniacs, obviously.  Isn't that what EVERYONE does on the fourth?

Happy Birthday, America!

Playing with the dry ice and cooler from Baskin Robbins.  GHOULISH!

Champagne toast.  TO AMERICA!

To quote Shannon in reference to the party: "Just like America, it was and is great because of all the people that make it great."  That basically sums up Korea for me!

Top L to R: Jamie, Derek, Frank, Melissa, Kelly, Kristin, Justin, Me
Bottom L to R: Shannon, MD Julia, Erich, Chrissy, Dave

Around 5:15pm we all headed out en masse and caught the bus back over to Olympic Park for the second night of R16.  This time Julia and her friend Mary Ann also came.  The second night was the crew battles.  First, each crew (representing 8 countries) performed a showcase.  Then based on their scores in the showcase, they were paired up for a crew battle with improv breaking.  Our seats were less optimal the second night as there was a wall of muscular break dancers blocking our view, but we got up and stood over to the side quite often, so it was fine.  Early in the show I was looking down at all the people photographing and videotaping and I saw two people who looked familiar.  IT WAS SIMON AND MARTINA FROM EATYOURKIMCHI.COM!  I squealed like a 12 year old seeing a Kpop group.  It was VERY exciting.  After the show we stalked them down and I got a picture with them.  I tried not to be creepy.  Then we went outside and set off over 100 sparklers.  Shannon was giving them out to passersby as we played with them and wrote things for my camera to capture.  It was great and I was sad to bus home and go to sleep.

This crew was from Spain and they had an 80s theme.  It was hilarious...they even danced to the Ninja Turtle's "go ninja, go ninja, go ninja, GO."

World championship banner.

Final dance-off between Korea (facing us) and France (backs to us).  Korea won and deserved good.

 Simon and Martina!


Enjoy Simon and Martina's video footage from R16!

Monday and Tuesday were uneventful (aside from the normal homicidal rage that fills me every Tuesday when I have to work with Jin Tae.  AIGOO!) except for the fact that I've been teaching about the Fourth of July and playing America Jeopardy all week.  The kids like it, but by now I've played it (literally) over seventeen times and I think I could tell you what "giant green woman represents America" in my sleep.  (Surprise: it is NOT Fiona from Shrek, like many of my kids guessed, lol.)  Wednesday brought me yet another English event no one told me about.  It was the finals of the English Festival and oh man did they kick it up a notch.  All the kids were in crazy costumes, there were a ton of parents in attendance, and even the principal and vice principal got in on the action.  Once again I had a prime seat right up front to take pictures and photograph the kids...and I got some quality shots!

Shincheon English Festival!

I do not have the SLIGHTEST CLUE why the MCs were dressed like they were from Colonial Williamsburg.  I have a sinking feeling that someone went to the costume shop and requested "English costumes."  But the girl looks lovely and the boys make me laugh, so its all good I guess.  Haha.

One of the Five Little Monkeys getting a shot in the butt.

Matthew talking about the Civil War from Lincoln's perspective.  This was before he put on a top hat and fake beard.

Cowboy Sweetheart.  She was adorable.

Cowboy Sweetheart from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

This kid did an adorable speech about Christmas being his favorite holiday.  It included giving the judges and Principal/Vice Principal mini candy that was even better, haha.

These girls did an "investigative report" on global warming.  I love, love, LOVE that poster she is holding.  In their speech they included that every time we turn on the air conditioning we kill polar bears.  Maybe that is why its so damn hot in school...

She did a great job singing Good Morning Baltimore from Hairspray even though about 30 seconds before her turn there was some technical difficulties and at the last minute she had to do it acapella.

Good Morning Baltimore from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

They did a super random "musical" called the lion and the rabbit, which I would call a fable...except for the fact that I couldn't really discern a moral.  But they were ADORABLE to watch.  The lion can't say his Rs, so every time he came out he'd stomp around going "LORE! LORE! LORE!"  I died trying not to laugh.

Lion and the Rabbit from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

Little Red Riding hood put on by three fifth graders.  Little Red Riding Hood was actually played by Lucy, So Young's daughter.

This fifth grader did four magic tricks that were really awesome!  She also gave us a brief history of magic.  She is kind of a quiet girl so it was good to see her laughing and opening up a little.

He did a great job talking about pollution, including a story about his mom spraying his house to kill mosquitoes and ending up killing his new goldfish.

She sang a king of 80s song called 2 Different Tears.  There was a whole choreographed dance and everything.  She's one of my sweetest sixth grade girls.

These two boys were dressed up as two of Ariel's sisters for the second grade production of Under the Sea.  The one on the right's "bra" kept coming undone, it was hilarious.  I can only hope that one day these will be used to embarrass these boys in front of their girlfriends.

Elphaba and Glinda.  I love these girls.

Popular from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

Elphaba wasn't wearing her glasses (probably because of her green face paint) which is why she is squinting so much!

Just when you thought the Sound of Music kids couldn't get any cuter...they show up in these ridiculous outfits.  The boys looked like tiny matadors.

Also, I signed my contract for another year watch out Seoul!  I can't believe I'll be home in a month and then back in the big SK.  I officially bought my plane tickets, so I am going to be on the east coast from August 7 to August 25.  I am beyond excited to see you all!