Life has been hurtling along in an exceptionally busy fashion. Last week was VERY busy; I had something to do basically every night of the week. Monday and Wednesday night I had Korean class. I really enjoy it and I'm definitely learning a ton of new vocabulary and grammar. Korean is not the easiest language ever, but it is not terrible. At least not right now. Our teacher at YBM speaks no English to us and teaches pretty much just in Korean. She is very expressive and uses a lot of hand motions and facial expressions, so I don't feel too confused. I have the utmost respect for Lee-Rae, Erika and Josephine, though...I don't think I could have done this my first year. Each level (101, 102, etc) runs for one month, with ten two-hour classes per month. I just signed up for the second month, so Korean 102, here I come!
Our teacher, Yoon Young Ju (Korea) in the polka dots. Daniella (US), Wen Dong (China), Erika (Canada), Lee-Rae (Australia), and Ando (Japan) are listening attentively. Not pictured: Karla (Canada), Me (US), Shannon (US), Josephine (US), Megumi (Japan), and Kenneth (Scotland).
Tuesday we had a school outing. The week before at dinner Yeon Ah and Ga Young had mentioned that the school was going hiking and they didn't want to go but had to. They asked if I wanted to hike and I said not especially. Fast forward to Monday, when they tell me I need to come prepared the next day to hike. Ugh. The last thing I want to do is be forced to climb a billion stairs (Korean hiking) and panting after all the teachers in my school. I am not super proud, but the next day I may or may not have faked an injury to my ankle in hopes that they wouldn't make me hike. Lo and behold it wasn't even necessary because Yeon Ah and Ga Young had already decided they were going to straight to the restaurant where everyone was meeting afterwards. This mountain is up near the top of a mountain is a really pretty, rustic place. We took a VERY windy ride from school that lasted about a half an hour. Once we got to the restaurant we spent a few hours reading/studying, drinking some lovely tea, soaking up the joys of ondol heating, and basically just vegetating until everyone else arrived. Then it was time to laugh and eat and gossip and drink drink drink. The principal has to go around to each person and have a shot of soju with them. Thankfully she was only taking 1/4 shots, because she is a tiny lady and I don't think she would have made it all the way around the table.
Posing with my special subject co-workers (we share an office).
Mr. Yu, Na Mi, Ga Young, Yeon Ah, Me, Jung
After dinner, Ga Young's parents came and picked us up after offering to take me home. Traffic was abysmal and it took me over an hour to get home. I was so very carsick by the time I got back to my apartment...a hugely filling dinner of duck + multiple bowls of magkeolli + a full shot of soju + stop and go traffic with me in the back seat = recipe for disaster. Her parents were lovely though, and they invited me over for dinner. Turns out that three of my favorite Korean foods (japchae, chamchi gimbab and kimchi jiggae) are three of the foods she prepares the best (or so I am told). That will be nice. Getting out of the car I even got to use a little of my new Korean and say "pang gap sum ni da!" or "nice to meet you!"
Thursday night I had a DHC meeting. It is so strange that it is now just down to Changhye, Rachel, Kate and I. We have been working on this book since January and it is finally all coming together. We only have like two more chapters and a million rounds of proofreading and then it is going to press! We also decided on a name, which is a huge step. Look forward to reading/hearing about Exposing the Price Tag: An In-Depth Look at the Fight to Eradicate the Sex Trade in South Korea!!
Friday after school I still had to get together a few things for my ajumma Halloween costume, and Kate had mentioned the night before that it was market day in Moran (her neighborhood) and she was sure I could find everything I needed there. Right after school I went down to souuuuthern Seoul and met her at the metro station. Moran Market happens about twice a week in a huge parking lot. Hundreds of vendors come from all over to sell just about everything you could imagine. Including some things I didn't want to imagine. Moran has a huge meat market where they have everything from goats to chickens to pigs. And dogs. They have them in cages in the meat market and it was seriously damaging for me. Even though we obviously didn't go down that aisle I could still see and hear them and it was really upsetting. I don't think I'll ever be going back there. The upside was that we did find three major pieces of my costume: garish lipstick, a huge sparkly visor, and shiny zebra print arm protectors. I also bought two tiny pumpkins, so that was exciting!
After returning home Friday night I cleaned a lot, and did the same thing most of Saturday morning. Diana came over around 3:00pm so we could get ready for our evening of Halloween debauchery. After grabbing some food we came back to my place where she curled my hair into a perfect ajumma-fro and I painted giraffe spots all over her hands and face. Thanks, Bare Escentuals! Then we got dressed and headed off to meet Julia at Gangdong.
Saturday was Jin's birthday, so our plan was to head over to Apgujeong by taxi for dinner at StaSera, an Italian restaurant that was recently featured on a major Korean drama called Pasta. Our original plan was to take a taxi...but after hearing about some nasty traffic that others heading in the same direction got caught in, we changed our minds and took a round-about way on the subway instead. Want to get stared at? Walk up and down a Korean subway car in full costume. Aigh. We met Jin at Cheonho, and made our way to Apgujeong where we took a taxi to the restaurant. There were a CRAPTON of people that came out, over 20, so that was really nice. The food was decent but the service was HORRIBLE. So so very slow and inattentive. You don't tip in Korea so they have little motivation to be stellar.
Animal kingdom! Diana the giraffe and Julia the panda (I also did Julia's eyes...but with the added level of difficulty of doing them on a moving subway).
Ajumma, giraffe, panda and K-drama character off to dinner!
One of three tables dinner guests sat at.
Linda, Serena, Desmond, eric, Julia, Me, Diana, Derek, Erich, Jin, Siobhan, ?, Naomi.
After dinner we walked about 15 minutes over to Monkey Beach. This bar was chosen partially because it was having a Halloween party, but more because if you go there on your actual birthday, they give you a FREE full sized bottle of whiskey. Whaat? They also have bucket drinks, which happened to be made in little jack o'lantern buckets this time. It was totally rockin'. I had a delicious Malibu Orange and didn't regret it for a second. There were lots of people to watch and judge, the drinks were good, and the company was fantastic, so I can't complain.
Me, Diana, Naomi, Linda and Jin enjoying our buckets!
Julia, Sal and Erich (an unfit mother, hahaha) taking a sip!
Reenacting the crazy ajumma on line 2 situation.
Sarah had one of my favorite costumes of the night: jellyfish.
Hahahah, random stranger also dressed as an ajumma CLEARLY calls for a picture.
Sweaty panda! Love this photo.
After about an hour and a half at Monkey Beach, Sarah, Diana and I hopped in a cab and headed up to Itaewon. We were hoping to meet up with Jamie, Shannon, Chrissy and Dave, and halfway succeeded when we met Chrissy and Dave in Rocky Mountain Tavern. They had all been at a Halloween party together, but Jamie and Shannon headed home after a drunken political argument soured the vibe. Oh well. We hung out for a bit at RMT, and then walked towards the Wolfhound. It was, as predicted, a total shitshow in Itaewon. Every single imaginable costume was out and running around. There were a billion people. I decided that what I really wanted was a couple kebabs and my bed, so I bid my farewells to the cowboy, army girl, giraffe and jellyfish and caught a taxi home around 1:00am. (Getting a taxi was blissfully easy...I know some people who waited almost 40 minutes for taxis! I just got really lucky.)
I don't know why, but this is one of my favorite pictures of the entire night. A cowboy's gotta eat...right?
Sunday I got up late, tidied up the apartment, and had Shannon, Julia, Erich and Jin over to watch scary movies. We watched The Descent (decent, some good jumpy scares) and The Orphan (in my top 5 horror movies produced in the last couple of years...so good). Then they headed out and I went to bed.
I woke up Monday morning and went to the gym to meet Shannon. I wasn't feeling super, but I figured it was general up-at-5:30-don't-want-to-work-out blahness. However, by the time I was walking home I was extremely nauseated and within fifteen minutes of getting home I had thrown up twice. It has pretty much been downhill from there. Monday I developed a fairly high fever and chills, so I went to the doctor and was told I have the flu. I got Tamiflu and came home and went back to bed. I got up and took a shower and I was going to try and force myself to go to Korean class (I really hate missing and falling behind) but then Lee-Rae came over to tell me she wasn't going and neither was Erika because they were sick as well. She took one look at me and was like "Are you SURE you want to go? You look terrible." And thus, I did not go, haha. Today was my third day home with nausea, terrible chills, a slight fever and sheer exhaustion. Yesterday I went out to get food and water and came back and took a two hour nap. I am going to try my best to be at school tomorrow, but ugh, I just feel terrible. I got a super sweet e-mail from Ji Hyun, one of my fourth grade co-teachers, though.
"I hope you get well soon. Don't worry about tomorrow class and really thank you for the beautiful ideas and files. (I will be glad if I can see you tom though.) Don't forget that the most important thing is your health. What made me blue most was being sick while I was away from my family. Remember you are not alone. You have me here. If there's anything I can help you, please tell me. -Jihyun."
She's right, being sick away from home suuuucks. I am thankful that I did feel slightly better today- I was even able to do my dishes without needing a nap!- and I hope that I will just continue in this vein.