One overcast Sunday, Carin, Josephine and I headed over to the 63 Building in Yeouido to check out the many things they have to offer. Even though Yeouido is on the same subway line I am, it still takes FOREVER to get out there...but I'm always glad I went. It has lots of park land overlooking the Han River and is just a nice place to spend a warm afternoon. Unfortunately the weather did not exactly cooperate on our trip...it remained smoggy and just a touch too cold the entire time we were there. Oh well.
We started in the food court, with a trip to Lotteria, the chain of fast food restaurants owned by the Lotte Corporation. I usually get a boring normal burger, but I felt a little adventurous, so I tried one of their combination burgers, where a shrimp burger and a bulgogi (beef) burger share one long bun. It is like two completely different sandwiches fused together. So random. The bulgogi burger was decent (as per usual) and the shrimp burger was SURPRISINGLY DELICIOUS. It had actual whole shrimp in it! Very tasty. I was quite pleased.
This kind of makes me want one right now...
After we ate, the three of us headed over to the small wax museum housed in the bottom of the building. Some highlights were various world leaders (including a hilariously orange Gandhi who looked like he had encountered some problematic self tanning lotion), famous artists, the Last Supper (complete with an opening where you could pop in), and a haunted house (that I was too chicken shit to go through, so I just waited for Carin and Josephine, haha). It was certainly not as awesome as Madame Tussaud's, but it was most definitely better quality waxworks than Blacks in Wax.
Historical wax figures...look they even have me!
Gandhi, lay off the spray tan. And the "Robot" underwear, hahaha.
Dali, looking crazy.
Twilight has taught me that even though I am a werewolf...
And Carin is a vampire, we can still be friends.
After the wax museum we headed over to the aquarium. It was called "Sea World" (copyright infringement much?) but it was more like Sea Neighborhood...small and cozy. As we walked into the entrance, we got caught up in a big backup of people. I was wondering what everyone was going gaga over, and then I realized there was a tiny petting zoo of decidedly non-aquatic animals, including small bunnies, birds, and a snake. I got to cuddle a tiny black and white bunny for a while and seriously considered sticking it in my hoodie pocket and walking away. It was precious. Carin held the snake, and Josephine split her time between bunnies and birds. When we got into the actual aquarium it was pretty standard fare: generic fish, some amphibians, turtles, penguins, etc. Thankfully there were no depressing seahorses! I thought it was kind of funny that one tank had Doctor fish and you could stick your fingers in and have the fish nibble on them. When we first arrived we realized we were catching the very tail-end (fish pun? sure!) of a performance. There was a woman dressed in a sparkle covered swimsuit in one of the tanks doing a choreographed underwater dance routine to Abba's "Dancing Queen." Not kidding. The fish appeared unimpressed. A little later we grabbed a spot on the floor and watched the sea lion show, which was pretty cute. A diver went into the tank and had the sea lions perform various tricks, such as dunking a basketball, racing a guy on a little tricycle, swimming in special formations, etc. Sea lions are adorable, and they looked PSYCHED to be doing it, so that was a nice little show.
I really don't get birds.
When we'd exhausted the aquarium we decided it was time to go up to the Sky Art observatory, where you could (theoretically) look out at the sweeping vistas of Seoul, while also appreciating an art display. The art at the time was all from Chinese artists, and some was really fun, while there were also a lot of creepy paintings. As previously mentioned, the view was kind of a bust because of the gross haze/smog that wouldn't let up. Oh well. I've been up Namsan Tower quite a few times now and gotten some stellar photos, so I guess I can't complain. On the way out we grabbed some gelato and sat by the Han for a bit talking and enjoying some prime people (and dogs dressed as people) watching before heading back to the Gu.
View of the Han.
That is a little coral of swan boats down there, which is pretty cute.
Is there something especially hilarious about geese that I don't know?
Feeny posing with the 63 Building.
A few nights later I met up with Julia and Josephine at Fry Pan, a delicious fried chicken place in Cheonho. You get the very very tasty fried chicken, served upon a bed of homemade chips. So good. After enjoying some food and good conversation, we started to walk home. Along the way we stopped at Picapo Chocolate Cafe, a new chocolatier in Gangdong. I should have learned by now that I don't really like rich, real, "good" chocolate. It all tastes like coffee to me, which I hate. Give me a Lindt truffle any day, haha. If you like dark chocolates, though, you'd probably like this place. My favorite part was that there was only one other couple in the entire place and they were on THE MOST AWKWARD DATE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. The girl just sat there looking like someone had just killed her kitten and staring at the floor, and the boy just kept staring at her. It was so viciously awkward that I couldn't look away. We were there for at least a half an hour and they spoke MAYBE three words to each other. It was a total train wreck. I had to take a photo of it.
Small little chocolate cafe.
Lots of chocolate tastiness.
During the second week of April I finally went over to have dinner at my old co-teacher Ga Young's house. I met her parents last fall when they picked us up from a teachers' dinner and dropped me off at my apartment. I knew they were well off because their car was AWESOME. Shiny outside, leather interior inside, and the REAR seats reclined. Totally pimped out. Anyway, her mom had issued an open-ended offer to come over for dinner sometime, and promised to make some of my favorite foods. Just about six months later the stars finally aligned and I was able to join them. Ga Young's family just moved to a new apartment near Olympic Park, over by the former athlete's village from the '88 Summer Olympics. Yeon Ah, Ga Young and I took a taxi over to her building and it is SO NICE. Holy crap. My entire apartment could fit into their living room. Twice. Then they have four bedrooms, a full kitchen with an oven, and a dining room. In their living room they have the largest HD TV I've ever seen (and it is 3D which is just INSANE) and a Lay-z-boy leather recliner couch that I want to steal. Her mom had spent all day cooking kimchi jjigae, chamchi/veggie gimbap and japchae, my three favorite Korean foods. It was so very sweet. I was overwhelmed. I sat down and stuffed my face, along with Yeon Ah, Ga Young, and her parents. It was lovely. Her parents don't really speak any English, so it was kind of quiet, until later Ga Young's brother (English name: Dayton, chosen because Rachel on friends listed it as a possible baby name for her unborn child) came home. He just finished high school and his English is fantastic. Really really good. He's planning to go to college in the States next year, so he had a lot of questions about various schools, what it is like in college, how you make friends, etc. It was great to talk to him because I felt really useful and able to share my experiences. I gave him my e-mail before I left, so hopefully he'll contact me if he has any more questions. He was adorably nervous.
Ga Young's lovely family. Her dad, Ga Young, me, Dayton, and her mom.
April 9th was Carin's birthday, and since she's one of my favorite people in Seoul there was no question about celebrating. The evening started at Jumanji Board Game Cafe in Apgujeong. It was the first time any of us had been there, and it turned out pretty well. I think I like Cafe Oz in Gangnam better because they have a larger selection of games, including more word games like Taboo. We (Carin, Melissa, Mike, Diana, Chrissy, Josephine, Diana, and I) played some sort of monkey game first, and then moved on to Pictionary and a modified Catchphrase-type game using the Pictionary cards. We also ate a FANTASTIC home-baked cake that Melissa made. Brimming with fresh strawberries and totally delicious. After we left the cafe we headed over to Monkey Beach. I really do enjoy that bar/club. Since it was Carin's actual birthday we got a free bottle of liquor (who knew you could get tequila?!) as well as various buckets of drinks. As per usual there was HILARIOUS people watching, including pole-dancing army boys, a bar worker dressed as Chucky who was hosting a rock-paper-scissors competition (if you won, you got a free shot of whisky...if you lost, you got bopped on the head with a toy hammer) and just general funny Korean boys dancing with no rhythm. Chrissy and I concocted a plan to get twenty-three boys to kiss Carin on the cheek in honor of her twenty-third year of life. Obviously hilarity ensued. The night ended with "NOT DRUNK!" Carin hopping in a separate taxi and speeding off, and the rest of us piling into a cab and heading back to Gildong. It was an excellent night and I was just the right amount of inebriated.
Fantastic cake made by Melissa...looking a little worse for the wear it endured on the subway ride over, but still tasting DELICIOUS.
Sharing a bucket with her friend Sonia, who also studied abroad at Yonsei.
Chrissy and I mocking drunk Korean girls.
Chucky and the birthday girl.
An excellent night.
One of the many kisses Carin received, LOL.
The next morning/early afternoon I met Diana, Dave and Chrissy at Suji's which has perhaps the best omelet I've ever eaten EVER, and definitely the best in Korea. It is like the size of a baby. I was soooo full after brunch! After we ate the four of us headed off to the War Memorial and Museum. Off we went, following Dave, who LOOKED knowledgeable. About 20 minutes later it became clear that he was a liar and was leading us astray, haha. Eventually we made it to the memorial and spent a couple of hours walking through it. The museum covers all armed conflict that Korea has been a part of since...well...since before it was Korea. Fun fact: it goes in chronological order from the basement to the third floor. What did we do accidentally? Start at the third floor. We were drawn to the displays about the Korean War, so we disregarded the natural timeline of the place. Oh well. They have some interesting exhibits, many of which have English information. Highlights include lots of cool military uniforms from many time periods and geographical locations, a "war experience room" that I assure you was nothing like war, and a VERY cool area that was made to teach emergency preparedness to kids. They set a trash can fire and had the kids use a fire extinguisher. That is so smart! It also covered biological, chemical and nuclear disasters. I found it very interesting and pretty ingenious. Outside the museum there are TONS of tanks, planes, helicopters, transport vehicles, etc that are permanently parked for kids to climb on and explore. It was like a version of the Air and Space Museum where you could touch everything! Very cool. They also have a big boat parked there. I would definitely suggest a visit to anyone with kids. The little boy I nannied for a few summers ago would have exploded with excitement. Diana, Chrissy and Dave headed out after a couple of hours, but I spent another hour or so walking through the museum alone. I enjoyed it a lot, and it makes me miss the Smithsonians. Looking forward to being back in the DC area!
Faces of children cast in metal...not sure what the exact story was here.
Other side, with me, Diana, Chrissy and Dave getting in on the action.
Memorial area and another sculpture.
Giant traditional drum.
Diorama of how students attended schools while refugees after the Korean War.
Another diorama, this time life sized, about the depression after/during the war.
Traditional Korean turtle ships.
More of the outdoor displays.
Flags of allied countries.
Tuesday was a really beautiful day weather-wise, and we were allowed to leave school early to "enjoy nature." My co-teachers informed me that we would be leaving around 2:20pm to go over to Olympic Park (about a 3 minute drive from school) to check out SOMA (fake MOMA...it is the Seoul metropolitan Museum Of Art). We met downstairs and my co-teacher Yeon Ah started collecting 20,000won from everyone for "transportation and tea." I was like what the hell kind of tea will I be paying $18 for, but I kept my mouth shut. The eight of us hopped in two taxis and went over to the park (which cost a grand total of less than $0.80 per person). We walked leisurely (read: freakishly slowly because two teachers were wearing ridiculous heels) through the sculpture garden and down to the museum. We got to the front, took a group picture in front of the sign and...left. Apparently SOMA was just the destination they entered on the official documents, so we had to take a photo there. Then we left the park and went out to eat at a restaurant. I don't think I'll ever understand Korean schools.
Our walk along the cherry blossomed streets toward the taxi stand.
Special subject teachers of Shincheon Elementary!
My coteachers are far left (Ji In), third from the left (Yeon Ah), fourth from the left, and second from the right (Hae Jung).
Fourth graders playing a ridiculous twister game.
On Thursday night we got to come out in support of one of our own at a speaking competition. Our dear Scottish friend Michael joined a local chapter of Toastmasters International and has been going to meetings for a while now. A few weeks ago he mentioned that he was competing in a speaking contest and invited us to come support him in Gangnam. Now, if you know our crew, you know that we don't do much half-assed. Twelve of us came out to cheer him on, completely dwarfing the cheering sections of the other participants. I know that his plan was not to psych out the competition (two other native teachers and two Korean businessmen) but...it worked. We were well behaved and even choreographed holding up "Go Whyte!" signs that Chrissy brought (we know, it sounds vaguely racist, but oh well...that's his last name, haha). It was a good time, and the speeches were great. He got second place and will be moving on to the district competition later this month. Hopefully some of us will get to go to that competition as well.
Michael and the other competitors.
Go Team Whyte!
(not pictured: Frank and Chip)
The cherry blossoms in our area hit their peak around last Wednesday and I've once again really enjoyed the street near my school that is lined with cherry trees. It is stunning when they all bloom. Apparently this apartment complex was built about 35 years ago and that is when all the trees were planted. It is much less crowded that Yeouido (the famous area in Seoul for looking at cherry blossoms), just as beautiful, and a hell of a lot closer. On Saturday a few of us had planned to go down to Gyeongju, a city about four hours south of Seoul, that is supposed to have beautiful blossoms. However, thanks to a mix-up about buses, that didn't work out. Happily, though, I think we were better off staying in Seoul, where the weather was GORGEOUS and we had a relaxing day. Saturday started with Amanda, Tom, Diana, Josephine, Jamie, Shannon and I meeting for brunch at Craftworks Taphouse & Bistro for brunch. Thoughts are as follows: the food was KILLER, the beer (for those who like beer) was awesome, the service was lacking, and the mixed drinks (specifically three varietals of mimosas) were terrible. Especially the "strawberry mimosa" which happened to be not-sweet-at-all strawberry puree with sparkling wine poured over it. You had to drink the sparkling wine through a layer of squished, gross, strawberries. It was decidedly NOT delicious. But the food...oh man, the food. Fantastic.
Breakfast scramble was insanely delicious.
How delicious? This photo was taken exactly ten minutes after the previous one.
The excitement mounts!
After brunch our crew headed down to Seoul Grand Park, where we spent much of the afternoon walking through their extensive zoo, people watching absurd couples and adorable children, and riding on various forms of transportation, including an "elephant train" (not exciting) and a chairlift (very exciting). The weather was just about perfect and it was a lovely day. I even got some sun! After the zoo we all headed over to the On the Border at COEX, where Julia, David and Chrissy joined us, and we consumed a plethora of fantastic TexMex food and excellent margaritas. Then we taxied home and I crashed.
Group photo! Tom, Amanda, Shannon, Jamie, Diana, Me, Josephine
View of the mountains from the entrance to Seoul Grand Park.
Giraffe! Such awesome animals.
Hip? Hip hop? Hip hop anonymous?
Average couple. He's carrying her purse, she's dragging a children's toy pig.
Elephants catching apples.
One of my favorite parts of the day.
Overlooking the zoo.
Cotton candy?! Yes please!
So much (delicious) food!
Sunday morning I lounged around for a bit before meeting everyone for a picnic amongst the cherry blossoms. We all came over to the street near my school and set up camp in front of one of the apartments. Directions to this hidden cherry blossom gem: Jamsil Station (Lines 8 and 2), exit 6. Walk straight for about 2 minutes, until you reach the first road on the left, a gated road leading into an apartment complex. Turn left. This road, and the road on which it dead ends, are completely lined with the trees. If you are not surrounded by cherry blossoms, you're in the wrong place, or there at the wrong time! Throughout the afternoon all the following people made appearances: Me, Carin, Frank, Melissa, Jamie, Erich, Eric, Desmond, Serena, Lee-Rae, Michael, Josephine, Stephanie, Julia, and Jin. I think that was everyone. It was a great, relaxing afternoon. And I only saw three of my students, haha.
Magnolia trees all abloom.
The road near my school.
Strolling beneath the blossoms.
So many gorgeous trees!
Already beginning to drop their petals.
I love Korea in bloom.
Erich, Desmond, Serena and Jamie enjoying the nice weather.
(Chrissy and Diana)
Carin and I.
Carin rediscovering her juggling ability with Jamie.
Serena learning how to juggle.
Chrissy's (excessive?) excitement over what was essentially a giant cupcake.
Fantastic group photo stolen from Jin!
Desmond, Serena, Me, Carin, Josephine, Eric, Diana, Chrissy, Frank, Stephanie, Lee-Rae, Michael, Jamie, Julia, Erich and Jin
On the way home, Carin, Josephine, Jamie, Frank and I decided to walk over to Lotte Cinema and see if there were any good movies playing (there weren't). On the way we saw posters and the set up for the Angel Price Music Festival that was being held that night (unbeknownst to us). A whole variety of K-Pop groups were performing, including Big Bang, 2NE1, DBSK, Girls Generation, and various others. Now, I like me some K-Pop, and considering that DBSK is Carin's FAAAAAVORITE group (and the reason she came to Korea in the first place) and she had never seen them live, it was a no brainer. The boys begged off and went home, and Josephine, Carin and I went through the rigamarole of getting tickets, which put us in the arena right before Big Bang's set. Their opening act was a 3-girl group called Gavy NJ (which sounds like some random city in Jersey). They were okay...well two of them were. The third was completely unnecessary in every way. After some stalling on behalf of the MC, Big Bang came out. They were quite good. Tae Yang was dreamy in minature, TOP was creepy, GD was ridiculous, Dae Sung was little-boy adorable, and Seung Ri (who I've never noticed before) was super hot. I was pleased.
Gavy NJ's most worthless member.
TOP, Dae Sung and Tae Yang on the big screen.
G-Dragon, in a RIDIC sparkly baseball hat with devil horns.
We had about an hour to kill between sets so we grabbed some food at Lotteria and then stood in an ABSURD line for the DBSK/TVXQ set. To be clear, this is one band, and thanks to different Romanizations they have two sets of initials by which they are known. Their full name is 동방신기 (Romanized in Korea as Dong Bang Shin Ki), which hilariously means The Rising Gods of the East. They had Nine Muses open for them, which, for some reason, only had six members. They were kind of fascinating because their "concept" is more of a model concept. All the girls are the same build, basically the same height, most of them have matching nose jobs, and they're like a group of Korean Barbies. Apparently all of them have experience as runway models, too. Random. Then it was time for DBSK and Carin almost peed herself. She was very excited, which was exciting to watch, haha. When DBSK first premiered, they were a five-member group, but since then three of the members have broken off leaving only two. They came on stage in THE MOST ABSURD COSTUMES EVER. It was like their suits were made out of a hideous 1970s couch. It is criminal to put such attractive boys in such terrible, terrible, outfits. But they were still great! Totally worth the time and money to pop in to an unexpected K-Pop concert. How is it that twice now I've stumbled upon concerts in Lotte World that I just happened to be there for? The fates must love me, haha.
Members of Nine Muses.
The utter sparkliness of their shirts was not well captured by my camera.
LOOK AT THOSE OUTFITS! I die.
He was actually a really good dancer.
Soulful. In terrible suits.
They go on for INFINITYYYYY.
Monday was a school holiday, so I got to just lounge about and be slothful, which was GREAT. It was a shitty weather day, just perfect for crawling back into bed and watching a movie (or three). Tuesday night Liz, our landlord, took the foreigners in the building out for dinner. There were four new people who were really cool to meet, so I am glad we had the dinner. Liz made a big deal about me leaving for Harvard and made me blush. The food was fantastic. It was a pretty standard building dinner. After dinner Liz, her friend, me, Frank, Shannon, Jamie, Josephine, Diana, and one of the new couples, Frank and Britt, headed over to 4*C Garten where we ate some weird fruit concoction and drank some (single story) beers while playing cards. It was nice to just relax. Wednesday night Erich hosted Fo'Sho and Carin, Josephine and I met for chicken beforehand. It was a good turn out, and Frank and Britt came to meet some new people in the Gu. They work in Gangnam, so that is forever far away and I know how nice it is to have people close by. After Fo'Sho I went home and stayed up late watching the Parenthood season finale and BAWLING. That show is soooo good. I truly feel that it is the best drama currently on TV.
SO GOOD. Pork on this side, duck on the far side. Wrap those bad boys around a little piece of kimchi and you've got heaven in your mouth.
Jamie, Erika, and Jacob (Erika's boyfriend who is visiting from Canada).
Our landlady, Liz, her good friend, and Josephine.
Shannon, Melissa and I.
Our new friends and neighbors, Britt and Frank.
Diana C. and Andrew.
Frank, Silvia and Robbie.
Drinks at 4*C Garten. We ordered what we thought was a fruit platter, but turned out to be canned fruit, gelatin cubes, fresh fruit, and ice floating in milky yogurt. It was like a frat house breakfast!
A recent bane of my existence has been the construction occurring on the first floor of my building. Our apartments are above five stores. Since I have arrived, only one has stayed the same (five have changed, including one that has changed twice). Each time a store/restaurant/cafe leaves, there is INSANE construction that shakes the very struts of my building. In the past month, a clothing store has become a restaurant and a cafe (which just became a cafe from a DVD store about 2 months ago) is becoming a hair salon. This wouldn't be that much of a problem, except they insist on doing construction EARLY in the morning on WEEKENDS. Consistently for the last 3-4 Saturdays and Sundays I've been woken up between 6:30am and 9:30am by jackhammering, drilling, smashing of tiles, etc. It is driving me batshit crazy. The other morning I stick my camera out the window and just filmed a SMALL portion of what goes on ALL THE TIME. Can you understand why I'm bitter?
Construction Noise! from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.
So I know I just mentioned that I am going to Harvard, but I don't know if I've officially announced it on the blog. Well, now I have, haha. I am very very very excited. I am also victim to minor freak-outs about whether or not I am out of my league. The people in my program have been emailing introductions about ourselves and I am completely in awe of my cohort and the amazing things we've done. We have 60ish members who have worked or lived in over 30 countries, have degrees ranging from theater arts to economics, and just have such a wealth of passion and excitement. I can't wait to move to Cambridge in August, meet everyone, and get down to the business of changing the world! Since accepting their offer of admission I have been on a mission to find a Harvard hat here. The other night I took an unusual path through Jamsil Subway Station (which I walk through twice a day every weekday) and a very special hat called to me. First of all, it is Irish flag colors: green, white and orange (not Harvard colors: crimson and white). Second, it says "Harvard 1985" on it...which is spectacular since I was born in 1985 (Harvard was established in 1636 so I have no idea where they got '85). Finally, it has the nonsensical Konglish phrase "The Fly Smarten Jeans" on the side, which just makes it perfect. I am SUPER excited to sport it around.
In a word: awesome.