Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Apparently I'm a Hooker

I take my first bus ride alone last night to the I Park mall to go to a movie. I usually take the subway because I know where I'm going, but I was feeling adventurous. I get off the bus in Sinyongsan and I can see the mall a few blocks over. Instead of walking a block or so out of my way to the major intersection I deem it a good idea to go down a side alley. There are these curtainy things (kind of looks like you're at the car wash) blocking the alley, but I figured there was a Love Motel and that's why it was there (the curtains block the license plate numbers so spouses driving by won't recognize cars). No, not a love motel. I have entered (one of) the Red Light District of Seoul. I didn't even know they existed here!! There are ladies in lingerie in all of the windows and it's pretty well lit for such a place. I am one of the only people there, and certainly the only woman walking down the street. I am stopped by a well dressed 50-something man. He asks, in broken Korean, something about the next show. I tell him I'm not interested, just going to the mall. He keeps talking. He then pulls out a wad of cash and starts counting. "For me?" I ask. "Yes." I got propositioned to be a hooker!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Should I be flattered or offended???? I'm wearing a fleece and jeans!! I don't look like a hooker do it? Ahh. To make matters worse, after I get out of there over to the mall some sketch little old Middle Eastern man asks where I'm going. Then asks if I like beer. Then continues to follow me. I pretend to get on my phone and think I have lost him. As soon as I hang up, there he is. I tell him to get lost and he says he just wants to get a beer with me. NOOOOO and I run inside. Ugh what the hell Seoul, I thought I was pretty safe from harassment here on account that I can't understand anyone and they can't understand me. Not so in Yongsan, not so.

Paradise Lost

Day three consists of more beach chillin, a few long swims, some nice walks on the beach, and a sunset-ocean-side massage ($7 one hour, full body, yeahhhhh). After changing and getting ready for the night {im rocking my awesome DC original Adidas-Madonna-wannabe in the 80s dress} I head back to the Blue Mango for a beach bbq. Tom's scuba class just finished their certification, and since they're cool, he's hosting a bbq. We have chicken, fish, the biggest shrimp I have ever seen, a salad, ribs, and this creepy dude Dean from across the way even brought us his left over birthday cake. What a feast! There were three girls there who just finished their year long contracts in Degu, South Korea! Small world! They were all travelling together and were headed back to the UK. They had absolutley nothing but great things to say about Korea and they even found some soju in Boracay to bring back memories. Or perhaps erase some new ones. Then there was a German couple. Both super attractive but they mostly kept to themselves, and another couple from Northern England. Their accents were so thick you couldn't really understand them. So all in all there were 11 of us with plenty o tequila and beer!

After dinner we played some soju drinking games and headed down the beach to the Jungle Bar. This is a cool bar!!! Tree houses and bamboo everywhere! We were the only ones there- Thursday night in November isn't big I guess- and we ordered the flaming volcanos. This was the most impressive drink I have ever seen. Henry take note. It starts with a martini glass on the bottom filled with god knows what, then a normal glass sitting in it and a normal glass stacked upside down on top of that one. So it's basically a huge tower of 3 glasses. Then they stack a shot glass of blue booze (blue curaco?) on top. The final step. The namesake; the volcano pour. The bartender takes a second shot of something, lights it on fire, and pours it into the blue one. It pours fire down the glasses into the martini glass where you are sucking the shot out with a straw. It's quite the show!

The next morning and it's time to pack and go. I have a final lunch with Danny and he walks me (through the most ghetto round about way ever; we got so lost and basically climbed a mountain) to the road to catch a trike. Trike->ferry->trike->bus->plane and I'm back in Manilla. Yuck. Manilla sucks. It's smelly, congested, and just has an overall rankness about it. And the people are ugly and fat. I had 3 or so hours to kill before my flight so I decide to hop on a Jeepny and head to the Mall of Asia for dinner. I get into the Jeepny and ride it to the end and some guy tells me to get out. He offers to take me to dinner. Wow everyone's so nice here. So we take a cab the rest of the distance to the Mall and I pay. Not even splitting it? This dude's sketch. So he procedes to tell me he's not hungry and is looking for restaurants. You know what, I'll take it from here! And I sent him packing. I have no idea what he wanted, but I didn't want to find out either.

I get some food and check the internet for the first time in a week. "lauren, this is your mother, hope you're having fun." Few days later. "Lauren i know youre on vacation but if you could send an email it would be nice to know you're ok." Finally, "Lauren, where are you!!!??" Ooops!!! Not much internet (or time) while on the beach in Boracay. Mom, I promise during Christmas I will check in more often!!!

I get back to Seoul (after a whole ordeal with a lack of cash and paying terminal fees in the Philippines- Im a fugative. Perhaps that story another day) and the puddles are frozen and it's -1degree C. Awesome. Stupid Korea. haha no it's good to be back but I definitely miss the 30 degree weather!

Next; Vietnam->Cambodia->Thailand.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


After a quick 45 minute flight to Kalibo I step off the plane into 90 degree humid weather :) Outside what has to be the smallest airport I have ever seen, there are a line of buses and a heard of tricycles. The tricycles are motorcycles with a cart for passengers attached at the side. They're funny to look at yet seem to be the number one mode of transport here. A woman approaches me and asks if I have a place to stay; nope. I tell her I'm looking for something in a central location for cheap and she tells me no problem I will have someone meet you in Caticlan to bring me to the Sanders White hotel (1,100 pesos a night = $22). Ok. I am then told to get on the Philippine Air shuttle for a 2 hour bus ride to Caticlan. The bus has AC and is crowded, yet I get 2 seats to myself (thank you backpack for taking 1!). The ride is slow but it gives me a chance to see the countryside. It reminds me tremendously of Costa Rica; palm trees, mountains, shacks and people out walking everywhere. I get to Caticlan and there's a woman standing holding a sign "Loren Sanders White." She's rushing around like a maniac and I'm literally chasing her around the ferry port. We have to buy a ticket for the ferry, an environmental ticket and a terminal ticket. I get these and continue chasing her onto the boat.

Oh my god. It's absolutely gorgeous. The boat pulls up through crystal clear blue waters to a beautiful green mountainous area with white sand beaches. We get off and have to get on a tricycle to Station 2 where the hotel is located. We get on the tricycle which is probably supposed to carry 3 people, with 4 others. That makes 7 of us including the driver. We crawl up hills but man did we fly down em. We get off and again I chase the woman to the hotel. We have to walk down the beach then down a cute little sand alleyway to the Sanders White. It's sooooo cute!!! I have a room with two beds and a nice sized shower/bathroom. By the time I get into the hotel and changed into my bathing suit and onto the beach it's only 1. I walk out to the beach (1 min walk) and all you hear is "pearls" "boat ride" "atv" "massage" "buffet" etc. There are people peddling stuff everywhere; especially in Station 2 as it's the area of the beach with the most happening.

I have a full day to sit and relax on the most gorgeous beach I have ever seen. I don't know what you all know about the Philippines, but I knew nothing. It's literally paradise. I can't believe I am sitting here in the Kalibo airport again about to leave. Words can't describe the perfection of this place!!!

So I'm laying on the beach and I'm approached by Roli. He wants me to go on a boat ride that includes snorkeling, lunch and drinks for 600 pesos ($12). I agree I'll go the next day. This isn't enough to get him to leave. He continues to sit next to me and ask me all about my life. "Where's your boyfriend?" Not this again. I go on to tell him no bf and he asks if I want a Filipino boyfriend. No, Roli, I do not, I am content being alone this week, it's not that kind of trip. Then he tells me he can show me where to get dinner on the cheap. Like Manila, there's a fish market where you pick what you want and bring it to the restaurant to cook. I agree to go with him just so he'll leave me alone so I can lay on the beach, and we meet at 6. I got a squid and 5 scallops and got them all cooked up. Yum! Roli didn't eat but he bought the beer. San Miguel is an excellent beer by the way. So he's kind of getting annoying but says he wants to buy me a beer and go to the beach. I tell him I'm tired but go for the beer. We sit on the beach and somehow he got on the subject of my Filipino boyfriend again. He tells me he wants to be mine, I say sorry, and then he says "If I see with with boyfriend I cry." haha ok I've had enough and tell him I'm beat and need to go home.

I go back to my room and can't help noticing all of my neighbors have these sweet hammocks on their balconies. I'm jealous. I still have some beer left so I sit out on my porch. I look at the railing. I'm an idiot. I have a hammock I just need to hang it up. This is the fanciest $20 a night place I've ever stayed in! I swing and enjoy my Super Strong San Miguel while watching a lizard run around the bamboo on my porch. Life is hard. After I deem it's safe I won't run into Roli again (he lives in Caticlan and has to take a ferry back before the stop for the night) I head out. I start walking toward Station 1. 1 and 2 are party time and 3 is a little quieter. I walk a ways up and stop at a fun, crowded bar, and sit next to two gentlemen. We get to talking and I find out these two guys met this afternoon because they're both staying at the same hotel. Kobi, Italian, is here for a quick trip as he lives in Manila, and Danny is here for a month as an I'm-out-of-the-air force celebration from Hawaii. So they're both here alone too! Instant best friend. We take shots, a million photos (I thought I was bad about making people take 3000 million pictures, but Kobi takes it to a new level. When he asks you to take his picture he wants one from every angle. It's pretty hilarious), we leave and get beers so we can go sit on the beach and listen to some live music. All of the big hotels have nightly buffets on the beach and some of the bigger ones have bands. We went and saw the Regency's show. It was pretty good, or maybe we were just that drunk.

After we have all had enough we decide to meet them tomorrow for breakfast and beach chillin. They have free breakfast, tiki tents, and lounge chairs at their hotel. Done and done.


After banana pancakes at their Blue Mango hotel the three of us walk out the door to the beach. I can't get over the beauty of this place! Here I am under a tiki tent, on a bamboo lounge chair, on the whitest sand I have ever seen, looking into the turquoise-iest ocean I have ever seen, and all I can think "suckers back in Korea!" I literally spent the entire day going from laying on my lawn chair to floating in the ocean. Back and forth all day. Nothing else. No swimming, no beach games, just straight chillin from am to sunset. And everything we need, drinks, food, water can all be ordered right from our hotel and delivered out to the beach. Perfect!

Kobi is a crack up. This dude is in his 40s, had long curly black hair, and loves to rock his speedo. He is European after all. He's been to almost every country in the world and seems to me that he works for a week then travels for 3 months. I don't remember what he did, but sign me up. He currently lives in Manila and loves to frequent Boracay, and who can blame him. He is just the happiest, most talkative, funny person I have met. He spent the entire day harassing the vendors. They walk by trying to peddle sunglasses or pearls and he calls them over, makes them show him all the goods, says "no thanks but she's interested" and points to me. Then I have to spend the next 5 minutes trying to get the dudes to leave. Too funny.

Danny at one point is telling me about the best sandwich at the Blue Mango, the Freddie White. Bread, bacon and mayo, bread, peanut butter and jelly, bread. Sounds disgusting. I try it and it's heavenly. I guess you can't really mess up with bacon eh? Then Danny starts telling me about some of the nasty Filipino food. Then he makes a mistake and tells me about balot (ball-oh). It's a 14 day old duck embryo (still in the egg) that you eat for strength. Apparently alll of the Filipinos love these things, but Danny informs me he would rather die then try it. You know me, as soon as he tells me this I have to have it. A few hours later the balot man comes walking down the beach with his heater/cooler thing of eggs. I buy one, 50 pesos ($1), and Danny runs into the dive shop attached to the Mango to get Tom, the dive master, to show me how to eat it. Tom eats one everyday (and he's English!) and tells me the yellow part (goodness that forms into the duck) has all of the vitamins and minerals one needs for the day. The egg is hot. Like burn your hands hot. I let it cool a bit, then crack the top open and drink the juice. Tastes like chicken broth. Then Tom peels the shell off. There's a little, maybe 2", duck fetus. It has eyes and a beak and legs etc. It's def a duck. Then under the fetus is a glob of yellow and under the yellow is a white hardish part. Yellow eventually becomes duck, and white helps facilitate the process apparently. It's like soju. One shot. I've eaten some gross things but even this was hard for me to put in my mouth. It was looking back at me. Danny can't even watch. He's jumping around 10 feet away freaking out that I would even consider doing this. I tell myself people eat this everyday and throw it in my mouth. Not bad. Actually quite good. It tastes just like an egg yoke, just a little crunch in the beginning when you get the bird :) Apparently now I have HUGE street cred in the Philippines, Tom's impressed and Danny's disgusted and impressed and Kobi's still harassing vendors.

It's time to go shower and relax. It's rough laying on the beach all day being catered to. Danny and I agree to meet for dinner later on although we're both pretty exhausted. The night before totally took it out of all of us. Danny and I meet and go to this Spanish Tapas book that Tom recommended. It's even said in Lonely Planet to be a place often frequented (is that redundant?) by locals. A good Tempranillo, Miss Earth contestants sightings, and tapas later and we're beat. I go home to get some sleep so I can be ready for another day of beach chillin!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Swine Flu 09

After a long and loud (you should never, under any circumstances, be able to bring an infant on board) flight I arrive in Manila! The sun is just setting and as I step onto the tarmac I can feel the tropical weather. Ah 80 degrees how I have missed you! The first thing they say to me in customs is

"Oh you're by yourself, do you have a friend contact?"
me: No, here alone.
customs: Oh (with a look of pity and bewilderment)

This exact conversation happens again when I try to book my flight to Boracay. Do people not travel alone to the Philippines ever? This can't be that uncommon, right?

I know that I want to go to Boracay. I know Boracay is a flight away. I did not know the closest airport to Boracay, in Caticlan, is closed until December. So I go to the ticket booking office, wait forever, and get tickets to the second closest airport....for tomorrow. Last flight out was 4:45 and it's now 6. First flight in the am is at 8:35 so I book it and figure I'll check out Manila for the night.

Trying to get a taxi is a pain in the ass. This is a small airport, everyone thankfully speaks English, but everyone also knows I'm a tourist. I was definitely the only non-Filipino/Japanese person on my flight and let's face it, tall, with blonde hair sticks out everywhere in Asia. So everyone's trying to scam me into something, I finally see a dude who seems nice enough and tell him to take me to the Mall of Asia. This was recommended to me by a woman in the Hotel booking lounge. Cab driver tells me this is no good because it closes at 8 and he'll take me to a legit Filipino dinner. Alright. He then informs me that he will be my tour guide for the night. For $20 he'll take me around for the next 4 hours. Sure why not.

We get to a little fish market on the bay and as we pull into the parking lot all of the attendants/waiters? are waving and saving hi to me through the window. Everyone's so nice! No not nice, looking to take my money. We walk down the market looking for shrimp and every single person is harassing and trying to get you to buy their fish. I know this happens a lot in markets, but this was especially bad. My favorite were the ladyboys though. They are just that. Men with long hair and makeup and booty shorts trying to sell something to you. They're amazing! I get some live shrimp and a crab and Ray, my tour guide, takes me to this really cute restaurant behind the market. There are rows and rows of tables, lights, disco bally things and color! There's a live band at the next restaurant and ours is blasting Christmas music. Apparently Christmas starts in October here.

The restaurant cooks up my food; crab in an oyster sauce and the shrimp in a spicy red pepper butter. So good!!! I was licking the oyster sauce out of the bowl. Ray had some but I think I scared him with how much I could put away. By the end of the meal I was a total mess from crab picking and de-shelling the shrimp. All in all the meal, with beer and rice, was less than $12, with leftovers. Fresh crab and fresh shrimp for $12. And I bet that will be my most expensive meal here.

Next Ray takes me to the bay which is behind the Mall of Asia. He plays guide and tells me about all of the Embassies and government buildings etc. and informs me the MOA is the largest mall in all of Asia. Makes sense as it's huuuuge. We walk along the bay and check out the scene; lots of kids, palm trees, dates, and rando carnival games including one where children get into large blow up balls on a swimming pool and try to take each other out. I wanted to play. Ray decides he wants to show me a good live band and we're off again.

This time he takes me to Cowboy Cafe. It's a huuge restaurant where they have a really impressive stage. Then the band comes on.

Song 1: some REM song
Song 2 (Suzi this will always remind me of you) Run away Train!
Song 3 Losing My Religion
Song 4 Sanatana with Rob Thomas

Then he busts out a ton of J-Pop (japanese pop) and ends the set with a Korean song!!! It was awesome and a legit concert. And the best part was that I was just chillin there drinking with Ray, my driver.

It's 11 and I don't want to get a hotel because I'm nervous I will sleep through my early flight, so I have Ray take me back to the airport. He offers to take me out after his shift on a jeepny (I'll have to get pics bc they re awesome) but I'm beat, haven't slept much in the past 3 days and just want to chill. So I park it on a bench outside, turn on my ipod and put a shirt over my face and join the 100 or so other homeless (not really) people on the airport outdoor benches. I honestly slept pretty well and the best part was at 4:45 the security guy came and tapped me and told me I could go inside! He was looking out. Now it's 7am I am in the actual terminal, which they make you pay $4 to enter???, and I'm on my way to the beach!!!

Going through the security this morning:

Officer: You're alone?
Me: Yes
O: Where's your boyfriend?
M: I don't have one
O: Why not?

How do I answer that? Because I've been waiting for you baby.

An hour flight. A 2 hour bus ride. Beach. :) Thank you H1N1.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My trip to America

Friday after work Jo, Krissy, Susan and I met and took an express bus to Gunsan. Gunsan is roughly 3 hours south by bus, 2 by train, and directly on the Yellow Sea. We went down for a "Save Your Bacon" party on the US Air force base. Jo had been before, but the rest of us were newbies. So we take a cab from the bus station to base and we are left to stand out in the cold by some sketchy looking fence. After waiting what seemed to be forever (it was cold!) Spence greets us at the door. He has to sign us in, they check our passports (we're and American, Canadian, German and English woman) and we're in! I'm back in America!!

Base is super funny. It reminds me a lot of college with crappier cars and camo. Since we didn't get in until late Friday and we had an all day party to look forward to Saturday, we thought we would take it easy. So we all, including the airmen, head to the Panton (the squadron of the guys we were staying with) bar. The bar is the diviest bar I have ever seen, but there's music and free beer, so who's complaining.

After the worst night's sleep on Shag's cold hard floor, we wake up, get ready, and start to Save our Bacon. I wasn't really listening when Spence was giving the history of the party, but there were BLTs and an eventual pig roast involved. We're broken into teams, the ladies were all on Team Canada which properly offends me. I make a smartass comment and the Juvet team quickly takes me as one of their own. Jo can't believe that I would bail so fast and easily, but I do and we're off for our first clue!

To me a scavenger hunt seems kind of cheesy. Running around finding clues performing stupid tasks. But this is just the opposite. It was sooo much fun and there were obviously copious amounts of alcohol involved. First we have a golf challenge. It's me and 6 boys and we suck. This was our worst event and I'm sad to say I had absolutely nothing to contribute. You had to hit a nerf ball from one hoop to the next through the wind. We literally pushed a car out of our way, moved a bench, and it still took us close to 10 mins (fastest team did it in 1) to complete the challenge! Then station 2. At this station we decide that the team is renamed; Team Jersey Girl. Yey I'm the team mascot! haha. We found the "highest point" on base and the clue is to look for a sketchy vehicle. The car we spot is an old school RV with "Free Candy" written on the side. I think we found it. Inside they're hot boxing the van with a hookah and our task is to name airmen by their real names. Everyone has a call name and that's what they go by, so this actually more difficult than it sounds. I obviously don't know anything so I sit and watch. Did I mention there are drinks and shots at every station?

Station 3. Casino room! I dominated this challenge. We played 21 and got chips from the dealer for various other things. Chips for shots, chips for good attitude, etc. I racked them up! Next was the Price is Right. We had to take a shot and ID what liquor it was. If you got it correct the team takes a shot together. Then the random part of the challenge. There was a laundry basket filled with colored rice puff balls. I volunteer to take one for the team and I have to, with my mouth, pick up, chew and spit out as many balls as I can in a minute. I KILLED IT. At the awards ceremony at the end I got a shout out for my outstanding ball chomping performance. haha too much fun.

At the end of the day everyone's pretty beat and drunk so me and the Juvet boys decide to take a van ride over to the commissary. This is the greatest place Ive been since Ive been in Asia. Not really, but it was a nice break from Korea. There's a grocery store with all American goods, a Popeyes, BK, Startbucks, and best of all TACO BELL. We all get taco bell and head back to Spence's to chill. Then it's back to the sketch dive bar for the awards ceremony, pig roast, and band. We came in 3rd, but only because the Panton's hosted the event, so obviously a Panton team had to win. We know we won in our hearts. No one even knows that the prize was. haha. I have a billion pics (of course) up on facebook if you care to check them out.

Sunday morning and Shag took us to a hanger and showed us one of the jets he flies. It's amazing how small the room inside is and how fast they can go (twice the speed of sound). The airmen usually fly 3-4 times a week for an hour or so at a time, but Shag said when they just went to Alaska they had to fly one of these jets home....9 hours!!! I can't imagine, no bathroom, no moving around, no nothing. It was a cool thing to see though. The greatest thing about base is being able to shop in the American grocery store. We all loaded up on cheese!!! avocados, granola bars, cereal, apple sauce, etc. and Jo even got a turkey!!! We looked like big idiots on the bus ride home with 1000 bags of groceries. It was so worth it though!

Now I'm sitting at the airport. It's 11:30 and my flight isn't for another hour. I take a bus to the airport this morning and am checking in. I tell the woman I'm flying to Manila. Then I tell her my flight number. She informs me my flight is going to Japan. AHHHH what did I do??? She gets me all worried and flustered I booked the wrong flight and then realizes that's where my connection to Manila is. Whew. So now I'm sitting in a lovely airport lounge waiting to board in an hour.

I have gotten some recommendations about what to do. Must go to Boracay. This would involve another flight so hopefully i can catch one when I get in at 6 tonight. If not I guess I'll spend the night in Manila and head that way tomorrow. Ahhh I plan on straight beach chillin all week!! And according to my friend Justin there are ladyboys!!! haha I thought they were only in Thailand. I think I'm going to like the South Pacific!

Swine Flu Rules.

Sorry to all of you who have had the swine flu, but for those of us who haven't, we're loving it! My school announced that they will be closed all week!!!! Best news ever!!!!!!!!

I wasn't sure what to do with all of this free time. Should I go to Hong Kong, or Malaysia, or Indonesia? Hmm. Last min flights are expensive and Malaysia's not as close as I thought it would be (not with the flights I found), so it's off to the Philippines!!! I leave tomorrow at 1, get in at 6, and have zero plans!! I packed a backpack and haven't done any research as I've been on an airforce base all weekend and have been busy adding facebook pictures since I have been home. I suppose I'll bring my laptop and figure it out when I get there. The only thing I know is Boracay is great, the weather's in the 90s, and I have shit to do until Saturday. Yeaaaahhhh.

Tomorrow I will update about my weekend in "America."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

swine flu hits korea. hard.

The swine flu, affectionately referred to as the new flu in Korea so as not to hurt pork sales, is taking off. From what I understand it's already hit the states hard, and now equally so here. Almost every teacher I know has had classes cancelled or school closed. [Please keep your fingers crossed for me!] Some teachers get full weeks off, some get time off unpaid, some have to go in half days, some have to go in one day. I'm hoping for a paid week off. Good luck, right?

Here are my school's current precautions:

1. Students must wear their masks at all times. I was told (after I asked of course, they don't tell us anything) that this is the case throughout the winter. Probably until April. Let me tell you it's a bit difficult having an English class in which the children speak and present when they have something over their mouths. Some of them are shy enough to speak up as it is, much less with a piece of cloth covering their voices..ugh.

2. Children must wash their hands after every class. This is disgusting because I constantly have little wet hands all over everything. Let's stick to the spray!

3. Every child must bring in their own colored pencils, scissors, pencils, erasers and glue. There will be no sharing of any kind.

That's it so far but I'm curious to see how far they will take it before shutting her down. Already a few kids have been out for weeks because of "car accidents" and many a brother and sister are in the hospital (they don't go to the doctor here, it's always the hospital). So hopefully there will be a minor breakout and we'll shutdown. How selfish am I?

In nicer news the wine buffet was awesome. We had 8 girls show up and we have decided to make it a monthly girl appreciation night. 3 kinds of red, 3 whites, champagne, raspberry magkali and all the kimchi you can eat. Heaven.

Tonight is movie night at Susan's. After our challenge at the wine buffet (you gotta see how much wine it's possible to drink in 3 hours when it's unlimited!) we decided we need a quiet night in and I don't feel like sitting in my apartment drinking wine by myself. So we're going to make salads, have hummus and cheese, drink wine, and watch a scary movie. Tomorrow it's off the base!

Rando note:
Many of you are probably wondering why I update this so frequently and am on facebook so often. I am finished with class on T/T at 3. They make me sit here until 6 to "lesson plan." This usually takes me all of an hour, and that's if I'm going all out. So play on the internet I will!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

my new korean gym

It's day two of my new gym membership and I'm already loving it. Koreans crack me up especially when it comes to exercise.

First off you have to take off your shoes to go into the locker room. It's a locker room!!! And on top of that there's no bathroom in it. It's a room with lockers and an open communal shower. The bathrooms are located down the once you change, walk out of the locker room and put your shoes on, you have to walk up a flight of stairs to the gym. I am the only non-Korean in this gym. oh and did I mention everyone in the gym except myself pays to "rent" gym clothes. They're long black shorts with a big black tshirt. So not am I the only blonde, I'm the only one not rocking some washed out black gym gear. I wear my spandex and wife beaters thank you.

Once you get into the gym it's hard not to laugh. There are a few guys lifting but mostly it's people walking (and when I say walking I mean strolling) on the treadmills, people hoola hooping, jump roping, and just doing other bizarre things you don't usually see in a gym. As I have mentioned before Koreans aren't huge on physical activity except hiking, which is weird because they're pretty obsessed with being skinny. Skinny in Korea is a weird concept. You NEVER see anyone obese like in America, yet if you're not 90 lbs people think they're over weight. Most people don't exercise, eat donuts, rice and noodles all day and expect to be models, yet won't work out. There are also "nutrition" shops allllll over that sell diet drinks and they appear to be quite popular. Two of my Korean co-workers are on one of the plans.

People also don't go to the gym because all of the playgrounds around Seoul offer up exercise stations. They are often times frequented by ajuma. They consist of a machine that swings your legs (butt workout) and the best one, you stand on a disc, hold your top half still and rotate your hips from left to right. It's super fun but I'm sure does absolutely nothing for you. And my gym has one!!!! Other funny equpiment: one of those 1980s belt looking things you put around your back or butt and let shake. And the machine where you lay down and then hang upside down. I'm not sure what that does for you either. But my favorite, and I'm totally obsessed with it, is the shaky nuts fun machine. I have no idea what purpose it serves but it's totally fun. You stand on a plank that goes left to right like a mini-seesaw. It goes for 5 minutes and it shakes every ounce of fat on your body. I'm almost uncomfortable feeling my butt and thighs jiggle on it but kind of in a good way :)

Today I was a little tired at work with a headache and wasn't super pumped about working out. Susan had told me that when it's cold out she likes to go in the sauna before her workout to warm up and stretch. So I figured I'd give it a try. It's a co-ed dry sauna. There are wooden blocks for pillows and you just lay on the hard floor. I walked in and within 3 minutes I was out cold. I've never been a napper and now I know why! I need a wooden pillow and 100 degree floor! I know where I'm living this winter.

So the gym has been an experience. I definitely get looks the entire time I'm in there because there are no Westerners in Bongcheon. Nah it's just cause I look good ;) ha right I'll keep telling myself that.

Tomorrow is Pepero Day in Korea. Pepero are like the Japanese Poky sticks (long cookie stick dipped in chocolate). Back a few years ago some schools girls started a tradition of giving each other Pepero on 11/11 and they would say "I hope you stay skinny like the # 1" Which doesn't make sense because these are cookies....Pepero insists they didn't invent this holiday. And Hallmark didn't invent Valentine's Day. Right.

Apparently all of the kids bring in a ton of this stuff and we eat it all day. Sweet. Then I'm meeting some of the ladies for for a wine buffet. Unlimited wine, champagne, beer and food. Woohoo.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

korean mountain climbing

Saturday Krissy, Susan, Liz and myself meet up at 10 30 in Itaewon. This has got to be the earliest I have gotten up on a weekend here! We take an hour long subway ride out to the country and then check our directions:

Exit 3 at the subway and walk 10 minutes.

Walk 10 minutes where? We aimlessly wander for 30 minutes and stumble across some cool street markets. Krissy finds a denim skirt for 3,000 won ($3) and I found a real beaver stole for 6,000 won. We get antsy to hike so we go into a Family Mart and ask directions. Had I been alone I would have been screwed. Luckily Krissy's been here 2+ years and Susan's been here 6 years, so their Korean is good to get by on. We get the Family Mart owner to flag down a bus for us, he tells the driver where we're going, and he's off. Such a sweet ajusi ('ah-jew-she'- old Korean man. usually can be found drinking soju, spitting in the streets, or passed out somewhere in public).

We finally get to the base of the mountain (not Buhkhusan like we had planned, but a mountain is a mountain right?) and it's like you're preparing to hike Everest. There are gear stores everywhere!!! On the weekends in Korea if you're on the subway during the day every person you see over the age of 50 is decked out in hiking gear. Koreans may not be into fitness and sports, but do they love their hiking! And boy do they take it seriously. All of the ajuma (old korean woman) rock fluorescent colors, shirts and pants, backpacks, visors and poles. The men carry the radios because you obviously can't go hiking without bringing your own tunes. I, on the other hand, am wearing jeans and a tee carrying my giant purse as it is packed for the weekend at Susan's.

So we head up the mountain. There are people everywhere. The 50+ crowd leaves Seoul on the weekends and this is where they are! We found this awesome Temple at the bottom of the mountain then proceed to hike up. The comments in the beginning are "this is nothing." "so much easier than i thought it would be." All the while I'm thinking, this is Korea, not exactly the Alps. An hour later and it;s a different story. It gets steep and intermixed with the rocks are blocks that act as stairs. Then steeper. Now there are full out staircases. Steeper. Staircases with railings. haha it's totally hooked up for the ajuma hikers!

We FINALLY, 2 1/2 hours later, make it to the top. At this point it's 3 none of us had eaten more than an apple that day and we're starving and I'm getting cranky. Hard to believe I know. So we book it down the mountain. We're throwin bows and pushing ajuma out of the way left and right. We made it back to town in 25 minutes :)

All we want to do is sit outside and enjoy a nice Korean meal. We stop by a seafood place, order soju and "fish soup" and start eating kimchi. The woman sees the tenacity I go at the kimchi with so she keeps it coming. I think I ate 3 bowls. Then we get our soup. It's pregnant fish soup! So not only is it chock full of tofu, radish, spice and fish, but there are many, many, many fish sacks. I'm usually all about the weird food, but these cooked up tough and just got in the way. We ate around it as much as we could. I thought it was still good although I think everyone else was pretty disappointed.

This was my first soju encounter since my Monday night black eye and guess what! No new bruises this time!!

A shower and a Kahlua coffee later and we're back on the town. Next weekend I'm headed two hours south for a pilot party. There's some scavenger hunt on an airforce base or something. I'm just going because we can shop on base at the American post!!!

self set up blind date

So I'm standing outside exit 1 at the Seodamun station and I get a "hungry for dinner?" It's Matt. Hm yup definitely not who I thought he was. He's cute seems pleasant and outgoing, so at least safe and out of danger of being chopped up into a million pieces and thrown into a dumpster.

We got up to his apartment and he starts "cooking" dinner. Dinner consists of gouda, camembert, tomatoes, peppers, olives, bread olive oil and balsamic, and crackers. It was good, but definitely not a fancy cooked dinner. He makes a big point to tell me about the 7.000 won ($7) wine he found and we're drinking. Shouldn't he be trying to impress me? Cheap is not attractive.

He's from San Diego, we played foozball together at Phillies apparently, hes 30 and a teacher. So after ok conversation, he doesn't strike me as exciting or anyone I would ever be interested in and I decide to head home. He walks me to the subway which was nice, and we agree that I will cook him dinner on Monday. Yeah def coming down with the swine flu tomorrow :)

Saturday AM. 4 blondes wake up and go hiking! I call Susan at 9:22:

susan: "good morning. what are you doing?"

me: "just woke up"

susan: "where are you?"

haha screw you Zuzan, I'm in my own bed at my own apartment, thanks!! She was sad bc it was the first Friday I have been here and not stayed at her place. I miss Haebongcheon already. haha. Hiking was amazing, hot, crowded, and totally rewarding. We should do this every weekend. Ugh and soju and hot fish baby soup after hit the spot. AND we still went out Saturday night.

Again, another great weekend in Korea. Next weekend; pilot party!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

best. dinner. ever.

I know I make these claims a lot, but really this is true:

I had the best dinner ever last night.

My friend Darren decided to throw his girlfriend Krissy, one of my closest friends here, a surprise dinner for her birthday. She thought she was just going out with him, little did she know 20+ of her friends would be there to celebrate with her. Her favorite restaurant is Zelen. It's Bulgarian and, where else, in Itaewon. I had previously been here with Susan and her husband Martin and the food was excellent. I had a squid stuffed with a seafood rice; mussels, shrimp, octopus, yum. It was good but not life shattering.

Anyway, last night since there were so many of us, Darren hooked up a prefixed "buffet" with a set price so we wouldn't have to mess with splitting up the tab and all of that annoying nonsense. Krissy shows up, is completely shocked and moved, and then the food comes.

side note: for anyone that's ever been to Korea you would know that cheese is a hot commodity. You can't find a wide selection and if you want just a chunk of cheddar it will cost you dearly. I'm talking $15 for a little thing of cheese, so no one eats it :(

broiled cheese covered eggplant (my favorite part of the whole meal)
salad of cucumber, parsley, tomato and roasted red pepper covered in a finely shredded cheese
bacon cheese stuffed mushrooms

huge loin of lamb (soo good) with a delicious rice accompaniment served with gravy

cheese and spinach stuffed chicken with broccoli and carrots topped in a dill yogurt sauce (I licked it off the plate)

honeycomb and fig ice cream cake. ahhhhhh best ice cream i have ever had, and you know they made fresh it there. I had 3 pieces :)

All of this will some red wine and sangria. ahhhhh Bulgarian paradise...

Then I come to school today resolute on eating healthier. Nope. It's Henry's birthday so we have pizza and more cake. I love jobs with cake.

Tonight I'm off to dinner at Matt's. I have "set myself up on a blind date" as Emily puts it. I received a text message this week from "matt phillies" (phillies is a bar) asking if I still wanted my fancy dinner. Sure do, but who the hell is Matt. I guess I'll find out tonight when he cooks me dinner. Hey a free meal is a free meal. Then it's off to hike some Korean mountains tomorrow AM. We're right in the middle of peak week so I'm hoping to get some good mountain pictures. Keep a look out.

Happy Friday.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

i'm a korean now!

I finally have my apartment, job, ARC, cell phone, and now bank account set up!!! I've even rocked the leggings and a flannel in the past few weeks. Except my oval eyes, blonde hair, height, common sense, and lack of Korean speaking skills, I'm as Korean as they get.

Now that it's hit 1 degree C, terrible, I have decided to join the gym. I went to Jamaican Fitness today and took a tour and it's actually decent. People aren't super into fitness here so even at 18:30 when I went it was pretty empty, which is a big change from DC where it's packed before and after work. And there's yoga everyday. Yey.

This morning at 1030 my head teacher, Hanna, comes into my classroom and tells me she needs my help with a phone interview. Ok. She makes my class get up and stare at the wall (which was hilarious) and I went upstairs to call Michael. I'm wondering at this point if I'm interviewing someone to fill my job. Maybe they don't like me. I know I'm no superstar in the classroom. No apparently we're hiring a new teacher for a new class. I guess even with the economic situation in the world, BITS is doing great and taking on more students. I've learned how to talk to Joel so as not to want to take my own life, but I've heard waaaaay more about Canada in the past 2 months than I ever needed to know. Bring on more Americans! Mike seemed nice, born in 86, and just graduated from a UC school. I have a suspicion he's gay which could be super fun too! After a 25 minute phone conversation I go back down to my class and the students are still standing in the hall facing the wall. hahahahhaha. So they do listen to's just not me :( At least there was no crying today because of me and my scary blue eyes!

Monday, November 2, 2009

howlin' weenie

Halloween in Korea.

one would think because it's an American holiday it wouldn't be a big deal, or even recognized in the slightest, here. wrong. south Americans, Germans, Africans, Canadians, LOVE the Halloween. we all dress (or undress as it may be) and celebrate the fact we're in a foreign country with foreign people celebrating foreign nonsensical holidays. not only that, but we celebrate in school too! we had a huge Halloween party complete with candy, games, cooking, and crafts. i made pumpkin pancakes, phenomenal if i may say so myself, and we all dressed up, even the Korean teachers. apparently the Korean teachers ended it there. not the expats. see facebook.


i had my 3 year old oak class again today. lily is still crying. today i scared her with my blue eyes. at the end of class i got a tearful hug and a "thank you teacher." progress.