Sunday, March 28, 2010

seoul survivor...barely

Oh Ms. Han. The woman just doesn't stop. After a whirlwind week at H (the magekolli bar), I awoke Friday morning with intentions of never drinking the magkeolli ever again. With this new schedule I have, it is super easy to go out every single night. And since I am soooo popular, I always have someone to partake in festivities with :) The nights just fill up. It's Sunday now and I'm booked through next Thursday! haha too bad these plans are often changed, cancelled or abandoned. Anyway, last Friday at 2 I get a call from Ms. Han saying we should meet at 3. Ugh I suppose I can get out of bed to make some money, especially now that it's 2 in the afternoon and all I have done is watch Deadwood and feel sorry for my aching head. I meet her and this time we don't even BS with a lesson. We go straight to a dakdoraetong restaurant and start chatting. She didn't read any of the novel over the past week and I had nothing prepared as well. So we sit, eat, and talk about random things for like 2 hours. She tells me how she's basically sick of being married and a mom. She's totally burnt out and is seeking some freedom. She tells me if her husband dies or they get divorced (which seems kind of likely from what I'm hearing) she would never get remarried. She just wants to hang out with friends and travel. I feel badly because the poor woman works all week, including weekends, and seems pretty confined to a life in the house (except our Friday meetings) when she's not at work. I tell her to take one night a week for herself. Life advice from a 25 year old who can't even hold a job for more than 2 years...anyway...

After a while she starts talking to the Korean cooks and I guess tells them I like magkeolli. The women start laughing and bring one over. Ahh it's 4 in the afternoon Ms. Han! After we finish she says her friends are in the area and want to meet. We go to our usual magkeolli place, and perfectly enough, it starts raining. We drink some more with her friends and I realize I am Ms. Han's hired friend. She pays, feeds and boozes me up on a weekly basis. I hang out with her more than a lot of my friends! I think the guy at the magkeolli bar we meet at thinks we're nuts. We're in there every Friday at 4, a 42 year old Korean woman and me a 25 year old foreigner, and all we do is eat and drink. haha. So 7 rolls around (4 hour 'lesson') and I have to go meet Emily and her private for dinner.

I meet Emily and her private, In-yoon (38), and we go to a Japanese place in Seorae. Seorae is an area of Gangnam with a big French population. Lots of French restaurants, wine bars, bakeries, and markets on the weekend. We go for sushi though. We meet 2 of In-yoon's friends there. Inyoon went to Georgetown, his buddy Rio went to Cornell, and the third guy went to UPenn. Emily and I are feeling stupid. And these guys speak better English than we do! Not really, but there's definitely nothing lost in translation. They wine and dine us and take us to a wine bar. Finally they decide they're old and tired and want to call it a night. We were put in a cab suddenly and told we should do it again. It felt like we were just dumped! Not being light weights we decide to keep going. At this point it's midnight and I have to get up early the next am to work. I stupidly decide who cares and we go out to Dillingers.

After another 3 am night, I awake at 10 so I can cover an English class for my friend Ben. Ugh I got ripped off here. I agreed to work for him to help him out. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I get to this class (where I'm being paid 20,000 won an hour. BS) and it's two 2 hour classes. 2 hours of me talking, even with adults, is a looong time. My first class was ok, and despite my headache and tiredness, was kind of fun. It was 2 outgoing guys and a nice woman and they actually talked so it went by relatively fast. My second class was four women in their early 20s and they seemed very nice at first. The topic of the week was nightlife. Perfect, something I know loads about. These girls not so much. None of them really drank, or went out, or did anything. They studied and then they studied more. I was like well what do you do when it's your friend's birthday? "Well maybe dinner, but not drinking." Boring. No party? No clubs? Just dinner. They didn't ever volunteer conversation either, so it was 2 hours of me asking questions, getting nods, and then just talking about myself. Sure I liek to talk about myself and tell stories, but when 4 uninterested girls are just looking at me blankly, it's not so much fun. I ended the class 15 mins early and said peace. Ughh it's Sunday afternoon and I'm still tired from the class!!

I am about to head down to Mok-dong. I went out on Monday with this boy Peter. I met him Thanksgiving but was kind of dating his friend at the time. We went out a couple times, but nothing ever really came from it and we lost touch for a few months. I guess I was bored the other day and going through my phone and sent him a text to see what was going on for the weekend. He was busy so we decided to meet on Monday for a date. It was really fun and he's really smart, we've seen each other a couple times since then. We usually meet in my area (because as Emily says, we don't commute to boys. If they don't live in HBC or Itaewon, why should I waste my time), but I feel bad and guess it's my turn to travel. And hey it's a free dinner. Peter's 25, from Walla Walla, Washington, and has been in Korea just a few months longer than myself. And he's really tall. :) So I'm off. Mom if you read this, call me!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

ms. han strikes again

Finally (sadly though) the visitors have all gone and i have gotten back into a vaguely normal routine. Wake up at 10, run, make lunch, go to school, go out. Repeat. With the exception of Fridays because I don't have to work. This past Friday I get another call from Ms. Han (I think we will start meeting every Friday) at 9 am (doesn't she know I don't work on Fridays!?) asking to meet at 3.

So we meet up at 3 at our usual coffee shop in Jongno where she works. After an hour of correcting emails and reading Eat Pray Love together (ok so this is not a book to read out loud with someone twice your age. The first chapter, which I should have looked at before suggesting we read it, is all about chastity and how much the author wants to bang out this young Italian guy.) Ms. Han says her eyes hurt. "Have any appointments now?" Well seeing as it's 4 on a Friday and everyone I know is at work, no. So we go out to eat to the same place we went after our second meeting. After Ms. Han tells me she can't drink because she has to drive home, we order exactly the same thing we did the last time:

pajeon (seafood korean pancake)
al tang (fish baby soup)
magkeolli (you guys should know this one by now; rice wine!)

She proceeds to pour two bowl of magkeolli and we dig in. We'd been eating and chatting for about an hour when we ran out of booze. "One more magkeolli." For someone who's not drinking, she sure is drinking a lot. Then her friend, 58 year old co-worker with perfect English, comes to join us. We had finished most of our food, which is really impressive for two not-so-hungry people, so we order kimchi/pork/tofu thing. I forget the name but it is popular to order with magkeolli (as is pajeon- theyre all rainy day things). The friend decides he's sick of rice wine and so we order mekju and soju (beer and a stronger rice wine). She proceeds to tell her friend how we're reading a sex book. Oh man. We were at this restaurant for a solid 3 hours. And we were all drunk. D. R. U. N. K. drunk. Ms. Han suggests we go noraebong. hahahahah what an awesome idea. So 40+ year old Ms. Han, 58 year old dude, and 25 year old me, all go over to a private room, order more beers, and proceed to belt out Eagles hits. They sing me some Korean classics, but mostly it's me picking out Neyo or Britney Spears. We had such a blast. At last it was 9pm and we all had to call it a night. Perhaps Ms. Han had to get home to her kids?? ha. I think we also decided that this would become our Friday routine. Hey I'll take the 50,000 won, free dinner, Korean lesson, and noraebong anyway. Especially with Ms. H!
I get home and decide I can't go out. I'm still too drunk! This is perfect anyway because the next day is the St. Patty's celebration in Gwanghuman.....


Get up, go to brunch with Emily at the All American Diner. Got a BLET (bacon lettuce egg tomato) and a Guinness and Kahlua. Yum. Then obviously hit the Wolfhound, then of to the parade. It's a crappy day, pretty moist and just gray. But by the time we get to the parade it had at least stopped raining. It's hilarious. You're in the middle of Korea, downtown, and there are TONS of ex-pats and Koreans alike decked out in green, Irish flags, and ridiculous hats. The parade starts and we (me and all the expats basically) decide we want to be in it! So we march, get our photos taken, throw candy, then it's over. It's pretty cold, so Emily, Chi (her week long Korean bf), and I got to Bennigan's. I'm usually all about skipping the American chains abroad, but they had bottomless beer for 3,000 won!!! Not that is matters because Chi pays for everything anyway :)

Anyway, we walk outside a bit later and it looks like the Apocalypse. The sky is straight yellow and it's just eery. Apparently it's yellow dust. I always thought the yellow dust everyone referred to was pollen. Not so much. The sands from China blow into Korea every spring inflicting fun respitory distress unto everyone. This is why the masks have been broken back out. Ahhhh it all makes so much sense. ANyway, went from here down to the Wolfhound and spent the next 15 hours there. I don't think I have ever spent that much time in a row at one bar. haha ohhh St. Patty's (which was actually 4 days earlier).

Random funny story. Last night I was on my way to tutor down in Irwon which is about an hour long subway ride. I had just gotten on the train, and started reading my book (thanks Liz!). This dude, who I can smell as soon as he walks onto the train, starts pointing at my book saying "No Englishy, Dutchy?" He was over 50 and fully decked out in hiking gear. I say no it's English and he asks where I'm from. I tell him DC (haha I always say DC before NJ, it gets a better response) and he says his daughter is same same. Hartford. Then points to his hat; Yale. She apparenlty got a full ride for a clarinet scholarship and he's a proud pappa. The entire 5 minutes we're chatting he's covering his mouth going "So sorry." Then follows with "I went hiking. So drunky. 3 bottles of soju at top." hahah yeah no kidding! You could smell this dude from 300 meters away! And just like that it was his time to go and he walked off the train. This was 5pm. Ajusi are always wasted!!!


So that's what's new here. This weekend I stupidly agreed to work for my friend Ben on Saturday. He's going to be out of town and I only work 4 days a week so I agreed; then he told me the pay. 80,000 won. For 4 hours! On a Saturday! Are you kidding me? Ughhh oh well; so it's 1-5 then I go straight to my first Korean soccer game. FC Seoul v. Suwon. I can't wait! Only two days til Friday's lesson!

Monday, March 8, 2010


I have now been in the ROK for over 6 months. Where does the time go? I feel like I've been here forever, but at the same time, not even close to half a year. I am totally digging my new job. There's no prep work, the kids are cute, and it's 12 hours a week. What could there be to complain about? Oh and when I have 2 kids with the same name in a class I get to rename them!! haha imagine being John for the past 2 years and all of the sudden teacher tells you, nope, now Alex. I had one kid who had to change his name.
I say "Who do you want to be?"

His response, "In front of."

hahaha I try to explain the meaning to him and his next answer is "Monkey." I was going to take it, because, hey, monkey's a sweet name but at the last second he says "No teacher, teacher, Tom." haha ok Tom.

So things are going well at school when all of the sudden I get a call for an interview with COEX. The position is Convention Manager (Susan's old job). I go in for a pre-interview with the recruiting firm. I'm looking nice in dress slacks, a sweater, pearls, but it had been raining and perhaps my hair was a bit frizzed. The advice given to me if I get accepted for a real interview is as follows:

"Next time suit and uhh...ugh (gestures to his hair) salon."


I go to H&M get a really smart looking suit (I text every girl friend I have here to borrow a suit and not one has one. You know why? Because we're all English teachers!!!!), then the afternoon of my real interview I go to the salon. I get a really nice looking haircut, am feeling good and go up for my interview. There are 2 other girls there, both with bad hair and suits, and we're all expected to sit in a room and wait for our turn to go in front of a panel. I, of course, go last.

The one other girl is young, 22, right out of school but speaks fluent Korean. The other woman, not even in a suit!, has 6 years business experience in Korea. I know Susan :)

It's my turn. I walk in,introduce myself, then sit in a lone chair in the middle of the room while a panel of 7 people stare at me. I know the Marketing Manager, Steve, from Susan's going away party the week before, so I'm hoping this helps me. They ask a bunch of questions about what Susan told me of the position, am I good with people, why do I want this job, how would I sell Seoul and COEX, etc. Then the last questions. Soju or makgeolli? hahahahahah Steve definitely pulled this out because he knows of my recent makgeolli obsession.

SO this is Friday. They say I'll hear early next week. So I have, of course, been compulsively checking my email the past 3 days. Today at 3 I had an answer:

"I'm very sorry to say that COEX chose another one for Convention Marketer.
I know you have done your best so far. so please don't be disappointed.

Thank you for your great job and I hope you can make another good opportunities"

Bah. Oh well. I'm definitely disappointed but now will have a bunch of free time to do sightseeing, running, cooking, and most importantly, learn Korean. I went to Sookmyeon Women's University's library (next to my elemenatary school) today and find that it will be the perfect place to go for a few hours everyday after school to study. I'll believe it when this happens, but that' the plan for now.

Is it July yet? I am so over being cold. Bring on the 90s....

Saturday, March 6, 2010

straight from america...well with a brief japanese layover

The lack of postings is due to the fact that my friend Jen from PES was here all week! We had a week of good food, drink, and conversation. It was so much fun to share my Korea life with someone who knew my DC life. I think Jen had an awesome time practicing Korean and scouting out triangles!

Jen flew in Friday night, and poor thing, took the airport shuttle to Gangnam to go to Susan's going away party at the Jelly Motel. She dove right into it though. That was a 6am night, and so was Saturday night. Sunday I said goodbye to my best friend :( It was really hard saying goodbye to someone I have known the entire time I have been here, and more importantly someone I instantly clicked with and know will be a great friend forever. She was my friend, sister, mom, partner in crime here. But she's off to Germany for a month to see her mom then Canada where she needs to be! I am already planning my Vancouver trip in September!

Back to Jen. We had an amazing week of just hanging out and taking in the Koran culture. Some highlights include:

Going to the fish market.
We went and picked out a live octopus and a black fish. They fileted (spelling?) the fish right in front of us and then we took everything back to a restaurant upstairs. In the restaurant they cut up the live octopus, which wiggles when you eat it, Awesome. then bring you the banchan (side dishes) and at the end they make you a soup from the left over fish parts. YUM. It was soo good and I think one of Jen's favorite parts was the coffee you get after. There are little coffee machines at everything Korean restarant where you get a milk, sugar, coffee shot on your way out the door. It's really tasty. Like drinking sugar. haha.

Maybe this is more of a highlight for me. I needed a suit because I got the second interview with COEX (more on this later) so I went over the newly opened H&M. Oh my. It's life changing. Clothes that are made in real people sizes and it's only a 5 min bus ride from my house. Asa! Anyway, I got an awesome suit and then we made out way through the rain to find lunch. We ended up going back to Myeondong last night and had a GREAT dinner. We accidently ordered 3000cc pitcher of beer, which we finished, and pajeon (squid and onion pancake), nackchi (spicy octopus) with vercimilli, and kimchi jjigae (kimchi soup). It was so good. And it was cool to be back in Myeondong at night when all of the vendors were out.

Seoul Tower.
I don't know if this qualifies as a highlight or more of a debacle. We had been wanting to go up to Namsan Tower all week but the weather had been crappy. FInally on the last night we decide to cab it up there and see what it's all about. It was pretty awesome to get a 360 view of Seoul. We picked up some cool souveniers, got some pictures, then decided we were cold and hungry. Apparently there's one way, and one way only, off the mountain. We needed the 03 bus to get bacsk to Itaewon. We see the bus and the driver is outside the bus so we ask him when he's leaving. He tells us 35 minutes. Crap. What are we going to do out in the cold for that long. Then he tells a Korean couple 20 mins. We decide we can make this so we go to the bathroom to kill some time. We come out no more than 5 minutes later and the bus is gone. The jackass left us. Stranded on the top of a mountain. At 8pm. In the cold. With empty stomaches. We hadn't eaten since and we were getting cranky. Well I was. We see a 02 bus and say screw it, we'll take it no matter where it goes. It ended up dropping us not too far from Myeondong, so we walked, ate some street food (tteokbokki, one of Jen's new favorites) to hold us over then went to a great dinner.

Best Dinner. Ever. Sincheon.
One night Jen and I subwayed it over to Hongdae. I showed her where all the shopping and bars were. We tried to some street food then walked, Cass in hand, the 20 minutes to Sincheon. We walked all around looking at all the lights and stuff going on, and Jen pointed to a place and says let's try this. We sit on the floor (like we do at every restaurant we went to. And yes, Jen's mom, her back is Ok.) and I try to order the octopus chicken grill without the chicken. Trying to explain no chicken was waaaay more difficult than it needed to be. I would point at the English menu. Point to the word ctopus, thumbs up. Point to the word chicken and cross my arms and say annyo (no). After 10 minutes of this they finally get my point. Octopus only. This is a restaurant where they cook it right on the table. They bring out the veggies, gochujong (spicy red sauce), tteokk (rice cake), and squirming octopus and turn the stove on. I convince Jen to drink some soju, definitely not one of her new favorites. She ended up spitting it out. haha oops. So we get some more Cass and wait for our food to cook. We had great deep conversations. I learned things about Jen I never knew and it was just really fun to have a girlfriend from home, sippng on beers, wearing aprons, cooking while sitting on the floor Korea! And then it was ready. I know, I know, I say this ALL the time. But really, this time it's true. BEST DINNER EVER. I got thecard and took a picture outside so I would be able to find it again. Im taking everyone I know here. It was just so flavorful and delicious. Ahhh I think I'd like to go back right now. After we rolled out of there back to HBC, to-go coffee shots in hand.

Ok so this is a highlight for me not Jen. But I have a new favorite bar and it's only 1/2 a block from my house. I read about it on (my favorite website here) and had to go. It's a makgeolli bar. They have a menu of like 50 different makgeollis and they're all 5,000-9,000 won per liter. No one except me and Jeff like it, but they serve beer too so everyone was a good sport and went the first time. I got the sampler. 5 different makkeollis in little bowls. They were all good!!! THEN Jen and I went back on Thursday night. It was raining and we were tired so we just wanted something chill to do. She got a Cass and I got a liter of a random makgeolli. We get the bill. 2,000 won. huh?? Apparently everytime it rains you get a free bottle of makgeolli!!!! It's like they built this place just for me. I'm in makgeolli heaven and I make a HUGE point to tell J(i forget her full name) everytime I'm in there. It's only been open a week and I've been twice and know the staff now. ha.

So as you can tell, Jen and I basically ate our way through Seoul. There's not a whole whole lot to do here except drink and eat, so it's a good thing the food is so good. I can't picture my life without kimchi...

Anyway, I put Jen on the airport bus this morning, so she should be landing back in the US within the next 7 or so hours. We had such an amazing time and she promised if (when) I'm here in a year she'll come out for another trip!

About being here another year. Wish me luck for the COEX job. I interviewed on Friday (will save details for a new post, I'm tired of typing, and I'm at McDonald's and need to go get ready for the night. Party at Sarah's. She just moved to the hood) and hear back early this week if I got the job of Convention Marketing Manger or not. I am SUPER SUPER hoping I got it!!!!

Pictures to come...