Monday, August 30, 2010

playing on the pitch

Even though it had been raining for the past two weeks, we still somehow enjoyed playing a cricket match in the swamp that was the pitch. Emily's boyfriend, his brother, and good friend Rich, all play pretty competitively on a cricket team here in Seoul, well actually it's in Suwon, about an hour outside Seoul. It's getting late into the season so they wanted to have a fun game, so naturally Emily, Paul, Nicole and I couldn't resist. We drew up teams at the bar on Thursday, picked captains (me!), and decided on team colors after we recruited a few more sorry souls.

Saturday afternoon we all made our way down to Suwon (some of us more on time than others...), Cass cans in hand, and learned the joys of playing cricket. This is now the second cricket game Ive watched/participated in, and I still have not a clue what was going on. People just seem to run back and forth, get out every now and then, and you only switch sides once. And apparently the score gets up into the hundreds. I was told I scored 2 points. Go me! ha

When it was my turn to bat, I geared up and ran out. I told Luke, who was pitching, just to yell when I should run and stop. Worked well enough except I kept forgetting to hold onto the bat. I'm used to chucking it when you hit. Basically we got absolutely soaked, pretty wasted, and had a great workout! It's 2 days later and I'm still sore!!

Next weekend Paul and I are heading to Carribean Bay. It's the biggest water park in the world!!! Then the next weekend I'll be in NYC!! Just a week and a half now :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

namsan baby

Now that I have been living in the HBC for 8 months, I deemed it time to finally climb Namsan. Don't get me wrong, I took a bus up there with Jen when she visited and took the cable car up with my parents, but I had never actually walked up the mountain and it's literally in my backyard.

Today I was out for a run, well more of a walk, and I went past the war museum. There were probably 20 police buses on either side and loads of cops just standing around (I'm still not sure what cops do here in Korea). Then I get to the front of the museum and there's hundreds of ajusi wearing red vests with flurescent green headbands. They're just sitting around drinking Cass and Hite listening to some sick chant. Not a clue what it was all about, but they seemed happy, and they all said hi as I walked through the middle of their little pow wow. Protests are no unusual here. I see people all the time just sitting in lines banging drums and chanting about something, but it's usually just a couple people. This thing was huge! The cops get even better. On each side of the protest there were riot cops with full on robo-cop gear and sheilds. haha I know a riot when I see one, and this is not it my friend.

So after walking through that, I decided I didn't want to run back through on the way home like I usually would. So instead I kept walking, went past Seoul Station, and decided to head up Namsan. It's probably 1.5km to the top and it's all paved which is nice. It really was quite lovely. You forget sometimes that there are trees and birds in Seoul. Got up, ran back down, went home, and found that I had done 9k. Go me!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

chamchi saran hae

After a 6k run (I'm trying to get back into it! Have yet to run more than 2 days in one week though) and lots of traveling on the bus, I arrive in Hongdae ready to eat. Paul doesn't get off work until close to 8, so if we go to dinner it's late. I'm used to eating after school, which is generally 5 or 6 pm by the time I get home. Anyway, we're wondering around Hongdae trying to decide where to eat. We rule out galbi (bbq), and I don't want noodles or rice. I have wedding pictures to be in 3 weeks! So this significantly narrows the choices. As we wander, I progressively get more, well let's say anxious, to get somewhere. Weird for me to be cranky around feeding time, no?? :) Then we see this shining blue sign. "Dokdo Tuna." For those of you that don't know (and I don't know why anyone would know this) about Dokdo, give it a google search. It's basically a big rock in the ocean that is a huge point of contention between Japan and Korea. Both claim it as their own, and the rest of us sit around wondering why anyone would want it at all. Regardless, tuna sounds just about right so we pop in. I had only been to one of these chamchi restaurants once before with Susan months ago. We went with some of her co-workers and it was a full on 3 hour event. There must have been 12 courses of food!! So, hey, it's a Tuesday, why not?

We order the tuna special. You can only order sets here, there is no a la carte. The special begins. First, mek-ju, duh, followed by miso soups, and radish and apple mayo sides. Next, two sushi pieces of tuna and two pieces of a roll (basically kimbap). Then for the big show. They bring out a tray of what seems to be a bunch of tuna. There are 5 different cuts and 4 pieces of each cut. We kind of fight over the favorites, which we later learn is obviously a mistake. As soon as we finished the plate the chef comes over with an entirely new tray of tuna (again like 20 pieces) and an additional piece of fin for us to try. It was kind of like octopus; chewy. Then they bring a larger soup with odeng (fish cake) and some grilled corn. We barely finish this tray and agree that this is a crazy amount of raw fish. No sooner did we utter these words then a waitress shows up with another plate of fish! It just didn't end. We are totally full and trying not to be rude, so we eat as much as we can. They waitress comes up again and says something. I say, "oohhh pebula (full)" and she comes back with 2 maki rolls. Geeze. Finally, Paul and I decide to make a run for it before they have a chance to bring more food. We go to pay; 50,000 won. By Korean standards this is quite pricey. Well compared to, let's say, galbi. But when you think about the fact that we probably consumed an entire raw tuna, had a beer, and soup, it's more than reasonable. Especially compared to US prices. Going home (in 2 weeks!) is going to be a trip. I have to tip again, pay more than $3 a meal, and can't walk or take public transport wherever I want. Man, this will be tough.

On the bright side, avocados and mac and cheese are waiting for me when I get home. How awesome is my mom!?

PS I have the best roommates ever. I come home the other day bitching about my 4 hours on the bus and Dave goes, "Well if it makes you feel any better I found chunky peanutbutter at Emart and bought you 2 bottles!" We had a conversation about a week ago about how you can only get creamy here, and he goes no you're crazy, they have it, to which I rebutted, "well i have never seen it." So he bought it. Dave saran hae too!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

promise, one day i will finish writing my experiences in malaysia

Today is just not that day.

So I got my new teeth! Hooray. I really like them and they look natural; aka not like Hilary Duff teeth. They look big, as I guess most vaneers do, but they're super white and straight!!! I spent a looooong day at the dentist, but will never ever have to do that again. I hope. On the way to the dentist I fell asleep on the bus. As a result, almost missed my stop and didn't think to check the time on my phone until off said bus. Hmm no phone in my pocket. Definitely fell out while I was sleeping. Being the genius that I am, it didn't occur to me to call it until the next day when my friend Renee suggested it. How brilliantly obvious. I call, some Korean dude answers. There just happens to be a Korean chick hanging out on the roof at the pool with us, so I hand the phone to her. She explains to me that it's at the bus terminal, which I had accidentally been to once before when I took the bus the wrong way....all the way to the end of the line.

Monday I decide to take the hour and half field trip to the end of the line to retrieve my beloved phone. I get there. "Handa pone. Anyeo (no)." We look all around this shack of a "bus terminal" and there are no phones. That's interesting because just two days ago they said it was there!!!! Of course they speak zero English and I speak minimal Korean, so they couldn't even tell me where else it could possibly be. I said "Odayeo (where)" and they assumed because I knew one word I was fluent in Korean. The dude continued on a 10 minute rant in Korean while I just stared blankly at him. Time to go. Get back on the bus (after I finished the book I was reading, bah!) to go an hour and half back sans phone.

By the time I'm getting close to my house it's about time to go tutor Ms. Han's son Jun. So I hop off the bus and onto the subway for another 40 minutes to get up to their house. I get there and ring the door to get into the building. A man answers, clearly speaks no English and won't buzz me in. Odd, and I know I'm at the right apartment because I've been there twice before. I wait outside the door, mind you with no phone or any way to get in touch with anyone, until someone lets me in. I go up to their apartment, ring the bell and again the same man mumbles something and won't let me in. At this point I don't know what to do, so I just go and get back on the subway. Basically 5 hours of my day were totally wasted riding around on puublic transportation. And for what? At a grocery store near Ms. Han's apt I found 3 blocks of tofu for 1,000 won. So I guess it wasn't a total loss. haha good thing I have nothing but free time!

Today I got a new phone. It was 30,000 won and it's a piece, but it works and I still have the same number. This is why there is a cell store on every corner here. Phones just disappear.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

more on malaysia later...

more important news to share first! Last do Wednesday I went to Emily's dentist (she got invisiline from him) for a consultation on getting vaneers. They are something I have wanted for over 4 years now, but they're so expensive. I heard they were half the price here, and now that I have some money saved I thought it would be a good chance to go see what the deal was. I was only planning on being in there for a half hour, two hours later and I walked out with bleached teeth and an appointment to get my top 8 put on the following Friday!!! WOOHOO!!! The teeth bleaching was service, I guess if you spent a few grand you get free whitening. Asa. And since they make the teeth right there in the office, I dont have to get temporary ones while they make the new teeth. I go in at 10am this Friday and walk out at 6 pm (I was told I have a break in the middle, I hope!!!) with beautiful perfect teeth.

The timing of this is quite funny though. Right after I paid, I meet with some people from my new company who inform me some changes will occur. First, we need to now send an email when we get to work and when we leave, like a punch card. Seriously?? And we need to work our contracted 5 hours a day. Ummm I only teach 3, what do you expect me to do for 2 extra hours with no AC and one computer between 3 of us????? Not going to happen. Also, my school is the only one within our company to have 2 foreign teachers. Usually it's one native speaker and one Korean. So it looks like after a few months they're going to want to move us in that direction. At this point I'm wondering if I should quit or if I'll be fired. It's never easy here!! haha and good thing I just laid out most of my savings....

Oh well, there's always Australia or the CFA or something huh??

Last weekend Paul and I went to the beach. Got in Friday night, booked a room, and went out to the beach. We met some really cool Koreans who invited us to hang out with them even though they didn't speak English. We lit off fireworks and drank beers on the beach. On Saturday we made our way to the beach and within 10 minutes of getting there it starts to downpour. We chilled at a restaurant and had a quiet afternoon. Sunday was beautiful. We laid out and watch the ridiculousness that is Korean beaches. Korean must be fully dressed at all times and covered by an umbrella and a tent. God forbid your skin sees the sun!!! They can't really swim so everyone has a floaty or raft of some sort, and theyre all drinking and eating. It doesn't matter what time it is, everyone has a beer and soju in hand. Too funny. After some yummy fresh off the boat sashimi, we're making our way back to the bus station when this old man approaches us and asks where we're from (there are NO foreigners in Sokcho). We tell him and he invites us to come listen to him. He and his buddies are chilling in a gazebo on the beach singing Korean ballads and his one friend has a trumpet. They were amazing. After a few songs he grabs Paul and I and says, "Your turn." Ughhh what do you want us to sing??? haha so we started with some Silent Night then broke into the Killers. I think they were entertained and we certainly were. Paul's first noraebong-ish experience in Korea. We got our bus home and after a few beers decided to continue the noraebong on. We each took an earphone from my ipod and continued belting the Killers. We were popular on the bus :)

Off to go tutor, tomorrow's hopefully a pool day, and then it's time to start getting ready to go home. Lots of loose ends to tie up before leaving!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

rags to riches

Back from Malaysia!! Emily and I had a pretty amazing trip. We did a lot of sightseeing, beach relaxing, and old man scamming. Well kind of haha. We fly, the crappiest airline ever, into KL on Saturday night. Ok so China Air. Not only do they have shitty, small seats, but the food was terrible (even though we got the veggie meal! Which is always better than regular, except here!) and they ran out of beer after 2 hours. It’s a 6 hour flight. It’s bad enough they only had shitty Chinese rando beer, but then to run out!! It’s Saturday night for crying out loud. Anyway, we got there. We took the shuttle train into downtown, kind of looked around, looked at each other and said, now what? Then some nice Australian girl asked if we’d like to share a cab to hostel. Perfect! She asked us later, “If I didn’t ask you to the hostel, what would you have done tonight?” Haha we hadn’t gotten that far yet. That’s kind of the theme of this trip. We had nothing planned except a flight to and from Langkawi.

Night 1 and all the hostels/hotels in Chinatown are booked. We were told this is the party fun area and that’s where we wanted to stay, but hey, there was nothing we could do. We meet some nice boys from Buffalo who have the same problem and they tell us about some hotels over in Golden Triangle. So we share a cab over there. The guys start bumbling around, we’re not having it, so we just go to a crap hotel and book it. We put our stuff down and decide to head out for a drink. Holy shit, what was that!? Oh just about the biggest rat in the whole world right outside the front door of the hotel. Emily and I are standing there screaming and pointing, so the owner comes out to see what the problem is. He’s like, “oh that’s it. Many rats, no bite.” EWWWWW. There was an army of rats, big giant rats, and they all seemed to live right outside our hotel. We wander down the sketchy dark street and get beckoned into a local “restaurant.” The locals are totally infatuated with us and keep offering their native Myanmar whiskey. After an hour or so of hanging out with them and their really super broken English, we call it a night (it was 4 am) and go back to the rat hotel, where of course there were no less than 3 rats there to greet us.

Day 1 in Kuala Lumpur was busy. We wandered around and dropped our bags off at the Mandarin (hey it worked out well for us in HK, and went sightseeing. We tried to go to the Patronas Towers but we were told the tours sell out before 8am. If we wanted to go we’d have to get in line at 6am. Yeah, see ya there. Then we found Little India where we had awesome, and awesomely cheap, curry then took a bus about an hour outside the city to the Batu Temple. This place was awesome. Apparently on holidays there are hundreds of thousands of people here praying, luckily this was not the case when we were there. You immediately notice the 50+ foot gold Buddha standing at the base of the stairs. As you climb the stairs there are tons of monkeys trying to steal from you. They take food, plastic bags, sunglasses, whatever they can get. Then you get to the top of the stairs and enter a 400 million year old cave. There are statues and people peddling stuff all over; including taking your picture with a snake, which I did. It was really a unique experience to be in this cave with a bunch of foreigners and locals alike, and to be chased by monkeys the whole time!! Definitely my favorite tourist sight in KL. We head out and sightsee around the city more. We go up to the KL tower and found a mini rock festival, so we bought tickets and listened to some Malaysian rock. Not bad. It was a pretty exhausting day of a lot of walking and sightseeing, so come evening we went to Chinatown where we tried to stay the first night. I had some sharkfin soup, again not bad, and then we went to the Reggae Bar where were met new friends DJ and Tom. They weren’t doing much but suggested a bar area to us. They don’t know how helpful that was. This new bar area was amazing!!!! A long street lined with nice bars! The KL we had experienced all day was a bit run down and vacant. It reminded me a lot of Alabama in the fact that 40% of the stores were gated closed. Wasted real estate galore. But this area was super nice and we settled on Gypsy Bar. Within 10 minutes a group of older (40s-50s) men came in and started chatting with us. We invited them to sit, they bought us drinks, Em told them it was my birthday, and a few mojitos later we were heading back to their hotel, Trader’s Hotel, for the rooftop SkyBar. Well, it being my “birthday” and all, they felt obligated to buy champagne. We don’t settle for Moet here, it’s Verve all the way. 3 bottles later and I pushed Em into the pool in the middle of the bar and jumped in after. I supposed it didn’t go so well, especially to the Muslim table on the left, because they quickly bathrobed us and ushered us out the door. But new best friends John and Charlie wouldn’t let us get kicked out and we were invited to stay in their room! Asa. Free 5 star hotel. And they were old and married so there was no threat of creepiness.

Wake up and have an amazing buffet breakfast at the Trader’s Club, best place in KL!!! And we’re on our way.

Day 2 KL Waterpark.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Malaysia coming soon

I started writing my post about my recent trip to Malaysia, but it became clear quickly that it will be quite lengthy. I'm currently on day 2 :) but I will get it up soon.

After traveling throughout Saturday night and Sunday morning/afternoon, I got home and the party continued. Sunday was Paul's birthday, so of course we had to have people over to celebrate. I was surprisingly not too tired Monday. I even went for a run. That was definitely the first time in a couple weeks. And I'm going again today. I think I've really missed it and I want to get back to running 4+ times a week. It's hard when it's so hot and there's so much going on though.

The kids at school aren't even driving me nuts. I guess vacation really does help! It also helps 1/2 the kids are gone due to vacations and other academies. Ohh, in big news, I found out today that my boss, James, quit my company. Why you ask. Well apparently the company I work for has been sold to another larger company. This better not mean longer working hours. If that's the case I'm bailing and just doing privates! ha. But I guess the new company won't take control until September (please don't fire me while I'm not there) so I have a few months to weigh some options. I'm going to start applying to finance/wine jobs in Australia soon, and perhaps in Hong Kong as well.

This is a busy week though. Lots of tutoring to catch up on, level tests to write, and errands to run. All the while trying to catch up with everyone I haven't seen in a week. Then this weekend is another beach trip!!! I can't wait. Paul and I are heading out to Sokcho to celebrate our birthdays (I'm really dragging this out, huh?) and get out of Seoul for the weekend. Let's keep this tan going :)

Alright off for a run through Hongdae in the blistering 30 degree heat. Hopefully I won't get beaten up too badly by the ajumas...