Monday, February 28, 2011


Woke up this weekend with a slight sore throat and runny nose. I didn't think too much of it as it warmed up really suddenly. Changes in the weather always affect my allergies, so I figured it would pass. Not so. I woke up this morning and it's worse than ever! I have never experienced this kind of drippage before. It's only been like this for 2 days and I've already worn all of the skin under my nose off. So while everyone's out having fun (at Hooter's ha) I'm at home with a bottle of wine and a roll of toilet paper. At least I don't have to work tomorrow.

4 days til beach.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!!!

I love you and wish I could be home to celebrate with you. You'll get plenty of celebrating done in Switzerland, I'm sure! Call you tonight,


It's raining

It's pouring, Paul is in bed snoring...

This is the first rain we've had in weeks, dare I say, months! I take it as a sign that Seoul is sad today. For today is the last Sunday Funday. March marks the beginning, and also the end, of the Korean school year. Due to this fact everyone is jumping ship. Contracts are finished, tickets booked, and for some, bags packed. This week Carolann, Scott, Sarah, Nicole, Catie, Brad, and Liz are all leaving Seoul. A few will be back in a couple months after traveling South East Asia, but you know what, I'll be on my way out! It's going to be really strange here for the next few weeks, My only good friend left is Krissy! And we're both leaving in June, I wonder what Seoul will do without us! Despite this sadness, there's a silver lining. My one year contract (well one year and 3 weeks) is finished on Thursday!!!!! No more elementary school!!!! I'm basically working at the school Daekyo, my company, forgot. They don't give a shit what we do, and since their contract with the school is up on Thursday, we can drive it into the ground for all they care. What does this mean for SUnny (the 5th or so Korean co-teacher I've had this year, also the coolest) and I? SNACK PARTY WEEK! We will be watching Megamind and eating cookies all week. This Tuesday is Declaration Day which means no school. Monday night happens to be 10,000 won bottomless beers at Hooters. Guess where I'll be Monday night.

I started working a few weeks ago at BHive. Krissy works here Monday/Wednesdays and hooked me up with a few classes. The school is for children and adults who are basically fluent in English who are preparing to move to the US for boarding school or college. Each class is 2 hours and we usually focus on reading literature or just chatting, My current two classes are awesome. The first is for Taeha who is 22 years old. He went to middle and high school in California and came back to Korea to serve his mandatory 2 years in the military. He's been back in Korea 3 years and hasn't spoken English at all and wants to go to college back in the states, so it's my job to sit and talk to him for 2 hours just so he gets back in practice. It's the greatest job! He's really cool and all we do is talk about what movies we've seen and what we do on weekends. My second class is with Jessie. She's 13, her mother's a congress woman here, father's a lawyer, she goes to art school, and her English is basically flawless. We read the Mixed up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankwieler and discuss what we've read. It's like real teaching!!! So yeah, come March I'm picking up an additional three classes which will keep money in my pocket but also allow much more time for studying, which I am totally slacking on....

On Friday Hwan and Jay, the owners of BHive, took us out for a company dinner. Two teachers were sick or something, so it was just Krissy Emily and I. (I also know Emily, she used to be my neighbor). We had such a blast. Dinner was at Mercado which is a Brazilian steakhouse. I know I've said this, but just to reiterate, I'm not a meat person. Give me broccoli over steak any day. We started with an awesome Chilean Cab. Ohhh how I've missed good wine (I have recently regressed to Fanzia. Beggars can't be choosers). They the waiter walks around with huge slabs of meat and cuts it off onto your plate. I had veal, sirloin, bacon wrapped steak, garlic steak, chiken hearts (good!), and a couple other cuts I can't remember. Everyone at the table ate most of their meat, and I tried, I really did, but my plate when I was finished was still heaped with meat. They kept laughing at me :( but seriously, that was probably more meat than I've eaten in the past year combined. And I actually really enjoyed it!! In the center of the table were side dishes, pickles (because you can't go to a meal without pickles), mashed potatoes which were amazing, spicy sauce, salad and some more pickedy things. Walked out of their full, but not busting, and ready to go party back in the Cheon.

Saturday was gorgeous! Paul and I went out to an interesting brunch at a new Russian place. I don't think you could even call it a restaurant, more of a bar with kitchen. You walk into this tiny room, sit at the bar and right behind the bar the Russian lady cooks your meal. Kind of a Russian diner. I don't know how many Russians you know, but I don't know any. And I think there's a reason for this. I can't tell if they didn't like Americans or they're just super mean, but I was picking up some pretty nasty vibes from this broad. It was definitely one of the weirdest experiences I've had here. They spoke Russian and Korean (weird accent!) and we obviously speak English. I didn't know how to communicate, I just kept switching between English and Korean, and they certainly gave no indication of their preference. I just felt her staring with cold angry eyes throughout the whole 20 minutes we were there. The food was actually decent, and super cheap, so I'm curious to go back and try their bananas foster (everything they make is in a crepe), but I will definitely get it to go!! Creeeeeeepy.

Saturday evening was an Indian buffet for Sarah and Nicole's going away. The party was nice, but I was still tired/hungover from Friday, so I called it an early night. I can't hack going out two nights a weekend anymore. Damn you CFA. I got an awesome email from my cousin Mike recommending places to go in India and Nepal! Yey the trip is coming together. Tentative plan is to leave the second week in June, fly to KL and from there I found flights for < $80 to Bangalore. Then we will train up throughout the country. Goa to Agra (and I'm sure a ton of places in between) and finally end the trip in Nepal which is supposed to be the most magical wonderful place ever. Yes, EVER. All of this in 5 or 6 weeks and then fly direct to our new home in Hong Kong. The job market for Paul is looking promising. There seem to be a lot of positions for kindy teachers, and hopefully they will come with housing. If not, I need to find me a real nice box.

6 days til Thailand!!!!!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

decision made

I've been racking my brain thinking of new and different approaches to find jobs in Hong Kong. Applying over the internet just doesn't seem to be hacking it. I have decided that I cannot get a job because people a) don't take it seriously that I would move to Hong Kong or b) don't want to sponsor my work visa/moving costs. It definitely doesn't have anything to do with the fact that I don't speak Mandarin. So in an effort to make myself more marketable/just harder to avoid, I am moving to Hong Kong. Paul and I agreed yesterday that if I still don't have a job come August, we'll pack up and move to HK and just live hand to mouth til I find one. He in the mean time will be actively searching for teaching positions. So yeah, life plan parte 3,000 is now in affect.

Paul and Lauren HK August 2011.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Crunches Be Damned

I wake up early (9:38) and go for a lovely 5k run on Friday. It's finally breaking freezing and not totally miserable at that hour. I come home for my usual 5 minute floor routine. I do some planks and start in on my crunches. About 25 in and I notice my head all of the sudden doesn't want to go up. I try to stand up....ouch! I don't know what I did, but I am pretty sure my last post about being old totally came true. I am instantly brought back to childhood watching my parents lie on the couch in agony with thrown out backs. Perhaps it's the 20+lbs of books I carry each day, or just my old age, I am 28 now in Korean (that's almost 30!). Luckily it's just my shoulders and neck so I'm still able to bend and move, I just can't turn left or right. It's kinda like Zoolander, but painful. I am typing this in bed now (9:50, and it's Saturday!) propped up by 3 pillows contemplating where to get acupuncture.

In other news, I got dumped by my Bundang tutoring, which is actually a blessing. It'll save me a solid 2 hours in commuting and recently they stopped feeding me. Who needs that? This was last Wednesday. On Friday at the blowfish people's house the mom stops me on the way out, "We need to talk." Oh shit what did I do? "My sister want interview you for class." Sweet, more tutoring. Guess where she lives. Bundang!

At my Friday school my first student, 22 and totally awesome, was 30 minutes late. While waiting my boss Jay walks in, "I need to ask you something." Oh shit, what'd I do!? "Next Friday, we're uh, having a company dinner. Are you free?" Dinner? Duh I'm free. He walks out. 2 minutes later comes back in. "Lauren, I know you're uh, a healthy eater (pan over to the waffle sitting on my right), but uh, the dinner's at a steak house. A Brazilian steak house. Are you ok with that?" I've been dying to try one! I have never been and can't really justify paying for one because I'm really not a big meat eater, but if the company's paying, I'm soooo in. And Krissy and Emily will be there because they both work for this company. For those of you not familiar with Brazilian steakhouses, you get 2 paddles, an X and an O, and they waiters basically walk around cutting off different slabs of meat onto your plate until you put the X sign up. Im also told there's a salad bar. This particular steakhouse (in Apujeong) is supposed to be the best in Seoul and i've already heard Krissy rave about it. And she's a carnivore so she knows. Pictures and review coming soon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

CFA=me old

Something about studying for the CFA causes me to age thirty years. Instead of going out every night, I come home have a glass of wine and go to bed by 11 (keep in mind I work at 12 or 1 everyday). Instead of staying out late on the weekends, I come home by midnight or 1 and wake up the next morning at 10 to go study. Who have I become!?

Well it's been good for my productivity at least. I've been waking up by 9 or 10 everyday, studying, running (well once), and preparing for work, which I have a bunch of all of the sudden. My new class with Ms. Han and Terry is awesome. They met in Japanese class a year ago. Ms. Han was the teacher. Now they're onto practicing English. We use a book and just chat for an hour every Tuesday and Thursday morning over coffee and then they take me out to lunch. Last week we had dakdoritang (spicy chicken soup) and today we had budajiggae. Budajiggae is a relatively new dish in Korea, and I have spent my past year avoiding it. It's basically American soldier scraps soup. Back in the 50s when the Korean people were starving they would go through the military trash and dig out whatever food they could; spam, hotdogs, ramen etc. It's a poor man's dish that is now widely popular. The thought of spam and hotdog soup never really struck a chord with me, that is, until I have it with Ms. Han. This stuff is delicious! I know my tastes have totally changed in the past year, foods I used to hate i now love and crave, but can meat!? Mr. Kim, who joined us for lunch today, calls it piggy soup. Well in that case, Oink Oink.

Valentine's day in the cheon was fantastic. I was surprised with an eggs in a basket breakfast, which Paul and I followed with a walk up to Namsan and a trip to the top Seoul Tower. We brought mini champagne bottles and had a toast as the sun set over Seoul. How cute are we? On actual Valentine's Day, my sweet sweet student Vallery brought my a little goodie bag of treats; peanuts, a walnut (in the shell), kisses, snickers and chocolates. I love her!!! School actually hasn't been that bad recently. Perhaps because I know it's coming to an end in a few weeks, or more likely because the enrollment is so low, it's become a lot easier/less annoying. I don't have to scream as loud when I'm only trying to yell over 3 kids. It's been a blessing for my voice this winter.

Countdown is on. Thailand in T-17 days.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ms. Han's back

This morning I started a new class with Mrs. Han and her friend. We're going to study business English; 1/2 book and 1/2 convo. I haven't seen her since Thanksgiving, and now we're meeting twice a week! Asa, even though there's no food of booze involved. Well, it is an 11 am class. I have also just picked up 2 more 2 hour classes at Krissy's school on Friday. Man I am working more now that I am studying than I was before. AND i just extended my finish day to March 3rd to help the school out. Geeze it's like someone thinks I like doing this or something. In other news, apparently I am STILL not hirable in Finance. Just started applying again and have already gotten 2 rejections. Bring it on HK.

So yeah this week has been about work and studying. Ohh and running! I'm back baby. This is the longest work week I've had since quitting Bits last January; 25.5 hours. I know, you should feel back for me.

Friday, February 4, 2011


In a money saving effort this month, Paul and I have decided not to eat out, but instead to cook in. Except for today because Wing Bakery is opening a sandwich place up the street. Sandwiches are 50% off, so it counts as saving money....
Regardless, first on the list was jambalaya. We saw these colorful sausages at EMart a few weeks ago and have been talking about it ever since. Yesterday we hit Emart hard. We ended up with colorful sausages, squid, shrimp, and oysters for our concoction and it ended up looking like this:

I think we ended up making enough to feed us for the entire month! And there's still a squid left over and half a pack of sausages. [Note: not only can I clean a squuid now, but I have taught Paul...which means I don't have to do it anymore :) ] Here's Paul hard at work:

And my contribution...

In the end it turned out totally delicious and definitely sparked my interest in cooking again. I need to pull out Maria's cookbook and get on it. Too bad it's so hard to get cheese here!! Feel free to send some. Preferences include goat, muenster, gouda and gryere. Thanks.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Last week I had a fantastic visit with Brian. We went out in Sincheon to an International party, got sashimi at the fish market and my favorite local restaurant, went through markets and partied the nights away in Itaewon and Haebongcheon. Brian is so easy going and open minded that he fit right in. A little back story on Brian. We used to work together at Gannett where we traveled 2+ weeks a month, usually within the US, but two or three times a year to the UK. Brian has now been there 3 years and can pretty much get away with whatever he wants, and he has the United and Hilton points to do it!
Last Christmas he met me in Vietnam where were traveled to Cambodia and Thailand. He then took the remainder of the month to travel China. This December he audited in England then took a week off to travel Russia. After he left me this trip (where he came from an audit in Guam!) he continued on to Vietnam and Japan. EVen though the job is pretty crappy, boy gets some travel perks! Regardless, after some of the stories about Gannett, I am still TOTALLY happy I left when I did. Wow that was 3 1/2 years ago. How old am I again? Oh right 28 this week....according to Korea.

This week is Lunar New Year (Seolnal). No one except China follows this calendar, but hey, we get three days off school to recognize it, so who's complaining? Brian left early on New Year's Day one. Paul and I didn't have the means to be gallivanting throughout Asia this week (Thailand is in a month!), so we decided to travel local. My roommate Dave took my parents and I down to Jeonju in June where we ate the best bibimbap (veg beef rice mix) in Korea, and drank magkeolli with the locals until our stomachs burst. When ordering magkeolli in Jeonju you get side dishes, I'm talking 20+, soup, rice balls, and seafood pancake. It's definitely the place in Korea to go for food. So Paul and I decide to take a night to feast. And the great thing is, it's only 3 hours by bus.

Wednesday is absolutely gorgeous! It's the first day in months where you don't cringe as you walk out the door! We walk an hour or so across the bridge down to Express Bus Terminal. We arrive 3 pm and look at the departing bus times. There's only one bus going to Jeonju and guess when it leaves. 11:30 pm. That means we'd first, have 8 hours to kill, and second, wouldn't arrive until 2:30 providing there's no traffic, which there will be. New plan. We start looking at other bus destinations and don't really recognize many of the town names. Even if we do, we don't know what's there. So we do what any logical person would do, find the bus that's leaving soonest and hop on. Turns out that bus is to Seosan. Never heard of it, but who cares, it's leaving in 40 minutes!

According to the ticket it's 128 km away, so that should only take an hour or so. Not so. It's a holiday. In Korea. Where 45% of the population lives in Seoul. For the New Year everyone is expected to go the country. We actually got pretty lucky and sat in traffic for less than an hour. After 2 hours on the bus we arrive in sparkling Seosan. From looking at traffic signs, we gather we're south near the west coast, but there's no beach in sight. We passed Ocean Park Resort on the way, but I'm thinking maybe they were just joking. It's just after 6 and quiet. There are approximately 12 taxis per person and a few neon lights for PC bangs. There are, however, motels everywhere. This is a good sign. Motels mean tourist destination, right? RIGHT!? We get a room where I guess nonsmoking is not optional, but I guess we wouldn't know because the women at the desk just kind of grunted at us and pointed to a sign "30,000 won." We pay and go to our smokey room. It's a typical motel, even a little newer and cleaner than I have seen in the past. And the best part is that it's a Hilton. haha you know someone stayed in a HIlton one time, or knew someone that worked at one, and stole 400 Hilton pillow covers for their pillows.

We venture out to explore beautiful Seosan. I know it's a holiday, but this is ridiculous. There's not a shop, convenience store, or restaurant open. We find the local market which is surprisingly bustling. There's not really anyone shopping, but there are a ton of vendors with amazing fish and shrimp for sale. Too bad we don't have a kitchen!! We walk down what I can only guess is main street, and find all the people. They're all, including 2 white dudes (what are you doing here!?), sitting in Holly's Coffee shop. So this is our only option? We continue on to find a little fish restaurant down a back street. We walk in to see if they're open and the 3 people there look none too please to see us. They first tell us they aren't open, then gesture "eating?" and agree to let us in. They walk us to a table very apprehensively. I'm guessing they're trying to close up shop to go home. Well too bad, we're on vacation! We order the only thing on the menu and a bottle of magkolli. What we got was surprisingly delicious.
It was a huge plate of sprouts and fish chunks covered in a thick spicy red sauce. Yum. We finally left, much to the wait staff's sadness, and went to the only other place open in Seosan; Baskin Robbins. Post ice cream we cut our losses and head back to the hotel. We actually had an awesome night of TV, which neither of us have in Seoul. We got to watch Deadliest Catch, Law and Order, and Sex and the City movie part 1. It was a crazy night in Seosan, it was a crazy night...

The next morning and things are no better. There's the market, Holly's Coffee, Baskin Robbins, and luckily, we found a kimbap cheonguk type place. These restaurants are made for quick cheap meals. They're all over Korea and are ideal for the single diner, as most restaurants cook up huge pots of stuff to share. Paul gets the seo (shrimp) chijah (cheese) donkas (pork fried patty) and I get my usual sundubu jiggae (spicy tofu soup). It was all quite good, and good for our budget. We go to the bus station to find a local map. Of course there are none. Whether this is because it's a crappy little bus station, or because there really is nothing to do here, I'll never know because we booked it on the next bus Suwon. Instead of going immediately back to Seoul, we decide to hit Suwon for something new and different. Suwon's only an hour South of Seoul and you can get home via subway. Korea subways are amazing!

Another 2+ hours on the bus, and 40 rounds of 20 questions later, we're in sparkling Suwon. The only good thing to be said about this leg of the trip was the fact the bus station had delimanju (waffle nuggets with custard in the middle). It's pretty dreary out, although warm (5 C), so we walk. Same old Seolnal story. Closed. Closed. Closed. As we walk we see signs for Suwon station (yok). A nice hour stroll and we're on the subway home.

We may not have had the best food in Korea, or seen any exciting sights, but you know what? We didn't spend the night in Itaewon. Or Hongdae. Or any of the usual haunts, and I think we learned a little something about Seoul. We shouldn't complain when there's nothing to do. Because in Seosan, there really is NOTHING to do. And the company wasn't bad either :)