Sunday, May 29, 2011

Playing Tourist With My Korean Mom

After a fun night at the food stall, Saturday was time to study. Took 1/2 a practice test, 66%, then met Paul and hit the Seoul Pride Parade. It's surprising Seoul even has a pride parade given that there are no gays in Korea. We at least according to Koreans. There was a pretty good turn out, and fun was had by all.

Following the parade was Krissy, Paul and I's going away party at Zelen. It was such a nice night with great friends, food and weather. Summer is here.

Today was amazing. Ms. Han calls me at 10am and asks if I'm free this afternoon for a Seoul bus tour. Of course I am!! Paul and I met her and her family in Gwanghamun, took a bus around upper Seoul and stopped at a palace. In my almost 2 years here I have been to only one of the many palaces, so it was great to go and see with a Korean family who could help me understand the history a little more. We fed fish, took pictures, explored a bonsai arboretum and played with her kids. She is always so supportive and proud of Korea, and we always have such a blast. After the tour we go out for samgyetong. I had never had it before, so again, a new experience. It's chicken ginseng soup- good for health. We ate, walked, and parted ways. I'm going to miss my Ms. Han :(

Friday, May 27, 2011

What is this, JMU?

I wake up this morning at 9 and reach over to the nightstand for a glug of water. What is my mouth greeted with? SOJU. yes, 9 am soju. This is something no one should endure. And then comes the question, why is there a water bottle filled with soju on my nightstand? I have a few guesses....ahem Paul.

I also woke up this morning with a fuzzy pink eye mask and earplugs. Again, soju. Paul says soju gremlins. I say it's Paul. We went out last night, at Dave's suggestion, to Jongno Oh-ga. Oh means 5.

Learn Korean:

Anyway, went out to Jongno and found this lovely strip of pojanmacha (food tents), although they weren't really tents as much as stalls. We wandered around a minute and are beckoned by a group of ajusis. We joined them and enjoyed a large assortment of raw fish, soju and magkeolli. Come 1 am and it's way past my bedtime and soju limit. Flashforward 8 hours and we arrive back at the beginning.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thanks Recession

July 3rd, 2010, I met Paul Fiehler. Although our hometowns are only a state away, it took us 7,000 miles across the world to meet. We met, a little less than sober, at Sam Ryan's in Itaewon and decided instantly we liked one another and we should meet up the next day to celebrate July 4th. We had fun the 4th and decided we should meet the next evening, and then the next, and the next. This continued on everyday until now, 11 months later...except for that month I went home, but we just further proved how much we liked one another.

Sunday Paul and I walked up to the top of Namsan. As we stood at the top looking onto the city we've called home for the past year, Paul asked if I would be his India wife and pulled a ring out of his pocket.

We'd already decided we would have to pretend to be married in India/Nepal, for they don't rent hotels to those living in sin. But this is more than that. It's a sign of total commitment (as if moving to a foreign country together isn't?). We've been inviting people to our hypothetical wedding in Bali for weeks, but now I suppose it's a little less hypothetical :)

More on Paul. He's from Pittsburgh (eh, I know. He seems to like it though....), has a younger brother and sister and has been in Korea just about a year. We met after he'd only been here two weeks. He actually arrived the same day my parent's did. WOuldn't it be weird if they were on the same flight? (They weren't). He graduated U Michigan with double majors in English and Poly Sci with the ambition of going to law school. Worked a bit, nothing he loved, so decided to take a year off and come to Korea.

Enter me. Paul's the patient one, I'm the proactive one. After I decided I hate teaching (oh that took all of 3 minutes) and failing at finding a job here, Paul and I compromised on moving to Hong Kong. He really loves teaching and wants to make a career of it, and I decided I'll stay home and play housewife, I mean job hunt.

So yeah, that's where things stand now. Tots in Love.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Korea doesn't have mini golf

But the American base does!! I hadn't been in years, and I totally sucked. Yet somehow, I was the only one to get a hole in one. Woo!

This weekend is HBC Fest. It's a festival where all the restaurants and bars on my street participate in music and food and drink specials. It's always a blast and everyone from the community (and well, basically the whole teaching community) comes out. Dave and I live prime location in HBC, so we're hosting a little pre-party; full on with soju jello shots. And I will also have out a lot of crap I am trying to get rid of. Ski equipment, boas, hats, purses, comforters; all stuff that didn't make the HK cut. Hopefully it all goes so I don't have to throw it out!

Practice test review day. I'm already 2 deep!

I Can See!

Today I head over to Namdaemun market which is just a cluster-fuck (for lack of better words) of crap. There's cheap clothes, fake anything you could ever want, foreign food, Oriental medicine, whatever random thing you want, Namdaemun's got it. So on my rommate Dave's recommendation I head over in search for glasses. Somewhere between graduating college and now I have become blind. I blame computers and the CFA program. I can see close up just fine, but as soon as I'm 10 ft away from something, it blurs.

So I push through the 8 billion people in the market on a Tuesday afternoon, do we not have jobs people?, and walked into the first glasses store I see...blurrily. I ask for an eye exam and the guy points to a seat. Maybe this is common knowledge, but I haven't been to an optician in years, maybe 15, man has technology changed! I put my eyes up to this machine, in the left eye I see a little house. It gets blurry, then clear, blurry, clear, then switches to the other eye. This all takes place within seconds, and then a receipt is printed from the machine with my diagnosis! Amazeballs!! Then it comes down to it. How much? He walks me across the store to a whole case of glasses, says "here's the cheap ones. 30,000." Each!??? Each. So I got 2, only had 53,000 won in my pocket, so he said deal! 30 minutes later I wore them out of the store. Beat that America.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

India's Comin Along

Looks like we're almost set for the big 10 week trip across India/Nepal. Our visas are being processed, we're going for our final two shots tomorrow, we're getting a mosquito net from base, and we've pretty much bought everything we need except toiletries, which Paul and I intend to do this Sunday. I just want to pack and put it aside and not worry about it until we leave! Everything going into that bag will certainly not be worn here, and it will certainly not make it out of Nepal. I figure after 2 months in the same 3 outfits, I'll probably be ready to burn it all.

Less than a month until my India diet begins! I have this suspicion that Paul and I are going to walk out of this trip looking like starving, well, Indians. It's going to be hot, we're walking with heavy packs, and most of all we'll probably be doing a whole lot o' poopin. Everyone I have ever talked to about India talks about how sick they got there. Dehli-belly if you will. Joy. One piece of advice I received was not to eat anything but bananas before a bus/train trip. Thus bus/train trips are what scares me most. I picture you and 500,000 other people crammed into an aircon-less box with no room to move or breathe. Won't that be fun when the curry sets in?

Enough about that. CFA curriculum finishy! Review mode on- and I have know officially quit 3 of 4 jobs. After I get paid on Friday I'll put in my 2/3 weeks notice for the last guy. I feel kind of bad about this one. It's my business class and it's only 2 hours a week, and when I signed the contract (which expires one class after I leave- oops!) my recruiter asked for my Alien card. I told him I didn't have it and I was now a tourist here. He clearly was not pleased by this, but was in a tight position, so after he begged me not to break the contract, let me have the job anyway. At this point I hadn't booked my ticket out, so in theory I could have fulfilled my contract. But, it didn't work out that way. So, yeah a little guilt, but mostly just nerves that they won't pay me what's due. We'll see what they say when I quit :0

This weekend looks to be a fun one. Shots and work followed by galbi dinner tomorrow. Studying and an LG Twins (baseball) game on Saturday evening, studying and "Bloody Bloody Mary" party Sunday afternoon. My friend Brian is hosting brunch with bloody mary's (real one's I presume!) while we watch the first season of True Blood. Same for next Sunday (well Season 2) and then the following Sunday is the premiere. DOn't think I'll make it to that one!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Things to Do In Korea Before You Die

Or before your one year contract expires:)

Go to the top of Seoul Tower (check)

Have an over the top seafood extravaganza at the Norianjin Fish Market (check check check check check)

Visit Jeju (check)

Visit Busan (check check)

Visit Sokcho (check check)

Have a beach party at Muido

Tour the DMZ (check)

Have a home cooked Korean meal (check check)

Do a templestay

Have a soju story (too many checks to list)

Visit a cat cafe

Go to a "Multi-room"

Noraebong (you heard my sad story)

Go to the Hamilton Hotel on a sunny Saturday/Sunday (uhhh check)

Get kicked out of Seoul Pub

Do a Han River Boat cruise (quite a few checks here)

Go to a baseball game (check)

Go to the Intercontinental Wine Buffet (ohh you know it)

Go to LotteWorld/Everland/Caribbean Bay/Seoulland

Watch bboys perform (check check)

Spend (insert holiday here) at the Wolfhound (yup)

Eat and drink in Jeonju (yumm!)

Shop in Dongdaemun (always followed with a visit to Everest!)

Drink with the ajusis in a soju tent (a favorite)

Puke somewhere very public (if you've had soju, this is a check)

Buy jewelry in Jongno

Visit the temples/palaces in City Hall (I think I did once)

Dr. Fish (too many times to count)

Go to the top of Building 63 (check)

Pass out somewhere public (guilty: bar)

Monday, May 9, 2011

One Month

from today and Paul and I are leaving Seoul. That's right, just one month til Malaysia, India, Nepal....and eventually Hong Kong! Woohoo! Just heard from Paul's school that they want him to come a little early for training (school starts September 1st) so we booked our tickets last night to Hong Kong. Nepal---->HK August 14th!

It's been a lovely few days in the hood, that is, until today! It's pouring out! Last weekend was World DJ fest which was being hosted about an hour outside Seoul, so a bunch of our buddies booked it over there for the weekend, leaving Paul and I pretty much deserted in Seoul. Apparently not completely because we stumbled upon a lovely International Festival up near City Hall and went both days! They had some tents set up to promote various countries, and some live performances (most of which were too loud to get even close to) but the best part was the food tents. I think they had tents for over 100 different countries; Afghanistan to Zambia. The best food Paul and I got were salmon sandwiches from Norway, Austrian beers, Greek Ouzo (for a dollar!) and pitas/chicken kabobs. There was all sorts of stuff there. Really, twas quite interesting.

Paul thinks he got food poisoning from going out to eat with his teachers Friday night, so he wasn't feeling great all day. Saturday night was amazing. We went home, had a couple glasses of wine and watched No Strings Attached, which for the record, is pretty cute. No bars, no hangover, nice-uh!

I am almost finished studying!! Well doing my once through. This week I will finish all my class videos, going through the study books and their problems, then it's full on into review mode. Bring on the practice tests.

Just a random tidbit. I happened to notice my first blog post for The Thirty Eighth Parable was June 12, 2009. In a weird twist of life, June 12th, 2011, is the day that Paul and I fly into Bangalore. Weird how much different my life is now from 2 years ago! In light of moving countries, I have decided once I leave Korea, I will put TEP to bed. Don't worry, the blogging fun wont end there, I will create a new blog for my new life in Hong Kong.


I want it to have something to do with HK, something to do with the fact it's about stories from my life, or just sound cool. Please let me know any suggestions you may have. All 4 of you who read this blog. :) xoxo

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm on Vacation...

Only no one told me til it's too late! Yesterday I had my one business class cancel on me, so I decided to head up the KINTEX, the location of my CFA test, to look for a hotel. Apparently, thousands of Koreans take the CFA. According to 2007 stats, 4,500 applicants took it in Korea, and guess what, they all take it at the same place. This year they decided to move the location from outside Seoul to stupid Ilsan. I took the subway to the end of the line (~1/5 hours) and looked for a hotel, because god knows I'm not doing this 6am on test day. I must have gone into 10 different hotels, all quite a walk from the site, and not one would reserve me a room. They'd hand me a business card and said to call. WTF!?

Whatever, booked it out of there ASAP. This morning I take my usual hour commute out to my morning kindy only to be told upon arrival, "Special day, no class. No one tell you?!" No, no one tell me!!! I made the best of it and took an hour walk and toured the Olympic Park which I had never seen. Text:" No class today, see you next week." Ms. Han cancely. I found out yesterday that I wouldn't have my 1:30-3:30 class because Lucy is out of town. So I get to BHive at 3:30 (an hour early) to study and prepare. Text to Jay boss: "My teacher suddenly died, I have to go to the funneral." ~Jessie, my only class of the day. Did I mention tomorrow's Children's Day, so no school! That's a 3 day holiday. I could have been in Japan. Or Taiwan, Or the Philippines....

Although I have been busy getting some things checked off my "Shit ton of stuff to do list"

Rain covers for packs.
Passport photos (only after I spent $7 to get the wrong size)
Shots (and appointment for typhoid and yellow fever next Friday)
Hotel for CFA booked (had J boss call and reserve the room...for 77,000 won! geeze)
Quit 2 of 4 jobs

To do:

India Embassy (Friday)
Nepal Embassy (whenever we get our passports back)
ship winter stuff home
ship everything else to HK (which our apt. looks sweet according to the website....if only websites could be trusted)
Take CFA exam and pass
Find a job

My eye's on the prize....slowly closin 'er down....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Paul Meets the Family

Well, my Korean family. Well, my Korean mom at least. It was a cold and rainy Saturday. It was pitch black at just 3pm, but with Peeps and rice cakes in hand, we made our way through the deluge to meet Ms. Han in Jongno (near her office). Her husband, who was working, suggested that we all eat at their house, so Paul and I could experience a home cooked meal. We both totally agreed. I think I can count how many home cooked meals I've had in Korea on one hand.

Let me preface this with Paul and I arrived starving. Knowing Ms. Han, I knew this would be a feast, and it was, but not for several hours. For it was 3 pm when we left Jongno, roughly 4 when we got to Emart to buy the supplies, and probably around 7 when we actually sat down to dinner. But no matter, we got to Emart and Ms. Han is running about trying to decide what all to make. We got our meats, crab and seafood, veggies, and tons of magkeolli and set off for the Han home.

We walk in and are greeted by her 80 year old mother. She's been staying with Ms. Han for a few weeks while she gets some dental work done. She maaaaaybe came up to my hips. She was so cute, I just wanted to pick her up!! Ms. Han and her mom immediately start cooking up a pajeon (seafood pancake) and Paul and I are left to hang out with her two kids. They're super nice and outgoing, and showed up their cool turtles and some favorite Korean TV shows- which we NEVER get to see as we don't have a TV. I tried to help but Ms. Han insisted we just sit.

So we had some pajeon as a "snack." I use this term loosely as she made 4 of them and that would have been more than enough for dinner! Then she set paper down on the floor, brought a grill out and plugged it in, and rolled out a table (about 6" off the table). While her mom is still making soup Ms. Han starts cooking up the meat. Paul and I sit around the table which is filled with 5 different kimchis, lettuce leaves, rice, gochugang and cucumbers and peppers, and Ms. Han starts putting the meat on the table. She's cooking, Mom's cooking in the kitchen, and the kids are apparently not invited to the table, and she insists we start eating. Every piece of etiquette in me tells me NO, but who's to argue with the Han!? Finally her mom comes over with a large pot of crabs, shrimp, other shellfish and deonjenjijjage (fermented soybean soup) and she sits. And we all eat and chat. Her mom obviously doesn't speak and English, then her husband came in from work, who also doesn't speak any English. One highlight over dinner was Ms. Han asking Paul, "So, when are you getting married?" hahahaha No time soon, but we're thinking Bali.

Post dinner we sat around, just the adults, drinking magkeolli and chit chatting. Ms. Han offered Paul and I to stay in their extra room anytime we come back to visit ("You no get hotel!") and we told her we'll take her out in HK when she's there for a jewelry show in September. We just had the loveliest time. She is the kindest, most hospitable person, and I am so sad to be leaving. "You;re leaving because you don't like me." haah this was post-magkeolli. They couldn't have gone more out of their way for us, and then they did and drove us the 40 minutes back to my house!! It was such a perfect day, and it's so weird to think Ms. Han knows more people in my life, than almost anyone else. She's met my parent's, my best friend here, and my boyfriend. She's the only person in the world who can say that.

Meeting her tomorrow for an afternoon class, hopefully I'll be able to take her out soon and show her a real burger!