Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Resurrection of a Blog: 606 days in Korea

Today marks my 606th day in Korea and, as such, I have decided to resurrect this sorry excuse for a blog. A lot has happened in the 347 days since I last posted. I've made it to China, Vietnam, Cambodia and the States twice since. I've managed to arrive back safely from those countries and have yet to be kicked out of Korea. My hair has gone from medium to long to really short. People have come, gone, come back and stayed (thankfully, otherwise I wouldn't have so many friends).

So, as a declaration to myself and my loyal viewers (although I'm sure few exist), I will (health and laziness permitting) be updating this thing more frequently by creating blogs of the past events and present ones, of course.

But, for now, enjoy this picture of my student, Justin:

He showed up to school with rubber cleaning gloves on his hands, feet (no shoes or socks), and head. Man, do I love my job.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Getting duped in Beijing..

My friend Steve and I took a trip to China over our Christmas vacation. This actually leads into another story, because Steve is currently living and working in China. However, that's all too long for one blog. This is an e-mail I sent on Christmas to some family and friends.. Let's just say Christmas 2007 was pretty interesting! Does adventure follow me or do I go searching it?

Anyways, here's the email:

"I just wanted to send you all an email before Christmas ends. Currently, I'm in Beijing, China. It's been a crazy few days already! On Monday, I went to the Forbidden City which was just massive and amazing. I guess China is just massive and everything within it goes right along with it. Even the architecture of the city exudes some sort of power when you stand in front of a building. I really like the city so far.

After we went to the Forbidden City, Steve and I got completely duped by a few Chinese guys that appeared to be tourists from outside of Beijing.

They were REALLY good at their jobs. Their English was excellent and we were just chatting with them about a lot of things: family, freinds, China, government, etc. They ended up taking us to an "innocent" traditional tea house where we could just talk. When we finished tea and dinner, the bill came, that we would split down the middle. It cost 1,000 yuan per person! Just so you know, that is equal to about 130 dollars. IT was crazy. Steve and I looked at each other confused and angry, mainly at our stupidity. But the guys just played along, looking shocked as well. The tea house gave us a free (crappy) tea set and sent us on our way with them taking all of our money. Just so you know, that was about a quarter of what I had planned on spending in 10 days.

We were so angry on the walk to find out rented bikes for the day. And what do you know, Steve's bike was stolen! Luckily it was only a 300 yuan deposit that he lost.

The next day we had a planned tour to go to the Great Wall, which was incredible. We went to the Ming Tombs and Sacred Way first, and after a couple shopping stops, we went to the wall. We talked to our tour guide about what had happened to us the night before, and he said that we paid a ridiculous amount and that we should call the police and go back to the tea house.

We were exhausted after the trip so we decided we shouldn't stress out about the tea house situation anymore.

We ended up walking around the city a little bit, to try to find some necessary things we had forgotten to bring. We bought a few things at a souvenir shop and were just browsing when the same 3 guys from the night before show up! Steve yelled out, "Hey!" and one guy just looked shocked and was practically shaking. We noticed they were walking upstairs to another tea house with a couple girls who looked like they could be from Southeast Asia.

Two guys just walked upstairs without acknowledging us and the third stood and talked to us telling us we should hang out and go around the city. We refused, left him at the store and walked down the block. We turned back as he was standing outside the store looking around in suspicion.

We decided at this point, we need to call the police. So we found a payphone at the corner and called 110, China's police phone number. I asked for someone who spoke English and then told him what had happened. After about 10 minutes, two HUGE policemen (although they appeared to be the Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum of the Chinese police force) came and we waved them down. We busted right into the place. You should have seen the women in the store flee. One older lady ran into a small closet underneath the stairs! I can't get that mental image out of my head.

We took them upstairs to where the men were. I forgot to mention we had a picture of them. Steve had a picture still on his camera of the three and us at the original tea house. After a long debate and no opening of the door where the three men were, they declared that we could do nothing at this particular tea house and had to go to the tea house where the incident happened. One tea room door opened quickly, and I could see the guys inside. I could only hope they were shaking in fear at that moment.

We soon realized there was nothing that the guys could get in trouble for that night. So we drove with the police to the tea house where our incident happened. It was already 10 pm at this point, so the tea house was closed. However, the police told us they would call our hostel in the morning so we could go when the tea house was open. However, no call just yet. I think we have gained closure on the whole situation now, just by scaring the pants off the guys who did it and knowing that the tea house is getting in trouble.

Now, I'm on my way to Shanghai. I'll be taking an overnight train for 13 hours tonight! Wish me luck. I'll be meeting my old college buddy, Mike, who's teaching outside of Shanghai at the moment.

Well, Happy Holidays everyone! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope you have a great one!"

Monday, October 15, 2007

sleeping on the floor.

Its been a busy couple of months. Plus I'm a total slacker when it comes to blogging.

My parents came to visit! I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a much needed break from my crazy Seoul life. For awhile there, I couldn't help but stay up all night and was probably spinning a bit out of control. It's just a little too easy to stay out and have fun in Seoul. It's truly the city that never sleeps. I don't know a better cliche to describe this city with. Either way, it was awesome having my parents here! They're so cool. And I'm not just saying that because I know they're reading this. (well maybe a little bit). We had a great time. I spent a lot of time at their hotel and exploring the city with them. They even came to visit a few of my classes. The kids got a kick out of them and loved the Twizzler's that they brought. The highlight was having my 6 year old (5 years american age) kindergarten students see my dad and say, "You're sooo big!"

Halfway through their trip, I decided to spend a little bit of money and bought myself a new camera (Nikon's D70). I absolutely love it and spent most of my time shooting pictures while we explored. Needless to say, I'll have a lot of pics to post on the web sooner or later. I will be spending a lot of time editing/ uploading and will update when they're all up.

The first weekend they were here was Chuseok, an equivalent to Korean Thanksgiving. We had a long weekend (5 days) from work so we took time to hang out. We met up with my mom's aunt, Karen, who I met back in March; her grandmother and cousins. It was really cool to experience the city with my Mom. There's so much that has changed since she lived here and it was interesting to see what she remembered. We made it back to Ewha Women's University where she attended for one year before she moved to the States. So many of the buildings around campus have changed, not to mention the surrounding mini-shopping district that now exists there.

We also made it down to Busan and Gyeongju on a second long weekend. I was able to take off a couple of days from teaching and have a mini vacation. Busan was great. I guess the best way to describe it is a mini-Seoul on the beach. The PIFF was going on which is the P(B)usan International Film Festival. They had a lot of things set up for it the day we arrived. My dad was even interviewed by some TV station!

After a couple days on the beach, we headed to Gyeongju, Korea's old capital dating back to the Silla Era. It was amazing to get out of the city. All of the houses in Gyeongju have certain restrictions and must be built in the traditional form. And, it was so GREEN! I missed breathing the fresh air and actually seeing stars in the sky!

The only downfall to the trip was, well, the return to my daily life. The main thing being returning to my bed. I have come to realize it may be the largest cause for all of these back problems I've developed since being here. So, today after work, I went out and bought a yo, which is pretty much a thick pad you put on the floor to sleep on. So far, it's feeling rather nice and much better than my bed. I'll have to see how the coming week or so treats me.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

no title

I'm back! I made it safely to and from thailand. The details, however, will have to be written at a later date. Not enough time today. But, here's a quick update: You can now see a little bit of the area in which I live. The Coffee Prince drama is available to watch on the web, and with English subtitles. My good friend Cecilia found the website.

The Coffee Prince

Friday, July 27, 2007

off to thailand...

So it's been awhile since my last real update. I have just been lazy, I'll admit it. It's officially summer in Seoul. The humidity is hitting and even when it's not sunny out, the heat can be unbearable. This realization of summer also means summer vacation at my school. Therefore, I'm off! Tomorrow afternoon, I take a flight to Bangkok. I'll meet up with co-worker Sharlene and now ex-coworker Patrick. I'll only be in Bangkok for a day before we take a 12-hour overnight train ride down south and then a ferry ride to the island of Koh Samui. I'm stoked. I cannot wait for a real beach. I also look forward to seeing a little bit of what Southeast Asia has to offer. I plan on traveling once I finish my year contract and I'm looking to travel all over Asia. Plus, Tuesday will be a full moon and we will have to be partaking in some full moon festivities.

Anyways, I'll update later on how my trip goes!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

surrounded by korean heartthrobs

The past month or so, there has been filming going on down the block from where I live. Apparently it's for an MBC drama called Coffee Prince (Ko-Pi Puh-rin-suh). They closed the old cafe that I always thought looked cool from the outside and built this make-believe cafe a la The Max of Saved By the Bell fame.

All this really means to me is that my walk to and from work is now delayed due partially to camera crews and "quiet on the set"s but mainly to teeny bopping high school girls ditching class for the day to catch a glimpse of their favorite heartthrob. Check them out here.

It has been raining a lot lately, which pretty much sucks for my walk home in general. Worse is having to avoid the swarms of girls holding umbrellas and not allowing anyone to walk to down the sidewalk. The other day I was outside the local Family Mart and a few school girls were loitering outside with pieces of paper in their hand. Then, some dude walks out and they swarm him for an autograph. I guess I am in the presence of celebrities. It makes me wonder how they feel when they walk right past me and I do nothing to acknowledge them. Maybe I'll have to subscribe to cable TV, ditch work and join the masses of onlookers with camera phone in hand.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Korean Saunas = Relaxing and Amusing

Since I had so much back pain from my recent injuries, I decided to take a trip to the local Jjimjilbang or sauna (sah-oo-nah) to get in a hot bath with other random naked people. I had been to one in Korea Town in LA before, so I was a little familiar already with what to expect. This mainly meant that I knew I had to get naked with a lot of strangers. It was well worth it though. My back had taken such a beating that I needed to soak in some hot water for awhile.

As I was sitting in the hottest of the baths, minding my own business, a tall skinny Western girl walks in to take a shower. Everyone else in the sauna was Korean, and while being western isn't such a big deal, it is when that westerner is COVERED in body paint. Yeah, I'm not really sure what this girl was up to before coming to the old sauna to take a shower. Anyways, as you could imagine, the other women could not stop staring. Well me neither, but I was mainly observing everyone else's reactions.

The girl was hard at work at scrubbing when I decided to move into the sauna and take a seat. An ajumma (older Korean woman) joined me in the sauna and proceeded to talk to me about the girl in Korean. I couldn't really understand her, but she was laughing and pointing so I decided to glance through the glass doors to see what the fuss was about. Another ajumma was helping the girl scrub off some of the paint. How nice, I thought. She then did the honor of scrubbing the girls hard to reach places, namely her buttocks. The original ajumma continued to talk to me in Korean, who knows about what, until the second ajumma left the girl to scrub on her own and joined us in the sauna. Apparently the two were friends. I guess that's what you can expect if you show up to a public bath with mystery body paint all over you. I'm guessing this will be what the saunas will look like after Mudfest 2007.