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.

Korea is slippery... and I'm a klutz.

So, I managed to injure myself once again. Just one week ago, I woke up with a funny feeling in my lower back. I didn't think too much of it because I tend to have some back pain if I sleep in a weird position. I headed to soccer practice thinking a good run around would help make it feel better. Wrong. I headed to practice as usual at Yongsan base. We scrimmaged right away for about 30 minutes because we weren't sure how long we had the field reserved for. Since it was about 85 degrees and about 99% humidity, a water break was well needed after running for a half hour. I decided to take a rest and sit during the break. Once our break was up, I stood up, only to feel nothing but PAIN. Sharp pains in my lower back. Argh. It felt as if my body was stuck in that sitting position. I ran out to the field to continue the scrimmage but it was only when I took my second goal kick that I decided it was time to sit out. Each time I took a kick, a sharp pain seemed to run up my leg and into my lower back region.

I thought (hoped) that after a day of rest, I would feel better. Nope. I went to work as usual on Monday, simply taking ibuprofen for my pain. It hardly worked and I spent my day in pain. I feel really bad for my students in my last couple of classes. I was an irritated teacher that day.

I woke up a little early on Tuesday and went to the doctor to get it all checked out. I was sent to an orthopedic doctor, had an x-ray taken, and he, through broken Konglish, told me he thought I had a herniated disc in my lower spine. Great. He also sent me to the "physical therapy" area of the clinic. I was put into some crazy contraptions! I wish I had my camera for one machine. I had to lay on a bed, get strapped in (rather tightly) by a nurse, and was squeezed and released over and over. I also was put on a heating pad and given some electric stimulation too. It did make me feel pretty funky and nice though.

On Thursday, I woke up to a rainy morning. I decided to go get a CT scan on my back (doctor's orders). The office was on the other side of the huge roundabout in Sinchon, so I had to go underground where the subway is, to get to my destination. The stairs were wet, I was wearing sandals, next thing you know, I've fallen down half a flight of stairs directly on my back. My umbrella went flying and a couple strangers helped me gather my things. I ended up landing mainly on my upper back, leaving myself in a great amount of pain for the rest of the day. I was put through a huge, MRI-like machine to get my CT scan. It confirmed that two discs in my back are herniated, affecting my sciatic nerve, hence the pain in my legs too. Looks like a lot of electro-shock therapy and acupuncture is in my future. At least my pain killers work pretty well.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

insomnia.. or something like it.

What is wrong with me? Lately, I haven't been able to bring myself to sleep at any sort of reasonable hour. Instead, of course, i have been uploading pictures to the web. So, at least check out my photos and make it seem like it has been worth this lack of sleep.

My Web Albums

Sunday, April 22, 2007

i must have missed this Mexican traditional song..

I ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant today. Mid-meal, I was delighted to hear a remix of Hava Nagila blare throughout. I guess there are Mexican Jews in Korea. That is all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

weekend of big buildings and bigger views

This weekend was Isaac's last (at least for this trip) in Korea. We decided, of course, to pack as much touristy stuff as possible into it. On Saturday, we hit up 63 City, a 63-story building on the Han River, and today, we checked out Seoul Tower. I can't do much other than show the pictures. Even they won't be able to capture what you can see from these towers. We went to 63 Building at night so the lights of the city were just incredible.

View from the top

Today, I finally met my aunt and uncle who were in Hawaii when I met the rest of the family. Isaac and I met them and my cousin Sean in Namsan at Seoul Club for an incredible buffet. They were great. Even though I had never met my uncle before, he had a lot of similarities to other uncle's in my family. One of the first things he did was offer Isaac a beer (at noon).

After lunch, just Isaac, Sean and I went to Namsangol, a traditional Korean folk village. It was cool to see the traditional houses and kimchi pots (see above pic of Isaac). They had a place where people could try on traditional hanboks and participate in a fake Korean wedding. This was pretty hilarious, especially since we only watched and took pictures of the people in the ceremony. There was also a giant time capsule in the middle of the park at Namsangol. It was made in 1994 and will be opened in 2394. We were imagining what was put in there back in 1994. I was guessing some H.O.T. cd's and hair dye until I realized that the group didn't form until 1996. Maybe some 1988 Olympic games t-shirts. I guess I'll never get to find out. Here are a couple pics.

Cousin Sean and I peacin' it up through a traditional room.

The three of us at the entrance. The girl that took this pic for us was hilarious! I have never seen a stranger care so much about the picture they were taking. She waited for the coast to be clear, and snapped, but still Isaac had to crop out part of the pic.

Sean had to leave us after Namsangol, but he dropped us off at the bus stop for Seoul Tower.

This place was pretty awesome. It's right on a mountain so you can see ALL of Seoul from the top. On all of the windows, the had landmarks that you could see from each, as well as how far other cities are from that point.
It's amazing to think how far I am from home. Oddly enough, Seoul really isn't that different from other places I have lived. I am loving the subtle differences, however (great food, constant people watching, etc).

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Finally, March is over!

My month of torture is finally over. I finished my substitution duties on Friday, and it was just about time. I had been working far too much, getting up far too early, and going to bed far too late. That alone can do some wear and tear to the body, but add in a bunch of screaming kindergarten kids and first graders that I had to yell over, and you'll realize why I'm so happy for it to be over with. Although, I'd have to say the overtime paycheck was well worth losing my voice a couple times.

I got the opportunity to spend it yesterday when Isaac and I went to Yongsan I-Park Electronics Mall to buy some toys. Side note: I haven't even written about Isaac! My travel buddy and fellow Korean classmate came to Korea the second week of March. Anywho, I ended up buying an External HD and wireless router, two games for my PSP (Virtua Tennis probably the greatest game ever made), and an English / Korean Conversation book that provided much fun later in the night when we took it to the bar and actually tried using some words. So my nerdiness has carried on to Korea, and I don't care. My new toys rock!

Back to the visit of Isaac. He came in two weeks ago, right before St. Patrick's Day. Doesn't sound like such a big to come then, does it? Well, you're wrong. We still celebrated. There was a decent sized festival and parade in Seoul that we decided to check out. Isaac, fellow teachers Eric, Patrick, ex fellow teacher and irishman Brian, and I made the trek to Daehangno for the festivities. We got to the park, or what we thought was the park, as we saw the parade people preparing to go. A lot of people were just standing around, drinking Guinness, and not doing much. We just thought the festival was really small or was already over so we didn't think much of hanging out waiting for them to go. That was until some guy throws a banner in front of Eric and Brian and tells them, "Hey, you guys can be in the parade, right?" So I join along, to hold the middle of the banner. Yep, I somehow was IN a St. Patrick's Day parade in Seoul. Strange. But it was a lot of fun. We were right in front of the band, so there were so many people just taking pictures of us. I felt like a celebrity and was waving and posting the peace sign for everyone.

The festival was actually at another park, where it was packed. This was mainly due to free Guinness, Bailey's, and food. Who could resist? I feel like everyone in Korea will stand in line for something free, even if they don't know what it is.

Us in the parade.

Check out the awesome Guinness pint people!

quick observation

I have always wondered where my amazing sleeping skills come from. Most people know that I can sleep pretty much anywhere, at any time, for any given amount of time. My question has been answered here in Seoul. The other day, I was standing, waiting for the subway to roll through so I could catch a movie at the World Cup Stadium mall, when I turn my head and catch a glimpse of a great scene. The girl standing slightly behind me and to my left had her eyes closed. She could have been giving them a rest but she was also doing the head nod thing that I used to do while watching boring history movies in high school. She was asleep, STANDING.

I had seen plenty of Koreans snoozing on the subway, but this girl was just a perfect sight. I wish my sleeping skills were so good that I'd be able to sleep the 4 minutes before the train pulled in, let alone standing. So, I guess my ability to sleep is genetic. And now I have new skill to work on. God bless the Seoul subway system.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

a korean family follow-up

This really should have been written 3 weeks ago. However, my month has been hectic. I have been substituting for a teacher who went home to South Africa for the month of March so I have been working 10 hour days. Somehow, I wasn't feeling too up to updating my blog. But, I had such a good time with my family who lives in Korea! Although we met at the beginning of March, here's a little summary of our meeting.

I met my great aunt Kyung Sook or Karen as she likes to be called, my second cousin Sean, and my Great Grandmother for a Saturday afternoon lunch in Itaewon. We met at a hotel that has a few restaurants inside, and Aunt Karen suggested this Indian restaurant. I have never really eaten Indian food. I love Naan bread but never really endeavored into all of different curries and other dishes, so I was willing to try it. It ended up being this huge buffet of amazing food! I have all of a sudden grown to love spicy food, and Indian does not hold back on its spices. I don't even know what I was eating half the time, but it tasted great as well as the naan bread. It has even gotten me to go to a couple other Indian restaurants in the area since then. I've started to need my Indian fix once a week, but that's another story for another day.

My Aunt Karen is great, and her English is really pretty perfect. She spent a fair amount of time in the States, living in Chicago in the 70's and LA in the 80's i believe. Anyways, she had no problem telling me a lot about her life. Her husband is a top architect in Korea and she pretty much ran his company for many years. This enabled her to travel a ton. Her daughter also lives and works in the US as an event planner and was even in Santa Barbara last year for business. She seems really interesting, well-traveled and in general, she is just beautiful. Even when I talked to my mom after the meeting, she asked me "Is my aunt Kyung Sook as beautiful as always?" She definitely is.

My cousin Sean's English was really good too! This was pretty cool, since he is only 26 in Korean years which translates to 24 in western age, so he's just a year older than me. He'll be done with his university degree next year, since he's taken this semester off to study for the TOEFL and GRE. The TOEFL exam is the English exam that you have to take to be able to go to grad school in the US. He's studying computer science/ business and wants to go to grad school/ work in somewhere in America. It's funny because he was asking me "why did you want to come to Korea? It's boring here, I want to go to the US." It's funny how wherever you grow up, there's somewhere else you want to be.

I can't believe how cute my Great Grandmother is! She's 94 years old and doing really well. We had our communication problems though, as I hardly speak any Korean and her as well in English. She was so sweet though and it was great to meet her. My mom thinks I should go hang out with her more often so I will be forced to learn Korean.

After lunch, Sean, my Great Grandmother and I went to their house in Seoul. It was a great place, a really new condo near Gangnam. It was the first time I've been in a real home in Korea, as my friends and I all have these little studio apartments. I think Sean's room was the size of my entire apt. After some fruit and ginger tea, Sean took me into Gangnam to set up my cell phone, thank goodness. It's so nice to have a mobile, and decently cheap. I have a pre-paid phone, and it doesn't even charge me when people call. I don't think I'll go too overboard with the cell phone calls anyway since my house phone is unlimited and cheap. Sean thought I should get a new phone because the one I got, although free of charge, is all in Korean and doesn't even have caller ID. I guess its a crappy phone compared to his, which has this swivel screen that you can watch TV on.

I really hope to spend more time with my family. They were all so nice and I feel like I'm now a little more Korean just spending the day with them.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I have a cousin!

And other family to go with him in Korea. Since arriving in Seoul(about a month ago), I have received random information from my mother through e-mail and g chat pertaining to family here in Korea. I had known of family in Korea but thought they were all pretty distant relatives and much much older than me. About a week after I arrive, my mom informs me that I might possibly have a cousin around my age. I had no prior knowledge of this! How couldn't I be informed of this before I had left? So about a week into Korea, I have knowledge of a cousin, but no contact has been made. My mom tells me she'll try to contact her uncle.

Skip ahead to about 3 weeks in. My mom catches me on g chat and says she's made contact with her uncle. Apparently he is out of town but tells her that his son is attending Sogang University in Mapo-gu and is 24 years old. I teach across the street from Sogang University at Sogang University Language Program! She tells me that I should call my uncle after March 20th, when he arrives back in Seoul. I end my day ecstatic that I actually have a cousin but with kind of a strange feeling that I can't contact him for another month. I am left curious as to if we could even communicate when we do meet, as I speak hardly any Korean and I am unaware if he speaks any English.

Just a few days later, yesterday, my mom catches me online again. This time with even greater news! She has contacted her aunt, who is the sister of her uncle and also aunt to my cousin, and also her step-grandmother who is 95 years old. They are in Seoul and my great aunt would like to take me and my cousin out to lunch. Sweet! I'm given her cell phone number.

Later that day, after buying my new guitar for only 75.000 won, I decide to give my aunt a call. No answer. I jam for an hour or so and try again. Success. She tells me that she would like to set up an appointment (as that is how it is done in Korea) for Thursday, the national holiday, or for Saturday. She will call my cousin and then I should call her back later that night.

I call her back around 9 when I get back from eating Greek food. She tells me we will meet in Itaewon for lunch on Saturday. ( i still have to figure out how to get there). Lunch will be with my Great Aunt, my Great Grandmother (who knew I had a great grandmother, its amazing), and my cousin. My cousin goes by the English name of Sean and she tells me his cell number. I try calling him at night but no answer.

Today, after a couple hours of laundry, some jamming, and lots of chatting on the internet, I get a phone call. It's my cousin! Whoo-hoo. I am pleasantly surprised to hear that his English is very good and understandable. I'm highly impressed. I tell him how good it is and that my Korean is very bad. He says not to worry and he'll teach me Korean. YAY! I have found my Korean saviour. haha. He has been studying at Sogang and also at a Hagwon for his TOEFL exam, which will allow him to apply to grad school in the States. He studied Computer Science and would like to go to school and work in America. I tell him he'll have no problem, as there are so many schools and job opportunities for computer science. He's happy to hear that. My cousin rocks! He briefly explains how to get to the restaurant but I still don't quite grasp it. I'll figure it out somehow.

More to come soon about the adventures with my newfound family.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sound Day

Sound Day ended up being pretty awesome. Cecilia, Hanna Lee, Patrick and me were the group for the music extravaganza last Friday. Every third Friday of each month, about 10 different live venues for music in Hongdae open up and charge one flat entrance price. So we each paid 15,000 won or 15 bucks and got to go into each club and a free drink voucher. We decided to start at a jazz club first. There were two on the list, but for some reason "Watercock" seemed to be more interesting of a club than "Evans" so we checked it out. It was pretty awesome music but the loungy sit down place was too packed, and standing in the back was only fun for about 3 songs.
We decided to leave and headed to a punk club next. It was Club Spot and the band playing was called "Suck Stuff". It was really awesome. There were a good amount of punks dancing around and pushing each other in the "mosh pit" although it hardly compared to some I've seen in the states. One of the craziest guys rocked a mohawk and a kilt! I think he's the first true Korean punk I've seen since I've been here. The band only played for a few songs before they got off stage, so we enjoyed a beer and headed onto the next place.

Drug was the next spot on our agenda. (Notice the very interesting choice of names for places and bands) As we entered the place, that went underground, there was a balcony where you could look down at the band. There was a band finishing up that drew a huge crowd. I only got to hear one song, oh but it was worth it. The lead singer had this crazy high voice. I don't even know what it reminded me of. But it was just great to see a Korean rock out like that.

Here's a short video I was able to catch of them:

We waited around for the next band. They ended up being really cool. They were this rock/rap group. Two guys were rapping... It kind of reminded us of Linkin Park or Limp Bizkit. It's also interesting to look at the crowd at a time like this. Some were just the average Korean, some were foreign, some rockers, etc. But, the sparking standout fan of this club was the girl rocking the face mask. Sidenote: Koreans like to wear face masks outside to avoid cold air / pollution / just to look hilarious. I'm guessing this girl was sick, but I couldn't pass up attempting to take a picture of her.

Next stop, Freebird to catch a wannabe 80's hairband and be singled out as the only foreigners in the club. Kind of embarrassing but check out the lead singer's hair:

After that, Club Funky Funky for some funky music and lots of dancing. This was probably the highlight club of the night. I don't know if it's because of the music or because of all the alcohol I consumed. You be the judge.

One stop later was Club Unit... This was a major letdown. No one was there and the so-called live music DJ simply played all of the regular hit music any DJ at a club would play. But, we got to dance in front of the club's pretty lights.

That was about the end of Sound Day for us. There were some post- Sound Day festivities, but I cannot remember all of what had happened. All in all, it was a great outing and I will for sure partake in a few more in the upcoming months.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

this weekend in hongdae aka my hood

I'm very excited because I now at least have one thing to do this holiday weekend. For those of you who don't know, this weekend is the Lunar New Year i.e. Chinese New Year as it goes by in most of the US.

Anyways, Seoul is supposed to go vacant as most people take off out of town to celebrate in small villages or out of the country. However, me, having just arrived and yet to receive a paycheck, need to stay in town due to well, mainly, lack of cash.

It turns out that it is good timing, as every 3rd Friday of the month is Sound Day in my neighborhood of Hongdae. Sound Day is when you pay one price to get into 10 different venues with live music. If you can read Korean, this flyer might be more interesting to you. However, the gist is that you pay 15 bucks to get in and one free drink, and rock the night away.

Click to make it bigger. The map is kind of exciting because it's only about a 1 minute walk from where I live.

My students love to flatter me.

"Teacher is Angelina Jolie," one of my elementary student states in the middle of my last class today. "Wow, I resemble Angelina Jolie?" I think to myself.

Of course, this was followed by another student saying, "Teacher is Michael Jackson," to which the original student responds, "Teacher is Mike Tyson."

I don't know if I'm supposed to be flattered, but I kind of am. I am such a good variety of pop culture, according to these kids, it's amazing. Maybe the kids are just listing off all of the famous people they know. Who knows, but I'm going to take it all to heart. These kids know what they're talking about.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Yes, i am in Korea.

Just to make it clear to everyone, I am sleeping very well here. I mean, just look at what kind of bed I am sleeping in. (click to enlarge image).

Speaking of which, here are a few pictures of my tiny studio apartment. I finally have everything set up. Also, take notice of my bathroom. I have a washing machine in it. There is also just a shower head placed in the middle, so I can brush my teeth in my sink and shower at the same time.

Upgrade: now i have a tv connected to my computer and power to play my ipod speakers.

I apologize that it has taken me FOREVER to write. But, yes, I have arrived! I made it in Monday morning to Seoul. It is pretty crazy here. I am right in the middle of the action. Right now, actually, i'm at a PC bang, as its called, surrounded by middle school-aged kids who are all playing videogames. it's pretty intense. i feel like i should be playing some fast-paced game, but rather i'm just writing a blog. This is also the first time i've been in an internet cafe that has a smoking and non-smoking section. oh well. gotta update.

I'll be getting internet installed on Monday morning (during the Superbowl), so expect to hear from me more often coming soon.

I live in a neighborhood called Hongdae which is pretty much a huge college town. I'm about 3 blocks from Hongik University, a big art school here in Seoul. "dae" pretty much means "area around a university" hence my neighborhood name. Everywhere I have walked so far is well lit from signs of restaurants, bars, and stores. I guess Hongdae is known for its nightlife, something I will soon find out about (i'll be hitting the town tonight). Here are a couple pictures of my 'hood.
From my house, its about a twenty minute walk to work, which is by another university, Sogang, which is what our school is associated with. My two neighbors that are in my building, Patrick and Andy, have been walking with me to school. They also took me to Namdaemun Market today, which was a madhouse. It's pretty much a huge flea market, but completely jampacked with people. Here's some of the madness. I happily bought a spatula and a loofah there, cheaply.

This temple is right across the street from the market. There are temples all throughout the city, something that I want to explore more.

Patrick also took me to Yongsan, which is pretty much a department store full of electronics. It was really interesting. We got out of the subway and there were dancing computer monitors and a small band playing as they danced. Out of control. i took a picture and a video. I think i'll upload the video so you can all watch and laugh along with me. Here's the picture for now.

And here's the video!

Dancing Computer Monitors

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

More Pictures!

So I added some of my pictures that I took with my film camera to the web. They are on the same page as my other ones, just all the way at the bottom.

Also, I uploaded a bunch of Fern's pics. You can see all of the pics at:

Look forward to seeing me eat tacos.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


So, i've been a bit slow on updating on my trip to Mexico. All I have to say is that I love that country. Those who haven't had the chance to explore what it has to offer need to do so (and i'm talking much further southeast than Tijuana). Anywho, Fern and I had a great time traveling like we knew what we were doing. Most people thought we were natives, although he pretty much is, just hasn't lived there in 17 years. One worker at a hostel we stayed at thought I was Mayan. Pretty awesome considering he himself was indigenous. He must have not heard me speak. Also, within the first half hour of getting to a small town called San Miguel de Allende, an ambulance stopped at the corner to ask me how to get to the hospital! Little did that guy know I am from a land far far away and he should not listen to my advice.

Mostly everyone we came across with for more than a few minutes had to ask us where we were from and were baffled when we said California or los Estados Unidos. Even a tour booth girl gyp'ed us on a map because she thought we were lying about not knowing our way around Mexico City. I love traveling like that. Not to put down my whiteness by any means, but sometimes it's great traveling as if you were a native, even if you haven't got a clue where you are or where you're going.

We saw some amazing ruins. The three spots we picked out: Tulum, Chichen Itza and Palenque, couldn't have been better. These places were awe-inspiring. It felt great just to be in the presence of such history.

Well, if you want to see more of my trip, check out my pictures.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Mexico is one big 2 x 1 special

Well, atleast Cancun was. Happy hour never ends. It was out of control. Thank God we only stayed one night.

Fernando and I flew into Cancun Thursday afternoon. After a bus to the Centro, a random guy in the street told us about a place to stay for 250 pesos. Good thing we did because everything else in Cancun is ridiculously expensive. We were starving so we thought we`d check out the food nearby. It turned out our hostel was in a great location: right next to the bus station and the main street of bars and restaurants in downtown Cancun. We got to a restaurant at 5 and decided to get a couple beers. Reading the menu, we found that there was a 2 x 1 special on all drinks from 2 pm = 5 AM! What¡¿ Needless to say, that was the beginning of a long, slurry and blurry night.

We took a cab to the Zona Hotelera or Hotel Zone to see what all this talk was about. We come to arrive at a mini Las Vegas. There was even a huge hotel that oddly resembled Caesar`s Palace. After 8 dollar weak drinks at the Hard Rock, we decided it was time to return to the 2 x 1 specials. Across the street laid down like a kids carnival were club and bar one after the other. Asking around for entrance fees at clubs, we decided the tiny, loud bar Slices was the one for us. It was great. All each "bartender" or staff did was find tables of girls and give them free drinks, only to lift them on the bar soon after to dance. ¿Macho? Si. ¿Hilarious? Of course. The girls were all having a good time and it was just fun o watch.

That was enough of the Spring Break style madness for us, and we grabbed a bus back to the downtown area. A local busted out his acoustic guitar and sang us songs by Elefante and others as we drove back into town. We decided to see what the locals do for fun and that led us back to the street near our hostel for more 2 x 1 specials. We found this restaurant that had an upstairs bar where long haired, black tshirt wearing men rocked out to hard rock songs in Spanish and English. It was a great way to end our stay in Cancun, and I cant say I remember much after that bar. We did however wake up before our checkout time the next day, which is always a good thing.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

where has the time gone?

Geez, my life is cycling into madness lately. Time is going too fast. I'm freaking out about everything. New Year's Eve and Day were filled with so much activity, I almost forgot that I leave for Mexico in just a day and a half. Fernie, Che, and I checked out the Flaming Lips / Gnarls Barkley show at the new Galen Center at USC on Sunday. It rocked! Gnarls is really good in concert and even though I hardly know any Flaming Lips songs (aside from the one "tangerines" that they don't even play in concert), they completely rocked in presentation. They had a UFO type lighting system above the stage that ascended and descended to drop off the band and a bunch of Martian chicks and Santa Claus guys on stage. The definite highlight was the sing-along to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody"; twas incredible!

I had to wake my butt up early the next day because my dad and I were going to the Rose Bowl game! We amazingly received tickets the day before at church. Man, sometimes it pays off to go. just kidding. Our pastor, this 31 year old, is awesome and although he is a huge USC fan and won the Pasadena resident lottery for tickets, he was unable to go and gave us his tickets! It was a madhouse, mainly consisting of USC fans, but a considerable amount of Michigan Blue and Maize filled the stadium. My dad and I were both neutrally dressed, however I did have a blue and gold UC shirt on. We were rooting for Michigan but USC's receivers had the game of a lifetime.

Now, I'm left to quickly pack for my 11-day trip through the Yucatan Peninsula, only to return to freaking out about packing my life up for a year in Korea. AH!