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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