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.