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Whose Idea was this? January 17, 2011

Posted by seoulaplexus313 in South Korea.
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Apparently the students had to sign up for some type of class over the winter break. It seems the education powers that be just can’t let them rest. All this does is make my life crazy. The first day of conversation class only 3 girls out of 13 students came to class. The next hour 7 first grade (6th graders in our world) showed up and boy did they give me hell. These rascals couldn’t stop moving and jumping around from the time they showed up.

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One Night in Bangkok… January 8, 2011

Posted by seoulaplexus313 in Bangkok, South Korea, Thailand, Travel.
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My first trip in Asia outside of Korea was to beautiful sunny Thailand ~Sawadee Ka! Back in December, me and a couple of my new road dogs from orientation booked our airfare online. The plan? Spend a couple nights in Bangkok then head down to Phuket (one of the furthest points south) for some nightlife and beaches. Can’t be that hard right? Read on..

The adventure began while talking to a tour booking representative near the end of our Bangkok city and temple tour on the first day. In order to make it in time for check in to our hotel in Phuket the next day we were told that we needed to leave in two hours! This meant canceling our 2nd night with the hotel we were staying in and risking a late cancellation fee/charge.  Luckily, this was not a problem (I love the Marriott).. The agent arranged for a taxi and a bus ride which we were told would take 8-10 hours to get to our destination.  I wasn’t happy, but this was partly my fault because although I made sure we booked our hotel, I should have made the extra effort (as should my counterparts) to research how long a ride it would take to get to Phuket as well as transportation options. Since we didn’t this was our only choice. About 2 hours after our scheduled departure time, I was cramped in the back of the bus filled to the rim with Europeans on holiday, with no lights in the cabin for reading or the bathrooms. Our saving grace was the plaid blankets provided on every seat and the reclining seats. We stopped maybe once for food/bathroom during the entire 14 hour ordeal. During the first stop, I met two young ladies who just so happened to be from Philadelphia (see the there are no coincidences post) also vacationing in Thailand. We took a few flix with them and shared our experiences. We all agreed to keep in touch via email once we returned to our perspective residences in Asia.

The second stop was at the bus station where myself and about 12 other people headed to the sunny southern Thai islands were dropped off at about 5am and told to wait until our bus came to Phuket which was to take another 2 hours.. A Thai gentleman around in his late 40’s was coming around to check who had transportation arrangements to their final destinations. He asked my friends and I how we were getting to our hotel from the Phuket bus station. We happily replied we had a taxi driver that will be there to get us. ” And what time does he think you’re getting there?” the man said in a sarcastic tone. “I said oh about 9am”… “Ha, more like 11am” the man spat back.  I shot back as if I was unnerved “Oh well, we’ll just call him when we get there if there’s a problem.” He left us alone. Good thing there wasn’t a problem. We arrived at the Phuket bus station and a driver waiting to take us to our hotel was holding a sign with my name.  I gave him one of the seven vouchers I had in my possession. The rest to be used for the day trips and transportation to the airport back to Bangkok where we’d catch our returning flight back to Korea.

No wonder so many people are retiring to Thailand. It’s beautiful here. If you’re interested in learning how you can retire there Click Here  for the latest information.

 

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Up Close and Personal… December 30, 2010

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My first bikini wax here was quite the experience. I was told about a spa above Quiznos subs in Itaewon was known for their waxing and spa services and was popular with the expats because of their location. I wanted to make sure I was silky smooth in the right places  for my up coming trip to Thailand especially when I had a two piece due to arrive the following day from home via Fed Ex..

Things seemed normal enough as I went up to the third floor where the spa was located. Immediately I was greeted by a matronly looking Korean woman at the desk when I walked through the door. I explained I wanted a bikini wax (no Brazilian thank you) was told to take off my shoes and within 1 minute of my arrival was following  two young ladies to the back. When we arrived at the room there was a massage table.  I was told to get undressed and lie down. That’s when the weirdness began: As I’m taking off my 1 of 3 layers of clothing, I noticed the two ladies were chatting away with each other in Korean across the massage table. They’d glance at me occassionally if I turned my head. Other than that there was silence and me in he corner removing clothing. I felt as if I was under a microscope. I’ve never gone to a spa where people stand in the room as you change. Was this normal? Finally I couldn’t take it.  Just as I was about to take off my last layer of bottoms I asked the two ladies if they wouldn’t mind stepping out the room. They looked a bit confused at first, but quickly complied. I called them back in only a few seconds later. They chatted away again in Korean while both of them slithered on the hot wax and ripped my hairs away like a velcro strip.. After it was over and I laid there suffering from post traumatic waxing disorder (if that’s not in the DSM it should be) and the two kindly left the room so I could have my privacy.

This Type of Shhh Happens Everyday… November 23, 2010

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North Korea bombed the island of yonpyong today an island off the coast of Incheon which is about 35 minutes by bus from where I live. Although I’m living in the very country where the bombing took place, I didn’t even hear the news until the end of my workday walking home with the other teachers. I could feel the energy in the air was different on our walk down the hill to the main street after school, but wasn’t quite sure what was happening. “Did you hear the news my co-teacher said? Me: No what happened? Co-teacher: North Korea bombed us today.. Me: Bombed us? Was anyone killed? Coworker? Yes. Me: Why did this happen? Coteacher: Oh North Korea always does this when they can’t get something they want. It’s their way of getting attention.

Well they got mine.

I Came, I Saw, I Got Stranded… October 9, 2010

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This weekend my worst fear of living in a foreign country came true. I was stranded in the middle of nowhere (well somewhere in Seoul I didn’t know) with no idea how to get back home. OMG! My brain said for a split second..  I was panicking somewhat, but the mojito I had just a half hour earlier kept me calm considering the circumstances.  Earlier that evening I met two of my new hanging buddies in Itaewon for dinner. I had been wanting to visit  Itaewon (the neighborhood where all the foreigners hangout and home of the US army base) since I moved here for the shopping, people watching, and of course to catch a glimpse of some military cuties (sorry army wives). Too bad when I arrived on the scene the other girls hadn’t done much shopping at all having instead spent the day getting pampered with a massage mani and pedicures. When I arrived they wanted to look in just one more store. I obliged of course curious to see what the shopping was like.  Unfortunately, this turned into another couple of hours of window shopping and by the time we sat down to eat it was already 10pm. The subway stops running about 12am or 11pm I didn’t know for sure since I’m not extremely confident in military time..

With little experience in navigating the train system, and trusting that one of my new road dogs could actually read the subway map she was carrying, we set off to figure out which direction we would take to get us back home. Since I didn’t have a map of my own I relied on her directions. This set me back a good half hour. Finally on the train about 11:50pm, I thought I was home free. That is until the train stopped at some station in the middle of downtown Seoul and told us all to kick rocks! To make a long story short after desperately hopping in a cab only to be let out on the next corner (and being charged the 3,000 Won no doubt) and convincing some young Korean guy to help me get home using some half ass directions on my Ipod in Hangul (Korean), I was finally able to get a cab home. Total cost? About $35 or so for getting caught up in the hype, pushing the envelope, dealing with at least one diva who has no concept of time, and assuming I’d be dropped off at my station stop if I at least made it on the last train, was my penalty.

I have three of my own subway maps now. One I carry in my purse at all times.

“Can You Understand the Words that are Comin’ Outta My Mouth?” October 4, 2010

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This morning as I walked downstairs on my way to work there in the main doorway stands my landlord. I bow and say hello in Korean trying to be normal. Now why did I do that… He then he gives me that look as if he wants to tell me something. I stop to give him my attention and this is where the fun begins. He points to a recent note posted in our building. I look at him like “okay” and then he starts explaining the note to me in Korean. I shook my head no as if to say “I don’t understand” but that only got things going. He began using his finger to read the sentences line by line (all in Korean now) as I just stood there pretending to understand. When he turned around for confirmation that I understood, once again I gave him the shaking of the head no. Then he starts explaining again this time talking even more slowly.  I wanted to bust out laughing but that would of been inappropriate considering the circumstances. All I could think of was Chris Tucker (my landlord) talking to Jackie Chan (me)  in Rush Hour… “CAN YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH” … No Mr. Landlord I can’t.  Finally, I used some fake sign language and gestures to tell him one of my coworkers would call him. I used the pinky and thumb simulating the telephone, said sung seang nim (teacher in Korean) and pointed to him.. He shook his head as if he understood (or he was pretending like me),  left me alone and I took my- ‘Got thenervetobelivinginanothercountryandnotspeakthelanguage’- azz to work.

The Greatest Show on Earth.. October 1, 2010

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Up until now in life  I always saw myself as pretty interesting or at least somewhat entertaining. I taught adults English conversation for a summer in Philadelphia and seemed to razzle and dazzle them with my wit, humor and conversation even though English wasn’t their first language. So when I came to Korea I thought for sure my personality could do a good job of keeping the student’s attention. They’d look up and see this hip African-American girl with her fun style and expressive nature and surely they’d hang onto my every word, right? WRONG! After the newness wore off (about the 2nd week), these kids went right back to being their regular misbehaved ‘I-have-better-things-to-do-in-life than sit here in this class’ acting selves. I was told in orientation that the coteachers would do the job of disciplining the kids and for the most part that was the case. But there was one or two classes in which the coteacher (this is what we call the Korean teachers in the class) had no control over them and that was the problem.  One teacher in particular whom I’ll call “the lady” was one of those teachers. She mainly had 2nd grade boys and they paid her no attention whatsoever. On any given day she had them lined up in the hallway putting the smack down with that stick (yes corporal punishment is in effect here). I asked her what could I do. “You need to show movies, make it interesting for them she said.” What kind of movies I thought? And how the heck will they learn from movies? “Youtube, Youtube” she said.  I guess kids everywhere have the attention span of a millisecond.. sigh

I Got Greencard, Well the Korean Equivalent September 30, 2010

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After waiting for what seemed like forever, I finally received my ARC from the immigration office in Korea this week.  ARC stands for Alien Registration certificate( yes I am considered an alien here), but hey who cares, I’m legal! As soon as it came I went to open a bank account. This card was what I need to start receiving my pay. Opening an account was scary because I’ve never signed off on documents I could not read. The customer representative was very friendly and happy to use her Englishee (Korean pronunciation) I mean English. After signing my name at least 3 times to open an account, which I’m sure included confirming I won’t be trying anything slick with this offshore account, I was now an established citizen capable of participating in the Korean economy. The ARC card is a big deal for native English teachers various reasons; First and this is what allows me to get paid. Secondly, it is a source of Korean Identification like a state ID card or drivers license.  My address, home country and picture all in Korean are listed right there for all Hangul speakers to see. I also got an ATM card the same day.  Now if I can just figure out how to get money from the Korean speaking ATM…. ahh ..I feel a new adventure coming on..

Seoul Power September 26, 2010

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You can always take your vacation / abroad experience to the next level if you can “kick it” with natives of the place you’re visiting. I remember my first trip we met a guy from the hotel who offered to be our personal tour guide. When you have someone who can speak the language, get you the best deal with the local merchants, and show you places no corporate tour operate would dare venture off to that’s what’s up.. This time one of my new friends from orientation had the hookup: A couple of her friends, Korean natives  she knew from her job back home were now both in Seoul and one had wheels.. How hot is that? The day started out up in the air for me as it often does, with me making it to the 63 building (the tallest building in Korea) about 2 hours after our scheduled meeting time. My internet service was wacky all day and with no other way to communicate I wasn’t able to reach my new road dog ’til the last minute. She was on her way out the door to meet her other friend, so I was left to get my own plan together.  After wandering for at least 10 minutes around the lobby of the 63 building hoping I’d see someone I knew, I saw my girl who I was supposed to go with in the first place- Yay! She was there with her girlfriend who taught in Seoul and a very nice Korean gentleman eager to show us the town.  Our first stop was Bulgolgi Brothers, for a fine Korean BBQ experience. After the delicious meal we picked up Kim (her other Korean friend) who was full of smiles and jokes. Now we were 5 deep riding through the streets of Seoul.. We hit the Seoul tower, took pics with the locks of love, saw a cool tightrope show, road through Itaewon, window shopped in Hongdae, saw the drum festival in Seoul Forrest where we danced in the grass and had our own audience , and topped the evening off with some you guessed it.. chicken and beer.. now that’s Seoul power.. What a great day!

 

 

A cool pic from the 2010 Drum Festival held in Seoul Forrest

 

 

Drum Festival

Took this one at the right moment at the Seoul Drum Festival

 

Stay Ready September 20, 2010

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Well today begins the Chuseok holiday in Korea.  Chuseok is similar to Thanksgiving in that the family gets together and eats traditional foods (just like we gotta have a turkey on Thanksgiving) Anyway, I was informed by my coteacher that the principal (aka  the head Sun Saeng Nim) scheduled to come in from 9a-12pm Monday and Friday for the kids that wanted to come in. Wait, huh? You mean there are kids who want to come to school when they have a day off? Wow – I don’t any kid wanting to come to school during the holiday in the US. When I came in about 8:30am there were already two boys waiting for me (now that’s commitment). I had taken out a few lightweight board games for them to play like Halle Galle and Word Flip etc., but lil’ fella said they wanted to play chess {chess for fun on your day off imagine…} When they got tired of playing chess, I popped in a popular English movie {with Korean subtitles of course} and they watched both parts. I thought after that surely they were ready to run home, but nope the boys decided to get a game from their math teacher that they played an additional hour. A couple of girls who sauntered in later in the morning and walked around and talked with each other. Shortly after noon the boys left for home. I was in the midst of reading my “Learning to Think Korean,” book and wasn’t ready to go just yet. Besides I knew my internet would probably be on the fritz and I had no way to contact customer service. The girls came into my office with another teacher and a camera.. I guess this is photo op time. Good thing I wore my favorite hat on a bad hair day like today.