Tuesday, November 11, 2008

4 Week's Worth of Updates for Your Reading Pleasure!

It's come to my attention lately that I fail as a blogger. In my defense, the last month has gone by RIDICULOUSLY fast, so fast that it actually feels like I just updated this thing last weekend. But alas, that isn't true, so here I am to make things right. As this will most likely be a loooong post, I suggest you get comfy, perhaps get a beverage and snack before you start reading. That might make this a more pleasant experience and I won't feel quite so bad for blabbering away for an eternity!

Week of October 6th:
The week went by in the usual fashion, except that on Thursday we had Sports Day with the preschoolers. This consisted of an entire morning/early afternoon at Mok-Dong Stadium with all of the kids, as well as their parents, mostly the mothers (although I was surprised that so many fathers showed up. Moms are definitely more involved in their child's education). The weather worked to our favour as it was a beautiful sunny day. I ended up with a bit of a sunburn because none of us expected it to get so hot in October! That's life in Seoul for ya. It was a fun and exausting day! We had professionals leading the activities, since the kids didn't actually play sports but games. The kids were divided into 2 teams, Pororo (green team) and Keroro (yellow team). I was on the green team, not that teams really mattered since it was set-up so that the day ended with both teams being tied. The teachers were there mostly to supervise, although that was easy because of the parents. We were asked to participate in some of the games, like running through a long tube on the ground (which was nearly too small to fit into. John, our one male preschool teacher, had a rough time! Hahaha!), running over a blanket that the parents were holding without falling on our faces (As most of you know I trip on flat surfaces, so that one was tricky!) and there were also activities organized just for the teachers to earn points for their team, such as the 'Deflate the giant balloon as fast as you can' game (Our team killed it by laying on it and rolling around until it was flat! Hahaha!) and 'Who can pop the most balloons in this giant plastic bag' game (Again... rolling on them proved effective). The parents were asked to participate in most of the activities with the kids and they also had a few activities of their own, like a somewhat inappropriate obstacle race: One parent was piggybacked by another parent who ran to a certain point in the field. At that point, they put the other parent on the ground who tried to pop the balloon that was taped to their butt with a ping-pong paddle. They then hugged (or cheek kissed as the case often was), then ran back to where they left off. It was HILARIOUS!!! There was also a parent-only tug-of-war which was fun to watch, especially the dads who were at the front and soooo into it! Its only a game, guys! The only downside to Sports Day was having to go back to school and teach afternoon classes. Needless to say, I was less than enthusastic in my teacher methods that afternoon and was incredibly happy when 5pm rolled around and I was freed.

That weekend was pretty relaxed, but fun. A group of us went on the Han River boat cruise on Saturday evening and that was really nice. The weather was great, a perfectly clear night with the full moon nearly full, and the cruise started at twilight so the view from the river was gorgeous. Seoul looks so beautiful lit up at night and that makes it easy to forget that if you were to fall into the Han River, you'd catch god knows how many various life-threatening diseases. It may be pretty but it sure ain't clean! On Sunday afternoon, I met up with my friend Jean-Marc for a much needed coffee date. We realized that we hadn't seen each other since Celine visited in August, meaning we went the entire month of September without a visit. Unforgiveable!!!! We spent the day wandering around Hongdae catching up and checking out the various little stores in the area We found a great little cafe where I had a DELICIOUS cafe mocha, then we met up with his friend Jasmine and went for dinner at Kraze Burger, which reminds me of a little hamburger diner which feels out of place in Korea! I had some sort of chicken sandwich thingy and all I know is that it was delicious! I left my visit with JM feeling full and content to have seen my longtime friend again, with a promise that we wouldn't let a month slip by without seeing each other.

Week of October 13th:
As I recall, this was a fairly uneventful week. I can't think of one significant detail to share with you from the week itself, so I'm gonna say that's a good thing. If nothing's popping to mind, that means there was no unecessary drama or evil children to deal with!!! Oh! There is one thing: A new addition to the SLP crew, Kelly!!! I feel the need to give her a shoutout cause I know that she reads this thing. Well, at least she did, since she found me through this blog and my insanity apparently helped prove that working at SLP wouldn't be the biggest mistake of her life. Always glad to help. So if you are reading this (stalker...): HIIIII KELLY!!!! *waves*

That Saturday, a few of us headed to Incheon, a city approx. 30 minutes from Seoul. Our plans while in Incheon: Visit Chinatown! Yes, you read that correctly, Chinatown. Incheon's Chinatown is Korea's only official Chinatown and it claims to be the largest Chinatown in South Korea. Truth be told, it wasn't that big, but it was still a nice place to visit! What made me laugh was all the souvenir shops that basically sold all of the same chinese-made trinkets. Even funnier, how something 'made in China' is supposed to be a big deal, when you consider most things are made in China! My one exciting purchase: sunflower seeds! Sunflowers seeds are IMPOSSIBLE to find in Seoul but are apparently quite popular with the Chinese (I'm only assuming this because many stores were selling them...), so I bought a brown paper bag of roasted/salted sunflower seeds. They taste kinda funny, obviously not the 'Spitz' that I'm used to from back home, but they do the thing! We were all excited to have some "real" chinese food (Note the quotation marks: When I say "real" Chinese food, I mean Chinese food cooked by Koreans! Haha!) in Chinatown. The kicker though: SOOOOO EXPENSIVE!!! We've all gotten used to spending $5 max for a satisfying meal, so were shocked that most places we checked out were selling individual entrays for over $20 each. We finally found a little hole in the wall that sold good, cheap, Chinese food. I split fried rice and springrolls with 2 of the girls and our total came to $9, so $3 each. Now that's more like it! Once we roamed Chinatown and its shops til our hearts content, we headed to Jayu (Freedom) Park, located nearby. We had to climb a ginormous staircase to get there (It reminded me of the exaggeratedly huge staircase in Kung Fu Panda), but it was worth the climb as Jayu Park offers a great view of the city and sea. Only downside: it was a VERY smoggy day in Incheon, so the sea looked more like a white blob in the distance. We had planned on trying to make our way to the beach but that discouraged us, so instead we wandered Jayu Park for an hour or so then headed home. We had met up at around 10 that morning and it was nearing 6pm by that point, so we figured we'd succeeded in playing tourists. Especially since we knew it would take us a good hour to get home.

There was no plans to go out that night, but my friend Tara (who hadn't come to Incheon that day) called wanting to know if anything was going on. We both decided that we were down for a laid-back night, maybe have a few beers and call it quits early. We had a beer at 'Fish & Grill' downstairs with Lindsay, then found out that our friend Jen also wanted a relaxed beer night, so we met up with her in Hongdae (Jen doesn't work with us but is a public school teacher. So we usually try to meet up with her in Hongdae because that's basically the halfway point between her place and here). The 3 of us ended up at Ho Bar III convinced that we'd have a few beers and be home by 1am at the latest. Yeah...plans changed apparently. We went from mellow to suddenly in the need for a dance party. We tried out a few different places but ended up at Tinpan, a dance club that normally feels crazy busy, but I think that's because we usually show up in a massive group. It's easier to deal with when you're in a group of 3. Needless to say, we stayed there until the wee hours of the night and left as the sun was starting to rise. So much for a relaxed night out! I have zero regrets though because it was a hilariously fun night. Plus I met a fantastic guy who I'm now dating. Yay!

Week of October 20th:
Hmmm... what happened during this week. Again, can't say that much happened during the week itself. Weekdays have become awfully routine as of late. Guess that's a good thing though, having a routine and all. On Saturday, I headed to the COEX mall with Tara and Jen for a shopping expedition. COEX is a MASSIVE mall and we've all gotten used to subway shopping so it was fun to go into real stores. Although less fun seeing real prices! I left fairly empty handed, although I did buy a cute necklace charm at the Hello Kitty store. Come on, like I could ever leave that store without buying something! That adventure took most of the day, so I was happy to come home and relax before the nightime festivities commenced. It was my friend John's birthday on Wednesday, so we went out Saturday night to celebrate. We ended up at 'Monkey Beach', a club in Apgujeong, which is a popular Thai-style bar that has live fire shows, which we sadly missed. *tear* Another wonderful part of Monkey Beach...you can buy mixed drinks served in child-sized beach buckets! FABULOUS!!!! Needless to say, that was a fuuuuun night! Everyone had a grand ol' time and while it's less convenient to get to then the bars in Hongdae, we've all made comments that we MUST return in the near future! Sunday was spent recovering from the booze buckets. Hahaha!

Week of October 27th:
Halloween week!!!! This week was spent planning the preschool Halloween party on Friday morning, plus getting ready for Halloween night. I dressed up as a black cat and spent part of Friday morning carving a jack-o-lantern with my Kiwi class and going trick-or-treating to the other classrooms. We then played 'Pin the Hat on the Witch' and 'Halloween Dance Party' (which was nothing but them flaying around to a Halloween mix cd I'd made!). I then went over to my Apple class and played my 2 games with them as well. All in all, it was a great morning and the kids had fun. That afternoon was good as well, although no Halloween festivities with my afternoon classes. Not gonna lie though, we did slack off WAY more than usual. Come on, it was Halloween! Its sad to think that Korea doesn't actually celebrate Halloween. At least not to the extreme that we do in North America. Stores don't decorate or advertise for it and the only costumes you can find are for the kids. Even then the selection is awfully bleak. So that made our Halloween night even more of a mission, because we had to assemble our own costumes! I have to admit that I'm incredibly proud of everyone and their accomplishments! My fellow vegetarian, Tara, and I dressed up as cannibals, cause we were amused by the irony of such a costume. We bought stage makeup and smeared red paint on our faces and bodies to make it look like we'd just devoured a bloody chunk of human goodness. In reality we looked more like messy vampires, but it was still funny. Especially the reaction we received when we went out to Hongdae. It varied between people being impressed and complimenting us to people cringing away in fear. Success!!! Everyone met up earlier in the night at Susie's, who was hosting a Halloween/Birthday party in her own honour. Her bday's November 1st, so it felt appropriate to celebrate both at once. As mentioned before, everyone showed up in costume and looked AMAZING!!! We then all headed to Hongdae and as always the group split up, but as is the norm we somehow came together once more later on in the night. Hongdae's such a huge area, but our huge group always somehow ends up back together at once. Anyways, Halloween night was a lot of fun, even though I was sad not to be celebrating it in Ottawa. I can't remember the last time I didn't celebrate Halloween with Deb and Do!

On Saturday afternoon, I met up with Tara in Hongdae. She wanted to buy new workout shoes and no one else wanted to go with her, so I was essentially guilted into it. One day I'll learn how to say no to people! Oh well. I was able to get a latte at Starbucks plus we ate at Quiznos, something we can only seem to find in Hongdae. Jen met up with us and we made our way back to our neck of the woods. We decided that we needed a scary movie night in honour of Halloween, so we went to the a nearby DVD rental place and rented 'White Noise' which we watched on a laptop at Tara's. No one has a DVD player and all of our tvs are too old to connect laptops to the tv itself, so watching movies on computers has become the norm. *sigh* The movie itself was kinda lame, but we still managed to get freaked out and shriek more than once. That's when we weren't making fun of it, of course! Haha! After the movie we headed down to Fish & Grill for a drink to 1) not be creeped out anymore, and 2) to keep Tara company until her man showed up. I was good and left after only one drink and went home to go to bed early and talk to my own guy.

On Sunday, we had a girly day and a bunch of us met up that morning to go shopping in Meyong-Dong, a shopping district that I hadn't experienced yet. There's sooo many stores down there, including designer stores like Louis Vuitton, Channel and the such. We only shopped at Forever 21 which is a MASSIVE store. If I remember correctly, it has 3 floors that are jam-packed with clothes. I'd say we spent a good 2 hours there, if not more. My mission was to find jeans and a Fall coat. Didn't find jeans, but did buy a cute coat as well as several shirts and was quite satisfied with my purchases. Then started the frantic search for somewhere to eat, more specifically a Subway or Quiznos. Easier said than done! It took us nearly an hour and were ecstatic (and more than a wee bit cranky) by the time a Subway came into view. I haven't had Subway since getting here, so it was especially delicious!!! Once we we had our fill of delicous sub-goodness, it was early evening so we headed back home. I spent the remainder of the evening/night doing laundry and attempting to make it look like a bomb hadn't landed in my apartment.

Week of November 3rd:
This week was less than awesome because I started to catch the cold that'd been plaguing the entire SLP crew for several weeks now. My apartment's been ridiculously dry at night, so I was hoping that's why I was waking up with a sore, scratchy throat, but by Wednesday (after having purchased a well-needed humidifier after work on Tuesday) I realized that this wasn't the case. I've been really good at fighting off colds since my arrival in Seoul, especially since becoming a preschool teacher (There's ALWAYS a sick child in your midst!!!), so I guess I was bound to lose a fight eventually. I don't think Wednesday night helped much either... One of the guys found a place nearby that sold fireworks, so he planned to set them off on the roof of one of the apartment buildings that night. This was in honour of Guy Fawkes Day, celebration explained in the following (Thank you Wikipedia!): "Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night, Cracker Night, Fireworks Night, Bommy Night) is an annual celebration on the evening of the 5th of November. It celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of the 5th of November, 1605 in which a number of Catholic conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, were alleged to be attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London, England." I hung out with some of the girls after work and we met up with everyone on the roof at 10:20pm-ish. Turns out that most of the fireworks that Jon bought actually shot out confetti, and not sparkly fire, but thankfully someone had bought 2 roman candles that did have a lovely, albeit slightly pathetic effect. There's nothing quite like store bought fireworks! Hahaha! This night turned into a double celebration as my U.S. friends were quite excited that Obama won the presidential election that day. It was a triple celebration in my mind, because I was also celebrating my brother Mitch's birthday, although he'd have no way of knowing that. I did though! After hanging out on the roof for a good hour or so, we headed down to 'Fish & Grill' for some celebratory drinks. I dragged myself to bed at around 12:30.

Needless to say, Thursday was a bad day. Combination of not enough sleep, too much celebratory beer, and a now official cold made me the worst for wear. I was beyond happy when Thursday ended. I was bummed to wake up on Friday to realize that while I did feel more rested, thanks in part to an early night in bed on Thursday, I felt sicker than ever. I now sounded like a 90-year old chain smoker with a very bad case of the sniffles and a head that felt like it was filled with cotton balls. Good times. Friday was the longest day that I'd had in a loooooong time and I almost cried with relief when 6:20pm came around and I was able to go home. I went to Pizza Maru's with the girls for dinner and from there went home which I did not leave until Sunday. Saturday was spent watching movies and sleeping, slighly messed up on cold medicine. Thankfully that helped, because I was feeling almost human again when Sunday came along. By then I was officially going stir crazy, so was glad to have somewhere to be: Thanksgiving Dinner! It was decided a while back that the crew would get together for a pot-luck dinner on a date between the Canadian and U.S. Thanksgiving. We met up at Jess' at 6pm and it was a great night. There was sooooo much food and possibly even more dessert! We didn't have turkey, but Jess bought a smoked chicken and Jon brought fried chicken, so we at least had some form of poultry. I think my favourite part was the mashed potatoes that Susie made, the pumpkin pie that Jen brought, and the peanut butter fudge courtesy of Lindsay. I ate WAY too much of that fudge and had the worst sugar headache by the end of the night! Well worth it though!!! It was an exceptional Thanksgiving that was shared with a bunch of amazing people that I'm beyond happy to consider friends. Sunday also marked my 4-month anniversary of living in Seoul. Can you believe it?!?!

This now brings us to the Week of November 10th, this week! Today is Pepero Day, which is similar to Valentine's Day, where people give each other Peperos and other romantic gifts. A Pepero is a cookie stick covered in chocolate (Same as Pocky...I know some of you know what that means!) and Pepero Day is held on November 11th since the date '11/11' resembles 4 sticks of Pepero. Its not a huge holiday (Korea seems to have TONS of love-related holidays! I've been told of at least 3, not including V-Day! I do enjoy the fact that they have Black Day, which celebrates singledom!) but I did receive several boxes of Pepero from my students. Any holidays that provides chocolate covered cookie sticks is a happy day to me! Hahaha! Not sure what the next few days have to bring, although I do know that Friday is Field Trip Day for the preschoolers. As is the norm, the teachers have yet to be told where we're going. We usually find out the day before, if not the day of field trips. Nothing like being the last to know! There's plans this weekend to go shoe shopping in I.D.A., an excellently cheap shopping district, as well as adventuring to Costco which I've been told is pretty far. I think it'll be worth it though, since I've been told all Costcos are the same no matter what country you're in and I'm psyched to buy certain things, more notably Quaker oatmeal! YUM!!!

I promise to try to be less of a slacker when it comes to updatingmy journal. I mean, it's for my own good because I've been sitting at my computer for nearly 2 hours typing all of this out. Plus it's hard trying to remember everything that I've done! But I want to document it not only for you, my dearest readers, but for my own memoirs. I don't want to forget any of the fun things I've done while in Korea and this blog will help guarantee that!

Janique's jaunts are to be continued...

Jan ^__^

Friday, October 10, 2008

Yet another birthday celebration, Itaewon, 3 months already!!!

Last week was a 4-day week because Friday was Korea's Foundation Day. Yay another 3-day weekend!!! The week itself dragged on, it was quite painful actually, but other than time moving at a snail's pace it was a pretty good week. We had a birthday to celebrate, so the crew went out on Thursday night. The birthday girl had requested a fairytale theme for the event, so we (the girls, because the boys lack our coolness!) had quite a good time putting outfits together:

We hung out at various apartments until making out way down to Hongdae. We started the night at 'SKA', a dance club that I've been to a few times and that's always been a lot of fun. It used to be free cover for foreigners, although it's now W10,000. Boooo! You do get a free drink though, so that somewhat makes up for it. We danced our little hearts out for several hours, until the pain from our high heels started kicking in. From there,we ventured over to, surprise surprise, Ho Bar. I think I'd die of shock if we didn't end up there at least once during a night out! Ah well, it's a fun place with good music, cheap drinks and familiar faces. We spent several more hours at Ho Bar, then closed the night with a Burger King stop. Nothing like fast food at 5:00 in the morning! I waltzed into my apartment at approx 6am and noted with delight that the sun was rising when I crawled into bed. All in all, a Thursday night VERY well spent!

Friday and Saturday were spent in self-inflicted isolation. I was in need of some 'me' time, so I ignored my phone and did my own thing. Basically wander around listening to music, reading, and watching movies. I did miss out on some group activities both of those days, but there's ALWAYS something going on. If I waited until there was nothing going on for me to have a few days to myself, I'd be waiting a loooooong time. I absolutely adore the group, but it was really nice having some downtime. I talked to Mom and Dad for over an hour on Saturday morning, which was obviously a great thing. It's been really hard coordinating times for us to talk with my new preschool schedule, so I was happy that we were able to work in a time that worked for all of us. I miss my parents and it makes a world of a different just hearing their voices and finding out what's going on back home. Yay for technology and its ability to aid in communicating with loved ones who are at the other end of the world!!!

On Sunday, I returned to the real world and joined Lindsay and Amanda for an excursion to Itaewon, which is basically foreigner's central. This area is heavily populated by foreigners, especially U.S. Army personnel, so it was incredibly strange to see so many non-Koreans in one place and to hear so much English being spoken! Bizarre! The main reason for our Itaewon trip was to visit 'What the Book?', a new/used English bookstore. HEAVEN!!!! It's not a massive store, but has a great selection of books, both old and new. The best part is that if you can't find a certain book, they can order it for you. Fun! Not surprisingly, I left the store with 5 books in tow and a happy skip in my step. Lindsay and I have made a promise that we'll visit 'What the Book' at least once a month, a promise I'll happily keep! After this, we wandered around the part of Itaewan that we were in waiting for Tara to come and join us for dinner.

She arrived maybe an hour later (It's a good 45-60 minute trip from home) and we tried to find somewhere to have a real meal, not just fast food or Quiznos. We ended up at a Canadian pub, somewhere that Tara had visited before. I love that Korea has Canadian establishments! It's like our equivalent to a Korean restaurant and it makes me giggle a whole lot! From what Tara had been told, the owners are 2 Canadians who missed home, but loved Korea so much that they decided to open a very Canadian-esque restaurant/pub. The place was packed and I think that was mostly due to the hockey game that was being projected on a big screen. They were playing the Senators/Penguins game from the previous night and most of the guys were wearing either Sens or Pens jerseys, hollering and cheering. I totally felt like I'd been transported back to Canada! Especially since it was Hockey Night in Canada playing on CBC and all of the commercials were for Home Hardware and other Canadian franchises. We all reflected on how strange it was to hear English commercials and Tara and I (The 2 Canadian gals) were giddy at seeing commercials that were so familiar to us! The place itself was decorated with jerseys from Canadian sports teams, Canadian license plates and other knick-knacks that are delightfully Canadian. You can even order a beer in a cup that looks like a mini replica of the Stanley Cup! The next time we go there (Because there'll obviously be a next time!) Tara and I are totally getting drinks in those! The food was delicious and I was thrilled to see 'poutine' on the menu! We ordered one for the 4 of us because Amanda, being from Florida, had never tasted it before and we wanted to show it that it didn't taste as gross as it might sound. Lindsay, who's from Maryland, had only had one poutine in her life, so it was also necessary to give her another taste. Sadly it was only ok, but I am a bit of a poutine snob. There's nothing quite like a poutine made with homecut fries, thick gravy and fresh cheese curds, sold from a chip stand. *sigh* It was a nice temporary substitute though and I mean, for Korea (who's definitely not known for its cheese...ugh.), it was good. Amanda enjoyed it, so all that matters is that someone else now knowns the wonder that is a poutine! After a very satisfying meal (I had YUMMY chicken quesadillas...not very Canadian, but they did remind me of home because I order quesadillas so often when we go out!), and some good entertainment (the game was tied in the 3rd period when we left, although I later learned that the Sens lost 4-3 in overtime. >_<), we headed over to Coldstone for dessert. I had never experienced the wonder that is Coldstone, because as far as I know, it doesn't have any stores in Canada, but it's fabulous ice cream creations! I don't remember what my deliciousness was called, but it was chocolate ice cream folded over orea cookies, peanut butter, chocolate chunks and other yumminess. SO GOOD!!! I could barely move by the time we left there and it was an unanimous decision to cab home (Since it would cost us less than W5,000 each), as opposed to dealing with the subway ride. Once again, another weekend had come and gone.

Oh! I almost forgot! That Sunday marked my 3-months since I'd arrived in Seoul. Can you believe it?! I certainly can't! 1/4 of my contract is already done and it feels like I just got here! But, as mentioned before, it also feels like I've always been here. I still wake up some mornings and it hits me "Woah. I'm in Korea." and I feel the same jumble of emotions that I did when I first stepped foot in the Incheon/Seoul Internation Airport. The reality of my current life hits me at the strangest moments and it feels very surreal, as if I'll suddenly wake up and be back home. I'm so relieved that I'm enjoying it as much as I am, because those moments do shake me up a bit. The fact that I'm so far away from everything familiar to me, everyone that I've known for so long...craziness! But then I'll go to work and be bombarded by these adorable little faces and talk with those that I believe will be lifelong friends and I'm so happy to be here. I know that once my year's up, I'll be so excited to go back home and be with my family and friends again. I smile just thinking about it! But I also know that it'll be really hard to leave this life behind and all of the people and things that go with it. But not going to dwell on those thoughts just yet. Afterall, I still have another 9 months to go!

As it is currently Saturday in the 'Land of the Morning Calm, that means that my week is not yet over. Meaning, you get to wait a little bit for my update of this past week. I don't think this is a huge deal, as it's not as if I haven't given you enough to read in the past 12 hours!

So once again, my life update is to be continued...

Field trip, Day and Night on the Town, Foreign Fan Girls

I'm a tad late with this latest update, so let the story continue: Our adventure left off with my upcoming field trip with the preschoolers. We went to the Sodaemun Museum of Natural History, or 'The Dinosaur Place', as the kids called it. It was a lot of fun, albeit a bit stressful since there were many other schools there as well, so keeping track of my 9 hyper-active 7-year olds (Kiwi Class) was a challenge. I don't think I'd be exagerating to say that I was doing a head count every 30 seconds. The kids LOVED the exhibits, especially the dinosaurs, but I was a bit disappointed by how quickly we had to go through everything. We had limited time, plus I was following my teaching partner who had our 6-year olds (Apple Class), and she was flying through everything. She's the expert, so unlike myself knew what she was doing and how things should proceed, but it was literally "Wow everyone, look at this! *60 seconds pass by* Ok, time's up! Let's see what's next!" The kids didn't seem to mind, I assume their used to super speed field trips, but I wish we'd had time to actually spent more time looking at the exhibits. Plus I wanted to see things too! *pouts* Ok, yes, that's childish of me. It WAS for the kids entertainment and I was simply there to supervise, but museums are fun! I think the biggest bummer is that I didn't have much time to take pictures of the kids, something that I was really looking forward to doing. I did get a few good shots, including this one of Kiwi Class, which is amazing because I didn't think they were physically able to stand in one place for this long!

Aren't they cute?! Sure they make me want to rip my hair out at times (Ok, not gonna lie, almost daily), but I love them all the same! I think my favourite part of the trip was their 'let loose' time. There was an outdoor area with plenty of space to run and burn off some of that excess energy. It was fun seeing them running around like mini maniacs and not having to tell them to calm down; I could just let them be, which was nice. Plus it tired them out for the bus ride back to school, which is always a bonus!

The rest of Friday was relatively uneventful. Taught my 4 classes in the afternoon and got off work at 6:20pm. Met up with some of the crew for our traditional Friday night dinner at Pizza Maru's, then came home and did a whole lotta nothin'.

On Saturday, I joined Lindsay and Amanda on a trip to the Electronics Market in Yongsan. Lindsay had finally received her alien card, so it was time to shop for a much needed cell phone so that she could truly be kept in the loop. Our group communicates via text messages for the most part, so a cell is definitely necessary. After a successful shopping trip, we met up with Jen at the Omokyo subway stop and made our way to the Hyundai Shopping Center to go see 'HellBoy II'. Loved it, quite possibly more than the first one! Comedy, action, good effects, all rolled into one nicely wrapped package. I highly recommend it! Although as many of you are aware, I can usually find something good in all movies. If I'm entertained, it's aaaall good! ^_~ It was past 7pm by this time, so we headed back home, went out separate ways, then met up at Susie's at 9:00ish. Tara and Susie had decided not to join us for our daytime excursion, but we had all decided that it was necessary to go out that night. Pretty much the entire group showed up at Susie's which is always fun! We hung out there for a few hours, then headed down to Hongdae. We started off the night at 'Pause', a sit-down bar that's owned by a friend of a friend. It's small and we pretty much took up all the space, but I liked it. Plus we pretty much had control of the music. Yay! I hadn't been yet and had heard a lot about it, so I was happy to finally have a chance to see it for myself. The only downsides that I can think of were that drinks were almost as expensive as they are back home (Booooo!!!) and the bathroom. Oooooh, the bathroom. It was upstairs, up a scarily steep staircase that is made MUCH worst when wearing heels. When you finally climb the staircase, you're met by one bathroom which has a urinal and a *gulp* squatter. I was still less than comfortable using a squatter (I will ALWAYS take a regular toilet over a squatter!!!), but that awkwardness was tenfolds after having drank for several hours. I felt like I was at a bush party all over again, peeing in the woods, except there was no tree to lend any support!!! Thankfully I survived multiple visits to the bathroom with no incidents and didn't fall going up, or even worst, going down the stairs. Whew! After 'Pause', we decided that some dancing was in order so we wandered to a club...can't remember it's name. S-something or other. I'm still unsure as to what happened, but only a few of us ended up going in to dance and were having a grand ol' time when John came to find us and told us the group was moving on. But...but...we were getting our groove on! That's the downside to having such a large group; It's hard to please everyone. We had all said that we'd try to stick together that night (a hard task indeed), so we relunctantly left our dance party. *Sigh* We then ended up at Ho Bar, not a big shocker. I can't recall one single night where we've gone out that we haven't ended up there at one point in the night. I'm not sure what time I got home that night, but it was late. Or early. Whatever.

On Sunday, against my every instinct and desire, woke up at noon. That would seem late if I hadn't gone to bed only a few hours earlier! Now you may be wondering: What would make Janique, the Lover of Sleep, get up on a weekend before getting at least 10 hours of sleep? It was fangirl day!!! In my last post, I mentioned that 'Big Bang' and 'Wonder Girls' would be performing across the street at SBS. Well, I had the 'Wonder Girls' part correct, but it was actually another boy band, one who's apparently even more popular than 'Big Bang' who'd be performing: DBSK (Or TVfXQ...will explain that doozy in a bit). Susie's our resident K-Pop (Korean Pop) fanatic and knows pretty much every word to every song that any Korean boy band has ever recorded. I met up with Jen, Lindsay and Amanda at Susie's apartment and we began the process of making signs. Signs for what? Signs to go parade at SBS, of course! We wore our tackiest, most neon clothing to ensure we'd be noticed (with the exception of Lindsday, who sadly isn't as crazy as the rest of us. She did offer to play camera woman though, so at least she wasn't too embarassed to be seen with us. Hahaha!), although quite honestly, the chances of are not being noticed, even if we'd worn normal clothing was slim to none. Afterall, we were the only foreigners in sight. And as an added little somethin'-somethin', we put our hair in pigtails, just cause that somehow seemed appropriate. With signs in tow, along with Susie's iPod and speakers, as well as my bright yellow tambourine, we made our less than subtle introduction to the crowd who for the most part had been waiting outside SBS early the previous evening. We danced, we sang, we cheered, embarassed several Koreans in our attempt to get them to join us... good times. I'm hoping that this following link works, so that you can see for yourselves. Here one of MANY videos that was taken that day:


We did manage to get a few followers who actually followed us through the crowds for a while and sang along with us. They even inducted in the official DBSK fan club (Can't verify how official that was, but it's the thought that counts!)! They were the ones who brought about the DBSK/TVfXQ debacle. All of our signs read 'DBSK'. More specifically, Jen, Susie, Amanda and I each had a poster with a letter, plus several mini posters making cute/silly play on words with the initials. Suddenly our newly formed posse informs us that they're actually called 'TVfXQ'. HUH?!?! Susie protested (as much as one can when speaking to girls who have very little comprehension of the English language) that she saw that their name is DBSK. They giggled at us and shook their heads, repeating TVfXQ, over and over again. But...but...OUR SIGNS! OUR BEAUTIFUL SIGNS!!! We were devastated to say the least, not to mention horrified that we'd gotten the name wrong. Susie still swore that they were also called DBSK, because I mean, it's not like she pulled those initial our of thin air. Sure enough, we've since discovered that TVXQ (as there's apparently no longer a f...?) are often refered to as DBSK. We weren't wrong! HA!!!! After several hours of unadultered silliness, we went back to Susie's to 1) Relax and drink water because we didn't have enough hands to bring liquids along, and 2) Find answers to the DBSK/TVfXQ insanity! We had considered bringing out fangirlness to downtown Seoul, but once we sat down, we realized we were quite exhausted and that it wasn't necessary to share our awesomeness with anyone other than DBSK fans. We headed off to dinner, were home by 9:00 and I went to bed shortly thereafter.

I still have 2 more weeks to update you on, but it's now nearly 2am and my brain hurts from teaching all day and still somehow being awake. I'm not convinced that I'm still making sense as I write this, so updating is to be continued....

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My So-Called Life as an English Teacher.....

This past weekend was slightly disappointing. Plans were made to once again venture over to Everland on Saturday, but this time to hit up the amusement parks. A few of the girls had appointments, so we decided on a meeting spot and would make our way from there. Well, as we met up, it started to rain. The forecast said that it was only supposed to rain that night...WRONG! We hoped that it was just a little rain cloud and that it would pass, so we went for lunch. Still raining. We took the subway to where we had to catch the bus. Still raining. No, scratch that. It was pouring by this point. We wandered the subway and shopped for a while, still optimistic that it would pass. Nope. POURING!!!! Sigh. By this point, we finally succumbed to the reality that this wasn't a simple rain cloud and that we were in for a rainy, rainy day. Is there really any point in going to Everland? Not so much. We tried to catch a movie, but nothing was playing until several hours later. The only upside is that the area were were wandering has a great bookstore with a huge English section, so the day wasn't a total disappointment. It was early evening by the time we got back home, but our spirits were low and the rain was depressing, so we all went out seperate ways. I spent the rest of the night reading, which is probably the best thing to do on a dreary, rainy day/night. As luck would have it, Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day. Of course it was! (I'm not bitter at all!), but it ended up being a do-a-whole-lotta-nothin day. Oh well. All this to say that my weekend wasn't all that awesome.

Monday was a good day, nothing horrible to report. Tuesday...*shudders* My last class of the day (I teach them Tuesdays and Thursdays), the one that I like to refer as my Devil Class, was actually painful. They've never been that out of control before and so by the end of the class, Mean Teacher took over. I spent most of the class either basically talking to myself, or repeating the same things over and over again. There's not listening, then there's just being downright rude and ignorant. My typical reaction to frustration is tears, but I was so beyond frustrated that I was shaking. I actually made one of the boys stand in the corner for the last 20 minutes of class because I couldn't stand looking at him anymore. Nothing angers me more than a student who's smirking and acting like we're having a party when I'm giving a class crap (Not yelling at them mind you. I've found that speaking to them in deathly calm voice with zero expression is much more effective, not to mention scarier...). So at that point, it was either send him in the corner or throw a book at his head, because I couldn't stand to look at him anymore. This wouldn't be so ridiculous if it wasn't for the fact that these kids are 10 and 11. I shouldn't have to place 10/11-year olds in the corner!!!! Anyways, I left them with tons of homework and a promise that if it wasn't done, there'd be hell to pay. I was still shaking from anger 30 minutes after the class had ended. GRRRRR!!!!!

Wednesday... STRESS-ALERT! STRESS-ALERT!!! I had an open class for my 6-year old pre-schoolers, meaning that parents were invited to come in and watch the last 20 minutes of class. Yeah... terrifying much?! The kids practiced what they'd be doing on Tuesday, plus we basically practiced all of Wednesday before their parents showed up. So it wasn't exactly reflective of what we'd really be doing in class, but I wanted them to do a good job! Plus the preschool teachers had been told to prepare activities in advance (we actually had to hand in a lesson plan), so I think the parents were expecting something pretty structured. I had the kids start off by singing 2 songs, then we played the matching game. The matching game isn't a game at all, more of a match the picture with the word, but I've learned that if you had the word game to basically anything, they'll think it's the best activity ever. I love that quality in younger kids! We then did storytime. I'd read and they'd repeat what I'd just read, plus I asked some basic comprehension questions that had more to do with the pictures in the book than the actual content. It was the longest 20 minutes of my life and I was scared at one point that we'd finish the story before our time was up, cause I thought I had planned too much so I was having a mental freakout that we were getting through everything so quickly! Which is basically why I asked them random questions as a time-filler! Thankfully when open class was over, we were at the very last page. Whew!!! I barely glanced at the parents the entire time, so I'm not sure what their reaction was. It was less nerve-wracking focusing my attention on the kids! But so far I haven't received any feedback from my supervisor, so I'm thinking no news is good news. Either way, I'm SO glad that's over and done with!!!! The rest of my day went very well and I left school feeling very happy and relaxed.

Today was an ok day. It's the first day that actually feels like Fall, which is kinda strange. It's been soooo hot, still in the high 20's until today, so it was weird being chilly when I've been dying of heat since arriving in July. The day felt long, but I survived. I know I've mentioned this in the past, but Tuesdays and Thursdays are most definitely NOT my favourite days to be a teacher. I was dreading my last class, especially with what happened Tuesday, so I went in there all business. I think I smiled maybe twice and didn't joke with them one single time. If I have to be Mean Teacher to get them to listen, so be it. They have their end-of-month test on Tuesday, so we did review, plus a few activities in their book that we never had a chance to complete, because their crappy attitudes usually make the simplest of tasks take 3 times longer than normal. Everything was to be done individually and if they'd so much as say a word to each other, I'd give them a look that would shut them up instantly. SUCCESS!!!! I actually hate having to act this way and although we accomplished more in a day than we normally do in 2, not to mention didn't leave class with a massive tension headache, but I don't feel satisifed and am definitely not happier. I love having fun with my students; Joking around and keeping the atmosphere open and light, but the second I give this class any freedom they lose total control and it's nearly impossible to rein them in again without having to become a total bitch. It actually really, really sucks and I wish we could reach a happy medium, but as of right now, they haven't proved to me one tiny bit that that's possible. :(

Now on to a happier note: PRE-SCHOOL FIELD TRIP TOMORROW!!!! YAAAAAY!!!! This is my first field trip and I'm obviously excited! We're going to the Museum of Natural History and while I'm anticipating some stress, since I'm in charge of my rambunctious 7-year olds, I think it's going to be fun. And it sure beats being in class!!! Fridays are automatically good days, one because well...it's Friday(!), and also because the classes that I teach in the afternoon are fun and for the most part, relatively stress-free. TGIF!!!!!!!

I'm maybe going to see HellBoy 2 on Saturday, but no other big plans as of yet for that day. On Sunday, 'Big Bang' and 'Wonder Girls' are going to be across the street at SBS, so a few of us are planning on joining the rabid fangirls and we'll be making some ridiculous videos. I'm anticipating a whole lot of screaming and hysterical laughter!!! I figure I complain about the screaming girls every Sunday, so might as well join them if the bands are actually good ones! And since we'll probably be the only foreigners in the crowd, the odds of our being seen are even greater which could lead to some interesting (aka hilarous!) footage!

So I shall let you know how the weekend goes, as well as the field trip (Once again...YAAAY!!!!) once they've come and gone.

Jan ^__^

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Korea celebrated Chusok this past Sunday, September 14th. Chusok, also known as the Korean Thanksgiving, is refered to as the Harvest Festival and coincides with September's full moon, the Harvest moon. The day preceding and following Chusok are also holidays, so I technically should have been back at work on Tuesday. But SLP is awesome and gave us Tuesday off, so I was very happy to have a 4-day weekend!!! We had activities organized for the preschoolers the Friday before Chusok, so that morning was pretty fun. The kids wore traditional Korean clothing, called hanboks, and they were adorable! I now want a hanbok of my own, because they're so beautiful! For some strange reason, wearing hanboks made them all ridiculously well-behaved, so I was very pleased! We made "songphyun", rice cakes that are made of rice and filled with beans, sesame seeds, and chestnuts. They look like perogies! Luckily there was a helper teacher showing us what to do, because I had no idea how to make songphyun, although I now know that it's super easy. We then had manner class, where the kids learned the proper (and respectful) way to bow. They were so awkwardly cute! It was great to watch! Both of these activities were spread out, so in our freetime we coloured and played some games. I somehow ended up staying with my 7-year olds ALL morning, so needless to say I was exhausted by the time 12:30 came around. And I'm not even exagerating when I say that the second their hanboks came off, they were back to being their silly/hyper/frustrating selves! Guess I should be happy that they were well-behaved for at least an entire hour. That NEVER happens!!!

On Saturday, I went to the Yongsan electronics market with some friends and bought myself a lovely iPod nano. My MP3 player went kaput a few weeks ago and I NEED music in my life, especially when I'm walking home or grocery shopping, so it was a necessary purchase. I have no idea about electronics, but everyone agrees that I got an awesome deal for it. Yay me! It was my Chusok gift to me! We then went to the Express Bus Terminal where there's a gazillion shopping stands and bought a few W5,000 shirts and 2 cute pairs of heels for W20,000. That's basically $10 each. Where else can you buy cute shoes for that cheap?! SWEET!!!

Sunday morning, met up with some of the girls and traveled to Everland, an amusement park outside of Seoul. It took us nearly 2 hours to get here by cab and bus, but it was totally worth the trip. The main reason for the trip was to visit the zoo, then the amusement park, but I don't think any of us realized how MASSIVE Everland is! I now know that it's Korea biggest amusement park and one of the most popular in the world. I can see why! It's an amazing place! There's 5 basic divisions to the park: European Adventure, Magic Land, American Adventure, Global Fair, and Zoo-Topia. It was around 1pm by the time we got there, so we figured we'd have tons of time to see it all. WRONG! It took us over 4 hours just to explore Zoo-Topia! It's a wonderful zoo with a gazillion animals, many of which made me laugh because Korea and I don't necessarly share the same views on exotic animals. Example: Dispays showcasing skunks (Yes, SKUNKS!), guinea pigs, hamsters, budgies, rabbits, chipmunks, beavers, as well as a few other animals that I've seen either in my backyard or in a local pet store. Hilarious!!! The monkeys, living in the appropriately named 'Friendly Monkey Valley', were adorable and they had many different breeds, some of which I'd never even heard of! I love monkeys! They also had 2 stunnig white tigers and some gorgeous Siberian tigers, which made this cat lady happy! Oh! And there were bear cubs and tiger cubs and baby monkeys! CUUUUUTE!!!!! There was an African Safari that we REALLY wanted to go on, but the line up was over an hour long and we didn't want to wait. We kept going back hoping the line would be shorter, but it just kept getting longer! *pouts* With all of this animal viewing, it didn't give much time for going on rides. A few of us rode the 'T-Express', the self-proclaimed steepest wooden roller coaster in the world. It has an incline of 77 degrees and I'm not gonna lie...it was intense! When we'd go down this part of the rollercoaster, I felt like I was eating my heart!!! SO MUCH FUN!!! I laughed hysterially the entire time and bought one of the pictures that they sell because my expression is hilarious! Two of us went on this weird viking-type ride that I really can't explain, but it was tons of fun. Not even close to being as terrifying as the T-Express, since it was more of a midway ride, but still fun. Then all of us rode the ferris wheel which gave us an amazing view of Everland. Only then did I realize just how humongous this place is! The last thing we did was visit the Four Seasons Garden and Rose Garden, which were beautiful because it was now dark outside so there were electric candlesticks illuminating the flowers and sculptures. The full moon was also gorgeous, so the overall effect of these gardens were amazing. We left Everland at around 9pm and managed to make it home before 11pm. Bedtime quickly followed.

On Monday, Amanda and I attempted to catch a movie, but the nearby theatre wasn't showing anything new. We found another theatre and made the treck there, but the only English movie that was playing was sold out. Sigh. So no movie. That night, the girls got together at Jess' for some drinks, then we headed out to Hongdae to go clubbing. We went to 3 different clubs and they were totally dead. Maybe 5 people max! Very depressing. By 1:30am, most of us were ready to call it quits and head home, but we decided to try one last spot. Well, it seems that everyone in Hongdae were at this bar because it was packed! Literally wall to wall... what the?! The music was great and it was fun for maybe an hour, but then having that many people around got to be a little much, not to mention 3 guys kept trying to dance with me all at once, so I was being bounced around a little too much for my liking. It was kinda creepy! Thankfully I spotted one of the girls and her boyfriend dancing by the stairs overlooking the dance floor, so I was happy to escape to a place where I could actually dance without getting grabbed every 2 seconds! We basically all got tired of that place at the same time, so we headed home at around 3am.

Tuesday... LAZY DAY!!! I spent the day reading, watching movies, and didn't leave my apartment once. Wonderful!!! I figured I'd arrive at work feeling rested and rejuvenated on Wednesday, but not so much. It totally felt like a Monday! It's always that way though, isn't it? First day back at work, whether it's a Monday or a Friday, will always give you a case of the Mondays. Strange!

Monday, September 8, 2008

2 months!!!

I was so good at getting my weekly posts out, but seem to have dropped the ball last week. Ooopsies! But here I am, back again to update you on Seoul living.

Sunday marked the 2nd month of my Korean adventure. If my first month went by quickly, this second one FLEW right by! It's crazy how fast time is going! But again, as I've mentioned before, I'm torn between feeling like I've just arrived and having been here for ages. It's a very strange. *nods knowingly*

Slowly settling into my new routine as a pre-school teacher. Turns out that working mornings isn't as painful as I thought, although I'm still having a hard time getting to bed before midnight. Stupid night-owl tendencies!!! I do enjoy the walk to work in the morning though, as this helps to wake me up.

My first day of pre-school, which was last Monday, was stressful. All of the pre-school classes have fruit names, so I teach Apple, who are first-year 6 year-olds, and Kiwi, first-year 7-year olds. Both classes were uber hyper on that first day and hard to control, which wasn't very encouraging. I was exhausted by the time 12:30pm came around! Thankfully they've been better behaved since then, so I think they were just excited to have a new teacher who was obviously a wee bit out of her element. I was warned prior to my first day that Kiwi are the worst 7-year olds in the school and that everyone hates teaching them, so I was obviously worried. It's true that they're a bit unfocused and have a bad habit of fighting amongst each other, but they're actually great kids. I'm learning new ways of getting them to focus and have made it very clear that only good, nice behaviour will be tolerated. This, in the most part, has worked so far and I think that it'll only get better the more I get to know them. My Apple kids are totally adorable, although some are like saran wrap and enjoy clinging to me as much as humanly possible. I love being loved by them, but try teaching when you have 10 kids wanting constant attention all at the same time! My #1 rule with both my classes is that if you want my attention, quietly raise your hand. If all I hear is you yelling and whinning "JANIQUE TEACHER! TEACHEEEER!!!!", I'm going to pretend that I don't see, nor hear you, and will only pay attention to those who quietly have their hands raised. This rule has been harder to instill than I originally thought, but they're slowly getting the hang of it. My head is certainly grateful for this, because there's nothing more irritating than 10 high-pitched voices yelling "JANIIIIIQUE TEACHEEEEER!!!" over and over and over again. >__<

My new afternoon classes aren't that bad, although I'm still not happy at having to learn almost 70 new names. YEEEESH!!! Strangely enough, even though my Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are longer work days, I enjoy them much more than my Tuesdays and Thursdays. I even teach less classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but for some reason those classes stress me out more. I think it's because they're all low-level classes and I was comfortable teaching the higher-level kids. My last class on Tuesdays and Thursdays is especially painful, since in a class of 10, there's 8 prepubescent boys. That many boys of that age, together in one class, might lead to a potential breakdown. I feel horrible for the 2 girls in that class, cause they look terrified 99.9% of the time. There's 3 Kevin's in that class, and 2 Harry's, so that in itself is confusing. But they just DON'T LISTEN!!! They were fine on Tuesdays, but I nearly bolted out of the classroom when the bell rang on Thursday. They put me in the worst mood! They were all over the place and would not settle down. Their English is very basic and you can tell they don't want to be there, so I understand their behaviour, but come on!!! I shouldn't complain too much, since all of my other classes are pretty awesome, but this class kills me! I'm hoping that Thursday was just an especially hyper day and they'll be better tomorrow, but I'm not holding my breath. I had been warned about them before I started teaching, so I know it's not me, but them. Sigh.

So I survived Week #1 of pre-school relatively unscathed and am enjoying it quite bit. I especially love being off work by 7pm everyday. My work day is just as long, if not longer, than it was before, but it seems easier somehow.

One of the girls, Michelle, headed back to Canada on Saturday morning, so we all got together on Friday so that she'd have one last night out in Seoul. She comanded that it be a theme night (YAAAY!!!) and so the theme was: Cougar/Hound Dog. Not the animals but refering to older women and men who dress WAY younger and chase after men and women who are MANY years their junior. Not many of us actually pulled off the cougar/hound dog look (I was totally 80s...), but it was pretty hilarious nonetheless. Although we did fail our mission: To have a Korean ask us what the hell we're wearing. People dress in the most random of fashions in Seoul, so we hoped to dress so insanely that we'd have someone question it. No one did. I don't even think any of us received a second glance. Either way, it was a great night and it's ridiculously sad not having Michelle around anymore. *tear*

On Saturday, I visited the Amsa-Dong Prehistoric Settlement Site. This represents the largest neolithic settlement site in Korea and is the first known in south Korea. It's presumed to have been inhabited in 3,000 or 4,000 B.C. Pretty cool! Amsa-Dong is a good hour subway ride from my place, but it was well-worth the visit. There's a fair-sized exhibit with artifacts that were uncovered and information on what life would have been like back then, plus reconstructed pit-houses that give a very good idea of what the living conditions were during that time. The area itself is gorgeous, as it has paths leading around the grounds which are heavily surrounded by trees and rocks to sit on. If you ignore the sounds of the traffic coming from the nearby highway, it's easy to imagine yourself in a secluded forest, with only the birds and locust to keep you company. I could have easily wandered around all day and was sad to return to the concrete world that is Seoul. I'm always so happy to find these delightful patches of nature within this massive city!

Saturday night I stayed in and was lazy, since I had woken up early to go to Amsa, but had gone to bed VERY late for Michelle's going-away night. I happily slept in on Sunday, did laundry and read. Yay relaxing! Last night I went to the movies and saw Mama Mia with Tara and Amanda. It was cheesy, as is a definite must with musicals, but not surprisingly... I LOVED IT!!! I've had ABBA songs in my head all day (Mainly Mama Mia and Dancing Queen) and am currently in the process of downloading the soundtrack. If only life could be a musical so that I could constantly induldge in my desire to spontaneously burst out into song! Hahaha!!!

I'm DEFINITELY looking forward the weekend, since it's yet another long one: 4 days off! On Sunday, it's Chusok, the Korean Thanksgiving. Everyone gets the day before and after Chusok off, but since it falls on a Sunday this year, the school's giving us Tuesday off since we don't work on Saturday. Thank you SLP!!! Another reason why Chusok rocks: We receive a $300 bonus! WOOHOOOO!!!! Us girls originally tried to plan a trip out of Seoul, but everything was too expensive for such a short trip. A few are still taking 1-2 day trips, but I've decided to stick around Seoul and do the touristy things that I never got around to doing during my summer vacation. Plus it'll be nice not to spend my bonus right away. A trip to the zoo is in the works, as is a day at Everland, Seoul's oh-so famous amusement park. I'm ridiculously excited for that, since I haven't been to an amusement park since high school and can't wait to make myself dizzy on rollercoasters!!! I'm thinking that Tuesday will be spent sleeping though, because what's the point of a holiday if you can't spend at least one of those days being lazy!

I'm determined to be in bed my 11 tonight and seeing that it's already 10:20, I'm forcing myself to get offline now. Good timing though, because I do believe I've written enough thoughts for one day!

Jan ^__^

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pre-School Teacher? Me?!

Last week was a fairly tame one, other than officially being told that I'd be teaching pre-school as of September 1st. This began with my observing classes as of Thursday morning, which lead to that work day lasting well over 10 hours. I felt bad for my last class at 7pm, since I was pretty brain dead by that point. I got to observe the two classes that I'll be teaching yesterday and today and the kids are way too cute. The one class is apparently a handful, but Laura (who I'm replacing) has given me some pointers on how to handle them. The other class are adorable and most of the teacher's agree that they're sweet and awesomely well-behaved. I'm certainly keeping my fingers crossed!

I knew that my entire schedule would change upon Adam's return, since I've always known that he'd be taking his classes back, but I didn't expect to do a full 180 (full 360...? I'm having a total brainfart as to which is the right one to say!) switcheroo in the types of classes I'd be teaching! Since starting at SLP, I've been doing afternoon/evening classes, mostly with more advanced, older kids. But as of next week, I'll be starting my work day at 9:45am and will be teaching IP1, which is the first level of pre-schoolers at SLP. EEPS!!! Morning pre-school is from 9:45-12:20, and the FTs share 2 classes with KTs. So my first group is 7-year olds (In Korean years, mind you, so they're actually 5-6. While I'm on the topic of Korean years, here's the downlow on that: In the Western/European cultures, newborns start life being 0-year's old. Once you've been alive in the world for one full year, you're 1-year old. In Korea, and I can't speak for other Asian cultures because I'm unsure if they do this or not, newborns start at 1-year old, and they add one year at the passing of each New Year, rather than their birthday. So some people might actually be 1-2 year's older in Korea than they'd be in Western parts of the world), and my second group 6 year-olds. I've observed several 6&7 year-old IP1 classes since Thursday, including the 2 classes that'll be my own and I think it'll be ok. The classes are very structured, which might end up being constricting later on but I'm happy to have some direction right now!

I totally have mixed emotions about all of this! I'm excited to teach pre-school because the kids are super cute. The lessons are very basic, I'll have the same group of kids every morning, plus I'll get to go on the monthly field trips. Bonus! On the other hand, I've really enjoyed teaching the older kids and have gotten pretty attached to some of my classes, so that'll be hard. Although I won't miss teaching things that I myself haven't given a second thought about since junior high, nor will I miss the gazillion essays that I've had to correct these past few months!

My afternoon schedule will also totally change, although I was told that I'll be keeping one of my current classes, which is one that I took over from a teacher who left late last month, although this is my lowest level class at this point, other than my afternoon pre-school. Speaking of which, Adam gets to take back the less-than-popular project writing afternoon pre-school writing classes! SWEEEEET!!! I hate teaching that class just as much as the kids hate having to take it! It's impossible to make it interesting and while I've won over most of the kids by this point, teaching it certainly doesn't win you any popularity points.

The upside to this schedule change (Other than having to deal with morning again....NOOOOO!!!!!) is that I'll be done teaching at 6:20pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, as opposed to 7pm (Hmmm... ok, maybe this change isn't all that great...), and at 5pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is a VAST improvement from my current 8pm checkout time. I also have a long break between my morning and afternoon classes on most days. Right now, the earliest that I start is at 1:10pm, except for Wednesdays and Fridays where I only start at 2:40pm, but I have maybe three 10-minute breaks, which are every 80-minute block, and that basically just gives me enough time to race to my desk, change my books, fill my water bottle, and if I'm lucky, bathroom break.

So there's definite pros and cons to this whole schedule change, plus the warning that things might change slightly come October. I'm just curious to see how this whole teaching pre-school thing is going to go! Excited, yet terried, not gonna lie! The kids are so little!!!

Other than school, not much has been going on around here. It was Alisha's birthday on Sunday, so a bunch of us went out on Saturday night to celebrate. We went to Garten Beer for dinner and drinks, where we watched the Olympic's baseball finals between Korea and Cuba on the restaurant's big screen tv. Most of the restaurant's patrons were there for that reason and it was a LOUD and exciting game (Not that I paid much attention, but it was still easy to get caught up in everyone else's excitement) and the excitement was magnified when Korea won the gold. Whoot!!! Most of us then headed to Hongdae, the bar/club area of Seoul that we tend to gravitate towards, and ended up at Ho Bar3 for more drinks and a dance party. Not that it's an actual dance club, more of a sit-down bar, but if there's music there will be dancing when it comes to the girls in our group! Good times. The rest of the weekend was spent doing a whole lotta nothing. Oh! The Goonies played Saturday afternoon! I turned on the tv and it was literally just starting. I haven't seen that movie from beginning to end in AGES and it totally made my life! "Hey you guuuuys!!!" Hahahaha!

Today is Amanda's birthday, so almost the whole crew met up for dinner at the 'Fish and Grill', a great restaurant located in our building. So handy! It was a beautiful night (We only met at 8:30 since any of us were teaching until 8:00), so we sat out on the patio. Susie and I bought her a cake on the way here and it was cute! It was a teddy bear head and most likely meant for a 5-year olds bday, but it was cute and looked yummy, since it was coated in chocolate and the ears, eyes, and nose were pieces of white and milk chocolate. Sadly we ate the appendages before we could take a picture of its cuteness. *tear* The best part, it tasted like the Joe Louis snack cakes. Delish! Oh, and try eating cake with chopsticks. Good times. It looks like we massacred the poor thing.

Tomorrow night, I'm going to a show called Nanta with some of the girls. According to the Nanta website (http://nanta.i-pmc.co.kr/en/nanta/intro_synopsis.asp), it's "A Nonverbal performance integrating Korean traditional "Samulnori" rhythm with comic and drama! Audiences of all ages and nationalities can enjoy! Everyone is welcome! " Not really sure what to expect, but I'm always up for a show!

On Saturday, we're going out to celebrate Jon and Rob's birthdays (SO MANY BIRTHDAYS!!! Thankfully I'm a fan of birthdays and birthday celebrations!). The guys haven't quite decided what we're doing yet, but I'd imagine dinner, drinks, and the usual shenannigans down in Hongdae.

I'm curious to see what the next couple of weeks will bring! There's some huge changes a-comin!!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A best-friendly visit!

Week #5 in Korea started off VERY well, because Celine came to visit me! YAAAAY!!! She arrived on Monday night, so after work I bused it to the Incheon/Seoul International Aiport to meet up with her. I remember how exausted/nervous I was when arriving in Seoul, so it was super important to me that she have a smiling face greeting her upon her arrival. By the time she got through customs and found her luggage, it was nearing 10pm (Luckily her flight was early, since she was originally scheduled to arrive at 9:35pm, so the wait would have been MUCH longer otherwise!). She looked a little disheveled, but after traveling for nearly 24 hours, can't say that I blamed her. I know that I wasn't at my cutest when I arrived! We cabbed home, chatted for a bit, then passed out at around 1am.

I hated leaving for work on Tuesday, but did and of course the day draaaaaaged on. Turns out that Celine had slept for most of the day (Jetlag hit her pretty hard), so I felt less bad about abandoning her. I took her out for some delicous Pizza Maru, her first experience of Korean food... which it isn't at all cause it's pizza! Hahaha!

The rest of the week went this way, me sadly leaving for work, feeling as if I was abandoning my friend. Sigh. I was happy to hear that she went out exploring on Wednesday, then once Amanda got off work on Thursday, she took her out shopping. Ce and Amanda had met at dinner on Wednesday night, since a few of us almost always go out for dinner on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. When a meal's less than W5,000j and you get a massive serving, it's hard not too! This was in reality Celine's first Korean meal: We went to a restaurant that mainly serves guk (Pronounced gook), which means soup. It was actually more like a rice porridge though, and while it was kinda bland (which was SHOCKING considering everything's so spicy!), I'd go back.

On Thursday night, Susie had a belated (As in, 7-months belated) Housewarming Party. The whole crew was basically there and it was fun to have Celine see that I'm not totally friendless. We stayed at Susie's for quite a while, then decided it was time to go out. As it in the norm with the group, it was impossible to choose one location that would suit all. Most of the group went to a bar where they could sit and chillax, but Ce, Susie, Tara, and myself made our way to a club because the urge to have a dance party was too loud to ignore! It was a hip-hop club, so we knew most of the songs and had a total blast! There were tv monitors all over the club showing hip-hop videos and Ce and I were thrilled to see that some of the videos were being broadcasted from 'Much Music'. It was liking being back at home, except for the fact that our group were basically the only Foreigners in the entire place! Hahaha! Us 4 girls danced our little hearts out and only made it back home at around 4am. I LOVE that Korean clubs/bars are open so late!!!

On Friday, a bunch of the girls met up at 11:30am to laze around a pool all day. The only problem: The clouds and wind. We were determined to go anyways though, so we made the treck to one of the bigger water locations in Seoul, where there's 3 pools. It literally started to rain the second we arrived... NOOOO!!! The fee was only W5,000 so we went in hoping that it would pass. We quickly realized that this was no passing rain cloud, as the sky was getting darker by the minute and the wind just getting stronger. After a good 25 minutes of sitting in the rain in our bathing suits, Ce, Amanda, Jaimie and I decided that going to a movie sounded like a bunch better way to spend the afternoon, We left the others (who ended up leaving not long after) and made our way to a movie theatre. Since none of us had seen it, we saw the new X-Files movie, which was slightly disappointing (The plot wasn't all that paranormal, which you expect from the X-Files), but still entertaining, because it did keep the weird 'What the?! Did that just happen?!' element that made the show so popular in the first place. By the time the movie was done, we were all exhausted from the late night/early morning partying from the day before, so once we got back to the apartments, we parted ways. Celine and I had dinner, then vegged for the rest of the night and went to bed relatively early for a Friday night!

On Saturday, Celine requested that we do something touristy. Celine, Amanda and I met up with JM and Ce's friend, Jackie, at Seoul station and then went to Changdeokgung, which was built as the secondary palace of the Joseon Dynasty. If anyone remembers my last post, Gyeongbokgung was the primary palace of the Joseon Dynasty, so the architecture of both palaces are very similar, but still gorgeous in their own right. The only downside was that it was yet again an overcast day, so many of my pictures look depressing and gloomy. :( My pictures from Gyeongbokgung definetely turned out better since last weekend had been so sunny. Oh well, can't control the weather! Changdeokgung only does guided tours, so we somehow made it for the last one which was at 3:30. It lasted an hour and a half and I'm not gonna lie, the 5 of us often drifted behind the group, especially Amanda and I who were once again camera happy. It was a really great tour though and we had a blast! After the tour, we went for dinner at a typical Korean restaurant, meaning it's tiny and only serves a handful of meals. I had pibim naengmyon, which is basically a cold noodle and vegetable mix. Simple yet satisfying! JM was going to stay with me and Celine that night, so after dinner we headed over to where he's been staying since his return from Canada. He's between apartments right now, so he'd been sleeping in hotels and at his office since Wednesday. Poor guy! Once we got back to my neck of the woods, Amanda decided that she was sleepy so she went home to nap. Which of course means we didn't see her for the rest of the night! Ce, JM, Jackie and I chilled in my mini apartment, got our drink on and chatted. Not sure what time it was, but we decided to go to a noraebang (Pronounced: No-ray-bong), which is my new favourite thing in the ENTIRE universe!!! Noraebang basically means karaoke room and instead of doing karaoke in front of an entire group of strangers, you rent a room where they have tv monitors set up, microphones, fun lighting, a book full of English and Korean songs, and...wait for it... tambourines! While I didn't originally believe JM when he told me that there's at least one noraebang on every street, I'm now a believer as there's one 2 seconds from my apartment! You pay W15,000/hour which is so cheap! We had such a ridiculously good time that we ended up staying for 2 hours! So much singing! So much laughing!!! When we finally wandered back to the apartment, we ran into a couple of the guys were hanging outside of Family Mart, our unofficial hangout. We were still giddy from the noraebang, so we joined them and chatted for who knows how long. What I do know is that when we finally came upstairs, it was getting light out. Poor Celine didn't know what to do, staying up that late! Hahaha! I love you Ce, you old memere you! At that point, Jackie decided to head home since the subways would be runnin and didn't really want to sleep on my floor. JM wasn't so picky, so he, Ce and I crashed soon after bidding Jackie adieu.

I don't think any of us moved until I heard JM, stating that it was 1:10pm and that maybe we should get up if any of us hoped to sleep that night. Hahaha! We got ready, hit up Pizza Maru for a late lunch, then headed to the subway station. Celine wanted to witness the wonder that is the crazy shopping at Dongdaemun, but sadly realized that she had very little cash left and couldn't withdraw money from her credit card from an ATM because she didn't know the PIN. There's not really any point in going somewhere with hundreds upon hundreds of stores and street stalls if you have no money, especially considering most of these places only accept cash :( So we said our goodbyes to JM and headed back home. Celine was leaving me that night to spend the remainder of her trip with a friend in Incheon, but wouldn't have to go for several hours. So when we had to decide what to do, we came up with the most logical conclusion: More noraebang! Hahaha! We paid for an hour, but I think we were entertaining the man who works there because he kept adding more time to our timer. We took the first extra 15 minutes, but then worried that he'd start charging us so we left. Once again, we had a blast! Especially since we could sing our sappy ballads and silly songs! After noraebang, we went for dinner, then shortly after Ce's friend called and it was time for her to go. *tear* I was SUPER sad having to say goodbye, because it was so nice having one of my BFFs here with me, even if it was for only a week. I'm pretty confident that she had a good time and hopefully she'll encourage the others to save their pennies and come visit me too! That would be AWESOME!!! *hint-hint-nudge-nudge*

It's now Tuesday and I'm still trying to recover from the weekend. Hahaha! I'm supposed to talk with Dayna via Skype in a few minutes, so I'm super excited for that! And I'm calling home tomorrow, where quite a bit of the family is supposed to be, including Mitch and Memere. I haven't talked to either of them since I left, so it'll be nice to hear their voices.

Not sure what this week will bring, but I do know that a bunch of us are going out for Alisha's birthday on Saturday night. So much for having a weekend to relax! Oh well, it's worth it!!!

Jan ^__^

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A month already! WOW!!!

Wow, today's my 1-month anniversary of being in Seoul (Well, it will be at approx. 9pm). CRAZY! I have conflicting feelings about that time frame though. On one hand, it feels like I've just arrived; At the same time, it also feels like I've been here forever. Not sure how that makes sense!

This week went fairly well. Nothing overly exciting happened, except for the return to class. I'm starting to lose patience with one class in particular and am hoping that they smarten up. I teach these kids every single day, so in a way they're my favourites because I know them better than any of my other students. But, they're hands down my hardest class to handle, mainly because they can't shut up and sit still for more than 2 minutes at a time, so I felt like I spent the majority of the week trying to get them to chill out and pay attention. What's frustrating is that they were pretty good before vacation, but it's almost like they were abducted during vacation and have now returned to school as evil hell spawns! I'm discovering that I am capable of being a stern teacher and am mastering my 'I am NOT happy!' look of death, which seems to be working. I honestly didn't think I had it in me to be a hard-ass, but I was apparently wrong! I'd rather be able to joke around and give them treats, but they now know that it's serious Janique Teacher until they can prove to me that they can behave. I'm curious to see how this week will go...

The weekend was really great. A few of us hit up Pizza Maru after work on Friday, then Amanda and I headed off to the Dongdaemun Market, which is stated to be the biggest shopping district in Seoul. It was well past 9pm when we arrived, so the department stores were closed which was fine by us; we wanted to hit up the street stalls. Street stalls mainly have clothing, shoes, purses and accessories, but they're dirt cheap! I can't wear flipflop sandals to work, so have been looking for a pair of Birkenstocks because I'm tired of wearing my sneakers when it's a gazillion degrees outside. I bought a knockoff pair of Birkensticks (Yes, you read that correctly: BirkenSTICKS! HAHAHA!) for W12,000 (Approx. $12). They're identical to the real deal and super comfy. Score! I bought 3 shirts and a dress for less than W20,000, and 6 DVDS (Gotta love Asia for those bootlegged American movies that aren't even on DVD yet!) for W20,000. Yes I spent more money than I probably should have, but it's so easy to do when you leave with so many items! I don't know that I'll ever be able to pay full price for anything ever again! We left Dongdaemun around 11:30pm because we wanted to catch the last subway home (most subway lines stop running at midnight) and could have easily stayed for several more hours because there's just SO much to see! I will definitely be going back there in the future!

On Saturday, I spent more money (it's been an expensive weekend!), but this was useful shopping though: Grocery shopping! I'd only been to the HomEver down the street, but wanted to check out the other department/grocery stores in the area. It's a good 20 minute walk, but it's bigger than HomEver so the extra variety will be nice on those days that I'm feeling energetic. On my way back I hit up the Dollar Store where I bought some VERY cheap, but useful things for home and for work (Including a Hello Kitty soap dish and toothbrush holder...the dream to have a Hello Kitty-themed bathroom is coming true!). I also bought some wall stickers (kinda like wallerpaper, but better!) so that I can attempt to pretty-up my walls. I've been going crazy trying to think of ways to make my walls less ugly without having to spend a fortune! Afterall, I'm only here for a year, so don't want to put to much money and work into the apartment. But I finally have a Janique-esque, but easy/cheap decor idea. Whoot! I also went to HomEver and bought padding for my bed (plus the heavier groceries, since I didn't want to lug them from the other store), so it no longer feels like I'm sleeping on a wooden board. YAY SOFTER BED!

For some odd reason, insomnia kicked in last night and I slept horribly. I was exhausted so went to bed at around midnight, but tossed and turned and probably didn't fall asleep until 5am. Sigh. It didn't help that there were people camped out in front of SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System), so I could hear female voices laughing and singing for most of the night. 'Big Bang', a Korean boy band that is MASSIVELY popular, were doing an appearance at SBS, hence the girly camp out. I woke up to them screaming at around 9am. If I car pulled in, they'd start screaming hysterically until they'd realize that it wasn't Big Bang. This is the norm and will continue until the actual celebrity shows up. A few of us had talked about joining the masses and making a silly fangirl/fanboy (because some of the guys were more than eager to join! Hahaha!) video, but it didn't happen. There'll be a million other chances though because there's someone popular that shows up at SBS pretty much every weekend!

I met up with Amanda at 10:30 and we ventured over to Gyeongbokgung, which was the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty (Constructed in 1395, destroyed during the Japanese invasion of 1592 (But not by the Japanese, interestingly enough. When Japan invaded, the king and aristocrats fled Seoul, abandoning its people, and so an angry Korean mob burned it down!), and reconstructed in 1868). Within the palace gates are numerous building and they're all stunningly beautiful. Most of the buildings are painted in such rich, vividly bright colours unlike anything I've ever seen before! I definitely took over 200 pictures of not only the architecture, but of the landscape which is equally as stunning. You can see the mountains in the distance (not sure which ones...sorry!) and there's so many gorgeous trees and plantlife. It's crazy to think that people once lived there, but they were so lucky because it truly is beautiful! What I find the most interesting is that Gyeongbokgung is located in downtown Seoul, so the constrast between the old and the new in the backdrop is strangely fetching. It's going to take me a while to sort through those pictures and while I plan on making an album (if not several) on Facebook, I'll ensure to post some of them in here as well in the near future. The pictures are definitely worth sharing! We also visited the Korean Folk Museum, which was interesting, but we were pretty tired from touring the palace by that time, as it took us a good 2 hours to see everything (I'm not even convinced that we saw it all!).

An added bonus is that it was a gorgeous, sunny day, with very little humidity and smog. It was finally sunny this week (YAY! SUNSHINE!!!), but the smog has been so thick that I haven't even tanned in the slightest. You die of heat and feel the sun's rays, but they can't actually penetrate the thick air. But today I totally burned, which I didn't expect, especially with being downtown! I was wearing a tanktop with interesting straps, so I'm going to have some funky tanlines once the burn dies down. Haha! While I'm less than pleased that I burned (Thankfully it doesn't hurt and I'm hoping I don't peel too badly!), I'll be happy to at least have a bit of a tan! I don't tan as easily as some people that I know, but this is the least tanned that I've been in forever. I like being fair, but like to look like I spend some time outdoors! So I'm happy that I'll finally have a bit of colour and not be so pasty!

It's now 8pm and I'm sooo sleepy! It's a national holiday on Friday, so 4-day week! YAAAY!!! Which works out perfectly because my friend Celine is coming to visit! I'M SO EXCITED!!! She decided last week that she wanted to visit before September (she's a teacher, so she's off until then, lucky girl!) and within days had bought a plane tickets! She arrives tomorrow night, so I'm going to go meet her at the airport. I'm hoping that someone can stear me in the right direction, since I'm not really sure where I'm going! We'll cab home, but since the international airport's in Incheon, I don't want to pay cab fare both ways (Yes taxis are cheap, but I've also become cheap! Hahaha!). Plus she's only arriving at 9:35pm, so that's more than enough time for me to take public transportation there, assuming I figure out what subway line or bus to take. I'm sure someone at work will know. It'll be so unbelievably nice/fun/exciting to be in Korea with one of my best friends! So I'm sure that I'll have many fun things to talk about in my next post!

Jan ^__^

Monday, August 4, 2008

Summer Vacation! - Part Deux

Hello again!

Yoga was great, by the way. I'm now feeling much more relaxed and will be ready for bed once I'm done with the second part of this update. Yoga is looooove!!!!

As I was saying, yes there was LOTS of laziness during my vacation, but it did get more entertaining later in the week. I ventured over to the COEX Mall, which is reportedly the largest underground shopping centre in Asia (as per Lonely Planet's Korean guidebook). I don't think they're wrong, because this place is MASSIVE!!! I spent a good 4 hours wandering around and probably only saw 10% of it. I had checked out the COEX Mall website prior to my visit (http://www.coexmall.com/, for anyone who's interested) so I knew what stores that I definitely wanted to check out. I'm glad I did, because it's easy to become overwhelmed in there! I somehow managed to find all of them without even having to try! It was one of those 'la-la-la...wandering around...Oh! Store! YAY!' things. One of the must-see stores on my list: Sanrio Store, aka HELLO KITTY GOODNESS! I immediately became giddy when I saw it and it took all of my self-restraint not to zoom over. Inner dialogue: "Breath Janique. You're an adult and don't need to make a scene" "But, but...HELLO KITTY!!! SQUEEEEE!!!" "I repeat: Breath Janique and at least pretend that Hello Kitty doesn't make you revert back to your 5-year old self!" "But...HELLO KITTYYYYY!!!!" "I know you don't actually feel very mature right now, but stop grinning and giggling like a maniac because that old lady is staring at you and looks terrified that the foreign woman is going crazy." Basically it's the scared old lady that made me snap to my senses. Sorta. You'll all be very proud to know that I didn't spent all of my money in that store! I actually only bought 2 things. Yes, you read that correctly: 2! And they're actually useful! Go me! I have a stainless steel water bottle, which was cheaper than most stainless steels bottles back home. Not to mention it's SO me, plus a few things about it remain me of a few friends. And because I'm a nerd....

LOVE! I also bought a floor mat for my bathroom. Although...

It's obviously meant for the kitchen, if the chef's hat and other kitchen items are any indication. The thing is, I desperately needed a bathroom mat and really wanted it to be Hello Kitty, not to the mention that there was only 1 actual bath mat and it puts the Hello Kitty name to shame. Ick. Plus I like being different and confusing people, so I will welcome the 'What the hell?!' comments that I'm sure to receive in the future!

Ok, so once I finally, albeit tearfully, departed the Sanrio store, I made my way to the COEX Aquarium. You know a place must me huge if it has its own aquarium! Aquariums (and zoos) bring about a whole lot of conflicting emotions, because as much as I love seeing so many species that I probably would never see, I also find it very depressing that these beautiful creatures are behind glass and in cages. Sigh. Anyways, I tried not to think about it too much and just enjoy myself. It took a good hour to see everything and took many pictures, but most of those will be posted on my Facebook account (It takes forever to upload them to this journal). But here's a few of my favs:

Or not... They don't seem to want to load right now. I shake my fist at you!

Another store that I NEEDED to visit was Bandi & Luni's, which I read was a large bookstore. My immediate thought: Big bookstore = English section!!!! YIPPEEEEE!!! I hadn't seen an English novel (Other than the few I brought with me.) since I arrived, so the simple thought that I'd be able to buy some books made my life. Their English fiction section wasn't massive, 2 and a half bookcases or so, but that didn't stop me from buying 7 books! So I should be set for a few weeks... Whew! I was going through reading withdrawl!

I had also intended to catch a movie, since the mall has a large movie theatre, but upon arriving at said theatre my lack of Korean knowledge once again got the best of me. The movie listing was in Hangul (Korean writing), so I didn't know what was actually playing. I was hoping to find an automated ticket teller so that I could just buy a ticket according to the picture of the movie poster, but no deal. Maybe that's just a North American thing? Kinda hard to buy a ticket if you don't even know what's there! I wandered the theatre for a good 15 minutes, trying to find any clue as to what was playing, but ultimately gave up. By that point I was exhausted from my shopping and had a good hour trip ahead of me to get home, so I figured that was a good time to head back. So I came home and watched a movie here instead (I can't remember what though...). I plan on going back to COEX in the near future, now that I don't what to expect. I now understand why some people say you can spend a good 2 days there!

By Saturday, most of the girls were back from their various trips so 5 of us met downstairs at noon for a shopping expedition. I'm not exactly sure where we were, but it was streets upon streets of various shops and outdoor stands, mostly clothes and shoes that are for the most part, dirt cheap. FUN! We spent a good 4 hours wandering around and all did quite well for ourselves. I was shocked though, since I left with the least amount of things; I didn't even get shoes or a purse, which is typically unheard of for the self-proclaimed shoe and purse addict! Most of the girls left at that point, but Amanda lead the way to this MASSIVE electronics store, which has 8 levels, each floor selling something different: For example, the first floor is ALL cameras, another floor ALL computers, and the one we wanted, the 8th floor, which is where the cell phones are sold. I couldn't buy a cell phone until I received my alien card, which is my Korean ID, but I received it before vacation. People kept mentioning this electronics market and I wanted to wait until someone could show me where to go. I bought a used cell which is in remarkable shape for W50,000 ($50) and you don't buy a plan, just add minutes à la Pay-As-You-Go. Very easy! They added W10,000 for me so I was able to use my phone within minutes of buying it. I feel safe and sound once more! It's very unnerving wandering a city that you don't know without a cell phone, especially when you have a habit of getting lost. I love Amanda for helping me out; She was the new teacher before I showed up and from my very first day has been my self-appointed helper. I love her for that!

When we got back to our hood, Gangseo-Gu, we attempted to meet the other girls at Pizza Maru, the local pizza shop. Sadly we passed them on our way there, so we just decided to take it to go. Pizza Maru has AWESOME pizza. They only have 1 size, which is between a medium and large, and it only costs, wait for it, W6,000 ($6). SWEEEET!!! They have a veggie pizza that is fabulous and my favourite ingredient actually caught me off guard the first time: corn. Corn on pizza, who'd have thought?! I love it though and will be sad when I go back to Canada and can no longer order a veggie pizza with corn! I hadn't had takeout Pizza Maru yet, but was delighted when I received it. So much so that I needed to take a picture (Assuming it'll let me upload it...):

(Oh yeah, NOW the pictures work!) Anyways, I love it because the box is wrapped! My friend Crys had told me that Korean Pizza Hut does this, but it made me ridiculously happy to see that Pizza Maru does it too! Yes, I'm easily amused.

The reason we took our pizza to go instead of eating there was because one of the girls, Jess, was having people over at 9:00, then we were going out. It was already well past 7:00 by this point so it made more sense to eat while getting ready. So I ate half of my yummy pizza (probably could have eaten WAY less than that, but it's so good!), got ready then made my way over to Jess'. I bought myself a bottle of soju in the store downstairs (I LOVE having a convenient store in my building! It's, well...convenient! Hahaha!) and absolutely love that you can buy booze basically anywhere. Definitely not the case in Canada, well, other than Quebec I guess. I didn't know what to mix with soju, but figured since it's almost like vodka, grape juice would work. Plus it reminded me of Alice and my vodka/grape juice mixes from back in the day! A half a litre bottle of soju plus 2 bottles of grape juice cost me less than W10,000 ($10). Again, I love how cheap drinks and food are here!!! None of the guys were back yet, so it was the 5 of us who'd gone shopping, plus Alisha's bf Jimno. Poor guy! Hahaha! We chatted, played 'Never Have I Ever' (I hadn't played that in AGES!), then a fun drinking game which I'll happily teach everyone once I get back home. Easy but fun! Then came the dance party and silly pictures (Again, poor Jimno, but he's a good sport!). Not sure what time we headed out at, but we headed to a district which is known for its club and bars (Can't remember where, although I do know it's near Hongik University, wherever that may be!). Our first location, get this: Ho Bar. Yes, that's the actual name of the place. And to make a funny name even more funny, there's numerous Ho Bars within Seoul (They even have a website: http://www.hobar.co.kr/), so we went to Ho Bar III. HAHAHAHA! It wasn't a dance club, more of a bar (And not ho-like at all, fyi), so we just sat, had a few drinks and chatted as well as we could over the Korean music. We were there for probably a good hour, hour and a half, then decided to venture over to a very americanized dance club. Oh! And on our way out of Ho Bar, a few of us noticed this sign:

The first thing you probably noticed is 'Absoult', which should be spelt 'Absolut'. The fact that it's spelled incorrectly isn't a big deal, considering I've seen the spelling of many English words totally butchered. What kills me is that 'Jagermeister' is spelled correctly! SERIOUSLY?! You would think that 'Absolut' would be the easy one to spell, not 'Jagermeister!'. We laughed for a good 5 minutes over this and Jess had to take a picture. I'm glad she did, because it would be sad to forget about this!

Alright, back to the dance club. I'm sure it's probably a very fun place and I was loving the music, but it was ridiculously crowded. That usually doesn't bother me, but it was so hot and just...ugh. We were there for maybe 30 minutes before we all started to get annoyed. Not to mention we had several persistent guys who would just NOT get a clue. Nothing worst than a guy who comes on super strong and doesn't understand how that'd be such a massive turn-off! Jerks. By that point it was easily nearing 4am (Many of you will be jealous to hear that most clubs/bars are open until 6am in Seoul), so we didn't feel like bailers. We stopped for ice cream at our lovely convenient store (open 24hrs, because I didn't already love it enough!), then each went our separate way. I finished the rest of my pizza, checked my email, and passed out near 7am. Good night indeed!

I would have been happy to sleep a good 12 hours, until high-pitched shrieking woke me at around 11am. There's a radio station right across the street and from what I've been told, musicians and random celebrities often make appearances for radio interviews; The shrieking was dozens upon dozens of excited girls! Hahaha! No one that I talked to today knows who was beign interviewed, but I literally listened to them shrieking until the mid-afternoon. So high-pitched!!!

Needless to say I was pretty sleepy and cranky yesterday, not to mention I learned the hard way that soju gives you quite the day-after headache. Tylenol, which is usually my friend, was no help to me. *sob* So I didn't do a whole lot. Read mostly. Then Mom and Dad called last night which made me SOOOO happy! I talked to Mom for a good hour a few weeks ago, but that's it, and hadn't talked to Dad at all since I'd been here. I'm used to talking to them at least once a week, so not having that has been hard. It was so great to hear their voices! It makes the crazy distance that much easier to bear. They now have a great international phone plan and I've discovered that using Skype for international calls to landlines is awesomely cheap, so it's a HUGE relief that we'll be able to keep in touch fairly easily. The time difference makes it a bit tricky, but I'm hoping that we can set-up a phone routine, similarly to what I had when I was in Ottawa. Getting to speak with them was definitely ended my vacation on a ridiculously happy note!

And today, Monday, meaning back to school. I was worried that I'd fall back to square 1, but it was much easier getting back into the swing of things than I'd anticipated. I'm still feeling awkward about teaching, but am glad that I didn't revert back to the way I was feeling during my first week. I'd like to think that come September, I'll be an old pro at this! One can hope, right?!

Wow. This is my longest entry yet! It's now ridiculously late and I'm surprised that I still have enough brain-power to continue writing. I'll probably find a million typos and parts that make zero sense that next time I read this! Hahaha! Tomorrow's one of my looooong days, so off to bed I go so that I can survive it!

Jan ^__^