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 ^__^

Summer Vacation!

I was incredibly happy when I found out that my one-week summer vacation would be taking place 2 weeks after I arrived. YAY! Although in a sense I was a bit disappointed since that didn't give me time to plan a trip outside of Seoul, but considering I hadn't really seen much of Seoul yet it didn't bother me that much.

Vacation started off fabulously: After work on the Friday, I met up with my friend Scott for dinner and to deliver his precious deodorant. I can't say that I've EVER seen someone that excited to receive pit stick, but it's not like it's hard to find back home. Anyways, on my subway adventure to meet him, I realized that he doesn't live in Seoul at all, but actually in Incheon which is just outside of Seoul. I actually didn't realize I was in Incheon until I met up with Scott and he told me that's where we were. I'm a little clueless about geography! He's actually in Bupyeong which is an INCREDIBLY social district. Bars and restaurants everywhere! It was pretty intense actually, but really interesting. And I was very captivated by all of the neon signs and music and people bustling around. Very cool! He originally wanted to bring me to his favourite restaurant but remembered when we walked in that I don't eat red meat; At this restaurant, you receive a massive slab of meat and cook it yourself on the grill that's in the middle of your table. I felt really bad because he'd been so excited, but he told me that there was nothing on the menu that I'd actually want to eat (meat, meat, more meat...), so we moved on. It seemed like a typical Korean restaurant, until we looked at the menu and realized that it was quite eclectic. We we ordered california rolls, this crazy looking sushi roll that looked like lasagna in the menu's picture (it wasn't lasagna-like at all, but delicious!), and carbonara; So basically, Japanese and Italian food in a Korean restaurant. Yes, we were entertained. This didn't seem like alot of food for 2 people, but we couldn't finish it. VERY tasty though! I always forget how much I like california rolls! From then, we slowly (I repeat: FULL!!!) made our way to Rock Bar, which I was warned was seedy but that they had cheap beer. Oh my god I love that place! It was seedy, but it was playing the best (aka cheesiest, which is why I loved it!) 80's rock music. I can't remember what songs, but I do know that I sang along to most of them and was very entertained. A few of Scott's friends were already there, so we sat with them and drank massive king-sized pitchers of beer. Ok, this is what kills me: Back home, you'd EASILY pay $30 for one of those. At Rock Bar: W10,000, which basically amounts to $10. Scott's group were all complaining that the price went up, because the day before a king pitcher was W6,000, but I was too amazed to say much of anything. Alcohol here is SOOOO cheap!!!! It's insane!!! Scott's friends left after a while to go elsewhere, but we had a pitcher to drink so we hungout for a while longer. One of his friends showed up and chatted up the waitress, so she ended up bringing us a free bottle of soju. Score! After Rock Bar, we went to a dance club and I swear it felt like I was just transported back to Canada. They were playing American dance music and there were very few actual Koreans. Kinda weird, actually. There I met Val, one of Scott's friends, who was anxious to meet a fellow Frenchie. I was also excited when Scott told me that she's french and from Ottawa. Anyways, she and I started chatting and she asked me where I was from. I told her that I've been living in Ottawa for nearly 6 years, but am from North Bay. When I said this, she gave me a weird look and asked if I knew Nat S. I, in turn, also gave her a weird look and answered yes, Nat was my roommate 1st year of university and is one of my closest friends. Val: Oh my god! You're THAT Janique?!?! Me: *light bulb moment* Oh my god, you're THAT Val?!?! Val and Nat did their Teacher's Ed together at Ottawa U and as many times as Nat tried to get us to meet, it never seemed to work out. I've heard SO much about this girl, and her about me, so it was insane that we'd meet in Incheon of all places! Crazy! It was great to finally meet her (Again I repeat: CRAZY!) and I hope that we get to hangout while I'm here, even though we live pretty far from one another. Anywho, Scott and I didn't stay there too long because it was already quite late by that time, so we wandered back towards his neighbourhood. But first, the required stop for fast food after a night of drinking. We ended up at McDonalds, which after pizza and KD is my prefered post-drinking snack. For any of you who have access to my Facebook account, you've seen pictures of this outing. We had a HILARIOUS times and since Scott is quite possibly the most social person in the universe, I had fun taking his picture with many random strangers. And we found a few people who spoke a fair amount of English, so we chatted it up with them. Oh, and my favourite part: The drunken middle-aged men. It's common to see them passed out in public locations late at night. They work like crazy during the day, but it's basically the norm for them to go and get blind-drunk after work, especially on weekends. So if you take into account a +12 hour workday, combined with mass quantities of alcohol, it's not shocking that they'd take a nap (or totally pass out) in a restaurant or anywhere with a chair and/or table. I've come to realize that sleeping in public is a pretty common occurence here, as I've seen at least 5 people around me totally passed (and not necessarly because their drunk, just sleepy) out on the subway, no matter the time of day. I refer to my favourties as "the Bobbers", because their head will be bouncing around like a Bobble Head toy. Oh, and the ones who's head droops onto their neighbours shoulder is also hilarious, especially when you see the "What the hell?!" face that the neighbour is making as they try to shrug them off without being a total jerk about it. I've been immensly entertained during my Seoul subway rides!

Vacation started off great, but took a much lazier turn from that point on. All of my coworkers were gone on various trips and while I had created quite the jam-packed itinerary for myself of things hat I wanted to do/visit during the week, I barely did any of it. I'm a bit disappointed in myself, but on the other hand I think it was good that I took that week to relax and recover from my jetlag. I've been on the go for months now and it was nice not having anyone around so that I could get lazy guilt-free. If people invite me to do things, I have a hard time refusing, so this gave me the opportunity to sleep in everyday, wander the neighbourhood a bit and watch a gazillion movies; The few American channels that I have here are ALWAYS playing a movie, so that's awesome. I don't think it helped that it rained most of the week and was crazy hot, so staying in was an easy decision. Another bonus: I'm not tired 99.9% of the time anymore! No matter how much I slept during the 2 weeks prior to vacation, I was still always exhausted. So I feel like my normal self again. Whew!

The end of my vacation was more interesting (at least for those who are reading this!) than the beginning, but I just noticed the time. I'm doing yoga with the girls in 10 minutes, so I need to get ready and head over to the building next-door. Yay yoga!!!

Meaning, this entry is to be continued.....