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....