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 ^__^