It's been nearly 3 months since my last post. Yeah... that's bad. I clearly recall promising to start posting regularly again, only to go on my longest hiatus yet. *sigh* I guess it's a good sign in a sense, because it means I'm too busy to be sitting around in my apartment waiting for any reason to blog about it. On that note though, I do apologize to those who were checking in and looking forwards to my updates. I'm not planning an overly detailed post of these past few months, mainly because I can't remember every tiny thing that's happened! But I will write about the more important events. So here we go folks, the update of all updates!
Friday, November 14th: Field Trip day! We brought the kiddies to Aiins World, "a dream-like theme park that has 109 replicas of famous structures from 25 different countries." I don't really get why they call it a theme park, since there's no rides or anything, just many, many replicas. Ah well, it was still interesting to visit! I got to see the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of Pisa, the Sphinx, Atlantis, the Statue of Liberty, etc, etc, etc. Many, MANY replicas. My one critique, and this is a biggie... not ONE replica for Canada. Not a single thing!!!!!! That irked me quite a bit, but I tried not to let it ruin my Aiins World experience. *pouts*
Saturday, November 22nd: Presentation for Preschool 2009. Preschool teachers were fortunate enough to go into work at 10:30 on a Saturday morning and stay for 2-3 hours. Yay. The purpose of this day was to give a presentation to parents of potential SLP preschoolers for the new school year starting in March 2009. Parents were invited to come watch a presentation describing the preschool program and they were also asked to bring in their children, who'd be entertained (i.e. babysat) by the preschool teachers. A kind of 'how will my child react to being in preschool' test, if you will. This wouldn't have been too bad had I not been asked to make a presentation explaining the afternoon preschool program. Nothing like giving a presentation to 80-90 potential clients, many of whom don't speak a word of English, all while trying to be approachable, mature, and child-friendly. *gulp* Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck. I think the hardest part was speaking slowly so that I'd be somewhat understood...I can't help it if I talk fast to begin with, then go into super-speed when nervous! Thankfully everything went well and I received good feedback from my boss. Whew!!!
Tuesday, November 25th: At approximately 11:00, I was pulled out of class by my boss with a request to once again make my above-mentioned presentation. Apparently there was another presentation for the parents going on that day. At 11:30. Fantastic. I'd just like to mention that I was having a 'I don't care what I look like' day and had put zero effort into my appearance that morning. Thankfully I wasn't wearing comfy pants and a sweatshirt, but pretty close. It's safe to say that I was more than a little stressed about this and extremely grateful that I had kept my presentation notes in my desk (I'd almost thrown it out!!!). This presentation also went well (not as well as Saturdays, in my opinion, but what can you do?!), and luckily the number of parents in attendance was dramatically lower than Saturday's presentation.
Saturday, November 29th: For any of you who might remember, in my last post I mentioned a boy that I'd met and was dating. To give those of you who are curious more details, his name's AJ, he's from New York City, and is stationed outside of Seoul with the U.S. Army. He was gone for most of November for training near North Korea, and we hadn't seen each other for a few weeks prior, so many, many weeks were spent sending a gazillion text messages in an attempt to get to know each other. The 29th was a special day because AJ was back and we finally got to see each other after nearly 6 weeks. Also a VERY nerve-wracking day, because we'd only known each other for a few weeks when he left, so it was easy to imagine that things would be incredibly weird. We met at our designated 'spot' and wandered that area all day and saw the new OO7 movie. Happy to report that it wasn't weird at all and I came home feeling like I was drifting away on Cloud 9. ^__^
Friday, December 12th: This weekend was a bittersweet one for me, because I knew that festivities were going on back home for Alice, Moe and Celine's birthdays. It was also my Maman's birthday on the 14th, so kinda hard not to be reminded of home when so many special women in my life are having special days. Luckily, it was AJ's birthday on the 13th, so that helped distract me. He hung out with his friends for a good chunk of the night, then met up with me and my crew at Ho Bar 3 later on. Funnily enough, we celebrated Tara's "birthday" earlier on that night. It wasn't actually her birthday, she just likes celebrating her birthday as often as she can get away with. That and it's funny. To us at least!
Friday, December 19th: SLP Staff Christmas Party! Everyone met up at 7:00, once the last class of the day let out, and we rode a SLP school bus to Hongdae. It was pretty funny seeing so many teachers crammed into one small bus! We went to a Japanese restaurant where many of us foreigners ate little. It was hard-core sushi, heavy on the raw fish. They kept bringing platter after platter of slices of raw fish! There was even a fish head complete with eyes at one point!!! I'm still mildly scarred from that experience. Thankfully a few of us had the insight to eat before going, so I didn't go hungry. I felt bad, cause the school was paying for everything and I feel like so many fish were killed for nothing, cause so much of it went untouched! The soju and beer on the other hand... the waiters couldn't keep up! Hahaha! All in all, it was a good Christmas party and everyone seemed to have a great time.
Most of us left the restaurant at around midnight, although the joyful mood quickly ended for Amanda and I at this point. It had started raining at some point during the night, and much like it gets back home when it snows, there was no cab in sight. We wandered Hongdae for 2 HOURS trying to catch a cab. The subway and buses had stopped running by this point, so a cab was our only way home. It was so unbelievably frustrating and there were a few times when I just wanted to sit on the curb and cry. Luckily, we ran into Adam who'd made his way to Ho Bar 3 with the guys earlier in the night, and he managed to get us a cab home (and nearly get himself killed in the process. I'll spare you the details...). That much time standing in the freezing cold rain lead to a wonderful headcold. Lovely.
Wednesday, December 24th: Not only was today Christmas Eve, but it was also the preschool Christmas Concert! Every preschool class presented a short play (approx 10 minutes) and sang to songs for their parents. When I found out about this in late October, I was SO excited. I remember my teaching partner laughing at me and telling me that it wasn't as great as it sounds, but psh.... I mean come on, it's plays and songs, how much better can it get?!?! Yeah... it pains me to say this, but she knew what she was talking about. Kiwi class presented The Gingerbread Man and sang Jingle Bells and Jingle Bell Rock; Apple class presented The Little Red Hen (I know what you're thinking: What does this play have to do with Christmas?! I'm still unsure...) and sang Skidamarink (Again, the relevance to Christmas eludes me. I blame my teaching partner.) and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. We started rehearsing in mid-November or so and once the week of the concert came around, wasn't convinced my kids would be able to pull it off. They seemed to be getting worst by the day! When we started rehearsing, they were actually quite good and I was super excited, but then we saw a gradual decline in their presentation and it was pretty discouraging. But lady luck was on our side concert day and both classes did FABULOUSLY!!! I was very proud of my lil' ones!
In a perfect world, I'd have finished work once the concert was over, so 2:30ish, but no deal. Still had 4 classes of teaching ahead of me and didn't get off until 6:30. Boooooh!!! After work, we met up at Jamie's who was sweet enough to share a bottle of champagne that she'd received for a 'HOLIDAYS HAVE BEGUN! YAY!!!' toast (Christmas holiday: December 25th - January 4th). From there, we made our way to Fish & Grill (the restaurant in my apt building and our go-to place for beer) and spent a few hours trying to make it feel like it actually was Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day: Lindsay, being the sweetheart that she is, hosted a Christmas brunch in her apartment. She made delicious pancakes and had another assortment of goodies. Champagne was also provided, so we had mimosas. Yum! We had a Christmas exchange, so everyone brought a $5 gift and we played an exchange game. I ended up with a giant plastic Molson Canadian beer bottle bank. I stayed at Lindsay's until about 3:30, then a few of the girls came back to my apartment and we did a mini exchange between us. I received wonderful things from my lovely friends, but my fav is easily my Korean Hello Kitty doll, courtesy of Amanda! And my bamboo, the only plant that'd survive in my apartment. I finally have some green in my apartment!!! Once the girls went home, I napped and had an overall lazy day. I was surprised by how un-Christmas-like the day felt. Later on in the evening, I went to Kelly's where we were supposed to have a Christmas movie marathon, but we waited too long to meet up. Instead, I caught the end of 21, then came back home to call my parents who were spending Christmas at matante Cecile's in Ottawa, as well as Mitch and Jord who were celebrating at Jordana's parents. I sadly wasn't able to call Gilles and Angela that night, because my Skype account ran out of money and it took forever to reload!!! That was the first time I had to put more money on it since beginning to use Skype to make long distance calls, but it had only taken minutes to load money on it when I'd initially set up my account. It took over 24 hours this time! Thankfully I was able to speak to them the following day, which made me VERY happy because I hadn't spoken to them since being in Korea. Christmas Day ended much like every other day, talking on the phone with AJ, who was stuck on base. *tear*
December 28th-30th: 10 of us left the bustling city behind and made our way to the mountains for a few days. We took the bus early Sunday morning and made the 2 hour long trip to Vivaldi Park, a ski resort. This lead to my first attempt at snowboarding... Alright, I'll admit, I'm not a natural. Does this really surprise anyone thought?! Pretty sure I'm devoid of any athletic ability! Anyways, my lack of athleticism didn't prevent me from having a great time! I suck at snowboarding and spent my time struggling on the teeny-weeny bunny hill, but I'm proud of my efforts and absolutely LOVED spending a few days in the snow! Sure the hills are man-made, but that's besides the point! We stayed in a motel about 20 minutes from the resort and it was traditionally korean. No beds, just mats to lay on the floor. I think this was ideal though, because 6 of us ended up being in one room together (the other 4 were couples, so they had their own rooms) and it felt like a slumber party! We played games (mostly 'Apples to Apples', my new favourite board game of ALL TIME!!! I highly recommend that you play it. You'll love it!) and acted like goofs. It was great. The only little downside is that floors in Korea are heated. This would seem great, as we were sleeping on the floor on all, if it wasn't for the fact that the floors got scorching hot throughout the night! We all fell asleep wearing numerous layers, prepared for a potentially chilly night, and woke up sweating buckets! If you touched the parts of the floor not covered by our bed mats, it felt like concrete on a super sunny day. Intense! So night 1 was uncomfortable, but we were all prepared for it on night 2. And I was grateful for the heated floors on day 2 for another reason... my body hurt! It felt wonderful laying directly on the floor and letting it act like a giant heating pad! We were scheduled to head back to Seoul on Tuesday, but only found out upon our arrival that our bus wouldn't be leaving until 5pm. Check-out was at noon, so we had to find ways to entertain ourselves. We headed back to Vivaldi Park and I went up to the top of the highest hill with Tara, John, and Hojin. I had been on the bunny hill the entire time when we were skiing/boarding, so I hadn't seen the view from the top yet. It was beautiful! I got quite a few great pictures that I'll eventually post on Facebook. From there, we met up with the others for some 'gotta waste a few hours' beers. We then discovered the wonders to be found beneath Vivaldi: A bowling alley, an arcade, restaurants, stores... the perfect place to waste time!!! It was very sad to say goodbye to Vivaldi and the wonderful feeling of being surrounded by snow and trees. I miss having that many trees around!!!
New Year's Eve: Woke up earlier than felt necessary to go shopping at Forever 21 with the girls. Our mission: Outfits for New Year's Eve. I know, I know, way to keep it to the last minute! Very typical. We did succeed, for the most part. Kelly and I ended up buying matching dresses, but in different colours. Her's a dark gray, mine a hot pink. The best part, the bust is sequined! Finding sparkly dresses was basically our goal, so we were very happy. By the time we bought shoes to go with our outfits (Cause new shoes are a necessity! And I mean, it's so easy to do when you can find a nice pair of heels for $20!) and made the trip back to our hood, it was already mid-afternoon. After a failed attempt at taking a nap, it was time to start getting ready. We wanted to get to Hongdae early because we didn't know what to expect or how busy bars would be, so we figured our chances of getting in somewhere would improve if we got there before 9pm. Good thing we left as early as we did, because traffic was CRAZY, not to mention the cab that I shared with Kelly and Amanda decided to head in the opposite direction towards Bombai, not Hongdae. *sigh* A 20-minute cab ride took over an hour. *twitch-twitch* Luckily the other girls had arrived a good half-hour before we did and were able to get a table at Ho Bar 3. I swear we'd considered going somewhere different for once, but we decdided that going to a familiar place would again increase our chances of getting in! Most of our crew is there at least once a weekend, so we're pretty well-known by now. It was pretty much only the ladies in attendance for a good portion of the night, but finally the guys showed up, as did AJ and friends, who almost didn't make it for midnight... not gonna lie, I'd have been less than pleased if that had happened! Everyone joyously rang in the New Year with many hugs, kisses, and laughter. Several hours and numerous drinks later, it was time to enjoy my first sleep of 2009. Not that I slept all that much though, because my alarm was set to go off at 10am. Dad's birthday is December 31st so I wanted to call him to wish him a happy birthday while it was still the 31st back home. I feel I deserve a tiny bit of credit for waking up so early on New Year's Day! ^_~
January 1st - January 4th: Spent the remainder of my holidays with AJ, relaxing and being exceptionally lazy. We may or may not have gone out with the crew that weekend... I figure odds are good that we did, but I really can't remember! Haha!
The week of January 5th: First week back at school after the holidays. While I feel that nothing huge happened this week, I do remember feeling that my patience had been restored and I enjoyed teaching again. This was refreshing, since my patience and love of children was definetly dwindling by the time mid-December arrived.
Monday, January 26th: Lunar New Year's Day! This meant that I had a long weekend and didn't have to work on that Monday, nor the Tuesday. Score! A few of us had REALLY been hoping to take the ferry to Japan for the long-weekend. I was so excited to finally get another stamp in my passport and to finally see Japan. What we didn't realize was how big of a deal the Lunar New Year is for Koreans and how many people would be traveling. Our plan was to take the train to Busan (it's a 3-hour train ride from Seoul) and from there, take the ferry to Fukuoka, Japan. Well, our manager Danny was able to find us tickets to Fukuoka, plus a hotel, for under $300. The only problem: The train to Busan was completely SOLD OUT. We thought about taking the bus, but found out that because of the holiday traffic, it would take up nearly 12 hours to get there and we'd have to leave Friday night. Some of us worked until 7pm on Friday and so that alternative was impossible. Meaning: No trip to Japan. *sob* I was with AJ most of the weekend (I'm happy to report that things with us are going EXCEPTIONALLY well and that I'm very much in love! ^__^), although on Sunday night, I dragged him to the theatre with some of the girls to see The Changeling (I hadn't heard much about this movie, other than it starred Angelina Jolie, but I was pleasantly surprised). On Monday night, I had a girls night with Kelly, Liz, Alisha, Laura and Meghan and we headed to Itaewon. We weren't sure if anything would be open because it was Lunar New Year's Day, but we figured Itaewon would be a safe bet as it is VERY foreigner friendly. Many bars/clubs were open, so we weren't disappointed. We hung out at the Rocky Mountain Tavern, a fabulous Canadian bar that I believe I mentioned in a past entry a few months back. We stayed there for several hours, all kind of weirded out by the fact that the only Koreans in the place were a few of the waiters. RMT is more of a sit-down and relax kind of place, so we left when the need to have a dance party struck. It took us WAY longer than necessary to find a decent place to dance and when we finally did, let's just say it wasn't the most pleasant of places. The male population vastly outnumbered the amount of females, and moments after our arrival it became very grabby, if you get my drift. This was the only point in the night where we wished we'd brought a guy. Male friends make excellent bodyguards when all you want to do is dance with your girls! All in all though, it was a great night!
Friday, January 30th: Field Trip Day! This field trip was by far my favourite, because... WE WENT SLIDING (Or sledding, as most people apparently call it....?!). Seoul does NOT have enough snow to create a snow hill, so we bused 30-minutes away to a man-made hill. The concept that someone had to create a snow hill is very strange to this northerner! I have to admit, I was a tad bit disappointed because the hill was pretty weak. NOTHING like what I'm used to! But the kids don't know any different and they loved it! Some were even a little bit scared prior to going down their first time. That being said, none of them wanted me to go down with them. *pouts* I think I was more excited to slide than they were, but felt it would be inappropriate to go by myself when I'm supposed to be supervising and giving the kids moral support. I think I asked every one of my kids (plus kids from the other classes that I know.) if they wanted me to go down with them, but each and every one of them shook their courageous little heads and said "No. I want to do it by myself." Well fine then! I ended up going down with Jamie and Amanda instead! HAHAHA!!! It was great!!! Although not nearly long enough. *pouts* The worst part was going back to school knowing that I had a full day of teaching ahead of me.
This now brings us to the current week, that of February 2nd. Not much going on this week, other than writing up the much dreaded report cards. Quite possibly one of my least favourite things to do in the entire universe. It wouldn't be so bad if I only had to do it for one class... It's the 10 classes that kills me! They're due tomorrow (Friday) and I'm not done... probably not surprising that I choose this week to update my journal! Gotta love procrastinating!
Also gotta note that Valentine's Day will mark my 7th month of being in Korea?! Does that seem insanely weird to anyone else?!?!