Sunday, September 28, 2008

Skype in Action

The time is almost here. I ALMOST have Internet and a cell phone number and...A pay cheque! This all goes down tomorrow and I'm looking forward to having contact again.

For now, I'm in a PC Bang making phone calls from the gamer headsets via Skype...however no one seems to be answering. So just a heads up for all you call screeners out there, if a weird number shows up...ANSWER IT! It's likely me calling on Skype.

As for the weekend, John and I met up with some other teachers and our director for some galbi lunch near our school. Galbi always seems so much better when Koreans are eating it with you. Is that weird? Probably, but I think it's true. Anyway after that we decided to venture down to Yongsan's Techno Mart. We were looking at everything from mini-laptops to new PS3's (for $300 no less...not the CDN priced $600). I think that John was in awe of all that was available for a relatively low price. He spent quite a bit of time perusing the Digital SLR cameras, hopefully he'll have his hands on one by Christmas time and then the blog pictures will really look good! Anyway, all we came home with at Yongsan was some speakers for the ipod/computer, which is really nice to have in our house right now since we still really have nothing, music seems so nice!

On Sunday we were on a mission to find "guitar shops" and I knew that there were some but I couldn't remember where they were. So we ended up just getting out at a Subway station (largely because John didn't realize that he didn't have enough money on his card to transfer) and we walked around downtown Seoul. I had a feeling that the guitar shops were in a place called Jongno and along the way we ended up wandering into Jogeysa Temple. It was a cool park and basically a shrine built in 1395 (and, surprise, surprise, burnt down by the Japanese and rebuilt in the 1600s!). Anyway, it was nice to walk around because it was all forested and John took a million pictures.

After the impromptu temple walk, we did end up finding the guitar stores. All of a sudden my radar kicked in and I just knew it was in a certain direction. We found tons of shops with new bass guitars and various other guitars and instruments. However, we didn't find any shops with much used gear. I think that it is in a building that was closed on Sunday. I'll have to figure it out.

We've also been watching a few Korean DVD's over the past few nights and have been pleasantly surprised. The Korean movies I had watched in the past really kinda sucked, but recently we have watched "Welcome to Dolmakgol" and "JSA" both were good, so we might have to see what else we can get ourselves into. At the moment our computer is serving as our DVD player and we've been wandering down to the DVD rental place nightly. Thankfully the woman there speaks a bit of English so she's able to help us out.

In exciting news, I found a guy who is moving back to his home country and selling all of his stuff, so John and I are buying most of it and should have our place furnished by the weekend. It'll be nice to have somewhere to sit for a change. We'll likely sell most of it before we leave next September, and we only have to invest about $250 to furnish the whole place. The school is also kicking in about $100 because we told them that we needed not one, but 2 wardrobes for our clothes, being that there is not one, but two people living in our apartment. Sometimes I wonder what goes through their minds when they are furnishing a foreigners apartment..."Hmm a bed and one wardrobe for this couple, that should do it..." Like seriously, are you that nuts?!

Anyway, I need some lunch before work. And remember...answer your phone! :)

As for today, nothing special, another day at work. all comes together!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rainy Day Blues

It's raining and we're bored. Well, a little tired and a little bored. We can't really hang out at our house because we have no furniture, no internet, no cable, etc and since it's raining there isn't much to do outside, not to mention the fact that we have no money to spend, so shopping is out of the question. For now, we are sitting in a smoke filled PC Bang across the street from our house listening to young Korean boys yell "AAA SAAAH!" When they do something good in their computer game.

On the bright side, I bought a cell phone today from a random dude in Itaewon. It's a relatively new phone and a thousand times better than the last Korean phone that I had, however it's not hard to beat a 15 year old phone with no English option. This one is a slide phone and kinda looks like the phone I had in Vancouver, but a little more flashy. The downside is that I am unable to activate my phone for prepay until I get my passport and alien card back from Immigration. We went on Friday to drop off all of our stuff so that we can apply for internet accounts and bank accounts, however I didn't realize that I wouldn't be able to buy a prepaid phone card without ID. That is the weirdest concept to me. Why do I need to provide ID when I am paying upfront for a phone card? At home, you just drop in to 7-11 and pick one up and dial it into the cell phone that you have. Why do they care WHO they are selling the cards to?

Regardless, I'm a communication junkie, so having no internet and no phone is killing me. Aside from that, I'm online everyday looking for someone who is selling their old furniture cause the 3 tiny stools that we have in our apartment are really driving me crazy. There is nowhere to crash out when you have a blah rainy day in the city.

In other news, I think that I'm going to start taking Korean lessons next month. The same church that I took them from last time, OEM, is offering a new semester of lessons starting October 18th and I think that John is interested in learning to read and speak as well. However, he's been doing quite an incredible job at reading and remembering how to ask for things. We even sat down at a restaurant the other day and he said, "Hey, I'm gonna order..." and I was pretty impressed! He has definitely mastered how to order beers, I think I told him once and he never forgot!

Last night we had some galbi at a restaurant near our place with the Irish girls that work at our school. I don't think I can ever get sick of eating BBQ'd pork for $8 a person. It's unreal.

We had the brilliant idea of going to a movie today to beat the rain, but the only one playing is Mama Mia and John expressed his extreme distaste for chick flicks the minute I read him the list of movies playing. We just missed Dark Night by a couple of days, but in the whole city, the only thing that we can find in English is Mama Mia.

Anyway, maybe I need to get out of the smoky PC Bang and get some air in my brain, I feel like I've smoked a pack of cigarettes just sitting in here. The trade off is that the screens are GIANT and gorgeous.

So, September 30 is the day that I will have my ID card, which means that's when I'll get my phone number, which means that I'll send it out to everyone so that you can give me a call from Skype to our cell. I think that it only costs about 7 cents a minute that way.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chuseok Weekend

This weekend John and I have been working on un-jetlagging ourselves and discovering our neighbourhood. This weekend was Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving, so we had a few days off work to hang out and explore. On Thursday night after work we went out with all of the teacher's from our school. Soju and Beer was had by all...except the foreigners, we had to get our invasive government testing at the hospital the following day. That was definitely eventful. We had to follow a nurse around Seoul National University Hospital and she was walking so fast that we could hardly keep up, not to mention the fact that the hospital was crowded so we almost lost her a few times. There were four of us together, including the two Irish girls from work and none of us really knew what we were getting into. We gave some blood and some urine, got weighed and our eyes tested (with my contacts in, which I thought was really weird...). Anyway, we will find out our results on Tuesday. The only troubling thing is that we didn't know that we were going for testing until the night before, so about 24h before the test, John popped a Benadryl, so hopefully he doesn't test a false positive!

After our hospital testing John and I visited Changdeok Palace. I had been there in 2005 with Rob and we had ditched the Korean tour and snuck off and done our own thing, this time I showed up for the English tour and stayed with the group because there were security guards everywhere. John has a magical way of taking photos like there's no one else there but us, so by looking at our pictures you'd never know that there were about 60 people in our English tour group. After that we took a walk through Insadong and bought some postcards and then made our way to Hyehwa for Chinese Korean food and then went straight to the bathhouse for some relaxation.

We went to World Sauna in Changdong and we walked past my old school and my old apartment which was really cool. Compared to my apartment now my old neighbourhood is so lifeless. I'm much happier in the buzzing neighbourhood that I'm in at the moment. Anyway, at the sauna we made our way through many of the same saunas as I had been to before. The massage tables were replaced by "Chi balancing tables" which kinda massage, but more or less just wiggle your feet left and right while you lie there. The best part was that John was too tall for the bed and his feet just hit the wall and didn't wiggle, so the table didn't get him as "balanced" as it should have.

The best part of our sauna night was definitely a new experience for me. We noticed that one of the old saunas had been converted into a giant fish pool with real fish in it. You pay about $3 to have these tiny fish nibble at your feet for 20 minutes. Now, since I'm scared of fish, this was TERRIFYING! At first I couldn't put my feet in, John did and he was laughing uncontrollably. Finally he had to take my right leg and force it into the pool cause I really couldn't bring myself to do it. At this point the Korean woman in charge of the fish pool was telling me (in Korean) to do it and she was even talking to the fish telling them to be nice to me so that I woudln't be scared (she must have thought I was an idiot). The Korean woman ended up forcing my left leg into the pool and i seriously screamed when the fish started nibbling...John had advised me to shove my towel into my mouth to muffle the sound because he knew that it was going to happen. Anyway, after the 20 minutes we got outta there and I"m not sure if I'll do it again, although John seems to think I will.

We woke up this morning after our sauna experience and hopped on the train to a station called Omokgyo to meet a Korean coworker of ours. He had invited us to his grandmothers house for a Chuseok lunch. First of all, she lives in the tallest apartment building in Seoul and has an incredible view and then they served us a ton of Korean dishes from Kimchi to the traditional Chuseok seongpyeon, which is like a rice cake dessert. It was amazing and I was feeling quite blessed to have been invited into a Korean home for the holidays.

We still have one more day of our long weekend before heading back to work and we may go to check out one of the many parks in the city just to chill out and relax. It's been a whirlwind of a first week in Seoul and we are in need of some chill time. I can't wait until we get paid and I can let the shopping extravaganza begin!

My Apartment is on the top floor at the corner

Changdeok Palace

Changdeok Palace

I had lunch here today with a coworker's family for Chuseok. It is the Hyundai Apartment Building in Omokgyo, the highest apartment building in Seoul at the moment.

Tapgol Park

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Back to School

While many of my teacher friends are in their own classrooms this fall, I find myself back in a Hagwon in Seoul. I never thought that I'd be back here, but I am and it's all different. Instead of having massive culture shock during my first week, I'm actually able to communicate and convey short messages to locals. It even blows my own mind that I remember so much Korean sometimes. However, I am always frustrated with the even larger amount of Korean that I don't know.

John and I have been doing well. We've been cleaning our new two bedroom apartment room by room for the last few days because it was absolutely filthy from the last jerk who lived there. It's looking a lot better now and we've actually unpacked. Although we have nowhere to put our stuff because our apartment lacks furnature. We're getting our bearings pretty quick and discovered that we live in a pretty kick ass neighbourhood, much better than the one that I lived in before where there was nothing happening. This neighbourhood is quite the little hotspot, a growing neighbourhood in North Seoul.

The school that I'm at now is great. Surprisingly the kids (and the teachers!) speak English pretty well. I am not dealing with the "teacher I am die" instead I am getting "Teacher, I'm not feeling well today". Its insanity! In some places, kids DO actually learn English. Quite the phenomenon.

We have 6 English teachers at our school including John and I. There are also 2 Irish girls and 2 Americans, one American is Korean American and the other is on his second year of teaching English in Korea, so there are quite a few people who know what they're doing here.

Tomorrow will be a feat though. We are going to do our bloodwork and testing at the hospital so that we can apply for our Alien Registration Cards. I just spoke with the nurse on the phone and she rattled off a million things that I cannot do tonight or tomorrow in order for me not to screw up my test: No caffene, No Multivitamins, No sleeping pills, No food, etc.

All in all things are going well and I am pretty happy to be where I am at the moment. John has been snapping pictures like a mother* so pictures are coming soon. Our internet should be hooked up next month and we'll likely get a phone then too, for now we have our personal computers at work (each teacher gets their own desktop!!) so that's working for the moment.

Talk soon.

Friday, September 05, 2008

New Adventures

I can't believe I'm actually doing this again! I'm headed to Korea on Saturday at 11:05am...this is nuts! The strange thing is, that the first time that I headed out overseas I took only a 90L backpack with a couple of shirts and one pair of pants. No joke. I did, however, fill the 90L backpack as full as possible to the point that I couldn't stand up...actually I turtled with the backpack on. I believe it was Kiki who was there at the time, not to help, but to laugh at me as I layed there unable to move.

This time is a totally different story. Since I know what I need and don't need, what I can get in Korea and what I can't, I am seeming to pack 50 times more stuff than I did during round 1. Still I keep feeling like I am forgetting something.

I had dreams during the past few weeks that I was scheduled for a flight and no matter what I did I couldn't pack my stuff or get everything together fast enough in order to make the flight on I bumped it back again and again, but nothing seemed to work.

So now that I'm sitting here, all packed and ready to go, I'm thinking that the nightmare isn't going to become a reality. I'm just really glad that we were able to get our visas together and our tickets booked....FINALLY. We had quite a few setbacks first with our school, a new branch of the established Avalon Academy, failing it's fire code inspection, leaving them unable to apply for teacher's visas at Korean Immigration...and then with the Korean Consulate in Vancouver telling us that we needed 3 university transcripts, not 2 like is listed on ALL of the websites regarding immigration for only John, not me to process our visas in Vancouver. We have since talked with other teachers going through the visa process and even though the consulate wont admit their mistake, we know that they're just idiots. Man I could choke that woman through the phone!

Anyway the point is, we're leaving. Tomorrow. At 11:05. Holy.

Please keep in touch! Hearing from home is always nice! :)