Thursday, June 28, 2007

Holy Dinah

I think the rainy season started while I was asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night because the rain was so loud. It took me a few minutes to figure out what the noise was. Glad I found some new Crocs. This outta be a great welcome for the new foreign teacher who is supposed to be arriving on Saturday.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Can't sleep

Lately I haven't been able to sleep. I actually slept in the spare room on Tuesday night so as not to wake Amber with my tossing and turning. We've never done that before, no not ever in the almost eight years of our relationship, not even when we were in University and all we had was a single mattress.
I took a pain killer hoping to dull the discomfort, but to little avail. Perhaps it's the heat. Perhaps the stress (though stress at work is getting better these days). If any of you lovely folks outside Asia didn't know, the beds here are beyond rock hard. I've been told that Koreans used to heat the floors by placing hot rocks underneath. As a result, Koreans traditionally sleep on the floor. Today, the heating still comes up through the floor and many Koreans still sleep on the floor. Those that don't sleep on evil beds forged from solid titanium and fire from hell. Here are some examples of typical Korean resting places.

Would I lie to you?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Zoo Zoo: Part Two

Things are frantic and busy because it's the end of the month and Matt and I have been trying to make the most out of our weekends so this means I'm slow at updating. Oops. We've only got 2 months to go (after we finish this week) and I've received confirmation that a new foreign teacher should be arriving sometime this week. Cross your fingers that this means we're able to create some semblance of order, organization and stability for the last couple months of the job.

Anyway, last Wednesday (June 20) we had our monthly field trip and it was back to the Zoo Zoo. You may recall the last time we went there we had to come back early on account of rain. I'm happy to report that the weather was beautiful this time and we were able to get the full tour.

We got to visit the baby orangutan again and she was really happy to see Jon. At one point she had him by the hand and was trying to make a run for it with him. Maybe it's his distinct ears? Or his hairy back? Heheh.

Primal Attraction!

It was really interesting to see what a Korean zoo has to offer and the differences between North American zoos. Of course, this is the only zoo in Korea I've been to so it's entirely possible that it isn't a typical one. Since this is a children's zoo a lot of the exhibits are pretty hands on and therefore many of the animals are on the common side. We saw a lot of monkeys, rabbits, pigs, guinea pigs, goats and fish. For the most part the cages/enclosures where they were kept seemed a bit small and kind of unclean. My impression is that animals are viewed quite differently here but I am sure this is something that could be debated at length. The kids had a lot of fun petting and feeding the guinea pigs and rabbits and I got to see such exotic creatures as the mythical German Sheppard. The picnic lunch was pretty awesome too- Alexa's Mom sent the only real piece of cheesecake in the country. It was so delicious I wanted to wrestle Paige for it and lick the container.

The kids were equally terrified and mesmerized by the legions of guinea pigs and bunnies. Oh my horde!

The saddest German Sheppard in the world. He lives next to a clinically depressed Alaskan Malamute.

(left) Lisa, Alice and Emma catch a ride on a dino tail.
(right) Feeding the koi was a trippy experience. They were wriggling and fighting so much and climbing all over each other to get at the food. I imagine purgatory to look like this.

(left) Jake and his donkey friend. The kids were so afraid of touching this donkey but I managed to convince a few to give it a try.
(right) Here Matt and Rina are posing and Rina is showing off her first missing tooth. Super cute!

FYI: I took a lot of other great pictures that you can see here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pocari Sweat

I don't know who this guy Pocari is, but his sweat tastes like Gatorade.

Monday, June 18, 2007


The smog truck has returned. Time to close the windows!

Look at [some of] my Korean beauty products.

One of my fears before traveling out here was that I'd have trouble finding skin products (my skin can be pretty sensitive/ annoying) once my current ones ran out. Turns out Korea is full of affordable, yummy smelling and high quality products. You can find the Body Shop (although there are only a couple stores and I live nowhere near them) but it's pretty overpriced (even more so than it is in Canada and there are Korean alternatives that are at least as good, if not better. The main/most popular stores are Skin Food and The Face Shop. When I ran out of moisturizer I went to Skin Food and one of the ladies that work there patted my face and recommended a few products. I chose the toner and moisturizer made from pumpkin, honey and milk and it's been working out pretty good for me.
Plus, look at the gorgeous bottles! They're glass (and pretty sturdy since I knocked one onto the tile floor and it didn't smash into a thousand pieces) and much nicer looking than the ugly plastic Mary Kay moisturizer I had previously.

On a slightly related note- look at my $1 nail polish. I've never had bright red polish and so far it's pretty fun.

Yeah, these entries are pretty boring. Maybe I should ask Matt to write a few for a change so there's a bit more testosterone.

I want to point out the adorable bunny Carter sent me that you can see in the background of the moisturizer picture. She thought it was evil and terrifying looking and I love it. Thanks so much!

I guess I got a little ahead of myself...

So last, last weekend (not the one I just wrote about) we went to Changdeok Palace and its Biwon (Korean for secret) Garden. The thing that is different about this palace is that you can only enter it with a tour and they have tours in Korean, Japanese and English. We went with Eddie and Gisela and it was another beautiful day and we had a great time (as we always do with those guys). To see all the pictures you should venture here.

There were a few things that I learned on the tour- The reason there are 5 colors used to paint the palaces is because they represent the 5 directions (north, south, east, west and center). For more practical reasons, they are painted to help preserve the wood. Also the number of statues on the top of a building depends on how much protection it is deemed to need. So the king's building has more of these guardian statues than common buildings. Also, the queen's buildings do not have any dragons on them since it's believed that more than one dragon cannot live in one place and the king is her dragon. It's possible that I misunderstood/didn't remember those details correctly, but that was the gist.

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite pictures.

After the tour we decided to wander around Insadong for awhile. It was brutally hot outside and we really wanted a delicious ice cream treat. That's when an ice cream free miracle happened.
Ice cream free!?! This is the greatest idea ever! There was some sort of festival going on and they were giving away all sorts of free stuff. I still feel giddy thinking about it. And it wasn't just ice cream free- oh no! There also were popcorn free, coffee free and balloon free (for the kiddies).
You could also enter for a draw to win starch spray for ironing free. Unfortunately we couldn't fill out the entry forms since they were in Korean and we didn't want to stick around for the draw. Plus, that's kind of a crappy prize in comparison to ice cream free.

We passed more of that "Free Hugs" stuff but this time it was a hug relay and there was a cute little girl participating briefly.

Some other notable things: Who chose this year's Insa Art Festival Theme? Simplicity & Complexity!?! No stone left unturned, I suppose. Don't want to limit yourself too much on your first year I guess.

We have some wine for you and a frightening employee wearing a bear suit who's willing to pour it on your head too!

Our Weekend

It was pretty boring for the most part but we did get a lot of cleaning done (specifically the frightening recycle/laundry room from hell). Saturday we did get out and went shopping around Namdaemun and that was quite successful. Matt found some new shorts and I got some new skirts so we won't have to wear rags any longer. The weather has been spectacular which means I will be completely devastated once the rainy season kicks in at the end of the month. Here are a few pictures.
Book vending machines are one of the really cool things I've found here. And the books are only 2,000 won! (about $2)

Unfortunately they are all in Korean but still really, really cool.

We found this cleverly named store in Namdaemun and I just had to pose in front of it.

Look! It's Astroboy (Atom) and Astrogirl (Uran)!

The next picture is interesting for 2 reasons- first, look at the digital price tags!! and second, wow, maple syrup is so ridiculously expensive!

After we had a bite to eat (and bought a bottle of really delicious port to take home) we decided to head over to Dongdaemun to try and catch a movie. We randomly chose The Messengers because it was 1) in English and 2) wasn't a sequel. Wow. It pretty much sucked. If you want me to elaborate (hilariously, I might add) you can ask but I will spoil the plot/ending for you. I took a picture of the mild Engrish outside of the theatre. The last is just a camera whore picture I took before we left. Good day but hopefully next weekend will be more exciting. I want to figure out how to get out of Gimpo/Seoul and maybe go to a beach or something. I just don't know where to go/how to get anywhere.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Oh the hilarity!

Warning: people who do not find me funny or the things I find funny to be funny should avoid this entry like it's on fire.

On Sunday we met up with our buddies Eddie and Gisela and took a tour of Changdeok Palace. I will write about that later (maybe tomorrow) but I want to show you the priceless postcards that I bought when we were wandering through Insadong after our tour. I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures but hopefully that doesn't diminish the humor.
This one is probably the hardest to see so I will describe it for you. Basically it says 'I Love Seoul' and then provides (I assume) images of the especially lovable items that Seoul offers. Like in the bottom right corner where it shows a pile of watches probably at Dongdaemun Market. Or just above it where there is a picture of a cheeky monkey. There's also the jars filled with ginseng, the cute stuffed teddy bears, the candy and oranges and the pornographic billboards. Wha..!?! Oh wait a minute, wtf!?

This next one is welcoming us to Seoul: The City of Beauties. Who are holding goats. And sitting awkwardly on hay. While a massive, angry ostrich peeps over the side and locks eyes with the goat preparing for a battle royale unlike any Asia has seen since Godzilla vs. Mothra.

Okay, I realize that this postcard is referencing The Bionic Woman but come on! Bionic Parts Rule? Pure comic gold.

Someone please enlighten and reassure me that this isn't just some bizarre, random statement and is actually a quote from Superman XXI or something. I think I'm going to use this taunt my arch nemesis the next time I see them eating McDonald's.

These last two really convinced me of the Korean Power Rangers true sublimity. Look at how awesome they are and yet still polite and considerate. I will have a nice day in Seoul while you flip, kick and spin midair with the freaky animatronic panda and lion you stole from Seoul Land. But watch out for the giant swan and penguin that are floating along the Han River! (Also, can anyone explain to me why the Korean Power Rangers appear to be in their mid-thirties/early forties. Aren't they supposed to be teenagers?)

Gisela asked me while we were browsing if I was going to buy a lot of souvenirs for myself here and I came to the realization that I should probably buy some art or something cool because I'll probably be sorry one day, when/if I grow up, and all I have to show from my time in Korea is a bunch of Engrish/Konglish shirts, a braided white leather headband and these retarded postcards.

I've been meaning to write about this for ages...

Maybe everyone already knows about this but I was really surprised when I first got here and was told that I'd need to buy some dehydrators. Basically Korea is a really humid place and the rainy season hasn't even happened yet and so you need these handy dehydrators for your closets, drawers, under you bed, where your shoes are kept and all sorts of other fun places. Why? Well, otherwise things start to get musty and skanky and may even begin to mold. I'm not sure of the lifespan of a dehydrator but this is only the second time I've had to buy some. You'll notice they come in many handy sizes (the envelope ones are good for drawers). Also the one on the right is a used dehydrator, filled with water, and the one of the left is new and unopened. It's hard to tell the difference with a picture though. This post is geared towards people who are either thinking of coming to Korea or who don't already have enough useless information stored in their brains.

Staying Positive

So now that Joi is in America we find ourselves short staffed again. I have to admit that this is pretty tiresome and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a teacher's one year contract is ending and you're going to need a replacement. Anyway, I am not going to complain since we're 2.5 months from the finish line and because even though they totally fudged up my schedule again I didn't just smile and nod and bend over backwards to fulfill whatever wacky demands we made of me. As a result, I still have to split myself in two for kindergarten but to a much smaller degree than originally proposed and so really I am mostly a ruse so they won't lose more kids from those classes because there isn't a foreign teacher available. My elementary schedule is full and busy but I still get off early on Tues. and Thurs. and all the classes they gave me are cool and none require me to attempt teaching grammar. I'm glad they are learning that grammar is my kryptonite. So as long as they have someone to replace Kelly at the end of the month things should be bearable until a new foreign teacher comes (apparently this won't be until mid-July!!!). Plus our awesome, giant room and private bathroom seem to help a lot.

So today was the first time that I "taught" (all I did was read a story and ask questions) Bear/Dolphin Class and it went pretty well. I knew everyone's names and Alana (yep, she was named by Matt after his Mom) drew me this kickass picture. The book is Curious George goes to the Zoo and it's fairly common knowledge (or should be) how much I love Curious George. Alana's likeness of George, his red balloon and the little boy and his mother are pretty uncanny. Seems that all Alanas are artists. Heheh. Anyway, the point of this blog is to say that we are still doing all right so don't worry about us.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Adventures at Seoul Land

On Wednesday we had the day off for Memorial Day and decided to take a trip down to Seoul Land. We'd already been to Lotte World (which you'll recall is closed for renovations now) and we've heard our students talk about both Seoul Land and Everland a lot. It was a cloudy day but luckily it barely rained at all (just some harmless drops for a few minutes) and we were pleased to find that Seoul Land wasn't too busy or crowded.
Seoul Land is located within the massive Seoul Grand Park, which also contains an art museum and a zoo. If you check out the website you'll notice that they often have festivals with different events. The current festival is geared towards attracting more women to the park and has a number of hilarious 'events' like Pose like Marilyn Monroe for a photo looking sexy or Experience your wedding in advance- you're not married? All your hopes and dreams about your wedding come true! and Water Cannon- shoot water cannons with your loved one, protect him from the water and feel the love growing bigger! Interesting ideas and unfortunately we weren't able to participate in any of them.

We decided to walk to Seoul Land from the Seoul Grand Park main entrance. This is a bit of a trek but it was really sunny out at that point and we found slurpees on the way so it was worth it. There is a shuttle bus (we later discovered) and the small fee to take it was definitely worth it at the end of the day when we were tired and it was dark out.

The first stop for us was the King Viking ride which is basically a big boat that goes back and forth (but not upside down). Pretty tame stuff, if you ask me. We even braved the longer, slower thrill seekers line and ended up in the very top row. It was fun but I'm not sure if it was so thrilling that I would choose the thrill seekers line (and wait twice as long) again. Matt felt nauseous afterwards which was a bit of a surprise (to him). This is the major reason why I rarely go to amusement parks (even though I love them so much!) because my significant other and the vast majority of friends are big babies and get motion sickness and then I end up covered in the barf. Usually you have to have a pair of people to go on a ride but at this amusement park that isn't a rule so I was really happy! I went on quite a few solo rides while Matt was breathing into a paper bag.
Apparently pirates took over the King Viking ship.

After the King Viking we stopped so Matt could do a little target practice with a 'ray gun'. He did really well on the fun one where you don't win a prize but if you hit the target something is activated and you get to see or hear something (like the bull moos). When he moved onto the cap gun (where you could win a prize) he totally sucked it up and didn't hit a single target. He claims the guns were rigged and the game was impossible, of course.
Next I got my face painted and decided to brave the Monster ride solo (basically it's like the Spider or Octopus ride at most county fairs). I was in line behind a guy that spoke really good English and he asked me why Matt wasn't riding with me. I had to tell him about Matt's unfortunate condition and the man seemed to find this funny.

We did go on most of the rides together- even a spinning one and Matt didn't get sick (that I saw- he was alone a number of times and at one point stole some of my gum). Seoul Land has two roller coasters: The Black Hole 2000 and The Double Loop. We went on both and both were pretty good but the Double Loop is superior.
The attendant at the Black Hole was funnier, however, and spent most of the time croaking into a mic "Bye bye! I love you! Nice to meet you! Sorry, no Englishie." He also had face paint and bunny ears on.

The creepiest thing we saw were these fuzzy coin operated animals. There was a whole area filled with different ones and when you put a coin in them you could slowly steer them around. The kids seemed to like them but trust me, they were freaky.

We had some dinner at a BBQ and Hof and then went through the Tilt House (which is kind of like a fun house). It was starting to get a bit late and we did have to work the next day but we hadn't even gone into all of the five areas!

We did get to see all of the areas but only briefly for a couple of them. I was glad that I insisted we visit Samchulli Land because it turned out to have the best ride in the entire park! It's called Top Spin and at this point the line was so fast that I only had to wait a few minutes (I wish I'd had more time so I could have rode it a few times). Matt did not go on this one but he did take a video (which is slightly over 100 MB so I can't upload it to Youtube- can anyone give me simple instructions so I can fix this. I have a couple videos that I'd like to make slightly smaller).

The finale of the night was the show "Under Land" with Mr. Jackson. This was completely bizarre and basically featured some guy who was a cross between "The Mask" and "The Joker" lip syncing to Michael Jackson songs. There were lasers, smoke, scantily clad subpar jazz dancers. What more could you ask for? They even finished it off with some fireworks.
In the subway on the way back to Gimpo we saw a woman selling chicks, another smaller bird and rabbits. So strange! I guess (and hope) they are supposed to be pets? Only in Korea! It was a good day though and we would definitely go back again. The prices were reasonable (you get a 25% discount on your admission fee if you pay with a credit card) and there is lots to see and do (besides the rides) and it's in a really beautiful location. The rest of the pictures can be found here.