Monday, December 29, 2008

We Leave Tomorrow

It's just past 8 am and I can't sleep any longer. There is so much to do before we go and I am shocked that our flight to Canada is tomorrow. I still have so much to blog about but that will probably have to wait until we're in Canada. I feel like there is electricity running through my veins in lieu of blood. Yesterday we headed to Bundang to drop off some stuff for Dana and Curtis and today we have to tie up all our loose ends before heading to work for our final shift. It's completely surreal. I've been thinking a lot about what will become of this blog after we leave the Land of the Morning Calm and I think I might start a new blog but we'll see. I like blogging but will my life be interesting enough to document without tiny Korean children, Konglish and random free stuff? We will have to see. But now I need to jump in the shower and finish packing and then get to the bank to transfer all my money to Canada. Please wish us happy thoughts for safe travels and no delays/disasters tomorrow! Love to everyone reading this!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lotte World

On Tuesday we went to Lotte World. It's strange that we haven't been there more (we went once last year and once this year) because we literally live less than 10 minutes away from it. I had thought about getting a year pass but never got around to it. We chose to go on Tuesday because it was a bit warmer and I was feeling better (I've been sick for about a week now). We also thought it would be less crowded since it was a weekday. This turned out to be false since most kids are on winter vacation so it doesn't matter what day of the week it is. Oh well.

The best ride was also the first ride we went on- the Gyro drop. I'd been on it before but forgot how scary it is. I actually screamed a genuine scream and had to close my eyes for part of it. That thing is high up! I could almost see our apartment from the top of it! We wanted to go on it again but we figured it would be open until the park closed (11 pm) but as it turned out it was only open until 8 pm so we missed out. How disappointing!

As anticipated, the lines were long so I was glad that I brought my Nintendo DS to help pass the time. Matt and I took turns using it and we also sang along with the Christmas music they had playing everywhere.

Highlights included:
  • Matt "playing" the ball game when there were no employees around.
  • Looking at the Mexican restaurant that sold mostly pork cutlets.
  • Glaring at annoying teenagers (mostly boys) that kept trying to cut lines.
  • Laughing when one of these boys tried to cut line and instead smashed his head on the ceiling.
  • Reading funny graffiti and signs.
  • Seeing tiny kindergarten children and having one of them yell "Hi Teacher!" at us (we don't know these kids).
  • Lots of rides.
  • The crazy Christmas parade with the Korean dressed up as a Mountie and the fake soap sud snow falling on us.
  • Riding the carousel and feeling like a kid again, especially when they put the safety strap around my waist.
  • Ending the night by riding on the hot air balloon around the park with a family that spoke English.
If you want to see all of the pictures you can look over here. It was a great day and we were definitely exhausted when we got home and paid for it the next day when we were so sick we couldn't get out of bed. It was worth it though and possibly the best thing we did on our winter vacation this year.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We're having a really low key day. We've both caught a death cold which has basically rendered us unable to leave the apartment for the last 2 days. Here's a picture we took on Tuesday when we were feeling better (compared to the weekend). We paid dearly for that epic Lotte World odyssey though since Wednesday was spent entirely in bed. Don't fret- technically the timing is good since we have the time off to sleep and try to heal before our flight next week. I can't imagine trying to work like this. Anyway, I hope that everyone else is having a fantastic Christmas! We love you all! I know that the lack of Christmas will totally be made up by a kick ass New Years Eve and then fabulous family time until we embark on our 4 month travel adventure.

Can You Read It?

My lovely Min Jung stopped by yesterday for lunch (brave woman since we are both really sick- I hope she didn't catch our death cold) and she brought me the most excellent present ever. This is something I have been coveting for a very long time. It might not look like much to my average reader but it's actually a name necklace. My name in Korean! I love it so much! It's so perfect and I am just giddy about having it. Thank you Min Jung, you are an angel!

Funny, funny...

Here's the Christmas card I was tempted to get everyone. It's paired with possibly the rudest socks I've ever seen. Yep, that red part actually sticks out of the sock. (><) And why does the panda have an apple on it's butt? What kind of crazy panda fetish socks are these?!? No! I am not happy, panda!


We aren't having a White Christmas in Seoul but we did get snow on Monday night. It's all melted now but it was lovely to look at for awhile. I hear that the weather is really crazy across Canada and the Northern USA so I hope that things smarten up before we fly out on December 30th. My idea of an awesome New Years Eve isn't being stuck in the Seattle airport praying for my connecting flight to Edmonton.

An Evening in Insadong

After we sold our precious books for peanuts we decided to go to Insadong to complete another task on my "must do before I leave Korea" list. You see, I've always admired han bok and there is no way that I am going to buy one so the next best thing is to rent one and take pictures. You can do this at the Tourist Information Centre in Insadong for the bargain price of 3,000 won/person.

Unfortunately the selection is slim and the jacket that actually went with my skirt didn't fit me properly. I didn't want to change the skirt though so imgaine that my jacket is equally as stunning and gold, not pink. There was only one male han bok so it's lucky that Matt is average size. What do you think? Are we Korean royalty or what? Or does it look like I'm wearing a giant, silky mumu?

We spent some more time walking through Insadong and enjoying the sites. There is always something unusual or interesting to see in this neighbourhood. Look at this picture. Look closely. There's a trumpet, some swords and... hmmm... what else is hanging for sale at this booth? Hehehe.

Then we went to various stores to look at the lamps that we love but can't buy. Maybe one day when we have a lot more money. These lamps are made COMPLETELY from paper. Mulberry paper, I think. Of course the electrical stuff isn't made of paper but the base and light covers are. Despite being made of paper they are surprisingly flexible and sturdy. We could have bought a small one and brought it back to Canada but Matt and I both agree that the ones we really love are large and would be incredibly expensive and hard to transport. So one day when Matt is a successful lawyer I will be returning to Seoul to pick up our dream lamps.

The nice thing about Insadong is they are used to a lot of tourists so they gladly let me take a million pictures of all their products. Actually, at one point a saleswoman came over and I thought I was going to get in trouble but then she offered to take our picture by the lamps!

A Sad Task

We had to whittle down our book collection before we go back to Canada. Later I'm going to try to figure out how many books I read this year (yeah, I probably should have kept track better... oh well). I can say with confidence that it was a lot more than last year so that means I met one of my goals for this year.

Keep in mind, this is just the stack we decided to get rid of (although that was really tough since I enjoyed a number of these books a lot but it's just not realistic to bring them to Canada) and it doesn't include the stack that we've already sent to Canada in a box or the stack that we still have in our closet. Yikes!

We went to What the Book to try and get something for them which turned out to be not much at all. This store is amazing for finding books but since they are the ONLY used English book store (that I know of) in Korea they pretty much can screw you big time when buying books. Pretty depressing and there was probably a better way to go about it (say giving the books away but most of my friends have read these books since many were book club choices) but we are getting close to the wire and needed to unload them.

I ended up using store credit to pick up two books that I have wanted to read for some time: Flowers for Algernon and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I just finished reading The Tesseract (it was fabulous, thanks to Eddie for giving it to us) and have started Flowers for Algernon. What can I say, it's winter vacation and we are both pretty sick. I've got the worst cold I've had all year so even though it's vacation and Christmas I have spent the majority of my time lying in bed feeling sorry for myself. My goal is to get better before we fly to Canada. I already am making a list of the books I want to read next year. I am totally looking forward to living in a country where every soft cover novel doesn't cost $20 and where libraries exist.

That last post made me think of this...

This is completely non sequitur but whenever I hear the word 'jjigae' (pronounced jee-gay) I always get this song stuck in my head. Just replace the word business with jjigae. This actually works for almost any 2 syllable word but I am partial to using jjigae. Man I love the Flight of the Conchords.

Gimchi Jjigae with Mi Eun

After work last Friday I had a dinner date with my lovely friend Mi Eun. Originally Kyung Hwa was going to come too but unfortunately her mom was really ill so she had to cancel. It was a bit cold outside but that didn't deter us from walking to Sincheon area. Mi Eun knew a famous gimchi jjigae restaurant and so we decided to go there.

I have to admit, I probably would never have gone to this place on my own. It didn't look like much- was really small with plastic covering the outside. Once we sat down I was a little surprised when one of the workers came up and told me in perfect English, "It's a bit spicy, is that okay?". I assured her that it was and then noticed that eyes seemed to be on me. We soon got a huge steaming pot of jjigae that also had pork in it. It was really delicious, but pretty spicy. Maybe the spiciest jjigae I've had, actually. It's good that I had this meal now and not 2 years ago since I wouldn't have been able to cut it then. I was fine though and didn't mind the pleasant burn on my lips.

We had a fantastic meal and great conversation. Mi Eun is really cool and sweet and I hope to stay in touch with her. She gave me a gorgeous diary/day planner and it's got artwork on it that I've admired the whole time I've been in Korea. I wouldn't have bought it myself so it really was the perfect gift. I love the characters that this artist draws. How did she know? See, I told you she is cool and sweet.

Partway through the meal I realized that a lot of the other people in the restaurant were paying attention to me. Specifically a girl sitting to my right. I was pretty sure that she spoke English and was itching to talk to me. I was the only foreigner in the restaurant and from the feel of things I could tell that not a lot of foreigners eat there. Sure enough, when it suddenly started to rain the girl beside me took the opportunity to lament about the strange weather with us. I knew she spoke English. Apparently a few people in there did since before I knew it there was an umbrella being handed to me and then one scrounged up for Mi Eun too. It's moments like these that make me never want to leave Korea. When I'm back in Canada no one is going to care if it's raining and I left my umbrella at home. Mi Eun said she was happy to be with me because otherwise they wouldn't have given her an umbrella. Heh. So with that we left and I walked home untouched by the rain, smiling and singing Christmas carols.

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Last Mandu Party

Garrett Teacher was uber kind and surprised me with a going away mandu party at work. There was so much food! It was really delicious and all the kids were jealous. I don't think we managed to finish it even with half a dozen people helping us eat. I'm really going to miss mandu, oh, and Garrett Teacher too! ^^

An excerpt....

Sometimes teaching English can be hilarious- like when you come across passages like this. I'm not sure why this was chosen or who thought it was appropriate but I think it's funny. I always giggle when the student reading character B realizes that they have to claim this person is their uncle. Then I cringe because then they have to say they need to diet.

Free Christmas!!

This is excellent news! Usually Christmas is so expensive but Lotte World is pulling through for us. And I thought we were going to ignore Christmas this year...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

We Finally Tried It!

After walking by a juk restaurant every day for the last 11.5 months, we finally stopped in there and ate it for lunch. I have to say, I wouldn't want it all the time but I did like my chamchi (tuna) juk (rice porridge). It was tasty and filling and good for a cold day. Plus there was a mother there with no one, but two cute babies. Matt ordered the samgyetang juk but I liked mine better. I'd rather have regular samgyetang. I've already updated our list. Maybe we'll get brave enough to try the dog soup before we leave.

Something to Look Forward to....

Magazines that DON'T cost $26. (No, I didn't buy it! I just took a picture because otherwise no one back home would believe me.) Not sure why the label claims this is a Marie Claire magazine when it's clearly a Cosmo.

Anna Banana

Meet my student, Anna aka Anna Banana. I think she might be a teacher in training- look at what she wrote on my board when she came early for class. She is really cute and sweet and I started calling her Anna Banana for no particular reason but now she seems to like it and even wrote it as her name on her test paper. At first there was only her in the class and then a precocious boy named Jack came along. He wanted a nickname too so I call him Black Jack. Then a couple other students arrived but they weren't as fun and their names didn't rhyme with anything so I stopped handing out nicknames at that point. Anyway, this is kind of pointless other than to show how cute Anna Banana is. ^^

Our Final Bookleaves Meeting

This meeting was over a week ago but I haven't been able to blog about it. I'm just so darn sad that we have to leave our book group. I've never tried to be in a book group before (well, some friends and I had intentions but didn't follow through in the past) and I don't think I will be able to top Bookleaves. Our last meeting was at a FABULOUS restaurant in Gangnam that I wish I had known about 11 months ago. It's called Pasha's and it serves Turkish food and it's so delicious!
We were discussing the novel Old School, which Matt and I really enjoyed. We actually read it out loud since we were a bit pressed for time (for both of us to separately read it). To tell the truth, I read the majority of it out loud because I couldn't stay awake while Matt was reading for longer than 10 minutes. Anyway, I recommend the book to anyone who likes quality literature that pokes fun at literature and examines morality in the process.

At the end of the meal Veronica, our fearless leader, showed up with the most adorable ice cream cake in Seoul. It tasted amazing! We managed to finish the whole thing after playing a game of "Never Have I Ever". If you did the thing then you had to take a bite of cake. I learned some interesting things about my fellow Bookleaves. I'm really, really going to miss them too. Look how cute Mitzi, Shawna and Susan are dressed up like wolves (huskies?). They are like a furry family. I definitely have a Bookleaves shaped hole in my heart now.

Christmas means,,,

Freaky Santa Clauses everywhere. Matt made friends with this skinny, scary fellow that lives outside our local bakery. Ho ho holy crap he is frightening!

A Present for Matt...

He'll probably kill me, but look at the hilarious awesome present Matt got from Min Jung a little while back. Bwahahah! She somehow knew his size perfectly- do you think I should be concerned? Nah, she just knew to get the largest size in the store! ^.~

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dunkin Donuts FTW!

I have a new love. Maybe you've seen it on my Facebook profile picture, if you have Facebook. I've been meaning to blog about it since I got it last week but life got in the way. Anyway, every year many of the chain stores (Paris Baguette, Baskin Robbins, etc) offer some sort of special winter/Christmas headgear. Last year Paris Baguette gave out polar bear hats, which I thought were sort of cute. This year, however, both Paris Baguette and Baskin Robbins have ridiculous hats that even I wouldn't be caught dead in.
But Dunkin Donuts, well! Now they know how to do it! Look at my SUPER AWESOME earmuff headphones. They are warm and cute AND let me rock out while I'm waiting for the bus. How can you beat that? I think you are supposed to buy a cake and get these as a free gift but we emphatically told the frightened worker that we didn't want the cake, just the muffs. After a few seconds of terror she decided to surrender them to us for the bargain price of 5,000 won (less than $5). Ahssa! And look, everyone that has come into contact with them LOVES them too! Go out and get yours before they are sold out- they have them in white too!

Strange Coincidence

Our lovely friend Mitzi gave us a CD filled with pictures from the year when we met up with our book club on Sunday. I was excited to get these photos and show everyone what happened at Matt's birthday party this year. Basically everyone that came, except for Becca and Mitzi, were wearing black. We seriously looked like some kind of bad theatre group or something. Here are my favorite pictures from that night. Jazz hands! I love how Becca pops in the last one!