Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sometimes my life is so weird...

So onto today (I guess technically it's yesterday at this point but I haven't gone to sleep yet...)! So the big errand that we decided to do today was to close our Shinhan bank account. A bit of background, last year Little Brown wanted us to use Shinhan and so we did. Our new school deals with Hanna bank and therefore required us to open a second account if we wanted to get paid. So even though we like Shinhan more (it's the exchange bank here, we always had good experiences and there are tons of Shinhan banks so it's easy to withdraw money without having to pay extra charges) we were going to close the account because having two accounts is a bit silly. A slight digression, the word 'hanna' means 1 in Korean, so Matt and I often joke that they call it Hanna bank because there's only one frickin' bank. Hence our annoyance at never finding one when we need it.

So picture this, Amber and Matty sitting nervously in Shinhan bank, clutching their bank books and passports, wondering if they were going to be able to communicate effectively what they wanted to do. Then an impeccably dressed man breezes in and asks in perfect English, "Hello, what are you doing here today?". We explained and he was like, you shouldn't close your account, follow me. So we went to the second floor of the bank, into his gorgeous private office and sat down in cushy leather chairs. Turns out he was the manager of the bank and basically he said if we kept our accounts open (and just transfered our pay from Hanna to Shinhan) that he would cut us a deal. It was a good deal (had to do with 50% reduction in bank charges and fees, including when we transfer money and a premium money exchange rate) so we said what the hell.

It was really bizarre though to have a bank clamoring for my business. I mean, it's not like I'm drowning in assets over here. Only in Korea I tell you! We didn't just talk to him about bank stuff, we also discussed his time in Ho Chi Minh City, different tonal frequencies in various languages and the benefits of teaching English here vs. being a real teacher back home. A bit of a trip but now we have an important bank friend. Nice!

Also it turns out we have more funds than we previously thought so that's always good news since it's Joi Teacher's birthday celebration this weekend and we don't get paid until the 10th. Sorry this post is so text heavy. I'll try to do better next time.

Also Shiny Happy!

On Sunday we literally did nothing. Especially me. I didn't even leave the apartment or get dressed. Shameful perhaps but I really felt exhausted and like I could be getting sick. It was the right move (even if it's not very chic to stay in pajamas all day). I napped, played on the computer (lots of Scrabble), watched movies and read all day long. It was so wonderful. And now I feel totally healthy and completely awesome.

Then Monday morning was the Oscars. I love the Oscars. I know, they are long winded, pompous, generally unfair and silly. I just love them, okay. It's not like I watch Dr. Phil or something. So I was a bit bummed that I have no TV here and had no chance of watching them. Then an internet miracle happened and I found a website that was streaming it live! It did freeze a few times and so I missed some parts but I saw most of it and so that started my week on a really positive note. Besides being annoyed at the Coen brothers for winning everything (Yeah, you're talented, we know. Shut up already.), Jon Stewart was adorable and Diablo Cody won an award. Cool.

Anyway. Life is good! And I even have one more post to make (about today, which was a particularly good day). Here are some pictures of random things in my apartment I am ridiculously happy and excited about.
REAL CHEESE! Red AND white wine! YUM!

Our shiny new toaster oven! Bring on the toast!! And the bagels and anything else you can make in a toaster oven!

More Happy Shiny!

On Saturday we slept in (since we were out later than planned- we couldn't let the norae bang conquer us! Plus Carter was online so I was able to talk to her for the first time in months.). Shortly after waking up we decided to meet up with Dana and Curtis and show them around Dongdaemun. We didn't have anything specific to buy for but Dana was looking for cute souvenir stuff for people she loves. We had a good time and everyone put up with me being sleepy (and hopefully not too grumpy).

We ate some food and decided to catch a movie. We saw Jumper. Please do me a favor. Do not go see this movie. Don't give the people who made this movie any money. I know, Samuel L. Jackson is cool but if you want to support him just watch something sensible like, say, Snakes on a Plane. The concept of the movie was actually really cool. Someone who had a talent for writing could probably have made an awesome movie about it. Unfortunately for mankind this movie was written by a retarded 11 year old. How did you blackmail Diane Lane to be in this film? Seriously. Craptastic. I should have known better since it stars Hayden Christensen, aka the worst actor in the world. He's grown up since screwing up all the new Star Wars movies so I didn't recognize him. I actually though it was Paul Walker. And through the whole movie I was thinking, wow, Paul Walker is doing a terrible acting job in the movie. Then the credits rolled and everything made sense. Anyway, sorry to rant about the movie. Don't go see it.

So that was Saturday. I took pictures of more shirts that I think are funny and I bought a bunch of new earrings. Good day!

This last picture is a forbidden one. There was a totally outrageous store selling the skankiest clothes ever. I went to take a picture and a saleswoman rushed up and stopped me... So we went around the corner and quickly took one where they couldn't see us. Yeah, that's the kind of person I am.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Things that are making me happy lately...

I am having an excellent week. This is good news because the previous couple of weeks were pretty stressful and things generally hadn't been going my way. This past weekend I made the executive decision that I needed downtime and therefore we made minimal plans. It was exactly what I needed. That's not to say that we did absolutely nothing...

On Friday, after work, Matt and I decided to explore some more in our neighborhood. I'd heard that the area around Sincheon station was a bit sketchy, so I decided to check that out. Hahah. It wasn't that bad but there were lots of bars and people in the streets. Nothing too scary though. We were actually approached by people not trying to get us to give them money (ie beggars) or trying to take us to church. However, these people wanted us to go to their bar. Everyone is trying to sell us something I guess. We did stop in one place and had a drink, then wandered around a bit more. Spent some time talking to a nice guy that worked at my favorite stationary shop (Artbox- it's a chain here). I got an awesome sticker that I've been eyeing for some time now...

My new sticker and the rose I found on the ground. If you can't read it, the sticker says, "ROCK IS MY LIFE! I am crazy about music. Well, I'm into rock music."

Next we decided to try a new norae bang. Holy hannah! It was GLORIOUS! It was super clean and shiny and the book was excellent! They had my signature karaoke song- Stay by Lisa Loeb! This is the only norae bang I've seen it in (and you know I've been to tons). So not only was the norae bang beautiful with a great song list but we got a ton of extra free time! We paid for an hour but with all the extra bonus time we actually stayed for 2.5 hours! My throat was killing me afterwards but that's just because I am a rock star. Oh, and this was the only honest norae bang in regards to your score (when you finish they give a score out of 100) since it consistently ranked Matt at 50 points and me at 100. Hahah!

This isn't the norae bang we went to (ours was called Melon norae bang). But I thought this was funny. I wonder if
Anderson Cooper or Wolf Blitzer sing here? I hope so.

Look at this insanely HUGE octopus! We saw this while we were wandering around. It looked like it should be on the Discovery Channel. It was just unreal!! A woman that worked at the restaurant that owned it saw us looking at it and started laughing and saying "Big". Yeah, that's an understatement lady! I was afraid it's buddies were going come by, beam us up and probe us.

I think I will continue the rest of my shiny, happy week in another post...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

An Amusing Afternoon of Shopping in Gangnam

Anyone that has read this blog even quasi consistently knows that one thing that I delight in is the crazy fashions and unusual English translations that can be found here. I try to take pictures whenever I can and this past weekend I hit the mother load. Possibly no one else thinks these are amusing but just picture some innocent, illiterate woman (say Paris Hilton) wandering around wearing these shirts. You can see them all over here but I'll post my highlights.

A few featuring our favorite cuss word. I'd like to mention that the second shirt is really, really small and could possibly be purchased for a child or teen. (><)

There weren't just funny t-shirts to be found. There was also this portable drug case, a very thoughtful and handy gift for the addict in your life.

This one really cracked me up. Only the biggest rockstar can pull off wearing a necklace made of sunglasses. Eat your heart out Corey Hart!

Every Canadian will be relieved to learn that we are well known for our weiners in Asia.

And check out this dog!! Fuchsia ears and a hoodie with bunny ears on it! Hardcore! Even the dogs have wicked style here.

Overall it was a great shopping day for me. I got some new cute socks, a CD I'd wanted since we went to Osaka last year, some adorable post-its, and a bunch of gifts! Paige bought me the headband and the earrings and the lotions were a sample. Also, on the way home in the subway a random Korean girl gave me the change purse and the perfume (just for being cute, I think). Score!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another busy weekend!

Time really seems to be flying by since we returned to Korea. I can't believe we've been here almost 2 months now! I like working in the evenings, I think. It makes the work day go by really quickly and it probably helps that my work day is only 6 hours long to begin with. Hahah.

This past weekend was a really busy, but fun one. I'm trying to get out and meet more people this year since I have so much free time available. On Friday night, after work, Matt and I met up with our new friends Hokunani and Leah and a friend of theirs and did some norae bang. It was a novelty because we met in our neighbourhood (Jamsil) so for once we didn't have to worry about how we'd get home if we stayed out later than the subway runs (it stops at midnight, in case you're wondering).

On Saturday I spent some time blogging and then later we met up with the lovely Paige Teacher in Gangnam. I think I will do a separate post for all the amusing Engrish/Konglish stuff we found while shopping that that area. We had dinner with Paige, caught up, tried to see a movie (Jumper) but it was sold out, ate frozen yogurt at Red Mango and then did some shopping.

Sunday was also incredibly busy. Matt and I made our way back to Gangnam for a book club meeting. I think it was fate because I wrote down the information a couple weeks ago when we went to What the Book. The book club had placed a small ad on the bulletin board there. And then Eddie happened to lend us a few books to read and then I found out that one of the book he lent us (You Suck by Christopher Moore) was actually the book they picked for Sunday's meeting. Crazy! I didn't take any pictures of the group (since I just met them and I think that would have been a little weird) but probably at a later meeting. Everyone was really nice and now I have lots of reading to do! (Which is good since that's another goal for this year; to read more.) We met in Kyobo Tower and outside was this beautiful sculpture that made us think of Matt's Mom and the mosaic tiles we made while we visited her.

After we finished up with the book club (around 4pm) we rushed to Bundang to meet up with D, C, E & G and Dana and Curtis' coworker MK. Unfortunately E & G had some trouble with transit and arrived late so we had dinner without them. We all managed to meet up and make it to see We Will Rock You in time though! Yay!

I enjoyed the show, although I have to say, it's ridiculous. Completely absurd. The storyline/plot is totally goofy and over the top and basically just serves as a mechanism to place Queen songs in it. The music was really fantastic though and it was highly entertaining watching the Korean audience react to the show (they frickin' loved it. Like stand ovation and ecstatic clapping loved it.). Plus when am I ever going to see another show with the line "You'll never escape my lazer cage!"? Something that I was excited about was that the lead male was played by Mig Ayesa. You may remember him from the TV show Rockstar: INXS where he was one of the finalists.

I don't really have any interesting pictures from that night since it was all very rushed. I was trying to take some at intermission but an usher came over to give me crap so it looks like only Dana, Curtis, Matt and I were there. Boo. Needless to say, we were pretty exhausted by the end of the weekend. It was a good exhausted though.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Little Brown's Final Graduation

Last Tuesday Matt and I woke up really early (early even for normal people- 6:30 am!!) to get ready and make the pilgrimage to Gimpo for Little Brown's graduation ceremony. I would have wanted to attend anyway but it was extra important since now the school is closed and this would be our last chance to see any of the kids/staff from the school. We managed to make it there (although this was no easy task with rush hour and frigid temperatures) and I'm so glad we did.

I was a bit nervous that we'd be intruding since we hadn't taught there since September but we were really warmly received.

As soon as Brian (from Tiger class who I taught when he was in Lion class) saw us he ran up and start to ask us questions about his brother. "Did you see big brother? Go to Canada! Did you see? He eat lunch there many, many times and go to swimming pool!" It was so cute. I had to break it to him that although we went to Canada too we unfortunately didn't see his mom or his older brother Edward while we were there. Better luck next time, perhaps.
It was really great seeing the kids and parents that showed up for the graduation. We got to hand out our business cards so maybe we'll hear from some of them again someday. Mr. Rhie seemed happy to see us again and he mentioned us in the big speech (in Korean) to the parents and then everyone clapped. It was sweet but kind of embarrassing. After the ceremony they insisted on taking us out to lunch (I was a bit nervous about getting back to Seoul for 3pm when I had to work). We went along and managed to get home in time. It was a long, tiring and crazy day but I think it was important we went. Goodbye Little Brown!
To see all the pictures you should go here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Happy Bird?!?

Does this look like a happy bird to you? I'd also like to know what makes you so "happy". Also, what makes you a bird (because you really don't look like a bird to me)? Now the happy dog behind you I can understand...

Just down the block...

Another crazy and fun thing about Korea is all the interesting things they sell on the street. Buying items on the street can be a great way to save money since usually the prices are lower and often you can barter. What kinds of things do they sell? Well, the most common items are fruit, vegetables, clothing, socks, pirated DVDs, jewelry and shoes. However, occasionally you come across more exotic items. Look at what people were recently selling in my neighbourhood.
Look at the size of those shellfish!! And can you see the massive pile of empty shells? So crazy! We did buy any but these are the type of shellfish we ate last year on Wolmido (island).

It was like a pet store on the street! I felt sorry for the animals because it was really cold that night. This was just around the corner from our apartment. The man was selling fish, birds, hamsters, rabbits and puppies!

Seollal (Lunar New Years) Weekend

Well we didn't spend the whole Lunar New Years eating Red Mango (although that probably would have been a pretty good time). We did spend a lot of time hanging out with friends. Besides eating Red Mango we also went to Yongsan CGV (movie theatre) because they were showing a new Korean movie with English subtitles!! We saw 슈퍼맨이었던 사나이 (A Man Who was Superman) and it was so amazing!!! I really recommend it. It was really funny, sweet and touching. If you get a chance to watch it you should. I'm really excited because apparently Yongsan CGV will continue playing Korean movies with English subtitles. I think I will go to all of them!
After the movie we went to the COEX Mall and hung out/shopped. D and C hadn't been there before and there's a great CD store and Bandi and Luni's (a bookstore that has an English section) so it's a good place to know about. We also had dinner at TGI Friday's. I made everyone go to the COEX movie theatre to pose by the big 슈퍼맨이었던 사나이 display. Hahah! It was a really fun day!

Oh yeah, and I noticed this clothing store at the COEX Mall- who doesn't want their new wardrobe to be "Out of Date"? Hahaha!

Otherwise the rest of the weekend we hung out in Bundang with D and C. We did the standard eat yummy things, play games, go to norae bang routine. Dana even got a bit tipsy so that was amusing!

On Saturday we met up with Eddie and Gisela, fresh back from Mexico (I'm so jealous of everyone that was able to travel during Seollal) and we checked out the Van Gogh exhibit at the Seoul Museum of Art. It was pretty good but it was so busy!! I've been to the museum three times now and this was ridiculous! We had to line up to get into the museum! Serves us right for going on a holiday, I guess. But it's not like it was a new exhibit (it started showing in November!).

For Stephie and Alison: Our Return to Red Mango

Last year my youngest sister and her friend Alison came out to visit us while we worked in Gimpo. They loved many, many things about Korea but I think their favorite thing was eating frozen yogurt at Red Mango. Matt and I forced Dana and Curtis to partake in the yumminess and I recorded the event just for Steph and Big Al. Nothing's changed guys, it's still the yummiest fruit yogurt in the world!!

And all too quickly it was gone... Everyone loved it though and the coco balls are still as delicious as we remembered!