Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Secret Garden Next Door

Remember that lovely tree that I showed you a few entries back? Well it belongs to this property beside us. Usually the gates are tightly locked but yesterday it was open briefly when I was on my way to work. I think it looks like an enchanting place to live. So strange to think it's just next door from our little apartment.

Things are pretty rosy...

So it's Thursday. Which means tomorrow is Friday and Friday night is when we make a mad rush to the airport after work, get exploited for a hotel room out there (where we'll only spend about 5 hours). But it will be so worth it come Saturday when we leave bright and early and arrive in Beijing!!! I am so excited! There are some last minute things to do but I feel pretty organized. I've worked really hard at KNC this week so that I could leave for a week with a clear conscience and without much to do when I get back from summer vacation.
Things are lovely in Seoul but it's supposed to rain a lot this coming week (hopefully it will be sunny in Beijing) so I'm glad to be avoiding the rain. It wouldn't be so bad if the rain cooled things off a bit but all it does it make things more humid and sticky. It does make things really green and beautiful though.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cirque du Soleil

Another reason why Saturday was awesome (besides getting a fan) was that we had tickets to see the Cirque du Soleil show! The production was called Nebbia (which is Italian for fog or mist) and it's showing at the Sejong Center until the end of the month.

I've always wanted to see a Cirque du Soleil production but never thought that I would be able to afford it. For some reason in Korea the tickets are cheaper (maybe since a lot of people here haven't heard of it?) and so we had AWESOME seats and could see everything. Dana prematurely rented some opera glasses and they were totally unnecessary.

I have to say, I really recommend to anyone in Seoul to go out and see this show before it leaves. It was spellbinding! I loved every moment of it and so did Matt, Dana and Curtis. Heck, even if you're not in Seoul you should go watch a Cirque du Soleil performance. It is worth the money and will be unlike anything that you've seen before. I hear they are coming to Calgary for the month of August. I loved watching it in the Sejong Center which is charming and beautiful. We went to see the Complete Works of William Shakespeare here awhile back. Nice place.

The only negative thing is that it was pouring outside but we braved it and were only slightly damp. A small price to pay though. Seriously, I think everyone should go see this show. All of the acrobats, contortionists and other performers were so talented and there was humor incorporated along with haunting visuals. AMAZING!

The rest of our weekend we spent at Dana and Curtis' place playing games and hanging out. I got reacquainted with Guitar Hero and am happy to report that I am more awesome than ever.

Oh and if you want to see the rest of my Nebbia pictures (although there aren't that many and they are basically of us since you're not allowed to photograph the performance) you can look here.

My New Baby

It was a great weekend. Maybe the best part was finally caving in and buying a fan. Our apartment is naturally hot (which is fantastic in the winter) and just seems to hold in the heat. We have an air conditioner but it is a bit ghetto and as soon as we turn it off our place heats up again in about 15 minutes. It's ridiculous. Needless to say, this has been affecting my sleep. I've been waking up at all hours and having some trippy dreams. Like the one where we "woke up" in the morning to discover that we'd somehow left our fridge open a crack and it was FULL of cockroaches. Like thousands and thousands of them pouring out of the fridge and crawling all over our apartment.

We found our adorable fan at Techno Mart and we got it for a decent price. It was hard to choose with all the selection but delicious standing in front of all the display fans while we shopped. I figure that before we leave we'll list stuff on Facebook for cheap (our fan, iron, toaster oven, guitar) so we can get a bit of money back. I'm excited though since in addition to the fan we also bought a new memory card for my digital camera. A 4GB one for about $30. Now I am definitely ready for China since between my two memory cards I can take over 2000 pictures. Brace yourself.

Friday, July 11, 2008

We're Going to Beijing!!!

We picked up our passports from Unique Travel today and they came equipped with our shiny new Chinese visas! I'm so excited! We won't be seeing the Olympics (that doesn't start until August 8th or something and we'll be back in Seoul July 26th) but that's fine. I'm not huge on the Olympics anyway and it will just make Beijing into a bigger and more expensive zoo. I can't wait to see the Great Wall, Forbidden Palace, Tian'anmen Square and Silk Road! It should be such an awesome vacation! Another great adventure!

We had to venture to Itaewon to pick the visas up, since that's where Unique Travel is located. While wandering an alley there we saw this sign in front of an Indian restaurant. Luckily I'm not suffering from cancer or Alzheimer's so I wasn't in need of their Curry Cure Lunch special. We opted out and had Mexican instead. Maybe another day when I'm hungry for bullshit.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Socks FTW!

Look at these socks I bought yesterday. Yes, I know it's ridiculous that I am buying socks in this heat since I have no intention of wearing socks until November or December. They were too cute too pass up though. I wish I had a real disco lion. Now that would be funky.

Cute mistakes and other Wednesday things.

So things at our school are a bit crazy since they decided to create some new classes but the foreign teachers they lined up to teach them are having visa issues. This is getting pretty common out here now that they have changed a lot of the visa requirements and a lot of people are confused. Plus it sounds like some of the requirements are getting a bit ridiculous. Anyway, this is why I am marking essays for the B4 level classes this month along with my regular marking responsibilities. It's been a nice change from marking A1 essays which include a lot of "I like my Dad. My Dad is very very good.~". Yesterday I was marking a fresh batch of B4 essays and a couple of mistakes actually made me laugh out loud.

The essay topic was about creating a new holiday. The students had to say what they would honor and why. One student wrote about a holiday for parents (here there is one but I guess the students interpreted holiday to mean a day off from work and school) and then this one wrote about a holiday for teachers. The essay overall was incredibly well written and super impressive but there were two small and hilarious mistakes. When explaining the important role teachers play they stated, "They helped us glow up to be a great person." But my favorite was this line expressing how much they appreciate teachers: "I want to gave them the claps.....!!!!!". Man, it was a good thing I was alone in my room when I read that! I didn't stop giggling for a few minutes. I'm just glad they didn't confuse the r and l on that word. Or maybe they are talking about giving them the clap?! ^^

Besides marking essays, yesterday was filled with scorching weather accompanied with suffocating humidity. We took a short walk outside and both got a bit of a tan as a result! I have to say, there are some lovely things in our area. Jamsil certainly isn't as green as Gimpo was but it has its charms. Like this house next to our apartment building.

Isn't it lovely?

We wandered around and actually saw a few other foreigners. Even though there are tons of schools in this area we rarely see foreigners that we don't work with. Possibly we're all on opposite schedules though.

So we ate some sushi and then we retreated to the coffee shop next to our place so we could use their air con for free. It's such an adorable place and I tried a new drink which I loved so that's good since the other things I've had their were only mediocre. I love how they serve water in measuring cups though.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What's this? Matt got a present?

Well lookie here! A shiny gold gift bag for Matt. Could it be? Did he get a present today? What majestic wares lay inside? And who is his admirer?

Poor Matt- it's full of prescription medication! Only in Korea does the pharmacy pack your medicine in a gift bag for you to take home. I suppose it's therapeutic to pretend someone gave you a present though.

Here, I'll show you what a real present looks like:
A weird soft cheesy sausage and a box of Mok Candies (sort of like Korean Halls). The kicker? They both came from children who are NOT students of mine. Yep, I'm a rockstar. The sausage did come from a former student but the Mok Candies are from a kid I don't even know. She wasn't just randomly handing them out either- she saw me, grabbed me and fumbled through her bag to find them. I think I will have to learn her name. Man I like teaching the elementary students. Middle school kids just don't love people as much. Their hearts are full of puberty and K-Pop. Alas.

Fun and Funny Stuff

To continue about our great weekend- on Sunday we met with our book club. First we had an awesome Western breakfast at Big Rock. You can't beat a $10 buffet that includes bacon! Then we moved to Smoothie King for dessert and to discuss the book. Very enjoyable, as always and we got some new members so that was really exciting. It will be nice having some more testosterone in the group. Matt was getting a bit overpowered.

After we parted ways with our book club I did a little bit of shopping. I got some awesome earrings that I adore. I'd been coveting them for awhile but I found them at a cheaper price. Bingo!

Also, I saw this shirt which totally cracked me up. I think it's so pretty and it looks like it should say something really deep and philosophical. Well, laundry is meaningful too I suppose. It was a truly excellent weekend that will probably only be matched by next weekend (when we see Cirque du Soleil) and the weekend after that (when we go to Beijing).

Monday, July 07, 2008

Gimpo Slide Show

So I made a slide show of my favorite pictures from Saturday. Yes, you're probably sick of looking at them but too bad. *insert evil laugh* I can't get enough of them!

Return to Gimpo aka Baby Reunion

I am going to warn everyone before I start- if you don't like pictures of adorable Korean children then you are going to have a hard time with this entry because there are A LOT. On Wednesday Margot called me up and asked if I would be interested in coming to Gimpo on Saturday to see my old kindergarten students. I have to say, dumbest question EVER! Of course I was interested! In fact, I just about peed my pants at the prospect.

This was all Paige's doing and I'm so glad she made the effort to call all the mommies. Everyone couldn't make it but I saw 7 out of my 10 babies (Kate stopped by really briefly at the beginning but I didn't get a picture of her). The only ones missing were Cathy, Alexa and Sara. So early Saturday morning Matt and I made the trek to Gimpo. We were pretty tired since we went out for John's birthday the night before and also because I was really excited to see the kids and couldn't sleep well.

We met up with Paige and helped her wrap presents for the kids in her car while we waited for Pizza Hut to open up. I've never been so anxious for a restaurant to open in my life. Then Grace and her mom arrived! Grace has gotten so much taller and she's totally lost her baby fat! I was amazed at how much older she looks in just a few months! Then Jake came barging in and I just about died. First words out of his mouth? "Amber Teacher! Long time, no see!" I kid you not. Elly must have taught him that.

Once the other kids had trickled in (Will, Andy, Janet, and Lily) we all sat down and ordered and the mommies slyly slipped away. It was so much fun eating pizza with them- it reminded me of lunch time at Little Brown except Andy was totally scarfing down his food instead of picking at it. It cracked me up that somehow Andy is still exactly the same size as when he started at school. Why are all Korean Andys short? Jake was hilarious and insisted that we share a drink together. He kept pointing at the pink straw and saying "This is YOUR straw and the yellow one is MY straw." His English is getting so good! We got a lot of interesting looks in Pizza Hut since we were so loud and we had a pack of Korean six year olds eating with a bunch of foreigners and speaking only in English.

After we finished eating the kids were getting pretty restless in the restaurant so we lined them up and marched them outside to this little park area. It was sweltering and we were all sweating buckets. It didn't stop us from playing a few rounds of the Monster game and the ever popular Sharks and Fish (basically both are tag derivatives). At one point Jake fell down and the waterworks started. He was fine (I actually expected a scraped knee or two since he fell on pavement but he just had a tiny cut on his hand) but it took awhile to convince him that he was fine. Some funny faces and a bandaid solved that and then it was playtime again.
Then it was time for Margot to go and Paige, Matt, the kids and I decided to move the party to a nearby indoor playground.

Apparently the kids came here on a field trip with Little Brown after Matt and I left. It was a really neat place actually, complete with comic books, computers, a climbing wall and an awesome jungle gym. We spent a couple hours chasing the kids around and playing with them and taking a million pictures. Will's sister Lisa showed up which was exciting for Matt since he used to teach her when she was in kindergarten. I also taught her elementary class. She seems to be growing up into a really lovely young girl and she got such a kick out of Matt saying Korean words. I was also surprised that we randomly ran into Edward who was Lion Brian's older brother. He was just in Canada for a few month and man his English is impeccable!

It occurred to me about halfway through our time at the indoor playground that the moms were getting an awesome deal here- free English babysitting! Hahah! It was so wonderful seeing the kids though. Janet's mom said that she was so excited the night before that she couldn't sleep. I really hope we get to do this again soon. I gave out my card to the moms and Lisa so hopefully we'll get some calls soon. I didn't want to say good bye. (T T)

Afterwards we had coffee and then dinner with Paige. It was great to catch up with her and it's been way too long since we hung out. We also had dinner at our favorite shabu shabu restaurant with Paige and it was so delicious. I'm sure Stephie and Alison remember the one I'm talking about. With full hearts and bellies Matt and I made our way back to Seoul. We both agree that we things were never perfect when we lived in Gimpo but we have so many fond memories of our time there. The relationships I made with my students are something I will never forget as long as I live. In case you missed the link for the pictures the first time, here it is again. Yes, I took almost 200 pictures but who knows when or if I will see these kids again!

John's Birthday at Monkey Beach

Friday was our friend John's birthday and so after work we made our way out to Apujeong to celebrate with him. I'd never been to Apujeong before and I think I need to go and explore there a bit. Apparently it's the Beverly Hills of Seoul. I'd heard about this bar from friends and honestly, when I walked in I couldn't understand what the big deal was. However, we ended up having a great time and the drink prices alone were reason enough to go back there.
It was great seeing John and Elaine again and we always have fun with Dana and Curtis. It turned out to be a night of dancing and lots of laughs. We didn't party too hard though since Saturday we had exciting, early morning plans- Paige Teacher arranged a lunch and playdate with my babies!!! Anyway, I will make that a separate post. If you want to see more pictures of Scottish John's Fourth of July birthday extravaganza you can go here. And yes, you can tell summer is here because I look like white Diana Ross in every picture.

Another Present!!!

This time it came from Damon who was in my A3 class but graduated to the next level. It's ginseng candy! I haven't tried any yet but I'm excited to have it anyway. Yuni told me that it's gross. Hmm... I might make Matt eat it first.

Like I mentioned, a couple classes changed levels for July. This was a little sad since I really liked both of the classes. Damon's A3 class may have been my favorite class I've taught this year (shhh! Don't tell anyone!) and the A1's were a lot of work but they had a great sense of humor and worked hard. I just had them "trained" and used to everything so classes were running really smoothly and now I'm no longer their teacher. Damn!

Here's a picture I took of my A1 kids- they were my biggest class (eleven students). See the boy wearing the baseball cap? That's David. One day he told us his Dad's name and I replied "What?! That's my Dad's name too!" (I'm joking of course) and from then on I said he was my little brother. I was really proud on this day of John (white shirt next to David with yellow backpack) and Kevin (purple shirt, behind John) because both of them scored 100% on the reading section of their last test. I had to be really strict with these kids but it worked out well since they made a lot of progress overall. I forgot to take a picture of Damon's class unfortunately but I have a couple random pictures of that class so it's okay.