Chiz Explores the World

The chronicles of my experiences abroad.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Road Trip Around the Island

After breakfast we ended up getting a rental car to drive around the island.  We drove around the southern tip, it was gorgeous. There is such a difference between the resort area and the rest of the island.  There are a few really nice houses, but for the most part a lot of them are rundown or made with corrugated tin.  We came back around 1:30pm and claimed our cabana on the beach (a round seat that has a visor), swam in the ocean and tanned.  I ended up falling asleep on the chair :) got a pretty nice tan too!

Soon after, we got cleaned up and went to the Royal Beach Club lounge for happy hour and watched the sunset through the huge windows.  The concierge James Hawethorne let us and a few other people into the Presidential Suite. He gave us a tour of some of the executive suites and checked to see if we could be upgraded (unfortunately we couldn't).  There was dinner and a Polynesian dance show going on at 7:30 that we wanted to see, so we hurried down to get a table.  We enjoyed a very Korean style bbq dinner and the dancing was amazing! There were three women and a man dancing, which later turned into two men because one came out dancing with fire and the end, and a drummer with a ukulele player. Toward the end of the show they picked people out of the audience to dance and they picked me and some adorable kids.  So much fun!

We wanted to find some nightlife after the all you can drink Miller light night, so we went downstairs for a drink and headed out.  We made a round through the downtown area and oh my god are there a lot of strip clubs! We walked through the Hyatt and walked on the beach back.  We had to walk though the water for part of it because the coral made the beach hurtful to walk on.  We ended up talking to a guy who worked at our hotel and went to Globe.  It was all you can drink until midnight and we got our fill of cheap vodka! Good thing it was only down the street from our hotel.  The DJ had two live drummers playing with them.  The music was good and I had a great time dancing.  I could tell Geoff wasn't feeling it anymore, so we left to this bar with a local band playing.  I met Royce the bass player who was from Guam, but lived in SF for awhile.  The band was great and one of the lead guitarists/singers sounded like the lead singer from Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder. What a great night!

When I woke up this morning it was already 10:30! We missed breakfast so we ate downstairs at Taste. It was a brunch buffet with unlimited Rose champagne and a chocolate fountain. Yummy!

We jumped into the car to check out the north side of the island.  This time I didn't forget my camera, but I didn't wear my bathing suit. (It had been the other way around on our last excursion). We went up to the point when there was a beautiful nature preserve. We walked through this jungle-ish trail to get to a beautiful beach.  There were locals laying out and I was jealous of Geoff because he was able to jump in! I found a pretty piece of coral and a shell that I pocketed.
On our way back to the car we noticed there were hundreds of black butterflies in  the trees.  I tried to take some pictures, but I don't think it'll do it justice.  Then we decided to take the random turnoff for a good 30 minutes down a jungle-ish dirt road.  It was beautiful.

We had to turn around and made it to Two Lovers Point.

The legend its that a woman Chamorro was arranged to marry a Spaniard, but she loved a man from the village. They were caught trying to runaway together, so they tried to run. They made it to a cliff and tied their hair together and jumped off so they'd never have to be separated.  So sad, but the view was fantastic.

As soon as we got back to the hotel, I jumped into my suit and ran to the beach. I've been here ever since.  Now I'm sitting with a pretty drink watching the sunset on Guam.

Geoff set up dinner reservations at the Bistro at the Pacific Island Club.  We got ready, had a drink in the loung before meeting the PIC car downstairs.  The food was good, but the need to work on training their staff.  We had trouble returning a bottle of wine and finding our the kind of cheese they served us.  I had to send my sea breach back because it had crab on it.  So sad! We caught a cab back to the hotel so we could run to K-Mart, pack and return the rental car in time for our flight. Chocolate chips are hard to come by in Korea!

Such an amazing trip :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Aneyo Snow! Hafa Adai Guam!

Merry Christmas Guam!

I am so glad Geoff was so adamant on finding a place to go for Christmas.  Just a week ago we were talking about Taiwan. This is so much better! Since he travels so much for work he has all of these perks. Good thing he likes to share with friends! He knew Im on a budget so he generously offered to take care of half of my flight and everything else the rest of the weekend.

When we got to the airport we hung out in the Hub lounge and ate free food, drank free beer and waited for our flight. Since he's Morning Calm status on Korean Air, we didn't have to wait in the same line and when we started to board they upgraded us to business class!! Woo hoo! They served a multi-course dinner and I prepped for my winter intensive class.

We arrived around 2am and caught a cab to the hotel. Again, since he's platinum status with Starwood they upgraded us to a corner, beach front ocean view room. We also got Royal Beach Club wrist bands (gold-clubbing type) but what that allows us access to we're still unsure.  I have been way too excited/jetlagged/swollen to sleep so I've just been watching CNN & BBC news. Yay for American Territories! I've been able to watch the sunrise, unpack my whole three pieces of clothing and brew a pot of coffee.  I hope he wakes up soon because I'm hungry for breakfast! I'm in Guam! WOO!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Countdowns: The best thing that ever happened to Time

-3 days -2 hours -26 minutes until my 24th Birthday
10 days 21 hours 31 minutes until Christmas
27 days 21 hours 31 minutes until Carlo's Birthday
51 days 21 hours 31 minutes until Alicia's Birthday
61 days 9 hours 31 minutes until Beijing and Carlo
101 days 21 hours 31 minutes until Italia

The holidays rock.

Thanksgiving was amazing. So many people were able to join us! There was a great spread of Thanksgiving dinner, too. The cabbie even sang Do Re Mi with us. Awesome.

I was able to play with my brand new beautiful camera that night, too! The picture quality totally speaks to how great this camera is. :D

Finish. I'm sleepy. ('_')

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bobbing my head in The HearNow

So today I'm writing about something different. I'm a little homesick and music seems to be the best way to keep me connected. (besides skype that is) and here we gooooooooo........

On Tuesday, November 17 iLL-Literacy's new album, iB4the1.1, is dropping for FREE-99! Now, if you know me at all, you know I love love love me something for free. This is not some weak iTunes single of the week kind of free, this is--I'd pay full price at Creative Music for this album, but I don't have to because it's free--kind of free. Yippieeee!!

This artist collective started out in the Bay (oh how I miss home sweet home) but they're now located in Brooklyn, and they're showing them how it's done. They believe that music is inspired by the world around them, and since they get that inspiration for free, they're giving their music away for free. Amazing right?

This album is being released in three parts; I liken it to chapters in a book.  This is the first chapter. There are five tracks. If you must, you can preview it on iLL-Literacy's site before you download, but it's free so I don't understand why you wouldn't just download it.

My favorite track off this album is entitled The HereNow.  It features Passion, a Bay Area Pinoy singer/songwriter/musician that I've always loved.  It's been on heavy rotation on my iPhone since they released it as a single and stuck in my head when my headphones aren't in.  If your head doesn't start bobbing when you press play.... I don't know if we can still be friends.  :)

At any rate, check it out. Make up your own mind. Then let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

An Eunpyeong Fall Tale

Today, after I dropped off Jeff in Myeongdong, I enjoy a speedy bus ride back to Eunpyeong. I keep making mental notes to figure out how to take the bus to other locations, but I always forget. It's so nice to see different parts of the city above ground, instead of just subway pillars.

I give myself ample time to arrive back in my neighborhood and walk to work. The last few days have hovered around 30F, so I really enjoy the 55F weather given to me today. I stop off at my swanky local cafe (well, as swanky as you can get in Eunpyeong) and get my regular cappucino. It's nice to see that I have accumulated enough stamps to make my next one free.

I decide to take the scenic route to work, through a narrow, mostly pedestrian street. I'm bundled up in my cardigan, wool scarf and W2000 gloves with my yummy cappucino. I get to walk next to beautiful Ginko Biloba trees changing colors and the brisk breeze blowing leaves past me. I pass by ajumas selling vegetables and talking over Korean dramas in the background. A new nail shoppe opened up recently and I can see them finishing up a new local bank branch. My regular dry cleaner is either closed on Wednesdays, or he's at lunch. I'm a little disappointed because I was looking forward to waving to him as I passed by. A man selling his rice treats from a truck sells me rice cracker snacks I will give to my students today. I look forward to seeing them; I only have three students and they have a very important test. I hope they do well.

<3 Juanita

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

So, what had happened was...

I have been super MIA. Sorry. It's not that I forgot, it's just so much has been happening so quickly...

I feel a little overwhelmed to talk about everything that's happened so far. So I won't really.

I've seen a few islands, made some really great friends and had more than my fair share of waiting for 5:30am for the subways to open.
I've went home and come back again. Enjoyed explaining American halloween to my students and listening to them explain Chuseok to me. Also, cooking meals for more than just myself.
My apartment feels more like a home.
Slowly exploring more of this city I call home.

I can't believe it's the holiday season. My friends and I are supposed to throw an Expat Thanksgiving dinner, but I'm not sure yet how we'll do it. Where can we eat? Cook a turkey? Even get a turkey??

My intake of non-water beverages that make running into things not hurt has gone up quite a bit. Detox/Rehab weekend is called for. Maybe a temple stay? Or at least away from Hongdae and loud music. I've been getting into too much trouble there!

I'm really enjoying my students. We only have 3 weeks left together :( Then I meet a whole new group to love!

I wonder how I will fit a Christmas Tree into my apartment.  Do they sell trees that small? I already know what I'm giving my students! Woo woo!

Tell me why... It's 31 degrees outside right now and it's supposed to get back up to 70 this weekend? I don't mind, but really? Ondol is soooo awesome.

I'm on to the next one (Thanks Jay-Z)

Monday, August 24, 2009

And I'm free! Free falling!

Woke up at 5:45am with Holly on Sunday in order to make it to our bus at 7:ooam. We decided to grab a taxi, instead of taking the subway so we could grab coffee and breakfast beforehand without rushing. The cab driver started to take us a way I hadn't seen before, so I repeated the destination. He sounded suprised. As I told him, we entered a freeway going into a tunnel. Actually it ended up to be two tunnels, through a mountain. We were totally going the wrong way. By the time he got off the expressway and turned around, we only had ten minutes until our bus left. We didn't know the word for "faster, dammit!" so I started pointing to all the other cabs that were passing us. He understood. We arrived at the bus at 6:57 and made it! There was a second stop on the other side of the river that a couple of friends were joining us at, so we begged them to pick up some food and coffee.
Thank god for kind friends. Without Greg bringing us coffee, I would have been a crabby girl.

We arrived at the river around 10am and I couldn't hold in my excitement. We were told to make teams of ten, but we were accepted
with our team of eight. It started with the six of us: me, Holly, Greg, Matt, Gabriel, and Jeff. We had the most awesome team! Holly and I sat in the front and got the most of the rapids in our face. The rapids weren't very rough, and we didn't expect them to be. We tried to make it under a waterfall and failed. We had massive paddle/water fights with the other rafters on the river. It was so beautiful there and the weather was perfect to be on the water.

We took a pitstop at a mini beach on the river. While we swam in the river, the guides set up a makeshift raft slide for us to jump onto. The first time I tried to slide on it, I took a running start, jumped on the first raft and started sliding down the second raft. I guess I didn't run fast enough because I stopped on the slide right before I hit the water. I had to wiggle in order to fall in. Oh man.

After we finished, we had a yummy korean buffet. Lots of bulgogi and kim (my favorite). Then we headed to.... the bridge!!!!

In order to bungee jump you have to pay 35k won, write and sign your name (the simplest waiver I've ever seen in my life), have your weight taken down and climb up a spiral staircase to the top of the bridge. We were given a little piece of paper with our weight class written on it. An older Korean man fitted ankle straps on us while we waited in line. I missed my weight class because I was taking pictures of ev
eryone else, so I had to wait on the catwalk for what seemed like a lifetime. The cords were changed so I had to wait until they changed it back to the one I needed. One of the women before me hesitated for quite awhile and she wouldn't let go of the railing. They pushed her off. She was crying like a baby afterward. I don't think she thought about her decision long enough. Another guy was jumping, but with a waist harness. When he started to jump, he second guessed his decision and started grabbing the cord. I thought I was going to see an arm ripped off.

Advice: never grab the cord.

My turn finally came and since I had been waiting and watching I thought I'd have the jump off down pat. I was cocky until I walked up to the edge of the platform and the operator tossed part of my cord off the side. Looking down 52 meters at a river is quite unnerving! I knew I couldn't hesitate any longer than a few seconds or else my survival instincts would kick in and tell me that I might die and to not do it.

Then I jumped.
The first free fall is so beautiful. I wish I could describe it better, but I really don't think I can. After I landed, everyone told me how quiet my jump was, and I think it's because I was overcome with how liberating it is to fly. I imagined that when the cord finally kicked in, it would be jarring, but it wasn't. I just swung back and forth until it calmed down enough for the man paddling the boat to grab my hands.

The rest of the day was spend sittting and lying on the bank of the river, splashing my feet, watching others jump and enjoying conversation. The weather was perfect.

A perfectly fantastic Sunday.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Let Me Be Your Supernova Tonight

Lisa came to stay with me Wednesday and left to Spain Friday morning. I'm so glad she was able to experience Seoul. I really love cooking for more than just myself, so it was nice having her there Wednesday night.

Thursday night I met up with Lisa after work in Ghwanghwamun and ate some street food, tteokbok, before heading over to Hongdae. Whem we got there we wanted to try and find this coffee shop I had been to once before. On the way there, we were sidetracked by a booth representing the Seoul Fringe Festival. There were posters everywhere talking about it and we were a little curious to find out what it was. They had one final performance that night and we decided to attend. One of the interns, Jong-il, walked us to where it was happening. I assumed it was a film festival, but I was in for such a sweet surprise! We were led to the roof, handed a soda and a floor cushion. The "film" festival was actually a multidisciplinary festival including music, dance and theater in random venues. We saw a show completely told in live music, song and minimal set/props. It was fantastic!

After the show, we headed to our original destination with our new friend Jong-il. We enjoyed cappuccinos, tea, cheesecake and chocolate cake. We found out all about our new friend and then headed to another place for bindaetteok and makgeolli. At the second restaurant we sat next to a large group of Koreans who were eating their food with plastic gloves. I asked Jong-il why and one of the guys at the other table heard me. He told us that it was so spicy they didn't want to burn themselves if they accidentally touched their face. Oh man. He told me they were eating chicken feet and offered me some. I'd never tried it, so I said yes. In case you're wondering, it didn't taste like much besides crazy-burn-my-tongue-off-spicy.

Jong-il headed home, while Lisa and I decided to go for a foot massage. We get there and decide we would also like a full body massage. We didn't get out of there until 4:30am! By the time we got back to my house all we had time for was to figure out how to get her to the airport and repack her bag. I didn't sleep until 8:30 in the morning and woke up at 2pm to get to work.

So random.

Today I went to a "cultural exchange" with Matt, Connor, Samantha and Andrea. I've been really hesitant on attending one of these events because I've heard people just go to find dates. I suppose it's a lot like the people that go to clubs and bars, but this just seems so obvious. It's 15,000 won to get in, and you get unlimited beer, soju and anju. It was much better than I had expected. There were a fair share of weird and creepy people, but I met a couple of great girls! The best one is Anna and she learned all of her English from American dramas and tv shows. She speaks really well! I'm going to meet up with her this week for coffee and conversation. I can't wait.

Goodnight. Tomorrow, good morning rapids!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Betrar betrar betrar BETRAR! Hey Jude...

I found this amazingly talented Korean boy named Hiro singing on YouTube a while back, but just revisited him. Or maybe he found me. Either way, he reminds me of the kids I teach. I've been singing his version of the song in my head non-stop for the last three days. He rocks.

I feel like I really live here now. I guess I was subconsciously waiting for evidence that I'm actually here. Actually living in South Korea. I got it while I was rocking out with my headphones transferring between subway lines, and this morning when I was on my way to work.

First, a woman about my age starts walking up to me as I'm walking the other direction and stops me. She starts speaking to me in Korean, but after I say English with a sad expression she says, "Jonggak". I turn around and point her in the direction she needed to go, without even looking at my subway map! (If you didn't know, there are like 14 subway lines. I tried to make a bet on how many there were once and I lost. I said 9.)

Then this morning, as I'm hailing a cab to take me to work. Because of course I'm cutting it close again. I start to hand the cab driver a piece of paper that has directions to my workplace written in Hangul and he waves his hands. He already knows where to take me. Apparently, I've hailed this same cabbie before and he remembers me! A real example of how often I test my limits when it comes to time.

I thought of two more things to add to my "Be prepared in Seoul" list. (It started out as three, but now I can't think of the last one. Of course.)
  • When you go to an FC Seoul game, which you will because there is no way you can't, buy seats in the North Arena. These tickets are the cheapest, but the hardcore, cheering, chanting, dancing, flag waving fans sit on that side.
  • Do not ride the Disco Jump in Dongdaemun unless you have a death wish. I think the operator might get off on the possiblity of really killing someone.
This week= End of Intensives, Lisa coming on Wednesday, and rafting and bungee jumping on Sunday!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Advice for the ill-prepared expats in Korea

First of all, I'm astonished that I've started three entries in the month and nary a one has been published. Now it's been exactly a month and I feel that I must.

I've been quite busy. What with Summer Intensives and traveling here and there every weekend, I haven't had a moment to myself.

I decided I would write down the things I've encountered so far in Korea that could've went much more smoothly had I been informed.

  • Be prepared to not have any money coming your way for the first two months. I couldn't tell you how lucky I am to have people that care enough to lend me survival money.
  • Go to the Seoul Global Press Center as soon as you arrive. They have great information for expats, and provide many services for free. This was the easiest way of procuring a cell phone.
  • Join Korea Adventure. I love to travel and it is very difficult to plan and reserve when you don't speak the language. They take care of everything for you and have quite the selection of activities to choose from.
  • Buy a grandma cart. The kind that is made of metal with two big rubber wheels. It will save you when you realize you need to buy everything you need to live in your apartment and you don't have a car. It's good for groceries as well, unless you're lucky enough to encounter a very sweet Korean woman that carries half of your load with you to your elevator.
  • If you're taking a cab, write down the closest subway station in Hangul on a piece of paper. If you think you can pronounce it from the Romanized sign, you're wrong. You can point to tell them where you want to go from there and say Yogi (like the bear) when you want to stop.
  • When arriving to the airport, tell customs you would like to change your visa to a multiple entry visa. It will save you a lot of time if you plan on leaving the country at all during your stay.
  • Eating alone in Korea is somewhat difficult unless it's fast food. So, make friends or cook at home. I've been doing a lot of the latter.
  • Find a subway map you like and keep it with you at all times. I very much like the one from the back of the 100 Best of Seoul book. It's free from any tourism information center.
  • Bring hydrocortisone from home. The mosquitos are vicious here and it will save you from a sleepless night after an afternoon of bloodsucking.
  • Learn Hangul. I still haven't and I know it would make my life so much easier if I sat down and focused on it. Shame on me.

That's all for now. I'll experience more and add to this list.

I'm looking forward to rafting and bungee jumping weekend after next. I have also had a fantastic time meeting people and making new friends. Saturday I plan on riding the Seoul City Bus tour and attending a professional soccer game with Matt, after which Holly and John will be coming up to do some midnight shopping (finally!). This weekend will no doubtably be fun. As always it seems.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Salutations Night, goodbye garish light of day

I love spending time with Holly. She's fantastic and I'm so glad I know her.

I went to visit her this weekend in Daegu because we planned on attending a pool party to celebrate her friend Anna's birthday. I jumped on a train directly after work with help from John (he weaved through the crazy traffic of Seoul in order to get me to Seoul station in time for my train). I arrived in Daegu a half hour earlier than Holly had expected, so I hung out in the train station to wait for her. They were playing this creepy American movie with John Cusack dubbed in Korean so it ended up frightening me even more.

a week later...

finishing and posting :/

didn't get home/sleep until the sun was up both days that weekend. So much fun to be had out of an X-tra Large Capri Sun bag-cocktail. Swimming and beatboxing to clay made on a stage at 7am. Fun fun.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'm in line to buy time

Time is such a weird concept to me now. Now that I've really begun working I've realized the hours I keep are better than what they were in college (considering just my school schedule). I'm able to stay out until 4-5am and wake up at noon with time to spare before I have to leave for work. Awesome. Also, talking to folks back home is a time traveling experience. When they start their day, I'm ending mine and vice versa. I've been thinking about trying to keep more reasonable hours so I can do things during the day, but it's so godforsakenly hot!

Mud Festival. What a great festival! Where else can you mud wrestle, take a mudbath, throw pottery and swim in the warm beautiful ocean with no one looking at you funny? Most definitely will have to go again next year. I was also lucky enough too meet a great group of people on the bus ride there and spent the weekend with them along with Holly and Elisha. We should be getting together again for the International Fireworks Festival this weekend in Pohang. Yay!

My new apartment, albeit small, is perfect. When I first walked into it I was a little turned off that it wasn't totally clean. I've been told in Korea people don't clean apartments when they move out of them. The first thing I did was make a run for E-Mart (it used to be owned by Wal-Mart so you get the idea of what it is) for some cleaning supplies. Now it's clean with almost all my basic necessities, except food. It's mine. I can't wait to get paid so I can have a housewarming party!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Good Evening Class!

Getting to work today was quite the exciting frustrating adventure. On a map I have, one of the folks from work circled where out school is in relation to the hotel I'm staying at. I tried walking to it yesterday and failed. Even though I couldn't find it then, I was totally confident in being able to find it today. Wrong. I ended up hailing a cab and having him call the number on the business card. The school wasn't even on the printout map I had. On top of that I was expected to be at a 2:30pm meeting about which I had never been told. Tomorrow will be better.
Today was my first day in a classroom. The original game plan was for me to shadow for a week and then take over someone else's schedule on the 20th. Nope. Not today. One of the teacher's had a sore throat and wanted to go home, so that left the option of me teaching.

I was so happy the class I was teaching was learning the same lesson I had prepped for during the training. I step into the classroom and these kids are zombies. They're all about middle school age and in a lower level class. So not only are they in their awkward stage, but their embarrassed about how they speak English. These kids also have had school since 7am nonstop until my 7pm class that doesn't end until 10pm. I would probably want to kill myself if I had that schedule.

Just imagine me standing up in front of that class using all the energy and animation I can muster to get these kids engaged, and they just stay zombie-like. However, they did start to warm up to me when it came to reading and speaking. I'll take that :)

I met a bunch of the other teachers and after class a few of us decide to go out to celebrate. At first I was a little disappointed that more people weren't coming. I really don't want to have lame co-workers, right. It ended up being six of us heading to a chicken and beer place. They seem really cool. John is going to help me go dSLR shopping after I get my first paycheck. He's trying to convince me to ride a motorcycle while I'm here as well. Oh man. Eunice is also from Cali, albeit LA. Brandon is an Apple whiz. He can jailbreak my iPhone for me! Bruce from Scotland had attended the same school my sister Niki is attending in Thailand right now. Wtf! Such a small world.

I hope it's not another torrential downpour tomorrow and that I get there on time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Next Step: Life Basics

If I didn't have to sign my contract today I definitely wouldn't know what the date was. Wow, preparing for today was nerve wracking. Holly and I stayed up until 2:30 this morning prepping our lessons for our final mocks. We knew we had the English Chip down, we made it our bitch! But I was really nervous about the Memory English lessons. We barely had time to prep for it. After a tortuous week of training and pompous arrogance, we have passed! I'M DONE!

Thank god.

I think I would have killed myself if I didn't finish today.

Well, Holly jumped on a train to Daegu where she's assigned and here I am, chillin at my new work place. Sarah is my Branch Manager and she's really nice. This facility is so nice, although that doesn't really surprise me. So many places I've been to in Seoul are beautiful and high-tech.
We had lunch at a mall where there was a waterfall under the staircase!

I was just interrupted by a delivery guy.

The local restaurants not only deliver, they do it on real plates and table settings (and sometimes even tablecloths)!

They drop it all off and then come back a little later to pick it all back up.


I've been told I'll be staying at another hotel until my BM can find a smaller apartment for me. There are a couple instructors that have contracts ending and they share a place, but she says it's too big and expensive for just one person.

This next week is going to be quite the adventure. I have to figure out how to open a bank account and use it (student loan payment is quickly approaching), where I'll be living, get my "green" card, and feel out my new work environment. Exciting!

I'll keep you posted :)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Are you sure I'm qualified for this?

Third day of training is complete. Pretty intense. I feel like I'm working from 8-5 and still have to come home and prep my mock lessons for the next day. Right now I need food and a distraction, so here I am.

I need to figure out why I'm getting these terrible migraines... I've been blaming them on the SI masks (because they smell funny) or maybe it's the smog. Either way my head is pounding and I don't know how to read Pain Killer in Korean. Kawawa face.

Hump Day.

So excited about the light at the end of this tunnel! I can't wait to move into my new apartment and see the location I'm going to teach at. Although, after the few instances I've had with Korean technology, I'm not sure if I'm qualified to educate children...

Holly (I call her Holry because that's how everyone says her name here) and I plan on attending the MUD FESTIVAL! Chicka Chicka. It starts this weekend and goes through to next weekend, so we just have to figure out how to do it. It looks like so much fun. I can't wait!

Over the weekend, Holry and I met up with Steve, a guy I found out I had a class with at State!
And to make the world even smaller, I met a girl at training who lived in Racine and knows my friend from high school, Munjed. I moved thousands of miles away to meet people from home. Who does that?

So much to see in a city of 11 million. I can cross off Myeong-dong (high end shopping with free beer) Dongdaemun (shopping from 10pm to 5:30am) Hongdae (nightclub central) and Rodeo (too cool for school crowds).
My motto for taking on the city?
I have time.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

I Got Seoul

I'm awake at 5:30am on a Saturday so I thought I would write.

I arrived Wednesday night around 5pm into Incheon Airport. wow. That has to be the most efficient, high tech, beautiful airport I've ever encountered. We stepped out of the plane and they immediately took our temperature. Make sure we don't have swine flu! Then we walk through another gate with a man looking at us for symptoms of Swine flu, oh sorry H1N1. Gotta be pc. Huge HD Samsung flatscreens telling us which lines are for foreigners and SK passport holders. I walk over to the escalator that leads me to the baggage claim and it's activated by walking through sensors. Energy efficient ya'll-what what.

I walked outside to the bus stop, after taking advantage of the free wifi at the airport, in order to catch the one going to City Air.

I totally fell asleep on the bus even though I knew I wanted to stay awake and fend off jetlag. I get to City Air and contact Grace to let her know I arrived. She tells me I need to take the black and red cab to Hyundai Residences. We drive through the nighttime skyline of Seoul. It reminds me of Vegas, New York and San Francisco and at the same time is like nothing I've ever seen. Each of the multitude of bridges is lit up a different way and with different colors. So pretty. So many skyscrapers. I'm really here!

After arriving I find out I have a roommate. Her name is Holly and she's awesome! She's from Texas and adopted Korean so she's catching a lot of slack for looking Korean and not speaking. Oh assumptions. We both decide it's food time so we head out to find somewhere to eat. We run into a chicken place where we decide to stop. Here is how our first interaction goes:

walk past the patio seating into the restaurant
Man working: speaks korean
Us: Hi, can we have a menu please?
MW: Menu?
Us: Yeah, making a menu shape with our fingers in the air, Menu?
We stand at the counter and choose Spices Chicken. Yes, Spices. Noticing the man had disappeared we ask the woman behind the grill if we can have the spices chicken. Well, not so much ask as point to the menu.
We choose our drink from the glass refrigerator and see the man back at the counter. He takes our drinks and sets them on a tray. He shows us the total and after paying go outside to the patio where everybody else is sitting.

He brings out a plastic bag.

We ordered it to go apparently. We wanted to sit and eat :( So here we are. Americans to the fullest. While everyone else has utensils and plates, we throw our bones into the plastic bag and use napkins as our plates. Not a big deal if the wings were dry, but ours had this yummy thick sauce all over it. Awesome.

We decide to walk to some buildings a few blocks away that were lit up with huge screens on them...
we stumble upon retail heaven.
Department store after department store with stages and music playing outside. Crazy tall buildings with nothing but shopping inside! Vendors outside selling even more and food. We found out these stores don't close until 5:30am. NYC as the city that never sleeps is a misnomer. Seoul deserves that title.

We arrive home around 12:30am and just as we settle in, we get a call. It's Jennifer from Chungdahm and she has our thermometers for us. In order to begin training, we have to take our temperatures twice a day, at 10am and 5pm and email the results to Tawei. These thermometers are old school mercury ones in Celsius. I don't know if it was the metric system, the disorientation we felt from being in another country, or because we were tired and delusional, but we couldn't figure out how to read it for the life of us. Finally Holly figures it out and it's so obvious that I won't even tell you what it was.

Thursday morning we wake up to breakfast. MMM. Our employer pays for breakfast each morning. Quite the spread. Juices, coffee, milk and water of course. Three kinds of cereal, two types of kimchi, toast, croissants, different rolls, fresh fruit and salad on one table. One the other we have scrambled eggs, pancakes, broccoli with potatoes, a korean mushroom dish, rice, egg drop soup and juk. Oh yummy yummy.

It's thunder storming like a mother outside, so we kick it in our room until we leave to our medical appointment at 2pm. A taxi picks us up and takes us to another example of Korean efficiency. This health center is like an assembly line for David, Holly and I.

standby. I need to leave and I'll finish this later :)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

And Scene.

My first full day home. My body has given me a run for my money trying to get over this jet lag. So London--

I haven't said anything about London yet.

We took the tube from Paris to London (I forgot to write that earlier) We woke up quite early to catch the bus for our tour. We walked through Westminster Abbey, and it reminded me of Santa Croce with everyone and their mom trying to be buried there. The cool part, since it is the Church of England, it's just Christian so on the outside they had statues of 20th century matyrs, including MLK Jr. We watched part of the changing of the guard. During it, there was a complete black regiment and my first thought was that Britain's military was still segregated. I found out later they were visiting from Jamaica because they are celebrating fifty years of independence from Great Britain.

We then jumped on a river boat and had a guide explain the landmarks around the Thames River. We ended up at the Tower of London, a place where former Kings and Queend used to live, where they had executions and where they now keep the crown jewels.

The stars of Africa are there sitting on the top of one staff (and honestly I couldn't tell where the second one was) 500 carats!
That is amazing!

After Amalia took a million pictures, Chris and I went to have afternoon tea. Scones with cottled cream and traditional English tea with milk. It was so good! We went to meet the family afterwards to take a picture in front of the Tower Bridge. We began to wak back and Chris and I thought we had to meet where she gave us the tickets, but Jens and Amalia and Jon walked to where the bathroom is and we stepped into a sovenier shop. After awhile no one was anywhere. We walked back to where we thought we were supposed to meet and I notice our bus driving away. We wait for awhile and we realize we had been left.

I started to get really sad because I feel like people don't care if they leave me. We decided to take up an offer for 2for1 fish and chips up on the hill from an old woman and their promoters passing out flyers. We split a stella and chill with castle in view. We jumped on the tube back to Notting Hill Gate--the hotel and the family. Jon Amalia and Jens ended up getting back a little later than expected since they got a bus ride back to the headquarters of the tour and then the tube back to the hotel.

I'm tired. I'll finish later.

Monday, August 06, 2007

more ticket memories

Musei Vaticani:
Vatican Museums. So much! Rafael rooms-the school of Athens in particular. Even a Dali painting! I have pictures of all of it. Wandering around by myself was quite nice.

Teatro Dell' Opera di Roma:
Nabucco. An opera by Verdi used as a political vehicle for Italy. We saw it in the Roman Bath and it was quite impressive!

Prato delle Colonne Stagione 2007:
Momix Ballet. The one modern art piece we saw the whole time. Crazy. It was really abstract. They danced behind a screen to projections and music with lights... hard to explain.

Opera di Santa maria Del Fiore (del Duomo):
Opera actually means works, so this place is a museum of all the original parts of the Duomo. The two best pieces, well how about three... Mary Magdalene by Donatello, the third Pieta by Michaelangelo and the Choir Loft by Donatello.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Hello Paris/Hello London

It's 5:30am and I was just awoken by Amalia knocking on the door saying we needed to be up because she forgot to change time zones. My asthma feels like it's acting up so I decided to write. Paris was a whirlwind! When I arrived Chris rushed to the hotel to meet me. The next morning we had to be up and out of the hotel early to try and miss the lines for the Eiffel Tower. We didn't of course. On the way there we picket up tickets to the Louvre so at least we wouldn't have to wait in line there.

It's knind of awkward the way the Eiffel Tower tickets are set up. You just pick a leg and hope that's the option you wanted. We walked up to the first two platforms and took a Willy Wonka elevator to the top. The view was great! We took a bout a million pictures and headed for the Louvre.

On the way there we stopped by the Arc de Triumph. I didn't appreciate it as much as I thought I would since it looked like a replica of the Constantine arch. The Lourvre though was fantastic. Since everyone wanted to see the Mona Lisa I was able to see other Italian artists I just learned about like Fra Angelico, Boticelli, Rafael, Giotto...

The Mona Lisa has her own free standing wall and is protected first by banisters and secondly by bulletproof glass. There were so many people crowded around to see her and I bet most of them don't know why she is so special.

After a long day on the road we stop for some french cuisine. I for one, was not impressed. I won't say it wasn't good, but with all the emphasis on great French good... it didn't live up to the hype. Yesterday morning Amalia, Jens and Jon rush off to see Notre Dame while Chris and I go on a search for souveniers. Unsuccessful in that area but we did find a great sandwich /bakery and a farmers market stand. We bought some of the best plum-ish things, there were little green ones and a little bigger yellow ones. MMM

We walked leisurely back to the hotel where his family was rushing out to catch the shuttle. And now after a smooth 2 hour and 15 minute Eurostar ride to London, I'm here. I'm on the last leg of my European journey!

We got settled in so late we just walked down the street to find somewhere to eat indian (because Brits suck at food we hear) It was very good, but pretty pricey considering the exchange rate. Today we are conquering London with a day tour.

Oh! I forgot to mention, at the Louvre we saw a diamond that was 140 carats. 140 Carats!!
Can you believe that?
Today we are supposed to see some that are even bigger!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ticket Stubs & the end of the last day

I kept all of my ticket stubs and placed them in a written journal I kept. Here's what I remember:

Santa Maria Novella:
The Holy Trinity by Massacio (I need to check the spelling) First fresco made with linear perspective. Perfectly proportional. May have had help by Brunaleschi (sp) Lauree's favorite lecture.

Virtuosi di Venezia-Le Quattro Stagioni:
The four seasons in Venice. Always played for Rendentore. Bought the CD with Lauree.

Galleria Dell'Accademia:
The Accademia. The Music museum with Rona and the David by Michaelangelo with Rocky.

Cinema Odeon:
Saw Harry Potter with Sirena, Jessica, Thomas, Eric, Kenneth and Chelsea in a theatre that looked like it should have plays going on. We had beers while watching it and it had an intermission!

Arena Di Verona Aida:
Aida was absolutley fantastic! We saw it inside a Roman Arena underneath the stars. It included so many beautiful voices and insturments and because the acoustics are so good in the Arena they didn't use microphones. There were pyrotechnics and two long intermissions.

Galleria degli Uffizi:
The Uffizi really means offices, since the Medici had their offices here with a secret passageway to their palace, Palazzo Pitti. Botticelli's paintings "The Alegory of Spring" and "the Birth of Venus" are here, along with Fra Lippi's "Madonna with Child and Angels" We saw some of Da Vinci's work, "The Annunciation of the Virgin Mary" and so many others. It has some fabulous things inside.

I had to take a break from the tickets/biglietteria in order to finish cleaning the apartment and get out. Jen left at around 4:30am and so it was just me and Helena for the rest of the day. We walked over to Accent and check our email. I sent Chris the flight information just in case he didn't call before Helena left (which he didn't). Helena and I left our bags there and started to roam about Firenze trying to figure out where to eat. We decided to go to Cafe Amerini across from our apartment. MMM. I will definitely miss Italian espresso, and as much as I hate to say it... paninos too. After eating our brunch we headed over to Mercato Centrale near San Lorenzo so I could buy pistachios for the train--haha I mean plane ride--I've been in Italy too long. We bought a half liter of red house wine and cheered our last cheers in Italia.

Helena's sensitivity must be rubbing off on me.

We walked back to Accent so Helena could call a cab to take her to the airport. After a quick goodbye (Helena starts the water works if it's too long of a goodbye) I walked over to Amex to change the last of my travelers checks just in case something crazy happened at the airport again. I left in time to catch the 14:30 bus to Pisa airport. This time I know I have more than enough time to get to my plane. Although I couldn't help but doze off for a few minutes here and there on the bus, I took in as much of the scenery as I could.

I love the villas in the rolling hills, the yellow of the sunflower fields and the tall thinness of the Cypress trees (it's like Italians model themselves after those trees) Everytime I've come close to Pisa I find myself searching for the Leaning Tower. Still haven't seen it . Maybe I'll see it next time I come to Italy.

Here comes a new and exciting part of my summer adventure, PARIS! But before that happens I want to reflect on as much as I can about my last week and a half/two weeks in Italy since I slack on writing quite a bit. I am really impressed with the dynamic of our group. There was always someone who opened a different door for me, gave me a new perspective or reminded me why I believe what I do. The trip has changed me and to what extent I may to fully know--only time will tell. One thing for sure...this is only the beginning of my journeys to new lands and far off places. I can never go back to the sheltered American girl I once was. I wonder where I will go next.

Five hours later...

So I'm on a plane to Paris which I felt descend just a bit. I sat next to a husband and his daughter, both of whom are French and don't speak any English. I love children so it didn't stop me from making facial expressions to get my point across. I've spent the last hour reading Time, eating pistachios and drinking frizzante water. The flight attendants offered up scratch cards for a E1.50 and as with all things that are based on luck, I lost. Although the woman right before me and the husband sitting next to me both won!

Saying Goodbye

I can't believe the program is over already. Jen just said goodbye to jump into a taxi for the airport. I didn't want to end it with such a negative entry.

Me, Jess, Helena and Jen went to the beach at Via Reggio and it was fantastic. Since it was a Saturday we wanted to spend the day there. The train ride there was crazy! Oh these Italians. Things always seem like a "Find your own adventure" book. It took us so long to get there and back because we had a hard time figuring out the train schedule.

In the last few days I've enjoyed the very best gelato in town which I later dragged Helena, Jen and Jon to eat. MMM the no name gelataria on the way to Piazza Michaelangelo. I also enjoyed a sunset over the River Arno with Rona, Stephanie, Eric, Ken and Andrew. I have some gorgeous photos. We had a farewell dinner at Mamma Mia and it was incredible. We had penne with meat sauce as the primi piatti and Veal as the secundi and Tiramisu for dessert. I also enjoyed a bottle of wine on the steps of Santa Maria del Fiore aka the Duomo with my roomies. This time we had some forethought to come home and get cups instead of using gelato cups again.

I'll most definitely will not miss the mosquitoes! They are a whole other breed. I've gotten to the point where I have to wait for Helena to wake up before I can finish cleaning so... I'm going to put in my ticket stubs and see what I remember...

Monday, July 23, 2007


Last night, Jen, Helena, Carrie, Jesica, Sirena and I went out to dinner at this Argentinian restaurant and had a great time. The Colleseo was completely over the top. Our guide explained all kinds of crazy shit. There were 80 something entrances so 70,000 folks watching blood sports inside could enter and exit in less than a 1/2 hour. the heat here is almost unbearable. It's different from Florence because here it feels like a thick blanket. Even the breezes are hot. The bus ride back to Florence was about three hours. Not too bad considering Jessica (Carrie's sister) shared her violet candies. MMM. Chris keeps talking about the rain in Switzerland. I am so jealous!!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Nightmare on Villa Della Vigna Nuova and Roma

This past week has been a nightmare.

Wednesday all the roommates have a meeting to put everything out in the open. Thursday I come home to a laptop soaked in wine, pigeon shit in my pillowcase and my food tampered with. Who knows what else she fucked with. The director of the Accent programin Florence is giving us no kind of options to deal with our very unfortunate situation. It seems as though the other students are very supportive and want to help me (us) out in our fight against the machine.

On another note...
Rome is amazing.
We watched Nabucco in the Carcalla Baths. It was a more intimate setting in Rome but I don't think anything could compare to the Roman Arena. Today I almost died pushing myself to see all I wanted to see in the Vatican. Coquering a city/state in a half day is quite the task. The sheer volume of art in the Vatican collection is unimaginable. I used my guidebook to give myself a guided tour. I wanted to do this on my own, as my own "pilgrimage". I didn't see the Pope, but I did get an offer to buy my MTV Italy book by Paolo, the owner of the Sistine Bar because they mention him in the book.

St. Peter's is by far the most impressive church I will ever see. The Pantheon was great but more on that later. I picked up a beautiful rosary bracelet for grammy and Amalia's spoon. If all roads lead to Rome than why does Capital Hill face the Vatican? Of all of the Roman ruins made me wonder how civilization occured here while at the same time in America ther are native American tribes as nomads with no written language. I've been in constant contact with Chris and even though I talk to him everyday I still miss him like crazy. I can't wait to see him in Paris.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Recap V&V

I am currently waiting in the police station in Firenze in order to create a police report. It doesn't seem to be very effiecient so I decided to write.

Venice is beautiful, ungodly hot, but beautiful.

We arrive and after we take a tour of the Palace and the Church (Basillica San Marco) we all took a ride on the gondola. It rreally lives up to the hype. It's wonderfully romantic and our gondolier told us he had seen many people propose. He even let me drive!! Can you believe that??

Saturday was Rendentore--which means redeamer because the people of Venice survived the Black Death Plague. They string lanterns along the Grand Canal, party boats are everywhere and fireworks begin at 11:30pm. Vivaldi composed concertos celebrating Rendentore and we were able to see The Four Seasons performed at a theatre off of Sn Marco Piazza. Lar, Helena and I searched, well ran to find a perfect spot to set up Helena's camera for the fireworks. We did after jumping a fence and standing on stone blocks in t he water. Helena claims they turned out great but I haven't been able to see them yet.

Verona was everything you imagine a city that set the stage for Romeo and Juliet would be. Full of houses with balconies made of wrought ironand flowers, love notes stuck to Juliet's courtyard and a Roman ampitheatre. Incredible. Part of the original city walls still stand and the arean was built in the 2nd century BC. We watched Verdi's Aida under Roman stars and a wonderfully beautiful setting. I'll never be able to see it any other way.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

reunited and it feels so good

This past weekend was my excursion to Venice and Verona.

On Thursday Chris came to Firenze early in order to spend more time with me. I skipped Rona's class and went to the train station at 9:30am to meet him when his train arrived. It was like a movie. I thought it would be so difficult to find him but as soon as I walked throught the gates there he was walking straight towards me. We walked to the apartment so I could pick up my map and we could find his hotel. It turns out his hotel is near the train station (Santa Maria Novella)

When we get there his room isn't ready so we drop off his luggage and swing by San Lorenzo's open market. He picked me up some fresh basil, lemons, black pepper and asparagus. Oh I almost forgot! Before that he was extremely hungry so I suggested we go on the other side of the river to find someplace a little less touristy. We ended up walking outrageously far and came back across the river to a little restaurant. We had pizza, pasta, wine and great conversation. I love talking with him.

After all that running around (post-market as well) We decide to open a bottle of wine and hibernate in the hotel room until around seven when we worke up. We knew his family was arriving soon so we cleaned up, grabed the food and headed over to my apartment to drop off the food. While we were there I finished up my laundry while he cooked some aparagus. I made a salad and enjoyed my favorite vegetable with my favorite person.

After, we went to the hotel to meet up with his family for dinner. We went to della Carmine (my favorite restaurant here) everyone really enjoyed their food (so much they ate there the next day too!) Me and the boys met up with Jenn, Carrie and Jessica (the sister in laws) and we went to J.J.'s our frequent late night spot. We chilled on the steps of the Duomo until about one and headed over to the hotel. I stayed with Chris on a tiny twin bed.

I had to wake up early to catch the train to Venice. We woke up earlier than we needed to so I could shower and get some breakfast. After our espresso and and crossaint, he also got me a sandwich and oj for lunch. We headed over to the train station and he got to meet all of my friends in the program. When I was leaving I was so sad leaving him. I'm sleepy now so I'll write about Venice and Verona later....

"As long as I can remember, for all of my spirit's days, All of my journeys have been roads home to you."