Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Things they are a changing

As mentioned before, moving to Seoul was not a hard move. I have settled in pretty easily. What has been shocking about this move though is that it has changed me, for the better. Some of the things that I thought I was incapable is no longer true! For any of you who have lived with me or know me really well you know that "neat" is not really in my vocabulary. I have lived my whole life keeping my clothes on the ground and piling up dishes. Well since I have been here that has greatly changed. It first started off with doing my dishes every night. Though I must confess this was originally because I was trying to keep the bugs away. Then slowly I started making sure my apartment was clean every night before I went to bed. My place is so small that the only way to stay sane is to stay neat. I think cleaning would just shock people but there is more! I cook! I cook actual meals that can be eaten! Of course I have not tried feeding other people, I am not that confident yet, but feeding myself is a first step!  Those have been the three main changes and hopefully my next change will be running! I am currently training for a 10K race in Jeju Island and I hope that I will catch the runner bug!! 

While there have been some changes, somethings will never change! Today I transfered money from my account to the Jeju race account... of course I managed to leave out one number so either my money is now bouncing around in ATM world or got transfered to some weird account. I guess the small things will always slip away from me!

Below is a video of my apartment! It is pretty boring, its more for my parents and family but if you want a mini tour watch away!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

bills for my... ovaries?!?

Bills are kind of a weird but wonderful thing here in Seoul. So you get the bill in the mail and you just bring the bill to any bank. Then you either pay the teller or put it in this machine with your bank card and it takes it right out of your account. I am pretty sure this is the only way that you can pay bills here (which causes its only problems since the banks are open from 9:30 to 4:30). The other odd thing is that there is no (or hardly any) penalty for the bill not being paid. I paid a bill 5 days late today and there was no extra charge or anything. People at my school say they go months without paying for a bill. Since there is no penalty for not paying, it does not seem people give a change of address. So at my apartment I get bills at least a couple times a week. I have gotten bills for my car payments, 2008 taxes for my child's school, my land line, at least 4 cell phones that I seem to have and then other random sheets of paper with money amounts on it that I tend to just chuck out. Sometimes I bring the bill to my school and ask someone to translate it for me just to make sure I dont have to pay for it. Sometimes, when I get really ambitious I take out my trusty phone dictionary and I look up the words on the bill. 

Today was one of those ambitious days. I looked at the categories and saw there were two. I looked up the first word and it meant car. I was very impressed that I got it and tried the next word.... this time it was ovaries.... yea so it seems that I have to make a payment on my ovaries. Thankfully though they are only going to cost me 7,920 won which is only about $6, really I wouldn't pay a penny more! 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I ended up at my first baseball game much sooner than expected. I was invited to attend a Boosan Bears' game last Wednesday by a girl who I actually know from church in Libertyville and she lives not too far from me here in Seoul (I know small world). Anyways, I was really excited to go to a game since I knew baseball games in Asia are much different than a game in the states. In the states I think baseball is more of a hangout game. The games are so long you really can't be yelling and cheering the whole time, like at a college basketball game. Also, lets be honest, most people go to a game to get drunk, talk to friends and enjoy the summer weather. If you are lucky, you might get up and cheer if there is an extraordinary play. But if they are losing, forget it, you are not getting out of your seats at all. 

Now think of everything I have said and then turn it 180, that is a game in Korea. People are cheering the entire time. Each player has his own chant that fans chant when the batter gets up. There are also cheerleaders and then a man who is the lead cheerer. There is also these huge drums that two people beat. If it is a full count, only reasons to get louder, even if you are pitching. Team is down by two? Not time to get sad but instead just increase your cheering! Besides the atmosphere was completely different, it was also funny to see who was there. It was mostly older men, who were really into the cheers. In front of my was about a group of 30 men who were all still in their business suits. All you could see were these black suits pounding away on their thunder sticks. It was a sight to be seen.

We also got to witness something else very cool. Between all the innings there were doing "challenge 2009" on
 the jumbo tron. The first one was write your name with your butt in the air, there was also kiss the person next to you... typical things you see at any professional sporting event. Well between the top and bottom of the 6th a guy was picked for the challenge. He got up on the stage with his girlfriend (you could tell they were dating because they were wearing matching clothes). Jokingly Michele and I were making up dialogue for what was going on because that is what you do when you have no idea what anyone is saying. So we start talking about how their challenge is to get married.... and what do you know... about 2 minutes later he is on one knee!! He purposed. In the US the girl probably would have been falling over herself, but this is Korea. The girl was having NONE of it. If she could of she would have jumped off the platform! When she said yes, which I am assuming she said yes since she took the ring but there was not much more emotions than mortification, she would not kiss the guy. He gave her a kiss on the forehead because when he went to kiss him on the lips she put her hand over her mouth!! And this is all going down on the main screen, it was fairly hysterical. After their challenge was done, they got some envelope, I decided it was a certificate for them to get married....at the field.... on the pitching mound.... and a years worth of throwing out the first pitch. 

Overall, loved the baseball game and can't wait to spend the summer hanging out at the stadium for lazy sundays! oh yea the stadium is 4 subway stops away! PERFECT!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

An oasis in the midst of the chaos

One of my favorite places in Seoul (aside from the department stores) is a neighborhood called Insadong. There area is about 30 minute subway ride from my apartment and I first explored it when I went to a knitting store there. Insadong is known for it being more of the traditional/old Seoul. The Seoul before the war and all the globalization. Here is where you will find the houses that are about 100 years old and the "crafty" items Koreans are known for. If you are ever in Seoul and you need souvenirs, this is where you need to go. Since it is one of the few areas that still has that cultural feels, it is very touristy. But the tourists in the area don't really get to you because it is just simply charming. There is a main road that is for the most part a pedestrian road. Then off that road there are all sorts of little winding alleys that have restaurants and traditional tea houses. I have been here a couple times to just look at the shops and pretend I could buy some things. 

The last time I went though I decided to walk down another main road. As I was walking I came across the first post office that had a little museum in it. I took a spin around in there and then found a small fountain to sit by and read. After awhile I decided to take off my headphones (which I do not do enough) so I could listen to the water. As soon as I took off my headphones I could hear chanting. So I started walking in the general direction till I found a HUGE temple. 

There were people filing into the temple. I walked around the outside till I 
came to the side which was all windows. Inside was full of people chanting and meditating in front of 3 huge golden Buddhas. The chanting from outside was being amplified to the outside. Also, there were paper lanterns strung all over the courtyards. The lanterns had little paper tags hanging from them (prayers maybe?) and they were fluttering in the wind. The noise sounded like birds flapping or the rustling of leaves. So I found a bench in the courtyard and sat and read. Enjoying the chanting and rustling papers. It was one of those moments, not often experienced, where everything just feels perfect. I am so happy that I have found this lovely area that I am sure I will be back 
to visit often, an escape from the city right in the middle of it all. 


On April 1st we went to the S. Korea v. N. Korea qualifier game. It was in the World Cup Stadium here in Seoul which is just beautiful. The place was built for the 2002 World Cup which Seoul cohosted with Japan. So everything in the stadium is clean and modern, which is a nice change from hanging out in stadiums like wrigley. Last time S. and N. played each other the game ended in a tie. Everyone said that it was a terribly boring game because both teams were being very diplomatic and there were no shots on goal. This time though both teams really needed to win to advance so it was much more exciting. We had amazing seats about 5 rows back, behind the net. So for the first half we got to see tons of actions because S. Korea was dominating and we were sitting behind N. Korea's goal. At half time there was no score but they did bring out this Korean figure skater who had won the Asian Championships just that weekend. Everyone went WILD when she came out. 

The second half was about the same as the first. Lots of shots on goal but no goals. Lots of soccer players throwing themselves on the ground even though they had not been 
touched. Honestly I feel there were some future oscar winners on that field. At one point, a gurney carried a guy off and then the moment they were on the sidelines he jumped off and ran back on the field.
Anyways, at minute 86 I really had to go to the bathroom and decided to go since in 4 minutes the game would be over and I didnt want to deal with the crowds. The bathroom was literally a 100 ft from our seats so I ran to the bathroom, got in the stall and..... AHHHHHHYEAAWHOOO (thats tons of people cheering) The only goal was scored by S. Korea and I missed it! I wasn't too shocked I missed it because I always miss scoring in any sport. Actually, I have decided if I had not gone to the bathroom the game would have ended in a tie, I am still waiting for my call from the coach thanking me for my sacrifice. 

After the game I hung around with Nick and Vehlow because of my phobia of crowds and the fact thousands of people were going into one small subway station. Before we left the stadium though I made Vehlow buy me a light up wand because honestly who doesnt want a pink light up wand? So we went to the GS25 (7-11 like store) to get some drinks and hang out with 1,000 of our closest friends. One thing about Seoul is that people LOVE their convenience stores. 
All the little marts have seats out front to sit in. They also have hot water and microwaves so you can eat anything that you buy.
So it is not uncommon to see people having meals at the marts. That nights there were tons of people eating Ramnan and drinking soju out front while celebrating the victory.

Now that I have gone to my first soccer game here, I can't wait to go to a baseball game!!!

new comers

I have two new kids in my class. John and Kyungjun. John has spent that last 15 months in the United States going to school. He came back here last may and was in another private school (Canadian International School, which is neither Canadian nor international) for the past year. For some reason he decided to switch school, no idea why but it does make me a little nervous. The last time a child switched schools and came to me was in Brooklyn and I got myself Charles Bishop. Not surprisingly this kid reminds me a little of Charles, minus the total thug part. John's english is really good and he understands more than most of the kids, his vocabulary is HUGE. But he cannot write at all. This is a common thing for kids who went to school in the states. Since we do not stress writing at an early age or spelling the kids are great talkers and thats about it. In Korea they stress learning how to read and write at the very start. My kids could easily enter probably a 1st grade room in the states even though they are only 5. 

Anyways, John will definitely be a handful but at least we have no communication problem :) Kyungjun on the other hand is another problem. I dont think he understands much English which means he gets into a lot of trouble. He constantly doing silly things like lay across the tables and is ALWAYS speaking Korean. You probably think this is not a problem but in my school its a huge problem. If any child speaks Korean its 5 minutes no play time. Kyungjun spends a lot of time at his desk. 

At the moment my class is at 20 but at the end of April my favorite boy, William, will be moving to the United States (the Americas as William says) for awhile. I don't know how long he will be gone and I really hope that when he moves back he will be back in my class! He is such a fun kid and I am going to miss him alot!