More, nom nom nom ~

Here are some random pictures of food I’ve been eating/consuming/making here in Korea. If you’re wondering why there seem to be a *few* pictures of waffles, you just don’t understand how amazing waffles are here until you try them! YUM!!

The best dessert I’ve had in a LONG time – who knew that such a simple thing like waffles could be so dang delicious??

This delectable dessert that I had the pleasure of consuming was bought at a little coffee shop in Myeong-dong, my favorite neighborhood in Seoul.

~ AND ~

Update coming soon!

 

Soooo, here we are again – my apologies for the total lateness of me updating all of you on how my move to Korea has been going – it’s been crazy busy!

So firstly, I’ve been taking pictures with my iphone, and my DSLR – obviously there is a huggge difference in quality, which you can see ~ but it’ll have to do, since most of the time I really don’t feel like lugging around the better (but extremely bulky and heavy) camera around.

My first official meal in Korea – Dokbukki!! YAY!

So I arrived late Thursday night, and was driven directly from the airport to my new apartment. According to Oppa, it’s not even an apartment, since most apartments are in huge, 20 story buildings. He called my building a “villa,” which sounds way classier than it actually is. But it’s quiet, and while it is definitely NOT what I’m used to (the entire bathroom is the shower, and yes, EVERYTHING gets wet) it’s going to be my home away from home for at least the next year, so I’ll make it work.

Oh yeah – check THAT out. Notice the awesome cable lines all over the place. My apartment window is the one on the far right, on the 2nd floor. What you DON’T see is the abandoned refrigerator right next to the front door, that the garbage men CLEARLY did not want to take – they finally caved after about two weeks.

The middle school I’m working at is a nice 5 minute walk from my apartment. Words cannot describe how happy this makes me, especially since the past four years have been a long +1 hour commute each way to and from work. Since I need to get to school by 8:30 every weekday, I leave my apartment at approximately 8:20 every day. I give myself an extra five minutes because showing up early makes me look better. Haha. The subway station is about a 10 minute walk in the opposite direction, and while it’s a bit farther into Seoul than I probably would have liked (between 45 – 75 minutes, depending on where you want to go in the city), it’s still pretty good. I’d also forgotten how much I love the Korean subway system, and how cheap it is.

Some kind of chicken stew – totally delicious, and it was stuffed with rice and other yumminess.

The kids are soooo cute, especially the 1st Grade level students. Middle school here is essentially 7th, 8th and 9th grade in the US. The 7th graders are known as 1st grade, the 9th graders are 3rd Grade. Each student wears a uniform (all public and private school students do in Korea) a name tag (conveniently color-coded so you know what grade they’re in) and adhere to a pretty strict dress/personal appearance code. For example, girls are not allowed to have hair longer than their shoulders, and MUST have bangs. I find this odd, I never knew showing your forehead was a bad thing. Boys can’t have hair past their collars, and sideburns ala anime/Asian style are a big no-no. Everyone also wears slippers at school, and every morning and afternoon, ALL students clean the school top-to bottom. Corporal punishment also exists here, which I kind of knew, but still wasn’t expecting. The first time I saw a student get whacked, my jaw dropped open. To be fair, students have to be reallllllllyyyy bad to get this type of punishment. Most of the time, they’ll get severely lectured, OR the ultimate punishment – have their Mom called. (I shudder just thinking of it.)

Anyways, the kids are cute, and say cute things too – walking through the halls each day, I’m bombarded with “hello!” and “teacher, you are so beautiful!” and “I love you!” I love it. I teach either 3 or 4 classes a day, the rest of the time I stay in my office and “deskwarm,” meaning I can lesson plan, cruise the internet, or even take a nap if I wanted to. Because I am the only native speaker at the school, the school set up a pretty interesting schedule for me. All 1st grade classes I see once a week (they receive English classes from Korean English teachers the rest of the time) and the 2nd and 3rd grade classes once every other week. I’m not sure how effective this method is for the students to actually learn English, but on the other hand, this means that I’m essentially responsible for ONE lesson plan, every week. I think I can probably handle that.

Meaaaatttttt……

Other than school, I’ve been running around trying to really get situated here – that means going out and buying stuff for my apartment, applying for an alien registration card, getting a bank account set up, getting a cell phone, paying my electricity bill, etc etc. I had no idea when I got here that there would be so many miniscule, minute details that all add up to a greater whole. Who knew that I’d miss salt and pepper so much, until I realized I didn’t have any? And can I just say, a girl can never have too many hangers. Even after a month, and I am still making lists of stuff that I need to buy. Butter and tupperware are the next big things I need to get.

My first attempt at making kimchi pancakes. Edible, yes, but my entire apartment was filled with smoke by the end of it, and I had to open ALL my windows to clear the air. I’ll improve, I’m sure. Then again, eating out is so inexpensive, I might just resort to that.

I try and get into the city as often as possible, especially on the weekends. I’ve been really lucky, and been able to hang out with Oppa quite a bit. I think he likes that I’m here, but on the other hand, I’m still pretty worthless when it comes to communicating to anyone what I need in Korean, so he’s got to play translator alot. He even came over one time, just to show me how to operate the washing machine I have in my apartment. (NO dryer though, they’re not that common in Korea. You hang everything up on a clothes rack. I hate it. I like my stuff soft, and drying stuff also shrinks things back to their normal size, after you’ve stretched it out by wearing it. As it is, all my tank tops and tops are saggy and loose as hell. Grrrr.)

First field trip with the school, to the Gyeonggi Modern Museum of Art.

The first few weeks were pretty hot and humid, although a few days it rained like crazy. I mean like, typhoon-worthy raining. (And actually, there WAS a typhoon, the week before I came.) Immediately after Chuseok though (the equivalent of Thanksgiving in the US – the entire country shuts down for a week to celebrate), the weather dropped, and it’s been really nice. It feels like Northern California actually – a bit chilly in the morning, which burns off by 10 or 11, and the rest of the afternoon is perfect. I’m not looking forward to the notoriously cold Korean winter, but as my Mom is going to visit me soon, and bring me all my winter clothes, I should be fine. I don’t even remember the last time I lived through a snowy winter, I might be pleasantly surprised.

The wall of the museum….one of these, is not like the other….

Purty fountain outside the museum.

I’ll try and update more often, I promise!

That last Thursday I had to check out of the co-op – I had grandiose plans about making my way to Tokyo for a few days before my flight back to the States on Saturday, but that quickly fell by the wayside. Mainly, it was way too expensive, and I was exhausted, both mentally and physically.

So I checked myself into one of the fanciest hotels in Seoul, in one of the fanciest neighborhoods – the Imperial Palace Hotel in the neighborhood of Gangnam. This hotel was no joke.

The Imperial Palace Hotel at night.

The toilet alone (I just realized how much I’ve talked about toilets, but really, they were totally different than anything I’ve experienced before!) was worth it – it was heated, had about 20 different controls, AND had an automatic lid that opened and closed on command. I did NOT take a picture of it.😉 I promptly passed out for the entire rest of the day, in my luxurious king-sized bed.

Friday was my last full day in Korea, and I did a little test for myself, successfully taking a taxi to and from the Coex Mall, where I did my last-minute souvenir shopping, and generally tried to soak in as much of the Seoul atmosphere as possible.

I treated myself to breakfast at one of the many coffee shops at the Coex Mall. I felt very worldly, sipping my coffee and reading my (English) newspaper.

After I got back to the hotel, I putzed around a bit, flirted with the idea of taking another nap, and found myself down in the lobby area where they also had a coffee/lounge place.

Yummy little pastry that cost me 15 buckaroos…

I spent the afternoon and night with my old Korean tutor Hyejin (love that girl, she is so awesome and rad.) We walked around Myeongdung, ate ice cream, did some shopping, then went to a restaurant in the neighborhood where we sat and ate, and consumed a reasonable amount of soju…

Some stew, I forget the name of it, but it had yummy beef in it and noodles, and was, of course, delicious.

We said our goodbyes at the subway station, and promised each other that we’d keep in touch, and that I’d come back and visit as soon as I could. (which, because I loved it so much, can’t come soon enough, really.)

Oppa picked me up on Saturday afternoon at the hotel, for my evening flight back to California (he accidentally hit the “HELP!” button in the bathroom, so when the front desk called the room asking if everything was okay, I had to lie and say I had accidentally hit the button, sorry my bad.  But who does that?!)

In general, I was trying not to get too emotional, but I was truly sad to leave. The whole car ride there, I found myself staring out the window, and trying to hold back the tears (behind my very large sunglasses so Oppa wouldn’t call me a baby.)

The outside of the 63 Building – the picture doesn’t really do it justice, since the exterior up close is bright gold.

I love this picture, which I took on the way to the airport…it kinda says it all, doesn’t it? Goodbye Mother Land!

I left on Saturday at 5:50 pm, and arrived back in California on Saturday at 12 noon. It felt odd GAINING time back, but I was pretty exhausted after the long flight , so I couldn’t really enjoy the “extra” time that I was given. It felt weird eating American food, and using a fork – I wanted to eat Korean food, and use chopsticks! I also attempted to stay awake until nighttime, to get back myself on California time, but I passed out on the sofa around 6 or so…

And now I’m back, dreaming of Korea, and hoping to go back soon….Stay tuned!

All day Monday was spent reviewing and studying for my final test – I really have not studied as hard or as long as I did on Monday since my old college exam days, but by the end, I definitely felt like I was prepared for the grueling, 4 hour, 4-section test to take place on Tuesday.

IMG_8120A girl’s still gotta eat – Dim Sum, Korean Style.

After my final (which I felt good about, but was completely wiped out and exhausted after) Oppa took me to a Chinese restaurant in Bucheon.

IMG_1646Have I mentioned my love for anything/everything misspelled? I chuckled at this one.

IMG_1650But still, the food was yummy, so no complaints.

Wednesday was the last day of classes, and I was SO sad – at the end, our class got really close, and it was really hard to say goodbye to everyone. We all went and enjoyed one last meal together, and took a cheeseball picture to send to our teacher (I actually cried when I said goodbye to her because a) I’m a total crybaby and b) she was so damn awesome)

IMG_6693 ~ Sending love to our beloved teacher. I tried to rebel when I found out we were going to do the heart/love pose, but I was seriously rebuffed by everyone else.

It was even sadder after the lunch, when, as we were walking, our group slowly dwindled in size. As each person left, and went their separate ways,  we’d stop, hug, say goodbye, and wave. As the group got smaller and smaller, I got sadder and sadder, knowing I’d probably never see my fellow classmates again😦

Oppa cheered me up by taking me to 경복궁, or Gyeongbokgung Palace, which I had been trying to get to all week ~ It’s one of the largest/oldest palaces, located right in downtown Seoul, and there was A LOT to see…We did a lot of walking around the palace grounds, and there were quite a few tourists walking around (the largest amount of foreigners I’d seen in one spot, actually)

IMG_1654The Main gate to the Palace – notice the guards/flag bearers in full costume. I felt sorry for them, because it was still pretty warm, and most of them had fake beards on. haha.

IMG_1674There was a ton of these different animals statues located in strategic places, mostly representing the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

IMG_1685The ceiling of the main palace building. Totally ostentatious, but still so beautiful.

IMG_1728Pavilion where the Kings used to have parties….the pond was filled with HUGE Koi fish.

IMG_1742Love this picture, mainly because the other side LOOKS like a painting, right?

IMG_1767An outside view of the one of the main buildings.

From there, we went to the 63 Building, which has the honor (?) of being the tallest building in Korea. It’s exterior is also a shiny gold color, which just adds to its prestige. It’s got a large Aquarium, and also an art gallery located at the top of the building. We checked both out.

IMG_1785Fishies in the aquarium.

IMG_1796art in the art gallery. Mostly everything up there was pretty modern, which I was actually surprised about – I expected to see more tradition Korean art, since the 63 building is a major tourist spot.

IMG_1806A view from the top of the 63 Building – and a view of the never-ending traffic that is Seoul. The view from the top was fantastic.

IMG_1820Can’t forget the food – this is another meal of sangyupsal, SO yummy – look at all that juicy fat!

~up next – Fancy hotels, and saying goodbyes….sniff sniff.