Tuesday, December 29, 2009

White Christmas in Saigon

I arrived in Saigon early afternoon. As I stepped off the plane and into the airport, I looked out and saw lush greenery, I inhaled floral scents (jasmine? orchid) and looked around at the very modern airport. Hmm... doesn't LOOK communist. After going through immigration and customs, I stepped out and hopped into a cab.

My first impression of Saigon/Vietnam: It reminds of New Orleans! Albeit with a massive amount of motorbikes. Y'all, this be crazy. I have never in my 26 years seen anything this frenetic. Think of a river choking with salmon swimming upstream to spawn. Hopefully you get the point. And if you still don't watch this video:

So after arriving at my hotel, Nhat Tien, I decided to venture out into the city and explore. My first stop was the Ben Thanh market, an assault of the senses. There were vibrant flowers, glitzy necklaces and bracelets, nose clogging scents, basically sensory overdrive. I wandered through the stalls looking at the knick-knacks and souvenirs made in China. I walked through the food stalls and tried to figure out what was what.

Done with wandering, I tried to make my way over to the "backpacker district" but had absolutely no luck finding it. I was starving and really wanted to find a good pho restaurant (apparently there are a ton beside the market) but came short. Now, for those familiar with Vietnam/HCMC I know what you're thinking, "you can find a bowl of pho ANYWHERE." Yes, there are hundreds of stools outside of buildings with an old lady sitting over a stove on every street. These street stall getups are probably the best place to have a steaming bowl of pho. But remember, kind readers, this is my first solo sojourn and I still need a smidgen of modern comfort.

Turning up short on pho, I walked over to a restaurant that had a big neon pho bowl on its side and walked in. Unfortunately, I did not see anything resembling pho on the menu. FORTUNATELY, I DID choose a dish that was delectably right! It was like a Vietnamese version of pad thai. Vermicelli noodles, pork, shrimp, egg, bean sprouts, onion, peppers, carrots. Deliciousness when I needed it the most. Plus a refreshing Lipton iced tea loaded with lime and sugar! I was indeed satiated and quite pleased with this discovery.

This gave me the energy to brave the steamy Saigon evening. As I walked along a park, watching the procession of motorbikes, it hit me that tonight is Christmas Eve. Despite the twinkling lights, and the little kids all dressed up like Santa, it did not feel like Christmas. Who eats ice cream on Christmas Eve? I did! I spotted Fanny's (a joint I read up on in the Lonely Planet book) and thought a chili chocolate ice cream with candied oranges might put me in a holiday mood. It didn't, but it was still an interesting taste. I did manage to play peek a boo with a little Vietnamese Santa Claus. He was a cutie.

Jet lagged and stuffed with good eats, I went back to my hotel where I promptly had the best sleep I've had in a very long time. I woke up the next day refreshed and revitalized. Yes, Saigon was doing good for me and my bones....

A Word of Caution Brought to you by my Parents

After a very long procession of emails back and forth, I was finally about to Skype with my parents this morning in Bangkok. As planned, I am going down to Koh Samui to meet up with Jamie but instead of taking the overnight train, I'll be taking a bus. (I'm in a PC cafe waiting out the next 30 minutes).

Anyways, after updating them on my itinerary my parents wanted to give me a piece of advice:

Mom: Casey, your father and I watched a show about the tsunami that happened in Phuket 5 years ago. Be very careful. I want you to notice anything that does not look right with the water. Watch the water.

Dad: Yeah, but watch out, 'cuz those things happen really fast.

Mom: That's right. So if you see anything strange- RUN! Run very fast!

Dad: Go where the animals go. No animal has ever died in a tsunami. They know things. We don't. But they do.

So instead of relaxing on the beach, working on my tan and sipping a fruity cocktail with an umbrella in it, I'm going to have to spend the next few days checking on tidal discrepancies and monitoring irregular bird migrating patterns... in case I need to save the people on Koh Samui and ensure that we will all be here to see 2010 (which is ONLY 2 years away from 2012...).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

The Christmas Concert went fabulously! I am so proud of Yellow Class... I hate to brag but we were the best (duh.). I'll be putting videos up when I return from my trip.

But I wanted to leave you all with a few videos spreading some good holiday cheer, brought to you by Fruit By the Foot.

Despite the fact that I'm on the other side of the world from much of my family and friends, I must say that I feel the warmth and love that you all have given me from many miles away! I'm thankful for so many things in my life, who would have thought a year ago (just 12 months ago I was one of the many unemployed during the holidays) that I would be blessed with so many things. I don't take these blessings for granted and am so appreciative of the love that I have from so many people.

Mom and Pop, above all, you are truly wonderful for EVERYTHING you have done. From sending my birth certificate after I lost my passport, to my kickass Christmas Care Package (despite my efforts, it has shrunk considerably), to letting my bank know I'll be spending copious (hopefully not TOO copious) amounts on my travels for me, to just letting me BE here to experience this all. I sincerely wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

OK folks, signing out from Seoul... see you (maybe?) in Saigon... and if I don't, as they say in Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh,

"Chúc Mừng Giáng Sinh!!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Packing with Lil C

I will be plane bound in a few days and yesterday I started to pack. Yes, I feel like the night before the first day of school and I have my looseleaf paper in my Lisa Frank binder, along with 5 mechanical pencils, 2 blue pens, and 2 red.

I think Little C (aka Casey aka the Cat) knows something is up. She's been observing me cleaning the apartment, opening my closets and putting clothes in. Taking clothes out and putting them back into the closet. Giving me the side eye fueled with suspicion. I'm taking her to Nabiya tomorrow after work, the apartment will definitely be quiet without her. I'm hoping my neighbors will appreciate the silence from my apartment for the next few weeks.
"Oh. I see what you're doing here."
"Iz nots happy and Iz wants to go with yous."

Has anyone tried to go backpacking with a feline before??

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Beach- a Back Packer's Cautionary Tale

I watched The Beach tonight... I probably shouldn't have.

Sure the island shots are gorgeous and yes, I think this certain beach is what every tourist has in mind when they think of Thailand... but the grungy, disgusting shots of Bangkok and Koh Phangan just... don't make me too excited. And apparently they CGI the hell out of that imaginary beach.

Perhaps this does work in lowering my expectations as they might have been a little too high.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gettin' Antsy With It

So, today is December 15. On December 24 I will be en route to Ho Chi Minh City, aka Saigon.

Still waiting for my Visa for Vietnam along with my new E2 Visa to go along with my new passport because I lost my previous passport. Hope there won't be any complications...

Dec. 24- Arrive in Saigon
Dec. 25- Celebrate Christmas with a steaming bowl of pho. I have yet to try pho and am a little nervous about it, but have been assured it's like beef chicken noodle soup.
Dec. 27- Fly from Saigon to Bangkok
Dec. 29- Take an overnight train down to Koh Samui to meet Jamie
Dec 31-1 Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan hopefully??
Jan. 1- Take overnight train back to Bangkok
Jan. 2- Fly out of Bangkok
Jan. 3- Fly back to Incheon/ Recover in Seoul
Jan. 4- Teach class.

Is this crazy? Will my body be able to take this? Will I psyche myself out once, twice, every day? Yes, yes, yes. We'll see...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lots of what?!?!?!?

What would you do if....

Jack: I won't be here Monday. I go to trip.

Me: Where are you going Jack? Can I come too?

Jack: I don't know where I will go. Bangkok!

Me: Ooooh! Well I will go there for Christmas, too! Why are you going to Bangkok?

Jack: I don't know why I go to Bangkok. We go..... *thoughtful pause* There is lots of Banks! And lots of Cocks!!

*horrified pause* What do I say? What do I do? How do I react? Meanwhile...

Jack: Yes! Banks and cocks. cocks and cocks and cocks and cocks! In Bangkok! Bangkok has many banks and cocks. Is right, yes?

David: Yes! Cock cock cock cock! Like chicken say.

Jack in the background: We go see lots of banks and cocks in BANGKOK!

Honestly, how am I supposed to act? Do I just pretend not to hear anything? Do I chastise him or tell him not to say that, thereby letting him know he is saying something he shouldn't be saying? Do I laugh? I just do the next best thing and drag Mindy into my classroom so Jack can tell her where he is going this weekend...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Adult Education

Waiting for my kids to line up for Library Class (yes this is a class where kids check out a book, read it, and then take a quiz on it) I eavesdropped on a conversation:

Jasmin: You cannot kiss when you are married in a church.

Louis: Yes you can! My parents marry in church and then they kiss.

Jasmin: No, you cannot kiss.

Sera: No, Louis is right. You can kiss when you marry.

Jack: No no. You get marry and then you go to love motel and kiss. Right, Casey?

I just look at them dumbstruck.

How do kindergarten students know what a love motel is?? For those outside of Asia, love motels serve several different purposes, emphasis on LOVE and not so much the "motel" part. Although I do know plenty of new teachers who have had to shack up in these places for the first part of their stay in Korea. Apparently you get a choice selection of "movies," "toys," and contraceptives.

Like I said, my kids are too smart for their own good...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Big Fat Korean Wedding

This morning, I dragged my sleepy heiny outside and braved the cold for Sunny's wedding. Sunny is one of the accountants at our school and a COMPLETE sweetheart. Had the wedding been for someone else, I probably wouldn't have gone. But I'm happy I did! We boarded a yellow bus and headed to Happy Suwon. At the wedding hall, slyly named Hotel Ritz (the Ritz was not so ritzy but still very elegant) we witnessed a Korean wedding similar to the ones going on simultaneously on the 8 floors below it.

The Korean wedding is a head scratcher for most foreigners. From the oddly outfitted ushers who more or less resemble Korean Air flight attendants, to the nonstop chatter from the wedding guests throughout the ceremony. Yes, we even saw the father of the bride on his cell phone during the ceremony smack dab in the front! Everything is more or less for show, with the western traditions (cutting the cake and vows) practically empty with significance. These are just photo ops to go into their wedding album. Is that so bad? Might they actually have a point? Doesn't a wedding equal one big photo-op?

However you may feel about Korean weddings you have to go if only for the GREAT food. The buffet was delicious. I filled myself up on salmon, chicken, ox tail soup, chap-jae, crab legs, ribs, and yummy dessert before piling back onto the bus with Mike, Michael, Mindy, and our Korean supervisors to head back to Seocho by 4:00. Oh yes, did I tell you the whole affair only lasts about 1-2 hours? It's bada bing bada boom because, of course, there's another wedding at 2:00.

Mom's March, don't ask why the lighting effects are green...

You should see these girls with nunchucks.

Korean cast of Glee

Nothin says classy elegance like a fake champagne tower. Is that Cristal?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mika in Korea

Thankfully the music industry has taken note that Korean fans are hardcore... I was lucky enough to catch Lady Gaga in her second trip to Seoul and while I thought her concert was amazing I will not be so enthusiastic to go to a concert if I'll be in the mosh pit again. Beyonce was here a couple of months ago and the Killers are coming in February.

I was simultaneously elated and heartbroken, however, when I saw this. Man I would have loved to have seen Mika in a hanbok!!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's Turkey Lurkey Time!

On Friday, my parents sent me an email displaying the tablespread of a Thanksgiving for 2. I salivated over the juicy turkey (prepared the Grandma Lucy way in a brown paper grocery bag), the scrumptious cranberry salad, the buttery rolls, and the delectable green bean casserole. More importantly, I couldn't help but feel a little sad that I couldn't be there to enjoy it with them.

I've always loved Thanksgiving Day. The slowness of it. Thanksgiving has always been a small affair with just my parents and I. It was never a hectic day with 20 people coming over, the kitchen exploding with activity or family politics. Instead, it was just a day to truly relish. The three of us would come in and out of the kitchen helping with whatever dish was on the stove or assisting Mom with the turkey in the oven. I know Thanksgiving means something different to everyone but to me it meant preparation for the holiday season and reflection on the past year.

When you're abroad over the holidays, it's a little weird. Your body is wired to be ready to celebrate an occasion but you look around and your mind isn't able to compute the disconnect. Even looking around my classroom, with handprint turkeys, cornucopias, little pilgrim and Native American coloring sheets. Something was lacking.

That something was still lacking when our supervisor bought a pumpkin pie and fried chicken for the teachers on Thursday. While it was a nice gesture it still didn't feel like Thanksgiving. I just told myself that Saturday would be the day of feasting... and boy was it ever!

The Seoul kids trekked down to Anyang to Rick and Joo's apartment. Despite the fact that Baby J is going to pop out any day, they were gracious enough to host a bevy of hungry teachers and even decorated their already gorgeous apartment in a festive fashion.

We had a traditional Thanksgiving meal (brought to you by Costco). All the trimmings were there: mashed potatos and gravy, stuffing, delicious turkey with cranberry sauce, pie, and family.

I never had an "I forgot I'm in Korea" moment, but that's ok. While my parents are on the other side of the world, I still felt the love you feel for people you care for around the Thanksgiving table. We've become our own family and this is something for which I am truly thankful.

Babies aka Eggies

Just saw this trailer and I think it could be the cutest movie ever made (behind Look Who's Talking)

Despite the fact that there is no denying babies in general are cute I'm going to have to take a stand and say Korean babies are possibly the cutest of all-well black babies are also adorable and can sometimes jump ahead in the lead but-
c'mon is this not the cutest baby ever?? Wait I take this back... HALF korean babies are the cutest ones ever! ;) Since I was a prototype in this new hybrid of cuteness many others have since followed in the footsteps of my pioneer parents. Cousins and friends have been pleasantly surprised with my cuteness outcome and have decided to have a hybrid baby of their own!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ding Dong the Mogi's Dead?

Korean Mosquitoes should be considered a Weapon of Mass Destruction. They can render a strong man into a weepy puddle of puny. Foreigners will tell you that these X-Men mutant-like bloodsuckers are the bane of their existence and while these pesks are alive, I assure you this is no land of morning calm.

I didn't mind the bites so much as the high pitched buzzing that would flit past my ears and wake me from a much needed slumber. Just hearing their "bbbbbzzzzzz" can make me sit right up and go on the offensive. Thankfully, I invested in one of those mosquito killer contraptions. You place a blue tab on something that heats up and either kills off the pests are makes them really sleepy. This is the best solution by far and I think out of the entire mosquito season, I've only been disturbed maybe twice? Which is far less than my other associates.

Hopefully this chill will knock out the stronger ones once and for all. But just to be safe, I'm going to keep lighting the blue tabs until some snow sticks to the ground.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A subway snapshot

Since the weather has turned to freezing my cheeks off I've begun using buses and subways to get to school. Tonight I was waiting for the subway praying I wouldn't be crammed into a crowded car bursting at the seams. As my car approached I let out a sigh of relief as I saw it was only moderately full.
I stepped into the car and looked to the left where the part of the car was reserved for handicap, pregnant, or elderly people. Many times if you are none of the above and you are taking up space in the section you get dirty looks and a couple of harumphs thrown in your general direction. It's the equivalent of parking in a handicap spot in the parking lot or even using the handicap bathroom stall in the restroom (Curb Your Enthusiasm reference here).
As I was settling into my little area I looked over and thought, "Uh oh, it looks like this kid has had too much to drink and doesn't know any better." A few elderly people were encircling him and I could see them talking to this guy, early 20s maybe, who seemed to be rocking back and forth, his eyes partially closed. It was at this point that I thought to myself, "Man, Koreans can't even wait an hour after work to get piss drunk?" As I was turning myself away to not stare at any imminent throwdown, I heard the lady next to me cluck and say in Korean, "So cute!"
Upon further inspection I looked back and saw two big, beautiful, calm yellow labs with Eye Dog vests lying on the floor next to the seats. I looked back at what I had previously assumed was an intoxicated fellow and realized he was actually blind. The people who had been encircling him actually had been making room for the canines afoot and were conversing with the blind man.
I've seen a lot of blind people in Seoul. Walking to work every morning there are at least 2-3 Koreans with walking sticks and a human guide in my school's neighborhood. But coming upon seeing/guide dogs has been a much more rare occurence. Back home in Texas, it was a normal occurence but seeing guide dogs (no pun intended) here in Seoul usually perks my attention.
My stop approached too suddenly and I was a little saddened to have to get off so soon. There was this very peaceful feeling at the back of this car. An elderly woman seated next to a blind woman with one of the dogs extended her gloved hand and gingerly rubbed the dog's chin. A content smile spread across her face and made its way over to mine.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What's Up Doc?

* warning, this might make those with weak stomaches a little queasy so read with caution*

A few weeks ago during a "meeting" one of our supervisors said that we would all have to have another round of health checks. Raised eyebrows waved through the teachers. "Does it matter that I had mine two months ago?" No it did not.

Many things that happen in the workplace here in Korea have rarely been met with as much skepticism and reticence than this mysterious health check. What, pray tell, are they checking for? Swine flu? Herpes? Questions regarding this medical visit were met with vague responses. The only information given to us was that we wouldn't have to pay for anything, our blood would be taken, we weren't allowed to eat anything after 8 am, and there would be a van that would come to the school.

Yesterday during lunch the van pulled up and the teachers all piled into an elevator to take us down to who knows what. A line of employees led to a small white van (no bigger than the yellow school vans that transport our students) with white coats spilling out carrying scales, coolers, and other medical paraphanalia. "That's where they're going to put our kidneys!" Mindy pointed to the red and white coolers being carted up to the 5th floor. The foreign teachers all let out awkward and uncomfortable chuckles. Little did we know that for the next 90 minutes we would continue standing in line, trying to assuage our uneasiness with humor.

Outside, they took our chest x-rays in the van, apparently checking for tuberculosis. The van door remains open and you walk up to it while the technician tells you in Korean to step up to the xray and stay still. As I made my way out of the van doors I pretend to collapse and clutch my heart while exclaiming, "It hurts! It hurts!" No one finds this funny besides Stephanie and Mindy.

Cut to the 5th floor. No classes going on but the hallway is crowded with Korean teachers from Appletree (the preschool downstairs), bus drivers, and the foreign teachers lined up holding dixie cups filled with pee. I can say that there have been a few times in my life where I have truly felt. Weird. And standing in front of a bunch of accquaintenances holding cups of their urine has to be up there in the Top 3. Mindy, Stephanie, and I refused to stand there with our pee until the absolute last minute. Some female teachers were a little discreet and placed a paper towel on the top while others let it all hang out. Ahem.

As we drew closer to the front we could peer into the classroom turned examination room and could see multiple stations resembling the same tests we had for our first health check arriving in Korea.

I stepped up to the first station. Weight and pee check. The doctor spoke English but only the funny kind. He asked me to get on the scale and as I tried to make my posture give me an extra inch, the height measurer bopped me on top of the head. "Ouch!' He laughed as I sat back down and said, "Ooooh, I take 2 kilo off for your clothes. Ok? You look." He pointed to the electronic number that was my weight (yay! I can't convert kilos into pounds so I don't know if the number was good or bad). "2 kilos. Ok?" he grinned at me. I said, "Sure." "2 kilos. I take off. Your clothes 2 kilos." "Yeah I got that." "Yes! I take off because I'm so nice." I look at him. We stare at each other and then I realize my reaction and then playfully say, "Yes!! Yes! So good! Woo hoo!!"

This elation allows him to move along and stick a pH test strip into my cup. I thought back to those 2 cups of coffee I had downed after 8 am to spite the powers that be and hoped it didn't throw anything off. We (me, the Doc, and the people standing in line behind me) watched as he placed the strip over the cup and watched it change color. "Gee, you know I'm really leaning towards the coral for the master bedroom but this sunflower yellow just would really brighten up the room, you know?" Nothin! What a tough crowd. He waves me over to the classroom and I go grab an eye cover from the Korean optometrist. I sit down and go through the numbers, letters, and then go to the lady sitting holding the headphones.

"Hey! Let's trade iPods!" She smiles and flips switches as I raise my right hand, then left, and then for the hell of it I wave em both in the air like I just don't care! I get a giggle out of her. Me= 1 Docs= 1. Then she hands me a syringe and points to the sadist at the next table with about 15 vials of blood. I hate needles. My fear has subsided substantially but shots still suck. Since I had to get my blood taken regularly back in Texas I braced myself. I offered my right arm, rolled up my sleeve, and then did the Plano Clap (for those that don't know, Plano used to be the heroin capital of the world or something). But I did it and looked at the guy while saying, "like this, ok? tap tap tap!" and he smiled, nodded, and said, "tap tap tap."

"No, don't say it. Do it!"
"Tap, tap, tap. Ok." After a couple seconds of psyching myself up he says, "No good, other arm."
"What?? Aw man!" So I offer my left arm and told him, "Find a big one, buddy." Truthfully it wasn't that bad, I think Stephanie didn't fare as well.

I walked out, promptly went down to the Family Mart, and bought myself a coke and a hotdog. I was starving... So I'm hoping I don't hear anything concerning results from the health check. No news is good news, right?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Carol Challenge

Alright, I have to pick two songs to have Yellow Class sing at our Christmas concert... any suggestions?

I wanted to do Last Christmas by Wham and All I Want for Christmas by Mariah Carey. But thought these might be a little too complicated. Then I thought maybe David Bowie/Bing Crosby's duet of "Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth" but STILL thought I might be shooting too high. I just don't want to do Jingle Bells or We Wish You A Merry Christmas... ideas???

Friday, November 6, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

I've tipped over the quarter century mark as of yesterday... but the great thing about time changes is that I actually was celebrating my birthday over a 3 day span as some wishes spilled over and a few sent pre-emptive birthday wishes the night before (which would be 2 days before in Texas).

Anyways, my 26th definitely topped my 25th. It started with:
* An awesomely decorated desk courtesy of Mindy and Stephanie filled with goodies from our local Family Mart. All the delicacies were there: Pringles, Corn Chips, Snickers, Kisses, and a Coke.
* Adorable birthday cards made by Yellow Class during Circle Time. Louis even wrote, "Casey Teacher. I love you many much. You can be me teacher every day. Monday, Tusday, Wendsday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You are my favorite."
* A birthday serenade from all of the Super Kids classes plus afternoon teachers and a way too rich cake from Tous Les Jours (bien sur!)
*Copious well wishings on my FB profile. NOW I understand why we have Facebook. The self validation you get from seeing so many people who you know (and who you kind of/sort of know) seeing the reminder on the right screen telling them it's your birthday. It's the equivalent of having your name in the phone book... you're SOMEBODY!
*An awesome dinner at On The Border with my teachers treating me to dinner and yes half a margarita, because we all know, that's the limit. I think my alcohol tolerance has gone down considerably since turning 21...
*But what truly was the icing on the cake was this. And honestly this was the best thing I could have gotten....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Hope everyone had a good Halloween. As my favorite holiday (behind Mardi Gras) I like to go all out in everything I do. This year I had not 1- not 2- but 3 costume changes.

1) A Doll

2) Bloody Mary

3) A Voodoo Doll

We also had our kids trick or treat throughout the building, carved jack-o-lanterns and did a creepy haunted house. Each classroom also had a little activity that the students would do. Yellow Class had the Donut Dangle. Donuts were hung on a string and the students had to eat the donut without using their hand. VERY VERY entertaining!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Planet Song

To my few loyal readers:

Much apologies for the long hiatus. This month has been stressful/busy/draining as we have had to deal with a field trip, report cards, the usual lesson plans/weekly reviews, Open Class (more on this later), and now I find I am in charge of setting up the Haunted House for our Halloween Activity Day.

When I come home all I want to do is just veg to Ninja Video. However it is finally Friday and I have most of the above crossed off my to do list.

Yesterday was Open Class and it was a big pain in the booty. Twice a year our school opens the classrooms to the mothers so they can see how well rehearsed- I mean intellectually stimulated- their children are and how well they have improved with their English. We create an elaborate lesson plan to showcase their kids. Moms come in with cameras and camcorders so they can show their friends how much better their children are doing at XYZ hagwon and why their kids are doing so much better than their friends' kids who go to ABC hagwon.

My previous Open Class in July was a big success, I did a lesson on life cycles and felt pretty confident going into this next Open Class. And I have to say I did a pretty good job. But the icing on the cake was the musical number, "I Know the Planets."

Pretty cute, eh?

The kids liked their head pieces so much they wore them for the rest of the day. For lunch today, David (still wearing his head piece) was eating lunch and stuffed his face with mandoo (meat dumplings). He looked so cute that I had to take this video:

P.S. Just to cover my own hiney, there is no underlying racist tones in this video whatsoever... he had a mouthful of mandoo and the thing with his ears was entirely HIS doing!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Welcome Back Charlie!

On Saturday, we welcomed back a familiar face, Charlie.

Charlie was editor of the magazine Liz and I worked at, SpeakEasy. Charlie, like the rest of us, cast out his line far away from Korea but found himself pulled back in. We had a big reunion last night in Hongdae. It was Vivian, Anton, Andrew, Liz, Charlie, and myself. First order of business- food.

Once we arrived at the galbi restaurant, we were ushered upstairs at the galbi restaurant..like red headed stepchildren and were tucked away in a corner by ourselves. The reason why we were denied dining al fresco? Personally I think they just wanted to save their street cred and hide the foreigners from street view. But THEIR excuse was that apparently, you can't cook pork outside.

Now can someone tell me the difference between cooking beef and cooking pork outside? There was absolutely no tell tale difference when we were cooking beef and pork upstairs on the "terrace". I'll just chalk it up to another Korean idiosynchratic pile of silly... like not flushing toilet paper down the toilet but instead throwing it into a wastebasket atop a bunch of other wads of used toilet paper... mmm toilets and galbi!

After a very enteraining dinner (conversation = A+, Food= D -) we headed to Diggins for a brief taste of Funk Music and then to Nomad for some Jenga, Captain Cocks (that's their insane version of Jack and Coke), darts and Liz dragging an unsuspecting Korean man to the dancefloor for a quick K-Pop dance lesson. After hearing numerous songs from Mariah and Janet, I simply was not content to just singing along at a table... I wanted a mic.

Next stop was the Candy Shop Noraebang. You would think with (what Westerners would deem) an excess of noraebangs in Hongdae, it wouldn't be a problem to get a room. Wrong. Even for it being rather early (around 12?) we had to stoop into several establishments before even getting someone to tell us we'd have to wait 10 minutes for the next available room. Well we certainly weren't going to let that room go after all that trouble so we rocked out for a good 3 solid hours. Songs ranged in styles and tempos. There was some Boyz II Men, Hall & Oates, Kim Carnes, Ricky Martin, Jamiraquai, Beyonce, Meatloaf, Stevie Wonder, Queen, Mr. Big..

However I am going to get on my soapbox and say that my Fleetwood Mac AND Kelly Clarkson selections were prematurely aborted! Noraebang etiquette states that should someone hit the cancel button on someone else's song, said offender should either let victim choose another song or at least fill up the victim's Buy the Way dixie paper cup with an acceptable liquid apology.

Now I don't REALLY know if there is any sort of Noraebang etiquette but there should be... maybe that will be a future blog post.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bow Wow Bauhaus

In an attempt to distract Liz from the departure of a good friend, I took her and Eva to Bauhaus Dog Cafe in Hongdae.

I'm going to stay away from the whole "dog as food" controversy and just say that Koreans LOVE their pets. They love dogs and now cats are slowly winning over a few Koreans (Cat cafe post soon to come!). However it can be a challenge keeping a pet in Seoul. So what does the animal lover who can't realistically keep a pet in the city do? Well, go to a dog or cat cafe of course!!

Bauhaus is a cafe where dogs run the establishment. You've got the big dogs (Great Pyrenese to Labs to Golden Retreivers to a giant Malamute) all the way down to the toy breeds (or as Liz likes to say, the ones you can drop kick). Honestly, it's Cesar Milan's wet dream (Cesar is the Dog Whisperer, dont'chaknow) as it's just one huge pack of dogs running around. You think the humans are the pack leader? No no, the employees just walk around mopping up messes and puddles. They do a great job, always on top of a "situation."

From outside you can already hear barkings of all ranges- yip yip yips to woof woof woofs to mong mong mongs (that's the Korean equivalent to "woof"). You walk up to the 3rd floor, hop over a small gate and enter into the cafe.

Dogs of all shapes and sizes come over to greet/ smell you. The human employees take you to a booth and drop off a menu consisting of teas, coffees, shakes, and alcohol. As I wait for my oreo milkshake a couple of friendly pooches come over to say, "Hi!" Some sit and stay, others decide we aren't that interesting and walk on over to the next booth.

Bauhaus is a wonderful place to visit if you're feeling down. It's scientifically proven that playing with a pooch raises your blood pressure and gets the warm and fuzzies going in full production. What could be better in picking you up than a warm lick on the face or a cold wet nose pressing against your hand?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Kid Cartography

While doing a science unit on keeping Earth beautiful, I had my students draw a picture of Earth. Kids' perceptions are the darndest things!!


  • Busan is an island.

  • Japan is approx. the same length and size as South America

  • USA, America, and North America are all different continents

  • Size of China


It's going to be a quiet R&R Filled vacation for me. While the rest of the city floods out to the smaller towns in the countryside, I'm hibernating in my apartment, preparing for winter.

Chuseok is Korea's equivalent to Thanksgiving. We had an activity day for the kindy students on Tuesday. The students arrived wearing hanboks, the traditional Korean folk dress. These kids look so adorable and I must say, they have certainly upped the fashion factor of hanboks since I wore one when I was younger.Each classroom was assigned a certain activity. Stephanie taught them how to bow, Mike and Michael played games, Mindy made lanterns, and I taught the kids how to make songpyeong.

We had balls of rice cake (ttok) and a mixture of brown sugar and seasame seeds (kkeh). The kids would roll small balls of ttok and flatten them out. Next they would put a small spoonful of the kkeh and seal up the ttok to make the songpyong. Basically they're just sugar dumplings. This would seem rather simple but the ttok would get super duper sticky and I had a plaster of rice cake on my hands by the end of 5 classes coming through.

For the first few classes I tried to do my best in making authentic songpyeong. But by the end, I just threw the rules out the window and basically took off little chunks of ttok and dipped them into the kkeh mixture. One of the younger 6 year olds one upped me and just started eating the brown sugar/seasame seed mixture like it was cereal... I would let Stephanie handle his sugar frenzy later.

Our director also got presents for the teachers. These gift sets are pretty hilarious. They can range from Spam, to Shampoo/Bodywash, to tuna (says Mikey who received a nice tuna gift set from his school).

What could mine possibly be?

Are they trying to tell us something?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Whose Is This?

Just so you all know, I had my camera with me today at school and I took a WHOLE bunch of videos... if you watch them all at once, it will be exhausting but a very accurate capture of the craziness that I endure on a day to day level. However, I'll do my best to get the series of 9-25-09 up here as quickly as possible.
Our first little spotlight is on Paul... The kooky one in the front weating a yellow shirt.

Paul is quite the character. He is a bright boy (lived in Boston for a year) so his English is quite good. However he is, in a word, neurotic. The smallest things put him over the edge, he can get hysterical from 0 to 60.

When he doesn't understand something he'll say, "Teacher, what can I DO?!?!?!?!?!?!?!" and once I go over the directions he'll say, "oh, yes, I knew THAT!" Funny the first time, not so much the 87th. Despite all this, I see a little bit of my child self in him. Not sure if that's so great...
P.S. Paul is looking at absolutely NOTHING in these series of pictures... he is (if anything) reading the class rules on the wall. I just thought this was a pretty funny shot what with all the chess action going on in the background. :)

In this video he is determined to get the phrase, "Whose is this?" out of his mouth. And then congratulates himself and does a weird victory dance.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I'll Make Love to You Noraebang style

Liz and I did the honor of serenading Daniel and his new wife, Lana, at a Noraebang as our wedding present. Their first dance was to the classic, "I'll Make Love to You" by the inimitable Boyz II Men. While performing our number, the father of the bride (the most awesomest ajussi in Seoul) took what we thought were pictures of our performance but it turned out to be a series of short videos. With the wonderful editing talents of Liz Teacher I now give you this video. And yes, we sound THAT amazing!! Enjoy!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mikey Teacher vs. Chicken Wing

Tuesday Nights are Wing Night at Rocky Mountain Tavern. The wait is horrendous (good luck getting anything in less than 45 minutes) and you are lucky if your full order is right. But these are the best wings you will find in the Land of the Morning Calm. For 300 won a wing, it's a bargain so the wait is at least worth it.

Mikey has slowly been teaching me the Ways of the Wing from which flavors to order (a Lemon Pepper turned Creamy Cool convert) to how to properly eat a wing (you have to take the wing by both joints and twist).

Seeing Mikey Teacher eat his wings is pretty funny. He means business and focuses his whole attention on gettin down. So I put Mikey to a challenge: How fast can you eat one wing?



The more time I spend in Busan the more grateful I am when I return to Seoul. It's not that I don't appreciate the beach, but honestly, Busan is a poor man's Seoul... However, I did want to take advantage of the last of the summer sun so Liz, Lori, and I took the KTX on a Saturday morning to Busan last weekend. We met up with a few people who rented out the "penthouse" of a motel. We had a sick view of the ocean from our balcony!

The weather could not have been more perfect, the sky was crystal clear and I was a little worried about the crowds we would have to battle to find a spot on the sand. However, I was pleasantly surprised once we saw the sand and surf. There was hardly anyone on the beach! Once September rolls around, the Koreans stay away from the beach like Way-gooks stay away from white after Labor Day.

If I had taken a picture at this spot a month earlier you would not have been able to see much more than umbrellas everywhere!

At times, I felt like I was back in the states, it was so strange to overhear conversations in English. I did see a lot more foreigners this time around. Apparently there was some sort of surf competition going on... though, as you can see, the waves were less than gnarly.

We spread out and soaked up the sun. I could feel the vitamin D soak in and felt very content with the few hours outside. With an encore of sun the next morning I felt revitalized and energized... but I still fell asleep at 8:30 on Sunday night when I got back to Seoul.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Big Chill, Seoul Style

After a lovely afternoon in Yongsan, Liz and I went back to our old stomping grounds, aka Daerim, to meet with the SLP Teachers of '06-'07. Is it amazing that after 3 years we all are in Seoul at the same time once more? Well, it actually is.
The St. Opistel and the Funky Bunch was my first family away from home. The first night in Korea, Rick, Daniel, and Adam took me out until the sun came up. Then Andrew and Liz came into my life and I really felt that everyone had their place... even good ol Jun! There were fights, there were dramas, but the great thing was that at the end of the day, everyone would be in your corner if necessary.
3 years later, some have married, some have kids (or are expecting kids), and we've all received some wisdom lines and maybe a gray hair or two. But the fact of the matter is that we loved each other enough to get together at our old green galbi restaurant we frequented back in the day. *My gawd I just said "back in the day."

I truly hope this isn't the last reunion for the SLP Family but as I looked around the three tables that we took up I couldn't help but think of the wise words of Ms. Carrie Bradshaw:

"The most important thing in life is your family. There are days you love them, and others you don't. But, in the end, they're the people you always come home to. Sometimes it's the family you're born into and sometimes it's the one you make for yourself."

And while I'm here in Seoul, this is definitely the family that comes to mind.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Snip Snip

Decided it was time to change up the 'do. Went with Vanessa and Stephanie to V's salon and thought I would give the bangs another whirl. Good thing is that it always looks good when you walk out of the salon. The bad thing is that it never looks quite as good when you try and style it yourself.

We'll see how long this will last, and worst case scenario is I end up pinning the bangs back until they grow out again. For now, I enjoy my Koreanized haircut!


Sunday, August 9, 2009


One of my goals in returning to Korea was to become more involved. I gave myself the option of leaving it open-ended as to HOW involved I could be and in what arenas I should I could become more involved.

Before coming to Korea I browsed through some Facebook groups and came along Nabiya, a cat shelter located in Itaewon. It's a haven for kitties young and old and is run by a fabulous woman, Allie. I go in once a week to volunteer (clean 'em, feed 'em, and cuddle with 'em) and have been doing it now for over 2 months. And now I'm actually a lucky foster of cute Casey (or as I like to call her, "Lil C"). Casey is from Camp Casey, a military base north of Seoul. She's about 8 months old and is a sweetheart and the perfect little Southern Lady. I thought of renaming her but if I did that it would make it harder to foster her and not just snatch her up and adopt her. It's VERY hard not to but I know my lil man, Bosie, is waiting for me back in Texas- I'd like to think he is eagerly awaiting my return but my mother likes to point out weekly that he's most likely forgotten all about me.

Anyways, Nabiya joined forces with Animal Rescue of Korea, aka ARK and held a fundraiser at Rocky Mountain Tavern in Itaewon last night. Supporters came out in big numbers to see live bands (some good, others not so good), hear a hilarious MC, win some loot in a raffle, and witness a date auction. I had the (lucky?) opportunity to put myself up on the auction block for a good cause. But let's face it, I was just really desperate to get a date in this city!
My friends came out to support/witness/laugh and point at me as I went up and stood among the crowd of auctionees. I surveyed the "competition" and thought, not too shabby. Some decent money should be raised. The date auction started at around midnight and the event had been going strong since 7:00 so I assumed people were decently liquored up.
The first girl went up and got 110,000 won. Not too shabby and then it was my turn to go up. My skills at hamming it up fell flat and at one point, I thought I could hear the cicadas outside, but slowly I got up to 80,000 won and the lucky winner was, *drumrolll* Mikey Teacher!
So we're going to celebrate with some On the Border and enjoy Lady Gaga at Olympic Stadium tonight!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lone Star Reunion in Seoul

One of the biggest differences in my second round as a teacher in Korea are the number of people I know here. Of course there are familiar faces from my first time around (Liz, Adam, Rick, etc) but I didn't think some of those familiar faces would be from Texas! Surprisingly, I know quite a few people from the Lone Star State ( and a few more are in transit, or on the way!) that now reside with me in the Land of Morning Calm. Lauren, Jon, and Jacob are currently in South Korea and these 3 are from my circle of friends originally in Plano, Texas. Lauren was my roommate at the Venue in Richardson. No lying, our apartment was fabulous. Unfortunately we both found ourselves victims of the recession at the same time. Lauren and her boyfriend Jacob went to Daegu in March and yours truly headed back to Seoul in May. It's been awhile since we've seen each other and this past week, Lauren and Jacob took a train up to Seoul from Daegu and we had a nice Texas reunion with another good buddy Jon. Jon is actually teaching at my first school, living in my original apartment building. We're about a 20 minute subway ride from each other, and luckily I have been able to meet up with him a couple of times since I've been here. Oh and we're planning on Bali for Christmas, too!So with Jon and I as the official tour guides, I had tried to brainstorm all the things we could do in Seoul for the weekend. My only problem, how were we going to fit all the fun and amazing stuff to do in just two days??? I attacked a city map with the strategic focus of a general planning an attack. Should we start in Insadong and work our way out? Start the day in Itaewon and move east? Maximize the activities and reduce the time spent commuting as much as possible. I sent possible itineraries to them to get their input. However, there are two realities:

1) Fun things you can do in Seoul

2) Fun things you can do in Seoul when it rains.
As Jon mentioned, Seoul is an amazing city but so much of what makes it amazing are things that you enjoy when you're outdoors.

Friday night: torrential downpours (thanks monsoon season!) but it managed to turn into a light sprinkle as Lauren and Jacob came into Seocho. They dropped off their stuff and we headed to Gangnam. Went to Woodstock and Rainbow. Met up with Michael Sharpe and he introduced us to bucket juice at Rainbow. Rainbow can only be described as a poor man's Nabi. The bucket juice got the best of me and by 4:00 we were stumbling out and someone had the awesome idea of Burger King at 4:00 am. We got back to my place and like old times, Jon crashed on the sofa (although this time, the sofa was the floor).

Flying Pan for breakfast in Itaewon. The weather only took a turn for the worse once we were inside. It was coming down in buckets (this is an expression my students are learning). After enjoying a nom nom nom breakfast (I had cinnamon and pear pancakes with walnut ice cream. What, mom? I'm a grown up now) we went to the Leeum Museum. This place is so amazing. I had seen a special exhibit for Andy Warhol previously but never took a look at the permanent collection. Love it! Afterwards went shopping at Express Bus Terminal and everyone went to their respective places to freshen up for the evening.

After having a delicious galbi dinner in Hongdae we went over to Vinyl in Hongdae. Vinyl is a fun place to go to start the night. It's this small bar that also serves streetside and you order alcoholic drinks in ziploc baggies! ZIPLOC BAGGIES! ALCOHOL! What a winning combo! I don't even know if Korea has open container laws but it's perfectly acceptable to walk down the street drinking alcohol out of a clear, plastic, ziploc bag. It's also perfectly acceptable to sit outside of a 7-11 and drink beer and soju for hours. Doesn't have the same connotation as back home.

After Vinyl we headed to Nabi and then to Nomads. We were all exhausted by a late Friday night and a full day of running around on Saturday so it was a pretty early night (relative... early is about 2-2:30 here in Seoul and back in the states that's when the night is usually over).
On Sunday we met up for Gyeongbuk Palace. But it. was. hot. After Gyeongbuk we went to Insadong, unfortunately I realized I left my handphone in the taxi. So I bid adieu to the Texans and went to retrieve my phone. After paying 15,000 won to get my phone back I headed to CoEx to meet Mikey (another fellow Texan) and end my perfectly Texan weekend with some On the Border. Oooooooh quesooooooo I love you!

Going to Busan tomorrow!!!