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!!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

No Dampened Spirits Here!

Every year in the quaint little beachside town of Boryeong, a mass group of people, Korean and foreign alike, invade the town to prance and galavant in the mud.

Mudfest is Spring Break in mud. But with Korean families and babies everywhere, too. Many foreigners come because it's pretty much an excuse to get dirty, it's socially acceptable and encouraged to roll around in the mud. Koreans come because of the benefits of the Boryeong mud, it's good for your skin!

So this year I went with Vanessa and Stephanie along with about 800 other expats in an organized mud group. Here's a quick snapshot of our weekend. *Note, the "muddy" shots are on the way as Stephanie wised up and bought a disposable, so we gotta wait for those pics to develop old school style.

Friday- 10:00 pm --We decided to go on the "early" bus that left on Friday night. Our bus was scheduled to take off by 10:00 pm. We left at around midnight. After arriving at Daechon Beach around 2:30 we waited to get our hotel assignments and walked into the "luxurious and opulent" Renaissance hotel. Waited in the "lobby" as there weren't enough rooms for everyone who had booked. We end up in a room for 6 with 3 other girls, felt like I was in a hostel. Minus bunk beds. Instead we get a yo, a pillow, and a blanket. Whoever said that sleeping on the floor is good for your back must have forgotten about the pain in your neck when you wake up the next morning. Don't fall asleep until about 4:30.

Saturday- 10:00 am -- Put on our suits and head to the Buy the Way (convenience store) situated conveniently on the first floor next to the motel. Eat the breakfast of champions, yogurt, bread, water, coffee. We eat outside with the other patrons. The cicadas were on full force and one came over to say hello. Stephanie had no interest in their mudfest welcome while Vanessa marveled at their humming. She never realized the loud high pitched drone were cicadas. After finishing, we put our mud faces on and headed to the beach.

Saturday-- 7:00: For dinner we headed to one of the few restaurants that had more than just seafood and had "galbi-tang" which was nom nom nom!! I found my new signature dish for now. While we're eating the slight sprinkle that was starting as we entered the restaurant picked up. So much so that afterwards we stop by another convenience store to pick up some white ponchos. We warily sported our ku klux klan-like raingear as we walked around the beach... as we walk around I wonder where everyone else bought their cheery yellow or sporty blue ponchos...

The rain doesn't pick up too much but we decide it's better to get out of the rain and wait until it gets darker. So we had some options, hang out at a coffee shop and drink coffee. Go to a PC Bang and maybe check out email and various facebook updates. Or... go to a noraebang. Well the answer was obvious so we headed downstairs and got a room for an hour. This proved to be the best way to spend 15,000 won as we were able to hone our skills and try out new songs that may or may not stick in our repertoire.

Have added the following to my Noraebang Hits: 1) I Do Not Hook Up - Kelly Clarkson 2) I'll Be There - Jackson 5 3) She's Got the Look- Roxette 4) Girlfriend - Avril Lavigne.

Will no longer attempt: 1) So Far Away - Carol King (because I only know the famous part) 2) Save Room - John Legend (I'm too pitchy)

Saturday-- 10:00 : Watch another amazing fireworks display. Synchronized fireworks to Regina Spektor and Queen? Hells yes. The rain is coming down full force, however the Soju/Pineapple Fanta cocktails and the exploding bursts of colors shooting off from a barge in the distance makes me forget the inclimate weather and fully, FULLY, appreciate life and the roads that lead you to those moments that make you so wonderful to be alive. After feeling zen for about 10 minutes move back up to the square and get reaccquainted with all the mud revelers!

Sunday-- 10-4:00 : Scramble to beat everyone else heading out of town back to Seoul because of cancellations due to the weather. Grab a bus and head back to Seoul watching Harry Potter on OCN on the bus (yes satellite tv!!). Pull into Goseuk Bus Terminal and treat ourselves to McDonald's and Krispy Kreme. Hello we were in a bikini for the weekend so NOW it's time to fully indulge!

Well the two times I've been to Mudfest it rained but it never stopped me from having a wonderful time. Can rain really put a damper on an event centered around mud? nah.