Saturday, May 30, 2009

prescription this.

so, i was really sick this week. nothing serious, just head cold - for the second time since we've been here. i could feel it coming last weekend, and by wednesday i woke up with a raging headache+face pain+gross phlegmy cough. ugh.

we'd had a meeting at work and our boss voiced his concerns about the "foreign teachers having the viruses" and parents being worried about us westerners infecting their little ones with swine flu ( really? pretty sure it was all the germy nose-picking kidlets that infected me, but anyway ... ). so, as recommended, i decide to be proactive and get myself checked out, mostly to ease my concerned boss's conscience. what does one do when requiring medical attention (or more so medical relief) in korea, you ask? you head to the hospital.

skip that pesky walk-in clinic/doctor's appointment middleman and head right to the big guys. makes it sound much more serious than it is, really. don't get me wrong, i'm not complaining. in less than thirty minutes i'd been thoroughly examined, cleared for "pig inpluenza", and diagnosed with a cold and a mild case of sinusitis. now, all i had to do was take 6 pills three times a day for three days and all would be well again. no big deal. they even walked me to the pharmacy!

18 pills a day cures the common cold in korea. and i fully support the heavily medicated zombie alex teacher approach to health and wellness.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

jong comes to the dong

i wonder if kim jong il reads the blogs from south korea
you know, for intel purposes
i wonder if they creep the korean blog list
and if so, hes definitely reading this one
i wonder what he thinks of our time here so far
as crazy as he is, i'm sure he's pretty impressed by my crane game prowess and bobble head collection
sometimes i wonder if they even have the crane game in north korea
i would imagine not
maybe they have the crane game but the only prize u can win is oppression
or maybe they have kim jong il bobble heads
i think that would make for a good prize, better than oppression
he's pretty much a bobble head already
if he is reading this hes starting to get angry

i watched this great documentary on north korea
i didn't realize how kooky everything was there
i mean i figured it was weird but you gotta watch this documentary to see what i mean
anyway kimmy is all in the news lately
that's what inspired this blog
he's threatening to blow shit up, as per usual
but even though that's big news back at home, here its page 12 material most days
if it even hits the papers
i guess u get immune to the antics when you can pretty much see him from the balcony of your high rise
or maybe you just try and ignore him and they'll eventually just shut up
i think people here just get on with their lives because what else can you do
people here just continue to drive around in vans screaming in korean through a megaphone about local produce sales when i'm trying to sleep despite impending doooom!!
today though, my korean partner teacher told me kim got a 4 page spread in the local paper
all this is very reassuring since i find myself like half an hour from north korea
well half an hour if i had a rocket car that went directly north through the hills at 200mph
but to be honest, i feel pretty safe here in minlak-dong
i'm not really sure what jong would want from this dong
unless they are just interested in restaurants, convenience stores and hair salons(although i think mr. jong is due for a new hairstyle)
that's pretty much the gist of this town
i mean if u like fried chicken, which i do, u cant really go wrong in minlak-dong
most fried chicken joints per capita in korea (mark fun fact number 1)
i'm not really even sure who lives here as barely any of my students reside in this dong(neighborhood)
and pretty much none of the korean teachers live here
only the foreign teachers get the privilege to live in this dong, i'd say about 10 foreigners in this whole dong
i never thought i'd get so excited when i saw a random foreigner on the street
it borders on lame
anyway these facts makes me think that if the korean people don't even want to live here, don't want to hang out here and don't want to party here then what would kim jong il want with this place
i'm pretty sure he likes foreign movies, ipods and basketball according to wikipedia
these things don't exist in the minlak-dong
well basketball exists but when i'm schooling koreans on the court, you know something is up
what is up is that they suck at basketball
the koreans call me steve nash on the court
no joke
i think its more because im white, short and canadian but they also seem quite impressed by my "skillz"
which oddly enough never existed in canada
now uijeongbu he might like
despite the lack of night life, which i imagine he's craving and the overt military presence
they have everything kim could ever want there
you know, stores with gadgets, all the beige overall suits he could want, ipods, a basketball team, cell phones, a movie theater that usually has about 3 foreign movies at a time
so i think he'll leave us and the kind people of minlak-dong alone and therefore being in seoul or even in uijeongbu isn't all it's cracked up to be...
anyway if you are reading this kim, toss up a comment if you like it or even if you don't and want to smite me, i'm all earsi should probably just do like most koreans and ignore him, i shouldn't even write blog posts about him, but if i just wrote about my daily activities you probably would have stopped reading already(unless u stopped after the first line)
so mr jong, chill the hell out because you're making yourself look stupider than usual and you're making some people nervous, i imagine


Sunday, May 24, 2009

oh, and as PROMISED

it's 3 weeks-a month later than expected, but here's the tour of the luxury pad.

happy birthday to ma' boy

i got him a cake that looks like a bear. and can be worn as a hat! seriously, i don't really know if anything can beat that. we made sure to dig into cut pieces from the back of the bear's head first, and haven't yet eaten his face. ha.

friday was a celebratory day filled with many many (too) many drinks. we started the evening with a dak galbi dinner with our co-workers, and inevitably, a couple bottles of soju. i know i've spoken of this beloved korean staple before, but soju really has grown on mark and me. it's easier to drink than vodka, but still packs that same powerful punch, and you can get a mickey-sized bottle for less than $1.50 CDN at any convenience store. asah! (oh, by the way, i'm slowly picking up korean; "asah!" translates to "great!" - and by "picking up korean" i really mean imitating my students and co-workers who imitate students).

after dinner, friday's party led us to downtown uijeongbu for an anticipated self-mandated pub crawl. we ran into some fellow english-speaking military who pointed us in the direction of a club with FREE tequila shots for the ladies - danger bay. we kept our wandering and after several failed attempts at finding a good spot we ended up back near our stomping grounds at a place called "beer ocean." i definitely had a couple of oceans too many in honour of the birthday boy ... i broke my non-puke streak and ended the night in my well-practiced state: professional thrower-upper. happy birthday mark, now please hold my hair back...

needless to say, saturday required some much needed downtime and couch-lounging recovery. on top of the hangovers, we've both been fighting colds, and mark woke up with a swollen ankle + limp after his birthday breakdancing. we watched several VBS documentaries and a haunting in connecticut (thumbs down) while eating pizza school and watermelon. lovely, indeed.

i'll let the pictures do the rest of the updating. here are some miscellaneously ordered snaps of the festivities. instead of sorting, you get cleverly-quipped captions!

mark at work with his birthday cake from his fave student, bill. bill spent two weeks of hard earned pocket money on said cake. two weeks! he told mark teacher that his "purse was now empty." how unbelieveably cute is that?? don't worry, we saved bill a piece. oh, and also, just to point out, all i got on my birthday was a class full of assholes.

i don't know if bill's cake can compete with my bear ... perhaps it's dog-bones-for-arms will give it a cakewreck vote. hehe - just kidding!

downtown uijeongbu looks remarkably deserted in this pic

nearing the end of the birthday evening celebrations - seemingly awesome tricks with mirrored elevator doors...

ah! look who's in the elevator: our blurry and somewhat scary-looking friends.

birthday dins, sit-on-the-floor style

in asia, the flipping of the bird means "fuck you" - it's a universal symbol.

there was a pre-bar trip to the firing range. it was unfortunately short-lived.

shots of tequila, free for the ladies (though i'm pretty sure conor paid for all of these)

dave's face on the side of the english friends bus! seriously, he's a celebrity for his school.

my masterpiece of a birthday card for mark - all 24 candles painstakingly cut out of origami paper. that's LOVE! it also reads "happy birthday" in korean, or more literally: birthday congratulations.

fun times with the bear cake - both look so happy!

speaking of looking happy (and i'm ohso brave to put this on the internet) but look who can pass out with a SMILE on her FACE!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

gee gee gee gee baby baby baby

so my adoration of this song puts me a season behind in the kpop top-of-the-charts, but i can't help having a small crush on this girls' generation sensation. and this vid even has english subtitles! bonus. when a song is a hit in korea it is played, and played, and played andplayedandplayed. i didn't think it'd be possible to grow sick of a tune when i don't listen to korean radio or watch korean music stations. youtube super junior's "sorry, sorry" to have a listen to this country's current most unbelieveably overplayed and ubiquitous track - it also doesn't help that my students will constantly hum this, break into it whenever they hear the word "sorry," or imitate the video's dance moves ...

meanwhile, we've been simultaneously busy ... and not busy. our trip to seoul this weekend turned into an unplanned overnighter (or rather, an early morning crawl home). mark's birthday is quickly approaching this friday, so this upcoming weekend will likely be something to write home about, both literally and figuratively!

miss you, loove you - and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DIANA!!! xoxo

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"wow, the sky looks soo weird!"

"... that's because the sun's coming up."
our back-of-taxi conversation on last night's inebriated trip home from itaewon and hongdae, circa 5:45am

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


another weekend has come and gone in our new korea life, and i'm starting to feel the "fly by" of time that everyone told me would happen. tomorrow marks our one-month-since-arrival anniversary! holy crap.

this weekend was a lovely mix of all things a weekend should encompass: coworker dinners, copious amounts of alcohol (soju specifically), crane game wins (inevitable, really), sleep ins, lazy couch sitting, adventures to seoul, shopping, indulging in the north american-ness of itaewon, reunions with friends from home, mountain hikes, and the weekly sunday evening duck bbq dinner. it was whirlwind and lazy all at the same time. perfect.

mark and i rounded up shanna and dave around 4pm on saturday for the trip into seoul. we'd been told stories of the foreigner area we were about to experience, and as we headed up to street level from the subway station, i mentioned to dave that i felt like i was about to enter the circus. "nah," was his response, but i'd been warned about the seediness of itaewon's overflowing foreigner population. and while it wasn't as sketchy as i was anticipating, it was bizarre after having become so accustomed to the lack of non-asians to see so many ... races. every person who passed us was non-asian! i've never heard so much passerby english in, like, a month. heh.

we did some shopping and had some burgers at a joint called "happy days" - the hamburger buns were homemade and whole wheat* and ohso delicious. we hit the much talked about foreign book store, what the book? though i only perused, do to the seven-book library i brought with me (one of which i've started ...) by the time evening came, we made it to rocky mountain tavern** to meet up with mark's friend from TO, derek. RMT, as those in the know call it, is canadian owned and operated, and features live canadian tv feeds! i was more in awe of the tim hortons and telus commercials than the hockey game, but that's not really surprising. also, randomly, as we walk into the bar i hear someone shout my name and turn to see a familiar face from western (an ex boyfriend of a friend, ooh, who's going to be the first to guess who it was?? heh), small world, what! we also ran into a girl we met at the toronto korean consulate at the same bar; i suppose it really is where canadians congregate in seoul! we stayed a few hours and bar hopped to another placed called wolfhound, where we bumped into rj, a fellow foreign teacher from our school. the theme of our evening continued.

on sunday, mark and i made another trek up the hill next to our apartment. as my new personal trainer***, he also had me doing interval runs. of course, i was huffing and puffing and complaining like hell, but it was easier than last week and is becoming a necessity considering my new favourite dinner/lunch/snack is a ₩5,000 pizza from our local pizza school. next thing you know, i'm going to be fit! (or, hopefully at least of standard proportion and able to continue with my cheap and greasy indulgence).

* ironically, as i make commentary about being a minority, the abundance of white bread in korea is ... abundant. brown and whole grains are proving to be very hard to find!
** more than once i have referred to this bar as "rocky mountain high" and i get blank stares. i suppose this is what being from burlington does to you.
*** mark's new job that he might not know about yet ...

love you and miss you tons (and again, happy mother's day!!)

Thursday, May 7, 2009


like i would let you forget: it's my birthday!!!!!!!

in korea, suddenly i've skipped a year and am 27 - yikes! ah well, i've always enjoyed the odd years better. at the stroke of midnight last night i was given roses, and i woke up to an apartment decorated with balloons and a table full of presents to open! what can i say, my boyfriend is the best.

after a relaxing morning of homemade breakfast and skype chats to home, we made it through our day of classes with intentions of heading to the outback for a birthday taste of home (koreans LOVE the outback). however, after our cab ride downtown, we unfortunately found the restaurant inexplicably closed. we tried several other options and wandering around, but our late hour wasn't bringing us much luck. my stomach was rumbling and my mood was souring - i even hesitated at the doors of burger king, feeling helpless and pity-party-ish and like icing my annoyed birthday cake with a whopper. what's a birthday girl to do?? i don't even eat burger king on a regular day, let alone for birthday dinner!

with mark's optimism, we decided instead to venture to a restaurant near home, which required another cab ride back (at least cabs are cheap! under $5CDN). however, ("just my luck" at this point!) our cabbie gets in a traffic argument with another taxi driver, whose stopped vehicle was blocking his way, and he suddenly starts hurling fast korean out the window at the other (seemingly idiotic) driver. next thing we know, he's put the car in park, is unbuckling his seatbelt and is out on the street to fight the guy! what the ... ! i, of course, am freaking out and wanting to leave the scene. luckily, a good samaritan broke them up, with a grin on his face to boot, and off we went.

unfortunately, our optimistic third try at making it out for dinner results in another closed restaurant. at this point, i'm ready to go home and sulk. however, mark has a different idea to cheer me up and heads into a convenience store for a bottle of soju. how alcohol can turn things around! we drink straight from the bottle on the street and hit up a crane game for - wait for it - FOUR WINS IN A ROW!

the crane game on booze-filled empty stomachs seemed to cure everything. we headed back to our apartment for a home-cooked meal instead.
needless to say, i'm lucky to have the greatest (and most patient!) boyfriend in the world. xoxoxo.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

happy children's day ...

... to us! we've spent a lovely day off recuperating (ok, so i was the only one recuperating) from our festive housewarming party last night and enjoying the balmy 25+ degrees - yay, shorts weather!

and while i was too busy enjoying the sunshine from the comforts of our couch (in my defense, the open verandah door was providing a refreshing breeze and i did make it outside by dinnertime!) to put together my promised apartment tour, i do have some recent photos for you to enjoy! so, enjoy.

dave and i kicking butt in street fighter at our new fave bbq duck restaurant. free video games for all!

wuhoo! i win!

mark's got a new addiction

...and a captive audience

the addiction continues

fruits of labour (so far, that is)

we went for a hike on sunday - up what we thought was a mountain. turns out it was only a "hill". dear god.

stairs helped the climb

bugs did NOT!

the view at the top! this is min-lak dong, our lovely uijeongbu 'hood.

how i felt about hiking that day ...

mark still had fun! (ok, i did too)

this is our building! (see, we're one step closer to giving you an apartment tour!) we spotted it from our hike and navigation was slightly restored.

and then we came across these guys! they live on the same farm that houses the multiple roosters who cock-a-doodle-do at all hours of the day and night. i like the ducks (swans? heh) better.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

happy happy MAY to you all (the best month of the year, really)

i promise (i promise, i promise ... ) the apartment tours/photos are coming soon! once we get around to putting them together, of course.

that being said, life in our new pad is great. we are sincerely enjoying the three bedrooms + two verandas + two tv (!!!) set up we've got going on. we've scheduled a much needed house-warming party for next monday, and invited our co-teachers and new friends over for celebratory drinking. monday is perfect, you see, because we've got tuesday off for "children's day". this makes me laugh, only because i remember asking as a kid, in relation to mother's day and father's day - "mom, when's kid's day?" to which the quickly quipped response was always: "children's day is everyday." welp, in korea, it's may 5th, and it means a holiday for us. wuhoo!

our weekdays have fallen into a routine of sleeping in until 11am, making bacon and eggs, getting ready for the day, and going into school for 1:30pm. can't complain! next week, we'll start teaching our newly added class of grade nines, which should be interesting. 6 classes back-to-back for me, in one day! let's see how it goes ... teaching in general is always interesting. the classes i like versus the classes i dislike are slowly becoming definitive. the grade 1/2 class i have first thing on alternating days is quickly starting to stand out as a least favourite! in a class of 10, seven of the children are well-behaved, likeable, and seemingly adorable. three, on the other hand, are nightmares, and overturn the entire class! seriously, what to do with a 6-year-old who doesn't speak english and swipes all of his notebooks all over the floor and doesn't listen to ANYTHING is say? i spent about 3 minutes playing tug-o-war with him over his pencil case that he continues to empty all over the table, and not clean up, and bang around all of its contents, and disrupt everything .... then i figured that leveling with a 6-year-old wasn't really on my agenda, and i gave up. time to shame him! (also known as, making him stand in the corner with his hands in the air for however long i please. i figure it's a much more humanitarian version of hitting them with the stick. which, as a reminder, is permitted).

this weekend it's supposed to rain - AGAIN. we were adventurous and headed into seoul last weekend despite the torrential downpour. we wandered around myongdong's shopping district with shanna and dave, where i had to do my best to be frugal in the home decoration stores (all i want to do is decorate our apartment!). i managed to get away with a fancy toothbrush holder that suctions to the wall, and a pack of 30 cat postcards (seriously, less lame than they sound, despite what my sister had to say). the cats are all posing in well-known pics! mona lisa, girl with a pearl earring, marilyn monroe ... kitschy-cute. there was a massive veto on mark's behalf for their original post above the tv on our living room wall. fine fine, they've been relocated instead to above the kitchen table, where they now decor with cat-pride. yes! after venturing to myongdong, we took the subway to hongdae around dinner time, with intentions of experiencing the much-heard-about ice bar and other night life. needless to say, after a day of wandering in the rain and umbrella-jammed streets and being soaked in general, an ICE BAR probably wasn't the best idea. we paid 15,000 won to get in (one drink included) and ended up being the only people in there! pretty sure the koreans who worked there were laughing at us ... regardless, we got some good photo ops, and shanna and i complained enough to the boys to depart after the one drink. that day, we also relished some delish home food - burgers from craze burger, and mexican from dos tacos! one wouldn't think the koreans could do mexican (and believe me, the mexicans can't do japanese, so go figure) but, oh, so, delicious! i suppose you can never really complain about a 6000 won (under $6 CDN) meal anyway.

speaking of mexican, my grade 5 class today was asking how many canadians have died from "pig inpluenza" - i was all, wtf?? swine flu!? how entertaining that not only are they up-to-date with international news, but also that it translates as such. the engrish just makes it that much more humourous. apparently, we've lost 4 koreans to it. yikes! not that i'm one to joke about international epidemics, or anything ... heh.

we were hoping to explore more of seoul this weekend, but the rainy spring weather is keeping us close to home. not really enthusiastic about a day of rain-wandering again, thankyouverymuch. we've convinced dave and shanna that uijeongbu noraebongs are more inclement-weather-friendly, so we're going to cruise around the downtown area tomorrow night.

last night, we experienced the korean movie theatre, and went to see wolverine. yay to english movies with korean subtitles! we were probably more smitten (or mark was) with the infinite arcade within the movie theatre. suddenly, the ubiquitous "crane game" is mark's new obsession. we've already accumulated two (ahem, useless) toys, and i'm sure there are many more to come as he insists on having a go at every machine he sees (which are conveniently located on every.single.corner.) i, on the other hand, was taken with the option of having both sweet AND salty popcorn at the movies. hello, caramel corn! it's also convenient that koreans have no idea about jacked-up movie concession prices. a huge tub of popcorn for less than $4.50 CDN! seriously, unheard of in the western world.

alright, time for bed for me; apartment pics to come in the next 48-72 hours, promise.
love you, MISS you! xoxo