09.21.2009 - 10.01.2009
For now, my pictures are kept in a Facebook album:
When do we learn that the world, like any diner worth its salt, is open 24 hours a day? (Daniel Handler)
09.21.2009 - 10.01.2009
For now, my pictures are kept in a Facebook album:
09.26.2009 - 09.27.2009
I’m impressed with how busy Elaine and I have kept. I mean, of course, I could not stay in my room all day but considering the jet lag, the overwhelming nature of new job, the new living situation, and that we don’t know many folks here…we’ve seen quite a lot.
Friday morning, I investigated a Buramsan Mt. sign I had seen on the previous night--just a street sign pointing up a side street. I bought water and a chocolate bar and headed up. The area was really busy; there were a lot of school groups and seniors out for walks. Between the apartment buildings, a steep path led past a park, exercise areas, pigeon feeding. There was a gentleman walking with radio music. The cicadas were the next thing I noticed after the babies, seniors and steepness. There were little huts located along the side of the path. I thought a kneeling man was praying but I think he was actually perusing a map or instructions. On my way down, I saw him playing a board game with several others. I reached a sort of parking lot…a car, a motorbike and rocks piled atop a pagoda. I walked up past some serious looking lion statues and I got the feeling that it was a residential area. But, there were the most spectacular views. Also, one of the houses looked like a temple or some official building. I hiked back to a path and climbed for about 40 minutes, reaching a platform summit. Underneath the hills, apartment buildings ran for miles. I completed a slow trek down, which has resulted in extremely sore calves. The rest of the day was spent in school, a trek home and planning for the next day, over a savory veggie bagel sandwich.
Saturday morning—slept in and lazed about. The TV is fairly entertaining with a good variety: informational shows, English and foreign movies, MTV, etc. Elaine and I planned to visit the National Museum of Korea, via Line 4 and to later attend the couchsurfing.com meet-up.
The museum was fantastic. There was a large book celebration but I guess I was hoping it would tie into some sort of special exhibition, but it was for the kiddies and they just had a stage set up with popular kids authors signings, etc. We ate an expensive cafeteria meal, waiting nearly 40 mins for our food. I had curry. The cafeteria provided reusable dinner ware…impressive. It’s a thrifty culture and I appreciate it. Enjoyed the historical exhibits and the Buddhist and Japanese artwork. Neat video about a famous mapmaker. Camera battery died right before all the good stuff.
The meet-up: got there with minimal frustration. Ended up taking a taxi from a busy Seoul neighborhood—so glad I live away from that all! Ate a tuna sandwhich and saw a fantastic jazz combo, complete with tap dancing, perform along the river way. I think this may be the famed Cheonggye stream, uncovered by the mayor recently. Elaine was anxious to find her group and I followed her in about 10 minutes later. I was worried because there were only men at the bar and boy, did they look seedy. Two army dudes and a man in a silky red shirt, smokin’ away at the bar. After getting settled at a table, I ordered a tasty Korean stout and people began to show up in droves. There were easily 50 people there. It was impressive. People of interest to me were Kim, a Korean-American who came here initially to have work done on her teeth and is now an interior design student at university here; D. who is from India and works for Samsung; DeeAnn, a Canadian veteran school teacher who works in the public system; Ryan, a Korean who manages some sort of language café; Sue, a Korean who is home on a holiday break from living in Sydney, Australia; a Hungarian gal, whose name I don’t remember, an MBA student who seems to be in an unfortunate academic situation. Holy cow—all the folks who have lived or want to live in Australia. It is definitely a trend here, or in the international living community.
This guy, Chang Yeoh, showed Elaine and I how to get to the station…he hopped aboard a sub so quickly…disaster struck when I went to follow him: my bag didn't make it in time and got stuck in the door. I thought it was a goner. Thank goodness it wasn’t a body part. We tugged at the bag and it came loose, and the doors actually reopened…which, it’s nice to know if I did ever get a body part stuck. We had some interesting convo with Chang but it was so involved that he missed our transfer and apologized profusely…but it really wasn’t that bad.
Pretty exciting. I’m eager to get established…to get into the apt with internet and a phone.
09.24.2009 - 09.24.2009
Breakfasted with Elaine this morning—cereal and whole milk, made sandwiches (PB and J) and then left with Mr. J for a physical exam. Parked the car in a vertical car matrix. Very cool. Then, we had our specs taken, including peeing in a cup (no problems this time! Phew.) and a chest exam.
Then we wandered south and eventually caught the sub to a park: Seoul Museum of Art Gallery Park. Lots of public art and darling darling children in smart little outfits. Read and lunched for 2 hours. The housing—I can’t but help think of sci-fi movies where there are rows and rows of industrial buildings--they aren’t very attractive and rise 20, 25 stories.
First day at YBM and we met all of the teachers—I’m embarrassed but I think I’m going to have a challenge telling the Korean teachers apart. There’s Cindy, Brenda, Young, Chris and Theresa. I’m replacing Robert—nice guy and seems to manage his classes well…but he’s drained and uninspired by the material. Boo. I’m taking over his apt. too but as he doesn’t live there really, perhaps there aren’t many things he’s leaving behind. It’ll be bare bones? Just as well. He and Margaret and I went to dinner. Everyone is quite friendly: Bill is leaving; Patrick, have the sense I've met him before; Margaret, Marcus from England and Ian also live in my apartment building. The school material is really basic…blah. I was overwhelmed and will know more what to think after this orientation.
Turns out that the holiday, Thanksgiving-esque Chuseok, is this next week, so as soon as I begin, there’ll be about 5 days off. I will definitely try to contact Vickie and Christy’s friend this week so I’ve got companions for the weekend. I’m exhausted so I hope that I will sleep all the way through tonight.
09.23.2009 - 09.23.2009
PISCES: On the website "Yahoo! Answers," readers
pose questions that are answered by other readers who have expertise on
the subject. In a recent entry, a young woman asked, "Is there a spell to
become a mermaid that actually works?" Of the 50+ replies, most are
snarky and mean, ridiculing the asker of the question, and not a single one
gives useful information. I encourage you to offer your own insight on the
subject sometime soon. (Go to tinyurl.com/mdclt4.) You are now at the
peak of your ability to act, think, feel, love, and dream like a mythical sea
03:30…and I am nearly wide awake again. I should just acknowledge the awake and go back to sleep but it’s easier to connect to the internet, and I'm suddenly eager and not too exhausted to journal.
I’m glad to have a first-few-days traveling buddy in Elaine. She has a fedora fetish, says "geek out" a lot, wants a dog really badly (I hope it works out for her,, YBM seems reluctant to allow pets in the apts.), and best of all, she has an excellent electronic book collection—or must with nearly 1000 titles, cookbooks included. We are both eager to do a lot of exploring before we begin work.
I blame it on the sleep deprivation—I initially thought our humble inn was my home for the next 365 days. I was fairly concerned (now what I signed up for: no kitchen but there’s a condom dispenser??) but had already begun planning how I might cover the walls in draperies. We move into apartments next week, Weds or Thurs.
Up and out at 9am—ran into Elaine outside the inn. She had found shrimp jerky for breakfast but I needed something more sweet and doughy, and at Paris Baguette, found a bread with chocolate cream inside Went to buy a fancy coffee drink, but the kind lady at the counter offered me a hot Americano, it was very weak but I bought some milk and with lots of sugar, it hit the spot. I’m not usually a big coffee drinker, but I find myself compelled to find the drinkable coffee around here. I was excited to notice a stand with an espresso machine
Exchanged 300 dollars for 350,000 KRW, which should certainly last me until a small payout on Oct. 08. Spent nearly 50,000 on the first day, but that was food, sandals and sunscreen. The light rail is cheap—it’s about 1.50 each way. I’m finding that except for some items, prices are fairly comparable to the US and I should plan a budget for about as much as I spend there.
Mr. J (manager for 15 yrs) and the lovely YBM Hannah (teacher who was just promoted to Academic Director) came at noon to take Elaine and I to lunch. WOW! I loved it. We went to a traditional Korean restaurant. Like everywhere: shoes off at the door. We had appetizers of dimsum-like dumplings, and a couple different types of kimchee with rice. We had soup as the main course, with thick udon-like noodles, seaweed and some sort of shellfish (muscles?).
After lunch, we said goodbye to Mr. J and Hannah. Elaine and I wandered over to the light rail. We took it into Nowon, which is quite a bustling district. Off the subway we headed to Lotte Department store where we found 11 floors of material goodness. There is an amazing high-end grocery store where I saw organic milk, tea in glass jars and many other things which I will look forward to when I begin buying groceries, it should fill in the gaps my local grocery doesn’t meet. As for the rest of the mall: cinema showing some English language films, very couture clothing and likely not much that pertains to me. Eye candy but nothing very useful. Except, these rice cookers that looked like they were on steroids. Rice: how hard could it be?? I use a pot at home, and granted, it doesn’t always cook it correctly…it’s a treat to use Mom and Dad’s electric cooker. But, these had many buttons and were as large as a bread machine or large food processor.
I find it frustrating not to know basic Korean…I’ve looked at the words for daily words: hello, thank you, goodbye, please, a million times but until I hear someone else say them and I understand them, I’m not confident about using them. Given my language failures, people are very polite here.
Elaine really wanted sushi so we stopped in at this rather shee shee restaurant. It was beautiful. We sat in these lovely chairs and Elaine tried to order what she wanted. I wasn’t hungry and not as big a fan of sushi, so I drank the miso soup that was brought in and tried the different kimchee appetizers. There was also a salad with some sort of raw sea animal blanketed on top. I also tried to use the word for rice, bap, and the waitress looked like she understood but it never arrived. Ah well. It was a fine meal, and better yet, a relaxing environment even though I find Nowon to be fairly mild mannered for all the hustle and bustle.
We found a riverside park which I’m sure I will visit often.
After agreeing that we were holding up quite well, we headed back to the hotel because we were exhausted. I watched Terminator (w/ Claire Danes?) and rested until about 7:30 pm then knocked on Elaine’s door for dinner. We didn’t try anything too exotic, just Lotteria, a fast food chain. I ordered the shrimp and avocado burger (sadly, not much avocado)…the attendant was v nice as I tried to order. Thank god for pictures.
Grocery store after that: cereal, sliced bread, pbj and plastic lunch boxes. All about 11,000 apiece…which would be about two meals, out but will hopefully cover our lunches for the time until we make it to the apt.
Thanks to Christy and Laila, there are at least 3 new people I will look up and meet. Elaine made some connections through couchsurfing.com and there is gathering on Saturday night of expats and Koreans who use the site. I met a really nice bank teller, Hyan Bin, who gave me her business card and direct line.
Before I had internet and I was waking up in the wee hours, I journaled the events of the first few days.
09.22.2009 - 09.23.2009
It’s 4 am and I am very much awake unfortunately.
A long day of fairly painless travel: no lost luggage, no delays, no huge miscommunications. Strange to evade the night…heading out from Seattle at 2pm on Monday, losing most of Tuesday to arrive at 5:30pm. Watched two movies (Terminator Salvation, that movie with Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.) tried to fall asleep—to an awesome custom tailored soundtrack: Air, Madonna, MGMT. Read the hilarious Decline and Fall that Laila lent me, ate surprisingly good airplane food: bibimbap: rice, veggies, meat?
Upon arrival, it was a quick check through customs and luggage collection, money exchange, a quick telephone call to the school, helpful Korean folks as I found my airport limousine bus. Then, I just sat back as we drove east from Incheon, north of Seoul…through suburbs…to Nowon-gu.
Mr. J from the school picked me up and drove me to our hotel—he’s very helpful and pointed out the school and landmarks. It’s a fairly straight shot on an overhead subway/tram/light rail. All the buildings here have advertisements on every available surface and fluorescent is the sign of choice, in bright, primary colors. We lugged my luggage up to RM 206 at a humble inn, met my fellow teacher, “Teacher Elaine,” who got in an hour earlier and was really hungry. I was prepared to just hit the hay but I’m so glad we went out! Mr. J was intent on finding us the perfect place to eat so we wandered down a few alleyways, through narrow hallways and ended up at a hole in the wall: fried chicken and beer. I must admit, for all my veggie preferences, it fit the bill. For 3 people, 10,000 won is nearly equivalent to 10.00, and got us two beers and a bucket o chicken. What a deal. Wish I had exchanged all my money at the airport but I guess I was squeamish about that, carrying all the cash around. We don’t begin training until Thursday…so all of Weds will be spent getting oriented and settled. Not bad. I really need more sleep though.