Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring is Here!!

Well, I've packed away my winter coats and Heattech clothes. I've stopped wearing 5 layers to school and to bed. It's stayed consistently above freezing. That's right! Spring has arrived in Seoul!

This is like 90% wonderful and 10% awful. I shall explain why soon. 

Here's an update of my week. 

my mom sent me Reese's cups and they are

Flowers at school!

On Tuesday, we went out for Indian food.
This is garlic naan and it was glorious

Yes. I eat Indian food now.  Not the SPICYYY stuff, but I dig me some chicken masala. YUM. 

LOL one of my kids left their notebook in the
English room

On Wednesday, we went out for our monthly/bi monthly/random teacher outing. Originally, we were going to go see a movie (Captain America. Because we have more guys in the office. And a couple of teachers wanted to see something with action. And they joked they needed to see a foreign movie so I could come), but then on Wednesday morning, some teachers spoke up and said they weren't in the mood to see a movie cause they wanted to go home earlier. So we just went to get coffee at the World Cup Stadium. Which is fine. I guess. I got free coffee out of it... but it's a little exhausting to be out with all of my co workers when they're laughing and joking in Korean and then someone has to say "Oh wait, explain the joke to Christina!" The music/ethics teacher even asked me after if I was ok, and was like "I'm sorry, this was probably not fun for you!" I told her it was fine. It still is fun for me, because I do understand a tiny bit of what's happening, and it is nice to see everyone joking and laughing. And we got done earlier anyway, which was nice. And I found yet another Korean quirk that is amusing:

Yep. Women only parking spaces. Not sure if
they assume we can't walk that far what,
but it's still pretty funny. And quirky.

Sarah and I ended up dressing like twins. We
did not plan this

Pre Korean class margaritas. Because nothing
makes learning korean easier than a little
bit of alcohol! 

On Thursday, it was warm enough to wear my new short sleeved, floral dress, which made me SUPER happy!!

smiles and sunshine!

Unfortunately, the nice spring weather also brings with it the dreaded Yellow Dust, which is a mix of dust from the Gobi Desert and pollution from China, wherein lies the 10% not so great part of spring. YUCK. It looks like fog/smog during the day, and when particularly bad, can be seen building up on the cars. I'm feeling a little under the weather this weekend, and I'm pretty sure my pretty painful sore throat and stuffy nose can be attributed to a mix of the seasons changing, working with kids, and the Yellow Dust. 

Yum. I love breathing this in on my walk
to school.

So yeah, you all can laugh at my cat mask, but it's actually pretty necessary during the heavy Yellow Dust season. There's even a twitter page that updates me hourly on how the dust levels are in Seoul. Good times.

please note that my co worker's cups have found
their way onto my desk. THAT'S WHAT THE
LINE IS FOR!!!!!!!1

I love my 4th graders. They're enthusiastic and sometimes
give me cute gifts

After work on Friday, I met up with Janell and Lauren for happy hour (Sarah met up with us later) to relax and hang out, since we've all been busy with the new semester. It was a lovely night of girl talk and fun!

And nachos. The night was full of those too.

My lovely friends!

I had a super productive and great Saturday. I had a nice breakfast and coffee with Sarah, I cleaned my apartment, went grocery shopping, did a nice workout, studied Korean,  and did my laundry. WOW when did THAT become a wonderful Saturday in my life??

a sampling of my Korean books. I'm making decent progress.
I still sound like a 2 year old tho. 

so true!

On Sunday, I woke up and did a short workout (cardio is a bit rough right now with my cough/stuffed nose from the Yellow Dust, so I haven't been going as full out as I'd have liked to... oh well. gotta take care of myself too). Sarah and I needed some more things for spring and decided that we should head to Myeongdong. 

we saw this in the subway station. He's a
member of Super Junior, Sarah's favorite
Kpop group

His birthday is the day after her's. His name
is Eunhyuk. He's pretty cool.

So we shopped around a bit, but most importantly, we ate STREET FOOD. 

And we looked at shoes.

so many spring shoes!

Do I reaaaally need a BigBang Tarot Deck ?
No, but I seriously struggled with putting it down.

Then we headed back to Hongdae because we have been here for 7.5 months and Sarah has not yet been to the 1st Shop of Coffee Prince (ie, the shop where the drama was filmed), and we decided to remedy that situation today.

the sign

the interior

we were fangirling over the fact that it's stayed the same as
in the drama AND the fact that BIGBANG filmed their
parody there. We've sat where some of our fav Kpop and
K drama stars sat!!! 

my lovely bestie!

this is where their first kiss happens in the drama and it's adorable

(It was also my 3rd visit to Coffee Prince. Sorry, not sorry).

I didn't buy much today, but I got what I needed, so I'm happy!

Cat pajamas for summer, though it's almost warm
enough in my apartment to wear them now.
Look at the lil' cat takin a nap. D'aaaw

Seriously. My apartment, which hovered around  12- 15 degrees Celsius at best in the winter (about 55- 60), now stays around 20 or 21, which is about 70 degrees. 

they're puuurfect for me

And then I bought a pair of wedge sneakers, which I've wanted for ages and just couldn't find ones that I wanted. 

They're cute and make me taller. Win/win.

trying to show the design

I also needed a new rug for my bathroom

I told you. I'm addicted to skincare masks.
They're less than a dollar and make my skin
feel great. Come to Korea and you'll
fall in love with them, too! Plus I got free samples.
Yay service!

It was a slightly less eventful week, but still fun. Sorry ya'll. Some weeks I do lots of crazy cultural things, and some weekends I relax and shop with my friends. Hope it isn't too mundane!!

Also, Lauren, Sarah and I signed up for a new Korean class at a Korean Hagwon (private academy) called Ganada. It's on Tuesday/Thursday nights, because my other class is only once a week and I REALLY want to improve my Korean more, especially since I plan on staying at least another year. I'm studying more on my own, and I can tell I'm improving and understanding more, but still, I definitely need to go to class more than once a week. Hopefully after a few months of more intensive study, I'll be able to hold some basic conversations with my co workers and such. Wish me luck!

I hope Spring finds its way to you all soon, preferably with less dust and pollution! Stay tuned for more fun in the sun as the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom soon! I'm so excited!!

Also a big congrats to my sis for not only passing her thesis defense, but also presenting at a conference in Baltimore. LOVE YOU BELLA!!!

Kpop time!

My homeboys MBLAQ had a comeback this week and I'm really digging it. As usual. 

Mmm. Suits.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fun Times, Phanniversary and the Coat Seen 'Round the World

To start you off, here's a picture of a
guy in a panda suit we saw in Hongdae

Well everyone, this one is a looooong post. 1.) Because I had a good week, 2.) because I have a lot to say about said week and 3.) because said good week contains a Phantom of the Opera milestone.

Wooooo stay with me everyone. I promise it's worth it. I think? 

Cesca sent me that necklace for Christmas, and mom sent
me this skirt for my birthday, so I thought I'd look super cute.
I think it worked!


One of my students remembered my birthday
and baked me cookies. SO SWEET

Wrapping paper with old school korean on it.
You can tell cause of the chinese characters
mixed in. 

Gift from Young Ah, so that I "can remember
my time in seoul fondly when [I'm} back in
my home country," cause she's super sweet

Young Ah also gave me a really sweet card that said something along the lines of "I know it is hard to celebrate without your family, but I want you to have a nice birthday and have good time here, so let's hang out a lot!" It was in Korean and she translated for me, but it was soooo sweet.

Honestly, I know that I won't be working with Young Ah forever (nor will I likely be in Korea for forever), but the thought of leaving breaks my heart so I try not to think about it. Instead, I try to consider myself so lucky for meeting people with whom I do not want to part. Sorry, 7 months has made me sentimental I guess. Yes, 7 whole months. WOW. I can't believe it!


The Yellow Dust (pollution and dust from china)
is coming, so I thought I should prepare myself.

This is what I come home to regularly. Too
bad I can't read any of the ads or use the
menus to order take out.

There's a shop called Artbox here they basically exists to tempt
me with cute things (see: cat mask). I needed new slippers, so
bought these babies

The life of an English teacher in a foreign country

Summary if you can't read the convo, but there's a teacher materials-sharing resource in Korea called I Scream. However, when they say it, it sounds like ice cream. Naturally, we all get excited when we hear about ice cream. But I didn't know what it was, so I thought everyone in the office was talking about ordering ice cream (even google translate told me they were talking about ice cream when I translated a group message about it), and I was REALLY SAD they didn't ask me if I wanted any. Hence my CAPS LOCK when I was informed that they were not, in fact, discussing ice cream at all. Hahaha wow.

Anywho, after school but before Korean class, Sarah and I decided that we needed waffles and we needed them NOW. Thankfully, there's another Hello Kitty Cafe in Sinchon (you may remember that I visited one in Hongdae a while ago), so we got our fill of deliciousness and cuteness.

so cute it hurts a little.  Oh, and the drinks and
stuff are cute, too. 

Yummy green tea latte

getting ready to enjoy!

Tho the utensil sizes perplex us. Fork, y u so small??

the decor

This one is less eyeball-bleeding- inducing
than the PINK PINK PINK one in Hongdae

At night, I decided I wanted to pamper myself. So I broke out one of my I-never-used-these-before-now-I'm-obsessed-thanks-korea face masks from my massive stash

It smells like yummy yogurt strawberry.

True life: I'm addicted to Korean facial care
masks and I'm not ashamed to show it.
Also from Artbox (I may have gone twice this
week. Oops). Gotta brighten up and personalize
my workspace!


To be fair, I JUST saw Phantom (and that is the restaged, less awesome version, so I guess I'm not TOTALLY missing out. As much. I'm still bitter. Ugh) and I also have a couple of bootlegs of the Broadway Cinderella, but I still love it and wish I could see it. Sigh...

Jennifer and I love cats and we obviously
think alike. So this discussion happened haha

Another 'food appears magically' days
in the office


Sarah, Sarah's co teacher and I went to a dessert
cafe just cause. IT WAS DELICIOUS

On Saturday, Sarah came over so we could watch a movie (T.O.P from BigBang's movie, The Commitment/The Alumni, it's really good, FYI) because she hadn't seen it yet, and we decided to have some wine and chocolate before heading to Hongdae. Sarah was the taste tester to make sure my chocolates weren't poisoned. 

So she seems fine... I guess they're alright

Scratch that. Sarah's dead. Sorry guys.

They were delicious. I just wish I knew WHO they were from!!! Arg it's cute but also frustrating...

Sarah and I had decided that we really wanted to noraebang it up, so we headed to Hongdae, where we spotted a lot of police officers and a protest. The protest was against President Park, and we think they were saying that her election was rigged. She's only been in office for a year, but people protest her pretty fiercely here. It's interesting but also a little scary when you see a bunch of police officers with riot shields hanging around on a Saturday night... The protests usually don't get out of control tho, so don't worry about me!

some cops. They were laughing and seemed
pretty chill, so I think they were more of a

The protest couldn't have been more than 20 people anyway, and it was really just a group chanting, nothing crazy. So we headed onwards.

Once we figured out the controls, we ROCKED

Funnily enough, the lady who ran the noraebang was really confused that two waygookin were there without any Koreans. That probably doesn't happen too often.

I'm not a great singer, but it's fun to try and muddle through
kpop or rock out to old English pop songs

We even managed to get a perfect score on a couple of songs, like Big Bang's Monster and GD+ TOP's High High. 

Sarah and I also got a couple of "Waaah, waygook saram!!" (Waaah, foreigners!) this weekend from kids, which is always kind of adorable. Every time it happens, we try and smile and wave or say hello/annyeong, so they know that 1.) We understand them, 2.) we're nice people and 3.) it's ok to talk to us. Kids are cute when they do it. Adults, not so much. 


Sarah and I decided to check out a palace that we hadn't been to before, Deoksugung, which actually wasn't a palace in the first place. It was just a residence for the King's brother, and it later was renovated a little bit and such. It's not one of the more important ones, so it isn't as famous or as well restored, but it's still cool and more peaceful than the others, as it was more residential and less for official business. Don't worry, there was still a throne room!

Note: these are a little out of order cause I was using my phone AND camera to take pictures, and it's too hard to re order pictures on blogger (mostly cause I'm lazy. Sorry!) so I apologize for their haphazardly arranged structure.

the essence of Korea- traditional and modern
combined. Despite it's vicinity to the busy city,
the palace is quite peaceful

Exploring- remember those pillars designated
official standing spots when the king was here

checking out the gate with my authentic Joseon
dynasty Sprite can

changing of the guard

we think this might be the city hall building just outside
one of the gates

I love when they have the guards

This building was designed by a Russian architect and mixed
western and Korean style for a slightly koreanized, Romanesque

the king used to party with foreigners here

I thought the floor looked cool

Spring has arrived in Seoul!

Authentic Joseon Dynasty phone booth

I love the details on the stairs. And yes, the center is still
blocked since only the king could use it

You can tell they didn't restore this one as much because
of the state of the ceiling in the throne room

There's also an art gallery here 

Seokjojeon hall is a modern building built on an older part of
the palace, but I'm not sure what it's for...
 Then the changing of the guard ceremony started

It takes a while so we stopped to look at some other things

this can fire 100 arrows at a time

just hanging out with this guy

that's the band

scholars, I think?

Pretty flowers!

And then Sarah and I went to get coffee and study for a bit

cute lids

They tried to make it pretty, they really did.
I think.

bought a cool notebook to use for my Korean.
Maybe it will inspire me to study more

Lastly and quickly, since I'm tired of typing and I'm sure you're tired of reading, since the spring weather is here, I can put my winter coats away. Today is also the anniversary of when I saw Phantom for the first time. Yep, it's been 11 years since I sat in that seat at Shea's craning my neck to see the dazzling spectacle that is Phantom of the Opera. 11 years since I fell in love with the music, costumes, characters and actors of this most incredible show.

Now, you all probably know my black and white coat if you've known me since my senior year of high school. That coat has done it's fair share of travelling AND has met it's fair share of people related to Phantom, so to end this post about an awesome week (and honor my Phanniversary), here are some pics of "The Coat Seen 'Round the World," as I now like to call it.

With John Cudia in 2009, the first time I saw the show on

It met Sofia Escobar, the one of the nicest, sweetest people I
have ever met

It met John Owen-Jones, one of my favorite
Phantoms, multiple times

It met Will Barratt, who I saw 7 times when I was in London

It's been all over London

and throughout the UK- seen here in front of Shakespeare's
birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon

it went to Stonehenge, where it WAS a henge
It found itself in Paris, round 1

And round 2

It saw the Palais Garnier and Box 5, the
Phantom's box!
It's been to Rome and throughout Italy,
France and Spain

It met non Phantom people too, like Dan Stevens, aka
Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey

It met Sierra Boggess for the 25th anniversary of Phantom,
which I won tickets to

And finally it came full circle and met my first Phantom,
Brad Little, all the way in South Korea

From Buffalo to Seoul and everywhere in between, that coat has kept me warm and stylin through thick and thin. And because I wore it to so many Phantom performances and so many places, I thought it would be fun to look back at all the places I've been while wearing it. Who knew when I bought it in my senior year of high school that I would be wearing it to see Phantom in NYC, London, and Seoul, or that I would travel to any of those places? I'm still sometimes in disbelief!

So there you have it. 7 months in and I'm still having an incredible journey. 11 years in and I'm still head over heels in love with my most beloved show. What a crazy ride. 

 Thanks to everyone for being with me along the way!

And now here's a really cool kpop video that came out this week. Lee Michelle is half black, half Korean, and has lived here her whole life. It's pretty interesting to watch, and pretty powerful. Lots of the writing on the wall is racial slurs and insults that I'm sure she heard a ton growing up and being different from the norm here.  It's long but worth a watch/listen, cause she's got a great voice.