Sunday, November 30, 2014

What a Difference a Year Makes...

Well, with that, November has closed out and the cold weather is here. Seriously, it's like the weather here knows december is starting, cause it's dropping down to 34 tomorrow. It's been in the 50s lately. This is gonna be rough.

Although the weather was pretty warm, my school continued to be freezing. Ah well, at least we can finally turn the heat on. 

On Monday, Cesca and I ventured back to Costco to pick up some things for Thanksgiving. We were orignally going to buy these little apple pie like things, but lo and behold, on Monday, Costco magically had pumpkin pies! 2 massive pies and some hot coco for Cesca later, we were on our way. 

I brought the pie in on Thursday, and I was really nervous about it. I had shared the little apple pie things with the admin offices at school, and I ought the pie for the office. But nobody had ever had pumpkin pie before! Would they like it? Would they think it was weird??

Thankfully, they all loved it. I know enough Korean to hear them saying how delicious it was, although I was a bit embarrassed when the conversation turned to calories. Hey, it's not american if it isn't way too unhealthy, right???

One of the teachers even said she was touched that I brought in something for Thanksgiving. I had to work and had Korean class on Thursday, so that little piece of pie reminded me in my heart that it was Thanksgiving and I had a lot to be thankful for. 

My week was otherwise uneventful. The kids are getting rowdier and harder to teach, and the colds and flus are starting to set in. Everyone in the office has that lovely winter cough. Wamp. 1.5 more months till I get a vacation. 

Treated myself to some Belgian Hot
Chocolate as a pick me up this week.

Wednesday's special lunch was jajang rice,
which is rice with a black bean sauce. For some reason
I only like it with noodles, hence the pitifully
small servings on my plate

Got our school pictures back. I don't feel like myself,
but the other teachers said I have a nice smile.

I got a little depressed on Thursday and Friday, what with being away from my family on a pretty lackluster Thanksgiving, and I'm missing you all a lot lately. The weather seemed to agree, and it was bleak and dark all day on Friday... I know I made the right decision coming here, but this time of year is rather difficult... Missing home a lot right now. I'd love to be home cuddling my cats and my mamma :/

Despite the gloomy weather, we managed to have a good weekend. On Friday, there was an announcement that Kyuhyun from Super Junior was giving a free surprise concert at 1;30. Being a responsible working adult, I was disappointed I couldn't go. They were announcing another location at 3pm, and Cesca and I basically decided we would try if the place wasn't ridiculous. 

Turns out, it was across town but easy to get to. So, being good fans, we schlepped over there after work. Because it was free. Like, come on. And that's what my 20s are for right? Doing kind of silly, irresponsible things?

 Sadly, Sarah already had plans, and like a decent person, didn't cancel them for a silly impromptu concert. Considering my plan on this gloomy day was to go home and watch TV, I felt like I could spare the evening for one of my favorite singers. Cesca even trekked out with the inklings of a cold, so we stopped at a pharmacy for weird Korean medicine before camping out for a bit to see the concert.

I did my homework while we waited in line
like the good student that I am.

It was rainy, but everyone opened their umbrellas around us, so we didn't get too wet. We also ended up having a really great view. 


Fact: He sounds incredible live

I took some videos, but over all just tried to enjoy the short but awesome free concert. It was cold and I was tired, but considering concerts here cost around $90 or more, getting to see one of my favorite singers for free was a pretty good reason.

Because of the long trek home, I stayed up pretty late and did my normal lounge, clean and relax Saturday morning. 

I met up with Sarah, Cesca and Janell to head to my second concert of the weekend, MBLAQ.

You probably don't remember, but I went to their concert last year. In fact, I think they were my first live kpop group. This concert had a different tone. Breakup rumors, enlistment rumors and other gossip going around had made the fans worried, and the concert was also a little bit haphazardly organized. 

We got signs to hold up, and Cesca bought a
light stick!

I/We Love You, MBLAQ
I have my old light stick
We even got asked to do a short interview where we talked about how excited we were for the concert, as well as yelling 'MBLAQ fighting!" I got a free cookie.

Because I saw them last year, I know how much more playful their concerts are. But perhaps all of the rumors and stress had taken their toll, because this concert wasn't as upbeat. No cross dressing or really messing around, the boys were rather serious on stage. There were even times when they cried during their speeches about the last 5 years since their debut... waaaaah.

We were standing this time, and this was the tamest standing concert I've been too. I was barely shoved or pushed, which was awesome, and by chance, we ended up quite close to the front, which meant we had completely spectacular views of them during a good 95% of the concert. 

Sarah expressing how we felt after the concert,
glad we came, but a little let down by the lack
of energy from the group. It seemed like
they were kind of going through the motions

We tried to take a quick selfie after. These are our attempts

being silly

I'm sad MBLAQ might break up, but I'm a little disappointed that they didn't give it their all at this concert. Apparently they were a little peppier for their second one, but still... Whatever they end up doing, I thoroughly enjoyed both of their concerts and I will probably still jam out to their music whenever it comes up on my walk to work shuffle. Thanks for a great show MBLAQ!

Because the concert was so far away, it took us foreeever to get home. 

My feet are apparently handling these concerts better though, because I am not nearly as sore as I was after a few other standing concerts. Woohooo!!!

I slept over at Cesca's apartment after the concert, and we hung out till the afternoon.

I saw some article about women who showed
what they looked like with and without
makeup by doing half of it, so I wanted to try it.
I feel like I don't wear that much, but look
at the difference!

haha idk, that was random. So after messing with my makeup, I headed out.

I thought i was imagining this at first

but wait!

It's a rainbow!

2 rainbows!!!

So vibrant and pretty!!!

I am hoping that's a sign that this week will go well! I went home, did some laundry, prepped for school, and studied some Korean. I'm thinking of taking the TOPIK this coming January, which is the Test of Proficiency in Korean. I would only attempt beginner level, but it would be nice to see if I can successfully say I'm past beginner level. Young Ah has been working with me at school on some vocabulary, and I study a lot of grammar at home and in class. I hope I can get ready in time!!!

Now I'm getting ready for a cold week ahead. 

I've definitely already posted some MBLAQ before, but I heard songs at their concert that I haven't happened upon in ages, which was nice. They really never got the popularity they deserved... 

I've had this song in particular stuck in my head since the concert.

They're pretty adorable in this video haha.

I also love this song and video (for probably obvious reasons)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Movin' On Up!

This week was not as stressful for me as it was for Cesca, and overall it was pretty quiet. Which was nice, because I've been quite busy lately. 

Strawberry chocolates from a 4th grader

I ran into 2 other 4th graders on my walk home,
and they presented me with pumpkin taffy
and a mini hand warmer. Aaw.

My Mondays are typically my 'get stuff done day,' since I'm busy the rest of the week. I usually buy my groceries on my walk home, cook something for the week, catch up on Sunday TV (currently The Walking Dead and Once Upon a Time, as Downton Abbey has finished it's season), I do a workout, I clean up the apartment if I didn't get to it during the weekend, I study Korean and I skype my parents. I always stay up way too late, but we never run out of things to talk about, and I miss them a lot, so it's worth the tiredness on Tuesday. 

This Tuesday was kind of special. Young Ah has been helping me study Korean on and off for the year, and we've gotten a better schedule figured out now, so in the afternoons while everyone else is napping or watching TV, shopping or lesson planning, she helps me practice my vocabulary and clarifies some things for me. Don't worry, she still gets her naps in!

This particular day was special cause I am movin' on up! That's right!

I moved up a level in Korean class! Hello
The jump from beginner to intermediate is actually really tough. The amount of vocab and grammar we are covering per class has gotten a lot more intense, but I am just going to have to buckle down and work harder. Everyone at work knows I'm studying anyway, so I will have to be more productive during my downtime there. 

this is what an intermediate passage looks like in Korean

Sometimes, I need a little inspiration. And who better to give it to me than some Kpop stars? Korean CDs often come with free posters, and since the idols often promote things like cosmetics brands, you often get free swag when you shop for makeup. Hence, I have a bunch of posters.

The back of my door, to inspire me before I
leave every day

It's laughably warm in Seoul right now. I say laughably because my hometown just got hit with that huge snowstorm. Thankfully, my parents were largely unscathed (huzzah, Lockport!), but the pictures I saw and received from my friends and family were CrAzY.

like, what??
 My co workers were horrified to see the pictures. I think they're rather amusing. You can do it Buffalo!!! Fighting!

In other news, this was the week that I for some reason got infinitely frustrated with Korean walking culture...? Koreans don't tend to stick to one side of the path or the other, and they tend to meander a lot. Or, they walk 3 abreast on tiny side walks to create impenetrable walls in front of me as I try and go to school...

The dreaded Wall of Ahjummas

nothing some cute socks can't fix.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent working and studying, where I got to show off my Korean skills to my students, who had to translate some simple sentences to me (He is a doctor, she is a teacher, etc). By show off I mean I know basics terms for jobs, so my handler didn't have to give reading tests, which nobody likes anyway. The kids did a great job, and I think this is helping them get less nervous to talk to me. 

On Friday, Cesca and I had a game plan:


We really just wanted to check it out and grab a couple of things, but it turned out to be a long adventure. There's lots of stuff in there I want/recognize, but the sheer size of it prohibits me. Or if it's frozen, I can't keep it. My fridge has a tiiiiiny freezer. Pointless. 

But now that Cesca lives closer and with a big apartment, and I see her a lot, we can start splitting things and shopping there together. 

I got super stoked for bagels.

We also bought mini muffins, granola bars, sponges, spices and a few misc things. It seems like it will be worth the time investment to make it there every so often. 

On Saturday, I lounged around more than I intended to after skyping Liz for like 2 hours. I forgot how much we always had to talk about. We probably could have talked for a few more hours, but it was bed time for her and I was supposed to do more with my day. I ended up cleaning my apartment a bit (I clean it a lot, but then it becomes a disaster during the week, as usual), and then I headed out to meet Sarah and Cesca to shop a bit, eat street food and then see Mockingjay!

I found my inspiration. The workbook for level
2 intermediate is PINK AND I WANT IT

After the freaking awesome movie (seriously, I was tense with anticipation the whole time, and I KNEW what was going to happen), we goofed around a bit in Hongdae in one of the cute gift shoppy places.

I want these

While we were out, we had a funny, er, incident. 

You know how sometimes, when something happens, you loudly and sarcastically make comments about it? Like when you're walking by people who are blocking the stairs and you say something like 'Wow, that's a great place to stand and have a conversation, it's not like people need to get through here or anything..."? It was something like that.

We were heading through Hongdae to go to the movie theater, and I had heard multiple people exclaim "wow, there are a lot of foreigners!" in Korean, as they tend to do. Koreans are sometimes very expressive with their thoughts on the weather (you'll always hear a chorus of it's cold! or it's hot! when you're outside, in case you didn't notice it was freezing...), or how they're feeling (I'm hungry, ooooh I'm tired...), and after all the shoving and silly inane comments about the number of foreigners, I had had enough.

 I think a lot of them also just say things thinking/knowing most foreigners can't understand them, but like, come on. You live in a big city and you're in one of the central entertainment districts. It's a well known fact that your country recruits young English speakers to teach in your schools. WHY is it such a surprise that there are a bunch of us out in an area popular for tourists and residents alike, on a Saturday night no less?

So, after hearing "wow, there are so many foreigners!" for the umpteenth time a few feet behind me, I loudly exclaimed "YES, THERE ARE A LOT OF FOREIGNERS, GLAD YOU NOTICED!!" to which I heard "Oh! They understood what you said!" followed by embarrassed laughter. It was pretty funny and made me feel a tiny bit better. 

It's a bit pretentious to assume that none of us know what's being said around us, especially since even the ones who don't know Korean know the work foreigner (it's waygookin, btw). Someday I'd like to be able to turn around and say 'You know, how would you feel if you went somewhere else and you kept hearing "Omg a Korean!!" everywhere you went??" to these people, just to put it into perspective.

 It doesn't bug me all the time, but after over a year of being gawked at like I've got 2 heads, sometimes I wanna just respond to people and explain that that's just weird. Or I wanna ask "Is there something on my face? Can you stop staring?" And no, it's usually not malicious

I'm probably overreacting, but it gets old being gawked at and openly stared at and commented on (yes, even if it's nice things), because I'm just a normal person living a normal life, working and enjoying life in South Korea. I think it was just because I'd been having kind of a meh week, not bad, not good, and because I kept getting bumped by Koreans not paying attention or just continuing on their path even though it will result in a collision, so that last 'waygookin' comment was the last straw. 

It honestly was super entertaining to kind of embarrass those guys just by surprising them with the fact that I knew what they were saying. Look forward to more stories of me confronting gossiping koreans on the street in the future, it might become a thing.

I had a lazy but productive Sunday. I slept in, bummed around a bit, and then headed out so spend a good few hours studying at a cafe, because if I'm at home I tend to get too distracted.

gotta study hard!

I got a deeeelicious red velvet hot chocolate.
So good.

Orange is not as inspiring...

I went home after a few hours because I was hungry. I made dinner, did some pilates (ugh, pilates is the definition of 'hurts so good'), and then decided to treat myself to a spa night.

Foot and face masks, ftw

And now, good people, another weekend has come to an end. 

don't be jealous, my school is still

Since it's not very cold here, it's hard to believe that it's almost December, and that Thanksgiving is upon us. Sending love and thanks to all my lovely friends and family out there, thanks for sticking with me on this incredible journey!!!

Love you all!!

My musical tastes this week range from ballads to hip hop, and something in between

I'm still obesssed with Kyuhyun's new album. Besides "At Gwanghwamun," I am also in love with Eternal Sunshine. That voice... wow.

Beast just released a new version of their 12:30 MV, which just focuses on the members instead of the storyline with the girl from the last video. 

I really like it, cause you get to see more of the members, and they KILL it with the dancing in the middle of the video. The dance is super intense for a rather slow song. Love it. Obsessed. 

I'm also, like Cesca, obsessed with the new G Dragon and Taeyang track 'Good Boy,'
which makes me want to go clubbing, despite the fact that I hate clubbing. It's that catchy.

I'm not in love with the video, and G Dragon's hair makes me want to pull mine out, but the song is killer. This will definitely be on my 'walk to school pump up' playlist

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Phantom Ice Cream, Pikachu and an Early Thanksgiving

Halfway through November with lots to report!

On my normal jaunt home this week, I happened across something that made me stop in my tracks:

Yes. You read the title right. The flavor of the month at Baskin Robbins is Phantom of the Opera!!! It's Opera Cake flavored, which means it has a few diff types of chocolate in it, plus some almonds and actual chocolate pieces. 

aaaaah I freaked out

Seriously, if you don't know why this is a big deal to me, you should stop reading, as you obviously don't know me at all.

Of course I had to try it! I've never had opera cake, which looks like a French version of tiramisu, but the ice cream version was pretty good. I'm rather biased, though.

This is a Tayo bus and it's happy to see you!
Brightens up my morning to see one of these!

Tayo is a Korean animated cartoon about a bus in a big city. So to advertise, they made some of the buses Tayo buses. So cute!!!

On Wednesday, the area schools started getting ready for Sooneung, the College Scholastic Aptitude Test here in Korea, which takes place once a year on a Thursday.

some of the schools start hanging banners
denoting their Sooneung test officialness.
I saw this one on the way to school.

Wednesday is also special lunch day, but this one wasn't my favorite. 

I just... am not good at eating these.
So awk. And not delicious (to me). THEY

The rice, mixed with ketchup (?) was good though.
Because Sooneung is so mega important in Korea, traffic and businesses are basically halted until after 9, when the test starts. At my school, which is very close to a testing site, we can't ring the bells, play loud music or let the kids play outside all day. The early test start means that I also got to go into work late, which was amazing. I wish I could have that extra hour of sleep every day. School would be a lot less miserable if we all got that extra time to sleep.

Late students even get a police escort to school. 

It was bitterly cold on Thursday, which led to this on Friday...

Just a tiiiiny bit...

... of snow. Noooooooo

Thankfully, it was only a tiny bit, and temperatures have returned to around 50, which makes me happy. My school is by a mountain though, so it's considerably colder there, inside, than my house. Wamp. Oh well. At least I'm prepared this year. I have furry school shoes and a blanket at my desk, plus lots of layers of Heattech and fleece leggings for the winter. I CAN DO THIS.

I also bought what we have dubbed "ear phone muffs"
which are ear muffs with speakers so that I can
still listen to music while I'm walking to work.
Hopefully they won't mess up my hair too much

On Friday, the kids had a cooking class, and
proudly presented me with some pizza.
Normally I don't get a ton of gifts from them, as
they tend to forget me, so I was stoked.

Ok, don't judge, because I think this is the last time, buuuut on Friday, Young Ah and I met up with Cesca to attend the Mr. Show, which has made it's way back to Hapjeong. Hehehe. In my defense, Cesca missed a bunch of the show last time, and Young Ah hadn't seen it yet. It would be irresponsible of me not to go with them, right? 

Please can I keep them all??

In a not surprise event, the MC saw there were foreigners in the audience, us, the only non Koreans..., and tried to pull us up on stage. He talked so fast and got us to play Rock Paper Scissors, which I won, before I finally got a word in edgewise to say "I already did it!" so Cesca could have her turn, which she thoroughly enjoyed. She was also the youngest girl on stage by like, 40 years, as two ahjumma's got picked for the other two spots. 

It was great to see Cesca get to enjoy herself haha. I'm happy we got to get her on stage. Young Ah and I cheered and hollered the whole time, and it was just a fun, entertaining evening. Young Ah told me she was so happy that she wouldn't get mad at our kids this whole week. That's probably a stretch, since our sixth graders have become rowdy in a not fun to teach way (end of the year apathy and such), but I'm so happy we got to go together. It was a blast!!!

I think that was my last time, since there are quite a few other things coming soon that I want to do and see, but I'm glad I got to take Cesca and she got to fully enjoy it this time!

loving it

Co Teacher approved

hahaha yesss

We had an excellent time

Our Saturday plans were kind of a bust. Korea won some international Pokemon tournament or something, so they were supposed to be celebrating near Dongdaemun this weekend. There was supposed to be a Pikachu parade, but TOO MANY PEOPLE CAME so they cancelled it. 

So Sarah, Janell, Cesca and I wandered around the area, shopped a bit, and just meandered into the Championship Hall. Pokemon, like all games, is taken quite seriously here (where they call it Pocket Monsters, not Pokemon).

At least the view was nice

We wandered around till evening, because there's an LED garden in Dongdaemun Design Plaza right now, and we wanted to see it

Pikachuuuu is so cute

Taking the gaming very seriously

BUT THEY CANCELLED THE LIGHTS CAUSE THERE WERE TOO MANY PEOPLE... So I just found what it would have looked like anyway.

Sad we couldn't see it live... oh well...

To console ourselves, Sarah, Cesca and I hit up Myeongdong for some delicious street food (which included ddeokbokki, meatballs, ice cream and waffles), and we picked up Kyuhyun's new solo album, at Gwanghwamun, from our trusted kpop stores. We also got lots of socks, just because. 

On Sunday, Cesca and I met up with Lauren, Janell and Ga Hyeon for an early Thanksgiving dinner at the base in Yongsan, who was hosting a buffet this year. I'm still stuffed from stuffing my face with the deliciousness that was the meal.


brb dying cause it was so delicious

Missing home a lot lately, so some Thanksgiving food with
good friends certainly helped 

I'm thankful my bella is here to celebrate with me this year!
There was even a dance party with classics like the Electric Slide and Macarena. It was a fun night, but I totally ate waaaay too much (we went back for seconds...) haha. Food baby and food coma, here I come!

It was a little early, but since I work and have Korean classes on Thursdays, it would be hard to celebrate on the actual day. I'm just grateful I have a place to get some good, American style Thanksgiving food, and awesome friends (and this year, family!) to share it with.

Missing you all tons this year, and I hope you think of us on Thanksgiving. We're grateful for all of the support and love we've gotten during our time here. Special congratulations shout out to our cousin Nick and his wife Whitney on the birth of their gorgeous daughter!!! She's beautiful!!! Can't wait to meet her someday!!!

And with that, it's time for another full week to begin. Man, the weeks and weekends just fly by when you have good friends to share it with...


As I mentioned, Cesca, Sarah and I stopped for some Kpop in Myeongdong, because my favorite member of Super Junior, Kyuhyun, released a gorgeous solo album. Kyuhyun has one of the best voices in Suju, and one of the best ballad voices in Kpop, in my opinion. so of course I had to get this CD. I am normally not a CD fan. but Korean cd's usually have good perks, like this one, which came with a photobook and poster, all for like $11. Plus, some important people worked on this album, like famous pianist Yiruma, and Changmin from TVXQ, who wrote some lyrics to a song Kyuhyun composed. SOOOO GOOD.

I like ballads because I'm overly emotional and tend to tear up when I listen to them, plus they're slower so I can catch the words, and really hear the voices. Kyuhyun's album is autumn themed, and apparently that means that when the leaves change, so do relationships...?  I'm not sure, but apparently a lot of breakups happen in Fall. 

Ballad songs are usually sad and mournful anyway, so the title song of the album, At Gwanghwamun (one of the gates of Seoul where Gyeongbokgung palace and the King Sejong statue is), discusses the feelings of loss after a relationship has ended, and how sometimes he goes back to think about the end and how happy they were. But he's happy to see that Gwanghwamun is still as beautiful now as it was when they were together. Awww.

Today, like a fool, I'm standing at this spot
Getting wet in the rain

Waiting for you, who won’t come
I was happy
At the memories of holding hands and walking together,  I look back
In case you are standing there...