It's good for your wellbeing

Amanda's Wellbeing Burger, with a side of Wellbeing Sauce. I think it saved her life.


I'm sorry...

Changing this template was hard.  And now all my posts look like huge chunks of word vomit. But it shall stay because it took me two hours.  Discuss.


MIS-Adventure Korea

Yesterday was the weirdest day.  But let me back up a bit.  All summer, my friends and I have been trying to book a rafting/bungee jumping trip through a local outfitter, Adventure Korea, but for one reason or another, it never quite worked out.  Then finally, at the end of July, Erica and I managed to secure two spots for the weekend of August 3rd.  This also happened to be the last weekend of our summer vacation, so we thought that would work out really well.  HA! While we were basking in the glorious sunlight in Jeju, it had been raining for a solid week on the mainland, causing the rivers to swell to "unsafe" levels.  More like FUN levels.  So the trip was rescheduled for the following Saturday.  Bleh.  We passed and booked another trip for August 23rd.  But Korea was trying to thwart us at every turn as Friday night was Poly Fun Night -- Korean BBQ and Norae Bang on Poly's dime. Yeah, you can't really get outta that one. Needless to say, we were wrecked Saturday morning.

At this point, I'd like to interject and say that Adventure Korea's website made no mention of the fact that high water would kill all bungee jumping possibilities. It had been raining for a few days.  AND the last time we booked through Adventure Korea our trip was cut short by a typhoon.

So anyway, the three of us managed to make it on the bus.  We may have still been slightly drunk.  At least there were no uncomfortable bus ride hangovers...  By 9 the sun was shining and we were getting excited.  That is until our "Fun Guide" broke the news that bungee jumping would be canceled.  Tim and Erica were pissed.  No worries, said our "Fun Guide," we would still be traveling to the bridge so we could take pictures of the place we SHOULD have jumped from.  And rafting was being pushed back to 1PM, so we were gonna take a bus tour of the area -- a 3 HOUR bus tour.  Seriously?  You've got to be kidding.  Way to think on yer feet, Adventure Korea, as this is exactly how we wanted to spend the afternoon.

Okay, long story short, we propositioned our "Fun Guide" for the directions to the nearest bus terminal and got them to drop us off so we could hitch a ride home.  That was a walk of shame from the back o' da bus.  The best part?  No idea where we were!  We made it to Gangnam by 1, though, and had delicious lunch and margaritas at Dos Tacos, followed by ice cream at Cold Stone.  And that IS how we wanted to spend the afternoon.

Side note: some interesting tidbits from our trip -- the fastest cab ride ever to Express Bus Terminal, a stunningly clean trashcan adorned with fake flowers, the Korean girl blasting Unk's '2 Step,' and more Canadians on Tour (I think they're taking over Korea.)

Ask and ye shall receive!

The food gods have smiled on me!  Today I managed to drag my ass outta bed for breakfast at Gecko's.  Eggs and bacon and hashbrowns and toast.  My dream come true.  On top of that, Amanda found S&W black AND kidney beans at the international markets.  YES!! Sometimes it's funny to think that mundane items such as black beans could be found at an international market. Not something I consider "international," ya know?  I also got me some cheddar cheese.  Now if only I could get my hands on some Taco Bell...  


The glass is half full

I was walking to work yesterday, enjoying the breeze, the cooler weather and the clear skies, when I began to think of all the things I'm truly thankful for.  And then I realized my last few posts have been a little "glass half empty."  So here, in no particular order, are all the things I would put on my "it's Thanksgiving and these are the things I am thankful for" list. 

1. Skype.  I really can't stress this enough.  My family is so important to me and I can't imagine not being able to speak with them whenever I have exciting news.  Or lame news.  Or no news. I also love that I can see my chubby little nephew Derek, who looks so much like my dad it's scary.  And my brother, who looks healthier and happier than I've ever seen him.  And my dogs. (And calling their names from the computer, only to watch their confused reactions, never ceases to be funny. I'm going to hell for that one...)

2. Walking to work.  This could change in a few months when the weather is cold and snowy and blustery, but right now I'm totally enjoying it.  Especially when the pollution clears and I can see the mountains past Acro Tower.  Those are real good days.

3. The screaming cicadas.  Yes, it's a scream.  And it's constant.  I hear them in the morning while I read in the park, I hear them when I walk to work in the afternoon, I hear them through my window at night. I suppose a little slice of nature in the city is never a bad thang.

4. Korean food.  Little by little it's taking hold... But I draw the line at boshintang soup and sannakji.

5. My old friends.  Buying an insanely expensive plane ticket to come visit me in a country you're not even remotely interested in visiting is, well, awesome.  I'll do my best to show you all a great time!

6. My new friends.  There's nothing quite like throwing a bunch of college grads together who have too many options/interests in life and too little money to pursue them all.  Toss in a LOT of alcohol and sarcasm and maybe a little sexual innuendo and you've got the makings for true friendship.  They really do make living here so much easier.

7. Korean bar food.  I'm sorry America, but Korea is kicking your ass in this arena.  You really need to step up your game here.  After all, you are THE world's superpower -- why would you totally forfeit this game?  I expect thangs to be much improved when I return...

8. Facebook.  Okay, this is really a love/hate relationship.  On the one hand, I get to keep in touch with friends at home. On the other (evil) hand I find myself spending copious amounts of time "researching" new friends.  In another era this would be referred to as stalking. 

9. Soju.  This is also a love/REALLY HATE relationship. It's cheap (about $2 for 500 ml) and it's the ultimate mixer. Fanta and soju? Check. Pocari and soju? Check. Beer and soju? Check. Add fresh watermelon, apple, orange, kiwi, pineapple and yogurt to that list. However, soju tastes like really bad vodka and makes you feel like a teenager when you shoot it. And it's an excruciating hangover.   

10. Getting paid on time. Won't ever take this for granted again.

11. The importance of family in Korean culture.  Including their kids in their everyday lives is not a chore for Korean parents, it's a privilege, the norm.  I can't even imagine how things would change if this were the norm in the States....

12. The wit and humor of my students.  They are so funny, sometimes I have to leave the room.

13. Watching grown men play "paper, rock, scissors" while walking to work. 

14. Mr. Pizza.  I have seen their commercials for months and avoided them simply because their slogan is "made for women."  I don't need no wussy woman pizza.  I'm a pizza snob, a pizza whore.  I need a man's pizza.  So anyway, I actually ate this pizza for women last weekend and it was amazing.  If yer ever in Korea, might I suggest the Secret Garden and the Neo Crunch, although the Shrimp Nude sounds fun too.

15. Korea's obsession with "well-being." I think this is how they justify putting some truly atrocious things into their mouths.  After months of studying and observing, I have determined that pizza, beer, soju, hot chicken soup on an equally hot day, green tea and SALT toothpaste, kimchi, coffee, dog soup, and a host of other things are to be consumed to promote your well-being.  And I gotta say, after I brushed with said toothpaste, I felt like I'd just had a meal.
Whew! If you got through that, then I am thankful for that too.


This is a really hard.

So many things to share and so little time.  Sometimes I feel like I've sold my soul to the Devil called Poly and my only respite is the weekend.  And we all know THOSE aren't meant for relaxin'...

1.  I am sick.  It was bound to happen soon, but I'm feeling especially icky today and knowing that calling in sick is not an option sucks.  Bleh.

2. An interesting weekend was had by all.  Korean Independence Day was Friday and we all decided to escape the city for the three day weekend.  Yeah, us and the other 20 million or so residents of the greater Seoul area.  

A long bus ride, torrents of rain, and blind optimism apparently don't mix well as we were unable to find a hotel room at the beach.  No problem! Janet to the rescue.  I gotta give this girl mad props (yeah...)  Her Korean is fabulous and she managed to find us a pension on the beach. Too bad our cabbie's suggestion was totally bogus. This pension was shabby at best and totally third world at worst --- moldy, spider-infested and stinking of urine.  And the upshot is that we're pretty sure the "proprietor" kicked out some working girls to make room for our party of eight. We must have had "sucka" written all over us.

At the cabstand, taking cover from the torrential rain.

On the beach after the most ghetto dinner I have ever consumed.

No worries, nothing a bit of Cass and Fanta-Soju couldn't fix.  We spent the evening on the beach, eating, playing with fire, and swimming.  And we did NOT stay another night.

Party at the pension.

Amanda and Aura ventured out early Saturday morning and found the Korean lap of luxury -- the Greenworld Motel.  A bit pricey, (at 160,000 won it was 40,000 cheaper than the sh*tty pension) but it did have a comfy bed, a tub, and a blow dryer.  All the things seven girls and one brave dude could ask.

We all spent a sweet day at the beach, sunning, swimming, reading, defying death, and holding handstand competitions. And drinking.  Oh, did I mention this was also a birthday celebration for two of Poly's Finest?  We celebrated in true Korean style at Mr. Pizza (so good), topped off with a sweet potato cake.

Erica, Janet, Tim, me, and Ellen at the Gyeongpo Beach Olympics.

Marcie and I defying death on the slingshot. 30,000 won well spent!

A successful day at the beach.

Then to the bar.  We found a little hole in the wall with good music, Guinness, and a relatively clean bathroom. And we shook it for the next four hours.

The birthday table.
Aura and Erica shake it.
Tim on the mic.
Janet and Amanda gettin' jiggy wit it.
This is a really beach party.
The dance floor.
Aura channels her inner "Blondie." And damn was she GOOD! 
Need you ask?  YMCA.
Goin' home.

3. I need some comfort food. And black beans and Tilamook cheddar and a Cheesy Gordita Crunch minus the meat and a baked potato and breakfast food.

4. Rafting next Saturday. The river looks meager, but perhaps it will satisfy my need to be on a boat. Or maybe not...

5. I love Korean rest stops -- they are truly an event on a road trip. Not only do you get a clean bathroom, you can hit the grocery store for necessities, grab snacks at the hot food vendors, pick up a few pornographic DVDs for the ride home ('cause the ride home is ALWAYS longer) and Christmas shop at one of the many tourist shops. I road trip A LOT at home and I hate stopping at rest stops, but in Korea they are a treat. Except, of course, when you really gotta pee and the bus driver (who's holding you hostage) drives through the rest area, but doesn't stop. Man, that's just cruel.


My biggest Korean beef

I'm gonna b*tch here for a second, so be forewarned.
What is up with the pushy Korean salespeople?!  Arrrggh, they drive me insane.  They routinely follow me around the store, selecting items and waiting for my response.  They are like vultures waiting for the roadkill that is my inevitable purchase.  Even when there are a multitude of other customers, I am always singled out.  I know this because I've watched. Rarely do I see Koreans receiving the same kind of (unwanted) attention that I do.  On more than one occasion this afternoon (and every other time I've been out shopping) the ladies who were manning the outdoor stalls followed me in to watch me shop.  And not from a distance. Like literally standing right on top of me.

Now, I've had a relatively easy time dealing with all the cultural quirks associated with living in another country.  Sometimes they bother me, or I just don't understand the logic behind them, but alas, I'm not here to change things, merely to observe and enjoy.  And really, most of the differences aren't really all that bothersome, hence a total lack of blogging on the subject. However, this one gets to me.  I suppose it goes hand in hand with the whole personal space issue -- as in I need it and Koreans rarely want to give it to me.  Chalk it up to living in a HUGE country that does not rely on public transportation and whose living situations facilitate an abundance of personal space.  Or maybe I'm just weird.  Who knows?  Either way, I can usually only take so much time in the city in my free time before I am so overwhelmed that I head home where I can breathe (kinda.)

But maybe I'm being a little harsh here because I'm annoyed.  In all actuality, the women (and they are ALWAYS women) are sweet and helpful and more than ready to offer me a smile.  And who's to say that one person's "pushy" isn't another person's "attentiveness"?  Maybe I should be flattered that they pay attention to me at all.  I suppose they could just ignore me, because after all, I'm here (essentially) to exploit their private education system for my own financial gain. Hell, a LARGE portion of what I'm paid goes directly back to my home economy, not the Korean one.  They really could take one look at me and write me off as worthless foreigner. Americans do it all the time.

Maybe I just need to re-frame "pushy" and "overbearing" as "attentive" and enjoy the attention. Or I could learn to say "just browsing" in Korean. Hmmm...