Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Roller Coaster to India

About 2 weeks prior to my trip to India last year, I had lost my ARC (alien registration card) and had been super worried about how that would affect my re-entry into Korea.  I had gotten a certificate of alien registration in case there was a problem, but I still wasn't confident that that is all I would need.  I also desperately hoped that my replacement ARC would arrive before I left to the airport, but it wasn't looking positive.

On Friday I had just wrapped up teaching winter camp, and headed home to finalize my packing.  Just as I was about to leave to catch the bus to Seoul, I got a phone call from a man that was only speaking Korean.  "Wagookin delivery" he managed to get out.  I realized that this was either my ARC card, or a Christmas/birthday package that I didn't want either sitting in front of my door or floating around the system while I was gone.  But, I couldn't understand what else he was saying, but my best guess was that he needed directions.  So, I called my co-teacher, and the next co-teacher, and the next... finally reaching the 4th Korean person, that also knew where I lived, I explained the situation and had them call the poor delivery guy back.  About 15 minutes later, my ARC showed up.  Hooray!  I was back to being legal.  I guess Korea wanted me to come back.

I set out for Seoul, approximately 2 minutes later.

I took the intercity bus from Masan to Seoul, and had plans to meet my friend for dinner. After arriving in Seoul I had to make my way a mere 2 stops down to his neighborhood, Yeoksam-dong, in the heart of Gangnam.  Once I arrived at his station, I decided to use the restroom and check which exit I should meet him at.  One glance at my phone revealed something was wrong.  It was dead.  DEAD.  It didn't make any sense since I'd had a decent charge just moments before.  I became very worried, as I had no idea how or where to meet my friend after that.

Still in the station I decided to see if I could charge up my phone for a minute and get some service.  The plug I found just happened to be under a light up billboard, in a dirty corner of the station.  I plugged in and waited... nothing.  I thought to myself that maybe the plug wasn't "on" or working, so I walked over to a counter-only coffee shop and asked if they'd plug in my phone, and again I waited.  It had probably been a good 20-30 minutes since I'd last spoken with my friend, and I was getting anxious.  A few minutes plugged in there and still... nothing.  Nothing but a black screen.  I cursed my then, nearly brand new iPhone, and decided I would just start at exit one, and go from there (I believe there were 8-10 exits out of the subway station.)  I figured at some point I had to see my friend.  There simply wasn't another option.

I took the escalator up at exit one, keep in mind I'm lugging my suitcase for India this entire time.  As I approached the top level of the subway station, I saw my friend sitting on a bench in front of exit one.  Thank god!  I was so happy, he was so annoyed that I hadn't been responding to his texts.  He quickly forgave me, as I'm sure I seemed pretty frazzled over the situation.

(click on pictures to enlarge)
A quick stop while we were out to get Christmas-y photos!  
Clearly, I'm not very relaxed.  

We hadn't seen each other since the previous summer, so it was quite nice to be able to catch up with one another.  We headed out to drop my luggage in his apartment before we went out to dinner.  It was my first time in Seoul, and it was freezing, and now my phone was broken, but I was enjoying the Christmas decorations all over Seoul, and of course seeing my friend after so long.

 Christmas in Seoul - Don't worry, Be happy!

beautiful lights on a building 

a star of lights on a building

Soon we were strolling around Seoul looking for a place to eat.  My friend was in the mood for a burger, but by this point it was getting late.  I was still unnerved about my phone going berserk (I had plugged it in at my friends apartment, but was still getting the black screen of death.)  It seemed everyplace we attempted to go to was closed.  God, I was so cold, I just wanted to go inside somewhere, anywhere.

Us, playing with one of the street wi-fi poles
It has a camera, games, directions, etc.  
We messed up and emailed ourselves the blurry photo on accident.

Finally, we wound up at Hooters.  It was a Hooters in the fact that they served (even more over-priced) American food.  The service was horrible, the food was OK at best, and not that I really cared, but there weren't really any hooters to speak of.

Eventually, we wound up back at my friend's apartment, where I checked my phone again, and it still wasn't working.  I decided to get up extra early for the airport and see if I could swing into a phone store on my way.

The next morning, I woke up and lo and behold, my phone was working.  Just like normal, as if nothing had ever happened.  Of course, it made me look like a crazy person (I'm sure my friend is convinced that the battery was just dead.)  Anyways, at least I didn't have to worry about it before setting off for the airport.

After taking the airport subway line, I arrived incident free (it was about time) at Incheon International Airport.  It took a bit of navigation, but I found my airline counter to check in. I was on time, I had my stuff, a working phone, all seemed well, and it was about to get a lot better.

Christmas decorations at Incheon International Airport 

ice skating rink at Incheon International Airport

When checking in for my flight, the counter worker asked me if I minded being upgraded to business class.  Playing it as casually as I possibly could while my insides were jumping around like a kid on Christmas morning, I said, "Oh!  Yes, that would be awesome!"  Then the counter attendant asked me if I preferred the first or second floor, My response, "Oh my god, there are TWO floors!  Oh, I don't know.  First, no second!  Second!"  Clearly, I am not so great at seeming casual, but it was all good 'cause I got business class baby!

Now for any of you that have not been to Incheon International Airport.  It is big.  I decided to go and grab a bite to eat and find my gate.  And so that is what I did.  What I did not do was think about changing my money, at least not until the last few minutes before my flight.  I managed to find a currency exchange counter, but the line seemed awfully long.  I texted my friend in India, and asked if he thought if it would be OK if I just exchanged my money there.  He said yes, and I stopped worrying, and I very casually made my way back to my gate.  This was a huge mistake, but as our flight boarded I had not a care in the world.

Let me just say, for the record, that business class is awesome!  Seriously, the best ever.  Ah, I wish I were rich.  I could definitely get used to free champagne, hot towels, cheese platters, delicious meals, and a lay-flat seat on every flight.  But I feel it is pretty safe to assume that this was my once in a lifetime upgrade.

business class seat!

business class meal, I could get used to this

The upgrade was only good until Hong Kong, where I had to board the plane with all the regular people.  Only a few (about 6) more hours til I was in India.  I was bursting with excitement.

I finally arrived late at night in the Bombay Airport in Mumbai.  The line for immigration was super long, and it was super hot, for I had on far too many layers to be in an un-air conditioned airport in India.  Eventually, I made my way through.  I eventually found a currency exchange outside of security.  I went up to the counter to exchange my money.  "We don't take Korean won here." said the man.  I tried the next place, and got the same response.  I wasn't quite sure what to do since once you leave the airport, you cannot re-enter without a boarding pass.  At all.  I knew my friend was waiting outside, and decided to check all the currency exchange places again.  No luck.  This was not turning out to be my trip.

With nothing left to do, I left the airport.  And explained the situation to my friend.  We'd get something sorted out eventually I was sure of it.  But at the moment, I'd had more ups and downs than one wants on a journey across the world.  Though at that moment, with that friend, there was no where else I wanted to be, and I was delirious and I was happy.  I was in India.

Hugs & Kisses,
Liz

P.S. - For the record, I never did find a place in all of India to exchange my Korean money.  I even tried a Korean bank!  They did not want it, and I was even told they had no use for it.  I wound up drawing money off my credit card, which I believe wound up to be cheaper as far as exchange rates and fees go anyway, so it wasn't too bad.  I just had to carry around (and not lose) the Korean money while I was there, which was sort of a pain in the ass.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Take a rest

"Take a rest" is a widely used, shall I say Konglish expression used by many Koreans, Asians, (and eventually) foreigners in Korea.

I've been told to take a rest in a variety of situations; sick days, if a class has been cancelled, sometimes in the middle of class if it is a time with the Korean co-teacher is working with the students on something.  At first it was a little unsettling, because to me it almost seemed like it was being suggested that I go and be lazy, which of course is not how I wanted to be perceived as a teacher.

The phrase has now penetrated my vocabulary (as it would anyone who has spent some time in Korea or Asia) and it has become hard to think of what phrases I used to say (take a break, get some rest, etc.), or feel like I should say anymore, and I just roll with it.

However, I recently found a planner that provides us with the exact definition.

(click on picture to enlarge)
Take a rest
when you so tired you need rest a moment do clear you 
mind and think comfortably then you will better than before

It is suddenly all so clear.  Now I see what I am supposed to be doing when I take a rest, and here I was secretly hoping it meant nap time.

Take a rest y'all.
Hugs & Kisses,
Liz



Monday, January 21, 2013

And I quote...


“Ever notice how 'What the hell' is always the right answer?”
― Marilyn Monroe

And I quote...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Korean penis fish

I think most people who come to Korea hear about the penis fish pretty quickly after getting here, if not even before they arrive.  And even if not, the first time you walk past a vendor selling them, you will definitely do a double take.

(click on pictures to enlarge)
Penis Fish (aka Spoon Worm)

how you see them in the market

I just recently learned that the real name for this fish is the Spoon Worm, or in Korean 개불 (gaebul), and is also commonly known as Fat Innkeeper Worm. Everyone I know says Penis Fish.  While out recently, I caught a glimpse of these fish in some sort of eating/travel show (I did not catch the name or most of the program.)  The little bit I saw of that show has definitely turned me off from ever wanting to eat these, not that I was feeling particularly inclined anyways.

How I saw them prepare it as food in the History Channel show (set in Korea), was they cut off the ends of the still pulsating worm, and squirt/squeeze out suspicious juices (sorry I don't have better info, but the show was on mute), then the fish is sliced up after it is made to look like a deflated balloon.  Then the fish is served raw with sesame oil and salt.  The host of the show did not look thrilled when he took a bite.

Yummy looking, isn't it?

There is a wee bit more information on Wikipedia, here and here, including the fact that it is also used as bait to catch, what I am assuming is larger and less creepy fish.  I'd like to consider myself pretty adventurous  but... just... ew!

Here is a video of the gripping action!

You can also click here to watch the video on YouTube.

I think what we can all take away from this post is that, people eat these things.  For food.  And, yes, it is apparently supposed to help with virility, so fellas go ahead and eat up!  Hope you are hungry!

Hugs & Kisses,
Liz

Friday, January 18, 2013

Resolutions, the loss of self

I've always had a hard time starting any sort of resolutions before my birthday January 12.  It is sort of lucky for me that my actual new year starts so close to the calendar new year.  However, I feel like this adds double the pressure to make any sort of resolutions the best ever, after all I do get a 12 day grace period for coming up with dramatic-life-altering-mind-blowing changes!

And, like everyone else, I can barely remember what my resolution one by the time the next year rolls around.

For example, one of my many resolutions last year was to read 35 books.  (If you want, I will share some of my other resolutions with you - just ask.)  Goodreads.com (go join, sign up, it is awesome) has a great Reading Challenge to help you keep track.  Well, 30 books in (and only in June or so,) I realized that I was going to blow this goal out of the water.  So, I updated my goad on the Reading Challenge to 52 books, a book a week.  It could be done.  I was half way through the year, and more than halfway through the new goal.   Come summer, and travels, and life in general I slowed down reading a bit.  I also embarked on not one, but 2 novels that were 700+ and 1000+ pages respectively.  My count was down.  I was worried I wouldn't meet my new goal.  I started reading shorter books, books I DID want to read, but maybe not on the top of my "to read next" list.

Come mid-December and I was still 8 books (well 7 2/3 books) short of my goal.  (That 1000+ page book was moving sloooooooooowly, still is.)  I had a talking to myself.  On one hand, I was 8 books short of my goal, and due to traveling, I knew I wouldn't have time to finish, but on the other hand I was 9 books over my original goal.  I didn't want to be this girl, that was trying to make a "resolution" look good on paper (or computer screen as it were), I read because I love to, and those books aren't always going to be short and fast reads.  At that moment, with only 2 weeks left in the year, I abandoned this particular resolution in favor of being myself.  (Which was good because come New Years, goodreads.com deleted the 2012 Reading Challenge in favor of the 2013 Reading Challenge... that's no fun, at least send me a chart or thumbs up or something.)

(click on picture to enlarge)
A chart from the goodreads.com stats section, NOT a nice Reading Challenge update.
Here are my books read in 2012.

Charts, and numbers are fun.  They show progress, and who doesn't love that little bit of satisfaction?  The fact is I finished the year having read 46 (and 1/3) books (11 more than my original goal), more than 14,000 pages (thank you "stats" option), but more importantly I discovered I love non-fiction (I thought I hated it, but had never given it a chance), I delved into history, I explored the world, I was elated and frightened and disgusted, and I lived through some exciting tales & experiences, and that is who I want to be.

So this year, I am only giving one challenge to myself (a resolution if you will), a challenge that will not lose my sense of self, and that is... to love and to improve.  You can't really have one without the other.

Don't take this the wrong way, my goal to love and to improve is just the goal for 2013.  That is how I will rate myself next year.  Did I accomplish that?  I will still set life goals for myself, but I want to do it on my own time, and not have that all in life must be accomplished within a calendar year.  That, my friends, is how you lose your sense of self, or at least how I lost mine.

In fact, here is a resoultion-y list worth abiding by, written on one of my favorite blogs.  It follows my new love and improve motto quite nicely.

(...and cause I like progress reports and charts, I'll keep my goodreads.com challenge this year, but set it to a more realistic number, and focus more on reading what I want, even if it takes me half a year.)

Hugs & Kisses,
Liz

P.S. - Disclaimer, I love goodreads.com.  I love seeing what I've read, and browsing the books, seeing what friends are reading and getting recommendations from both my friends, and the site.  I'm always discovering something new on there, and really do enjoy tracking what I've read.  Feel free to join me on there.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What the... English?!? Panty party edition

I present to you What the...English?!? Panty party edition

I stumbled on this gem, strolling through my town one afternoon.  Glancing around, it didn't seem to have anything to do with anything.  This has to be one of the oddest signs/wall painting I have seen in awhile.

Enjoy!
(click on picture to enlarge)
transcription below 
(I upped the contrast, so it would be easier to see)

"Hey, june!!
Didnt you see my panty
And brassiere?
Well... Is that yours?
No!
How about this one?
It's mine!!
My underware!!
Why don't go to yes?
Yes? Yes!!! Yes
Let's go to yes!!!!"

I'll let you digest that for a bit.  That's all for now.


Monday, January 14, 2013

And I quote...


“Have you ever found anything that gives you relief?" 
"Yes. A drink”
― E.B. White
The Second Tree from the Corner

And I quote...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Korean public holidays 2013


Here are a list of the Korean public holidays, also commonly known as "red days" for 2013.

Tues., Jan. 01 - New Years Day
Sat. - Mon., Feb. 9 to 11 - Seollal (Lunar New Year)
Fri., Mar. 01 - Movement Day
Sun., May 05 - Children's Day
Fri., May 17 - Buddha's Birthday
Thur., June 06 - Memorial Day
Thur., Aug. 15 - Liberation Day
Wed. - Fri., Sept. 18 to 20 - Chuseok (Mid-Autumn Festival)
Thur., Oct. 03 - Foundation Day
Wed., Dec. 25 - Christmas Day

Monday, January 7, 2013

And I quote...


“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
― George Eliot

And I quote...