First full paycheck is in the bank! Last week I received my ARC (Alien Registration Card) which is kind of like a green card in South Korea and was able to open up a bank account. Now I just need to register my cell phone and I’m back on the grid! Being without a cell phone, car, bank account or computer for a month and a half was a rather surreal time, haha.

This last weekend was uneventful for the most part but quite enjoyable. Friday night I stayed in Daelim with some of the coworkers. The guys all met up at the indoor screen golf establishment across the street from our apartment building. Screen golf is interesting, I mean it’s definitely not the real deal and the fake plants and piped in birdsongs add a certain faux chesseyness to it but all in all I was kind of impressed. I was allowed to bring in a cheese pizza from the local “Pizza School” (much more tolerable if you add fake bacon bits, oregano, hot sauce and garlic powder) and some Chongha (kind of like Soju but less alcoholic and not as harsh tasting). I didn’t play this eighteen but enjoyed the spectating and smack talking. A pyramid of empty Cass cans at the end of the night was our testament to not worrying about crashing the cart.

Using my paycheck I was able to pay for two epic upcoming events in the next month. The first of these is the Boryeong Mud Festival on the South East Coast here in Seoul. Featuring tons of mud-wrestling, jousting and the like it draws a rowdy crowd of foreigners and Korean for one outstanding weekend of debauchery. I’m going with my coworkers and we reserved a package with a group that is renting out a ton of buses with complimentary beers and has reserved three entire hotels just for people who are part of their group. $100 bucks seemed like a score for the accommodations and busing.

Fingers crossed for sunshine.

This was until my coworker totally outdid herself by making the travel and housing arrangements for Summer vacation. Four of us are traveling down to Busan mid-week of our on week vacation in August. For the total cost of $179 we are taking the KTX (traveling at over 300+ km per hour it is the second fastest train on the planet) and staying at a swanky hotel the first night (Tuesday). The next two nights we have a sweet guest house with full amenities and four bunk beds right near the beach for easy access. The ride back will be a little longer in the commuter train but I know I’ll be so tired it won’t even register past my earphone aided power/recovery nap on Friday back to Seoul.

Add onto all this that I moved apartments on Sunday from the lowly fourth four surrounded by Koreans to the 7th floor which is all SLP employees. I managed to luck out with this because the previous tenant left a ton of stuff which I will definitely utilize in my time here. Now I just need to get over to the lighting store and get some paper lanterns to add a little ambience to the place. Once I have it outfitted to my taste I’ll post some pictures. Until then enjoy this video courtesy of Gold Panda.

http://pitchfork.com/tv/#/music-videos/970-gold-panda/

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   Monday was Memorial day and a national holiday so school was not in session. Both my grandfathers fought in the Korean war so I was somewhat pondering doing the typical Korean activity on this day (or at least that’s what my class on holidays states) about going to the War Memorial Museum. Looking at my dirty laundry that had built up in the past week made me think twice about this so I ended up just staying in my apartment.

   All in all it was quite the productive day off. We only have a washer in my apartment (dryers are fairly rare over here) so I did a large load and brought it up to my roof where there is a clothesline and pins. For supper I hard-boiled some eggs, added a can of chili tuna as well as some green onions, leafy cabbage and garlic. I ran to the market and bought some fresh cherry tomatoes to accompany the black soybean, blanched cabbage stem pasta dusted with a 27 her/spices mix (thanks again for the Bragg’s Sprinkle grandma!) and Parmesan. Dessert was one of the leftover chocolate chip cookies from my friend Mary.

   The meal was delicious and the perfect fuel for that night’s Korean language studies. I’ve been pretty satisfied with my progress, it’s nice being able to sound out the written language, though I have no idea what the word is even though I can say it. Great low-key way to finish the weekend!

Doing my laundry old-school style.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Meal with a view.

Studying my Korean while waiting for the clothes to dry.

 

  

Oddly ornate Western architecture.

   There has been a ton of adventures and small stories to put down this last week. Rather than spend a ton of time documenting all of them I figured I’d put it down in a series of installments. Hence all of the post in a day or two since they’re covering a pretty packed 5 day period. Did my best to keep them somewhat in time-linear order though.

   So this weekend all of my coworkers were going out to stay at a pension (kind of like a house you can rent for the weekend) on the East coast. They had placed the reservation before I arrived and were apologizing profusely about not being able to invite me since it was already booked. This crew is way too nice, haha.

   Since they were all leaving early Saturday morning they were taking it pretty easy Friday night. I on the other hand kind of was wanting to go see some of the city. It was a 3 day weekend and for some reason or another was feeling the itch to go do some dancing and have a drink or two. Hung out with one coworker and watched a Werner Herzog documentary about the people who live and worked in Antarctica. Great flick. Headed out for the subway at about 11:30 to catch the last train into Hongdae.

   I knew that the subway stops running from midnight to about 5:30 so I was going out late on the off-chance I might stay out until the first run. Subways here cost no more than $1.40 at most whereas a cab back to my apartment would run me around $15 (which is still far less than the equivalent cab ride would be back in Seattle). I know some people back at home might be a little alarmed when they here I went out at midnight for a night on the town by myself (Dad, I know you are cringing as you read this) but this is a really safe part of town and my coworkers gave me a summary of how to make a night of it when going out solo.

   I also like the immersion aspect of going out with no one else. With other foreigners I can feel somewhat insulated by the numerous aspects of Seoul and Korean culture that seem so alien to me. By myself I was forced to observe more carefully and be a little more bold in talking to people whose grasp of my language was unknown to me. I could have gone to Itaewon and been surrounded by other foreigners but I kind of like the challenge of being forced to adapt and be on your toes socially.

   My first stop of the night was at “Roots Time” which is a small reggae bar. There were only two other girls in their at the time and by the time I left I would be the only patron. My coworker had warned me that it was either really packed (the max occupancy is probably only 20 people with no standing room) or pretty dead. Tonight was a dead night. I did enjoy listening to some good old school roots reggae, flipping through their vinyl collection and chatting with the Japanese bar tender who is an avid reggae fan. He was pretty stoked when he saw my Motorhead t-shirt but we shared a laugh about the fact that if heavy music and reggae are your favorite genres then epic shows in Seoul are going to be few and far between. Had one beer, chatted for a while and then left.

Big ups to this tiny bar.

   I had trouble finding the specific bar (Sk@ bar) I had been to and had a great time dancing and meeting Korean college kids at so ended up at Zen Bar where a lot of foreigners frequent. The fact that I just had gotten my haircut and don’t yet have an ARC made the bouncer pretty wary of me. I think he thought I was enlisted as he grudgingly let me in with a very firm, repeated warning of “No fighting.” Talked with a Korean tattoo artist for a bit but this stop was fairly uneventful.

   After hitting the streets I was still sober, being solo is nice in the fact that if you are somewhat intelligent you probably limit your intake of ethanol…and ready to find Sk@ bar. Asked an Irish chap on the street and got some great directions. Went there and danced pretty tough, met some Korean and Italian kids and had a great time. On the way back to my station I actually ended up sitting in between two Korean guys the same age as me, one of whom was born in the states and had just moved over and the other who had just got back from living in Texas for 4 years. Great coincidence, we shared some stories, laughed about cultural differences and the night ended on a good note as I waved goodbye upon disembarking at Daelim station.

   Oh, I also saw a painting of “The Little Prince” above a DVD store. My godfather Lugino bought me this book as a child and it was one of my favorites. Brought a smile to my face seeing a familiar literary reference. I guess there’s also a themed town based of the book and a semi-recent movie remake of it. Props to the Korean people for respecting Antoine de Saint-Exupéry so much.

The heart-warming story of life's circle via interstellar travel.

The title was said a few times while playing darts with my coworkers this weekend. Hope a few of you caught the NBA Jam reference. I like it for being appropriate on a couple of levels, both the climate and my outlook. The temperature is rapidly rising here in Seoul with Saturday being in the high 70s and Sunday feeling even warmer (I would guess low 80s). Since Washington had somewhat of a long, protracted winter (it had a random snow flurry out at my folks at the beginning of May and a chilly Monsoon the last weekend I was there) I’m having to rapidly develop a bit more of a warm temp tolerance. Pretty happy about buying a couple extra pairs of shorts before I left the States.

Skyscrapers all the way to the mountains.

Lucky for me that my coworkers have found a great way to beat the heat. We all just go up to the roof of our apartment building and bask out on blankets with a cd player providing some audio satisfaction. I had some frozen grapes and sunchips I contributed to the cause and was able to do my first loads of laundry since I arrived. Up on the 8th floor we get a pretty good breeze and there are already clotheslines and pins so most of my laundry dried within 4 hours of hanging it.

 

We also had a couple coworkers that had just came back from the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) on the border with North Korea. They brought some North Korean beer and wine up to the roof. The beer wasn’t bad though hard to gauge when it’s warm and the wine was actually made with blueberries and tasted pretty decent. It’s interesting how little I think about the threat posed by North Korea considering how close they are in proximity. This morning while walking to class I was struck with this thought when I looked up into the sky and three Blackhawk Helicopters were flying North over the buildings in the direction of the most heavily fortified border in the world.

On a different note I’ll conclude this post with the second reason the title seems apt, my perspective. I really feel like I’m getting into my grove. Still no huge amount of culture shock, definitely some moments of social vertigo and at times feeling slightly frustrated when trying to navigate a city this large when you can’t read the majority of the signs but I kinda thought that would happen. All in all I’m feeling really happy already with Seoul and am pretty happy about making the decision to come over here. Time will tell and I shouldn’t be extremely confident because that could just set me up for a huge disappointment down the road but I could see myself making some great friends over here and gaining a more enriched perspective on life and the world.

Thanks for reading, Cheers!

NBA Jam just reminds me of great times as a chillun.

Well I’ve been in Seoul for a week and life is go so far. I really like my coworkers both Korean and foreign. The Korean teachers seemed especially surprised at my positive attitude and how well I seem to be getting along with the kids. I’ve been doing practicum this week and have my first solo classes on Friday. My favorite class so far is the group of 5 and 6-year-old 1st year English speakers. Their class name is the Cheetahs and they are a blast. It’s still tough for me to learn all their names, and vice versa for them, but we’re both making pretty good progress.

We had a class field trip to Seonyudo park which is on an island in the middle of the Han river (giant river that runs right through Seoul) that was a blast. I’ll be posting pictures soon but forgot my cord that connected my camera to computer so need to find one of those at an electronics mart. The park was an old water purification plant that had been restored as a beautiful park. It had botanical gardens of soil and water species, greenhouses, bridges over the river and small wading pools for the kids. It was a ton of fun running around with some of the students I’m going to be teaching.

This is my class the cheetahs, my Korean counterpart and the former teacher are also shown.

My coworkers are a pretty eclectic yet tight group from all over. Two Canadians and the rest Americans from the East Coast, Midwest and Texas that have been really great at welcoming me into the crew and helping me to become adjusted to life over here. We eat out quite a bit, last night was truly the most exceptional meal I have had since I showed up. A small local Japanese hole in the wall that serves all you can eat tuna. They don’t even put the fish on rice they just serve all these different cuts of tuna straight with unlimited amounts of garnish and Miso soup. It was easily the most fish I have ever consumed in a single sitting, probably more than I have ever consumed in an entire week.

Everything up close is just sides. The chef just kept refilling the tuna you can see in the upper-mid left.

I really enjoy the Korean food as well, Bibimbap and Squid Panchon  are delicious and kimchi is great. Being a vegetarian over here is already presenting itself as quite a problem but I’m staying strong at the moment. This last week was a lot of fun and I had a great time trekking it all over Seoul via the subway, though there were a few slightly overwhelming moments when you realize just how big the stations are. I went out with a friend from college who has lived over here for a few years and we hit up a norebang (karaoke bar) which had me feeling like a local.

See my chili oil, pepper, garlic marinated tofu amidst the Samgyeopsal? Grubbin savage style, so good!

Just got off work so I’m going to cruise back to my apartment at the moment and get some dinner ready before I go hang out with coworkers. More updates will follow, sorry I’ve been lax. I’ve had a ton of work to do at school and wordpress seems to not work at the local PC bang (internet cafe).

Talk about Irony! I’m finally in Seoul and don’t have enough time to blog.  So sorry to everyone that has been trying to keep in contact. I will be devoting more time to a full update this weekend. Need to find a PC Bang (internet cafe) since I don’t have a laptop or cell phone till next payday. So far it’s been great!