Frustrated

I’m extremely frustrated right now. On the verge of angry, really.

It’s nearly November and I still have not been told when I am getting off for winter break. So, today I decided to ask my boss. As soon as the words came out of my mouth she stopped and stared at me.

“We don’t know yet.” Her eyes narrowed. “Why do you want to know?”

Why do I want to know? Are you fucking kidding me?

“I’m trying to make travel arrangements,” I replied calmly.

She brushed me off.

I spent the rest of my time in between classes looking up airfare and accommodations for a variety of different destinations. Prices have already gone up since I started looking several weeks ago.

I refuse to spend one of my two longer breaks in Korea (I only get 6 actual vacation days for the year, split between winter and summer). I have an entire year to explore this country and there are so many other beautiful places to experience nearby. Thailand. Japan. Taiwan. The Philippines. Vietnam.

If I wait any longer, I’m not going to want to pay the price for a plane ticket. No. I refuse to pay the price for a plane ticket.

I’m a planner. Not planning things in advance gives me anxiety. Also, I grew up having a travel agent for a mom.

Rage rage rage. Rant rant rant.

I’m having a chocolate bar and going to sleep.

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Two Month Update

As of today, I’ve officially been in Korea for two months! It feels like I just got here.

The past week has been a little difficult, especially since Halloween is just around the corner. It’s weird not to see the leaves changing color, or going apple picking, or pumpkin picking, or sitting around drinking cider. Autumn is my absolute favorite season, and I feel like I’ve taken these things for granted.

It’s still 70 degrees during the day here. The leaves are still green. The pumpkins here are more like plain old squash. It frustrates me because there’s a feeling I always get this time of year and I’m not feeling it.

I miss my mom. She’s in Greece doing Greek things. I miss my friends, although I do try and talk to them on messenger as much as possible. And I spent a long time Skyping with Razor last night, which really cheered me up! It’s not the same, though. I want to see my friends and hug them, and go for coffee, and go for long drives late at night while we sing silly songs.

I’m adjusting, though. I’m glad I finally got to meet Hannah. It’s nice to have one girl friend here who I can talk to on the phone.

One of the teachers who lived here before me left behind a glittery Styrofoam pumpkin, which I have prominently placed on the table in my apartment. It helps.

Also, I get to dress up for a Halloween party at work on Friday and I am going to a party at one of the expat bars on Saturday. It should be fun. I went out and bought some costume pieces yesterday!

My Saturday morning/afternoon will almost certainly consist of watching Hocus Pocus and whatever other Halloween movies I can find online, eating chocolate and other junk food, and doing fun makeup!

Busan Fireworks Festival Part 2

At lunch, I spoke to my friend Hannah on the phone. She runs the blog Paint Me a Smile (and you should all go check it out!) We actually met here on WordPress, and we’ve been following each other’s blogs for about two months now. We both came to Korea around the same time to teach English and have been having a good time sharing our similar experiences.

We have been trying to meet in person for weeks now, but things kept on coming up. So, when we found out we were both going to be in Busan at the same, we had to make plans!

Steve and I were going to make our way to Shinsegae, the world’s largest department store, in the Centum City neighborhood of Busan. We took the subway, and there was an entrance right in the station. So, we headed inside and wandered around the first level while waiting for Hannah.

Shinsegae.

Shinsegae.

First impression of Shinsegae: insanely overwhelming. Such sensory overload! I’ve never been in a department store quite like this. There was an entire supermarket, food court, about a bazillion shops selling handbags and cosmetics (and that was only on one floor!).

Adorable animal pastries.

Adorable animal pastries.

Finally, Hannah was here and we went to meet her! We went back inside and made our way up and down the floors. Poor Steve had to deal with our girly shopping. He did some wandering of his own, though. We spent a long time in the department store, eventually taking a break for some coffee and food. WHILE WE SAT NEXT TO THE ICE SKATING RINK.

What a crazy place.

Then, we walked around Centum City for a bit until we returned to Haeundae. We went back to the market for street food and then did some more shopping.

Finally meeting Hannah!

Finally meeting Hannah!

Around 6:30, we decided to head over to Gwangalli, where the fireworks festival was taking place. As soon as we got out of the subway, the sheer quantity of people out was incredible. We followed the crowds towards the beach, stopping a few times for tasty street food along the way.

Hannah was trying to find some other foreigners she knew and it was nearly impossible to do so. There were police and even terrorist prevention squads everywhere. Eventually, she found them. They were sitting on the steps near the beach and Steve and I were invited to join. However, I was on the verge of a massive panic attack and could not bring myself to push through anymore people. So, Steve and I sat on the curb across the street and he brought me a drink to soothe my nerves. We still had a great view.

The show lasted from 8 until 9 and it was quite possibly the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen in my entire life! The backdrop was the beautiful Gwangan Bridge and they used music from Carly Rae Jepsen to the Beatles to Whitney Houston. It was fun to sing along to the songs. There were even lasers incorporated into the show. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a single picture because my phone died and I had nowhere to charge it.

After the show, Steve and I hung out at a bar to avoid the mass exodus of the crowds. We said goodbye to Hannah and, after a while, made our way towards the subway. Even though we waited to leave, it was still obscenely crowded. I was super tired and super cranky. Finally, we made it to the intercity bus terminal and headed back to Ulsan.

All in all, it was an amazing weekend!

Busan Fireworks Festival Part 1

This weekend, Steve and I had plans to attend the Busan Fireworks Festival – supposedly one of the best in Asia. It sounded like an excellent way to spend a weekend!

So Friday night, after work, we took a bus from Ulsan to Haeundae.The ride was bumpy and left me wanting to lose my dinner. Now, I don’t mean I was going to be sick. I literally thought my cheeseburger was going to fly out of my hands mid-bite due to the jerky driving.

We arrived in Haeundae in one piece. The streets were lit up and there were so many delicious smells in the air. After finding a motel, we left our backpacks and went out to explore the night. We walked down the main stretch until we got to the beach. It was balmy (for the end of October) and we took a stroll along the boardwalk. There were so many people out: drinking, eating, and laughing. It was great!

Steve and I.

Steve and I.

On the way back, we stopped at a bar called the Fuzzy Navel for a drink. There were lots of foreigners and an excellent DJ. Steve got a beer and I got a pina colada. After, we decided to get a massive coronita which is pretty much a margarita with a little Corona in it. We walked around for a while more, got some late night snacks, and turned in for the night.

In the morning, we headed out to explore the bustling Haeundae Market. Breakfast consisted of spicy fried chicken and meat on skewers. We saw assorted fish for sale, and fruits, and vegetable. Mandu. Hotteok. Mountains of different fried foods. A variety of shops selling clothes and accessories. There was so much energy. I really love open markets like this.

Street food at Haeundae Market.

Street food at Haeundae Market.

Making our way towards the beach again, we decided to go to the Sea Life Busan Aqaurium. (I had printed off 20% off admission coupons the night before.) As soon as we got our tickets and went down the escalator into the aquarium, I began to feel like a little kid. The aquarium had a really cool, almost ethereal feel to its exhibits. There were otters and penguins and sea turtles and sharks. I was so excited, squealing “aww” at everything I passed. They even had a rehabilitation center for injured porpoises. It was a really fun activity for all ages.

Jellyfish at Sea Life Busan Aquarium.

Jellyfish at Sea Life Busan Aquarium.

After the aquarium, it was time for lunch. We had originally wanted to go to a restaurant in the area that supposedly had Mexican food, but after looking at the menu we decided it was just really overpriced garbage for Westerners. Instead, we found an Indian/Lebanese restaurant. It was a little pricey for entrees, so we ordered some delicious appetizers instead. We got samosas, hummus, and Lebanese bread. Steve got Arabic coffee, which I’m pretty sure was just chai. The food was amazing, though.

Our samosas and hummus.

Our samosas and hummus.

Mission Accomplished: McDelivery

Since I got here, I’ve been struggling to try and figure out what my Korean address is. Turns out, the whole thing is printed on the back of my alien registration card. Classic Tia.

Anyway, in Korea, McDonald’s offers delivery. It’s called McDelivery. The only thing you need to know is your address in Korean. So, to my absolute delight, Steve and I decided to sit down and order last night. First, we tried doing it on the website. It was really confusing and complicated, and I almost gave up. Instead, I wondered if there was an app for it. There was. It was so simple. All I had to do was register, enter my address, and select what I wanted to eat.

In less than 30 minutes, there was a delivery guy at my door and we were even able to pay by card. So, our grand plans for the evening were eating our fast food and watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail (because Steve had never seen it before!).

This morning, we decided to go for a walk near the little park/river by my apartment. Instead of taking our usual route, we turned down a new street. In the distance, I saw it: Flapjack Pantry. We have been trying to find this restaurant for weeks! It’s a chain here in Korea and it serves Western-style breakfast and burgers. So exciting.

We grabbed a table (with a gorgeous view of a park), and stared at the menu. Everything sounded incredible. We settled on chocolate chip pancakes and Cajun chicken salad. We also almost forgot that everything here is for sharing, and were totally surprised when our food came. There was so much! The salad was great. Fresh greens, chunks of tomato, perfectly seasoned (crispy) chicken. All in a honey mustard dressing. And the pancakes! Don’t even get my started. They were huge and fluffy and came with a side of syrup and some delightfully decadent chocolate sauce.

Unf.

We also ran into my friend Hailey, who was with one of her friends. They got the English breakfast to split. Totally what I’m doing next time.

Now, it’s almost time for me to start getting ready for work. Happy Wednesday!

I also apologize for the lack of pictures. We devoured everything immediately.

My Korean Haircut

Yesterday, I decided to suck it up and go for a haircut here in Korea because I was starting to look homeless. I was incredibly nervous because I have a hard enough time getting a decent haircut in New Jersey, where the stylists speak the same language as me.

I found a picture I liked and saved it on my phone. Originally, I had wanted to try a salon called Toni and Guy downtown, but you have to call ahead and book an appointment, which I really couldn’t be bothered to do. Instead, I decided to walk around my neighborhood and try and find someplace.

One salon closed. Two salons closed. Three salons closed.

Finally, when I had nearly given up hope, I saw a salon called Jeunesse Hair. The doors were open and there were signs outside. I walked upstairs to the second floor and found a lovely little salon. There was one other woman getting her hair colored. So, in my extremely basic Korean, I asked for a haircut while using my hands like a pair of scissors. The two stylists smiled and led me to a chair where I showed one the picture on my phone. She smiled and started touching my hair.

I had never had a haircut quite like this before. First of all, she cut it dry which was very strange to me. However, she used razors an thinning shears which I do like on my hair. After she cut it, she took me to get washed. As I sat with my head in the basin, I began to think “holy shit, I have no idea how much this is going to cost me.” I’m usually extremely careful about services and make sure to look up exactly how much things will cost ahead of time. I didn’t do that this time around, but I also had what was probably the best shampoo/scalp massage of my life.

After she dried me off, she took me back to her station for a blow dry. She also flat ironed my hair and styled it. I was so happy with the cut! There were lots of “thumbs ups” and me saying “good, good, very good.”

Now, the moment of truth. How big of a dent was this going to put in my bank account?

I was shocked when I saw the price: 14,000 won ($12). I don’t think I’ve ever had a hair cut that cheap in my life (and been happy with the results!). I paid and tried to tip my stylist, but she wouldn’t take it. I knew that tipping isn’t a thing in restaurants, but I wasn’t sure about other service industries.

I will definitely come back here for my haircuts in the future!

My new haircut!

My new haircut!

Soju is a Four Letter Word

I’m going to preface this post by saying that Koreans love to drink. Additionally, it is very common for coworkers to go out for dinner and drinks (emphasis on drinks) from time to time. Last night, I had my first work “event” at a local restaurant. I suppose this is to promote team-building and all that jazz. In reality, though, it was rather uncomfortable because all my Korean coworkers kept to themselves and I talked quietly with my American coworker and a Canadian teacher from another branch of my school.

In order make uncomfortable situations more comfortable, what does one tend to do? The answer: drink.

Now, I’m not and have never been a big drinker, but people seem to think there’s something wrong with you if you don’t keep up here. So kept up I did. I kept up so well that my director had to send me home in a taxi and my Canadian coworker commandeered my phone to find Steve and have him come make sure I didn’t die or anything.

I’ll spare you all the details, but this morning my eyes felt like they were going to squish right out of my skull and I dragged myself to McDonald’s to get a Big Mac for breakfast. I feel considerably better and plan on spending the rest of my day watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the comfort of my bed.

I will, however, leave you with this gem of a music video: