A Sunny Sunday

Yesterday, the weather was better than it had been in a long time: sunny and about 53 degrees. So, Steve and I decided we would have an adventure day!

In the morning, we woke up early and made our way to Dong Gu (another area of Ulsan) to find Saint Dionysus Greek Orthodox Church. My mom had told me it existed a few months ago and I had been meaning to go. After taking the bus to the wrong stop, we got in a taxi and the driver took us right to the front steps. It was beautiful! I took a few pictures before heading inside.

We had arrived just before Holy Communion. It has been a very long time since I’ve attended service on a Sunday. While I don’t consider myself a practitioner, I do feel that it’s still part of my heritage. Steve and I stood in the back. The priest spoke in a combination of Korean and Greek, and I was surprised to see quite a number of Greek people in attendance.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the interior of the church, but it was incredible. You would have never known you were in Korea,  except for the fact that all the lettering that should have been in Greek, was painted in hangeul.

After church, Steve and I instinctively headed toward the water (we’re a Scorpio and a Cancer) and took a nice long walk to Ilsan Beach. We were starving by the time we got there, and found a Korean buffet to try.

Holy. Shit. This place was amazing. There was sushi and other fresh seafood, make your own bibimbap, a salad bar, a cheese station, soups, a steamer overflowing with mandu, and a selection of fried foods. The wait staff even brought us a plate of steak with vegetables and massive bowls of udon. We ate so much! Then, we ate dessert. There was ice cream, bungeoppang (carp-shaped pastry filled with red bean), fresh fruits, and other sweet things to nibble on.

After, we left Ilsan Beach and made our way to the Jangsaengpo Whale Museum, something else I’ve been wanting to do since I’ve been here. The museum is situated right next to the harbor and you can see all he boats coming in and out. What I did not expect, though, was that the majority of the exhibit was on whaling and that made me kind of upset. After walking through the main exhibit hall, we went to a secondary building which serves as a small aquarium and movie theatre. We even got to see dolphins! Overall, it was a lot of fun and I definitely suggest going if you’re visiting Ulsan.

What did you do this weekend?

 

The Ulsan Foreigner’s Market

Every month in Ulsan, a group of foreigners come together at Sticky’s (one of the foreigner bars) to sell homemade items. I’ve only been to one since coming here, because I’m always doing something else the day they host it. Today, however, I was completely free! So, Steve and I walked downtown to get there when it opened at 2 PM.

There were so many stalls today: gluten free baked goods, dips and lasagnas and macaroni and cheese, curries, fudge, chorizo, biltong (South African jerky), candles, soaps, and chili. There was also a stall taking donations for a local animal shelter (I donated 2,000 won).

After making our way around the market, Steve and I ended up getting two Harry Potter themed butterbeer cupcakes, buffalo chicken dip, and chicken tikka masala. We hung out for a while to talk to people, but headed back to my place after about an hour an a half. Overall, it was a super successful outing!

Needless to say, we ate all our purchases for dinner. I even had some rice at home to have with the curry. After dinner, we decided to watch some movies, which turned into a mini Quentin Tarantino marathon: Inglorious Basterds and Django. I hadn’t seen the former, and Steve hadn’t seen either. Both were fantastic, despite the fact that they left me sobbing uncontrollably.

Then, my neighbor was undoubtedly intoxicated, as we heard caterwauling from next door. Steve went to stick his head outside, and her door was wide open. Later, we heard a man’s voice and a great deal of screaming from the two of them. This happens more often than I would like and, of course, I would get stuck with a crazy lady for a neighbor. She also recently acquired a yippy little dog, so I hear that a lot now, too.

Regardless, I had a really good day and I’m already excited about next month’s market!

This is the New Year

Two weeks into 2016, I don’t have any resolutions. I don’t have anything particularly exciting to report, either.

The newness of Korea has finally worn off and I go about my days here. In the mornings, I might go to the supermarket. Or do my laundry. Or clean my little apartment. Then, I go to work from about 2:30 until 10. I love being in the classroom. I love my students. It might sound cliché, but seeing their smiling faces really brightens up my day. I get hugs and candy while I teach them new words and songs and tongue twisters. They like to ask me questions and I like to answer them.

Sometimes, kids are gross. Like the kid who sat in class licking his knuckles and then rubbed them all over his face. Sometimes, kids are mean. Like the kid who said a bad word to one of my favorite little girls, but then the rest of the class stood up to him. Which was awesome.

Some days, Steve and I will get dinner after work. On the weekends, we might do some exploring. Last weekend, we finally got around to seeing a movie here. We saw Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch (which was only released in theatres in Asia). It was good, but we were pretty confused because neither of us had ever seen the TV series. Other days, we’ll just stay in and eat snacks and watch old BBC shows on Netflix.

I can’t wait to go to Tokyo to visit my friend Eri. She wants to take me to the Ghibli Museum, Asakusa, the Tokyo Skytree, and Tsukiji Market. I’d also love to visit some other temples and museums, see Shinjuku and Harajuku, and eat copious amounts of sushi. It’s so easy to travel here!

There are so many things left on my Korean bucket list, as well. Steve and I are constantly talking about traveling. We may or may not a wanderlust problem. Our ideas and and plans seem to change regularly. Should we go to the Philippines? Or Taiwan? (I really wanted to do Thailand and Vietnam, but by the time my contract ends it will be wet season there.) The possibilities are endless!

I still have plenty of time left in Korea, despite the fact that it seems to be going by rather quickly. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this year has to offer.

Also, I just want to say thank you to my mom and all my friends at home for always being here for me even though we’re so far away from each other physically. I appreciate the e-mails and the Skype sessions and the cards and the gifts. I miss everyone so much, but I am so grateful for the Internet because it makes everything a whole lot easier. You’re all freakin’ amazing.

How is everyone else’s 2016 going so far?

 

Winter Break Part 2

I’m so sorry this is over a week late because I’m a horrible blogger. My new classes started last week and I’ve been so busy getting used to the schedule.

Anyway.

On New Year’s Day, Hannah and I decided to head downtown to Upsquare, a large shopping mall. We were supposed to be looking for a present for her boyfriend, but instead we got distracted by a small kiosk selling what we thought were just cute keychains or figurines.

Upon closer inspection, we realized that you could decorate your own phone case! We spent quite some time picking out our pieces (I chose kitties, cheeseburgers, fries, strawberries, and daisies). Then, you get to pick a plain phone case and a colored adhesive (I picked yellow).

Instead of doing more shopping, we practically ran home to my apartment for an arts and crafts session. Here is my finished product:

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In the evening, we got shabu shabu for dinner with Steve. It was delicious!

The rest of break was mostly spent shopping, eating, and hanging out. It was super relaxing and much needed after a stressful semester.

Right now, it’s quite cold in Ulsan and I’m counting down the days until I’ll be in Tokyo, Japan! (It’s 26.)

Winter Break Part 1

My winter break kicked off on Wednesday and Hannah (from Paint Me a Smile) came to visit! She arrived in Ulsan at about 7 PM and we went for dinner at Tang Tang Chicken, one of my favorite fried chicken places. We got super crispy boneless chicken and pan-fried tteokbokki. It was so good!

After dinner, Hannah and I went back to my apartment to leave her things and we headed to Samsan. We found a 24-hour Angel-in-us coffee shop and sat for a good couple of hours catching up. Then, we walked around downtown and I showed Hannah some of the local restaurants and bars. It was pretty cold, so we didn’t stay out terribly long.

On Thursday, we got up and I insisted that we head to Flapjack Pantry for English breakfast. The city where Hannah is living is much smaller than Ulsan and doesn’t have as many Western restaurant options as I have here. When the waitress came to take our order, Hannah ordered two English breakfasts and I interjected with a “No! It’s huge!” and flailed my arms wildly. One was way more than enough for both of us: baked beans, sausages, eggs, hash browns, grilled pineapple, grilled tomatoes, and pancakes.

After breakfast, we went to Taehwa Park and the bamboo forest. Then, we walked to Seongnamdong for some shopping. In Seongnamdong, we also made a stop at a cat cafe. The kitties were so cute! Until they started howling wildly and tried to steal our complimentary pancake.

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In the evening, we had barbecue for dinner with Steve: pork belly with rice and fried egg. So good! Then, we headed over to Sticky’s to ring in the New Year. There was a good crowd of people out and I indulged in some sangria. Hannah and I didn’t stay out too late. On the way home, though, we may or may not have stopped at the 24 hour Krispy Kreme for some celebratory donuts…

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Happy 2016, everyone!

Christmas Cards and Cheer

Yesterday was absolutely fabulous! I got to spend the majority of my day making Christmas cards with my elementary students. The school provided colored paper, markers, and crayons. I printed out some reference pictures (like Santa, elves, reindeer, Christmas trees, etc.).

These kids were so excited. Some of them brought scrapbooking scissors, stickers, and glitter glue. They went all out. I even made a little sample of my own and they all gasped “Wow! Teacher good!” It was so cute. I loved working with them and helping them glue things and write little notes.

At school, we also have a Christmas tree and a giant singing Santa Claus. It’s actually quite festive.

My middle school classes weren’t allowed to make cards, but instead of doing text book lessons we did a conversational lesson about Christmas instead. They told me what they do with their families, asked me about Christmas in America, and we talked about movies and sang songs. They all seem to love Home Alone. Which is awesome. Because it’s my favorite Christmas movie, too!

After work, Steve and I went out for shabu shabu which was the best possible dinner choice since it was so ridiculously cold. We literally sat in the restaurant with our hands over the boiling broth while everything cooked. I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold in my life. My school hardly turns the heat on: kids and teachers walk around in their coats (and sometimes blankets). They also keep the windows open. Especially in the bathrooms. It’s bizarre. I guess that’s just how they do it here.

Monday

On Monday evenings, I teach a middle school class with four boys and one girl. They are very shy and rarely speak. However, I can tell that the girl’s English skills are very good based on her written work.

Tonight, I got to my classroom and she was the only student there. I decided to postpone my original lesson and have a conversational class with her instead.

Within the first ten minutes of class, I was so impressed by how much she was talking. She speaks very well with some simple grammatical errors, but we were really having a conversation. I asked her why she never participates. She told me that the boys make her too nervous.

We talked about school in Korea. She said that middle school and high school students are required to wear uniforms and are not allowed to individualize them at all. She told me that one time, she wore a ring to class and her teacher took it off her finger and threw it in the trash. I was in shock.

She went on to say how she wishes she was American-born because there is so much more freedom in America. It broke my heart to hear this from a 14 year old.

We also talked about music and books. She loves fantasy books like Harry Potter. I asked her if she liked unicorns. (Because I love unicorns and I have to share my love for them. Obviously.) She did, so I told her about The Last Unicorn and wrote it down for her. We also talked about traveling and cooking.

At the end of class, she told me she had fun! Fun. How awesome is that?

I really hope she stays positive and at least tries to participate more in class. Her speaking skills are among the best out of all my students, and I can’t believe it’s taken nearly four months for her to use them!

A Change of Plans

Last weekend, I had made plans to spend this weekend in Daegu with Roxy and Aisling. I was really looking forward to it. Too bad the universe laughed at me and said “no.”

After work on Friday, I took a local bus to the KTX station, about 30 minutes away. I went to the window to buy a ticket only to be told I miss the last bus to Daegu (by minutes). Tears. Panic. I messaged Roxy to tell her and we figured I would just come the next morning.

Then, I went outside to take the bus home. Unfortunately, the last bus back to my neighborhood stopped running, too. More tears. More panic. I called Hannah to freak out. Looks like I would be taking a taxi. Which I really didn’t want to do. Because I’m cheap.

In a split second, I made the executive decision to go downtown to Cima Bar instead of going home. I don’t usually go out by myself, but I was really upset. When I got to Cima, it was pretty empty. Al, the bartender, was there with several other customers. I told him about my tails of woe and he poured me a strong drink: cranberry and vodka. I also found out the one of the other guys there was from Bergen County! It was really cool to talk to someone else from Jersey.

There was more talking, and drinking, and playing Youtube videos on the bar computer. Dorian and Steve showed up at some point, too. I also may or may not have danced to a handful of RuPaul tunes.

The bar was ready to close at I don’t even know what time it was, and Dorian and I took a cab together because we live in the same neighborhood. We also sat outside of a 7/11 and chatted for a really long time. It was nice.

Then today, Sunday, I met my friend Lily for coffee and a Korean lesson. It was a beautiful sunny day and surprisingly warm out, so we got frozen drinks. We practiced some verbs, simple sentences, and my “homework” is to practice numbers/counting. I feel like I’m getting better at reading in Korean, even though I still ready very slowly. It’s really great to have a Korean friend to hang out and practice with.

 

Maekju and Bamboo

My. Weekend. Was. Awesome!

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On Saturday, I woke up early and worked out in my apartment. (I’ve been really good and have actually exercised every day the past week!) Then, I took myself for a walk downtown and had a bit of a “treat yo’self” day. I got a really nice sweatshirt from H&M (it was on sale, too), an adorable red headband, and a new compact from Innisfree. It’s the Ampoule Intense Cushion with Jeju green tea and SPF 34. It’s super lovely. Good coverage, not cakey, and moisturizing. I dig it.

After, I walked home and watched some Buffy and Angel. I made pasta for dinner and my friends Aisling and Rob invited me over to their place because their friends from Daegu, Roxy and Chris, were visiting. We hung out and had some drinks before making our way to Cima. There, we had some more drinks and Aisling, Roxy, and I decided to plan for a girls’ weekend in Daegu next weekend. I’m looking forward to it.

At around 2, we called it a night.

Today, Sunday, they invited me out to the bamboo forest with them. Despite the fact that everyone was extremely mildly hungover, we walked all the way to Taehwa Park (about 30 minutes). I guess we needed the fresh air. We also needed caffeine. Thankfully, it wasn’t terribly cold out.

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At the park, we walked all over the place, played with some hula hoops, and had plenty of silly photo ops. I had so much fun! After we got all bamboo’d out, we stopped for coffee and everyone promptly proceeded to fall asleep on the insanely comfy cafe couches. It was definitely time to head home.

I also decided to stop for some honey soy fried chicken, which I devoured by myself while watching The Out of Towners (the remake).

 

The Cockroach

After a lovely evening of getting cocktails with a friend, I came back to my apartment. I took my shoes off in the entry way and opened the second door into my studio. I heard a light thump as I flipped on a light switch.

To my absolute horror, there was a massive cockroach hanging out on my floor.

I panicked.

My first instinct was to call Hannah, who lives three hours away. No answer.

I sent her a message: “THERE IS A FUCKING COCKROACH IN MY APARTMENT.”

A few minutes later, she called me back as I was standing on my bed, half changed into my sleepwear.

Did I have bug spray? No. Did I have hairspray? No. Did I have powdered boric acid? No.

I did have a tupperware container, though.

With Hannah on speaker phone, I knelt on top of my nightstand as the insect had scuttled behind my full length mirror. 3 – 2 – 1. I dropped the container on top of it. But I missed.

[Expletive deleted]

Hannah proceeded to tell me how “American” I sounded as I went in for my second attempt. I got it this time!

“YEAH,” I bellowed in my manliest, most ‘Murica voice. Hannah laughed.

Then, I stacked two cans of beans and a bottle of body lotion on top of it.

It’s been about an hour, and I think I’m just going to wait for it to die because I’m too terrified to do anything else. And I also feel like it’s watching me, planning its escape.

Happy Tuesday!