Rainforest

Recently at the academy, the director gave us huge green boards, posted them up on our classroom walls, and told us to decorate. I didn’t really look at what the other teachers did until today, when I went into Kate’s very neat classroom:

neat

Huh. Well, I’m definitely living up the whole crazy foreign teacher thing. In my classroom every student helped to build the rainforest, complete with glitter glue, for pretty much no reason. I would have bedazzled the h*ll out of it too, if there was a bedazzler to be had.

rainforest

Note: Five minutes after this photo was taken, this student (Bobby) was drinking water and laughed so hard it came up through his nose while he was gargling. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I had to get a mop.

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Jesus

Korean Jesus: Still white, but fierce.

Jesus, he looks good.

Dr. Fish

Saturday was a nightmare. I trekked out in the rain because I had been told that in order to refund a flight ticket, I needed to go to the airport directly.  I was planning on getting to the airport, getting my money, and heading to some shops in Songtan because I wanted to get some clothes tailored.

This plan went all to #@#*!@#!@&*$. First, I decided to take a bus instead of the train. This bus claimed it was going to Incheon, and wouldn’t you assume it would circle in close to the airport? Yeah, me too. I guess we don’t think like bus scheduler-guy people, because this was not the case. I was shuffled off at the last stop, the only thing in the area a small local bus stop and an old lady eating kimbap under a tree in the middle of a downpour. I had my umbrella and decided to make an adventure of it, trying to find the place myself. Finally I found Incheon station, only to go backwards on the subway to get the connection at Bupyeong.

Whatever. So all these people are staring at me, which normally is fine since I understand I’m foreign, but I was just NOT in the mood for it. Another crazy old lady sidled up to me, speaking little to no English and looked directly at me. I thought she was benignly eccentric, until she got off at the airport and started following me. And not at a stalker-like distance; I mean I could hear her breathing as she tried to keep up. Then, because she thought I couldn’t understand her Korean, she kept telling the Information Desk clerks that we were together, and they started giving her all my information. Now this already had me working up into a New England ice-bitch frenzy, which froze over the unsuspecting airport workers when they told me that they couldn’t help me here, I would have to go home and call the US.

Needless to say, Saturday was frustrating, so Sunday I decided to have a day for myself.

I went back into the now-nostalgic routine of getting to the area around Osan Air Base, as I still wanted to meet up with a tailor. The ride was smooth, the tailor was fantastic, and I showed him some sketches of what I would like and he says he can do it for a reasonable price.

Dr. FishHappy with that out of the way, I wandered around in the nice weather and found myself wandering not-so-aimlessly to a beauty parlor (what’s the modern rhetoric for this, by the way?) that I have spied a few times before. I walked in to a busy shop with American, Phillipina and Korean clients. I decided to treat myself and get my nails done, which I haven’t had in years, so I was excited.

My manicurist and I were chattering back and forth, and she was shocked when I laughed at a joke her friend made in Korean. She asked me, “You can understand?” I nodded, and said, “Chogum.” (A little.) She thought that was great, so her friend and she would talk to me and tell me jokes, or make fun of the guy at the cash register. Soon, other Korean clients were starting to talk with me, and it was a little strange. I didn’t speak to another American, and I felt like most of the clients were clueless about all the drama going on in Korean right in front of them. I was really excited and surprised that they let me in to their circle. It got to the point that, at dinner time when one woman was walking around and popping kimbap into her co-workers’ mouths, she asked me if I wanted some and poised it over my mouth.

While I was getting my nails done, I saw a group of people head over to a small tub and sit on the lip with their feet in the water. I couldn’t figure out what they were doing until my manicurist (goes by “Julie”) told me it was Dr. Fish.

I had heard of this. Dr. Fish are these little fish that give you a pedicure in a ticklish and creepy (fun adjective to put together, I think) kind of way. It feels like pin pricks with a blunt needle, but they look like they’re kissing your feet.

Basically, they eat your dead skin. And it’s hilarious!

fish eating me.

Quincy Looks Like a Dinosaur

My boyfriend shaving his 3-legged dog, Sir Quincy:

shave

A dilophosaurus:

dilophosaurus

Seoul Forest

 

fountain

 Today was pretty eventful. I recognized a place by smell alone, I finally went to Seoul Forest, and I played with bunnies. 

 I have been wanting to check out the Forest for a while now, but it’s a little far from me on the subway so I’ve been procrastinating about it. I decided it would be today’s mission, and shoveled a towel, sunscreen, water, and a book in my huge purse before heading out.

On the train ride, I got bored around Daebang Station, and since the Cemetery is somewhere around that stop, I got off to look around. I had been there once before but there were still a few things I wanted to see. In typical fashion, I wandered around hoping I was heading in the right direction. There was a lot of construction going on so I didn’t recognize anything, and just kept walking. And walking. And then I started smelling a very distinct scent; it was like a moldy cellar/faulty septic system kind of smell. It was a little breezy today, so occasionally I would also get slapped in the face with the smell of fish coming from somwhere unseen. To top it all off, there was a lot of car exhaust. It reminded me of  Noryanjin Fish Market. 

To my shock, I circled up on Noryanjin Station. I have never recognized a place solely by scent before. 

gardener

I got back on the train, seeing as I never found the National Cemetery, and then went to Seoul Forest directly. It’s huge, with lots of foot paths, biking trails, gardens of wildflowers, an insect pavilion, skating rink, and “Family Yard” complete with families picnicking on tables and little boys playing catch with their fathers. There was a sculpture park as well, but my favorite part was the water fountains. Those kids got soaked. You know when you’re just laughing so hard, you can’t even breathe and have to focus on gulping in air? Picture that, x 100 kids. It was really fun. 

Everyone was just so friendly with each other. Example: An older man, in beige fishing vest and a white hat, was watering the plants under his care at the small arboretum. Two little girls ran up to him, giggling, and all of a sudden he was teaching them how to spray the nozzle, helping them direct the water (it was a little powerful I think, because they were accidentally spraying a group of people nearby) and treating them like they were his grandchildren. He even laughed when they turned to ask him a question, bringing the hose with them, and therefore soaking him from the waist down. 

concertI’d say the only not-so-picturesque moment was when I saw a completely out of place T-shirt slogan. English writing is a popular fashion trend, and it’s printed on every T-shirt, hoodie, tote bag, etc. My previous favorite was a woman wearing “Niggas Prefer Blonds” [sic] but I kind of like this new one better. A young girl, prettily blushing while her boyfriend flirted with her, would most likely be embarrassed to know what her shirt meant. She probably didn’t understand the context of “Give Me Some Head“. But, I’m just assuming. 

After wandering around people-watching, I retreated to a small grassy lawn and laid out on a beach towel, and I swear I had brought the Bible because I’m determined to read it (or at least get a respectable start), but a seemingly impromptu concert started up so of course I had to watch. They played medleys from Phantom of the Opera and Cats, and a little girl next to me was dancing in circles, getting dizzy, and falling over. I liked her.

It began to look like it might rain, so I gathered my things and got back on the subway. One of my transfers was at Singil (shin-gill) Station, which is a station I actually like but had forgotten about. In between the transfer subway lines, there are kiosks selling men’s ties, women’s nylons, colorful socks, and waffles. At the very end, an older women lays out newspapers, squats over them, and tries to hawk out black and white bunnies for W20,000. She really whips  them around, throwing them onto the newspaper or swiping them off the tile floor. They’re always really docile which makes me think she drugs them. Maybe getting whipped around everywhere (I’ve actually seen one go airborne, she’s that forceful) does that to you.

B-boys

Before moving to Korea, I lived in a shady apartment in Cambridge with a menagerie of roommates. There were 5 of us, three boys and two girls.  Kristen and I loved watching the typical girly shows; “Project Runway,” “Design on a Dime,” and “Platinum Weddings.” That last one got the boys all up-in-arms and they inevitably would sit down to complain about the superficiality of the brides, and  end up discussing the lighting, the flowers, or the gaudy ensembles with us in detail.

Kristen had a thing for Asian men, and she really loved b-boys, so I thought of her when I went to go see “The Ballerina Who Loved a B-Boy 2” this weekend. Korea is famous for producing top-notch b-boys, and this show is really well known. I made reservations ahead and, after getting somewhat lost in Hongdae (the area around Hongik University) I finally found the theater. It’s located in a bank basement, which was not nearly as sketchy as it sounds.  

The theater is very small and intimate with a few rows of seating on the ground and a smaller balcony section up top. I’m guessing, but I would say it could comfortably seat 75 people. I was front row, center. I knew that the show was a little interactive, and they encouraged audience participation. I didn’t really get how close it would actually be until a dancer came up to me and held my hands. I felt super-awkward, being the only foreigner there and not really knowing what to do while I blushed violent purple. Thankfully, she flitted away before I could really embarrass myself.

pyramid

The show was amazing: the dancers were fun, energetic, and talented. The structure of the performance sequences was a little strange, though. They would have the “real story” line, and then a segment meant to act as a metaphor of the dancer’s feelings. For example, one ballet dancer (male) was in unrequited love with a ballerina (female). In the metaphor segment, they dressed up as vampires and he was Dracula, fighting an urge to bite into the neck of the woman he loved to keep her forever. See? Strange. But, admittedly interesting.

I was also surprised by the amount of sappy love songs in English. I heard Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and Leann Rimes in between the techno/rap music you’d expect at this kind of thing.

At the end of the show, all the dancers come out for an encore and each gets the chance to show his/her skills. Meaning, everyone else stands in a half-circle and claps to a beat while each dancer jumps into the center. That was my favorite part, because some of them were really amazing, not to mention flexible.

At one point, one of the b-boys ripped open his shirt and the girls in the audience freaked out. I thought to myself, “Kristen would have loved this.”

Cute

In one of my classes, I have a 9-year-old girl named Britney. She wears something pink every day, and sometimes she pretends to be a little puppy. She is very shy, and I always have to lean in close to hear her speak in class. She is adorable.

I’m sitting in the teachers’ room right now, and Britney came in and put her finger to her lips, dropping what I assume is some kind of present for her Korean teacher. Then, she leaned in while I was typing up a worksheet, and kissed my cheek. She smiled at me, waved, and left.

I know it would have been basically illegal as a teacher in the States, but I have to say…it was the cutest almost-illegal thing that’s happened to me lately.

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