You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2010.
So last weekend, I made a deal with Quinn that if he got his ear pierced like he wanted but was nervous to do, then I’d get something that I too wanted but was also nervous about getting. And this weekend, I got it.
That it, was this:
Yes, it’s real. And I know some family members read this blog so before you freak out, read to the bottom.
A lot my co-workers have tattoos and several of them actually got tattoos while here in Korea. My listening class Head Instructor actually got a tattoo on her ankle to help face her fear of needles and after I heard that story, I decided I should get one too. This wasn’t exactly a split decision kind of thing. I’ve had a slight fear of needles for a while and unfortunately some personal experiences allowed that to blossom into a pretty nasty fear of sharp things being near my wrists, which I feel is 100% rational in certain circumstances but I also feel it in situations that are a little irrational. My fear of needles has actually lessened a lot recently to just being something that I don’t like to deal with, but the fear of sharp things has only gotten worse. Over the years I’ve thought of getting a tattoo to help fully overcome my needle fear so I wanted to kill two birds with one stone: get a tattoo on my wrist. Which also works out because my watch covers it at work, where we aren’t allowed to show tattoos.
I decided on the words Serenity Gemütsruhe and 언 정 (an jeong) along my wrist. I wanted it to be a single word written in all three languages: English, German and Korea. It actually didn’t take me that long to decide on serenity but when I did, it really felt natural. It’s kind of like a message to myself: strive for serenity and peace of mind (even as you’re getting something permanent etched into your body with a sharp object). Plus it’s German translation, Gemütsruhe, has an umlaut (the ‘u’ that’s happy to see you).
On Saturday, Quinn, Derrika, Vy and I went to Osan to get the tattoo done at the same place where my HI and other instructors have had there’s done. Getting tattoos in Korea is a bit of an… ordeal. You can’t get them from just anyone or its illegal, so going to this guy specifically was a big deal. We ended up getting there really late (around 6pm-ish) but there was still time to get them done. Derrika wanted a tattoo too but was having trouble getting the exact design she wanted down, which gave me about a half and hour to start getting really nervous (as if I wasn’t stressed out in anticipation the rest of the day…) while the tattoo artist sketched the design. However, I got mine first.
Before I start the description of the ordeal, let me just say, I’m really angry at myself. I brought my camera so I could record this (my HI recorded hers) but I left the memory card at home so I could only take a couple pictures. And no one else brought a camera…
Okay, so the tattooing. Vy had left by this point which was probably a good thing because she had a very ‘Just do it and get it over with’ attitude and it was not helping me. The way the tattooist started the tattoo was by printing out a sort of press-on that he would apply to my arm. It took a while to get the press-on image on my wrist because it kept getting wavy as he put it around my arm. But once the needle started, Derrika was standing beside me and Quinn was holding my hand. I have to say, they were both awesome through this whole thing and I’m glad they were there.
And on to the needle! As I expected, I was pretty okay with Serenity getting tattooed on the top of my wrist and I was even kind of laughing at the conversation which Derrika and Quinn were (awesomely) keeping up. It hurt a lot; the needle (as Derrika told me later) was moving really fast which apparently increases the pain. It felt like a knife being dragged across my skin. But I expected pain and squeezing Quinn’s hand was enough to get through it. He later told me he didn’t think I was squeezing it at all. Seriously? My arm cramped up I had my hand clenched so hard (not the one I was getting tattooed of course). Ultimately though, the Serenity was not a bad experience.
Then the Gemütsruhe started. As the G was tattooed on (which hurt even more because it was going over bone) I was still okay but I got silent and started feeling a little nervous. Once the needle started crossing my wrist I pretty much lost it. After all, having the feeling of a knife going across my wrist is not something I wanted to experience but it was a good way of banishing my fears. Again, Quinn and Derrika were totally awesome. They kept talking to me through the whole thing and Derrika was really trying hard to calm me down. At one point she asked me what was my favorite childhood memory, and that was a really thoughtful tactic to use. Unfortunately it backfired because all I could think about was the memories of how I developed this fear.
Literally as soon as the needle got off my wrist I was okay again and even though 언 정 was really painful because it was over bone, I was laughing and talking again almost immediately. Quinn had told me to stare at one point on the wall and were were smiling about the symbolism of me looking straight at the picture of another tattoo of a cross saying ‘SAVIOR’. Then… the Gemütsruhe came back. I think he had to put another coat of ink on or something. I was really expecting to be okay with it this time because I had already sat through it once, even though it was more painful the second go ’round. I held off as long as I could but I inevitably lost it. I think Derrika and Quinn thought I was okay with it too because they were talking to each other and I remember vaguely seeing a shocked expression on Quinn’s face as I broke down again.
After he was finished with my tattoo, it was Derrika’s turn. She did a great job too. Her’s was much more elaborate than mine and she was under the needle for a lot longer and couldn’t talk because she was getting it near her neck. But she did a great job staying brave despite her last minute doubts. And her tattoo came out beautifully. What she got was very symbolic for her as well.
After she was done I noticed that inside of an umlauted ‘u’, the tattooist has tattooed on two ‘i’s because the print didn’t print out the line to connect them. Say what now? I was not okay with that. So I had to go back under the needle. Once again, I figured I be okay with this and so did Derrika and Quinn. Derrika went off to the bathroom, Quinn sat down in the waiting area and I got back into the tattoo chair. Then the tattooist starting putting the missing bar on… which was… okay… but then his needle came back down again I just yelled out ‘Qu-inn!’ and he came running (Why run? – Because he is awesome). Only for us both to find that it was over. Not so bad the third time.
But in the end, I did it and it looks great. Even though having a tattoo on my wrist will probably(… definitely…) complicate some things in the future, the symbolism of it and the fact that I had the courage to face such a huge fear of mine makes it really worth it and I’m really proud I was able to do that.
Derrika was proud, too. She bought me dinner at Popeye’s afterwards. Why Popeye’s? Because Osan (and Derrika) is awesome.
Okay, so I tried typing this post just with stories that referenced the title, but I found I had to backtrack a lot. Bare with me while I instead start from the beginning. Some day last week I was walking to work and I heard people yelling out “Whitey! Whitey!” (In case you don’t know, my skin is about as white as it gets – and that is why I’ve been piling the sunblock on before my weekend outings recently) I look over and there’s a group of other white (foreigner) people sitting nearby waving… Okay…I have to say… I waved back but I was a tiny bit offended.
I actually haven’t felt terribly out of place here in Korea. Sometimes I get looks, but mostly its from kids and it doesn’t bother me. But then again Saturday, there was another foreign incident. This one was funnier though. To fully understand the situation, let me tell the story of this day.
This weekend, Alyssa, one of the training peeps, is visiting Seoul. She’s been in Busan for 5 months so Quinn and I decided to meet with her, Karen (from Bucheon), Richard (from Pyeontaek), Sarah and Andrew (from Mok-dong) in the Hongdae area. Alyssa really wanted to go to the Bau House in Hongdae and then go to Gangnam for Doctor Fish. We ended up just staying in Hongdae, which is fine because it seems like I’m always in Gangnam.
Quinn and I arrived in Hongdae and it was raining… And Quinn didn’t have an umbrella so we huddled under my very tiny one. Something was happening in Hongdae, which is home to Hongik University. I know Kyung-hee University in Yeongtong was having a celebration for graduating students so maybe the festivities in Hongdae were similar but… they didn’t look like graduation stuff. Quinn and I were wondering through tents selling arts and crafts stuff when we stumbled on a protest pavilion. As we were leaving, we found two discarded roses from a graduation gift (maybe they were graduation festivities) and we took them.
Then we met Andrew and Sarah at the Bau Haus (Cap’n Jack was back!). Their chocolate milkshakes = crazy delicious. We actually hung out there for a really long time and afterwards we kind of wandered around Hongdae before ducking into a quaint coffee shop. It was still raining and we didn’t want to do to much wandering. Hongdae comes up most in conversations, it seems, for their clubs but the area also has some really nice, eclectic areas. It’s a college neighborhood so it’s no surprise.
After that, we got dinner at Dos Tacos (a Mexican place is the one thing that Yeongtong REALLY needs, in my opinion). Sarah and Andrew left to go to this language exchange that happens at a bar in the area. Quinn and I decided not to go since we’re both still beginners at Korean and would basically just sit there in silence… But maybe soon! Next term, we’re going to really start studying Korean, for serious!
We kind of had to kill time after that since Karen and Alyssa finally arrived but they needed to eat dinner. We wandered around the bar area of Hongdae looking for this Alice in Wonderland themed bar but that was a no-go. Then we found a piercing place called Crow. And we walked in. And by the way, IT WAS STILL RAINING, six hours later.
Before, I get into the Crow part of this story, let me stop and finish explaining the title. So Quinn and I are wandering around the streets of Hongdae in the rain, huddled under my umbrella. I vaguely notice as two other foreigners (they were obviously foreigners because they were both blonde) pass. Then Quinn starts kind of chuckling and poking me. I hadn’t heard what the other foreigners said as they passed so I asked ‘What?’. He told me that they said ‘Look, a wae-guk with a Korean guy. You’re the wae-guk.’ And despite being in Korea for six months now, I asked ‘What’s a wae-guk?” Wae-guk, or 왜국 in hangul, means foreigner. I laughed but still wanted to turn around and yell ‘He’s a wae-guk, too!’. By the way, I probably haven’t mentioned, Quinn is of Korean ancestry.
And then about two minutes later my mind paused… wait a minute… we’re walking alone in a clubbing area of Seoul, walking really close because we have to share an umbrella and I was tired of leaning out and getting my arm wet, Quinn’s holding the umbrella over me, I’ve got roses in my hands and because, despite the rain, it was still warm out I’m wearing a tank-top (being a wae-guk, I can get away with that in conservative Korea). Which is when I realized they meant ‘a wae-guk with a Korean guy’, not ‘a wae-guk and a Korean guy’, if the bold letters can help convey the different connotations.
Korea is a really couples-oriented place, a fact that comes up a lot in conversation between us jaded Western wae-guks. You always see couples walking around in matching outfits- hence the item on the Seoul Century list. In fact, earlier that day, Sarah, Andrew, Quinn and I had to pass up several coffee houses because they were too couple-y and, despite being two guys and two girls, we are not organized into couples. Quinn actually mentioned that when he hangs out with other Western girls, like Sarah, he always gets weird looks from people, mostly older people. They don’t really like the idea of (what they think is) a nice Korean boy dating a Western girl.
And back to Crow, the piercing studio. Quinn has been going on about wanting to get some kind of ear piercing for a few weeks but he’s a little, shall we say, indecisive at times. He was looking at the studs to put in the arch of his ear but he was still not committing to it, even though he obviously wanted it. So I told him that if he gets the earring than I would get something that I’ve been talking about getting – Unfortunately I can’t get it(or maybe them!) until next weekend at the earliest and I’m not saying what it (or they!) is (or are!) until then! It’ll just have to be a surprise.
And he got the earring. It was a small, black cone-shaped stud (and it occurs to me I should have filmed it or at least taken a picture, but I didn’t…). Which in turn convinced Alyssa to get another earring but… there was an issue. She’s had her ears pierced all up and down before and this time she wanted to get something a little more extravagant. Unfortunately, her ear wouldn’t stop bleeding. Quinn and Karen both freaked out from the blood and honestly I was starting to get a little queezy from it. It was a lot of blood. The women do the piercings had her propped up with pillows and were fanning her and running her to the bathroom. But in the end, she was okay.
At that point, it was getting pretty late. As much as we would have liked to wait for Alyssa to finish getting the piercing, we had to leave and head back to Suwon. That’s the one bad thing about living outside of Seoul. Unless you want to spend the night, your night must end early…
Belated but not forgotten: Saturday and Seoul Century!
On Saturday, CDI celebrated the Lotus Lantern Festival and our general comradery with an epic scavenger hunt through Seoul. We met up at 11am, split into teams of 4 and then the race was on! I was teamed up with Mohammed, Ruth and Bethany (with Derrika and Quinn set to join the group later since Mohammed and Ruth had to leave early). We had a plan. We couldn’t be beat. Our determination would see us through to the end and we would come out victorious!
Before I get into the details of our scavenger hunt, let me show you the rules and list of things we needed to find. Be warned: some of the items we needed were a little, shall we say, adult.
Seoul Century 2010
- Your team may complete these 100 random things in any order, for some anywhere and in any way you interpret the instructions
- Photos must accompany each item. 1 member must be pictured in each photo.
- The end point is Insadong at 7pm along the parade lines.
- You may find locations in any way possible.
The 100 Random Things:
Bold = We definitely did it
Italics = We kind of didn’t but with technicalities
Strike-out = We didn’t do it
- Visit 5 different Family Marts
- Eat a food item you’ve never tried before
- Play in a playground
- Take a picture with an old man/lady (respectfully)
- Find a Korean BBQ in Itaewon
- Go to “Nowon” Station – take a picture of people or money
- Visit the World Cup park
- Race an athlete along the Han River
- Find a post office
- Tell the time at the giant clock at National Assembly
- Buy something from a subway vendor (in-transit)
- Photobomb someone or something
- Sing on the subway
- Get a cup of water out of the Han
- Have a soju tasting session (bonus point if someone can identify the different brands)
- Jump shot in a park
- Buy a pack of condoms and use them (Haha, this one was completed pretty innocently – Derrika used a straw to blow it up.)
- Find a Konglish clothing item
- Take a picture of a Korean soldier
- Find a police station
- Collect a concert poster
- Dance to music in public (outside a shop)
- Take a picture of the 63 building
- Find an animal in Seoul
- Watch 3 different food demos in Insadong
- Visit a palace and get a group shot
- Visit a large supermarket
- Take a photo of someone taking a photo
- Add a lock to Namsan Tower
- Adjust your appearance in a public mirror/shiny surface
- Stand in the middle of the street (the busier the better)
- Find another ChungDahm Institute (inc. April) (we were soooo close to getting this one!)
- Find graffiti
- Collect 5 different hooker cards
- Sit on someone’s motorbike
- Find a Korean flag
- Have an Olympic moment in Olympic Park
- Visit a sexy bar
- Shout out loudly with crazy words
- Run through a fountain
- Get 3 free hugs
- Go to an optometrist. Try on glasses
- Find 7 different coffee shops
- Take a picture at Gwanghwamun
- Challenge someone in an arcade game
- Find people playing sport
- Find a Han River water display
- Order a Big Mac at Burger King
- Visit 2 Dos Tacos
- Hand stand at a monument
- Take a creative photo of Namsan tower
- Find an inappropriate sign
- Take a picture of 3 random sculptures
- Find a Mosque
- Go to the highest floor in an elevator of a building
- Find winter sports gear for sale
- Find an aquarium
- Drop your pants in public
- Take a picture in a tank/military plane
- Find Christmas decorations on display
- Hit balls at a batting cage
- Take a picture of the other team
- Practice taekwondo at a Pagoda
- Find an exotic car
- Techno dance in Techno Mart
- Find 5 different banks
- Leave your mark in Seoul
- Find a mascot
- Find a gold Buddha
- Take a picture of something phallic in your hand
- Eat insects
- Take a picture of a man at Ehwa Women’s University
- Find a foreign embassy (I’m not sure if this was done or not… but if it was, it wasn’t done correctly)
- Visit the Kimchi museum
- Find 5 coloured cars (no black, white or silver shades)
- Develop sticker photos with your whole group
- Take a picture of 3 unconventional skyscrapers
- Win a prize from a street game machine
- Take a picture with a street performer (bonus for playing with)
- Collect free sample(s) in Myeongdong
- Find couples wearing couple clothing
- Take a picture with each denomination of Korean currency
- Buy flowers and give to a stranger
- Wear something matching – all members
- Take a picture on the Gangnam pillars
- Find someone with a mullet
- Collect a wetnap from a restaurant. Unopened
- Screen golf
- Take a picture of a famous person
- Eat street food
- Find the Korean Stock Exchange (We thought we had this, but we may have gotten the wrong building)
- Take a picture holding a pet on sale
- Find children at Children’s Grand Park
- Go into a typical Korean apartment building
- Walk across the Han River
- Get on a new bus
- Find a theatre
- Find the most expensive item on sale you can
- Try on traditional Korean clothing
- Join a parade
We have 66 indisputably finished items and an additional 12 items with varying degrees of issue. For example, at one point our group had to split off since two group members we going to see a soccer game, so there are pictures we have where we’re not a whole group. Then there are the two items where I’m not sure where we stand. Finally, there are 20 items that we just didn’t do.
Now on to the adventure! But later… I know it’s taken me forever to post this but… I had a long day today (which I’ll eventually post about). I’m tired. I’ll edit this later.
Mohammed, Ruth, Bethany and I set off for Gangnam (on a new bus!). That wiped out a lot of the items on the list, or at least part of them (We didn’t know there were two Dos Tacos there- RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER!) and we took an express subway train to Yeoido.
I hadn’t been to Yeoido before but its a nice area. It’s where a lot of South Korea’s financial stuff (like the Korean Stock Exchange, that we may not have actually got a picture of…). It’s also along the Han River. Even though the Han is really dirty, it was nice to actually visit a body of water with the weather as nice as it was.
After Yeoido, we went to Ehwa University, met up with Quinn and Derrika, and let our mark in Seoul – we wrote our names on the brick path. Note to self: It’s by a bench outside a convenience store. After this, Ruth and Mohammed left to go to a World Cup game and the rest of us had to find our way to Insadong to turn in what we found/
Yeah… that didn’t work. Derrika ended up leaving before we made it because she wasn’t feeling well and Quinn, Bethany and I decided to take a taxi back so we could make it to the final Lantern Festival Parade in time. Except… there was a lot of traffic BECAUSE of the parade and the road they had shut down. So we ended up getting out and taking the subway… to the WRONG stop. Jongno-3-ga. We were supposed to go to Jonggak.
But whatever. We watched the parade from Jongno-3-ga. Which bring me to one of the best parts of the day: the parade! Most of it was Koreans marching with lanterns, which was cool but it paled in comparison to the AWESOME fire-breathing floats they had. Behold the (coming-soon-hopefully!) video!
So the past few days have been an adventure – but in a good way. However, they’ve been so much of an adventure that I think I need to break them down into separate posts. Ideally I would have been posting all this before, but I was too busy adventuring.
Last Friday (as in the day before Teacher’s Day) was a little rough. But luckily only a little. I subbed for another teacher, covering a class that I’ve covered two other times so I knew the students. They were a little rowdy and it’s always a little tougher teaching a class you haven’t actually prepped (especially a Listening class like I was covering because you have to read the other teacher’s notes) but overall it was a good class. My actual class at 7pm, however, was… eh. And I understand. They’re tired. They been taking exams at school and at CDI. The lessons are tough sometimes. But understanding doesn’t make it any easier for me to get answers out of them.
However, one shining light of great happiness on Friday was the card I got. Because Teacher’s Day was on Saturday, I got a card from one of my students. Teacher’s Day is as it sounds, but I’ll explain it anyway – students give there teachers things like flowers and Pepero (Mmmm it’s just like Pocky) and letters thanking them for being their teacher. And I got my letter. It was on the back of a Kim Yun-a postcard, which I found funny for not particular reason. Note to Self: Take a picture of the letter and post it here. Right now it’s hanging up in my classroom – to make the students to didn’t right me a letter feel GUILTY!
And that was Friday.
On Saturday, I celebrated Teacher’s Day by doing two things:
Thing One: I judged the Speech Contest.
Okay, let me backtrack. The previous week, I was supposed to submit the names for students who I thought should participate in ChungDahm’s Speech Contest, which all the levels do. This week’s speech theme was ‘I have a Dream’ (and one student asked me if he could present Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, which is hanging up in my classroom) and they have to write about themselves and said dream. For the most part students are not terribly enthused about it.
I volunteered to be one of the judges for the Speech Contests. I figured, if I’m making them write and present, the least I can do is be there to judge them. HARSHLY. Oh yeah, and be supportive. However, I ended up judging the E-Chip and Memory speeches with Bethany instead of the students in Interactive speeches, where my students were. The EC/ME speeches were super quick. I was in by 2:00pm and out by 2:30pm. And a lot of the speeches were really cute – not necessarily grammatically correct, but cute.
One kid, though, was FANTASTIC. He talked about his dream of being a basketball player and he actually acted out basketball as he was explaining how to play it and how to be the best. He was one of the few students to actually use actions, and the only student that both Bethany and I rated as 10 out of 10. And he’s probably going to win the contest.
After being judgemental, I went to meet up with Derrika, Quinn and Vy (a relatively new April teacher) in Itaewon. We had some delicious Arabic food before wandering over to Jonggak to see the Lotus Lantern Festival parade. Or at least a sampling of the Lotus Lantern Festival parade. The real parade would be on Sunday but they had a few performances and we got to see some of the floats. It was so late, most of the images didn’t really come out on the camera but enjoy what managed to be captured.
Last Saturday (May 8th), was my second big Adventure Korea trip. Once again, I woke up at the crack of dawn and caught the bus to Gangnam, and caught another bus to Chungcheongbuk-do, the province right next to Gyeonggi-do (where I live).
The first stop on the trip was the Chungju Dam (Check out that hyerlink; how awesome is it that there’s a website for the Korea National Committee on Large Dams? Or that there is such a committee?), the largest concrete dam in Korea and one of the largest in Asia. And yet somehow, I’m pretty sure I did not actually see it. We took a ferry to our next destination and unfortunately I was so beat from waking up early and not being able to nap on the bus that somehow the giant concrete dam in the middle of the ridiculously green forest eluded me. But I napped on the boat, along with most of the training gang that I was traveling with, which gave me enough energy to continue with our journey.
The second stop on the trip was Gosu cave (고수동굴 – gosudonggul; from the signs, I figured out donggul must mean ‘cave’) in Danyang, Korea’s National Monument # 256. Now, I’ve caved before but this has got to be one of the smallest caves and spaces I’ve ever been in. I’m a tiny person and sometimes even I was brushing up against the rock. This cave had passages that were tiny by Korean standards. But it was a nice hike (one that almost killed Derrika with all its stairs) and a cool thing to add to my list of random things I’ve done in Korea.
After the cave, we traveled to Dodam Sambong (도담삼봉 – three peak island) which is this formation of three rocks in the water with a pavilion called Ihogangjeong. I’m not sure if that’s the name of that particular pavilion or that’s just the word for all the pavilions but… I’m going to pretend that pavilion is special enough to have its own name. This is suppose to be an important site that scholars visited during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) so I wouldn’t be too surprised. The pavilion was built to comfort families that had lost people in floods caused by Chungju Dam. Following this, we hiked up a mini-mountain to see Seokmun (석문 – stone gate) which is basically a neat little land bridge. Which we were not allowed to climb. Because someone would most definitely fall off and die after falling the hundred or so feet into the rocky water below.
And with that happy thought, I leave you with some beautiful pictures.
May 5th is Children’s Day and since it fell on a Wednesday here in Korea and only April was closed, it was also a work day for me. Apparently, the holiday used to be celebrated on May 1st, which would have meant celebrating it last Saturday, so no days off for anyone.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, a perfect day for getting the day off. I saw a lot of kids picnicing in the park with their family. My Bridge Reading class that always gives me trouble was cut in half today. I would assume because of Children’s Day and they were probably off doing something far more fun than studying English. But the class was that much easier to teach yesterday.
After my classes, I had to stop buy HomePlus and while I was there, I had my headphones on so I couldn’t really hear anything. Then there was a lull in the music and I realized I heard a child crying. Now, I had yet to hear a child crying in a store so I assumed it was part of some weird advertisement over the loudspeakers. But as I got closer to the front of the store, the crying was getting louder. Which is when I saw a little kid screaming in a shopping cart. And I was just thinking ‘Child, you are Korean! No screaming in department stores! Even if today is Children’s Day.’ After more than four months being here, that was the first time I heard a kid screaming and carrying on in a store.