11/22/2007

A Turkey-less Turkey Day, Weekend Updates and Korean Pop Music??



Boy, Thanksgiving has never felt more un-Thanksgiving-y. It was pretty regular and I tried not to think about all the good food I WASN'T eating. Classes have been pretty slow this week because all the kids have level testing and final exams. Therefore, nothing too exciting. I also have to write evaluations for 42 kids which means I'll be bringing work home. My favorite!

I had a pretty awesome weekend though! One of my best so far here in Korea. On Saturday, I woke up at the buttcrack of dawn to work out. Even though I didn't have a true Thanksgiving, I knew I'd be eating like a cow all weekend so damage control was necessary. After the gym, I went to the movies with Steve to see Beowulf. I had no desire to see this movie initially, but it was in 3-D so I agreed. At first, I felt silly wearing those stupid glasses. I kept thinking, "I don't see anything different...this is such a waste of money..." But then the movie started and WOW...stuff was literally jumping off the screen. It's one of my favorite movies I've seen...but only in 3-D :)

Later in the day I went out to dinner with the girls. It was a group of about 8 of us. We took the bus into Sinchon, a very busy area of Seoul. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant called "On the Border". It's a US chain on the West coast. When I tell you I've never had such amazing Mexican food except in Mexico, I'm not even joking. We all decided that this place must have authentic old Mexican abuelas in the kitchen because it was incredible. I had to just pause and give thanks for my enchiladas and beans and my extra-grande sangria margarita. I haven't been that excited to see food in a long time! As much as I love being in Korea, I've yet to really warm up to the food here. I suddenly feel like a picky eater and that's not normally how I am.



So, after we all waddled out of there, we headed over to Hongdae to see a play called "A Ballerina Loves a Bboy". It's basically like a hip-hop version of Grease - girl and boy hate each other at first but girl falls in love and changes for the boy. And it was SOOOOO GOOD!!! It was held in an airtight, hotter-than-hell auditorium but what a show! I love bboys because I grew up watching the Breakin movies so I was really excited. These guys and girls were super talented. For 90 mins, they danced like it was going out of style. They pop-locked, they windmilled, they electric boogalooed. Haha...They truly entertained us and I had the best time! We were all oohing and aahing at their stunts. I really thought a couple of times that they were gonna break some bones, but they're professionals. And they do this everyday! Unreal! So here are some pictures from that..I was so mad that I actually FORGOT my camera at home. But Janice tooks pics for me and I thank God for that!! My friend Aeja has more pics. After the show, we hung around and talked to the dancers and took pictures. They were all so nice! A couple of them had dreads (or what appeared to be). Another one had an afro, believe it or not. His hair texture was really curly. I almost wanted to touch it! There was one real bgirl and 3 other hip hop dancers. One girl, who we nicknamed Kiki, just had a little extra rhythm. She reminded us of a video girl the way she danced. So when we talked to her, turns out her boyfriend is black! Go figure.... :)





I'll post more pics when Aeri gets them to me. Overall though, I had an awesome weekend. Well worth the money I spent!! :)

Now for something interesting....So, I've posted a video below. It's the hottest song in Korea right now and all my students, from the little ones to the middle schoolers, can't stop singing it!! It drives me crazy but now it's starting to wear on me. It's Korean cheesy pop at its best....and I kinda like it. Oh the shame! The video is pretty corny, but what can ya do!? Welcome to Korea!!! :) Until next time, J


Update: Sorry, the video got deleted! :(

11/18/2007

My "Sticky" Situation

So, for the past 5 or 6 months, I've been having these recurring dreams. I've NEVER been one to have recurring dreams. In fact, I usually do not remember much about dreams once I've woken up. But recently, my dreams have been vibrant, at least these dreams.

I just had one so it's still fresh and I can explain it.

Fast forward about 2 or 3 years. I am in graduate school, working on a project for a deadline but I'm late for class. For some reason, my roommates are 2 of my friends from Korea. So, I rush out of the house with only my jacket and run to class. Except, it's not my class. It's a strange, pseudo shack/nightclub. At the door, there's a big man with a rope. He tells me I have to go around the back way and I ask "Is my class back there?? I'm really late.." So mysteriously, I get around this building to an elevator. There are a bunch of other students waiting for the elevator,too so I ask them the same question. One girl remarks, "Good luck with your class. But where's your laptop?" OH CRAP!! I totally forgot my laptop. So I run outside and it's raining like crazy. I only have my green jacket but thankfully I have a hood. So I'm running down the street, I burst through my front door, run upstairs, and start gagging. The gum again! I am gagging and choking. I'm trying to pull this gum out of my mouth, but the more I pull at it, the more that comes out. I can't get RID of it! I start sweating in my sleep. I even start to spit on myself in my sleep because it FEELS like I'm actually gagging on this gum. There are handfuls of the sticky, clumpy stuff in the sink. My roommate walks up and looks at me. "What the hell is wrong with you??" But I can't speak.....and then I wake up.


It's the gum. That's been my recurring dream. At least once a week, I dream about gagging on gads and gads of gum. I finally decided to Google it because it freaks me out so much. I love the internet because of this reason, found on dreamloverinc.com:



"Chewing gum

For several years now, I have been receiving similar dreams from people all over the world. The dreams are almost exactly the same and involve the dreamers' inability to get rid of chewing gum. The more they attempt to remove it from their mouths the larger and more unmanageable it becomes. In the dream they become frustrated and panicky because the harder they try to pull, the larger the mass becomes in their mouths. This dream suggests that the dreamer may experience frustration in daily life due to a large scale or standing insolvable problem that leaves them feeling powerless. The dream represents an inability to digest or to process information or a dilemma. It also suggests that the dreamer is not able to express him or herself effectively and that repetitive and ineffective verbal expressions are typically used. Chewing gum in dreams may be a sign of childlike behaviors, vulnerability, powerlessness, and a need for nourishment."

Then I looked up something related:

"Smothering/Strangling/Choking

Dreaming that you are having difficulty breathing and are in danger of dying as a result may carry important messages for the dreamer. This type of a dream experience is usually very frightening, and at times people are awakened from their dream due to the fear. This dream may have several different explanations and the catalysts may be forces from either within the individuals emotional and psychological makeup or circumstances on the outside of the individual. The suffocation is either do to internal forces or an external situation. The dreamer may experience great difficulties when it comes to free self expression. They may have difficulties in expressing their fear, anger, love, or any other powerful emotion and are literally choking on them in their dream. Choking in your dream suggests that you are having problems in communicating your thoughts, needs, and feelings. Additionally, smothering may imply that the dreamer can not accept certain situations in their life and is feeling suffocated by a current problem."

My dreams have literally been choking me. So what does it mean?? I guess it could be a number of things. I don't quite know yet. I started to think about my past job though. I started having these dreams around the middle of July. I left my old job in June. I often felt like I couldn't express myself. They'd ask my opinion and somehow my opinion was "wrong". I was always reaching for words when my boss would start yelling at me and asking me to explain something. I became a bumbling fool, reverting back to a child in a lot of ways because I would just stand there, looking at the floor. That's how I view the boss/assistant relationship. It's almost parental and not like a team in my opinion. They tell you to do something and you do it then you await their approval (Good job vs this is completely wrong). There were so many things I wanted to say, but of course those things never came out. And they probably never will because that's not how you build bridges. It's how you demolish them. Even in my exit interview, I apparently "said too much" according to one close mentor. I suggested that they should do more to build support systems for all incoming assistants, especially those of color. Why do I get in trouble for calling a spade a spade?? Anyway, that's one possible reason for my gummy dreams...

Another one is that, well, I feel like I'm only eloquent on paper sometimes. In person, I don't feel this connected. The words are not cohesive like this. A lot of times, the words just don't come when I need them to. When I sit down to write, it just flows. But when I sit up to speak, I almost feel mute. So perhaps, this is my dream telling me to work on my verbals a bit more. I don't know. But they sure are strange. And demanding. And scary. When the gum parts appear in my dreams, I always think the same thing: I'm gonna get it all out this time. And of course, I don't and I nearly die trying to.

I've been tormented recently by all the insanity in the world. It's not like the world has always been a civil place (think The Crusades, slavery - past and modern-day, World Wars I, II, and presently III in my opinion). But I feel voiceless. I don't have a "cause" to fight for yet. When will my cause come? I want to save AIDS orphans in Africa. I'd love to help save polar bears in Antarctica (my favorite animal). The rainforest! I want to fight for civil rights here in America, a country diseased with blatant mistreatment and racial blunders. Cancer and stem cell research? Maybe. Global warming is about to ruin civilization and that's a lovely headline to wake up to. Maybe I will trade in my baby for a hybrid car when I get back home? I dunno. That's certainly a start. I'll be doing my part in a small way. But I don't know what my cause is yet. I feel paralyzed by my options, which is probably nothing new. Choice is the cornerstone of democracy, but too many choices to choose from can lead to inaction, which is where I find myself at present moment.

Oh well. I guess I'll chew on it some more.... **C'mon you weren't getting out of this entry without a corny gum joke** <3 J

11/16/2007

Why Are People Touching Me?!



Today's been incredibly long, but I promised myself I'd post before going to bed. I woke up super early to go to the gym. I knew I'd be eating like a cow today so I had to do damage control. So, at 8am I rolled into the gym with my hat and coat on (40 degrees this morning!!) I ran for a little bit, did the elliptical for awhile. All pretty standard. Then I trudged over to the ab machines. I really wasn't in the mood to do it, but I'm a robot so it happens whether I want to or not. So, this woman comes up and starts using the machine next to me. No biggie right? I mean, there were 3 machines to share. Out of the corner of my eye though, I noticed her glancing at me out of the corner of HER eye! I was getting a little weirded out. Then I noticed she was moving at the exact same pace as me (which, for any other gym freaks out there, is REALLY irritating...). Up...1,2,3...Down...1,2,3....Up...1,2,3,4....Doooooooowwwwwnnnn. I mean, she was totally mimicking me. So I looked over at her and smiled politely and she smiled back, pretending like I didn't notice she'd been tagging along on my workout. And before I knew what hit me, she reached out and touched me! She rubbed my leg and started jammering in Korean and laughing shyly. I tried to wipe the horrified look off my face, but it was stuck. My reflexes didn't even function. I just sat there dumbfounded...and she went back to working out. WEIRD!! So I got up and moved onto a different machine. I put my iPod back on and got lost in my workout.

But....

not even 5 minutes later, I had ANOTHER visitor. This time, it's the Cute Trainer Guy. I was in the middle of a set and he just popped up and started chatting me up. I'm sweaty and gross and all I really wanted was to come in and work out for an hour and go home!! WHY ARE PEOPLE BOTHERING ME?! So, I stopped and chatted. Cute Trainer Guy is harmless. He's very nice and I think he enjoys practicing his English. I managed to wrangle some information out of him, too. He has 2 jobs - one in Bucheon from 6am - 3pm and another one back in Seoul (where he lives) from 3-1130pm. He was "very tired" he said. Not surprising. As we're chatting along, I felt this....presence at my backside. Some middle-aged man wandered up on us and started jammering in Korean! Obviously, I don't speak Korean but I know some words. He was talking to Cute Trainer Guy and said, "Migook?? Jamaica??" Migook means American...And well, OBVIOUSLY, Jamaica....so I said, "No no, not Jamaica. New York City." (No, I'm not from New York City, but it's the one city everyone knows here). And creepy older guy said, "Ohhhh. A lot of gyms in New York City??? I saw you...first day....all time here. Nice to meet you." Ok so maybe he's not so creepy, just a curious man. Ok, crisis averted....

But THEN Cute Trainer Guy just starts staring at me...and I said, "What???" I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. And he said, "You are...very beautiful." Hmmmmm.....thanks but I'm looking like Patrick Ewing in the 4th quarter right now. So I said thank you three times because the silence was unbearable. What the heck was I supposed to say?! Then he touched my arm...and mumbled something about my unrecognizable bicep muscle. Thank goodness customers came in and he had to go. I got outta there as fast as I could. Didn't even finish my workout. Damn...

Later tonight, my Directors took all the teachers out to dinner at a nice galbi place (Korean barbeque grill type place). It was very nice. And I ate entirely too much. In fact, I fell over trying to put my shoes back on, which was very funny to witness. So after eating the equivalent of the Last Supper (sans Judas), my coworkers wanted to go out AGAIN! I tried to wiggle my way out of it, but I couldn't. So we went to a Japanese restaurant. Let me tell you something - I'm not one of those mindless eaters. I don't eat when I'm not hungry (except gummi bears). After dinner, I had no desire to go have ANOTHER dinner! And I don't even drink anymore. So I asked Steve, "Um, why are we going to a restaurant? We just ate...a lot. I don't get it.." He said, "Oh, you know we're just gonna have some drinks and appetizers...we just eat for no reason. Doesn't matter if we're hungry or not"

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!?!?!? ARE YOU SERIOUS??!?!?!? I just ate an entire cow 15 minutes ago!!! Did you see me inhale that cow?!?!

For the first time, I really felt entirely out of place. As I sat there, watching my coworkers drink Soju (don't drink Soju...it will mess you up GOOD) and eat again, I just turned sour. I didn't want to be there. I wanted to be at home, listening to music, and resting my overextended belly. I had NO idea what anyone was saying. The two people that did speak English did me no favors by trying to involve me. I know about 20 Korean words and half of those are the numbers from 1-10. I was not gonna be jumping in, interrupting the flow of conversation. It was just awkward. To make things worse, while I was sitting at the table, a group of drunk businessmen next to us was staring at me, which made all my coworkers stare at me. I said, "What? Do I have a booger in my nose? Did I offend someone??" Steve said, "No, they're staring at you because you're different....in a good way" Gee, thanks for letting me know! I had no idea I was "different" in Korea, but thanks for staring at me for 15 minutes. I'm well aware now! So anyway, Steve was already tipsy and he was mad that I was leaving but oh well. They were headed to the norebang (singing room) after dinner #2. No thank you!!

And now, here I am, sublimely happy....listening to music and resting my belly :)

11/13/2007

More Munchkins! And Hair Ranting...






Ah ha! They had no idea what hit 'em! I snuck up on these little buggers with my camera and they were actually very excited. I also teach older kids who I'll get pictures of, too. But the little ones are the cutest...and who doesn't love cute kids! So here they are - Mac is in the red. He's a sweet kid. A little hyperactive but what 8 year old isn't? He's also in the class with Joey and Joon, but Mac is the most tame out of them all. The other kiddies are my second lowest level class. They make me crack up because they have so much energy. They made me take 3 pictures just to get it right. "No teacher....again!!"

I have nothing especially entertaining or life-changing to report. I'm finished crying and wallowing for now :) I am sick of doing my hair though. It's only been like a month and a half and I'm ready to cut it all off. But as I learned freshman year of college, short hair is not my friend either. So, I've just been dealing with it. I probably should've thought this through a little bit more, but I'm tired of my hair being an excuse not to do something. I fell prey to this fallacy senior year when I started pressing my hair. Well, working out came to a grinding halt for fear of sweating it out. So, for a year, I was fat and lazy. But my hair was fly! I stopped getting braids because I missed my hair and for some reason, I believed all those lies about braids being "unprofessional" in the workplace. Yeah right! And I didn't feel like holding a press conference about my hair every single day trying to explain "how it works". So here I am, back at square one...sorta. My hair and I have a love/hate relationship to say the least. We've battled through the years....maybe one day I'll stop fighting with her. Lately, I've been letting her do whatever she wants because I don't have the energy to deal. She always wins anyway. But I'll figure it out. I've still got awhile yet before I really start to get irritated. My black friends here all have unique situations. One girl is black & Korean so her hair care needs and texture is significantly different. One girl does her own perms which look pretty good actually but I worry. And one girl just gets weaves done in Seoul. Again, I'm not one for experimenting out here. So I've got some Googling to do. :)

Well, I'm off to read my new magazines! My parents sent me a care package today! I have grits, pancake mix, oatmeal, almonds, GQ, O magazine, and "Eat, Pray, Love" (which I've already read 40 pages of!). I'm loving it!! It's amazing the things you miss from home. One of my friends today suggested Thailand for Christmas....how awesome would that be??? Pretty amazing....but it'll have to wait. I can't afford Thailand right now. I'll be going next summer more than likely so I'd better save up. Until next time, J

11/11/2007

No, I Didn't See Beyonce...



Beyonce was in Seoul this past weekend. And NO, I didn't get to see her. And I'm a little bitter about it especially because I learned after the fact how many of my friends had free tickets and passed them up!!! That just pisses me off. Who does that?? Why would you pass up free tickets to see Beyonce when I would've been coughing up 90,000 won to see her from the nosebleed section?! That's just messed up....

But anyway, I still had a really great weekend. Friday night was spent at home, which is customary. My last class that day really pissed me off...AGAIN! Am I just becoming The Angry English Teacher or what? I almost kicked out one girl that never even talks! Basically, I went in there all chipper, ready to teach my lesson about China and Chinatown (it was the book's lesson, not mine). The kids know the drill. It's a listening exercise and then they answer questions about what they've heard. I was asking, digging, prying to get anything out of them and they gave me JACK SQUAT!! After about 15 minutes of teeth pulling, I said SCREW IT!! If you don't wanna talk, you will write for the next 30 mins. And that's what they did. I made them write the same sentence over and over again. But one girl, Ji-in, just sat there scribbling in her notebook. I thought to myself, "Hmm, that's odd. Cuz I KNOW I just gave them an assignment to do.." So I asked her, "Ji-in, what are you doing??" She just grins this stupid little grin and looks down at her book. So I pointed to the board and gestured that she should be writing the sentence. Long story short, I made her stand up for the rest of the class and stare at the wall. Then I asked the other students, who were writing quietly, if they were having fun yet. "No, teacher...." came the solemn reply. "NO?!?! You're not!? That's funny because I am having a GREAT time!!!" They probably thought I was completely insane. Sarcasm is difficult to teach. We finally got back to work and they were more cooperative, but boy I tell you, I just wanted to scream at them for 45 minutes. And they wouldn't have understood a word. And it would've only been a temporary fix. I still don't have any answers for this class yet. They just suck in my opinion and well, that's unfortunate. It's hard to be like "Oh yeah, he's really smart..." when he never says a damn thing. I have to see them tomorrow, too and if they act up again, they'll be writing AGAIN! I have no mercy...

Saturday was great!! I went shopping with Steve in Myeongdong (Mee-yong-dong), a big shopping district in Seoul. I tell you, I am my mother's child because the first thing I bought was a handbag. And it's so pretty...it was on sale, too! I snatched the last one off the mannequin. So, there it is...my first real purchase in Korea.
And I'd have about 10 pairs of boots by now if they carried anything close to my size. I guess I'm lucky I have big feet otherwise I'd be broke already. But I really liked Myeongdong because of all the craziness there. It was a little schizophrenic actually. I nearly had a seizure in the mall just from all the people. Imagine the day before Christmas at Macy's...sorta like that except you have NO idea what anyone is saying. And I almost got separated from Steve which caused a lot of anxiety, too. That area of town some really great restaurants, too but I decided to try out the Korean street food! Yes, crazy I know but it was actually amazing. I had some hot pancake thing with honey and chocolate inside. I actually 2 of those because there was crack inside. Even the scalding hot chocolate searing my thumb didn't stop me from eating it. If there is a Heaven, I'm thinking they're probably serving those little pancake things up there. I also had fish on a stick with lots of ketchup. That was tasty. So, I basically ate a bunch of junk food for dinner for $3. And I was happy.

After Myeongdong, we went to Hongdae (Hong-day), an adorable little college town. It's by Hongik University so the crowd is much younger and trendier I guess. Reminded me of The Village in NYC a little. Very funky and cute. Waaaaaay better than seedy, nasty Itaewon that's for sure. So we just walked around. We stopped at a cafe called The Coffee Bean and had hot chocolate. It's gotten pretty chilly at night here so the hot chocolate did a good job of keeping me warm. A little pricey though, like $5 for a small cup. But I said hey, I'm freezing my @$$ off in Korea. In Hongdae, we went to this really cool shop. When I first passed by, I couldn't figure out what exactly they were selling. It looked like a kitchen with a bunch of random stuff in it. So my curiousity got the best of me and I just had to know. Turns out this woman, whom I believe may have been a local art student, was selling knick knacks from all over the world. Magnents, Indian saris, little matchboxes...really unique stuff. So I'll be back there at some point. I think it'd be a good place to buy trinkets and gifts for people. After 7 hours hanging out in Seoul, I was exhausted. I couldn't wait to just get home and get under my covers. Oh, I also bought bootleg DVDs. Because the guy was packing stuff up, I got a great deal - 5 for $10!! I bought American Gangster, Ratatouille, Bourne Ultimatum, The Departed, and some Japanese movie that Steve and the vendor said was "awesome". So I came home and watched American Gangster. Another fantastic performance by Denzel...but I really do get sick of these movies that only portary Blacks as thugs and gangsters. That's a whole other topic...

On Sunday, I went to the gym early. My gym buddy was there! He's one of the trainers I guess. The first time I went, he was there and struck up a conversation in broken English. My friend Christine was there to translate in the beginning. I don't remember his name at all, but he liked "my skin". And he wants me to help him with his English (surprise!). He's a friendly guy though and not bad on the eyes either! Sundays are dead there....seriously, I was one of 5 people in the entire place at 2pm. So today he gave me a tangerine. I have no idea why, but I took it and said thank you. This evening, I went into Seoul again, this time an area near Itaewon called Kyangleedan. Oscar invited me to a dinner party. About 8 people came, mostly Irish people. They have really cool accents. It doesn't really matter what they're saying, it manages to sound hilarious. They cooked lasagna and bought an Oreo cheesecake from Cosco. Talk about ecstatic. I don't think I've ever shoved so much food in my mouth. Everyone did! Then we watched a movie, which I'm shocked I was able to stay awake for. Then I hopped in a taxi, jumped on the subway, got on a bus and was home in about an hour. I'm really learning my way around which is good. I can take all kinds of transportation to get places now! Off to bed for me....time to start another week :) <3 J

11/07/2007

Munchkins Run Amok




I finally snapped a picture of some of my kids. It's harder than you would think! Some of these little devils just don't like the camera, but that's okay. I will sneak attack them all sooner or later. They run around screaming "Teacher no!" You'd think I was paparazzi or something..anywho, up above (from l to r), that's Joey, Joseph, and Joon. Joey and Joon are in the same class and they just go ballistic. They look all cute but they're 2 of my most ill-mannered children. They come into school screaming and rowdy and they leave that way, too. I just try to harness all that energy for 45 minutes and pray to God. It's always the boys...all my girls are so sweet and good. Almost all the boys are literally insane. Joseph is sweet. He's very shy and quiet, but he's amazingly bright. He has great pronunciation for such a low level. Most Asians ESL students struggle pronouncing L's and R's. In Korean, those 2 letters are actually one sound so oftentimes, students will say "lope" instead of "rope" and "rake" instead of "lake". It's very interesting...linguistics.

I really treat these kids like my own. I can never stay mad at them as much as I try. They're so adorable sometimes that I can't be mad. I just have to laugh. I give them the "angry teacher face" and they're quiet for 2.5 seconds. I've lost count of how many times I say "Sit down!" But I'm trying. I'm not a mean person and I hate yelling, but I'll do it. Banging on the desks is also effective. When I first started, I really would just get pissed off and angry at my students sometimes. They weren't responding to me or they'd be so painfully quiet. Thankfully, most of them have warmed up to me. I have my favorites for sure so I'll try to get pictures of everyone. My kids also come and go though. Some kids quit, never to be heard from again. Luckily, no one that I'm really attached to has quit. But you just never know so I'm trying not to be so attached. That's the hard part for me - trying not to care as much as I do. I genuinely care if my students understand this stuff so it would be disheartening for a student to just up and quit. But oh well...c'est la vie :)

I tried a new method today for getting them speaking in English. A lot of times, students revert to Korean when they don't know the English word. They don't really understand the idea of circumlocution. I had to use it all the time when learning Spanish and I think it's extremely necessary. Circumlocution is the practice of talking around a word. For example, if you don't know the word for "apple", you'd try to explain what you mean by describing it - it's red, round, a fruit, etc. That's ideally what you want students to do. But mine just start chattering in Korean and it's totally disruptive. So my new system is that anytime someone speaks in Korean, I deduct points from their next test. Tests are taken very seriously. Needless to say, some of my classes were a little quiet today, but that's okay. It's a great thing actually because it forces them to THINK in English. They have to pull out the vocabulary they know and try to form a sentence. So we'll see how that goes....

So my friend, D, is like a superstar or something. She knows people all over the world cuz she works for a pretty well-known musician. So, she connected me with one of her friends in Seoul (actually several of her friends!) who plays for the national basketball team here, Mark. So I met up with Mark a couple days ago in Gangnam, a very ritzy area in Seoul. He's recovering from his season-ending knee surgery and heading back to the States on Sunday, but it was still nice to meet him. We really had a fun time. You're gonna think I'm absolutely retarded, BUT I had the most fun watching football! Yes, good ole American football. I really missed it! And he ordered room service for me! I had scrambled eggs, toast, sausage, and potatoes. I was beyond ecstatic about it. I was downright giddy actually and Mark thought that was hilarious. Unfortunately, Mark is a Cowboys fan (BOO!!!!!!) and I'm an Eagles fan (E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!!!!) so we argued for 2 hours about which team is better. Ironically, the Eagles and Cowboys played Sunday so he was really talkin smack then. Even though the Cowboys have won more Superbowls than any team, they haven't BEEN to a Superbowl in years...which proves my point: They suck! Hahaha. But I really had a blast and so I'm thankful for people looking out for me. He's going to pass along my number to his teammate, Dan, who's still there. Dan's from Seattle and when I was in Seattle, I met his brother who also plays basketball internationally. If that ain't a small world, I dunno what is!

I'm exhausted lately and I'm wondering if jetlag can be delayed for a month..? Truthfully, I felt no type of jetlag when I first got here. But the past few days, my gas tank is on empty. I'm taking the bajillion vitamins my mother sent, I'm exercising again, and I'm eating properly. So what gives? I just don't know....maybe I'm not as adjusted as I thought. Anyway, pretty boring on this side of the world right now :) I might head to Daegu this weekend, about 3-4 hours from me. My friend Sheron has a 4-day weekend and invited me down there. You know I can't sit still. :)

One last random thing....I almost can't read the news anymore!! It seems like everyday there's something negative about the US in the headlines. I love how gas continues to skyrocket. Today, I read an article about how our international reputation is almost beyond repair. That's nothing new, but I always feel so patriotic when I'm out of the country. I'm like 2 steps away from wearing an American flag. For no other reason than to show people that not all Americans are the same way. In so many ways, I'm proud to be an American. At least in my mind, that word still conjures so many positive images - we are innovative, determined, caring leaders. We have an undeniable stamp on the world. America is my family, for better or for worse. Some people pack up and leave and adopt new families, permanent expats who divorce themselves from their roots. But hey, we live in a world where that's possible and that's completely okay. As much as I travel around the globe, I know where home is. I know where my family is (literal and figurative). Sure, you have knock-down drag-out fights with your family. You go for days, weeks, even years without speaking to your family. You get pissed off and say mean things to your family. But truthfully, you have a soft spot for that family. You can never remove your DNA. Yeah, sometimes America really sucks. But you know what? Show me a country whose citizens are 100% happy with their government/society and I'll show you cows on Saturn. So, at the end of the day, I'm glad I bleed red, white, and blue. I'm proud to see those stars and stripes. And I'm thankful that I can always come home...<3 J

11/04/2007

1 Girl + 2 Drinks = 3 Hours of Crying...




After an early dinner and drink with Oscar on Saturday night, I came home and cried my eyes out. And you're probably wondering what in the hell is wrong with me, which would be a valid question on your part. Well, I don't really know to be honest. I think it's sinking in that I'm gonna be here for 11 more months. And it totally freaked me out. I was bawling uncontrollaby. Big, bulging eyes. Heaving and nose-blowing. The whole bit. Why, you would've thought someone had died. But no. I was just thinking Oh my God, I'm having a breakdown. This is it. I felt really sad all of a sudden. I'm in a strange land where I don't speak the language (yet), I don't have many friends, and nothing is familiar. I won't go so far as to the say the thrill has worn off. I'm definitely still excited to be here, but I am missing home. I am homesick for my family and friends mostly. Even though, it's nice because I talk to some of my friends now more than ever! Which is awesome...I miss physical human contact. Yes, damnit, maybe I need a hug. I miss the familiarity of my old world. That's the best reason I can give as to why I was deluged with emotion late last night. I was also a little tipsy which certainly does not alleviate those emotions. So, I talked to my friend Darren, whose been here a little bit longer than I have. He went through the same thing and I guess everyone does. I'm not doubting my decision to come here. It's what I've wanted to do. But I am struggling with the here and now, being able to enjoy what's right in front of me. I'm so used to overplanning for the future. My mind functions like that. "This time next year, where will I be? What will I be doing? instead of "Right now, I'm going to..." My brain is essentially crowded. And I haven't figured out how to let it go. Also, I think I have a bit of an anxiety disorder. Through my own self-diagnosis (thank you WebMD), I have GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) where I tend to worry about things that I absolutely cannot control i.e. completely unproductive worrying. I don't have the kind of worry that spurs people to action. No no...mine is pointless. And you would think that realizing how utterly useless this worry is would make me stop worrying. But in fact, it makes me worry even more.



Here's a prime example - I emailed my friend Toya about 3 weeks ago. I know she's busy with grad school and what have you. It slipped her mind. It happens. But after about week 2, my mind started to create scenarios of why she hadn't written back. I was thinking that something was wrong. She's in a ditch and needs help. She's died and no one called to let me know. Oh my God, they can't get ahold of me...and she's dying. She's been murdered. I just know it. I work myself all up about it. She finally did email me back and of course, she'd been buried under work. Not buried under some dirt on I-95. But that is what my overimaginative brain does. I also had a similar episode when I couldn't reach Jonathan. I was literally going to contact his brothers and find out where he was. And then he emailed me saying how sorry he was for making me worry and that he'd been crazy busy at work, etc. But I thought someone had killed him....and no one had told me. He lives in Philly..,crime is terrible in Philly...people go missing all the time...maybe he's missing....maybe the police are looking for him and can't find him. That's my logic, my fractured logic. This happens to me all the time, with anyone I'm close to. It used to happen constantly when I was living in NJ with Ash and my brother, too. When he used to stay out late partying and hanging out, there'd be times when he'd fall asleep on the subway and just ride it all night long. It would scare me to death. So anytime he'd be out late, past midnight, I'd text him or call to make sure he was okay and couldn't go to sleep until he got back to me. If he took too long getting back to me, I'd call his friends to find out where he was and if he was okay.

I can't pinpoint exactly when this started happening to me. After September 11th? Maybe. I'm sure it's more a product of the media than anything. All those stories about kidnapped babies and people who go missing only to turn up dead a week later. Now I understand why my Mom and Dad always said to call when I got someplace. "Call me when you get there.." they'd say. I'd be thinking "yeah yeah yeah....I'll call..." But sometimes I wouldn't call. In the midst of all the fun I was having, I'd forget to call home and I didn't think it was a big deal. But now I see why it is a big deal. People who love you need to know if you're okay. And now I'm the same way. And I feel bad for my future kids, too. I can only imagine the kind of hovering, paranoid, overanxious mother they're gonna get. If my kids decided to pick up and move across the world, well I just might be going with them. I give my parents a lot of credit for being okay with this.

After all that boo-hooing last night, today I went outside walking at my favorite park. It was a beautiful fall day and I thought "Wow, it's Fall and I'm in Korea...." Fresh air has a way of doing that. And I got a few waves and hellos from people, too. Overall it was a pretty good day. For once I didn't think about the future or grad school or getting a job once I get back home or the kind of person I want to be when I grow up. I know the kind of person I want to be right now - one who can stop and smell the kimchi.

11/02/2007

A Gym Freak Gets Her Wish....





YAY!!!! Sorry I haven't posted all week, junkies! :P It's Friday night and I just got PAID! Finally....I'm not broke! And you know where I went first. Yes, the GYM! I just joined though. I'll be going tomorrow morning at 1030am sharp. Yes! I did a 3-month membership and then if I want to extend, I can. As far as I can tell. gyms are pretty scarce around here. There are only 2 in my area, maybe 3. One that I checked out was basically a bunch of old equipment jammed into a big room. I mean treadmills crunched up against the free weights. ALL WRONG!!! I felt claustrophobic just walking around so I couldn't imagine working out. The one I joined is sectioned off nicely with weights in their appropriate area and treadmills in their own area. And there's a separate section for classes. Nice and Western...just how I like it. I will not compromise! They also have "uniforms" which consist of either a red or blue t-shirt and track pants. I was like, "Hmmmm...no thank you. I will bring my own." Call it vanity but I like my gym clothes tight. Body hugging...I want to see what little muscles I do have attempt to ripple. None of this masking all my hard work with baggy tshirts. You ever notice that? The more weight people lose, the tighter their outfits get. I've seen some old ladies rocking more Spandex than you can shake a stick at....and it's pretty funny. And I love them for it.

What else did I do on payday?? Steve said it's "tradition" for the foreign teacher to take out the other teachers with their first paycheck. Ummmm....tradition is it?? I dunno if that's valid, but I bought it. Steve especially deserved it because he's been so helpful. Luckily only 1 other teacher went so I didn't break the bank. We had a good time though. I'll post pics of the feast! Honestly, I want to roll over and die a slow death right now....that's how much I ate tonight. It's beyond uncomfortable. It's almost unbearable. And this is why Mama needed a gym!!!! RIGHT HERE!!! Most people lose weight in Korea and I feel like I'm packing it on. That's all going to change though! :)

I'm surprised more people aren't sick here. You know why??! Cuz no one covers their damn mouths when they sneeze and cough!!!!!! I'm coming to terms with the spitting. I'm coping with the nosepicking. But holy crap, can you PLEASE cover your mouth?!?! Actually, do one better. Cough into SOMEthing! Your sleeve, a napkin, whatever. Don't just let all the free radical germs migrate to my damn desk! Because they inevitably do just that. And then you think I'm crazy because I'm Lysol-ing every 30 seconds. BUT I AM NOT CRAZY!! I developed a serious case of germophobia working in New York City. I mean some people there were just vile creatures, but there was an attempt at keeping germs contained. No such luck here. I give up......I'm just letting go. I'm not gonna change South Korea....and they're not gonna change me either. So I'll keep covering my mouth and containing my germs.

I don't know where the time goes here, but wow, it's November. I've been here for exactly one month! 11 more to go! :) With my first check, I realize I can send home quite a bit of money each month. I can live very well here on $50-100 a week. $100 a week is at the high end. If I'm doing a lot of shopping or hanging out in Seoul a lot, I'll top out at $100. Otherwise, I can live on $50/week easily. So, that's good because my credit cards are screaming. And I basically depleted my savings once I quit my job. I see why most people end up staying here for at least 2 years. The first year goes to paying off debts and then you can just save the next year or travel or whatever. It's gonna be a stretch for me to pay off debt, save, AND travel. My main focus is to pay off my cards and travel. I figure as long as I don't have that huge monthly card payment, once I come back to the US and start working, it can all go into savings. And traveling is obviously my only reason for living. Hahaha...but you know, I thought going to Australia would be cheaper from here. It's NOT! Plane tickets are like $1800!!! So I may have to scratch that one off the list. If my brother comes out to visit, I think we will go to Japan. He's already said he wants to go somewhere so if I start planning for it now, I can swing it. I'm all about showing him a good time and believe me, partying in Tokyo ain't cheap!! But that would be a nice brother/sister bonding trip right?? If I take my big bro to Japan, well, I think that pretty much solidifies my position as the most awesome little sister EVER....right??

I've gotta go to Thailand at some point since one of my friends and her husband will be teaching there starting in January. I think that will be pretty affordable. And um, I'd love to see China during the Beijing Olympics but that's a matter of vacation time (which I don't get much of) and the fact that Chinese immigration has made it quite difficult and expensive for Americans to get in the country. It costs like $150 for a tourist visa for us...compared to, say, Canadians which is like half of that. This is what happens when your President pisses off every country in the free world. You pay. Quite literally. So those are my travel wishes. Yes, initially I thought I'd be able to do some island hopping in the South Pacific. Shoot over to India even. My mind was racing with possibilities. But now that reality has set in, I've reeled it in a bit. I have my whole life to travel so I'll do what I can for now. And I can always come back :) That's the beauty. But I really, really want to hug a panda bear in China while I'm here. I mean, that's like top priority....because at this rate, they might become extinct and then I can't come back for that....

Something's missing. Yes, I'm in South Korea. Yes, I am helping little kiddies learn English. Or I'm trying. My boss says I'm doing a good job at least. But I can do more. So I'm looking into volunteering. I really hope I can do it. Before I got here, I did some research about racial relationships in South Korea. Granted, a lot of the feedback was negative. "Koreans hate black people and blah blah blah..." I didn't buy that crap. But then I stumbled upon articles about how these biracial babies (Black and Korean) were being thrown out. Orphanages were filled with all these little babies that no one wanted because they weren't "pure blood" Korean. Crazy to think, right? Yeah I thought so, too. So I have my sights set on volunteering at one of those orphanages. There have to be some in Seoul. And don't worry, I'm not going to adopt a baby. Call me cheesy, but I believe in the power of human touch and well, I just want to HOLD those babies. They deserve that. Since their mothers and fathers did not feel they were worthy of a real shot in life, I'll do my part. That's the plan at least.

Before I end this post, I just want to mention something that's been on my mind. Several of my friends, and one random stranger, have told me how much they enjoy my writing. And I gotta say I enjoy that you enjoy my writing. Even my Dad says I'm actually a decent writer. He was surprised. I've always kept journals and I'm a huge stickler for grammar and spelling most times. (Example: your hat vs. you're annoying, their books vs. they're late vs. there you are, I could go on forever here). Anyway, I say all this to say that...well... I don't know what it all means. A couple people have suggested I try writing a book someday. And I want to. I have no idea what it would be about and maybe that's okay. It seems that most people just enjoy reading about my thoughts. What a huge and humbling compliment. I don't think there's any better feeling than knowing that people care about what you have to say. Maybe one day I'll sift through all my journals since 5th and 6th grade and compile them into a self-help book. You never know when your words will help someone through a tough time or motivate someone to leave that jerk of a boyfriend. If my words can do that someday, well....I'd feel full. I'd feel whole. So for now, I'll keep writing. And you'll keep reading. And we'll continue this love affair of words and maybe one day, you'll log onto Amazon.com and buy my book :) Until then, <3 J