Well, as predicted I'm getting lazy about updating. Part of that is that there's STILL nothing worth writing about regarding work. It's been an agonizing three weeks of professional development and cross training between content areas, and no teaching at all. I feel like I shouldn't be complaining about sitting around all day and getting paid for it, but it is seriously bad for my self esteem. I do not have enough on my mind to keep it busy, I get bogged down in negative thoughts, and I'm not producing anything. Nor do I have the freedom to explore my new home. So this week, FINALLY, is a week long holiday that I get to spend exploring. But let me back up to a few entertaining moments that have slipped past!
The pub on campus hosted a karaoke night. There were many of us who drank a lot. I surprised myself by readily singing any song that I knew, rather than holding out for songs I felt I could sing well. Lots of people did very entertaining renditions of well known songs; this one guy Harry from Zimbabwe sang R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" and prefaced it with "this is my coming out song!" The bartender, Kay, adores karaoke, so she was egging everyone on shamelessly. her English is quite good, but she still stumbles a lot when reading it off a karaoke screen! (Factoid of the day: Koreans love karaoke, it's called nori-bong and there's places to sing allllll over.) So Kay kept jumping up and singing along whenever she good: she backed me up on "Brown Eyed Girl" and jumped around delightedly as Erin and I sang The Killers "Somebody Told Me." SO cute. The evening eventually deteriorated into Kamikaze Karaoke, when names and songs were just pulled out of a hat and then the individual was ordered up to sing. We eventually got shut down by Heyri Art Village across the street because we were so loud!!
Feeling a little worse for the wear, I pried myself out of bed with the intention of going to Geumchon and maybe Seoul, depending on whether or not my drunken plans to see Underworld ended up happening. (They did not, and it was just as well, I would have zero won left today if I had gone.) My friend Laura joined me, although we waited for 40 minutes and the bus to Geumchon never came, so we hopped on the 2200 to Seoul. Neither of us had ever gone into the city alone before, so we were all set to explore and figure things out. We were looking for food, but neither of us is any good at ordering in Korean, so eventually we picked a place at random. The waiter immediately got that "deer in the headlights" look at the sight of two foreigners. He read us the menu, and I thought I heard "chicken" so I ordered that, and Laura followed suit. Turns out he said "chi-ge" (not sure how to spell the Konglish there) which means soup or stew, so we ended up with a spicy vegetable and tofu soup. Laura was very disappointed: "I think it's totally vegetarian!" --and then I fished a mussel, still in its shell, from the bottom. Yay seafood!
Over lunch we looked through her Lonely Planet to get some ideas of where to explore, and settled on Gyeongbokgung, an ancient palace and the accompanying museum. This meant taking the subway, so I blithely looked over the map, figured out which train to take and where to transfer, and we were on our way. Laura tried to convince me we were on the wrong platform, based on her past experience, but I was pretty confident, even though it was my first subway trip. And I was right! I'm now the subway expert among my friends. Dealing with SEPTA all my life gives me SOME advantages! I find Seoul subways really really easy, and beautifully clean. There's lots of little amenities, like tv screens and a lit map showing your progress. When you're waiting at the station, there's a litle animated train on the screen showing how close it is, and a chiming noise alerts you that it's almost there. Sliding glass doors on the platforms at a lot of stations, mostly to prevent suicides. (The pressure on students here is enormous, and jumping in front of a train is one way to end it.)
We arrived at the Gyeongbokgung stop, and the museum was immediately outside the station. (See my facebook pictures for the great subway decorations!) It had gotten late enough in the day that I didn't want to waste much time, so we went straight into the museum. Turns out we actually missed the palace itself, and lots of cool outdoor art. There's a folk art museum too. A trip for another day! Lots of cool stuff in the museum, including Korean gargoyles!! Those pix are all on my facebook page as well. One of the most interesting artifacts was a water clock. Water gradually flows through this elaborate machine, turning gears and eventually weighting down mechanisms enough to trigger levers that hit chimes. We joked that it's a lot simpler to build a sundial...but an audible reminder of the time was apparently very important in the palace. Other weird things that stuck in my head: there is enormous importance placed on placenta preservation. They had numerous jars for the placentas of the various imperial dynasty, and a whole shrine to store them. Something to do with how sacred the lineage is, and that every step of it is important. After the palace we headed back to Ilsan, ran into Erin unexpectedly, and got some barbeque and went to the bar for a while.
Erin, Meg, Laura, and I went down to Itaewon, the major Engish shopping corridor. They have lots of "plus size" clothing shops, which is to say, larger than size 8. Lots of tailors and places for alterations, a lot of shoe stores that carry larger than a woman's size 6 (I'm still almost impossible to fit though!) and all sorts of other stores and restaurants. There's a big English bookstore, and a foreign foods grocery store, and generally the shop-owners and vendors speak fairly good English. Lot of military guys hang out there. I saw a tourist in a Covenant shirt, which made my day!! We bought some clothes and wandered around window shopping and people watching, then stopped in a bar for some food and drink. They had ham and cheese sandwiches on the menu, which suddenly sounded fantastic, so we all ordered one except Laura, who got nachos. Her nachos came out: a big pile of nacho-cheese flavored tortilla chips, some unflavored ones, with nuts on top. And a bowl of salsa on the side. Weirdest nachos I've ever seen. Our sandwiches turned out to be a slice of deli ham and a slice of bright orange american cheese on white bread, pressed in one of those little sandwich griddles, but there were 4 halves per plate! (proper cheese is really hard to get here, or else it's quite expensive.) We couldn't even finish it all. After the food, we browed Etude House, a little girly makeup shop, and then headed towards What the Book because I've been dying for fresh reading material. At this point, Erin realized she'd left her bag of clothes somewhere along our shopping spree. The cool thing about Korea? It was still there. No one would think of taking something that's not theirs. We got some books and then headed home. It can be draining running around town like that.
I think that might be enough data for this entry. Another one coming soon, prepare to hear all about the weird coincidences and indecent proposals of the past two days!.