Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Sister

Photo from our birthday in 2011
Now, my sister and I have always been rather close.  We're not twins like Laura and Margret, so the age difference has put us at odds several times, but these never lasted for very long.

She and I share a birthday and my mother always liked to point this out and stress the importance of our sisterly bond.  That, combined with us moving all the time meant that we've become each others' best friend, despite our four year age difference.

Last summer I spent about a month and a half apart from Elinore, that was the longest we'd ever been separated, but that was just the first test.  I now haven't seen her since the eve of my departure to Korealand, back on Monday, September 26th.  That's also the last time I saw my dad, but I've gone a long time without seeing him before, so it's not quite the same.

Being away from my family for so long has been hard at times, especially back at the beginning of December.

Most people truly feel grief and homesickness at the two to three month mark.  I wrote 'The Point'  about two months after I came to Korea and about three months after my mother passed away.  That was a hard weekend, really hard, but I got through it.  The next weekend I had my first date with MY and two weeks later, on Christmas Eve, he asked me to be his girlfriend.

Things have all gone up hill since 'The Point'.  I've come to terms with my grief for my mother and with the fact that I've only been able to see my family through my computer screen.  I've dealt with the fact that my friends and family back in the states of gotten busy and not been able to return my messages.  I've dealt with students that make me want to lose my temper, and students that couldn't be any sweeter.

It's been a real learning experience, and, all through this time I've had a few constants.

I've known that my sister will always message me back as soon as she can.
I've known that my grandfather expects to see me on Skype at least once a week.
I've known that I'll talk to MY every day, even if we just message.
I've known that I work with good people.

Notice that the top constant is my sister.  I'm always there for her, and she's always there for me.  We are each others' rock.  We always have been, and we always will be.

That's why I'm like a little kid on Christmas Eve right now.

This weekend I'll be spending time with my best friend.  For the first time in eight months I'll be able to see her in person and hug her.

Sometime before noon on Saturday I'll be meeting her at the bus terminal in Changwon and possibly crying my eyes out, if I'm not squealing with joy, or possibly even both.

But, don't worry, MY will be there to make sure I don't get hit by a bus during my squealing tears of joy.

I have one month to spend with my sister before we part ways for another three months.  I know I'll be crying when she leaves, but I don't want to think about that just yet.  I want to enjoy my time with her as I show her this little corner of the world I've decided to make my home for the foreseeable future.

I've got lots of plans for while she's here, but I'll be just as happy for the days we spend chilling in my apartment and just talking or watching anime together.

I hope everyone else's month of June is as memorable and amazing as I plan to make mine.


Holiday Weekend

So, this past weekend was a three-day weekend both here in Korealand and in the US of A.

In the US of A Monday was Memorial Day and my family spent the weekend at the beach in a combined family reunion and 80th birthday for my maternal grandfather.

In Korealand Monday was Buddha's Birthday and I spent the weekend not doing much of anything.

Originally I was going to travel to Jeon-ju with MY and see his friend SH and his girlfriend GE.  But, due to my unfortunate illness and the doctor's orders to rest we canceled our plans and MY came to Changwon instead.

We spent the weekend whispering and playing Starcraft.  He also made sure I ate well and he used his car to help me bring groceries back to my house.  I've been so long without a car that it feels sinful to use a car to go somewhere.  He then left to go back to his family in Daegu Sunday night and so I spent Monday watching things on Netflix and playing Dragon Age.  While he spent Monday taking a five hour bus ride back to Seoul, courtesy of all the crazy traffic.

Due to all the rest I now have my voice back, though it's still a little hoarse.

It was a good weekend, though it didn't go as originally planned.

Hopefully this next weekend will go as planned.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Silence isn't Golden

Last week wasn't one of my best here in Korealand.

On Monday I woke up with a sore throat, but it went away after I ate breakfast.

Tuesday I woke up with a sore throat again, but it never went away.  I started coughing that night.

Wednesday I continued to cough as my voice grew hoarse, it was almost gone by the end of the day.

Thursday I woke up with a bad cough and no voice.  I went to the hospital and was told I had acute laryngitis.  She gave me cough syrup (prescription only here), super strong Tylenol, and something else (possibly a steroid).  I texted Esther and she arranged my classes so the ones that really require my voice (the Kindergarten ones) would watch a video.  The other classes I was able to whisper for.

Friday was actually a good day for me to have no voice, since it was the day of the Speech Contest.  Casey was hosting it, I just had to sit with Claire and Jessie and score students as they did their speeches.  I barely talked all day.

I've now gotten sick twice since I came here.  One was stomach related.  And now this one, which is throat related.  I've actually done much better than most people that come over here to teach, especially since it took me six months to even get sick.

I'm guessing that's a combination of a healthy immune system and the fact that I've spent a lot of time working around children already.

I'm almost all better now.  Next update will say how I spent my weekend.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Teacher's Day

Tuesday was Teacher's Day here in Korealand.  Apparently, May 8th was Teacher's day in the US of A.

I don't really remember Teacher's Day being a big deal in the US of A.  Correct me if I'm wrong Laura, Aunt Marcie, and Aunt Sandy. (If any of ya'll read this, that is)

Here though, it's a fairly big deal.

At least when it comes to food.

We were given:

1. Krispy Kreme Donuts
2. 쿠쿠후두 (kokohodo) - These walnut pastries with bean paste filling - addictive.
3. Gourmet Peach juice
4. Fake roses
5. Cream puffs
6. Paris Baguette cookies
7. Gourmet Dok (rice cakes) with jelly on them
8. Homemade Dok
9. Toblerones
10. A cute card
11. A Starbucks gift card - which I shall use for tea, not coffee, I know, scandalous!

I haven't had coffee in over a month, unless you count one sip of MY's coffee once...which I don't.

I have to say, I like Teacher's Day here in Korealand.

My rose

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Delights of Daegu

And also a Korean wedding.

One of MY's University friends was getting married this past Saturday so the two of us went to the wedding.  The wedding wasn't until about 6pm so we had plenty of time to do other things before that.

At about nine I caught a bus up to Daegu again.  For some reason there was a CRAZY line for taxis at the Changwon Bus Terminal.
Don't know why...
MY had caught a bus at about six from Seoul.  We got to Daegu at about the same time, but I had to wait for him to run by his parent's place and pick up his car before he could pick me up.

So I waited in a Paris Baguette for a little bit, drinking a green tea latte (which has replaced coffee as my drink of choice at coffee shops).  The sitting area was quiet and empty, so it wasn't a bad place to wait for MY.

On my way to the Paris Baguette I took a little walk through the market and enjoyed the atmosphere.
Indoor market, much neater and more organized than Changwon's.
The selection of all sorts of delicacies at Paris Baguette...
The quiet and private sitting area...lovely.
I kakaoed my sister while I waited and enjoyed my green tea latte.  Then MY called and I walked back to the bus terminal.  He picked me up and we drove downtown.

Once we got downtown we parked in this amazing underground parking garage (it was actually under the road, proving once again how amazing the Koreans are at maximizing space through engineering masterpieces).  Then we walked through downtown to a Japanese restaurant he used to go to during his University days.

Unfortunately they weren't open yet, so we just wandered the streets and he showed me places.  I saw where he studied English, drank coffee with his friends, and would go out to party with his friends.  It was very cool and the downtown in Daegu is much better than the downtown in Changwon.  It's much nicer in the fact that the roads are brick and aren't meant for cars.  Leaving lots of room for pedestrians and a nice flat (hard to find) surface to walk on.

While walking around we saw this little gem of a restaurant:
Apparently we Americans are lazy...
We wandered around for about thirty minutes and then headed back to the Japanese restaurant.  The food there was delicious and very authentic since the owners are Japanese.
Courtesy of my cell phone since I left my camera in the car....
The food was amazing.  I especially loved all the spices and such on the rice.  So yummy!

After eating we drove to the part of town he grew up in.  He drove me around and showed me where he went to elementary and middle school.  The place he went to high school was torn down, so he couldn't show it to me.

Then we went to his parent's house and met his sister.  HG is studying to be a nurse and wants to live in the US of A one day, preferably New York City.  I speak almost no Korean and she doesn't speak much English, though her listening ability is much higher than her speaking, so with MY translating some we were able to communicate.

It's funny, MY says he hates translating and doesn't care for it, but he's very fast at translating when he introduces me to someone that isn't comfortable at English.  He does it very naturally, which is awesome.

We went to get ice cream, but Baskin Robbins was packed, so we went to Dunkin' Donuts instead and got drinks.  All iced, since it was rather warm.

It was cool, she's also a fan of Japanese manga and anime, so we ended up talking about that, which left poor MY completely out of the loop, since he's only watched some animes to practice his Japanese.  HG reminded me a lot of Elinore.  Plus, their relationship was amazing, it had the same relaxed, teasing attitude Elinore and I have.  She and I joked about MY being 바부 (babo - silly/stupid) when he did something silly, which he took in stride.  We had a great time.

Then we went upstairs and played pool.  Since we had three people we played by numbers (1-5, 6-10, 11-15).  Uncle Jerry, I would like to seriously thank you for letting me play on your pool table as a child.  Apple Jack and Kay-Kay, I would like to thank you for helping me do sailing, which really helped my real-life geometry ability.

We played two games, I won one, MY won the other.  HG came in second both times.  MY's rather good at pool since he spent a lot of his weekends in high school playing at this pool hall with his friends.  It's still popular with the high school students.

After we finished pool we went back to his parents apartment.  MY changed clothes for the wedding and then we walked down the road to the wedding hall.

We walked in and he went to say hello to his friend (the groom).  The groom had been told that MY was bringing his girlfriend, and that I was a foreigner, he still did a double-take and looked surprised.  As did his parents and the mother of the bride.  His father knew some English though and seemed very proud that he could say 'Hello, how are you?'  'Where are you from?'  'Thank you for coming.'

Then MY and I went to the guestbook where he handed over the money he had brought as a gift and signed the guest book.  The entire time people kept staring at me, more than normal.  Probably because I was the only foreigner.

After he had signed the guestbook we went and waited outside for a little bit.  I took some pictures.  MY kept looking for more University friends, but they ended up not coming.  One he couldn't get a hold of and the other's wife was expecting her baby at any time.

View from the balcony at the Wedding Hall.
MY trying to contact his friends.
The inside of the wedding hall.
The bride and groom
The 'chapel' part of the Wedding Hall
I don't have that many pictures from the wedding because I didn't want to look like the standard tourist foreigner.  I've gotten to the point where most of the time I don't even notice if people are staring at me, but at the wedding I noticed since it isn't common to see foreigners at a wedding for someone that isn't usually associated with foreigners.

The wedding was very unusual for me.  There were more people than there were chairs and there was a guy on a microphone making announcements during the entire wedding.  The mothers raced down the aisle (literally, no stately walking for them) and lit the unity candles.  The bride and groom walked down the aisle together (MY said that was unusual, typically the groom walks first, then the bride) amide dry ice smoke and flashing strobe lights.

They said their vows on the 'stage' and were herded around by two Wedding Hall workers.  According to MY they don't typically do rehearsals.  Then the groom sang a song for the bride, which was the first time I saw her smile during the entire ceremony.  The groom's friend helped him sing.

Then the groom went back to stand by the bride and the friend started breakdancing.  This is VERY unusual, but highly entertaining.  After this they thanked her mom and he kissed the mom on the cheek.  Then they thanked his parents and she kissed his mom on the cheek.  Then they brought a cake out, the couple cut it, and they pulled the cake away.

No one got to eat any cake, not even the bride and groom...

That made me sad.

The guy made some more announcements and the new couple walked back down the aisle together.  Once they reached the end of the aisle (with more dry ice smoke escorting them) the lights all came on and they turned around and walked back to the front for pictures.

MY and I took the cards we were given when he gave the money and signed the guestbook and walked out of the building and down to another building.

In this building was a buffet area with lots of food and each of the tables had cups, some beers, and a bottle of soju on it.

MY and I ate our fill, but only the fruit was really good.  I had some beer, but he was driving so he didn't.

After eating we went and walked around the nearby lake that he used to go jogging around.  Then we went back to his apartment, he changed clothes, and he drove me back to Changwon.

Elinore, Nicole, I had to take this picture for you two....
The pretty lake
You can't really tell, but their are swan boats on the lake you can rent.
Us!
This crazy huge coffee shop by the lake.
After such a filled day I spent all of Sunday not leaving my apartment, lounging around in my pajamas, and being entirely too lazy for my own good.

I guess that diner is true....

Monday, May 14, 2012

Historic Gyeongju

Back on Saturday, April 28th I took a bus up to Daegu early in the morning.  MY then picked me up in his car and we took a little road trip out to the historic town of Gyeongju.

Gyeongju was the capital of the Kingdom of Silla during the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries.  The Kingdom of Silla ruled about 2/3 of the Korean Peninsula.  Gyeongju has many historical sights and some more modern places also.  

I fell asleep on the car ride out there (about a 1-1.5h trip) and woke up as we were getting close.  Gyeongju is an odd mix of rural and urban that houses about 300,000 people.  So, it's only about a third the size of Changwon, but still 25x larger than Niceville in terms of population.  It was very different from the other places I've been here in Korealand.

Our first order of business when we got there was to go to a traditional tofu restaurant and proceed to stuff ourselves on delicious things:

We ate almost all of it.  The metal bowl is rice.
There was spicy kimchi and tofu stew.  A kind of tofu porridge.  Poached eggs?  Maybe, I don't know what to call them.  Tofu steak with yummy sauce, and an endless selection of side dishes.  

After filling our stomachs we went to the Buddhist Temple, Bulguksa.  I took a video when I was there, but it didn't turn out too well...so here's a few pictures instead:

The Bell
So pretty....but so hot...
Green Lake
These pictures just don't do the place justice....
Hot, tired, but happy
A very familiar flower for us Floridians...
After we left the temple we were going to go see a giant statue of Buddha, but MY's gps kept directing us to this gas station in the middle of a few houses surrounded by fields.  No Buddha statue in site.  So I took a few pictures while he fiddled with the gps.

Middle of Nowhere
More familiar flowers
The road to nowhere...except that no roads really go nowhere.
Eventually MY gave up on getting his gps to stop being stupid, so we went to a museum instead.

This museum is called The Love Castle and is eerily familiar to a museum I went to in Amsterdam.  The main differences being that this one was much bigger and MUCH naughtier.

So, hear that Amsterdam?  You and your liberal people just got trumped by the traditionally conservative Koreans.  As they say, watch out for the quiet ones...

Okay, I'm inserting a page break here.  I'm not going to put up any truly naughty pictures, those will be available for viewing on my computer when I come back to visit in October, but here's a few not quite safe for work pictures: