korearound2

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Honest confession: Sometimes I get drunk. Really drunk. I am not one to pass out in the streets or go home with cute boys. Nope. Instead, I steal posters and buy junk food at the local convenience store. Then, I sit at home with my newly acquired decor and snacks, so I can message my friends all over the world. I feel like I should hash tag this post as “boring,” but I don’t care; I’m awesome.

3

One of my favorite places to hang out in Seoul is a cat bar called 묘한술책. I try to stop by every time I’m in Hongdae. It’s a place you can drink alcohol and hang out with a bunch of cats! The owners, 조아용 and 장재영, are super friendly and nice. They’ll chat with you or they’ll leave you alone to read or play a game. Also, they’ll play any music you like. I’ve spent hours just requesting songs. Just so you know, 재영 really likes Red Hot Chili Peppers.

It’s between Hapjeong and Sangsu subway stations, but probably a bit closer to Sangsu. The address is 서울시 마포구 서교동 402-13 한스빌 4층 and here are directions from google.

My first date with a Korean

Cross one off the bucket list, I have officially gone on my first one-on-one date with a Korean man. I didn’t really realize it was a date until we met up though. We had exchanged phone numbers at a bar and had arranged to meet under the pretense that it was a language exchange. He spoke perfect English since he had studied in the States. He had never been on a date with a foreigner before though, and by our conversation, it was quite apparent.

Since all the great Korean dating blogs name their conquests, I’ll nickname this one “Potato Head.”

I don’t pretend to know how Korean couples talk. I don’t know if I misinterpreted things, or if I just bring the crazy out of people, but this date was terrible.

I should have left right when we met up that night. There were two major red flags. First, he greeted me by saying, “I looked right through you because I thought you were Korean!” I really don’t like when people bring up whether I look Korean or not until I get to know them better. Then, when I asked him how I should save his name in my phone, he replied, “Your Korean boyfriend!” Yeah, seriously, should have went home at that point.

Potato Head is a vegetarian, but he picked a chicken hof to have dinner in. First of all, fried chicken and beer for a first date? I’m a casual girl, sure, but at least try to impress me, please. Second, do you know what a vegetarian can eat at a chicken hof? Potatoes, or fries. Which I don’t like. And, he said he didn’t want me to eat meat in front of him, so basically, I just sipped my beer while he chowed down on fries.

Our conversation was so ridiculous, I almost didn’t believe it was happening. He just talked on and on. I didn’t know how to respond, so I just nodded in disbelief most times, and shook my head when necessary.

Some gems from the evening:

“You have very sexy eyes but cute behavior. I think that is a good combination.”

“I think your eyes are telling me that your mouth wants to be on me.”

“Please be more comfortable with me and call me all the time.”

“Oh, you live alone? Can I spend the night now?”

“I can give you a massage, but you have to buy oil. And you can only wear your panties. Nothing but panties.”

“It would be good if we were a couple because you live very close to my favorite bar.”

“You speak really great English!”

In the middle of the date, he left to watch soccer with the restaurant owner. Korea was in a qualifying game, I guess? I’m not sure of the details. Most women would have left at this point, but I wanted to see what further ridiculousness was in store. In hindsight, I should have left.

At this point, he’s buzzed (or drunk?) because he’s had three beers. I am hungry and bored. He points to the bill and says, “Your treat?” He has “forgotten” his wallet. Of course! I literally laugh out loud as I pay the bill.

Then, he asks where I live. I am adamant that there is no way I will allow him to walk me home. After a few words, he admits defeat. He wants to walk me down the block at least. I allow him, which leads to him whining when I won’t let him carry my purse. When I won’t link arms with him, he whines, “Why do you make me the girl? Why don’t you love me yet?”

Oh, Potato Head, I never want to see you again.

How long will you stay in Korea?

People ask me this all the time. If you’re a foreigner that has moved abroad, this is probably a likely question. It’s a fair question, right? Time abroad seems like something temporary for people back home, especially for those that can’t imagine dropping everything and moving somewhere with a different culture and language.

It’s frustrating because if a friend moved from Portland to New York, I wouldn’t ask them how long they’d stay in New York. People move but it doesn’t mean they plan on moving back home after a set period of time.

Lately, when I hear this question from people back home, I feel a bit defiant. I want to show you that it’s not just a phase. I know you’re not testing me, but I want you (and everyone) to know that living abroad is a challenge that I can master. I can live a good life here. I can grow as a person and a professional. I can travel, I can fall in love, I can build a life here.

I don’t know how long I’ll stay here. Next time ask me when I plan on visiting my hometown, because I live in my new home now. Thank you.

Something that I’ve had to get used to in Korea is the highly esthetics based culture. Pictured is a girl looking into a fairly large mirror to be casually carrying around. It’s not uncommon to see girls (and sometimes boys) staring at their appearance on public transit or in restaurants.

Maybe because I’m hyper aware of my age lately, but Korea has been making me feel really image conscious. I’m second guessing my clothes, hair, and even the darkness of my skin more than usual these days. I haven’t gone out and bought whitening creme (on purpose) yet, but there are definitely days when Korea makes me want to. Their idea of beauty always feels just out of grasp.

Twice a month, the big super markets (e.g. LotteMart, E-Mart, Homeplus) in my neighborhood close down so that the smaller markets and convenience stores can generate more business. I don’t know how this idea came into fruition, but what a great way to keep local shops in business. Go Korea! What a great idea!

In the moment

You know that moment after you’ve had a few dates with someone, and things are going really well?

Everything they do is cute and interesting. Every story they tell is new and gives you another dimension on how they’re wonderfully structured. They always smell good. They always feel good. They always taste good. They can easily say or do something that puts the biggest smile on your face.

That excited feeling you get when you see a message from them or when you lock eyes after a kiss. The eagerness you can’t contain before you know you’ll see them again. That nervousness that you don’t want to move too fast, well, not faster than them. You don’t worry about the future or about what obstacles may come. You don’t want anything, really. You just want to see that person one more time and continue the good feelings.

I wish I could always feel this way.

9

I went to the 19th annual K-pop Dream Concert in Seoul, on May 11, 2013. It is the biggest K-pop concert of the year, featuring a line-up of BtoB, VIXX, EvoL, SPEED, EXO, SNSD, B2ST, SHINee, KARA, Boyfriend, 4Minute, SISTAR, INFINITE, B1A4, SECRET, 2AM, U-KISS, ZE:A, Rainbow, Girl’s Day, Huh Gak, ZE:A5, uBeat, and T-ara N4.

When I first heard that I could obtain tickets, I thought about not going. It was a bit expensive, and I wasn’t sure if I would get much out of a Korean concert. I had already seen the K-pop band, 2pm, in concert, and thought maybe that was enough K-pop to last me. Also, the price of tickets for the Dream Concert was a bit high…

But, then, I realized that attending the Dream Concert was a pretty big deal. There’s nothing like it in the US. Can you imagine 20 of the biggest pop acts getting together to perform in the US? How much would those tickets be? And would I be able to obtain tickets to that hypothetical concert? Probably not, so… I bought floor tickets for the Dream Concert!

And, wow, it was incredible! Singing, dancing, fireworks, fire, smoke, spectacle upon spectacle. Since there were so many bands, each act only performed a few songs each. It was interesting to sit in a lawn chair on the ground of a soccer field, but it would break social norm to stand up for too long during the concert. It was interesting to see all the fancy and huge cameras people had in the crowd.

All the acts did a good job, but SHINee and B2ST were my favorite. I am happy I went. Seriously, wow, what an experience.

Just a rant, don't mind me

I’ve been teaching at my current school for a little over five months. I’ve never previously seen a student outside of class. Yet, of course, tonight, I see two of my students (brother and sister) and both of their parents while I was out grocery shopping.

Keep in mind that it is 91 degrees F at 9 PM. I looked and felt disgusting. I was wearing a wrinkly, sweaty dress with sneakers. My bangs were plastered to my forehead. Whatever hair that wasn’t in a messy bun was doing that weird fly-away thing. My glasses were probably askew. You want to tell me that it’s probably not as bad as I’m imagining, but I actually can’t accurately describe to you in words how bad I actually looked and felt.

And, of course, I was listened to NIN on full-blast on my ear-buds when I heard shouts of, “Stacy Teacher! Stacy Teacher!” The only words I could muster were, “Oh my gosh!” and my students’ names several times in a row.

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Once Schneeball pastries came upon my radar, I started seeing them everywhere. Street food carts, department stores, subway stores, my students’ grubby hands, etc. Everywhere.

It’s a German dessert made by taking rolled out shortcrust dough and cutting out strips. The strips are arranged over a stick into the shape of a ball, deep fried and then commonly dusted with confectioner’s sugar. One breaks the pastries into little bits with a wooden hammer or mallet.

I have no idea what the original tastes like, but I especially enjoy the Korean version. I like all the fancy flavors, such as cinnamon, white chocolate, or green tea. They’re sweet and crunchy, and make for a very fantastic drinking snack.

Toothpaste is not spicy

I say this here so I don’t explode on a random Korean.

It really annoys me when I share American gum or toothpaste with a Korean and they say, “너무 매워요!” It really, really annoys me. Minty stuff is NOT spicy.

Maybe this is a cultural miscommunication which is completely my own fault and experience. Yet, whenever this happens, I want to slap the toothpaste or gum right out of their mouth. Wasting my amazing, minty American goods on them. Grr.

6

My second trip to the Mud Festival in Boryeong, South Korea. Can’t believe that my first trip was three years ago. This trip was significantly different. I went on my own rather than with a large group of friends. I met up with people I knew would be there, and I also made new friends.

Some foreigners see Mudfest as an excuse to be an asshole at a glorified frat party. BUT if you don’t let those people bother you, you’ll have a good time.

Packing light is a good idea. My perfected packing list for Mudfest:

  • I wear regular clothes on the trip, including flip flops. I usually change back into those clothes for Saturday night, where I walk the streets and sporadically visit dance clubs.
  • Tylenol, sunscreen, bug repellent, tooth brush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, make-up if you want it, etc.
  • Swimsuit you don’t mind ruined by the mud.
  • Clothes you don’t mind ruined by the mud, such as an old tank top and shorts.
  • Beach towel.
  • T-shirt and shorts to sleep in, and also wear on Sunday to play on the beach a bit before the bus ride back home.
  • Three pairs of underwear. Better to bring too many than too few.
  • I sound like an old maid, but I like packing a bit of fruit and nuts for the bus trip to Boryeong, as I don’t like the truck stop fried food selection.
  • A bit of cash for buying bags of booze, if you’re into that sort of thing. I didn’t see any banks or ATMs near the beach. All the marts and restaurants take card though. Never needed my ID.
  • Plastic bag for old camera, if you want to take photos. I wouldn’t recommend bringing your phone to the mud festivities.
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One of my favorite places to go in Seoul on a nice day is Sky Rose Garden (하늘 로즈 가든). Admittedly, it’s unbearable on a very hot, very cold, or rainy day. Yet, if the weather cooperates, this roof top rose garden is magical.

The Sky Rose Garden is located on the 8th floor of the Daehan Cinema (대한극장), one of the first movie theaters of Korea.

Location: Chungmuro Station (충무로역) via line 3. Exit 2.

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Daejeon 대전 (is South Korea’s fifth largest city with a population of 1.5 million people. I went there for a quick weekend and had a great time.

The subway is easy to navigate, as it only has one line. It’s also a very walkable city.

Quickly, a list of things to enjoy in Daejeon, in no particular order:

1. Hello Kitty Cafe

2. Walking or biking along the Gap River (갑천).

3. Dongbangsak Leports Jimjilbang

4. Hanbat Arboretum (한밭수목원)

5. Daejeon Museum of Art

6. S-dot stationary store

7. Underground shopping (대전의료관광)

8. National Science Museum (국립중앙과학관)

9. Daejeon O-World

10. Expo Park (대전엑스포과학공원)

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I know I already mentioned that I went to Busan a month ago, but I’m still reflecting on things. This is my second time living in Korea. I’ve already mentioned that I have experienced new challenges that I didn’t expect to. I think I’ve gotten over that hump, but I’m not sure… It may return. Of course, I hope it doesn’t.

Right now, I feel really happy. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to live in Korea again, and somehow I’m even happier than I was the first time that I lived here. This country is beautiful, the people are kind, and the food is delicious. That’s overgeneralizing, and not everyone would have the experience that I’m having, but I am really, honestly happy with who I am and my life right now.

Now, about Busan… I miss it. I miss the bigger city and I miss being by the coast. Of course, I miss my mother more than anything. Yet, I’m happy that I’ve decided to live on my own in a city where I didn’t know anyone previously. I’m making new friends and having new experiences.

Also, Busan felt too easy for me when I returned there, albeit briefly. I’ve already conquered the subway, etc. I’ll come back to visit, but right now, I’m happy about the decision I made to live somewhere else.