Merry Christmas!

December 16th- December 25th

Merry Christmas friends and familia! This was the second consecutive Christmas that I have missed being at home for, as last year I was in Dubai! What a hard life, right? Actually though, being away from the people you love in any situation is hard and being away over the holidays is that much harder. So to combat my loneliness I will recap the last 10 days here in Seoul!

On Wednesday, December 16th I headed out early in the morning to visit the immigration office. It is a ~hour long subway ride into the core of Seoul so I brought my Kobo (currently reading A Fine Balance) and my tunes along to keep me busy. What I should have anticipated was how busy this train was, given that it was going downtown and I was riding it in rush hour to boot! I experienced what it was like to be a sardine squished into a tiny box, with no personal space and feeling like I was slowly roasting alive inside of my heavy winter jacket. I witnessed first hand the “Koreans do not sweat” generalization; I ripped my layers off the first chance I got while the strangers around me looked perfectly cool and relaxed. Anyways, enough about sweaty train rides. There was no line when I arrived at immigration, and was able to zip through the process. I looked around enviously though, at the foreign teachers that had a Korean co-teachers to help them. I guess it’s a confidence boost to me that I was able to get by on my own. I rushed off to work elated with the prospect of finally having my coveted ARC (Alien Registration Card). The rest of the work week went by quickly and without any issues. A highlight was seeing Star Wars on Thursday night. We ate grilled squid legs and some caramel and cheese popcorn. The food was delicious and the movie was so good!IMG_6857.JPGThat Friday night I decided to take things much easier! After work I headed to get some dinner with Nicole and tasted my favourite food so far here in Korea: Dak galbi. It was a mouth-watering meal of chicken and vegetables cooked in front of us and surrounded by a moat of melted cheese. As with the usual Korean fashion, we also got a variety of side dishes. My description does not convey its deliciousness. Really though, I cannot shut up about it and suggest eating it every time I’m out to dinner with friends. Nicole and I toasted to the end of the work week with some soju and sprite, had some great conversation and then headed home around midnight. IMG_6861.JPGSaturday was a more relaxed day. I lazied around the apartment in the morning watching netflix (currently catching up on Orange is the New Black). Around dinner time I met up with Sabrina and we set out for an area called HBC. It is another foreigner heavy area right beside the famous Itaewon. For dinner we had Moroccan sandwiches and beer at a great place called Casablanca Sandwicherie. Eating a proper sandwich with crunchy bread was a welcome treat! With full bellies we traveled a few minutes down the street to The Hidden Cellar. The Hidden Cellar is a little dive place under a restaurant. The atmosphere is very relaxed and the wine is well-priced. Perhaps there is a correlation there… Anyways we walked in, got some wine and lucked out snagging two seats. As we spent more time there chatting and enjoying the live music (random renditions of Christmas songs and 80s hits) we realized that there was some sort of party going on and we may have crashed it. We stayed anyways. Later on in the night we were joined by two of Sabrina’s friends and our friend Charlie (our awesome head teacher). Soon enough there was more live music; it was Charlie’s Irish friend who was giving his last performance before heading home. It was so much fun singing along to Irish folk songs and beloved American tunes from the past. I just love live music and was sad to leave before his set was over. However, I had many plans for the next day!IMG_6866Sunday was my Skype day! It was so lovely to talk with my family and to see how big baby Phillip is getting.  I also talked with Gabriella, which just warmed my heart; I miss that girl so much! After I said goodnight to Canada, I went on a shopping spree as I needed a secret Santa gift and a white elephant gift for work. I went back to Lotte Mall to finally check out what the ‘mainstream’ stores were like in Seoul. I found a really cool bookstore, akin to Chapters, and bought the best secret Santa present! It was a poster of a blank map of Korea with small cultural/historical/famous cutouts of landmarks that you could add to the map. Andrew, the person I was buying for, recently made a bucket list for the remainder of his contract here in Korea, so I figured it would be a great way to see all the amazing places he has been and where he was going. I also got him candy and Oreos! I got those for a very good price in the underground market inside Jamsil station.Dec 20.1.pngThis past week at work flew by! Maybe it was because of the Christmas cheer, or maybe the short work week but either way I am not complaining. Nicole and I have started to make our running a weekly habit; we go every Tuesday/Thursday morning and on Tuesday’s we treat ourselves to bubble tea! At work we made Christmas wishes with the kids and gave them cards and candy. It was so sweet to hear the kids I like wish me a Merry Christmas. They are adorable! We exchanged gifts at work which was a lot of fun. I won a tumbler off of my K-co-teacher Sarah in a “rock, scissors, paper” fight. I also received a great scarf and chocolates from my secret Santa Charlie! I had an unexpected gift from immigration too; my ARC arrived a week early (yay)! To celebrate Christmas Eve and a great week, Nicole, Sabrina, Sam and I had some delicious BBQ in Cheonho (our neighbourhood). We toasted with grapefruit-flavoured soju and beer. Afterward, Nicole and I polished off a bottle of sangria. It may have been excessive but whatever, it’s Christmas! As I walked back to my apartment around 1:30am, I got such a happy feeling thinking about how it was day 19 and Christmas and I was really here in Seoul.

I’m heading out soon to Amanda and Greg’s house with Sabrina and Nicole to have a Christmas feast! *Just a side note: I have such good luck with people named Amanda! All the Amanda’s I meet are so wonderful, and this one is no different. She is the head teacher on the Avalon side and has been such a help during my hectic transition!* Anyways, to this feast I am contributing a bottle of white wine and a bucket of KFC chicken… yum! I’m sure it will be a wonderful day filled with laughter (there is wine involved) and good conversation. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! Give your loved ones an extra hug because you can and enjoy the heart-warming feels.
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Merry Christmas!

Annyeong 🙂

Living for the weekend…

December 11th-15th, 2015

Hello my lovely friends and family!

I hope you are all doing splendidly! I apologize for the length of this post, apparently a lot happened since Thursday!

My Monday/ Wednesday/ Friday teaching involves back-to-back lessons. This really helped me get over my nerves on my first day of teaching on Friday. I ran out of time for two of my classes but overall I think I did pretty well. With a sense of accomplishment, and a bag full of my books from work, I set out for Korean BBQ with my friends Nicole, Sabrina, Sam, Charlie and Andrew from work. The food was so delicious! We had 4 orders of meat along with the side dishes of kimchi, cabbage, onions and sauces. The complimentary steamed egg dish called “Ttukbaegi gyeranjjim” was just amazing. We also ordered some soju and beer; when you put those two together you get somIMG_6813.JPGaek. All of this yummy-ness was only $11 per person! We then met up with the teachers from the other side of our building and went to a bar. There we were joined by friends of friends and soon enough it was a (mostly) Canadian party! I had far too many shots but it was a great night with a lot of laughter.

Waking up Saturday was not the easiest task but I promised myself that I would go for a run. So run I did! It was rough for two reasons: 1. Friday night’s fun 2. the air is more polluted here. I ran for only 7 minutes and then proceeded to dance walk for another 15. As a white female living in Seoul I get stared at A LOT. So I figured, if I’m being looked at anyways I might as well have some fun! I rushed home to get ready for Langcon Festival, an acting competition that kids from all HQ campuses have been working on for months. This was a mandatory work event that no one was particularly thrilled about going to as it took up our entire Saturday. We didn’t win first or even second but our kids were so cute and made us proud! We each split off on our way home but the night was not over for me.

I quickly ate some dinner and jazzed myself up for another night out. A few friends met up at Sabrina’s house and relaxed sipping on somaek. First we went to Konkuk, a cool neighbourhood with a university nearby. We walked down the busy streets and even met 2 Canadians! We got some more soju from the 711 and ate this awesome popsicle that tasted like melon. Then we took a cab to Hongdae, another foreigner-heavy and party-central neighbourhood. The aim was to dance our buts off and that is just what we did! We ended up at a ho-bar which is just a dark club with tables set up around the room and blaring dance beats. We stayed their until 3:30am and then headed for pizza. I met this cool foreigner couple in line who were drunkenly explaining their love story to me. Four of us split a cab home and I got into bed at the respectable hour of 4:30am!

Sunday was yet another struggle to awaken. Sabrina and her friend Rose invited me to Jasmil and Gangnam with them which thankfully gave me a reason to get out of bed. Jasmil station had this really cool underground market with mostly inexpensive clothing. The station was also attached to a very futuristic mall called Lotte World. We only went to the mall to have some fast food at Lotteria but I’d like to go back. Gangnam was very cool and obviously more affluent than other parts of the city. We tried finding some good books to help us to learn Korean but were sadly ovIMG_6846.JPGerwhelmed and vowed to do some more research before buying. We headed home early so I could skype my mama and sister. Missing those two beautiful ladies is going to be one of the hardest parts about living away from home but speaking to them for 2 hours definitely helped!

 

Yesterday and today passed so quickly! I am feeling much more confident about my work life and am taking less work home with me. I am liking my Tuesday/Thursday classes a little better but I’m sure that will fluctuate with time. This morning Nicole and I did go for a short run and she showed me how to get to the river. The running paths there are well laid out and much easier to run on as you don’t have to dodge people, bikes and cars!

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Finally saw some mountains!

Is there anything that you are wondering about my life here? Let me know and don’t forget to add me Kakaotalk- Ashann3!

Annyeong!

One Week?

December 7th-10th, 2015

Hello my lovely family and friends!

I truly cannot believe that I have only been in this new and exciting city for less than one week! I feel as though I have been here a lifetime while also feeling like a lifetime would not be enough to see, do and learn everything I want to.

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The Hagwon where I work!

Picking up where I left off, I experienced my first day of work on Monday! A spectacular co-worker, Sabrina, met me outside my apartment where I was looking like a sad and lost puppy. She pointed out landmarks and restaurants as we walked to the bus stop. After about a 15 minute ride, we were there! My school is located in front of Olympic Park (which I have yet to explore). It is a tall, skinny building that is perpetually cold. Luckily the people are very warm and were extremely welcoming!

I quickly fell into a routine of observing classes at work, taking transit home with co-workers, falling into bed exhausted, and then waking up ~8am to do it all again. I met up with Nicole to go to e-mart, the closest grocery store, one night and finally
prepblog 2ared my own food! Of course I had to figure out the gas stove-top first which I’m sad to say was a struggle. I reached out to my friends via Kakaotalk (a messaging and calling app that you should all get and add me- Ashann3) and googled the heck out of “expat how Korea gas range”. On the topic of struggles in my apartment, I have been at war with the heating system called ondol all week. Ondol heating works by heating water in pipes under my floor. It also heats the running water. All I can say is thank goodness for expat blogs!

Other notable events this week were:

  1. Finding out that I will be moving apartments.(Where you ask! I have no idea. When you ask! I have no idea).
  2. Taking the subway for the first time*.
  3. Getting my Health Examination done for immigration**.
  4. Being told Tuesday that I will be mock teaching for my director on Wednesday.
  5. Realizing that kids are so similar no matter what country you are in***.
  6. Being told Wednesday by my director that I will be teaching Friday!

I am quickly learning that to be happy in this job (and any job?) I just have to keeping swimming and keep smiling. Also, to say “yes please”. On a side note, you should all listen to Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please. I don’t want to sound dramatic, but it has been my inspiration and comfort during this transition.

Coming up next will be my first day of teaching, a trip to the bank, Langcon festival, my first weekend in Seoul and an adventure to the immigration office. Comment if you would like to see some more photos of my apartment.

🙂 Annyeong!

 

This is Home!

December 5th-6th, 2015

Well, the day finally arrived! It felt like getting to the moment when I stepped onto the plane was both painstakingly slow and terrifyingly fast. I did the research, I read the blogs, and I talked with friends and acquaintances about their experiences with moving one’s life across the world so, I felt (mostly) ready!

Before I talk about getting to my new home, I just want to give a shout-out to all of the lovely friends and family members that made last minute plans to see me before I left. Thank you, thank you, thank you/ gomawo, gomawo, gomawo. Your kind wishes, high hopes and concerned looks mean more to me than you know. They are my courage as I currently sit in my tiny apartment 10,594 km away from you all beginning my life’s biggest adventure (so far).

Special thanks to two of my best friends who dropped me off at the airport; my mother and sister. Mom, I cannot believe you sobbed at the gate and Katherine, thank you for keeping your shit together.

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I was met by a Mr. Kang at Incheon Airport. He was very polite and I can’t lie, it was nice to have a friendly smile from someone who recognized me. I thought Mr. Kang would be taking me to my apartment but alas, he rushed me out the door and into a taxi he called. He wished me luck, handed the driver an envelope with my address, and left in a hurry. My driver was a sweet man who knew very little English but still tried to convey information about Incheon and Seoul. He also called me a beautiful teacher so heyyyy confidence boost! Our mostly quiet drive on the highway through heavy traffic gave me a lot of time to think and observe the huge city emerging outside my window.

I was trying to smile and enjoy my surroundings but important questions such as: how will I pay the driver? and How will I get into the apartment building? plagued my mind. As we drove, I determined quickly that the address I had for the apartment didn’t match what he was given by Mr. Kang. I decided not to panic, but just see what happened. When we arrived at the destination, the driver pointed out the window and said “your home”. He helped me with my luggage and then proceeded to help me into the building, all the way up to my apartment. He kindly showed me how to use the door key code and then wish me luck in life.

The apartment is underwhelming. It reminds me of a dirty residence unit that I would have failed on checkout when I was a Don. I’m just thankful that there were cleaning supplies left behind! I cleaned until 8pm when I ventured out to meet one of my co-workers, Nicole. She took me down the busy but very cool street called Cheonho-daero that my street, Seongan-ro, is just off of. We had Korean BBQ for dinner and toasted to my arrival with soju and beer. We walked to the supermarket after and she very kindly bought me yogurt that I could eat for breakfast.

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Tomorrow is going to be another long day with cleaning, unpacking, and of course orientation!

Next update will be the end of the week! Keep those fingers and toes crossed for me back home that everything goes well!

Annyeong!