Mark, John, Reebs, me, Sara, and Anna at the St. Paddy's festival on Cheonggyecheon
I recently made a little trip to TechnoMart with Sara and Reebs to get a new cam for Reebs since she dropped hers in the ocean in Thailand (I mean…if you’re gonna do it, do it right, at least it wasn’t in Mendota). TechnoMart is 10 floors of electronics. We ran around to each counter, and get this, you can BARGAIN for your camera. Since when?! I’m sorta digging this whole uber-competitive bargaining thing that we have going on over here. Who gets to bargain for cameras? Can you imagine going up to the dude at Best Buy and being like…uhhh I think you can lower this a little bit. Amazing.
The weekend after St. Paddy’s, I went out in Apgujeong with the usual crowd. Apgujeong is sort of the “Beverly Hills” of Seoul. Some of the best fashion comes out of there, and there are tons of great boutiques, bars, and restaurants. So as we’re strolling along, I’m stopped by someone with a camera who asks (through Q’s translation) if he can take my picture. Why? Apparently I have style. Homeboy was diggin my lacy grey tights and also (somehow) thought I looked like Britney Spears. I hear that comparison a lot over here and it hurts a little more every time because I really don’t think I look ANYTHING like her. She’s blonde? I don’t get it. Moving on… Following behind Q and I were Sara, Rebecca, and John, who were also dressed super cute, and they had their pictures taken as well! So now we’re in the “street style” section of a Korean “Fashion Webzine”. Its called Musinsa. Here's my photo:
And you can find the rest of the gang here, but the entire thing is in Korean so you can’t really read. But you’ll get the idea. Oh and they screwed up everyone’s name, except mine. HA. The best was definitely Re Deccakuss? Who’s that? The comments people left were pretty hilarious too. They think Sara has a “body like Venus”, they think Rebecca looks cold (she was wearing a coat and took it off for the picture..duh, honestly where is their common sense), and that I really do look like Britney! If they say so.
We found a great bar called "Rainbow" that ended up being like Thailand...but inside. We drank out of buckets, sat on the ground, and smoked from a hookah. I wanna go back!
On a random Tuesday I scored some free tickets to the Aquarium at the COEX Mall in Seoul and dragged Rebecca along with me. Let’s just say…this is not your standard aquarium. I was thinking it would be sort of like the Shedd in Chicago, but on a little smaller scale. Ohhh no. It was super Korean. There were animals that did not belong in an aquarium, like bats, monkeys, and prairie dogs to name a few. The poor prairie dogs were trapped in this glass case that was all wrong for them. It was about the size of a phone booth, so they had tons of space above them (which is obviously inaccessible to a prairie dog) and virtually no space to run around in. Poor things L I was tempted to break them out.
Reebs and the prairie dogs
There were also fish in strange places. Stop lights, vending machines, toilets...?
Actual photo...no joke
We also saw some of the black-tipped reef sharks that we had swam with in Thailand. Seeing them like that made me feel a little wary of what I had done in Thailand. But I have all my fingers and toes and that’s all that matters. The aquarium was cool, I guess, but the landscaping for each animal was pretty bad…its like they didn’t even attempt to recreate a good habitat for them. So I kinda feel bad for the animals there.
This is just a random shark, NOT what we swam with in Thailand...just didn't get a good pick of the real one.
After the aquarium Reebs and I hit up the food court, which is your pretty standard mall food court, except of course its almost exclusively Korean food. We did find a Sbarro pizza place though, and each devoured two giant slices of pizza. The little Korean girl behind the counter seemed pretty shocked. I think she thought Reebs was ordering for the both of us when she placed her order, but nope, I followed suit and ordered two slices for myself. So there we were, just two American girls shoveling down pizza surrounded by Koreans happily eating their rice and kimchi and thinking we were crazy. I don’t care. Pizza beats kimchi any day.
So it was about this time (post-aquarium) that I was honestly intending to update my blog. But then I got some pretty upsetting news about my Gramps L Before I could really process what had happened, I was on a flight back to America so I could attend the funeral. It all sort of happened really quickly. Obviously, I was (and still am) really sad about it, but he made it to 92 so who could complain about that? While I was home I found a card he had sent me a few years back about how he hoped he would get to see me go into this big and exciting world and how I should see outside what I know and “partake of life”. So…I’m content knowing that he got to see me (literally) do that. I’m sure he didn’t have South Korea in mind when he wrote that card, but here I am. Out in the world and living it up! I will definitely miss him. ❤ I know he always read my blogs, so hopefully they have computers in Heaven so he can keep up.
Everyone at my school was so supportive and helpful. They were so nice about letting me go home to be with my family, and I received so many condolences and words of encouragement. Even the students offered comforting words...one girl told me she would "pray to [my] grandfather". Well I think she meant "for" but it sounded even sweeter that way.
My time in America was short (less than a week) and incredibly busy. I think I spent more days traveling than actually being there, but it was worth it. The visit was bittersweet but it did give me a chance to meet up with some college and high school friends and make some interesting comparisons between America and Korea. I went back to Madison to meet up with Mary and Maureen who drove up from Chicago and Meghan who still is in school there. Being back was soooo strange. Some things have really changed there, and yet others are still just the same. After meeting up with them I had coffee with my old roommate Ashley who is still recovering from her semester in Sevilla, Spain. Talking to her was so great, and I’m so excited because now I know she gets what Anna and I always said when we told her she had to study abroad and she would love it so much that she wouldn’t want to come back.
I had time to have lunch with Jane, who I danced with at Wisconsin and who is from Korea. I love talking with her because she always gives me good insight on some things that I may be misunderstanding about life in Korea or why things are done a certain way. Luckily, she’s spent enough time in the States to understand why I think certain things about Korea are strange or annoying. I also had dinner with Sarah which was amazing. I’m going to be missing her wedding this summer and I feel so bad. I wasn’t able to get the time off work, and after taking this impromptu emergency trip to the States, I wouldn’t have gotten the vacation time now anyhow. She filled me in on all of the wedding details and we got caught up on each other’s lives so it was really nice. Plus we made a little Target run, and it was like I had never left! So although I was back in the States for a short amount of time and for a really sad reason, I was still able to make the most of my time there.
I had forgotten some of what life was like there. I felt sort of….hm. I don’t know the word. But in Korea there is definitely a set way of doing things. A way people dress, talk, think, act, eat, etc. If you don’t look or talk or act like everyone else then you stand out – and I think in Koreans minds, in a bad way. They don’t really seem to understand why we wear or do or say the things we do. They understand that our culture is different, yet they don’t understand our culture. Which makes sense. Most people don’t understand Korean culture unless they visit. Hell, I’ve been here for 8 months now and I still don’t understand it fully. But in America I felt like I could do almost literally whatever I wanted and nobody would really care or think twice about it. I didn’t feel like I was being looked at the way I feel the eyes on me here. I know I don’t look Korean, but c’mon let’s get over it already. I forget how global I am sometimes, when I don’t think twice, no matter who sits next to me on the subway or what they’re wearing or what language they’re speaking. I forget that not everyone is like that. I hope people (everywhere) realize that there is, very literally, an entire world outside of what they know. Some of its better than what they know, some of it worse, some of it just completely different without any sort of quality scale; either way I think its important to learn about the world outside of your own.
I got back into Korea after a 12 1/2 hour flight to Tokyo from Chicago, a 2 hour layover in Tokyo, and another 2 1/2 hour flight to Seoul; followed by immigration, customs, baggage claim, and an hour bus ride back to my apartment. Yeesh. I crashed around 11:30 that night, almost immediately after I got home. I didn’t wake up until almost 2:00 the following afternoon. I’ve finally recovered from the serious effects of 2 straight weeks of jet lag.
Over the weekend I managed to make it out to see the cherry blossoms which are in full bloom right now. They look so unbelievable, they're beautiful!
Well, I checked my email while we were out. And I had a few urgent messages from Kelsey who was AT MY APARTMENT. We had failed to communicate with each other, and I thought she was coming on Tuesday, but was actually coming on Sunday. AHHH. So I was not near my apartment and she had to wait in the hallway for a few hours! I felt so bad. But while I was on my way home, I got a call from my co-teacher, who had received a call from my apartment manager saying that there was a girl sitting outside my apartment. If I gave him the OK, he had an extra key and would let her in. YES. So by the time I arrived home, Kelsey was there waiting for me. Lesson learned: communicate.
I had to work the full week at school unfortunately, so Kelsey spent a lot of time taking advantage of the nice weather and all the hiking on the mountains near my apartment. There's so many so she kept busy. We spent the evenings running, and eating at my favorite little Korean restaurant. It was actually great that she was visiting this week, although I couldn't spend much time with her during the day, but at night it was so nice to have her to run with. I have a 10K on SUNDAY and I have been seriously slacking in getting ready for it. She forced me to run everyday and it was actually really helpful to have someone there to push me.
The latest K-Pop song...I'm sure you're all so worried about it. Here is Lollipop Part 2 from the one and only Big Bang.
So coming up....its going to start to get super busy around here. The weather is getting nicer and we are packing our weekends full as much as possible. This Sunday I'm running in a 10K with several of my friends that live near me. On May 4th I'll be going to Jeju Island with Sara for a few days. Google image it. You'll be jealous. On the 20th, I'll be going with Reebs, Anna, John, and Q back to Busan. This time WITH reservations. We're going to do it a little classier than the love motel with spiders and condoms, and book a room in an actual hotel, hopefully on the beach. Get ready to be excited and jealous of my life all over again. If you made it to the end of the entry...thanks for staying with meeee.
"And though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see. There will be an answer, let it be." -- The Beatles