Walking around Seoul this weekend I realized something. It has given me the same feeling I had of NYC the first 2 years I went there. Anger, annoyance, irritation, stress, problematic, aggravation…pick your top 3 or all of the above. But after those 2 years, I had an epiphany. That city is a machine. It is this huge system, churning and burning… and nothing will get in its way. It’s survival of the fittest. Adapt or flunk. You can see it working from the outside, from the shore. And you have to commit to it if you want to survive. It was like I held a grudge against the place until I found that connection, and then all I had to do was make a decision. Accept it for what it is, and how it runs, and enjoy it for what it is. And almost instantly, I went from detesting it, to demanding it. I love being there. Not enough to live there yet, but I do have to have my fix.
And until today, Seoul was headed down the same path. Not as severe yet, but certainly going that way. It wasn’t planned, but b/c of some miscommunication issues and the girls not being able to find the guys in the segregated sleeping quarters at the bathhouse, I found myself alone and free to roam the streets of Seoul. I don’t think it takes more than one trip to realize you need comfortable shoes, and rarely will form trump function….or at least I think so. Most Asian women apparently disagree. After wandering around a little bit irritated at my current situation, I decided to make the most of it and explore. I went to one of the shopping districts and after exhausting myself there, I decided to head for the electronics district using my iffy memory as a map. I popped out of the subway tunnel onto the street and tried to find the place, but failed. So, after realizing I had a wonderful opportunity to sit, I did. I realized that there was some nice black marble behind me, and it made for a very nice chair. Headphones in and sleeves rolled up, I figured I could really use some sun. So for the next hour or so, that’s what I did. Sat and listened to music and watched cars. It was a good decision.
While sitting, I mapped out my next destination, Itawon, the foreigners district. I didn’t think much about it on the way, but when I got there, something amazing happened. I felt relaxed. I have no problem with what I’m doing here or where I am, but seeing an influx of caucasian people and black people….i felt very different, at ease. Not because I’m nervous or tense around Koreans, they’re very hospitable actually. But because it felt normal. I felt at home. And that is somewhat of a challenge when I’m approximately 6 thousand miles away from where I get my mail. I found a magazine called Groove, which is in English, and designed for foreigners, and had even more confirmation that hiexpat.com is mandatory for survival. There is a huge amount of knowledge people to help English ppl out, you just have to have the initiative to seek it out. And realizing that helped me out a lot. Whew….
Yesterday I visited the tallest building in Seoul, going up to the 60th floor, seeing the wax museum, Sea World, and a Picasso art exhibit. I wandered through a local street market, and enjoyed a few laughs at some of the things I saw.
Between yesterday and today, I’ve determined that there is nothing inexpensive. And anyone will be hard pressed to convince me otherwise. Somebody told Anna today that there’s lots of cheap things…aside from clothes and food….wait, what? What else is there! That’s why we came here! Because the needed essentials were inexpensive. C’mon now. I don’t really care that a 24 hour bathhouse is 6$....I want my Calvin Klein for 6$.
Well, TaLK orientation will be wrapping up tomorrow and on Wed. I’ll be on my way to the next portion of this Asian journey. We will be picked up and taken to our “local” orientation in our designated province where we’ll meet some of the teachers and school personnel, and the local TaLK representative assigned to our region. It’s a relief in the sense that there will be a slight degree of routine starting this coming weekend, getting to see my living arrangement and school, and be able to start planning on a paycheck, but also a bit of stress on the account of me actually being on my own now. The bubble of English I’ve enjoyed for the past month is about to burst and I’ll actually be in Korean society. Hold on tight.
Over the past week or so I’ve been to 2 jimjilbang’s…2 noraebang’s… and slept at the Bang house. A Jimjibang is a Korean bathhouse, a noraebang is a place to sing karaoke, and the Banghouse was the name of the hostel I stayed at last weekend in Seoul.
The jimjibang is a multilevel building consisting of a changing room, a large room with +/- 6 pools or hot tubs ranging in heat, about 10 saunas ranging from ice to 70 degrees Celcius, and sleeping quarters. They are open 24 hours, and you are free to come and go as you please….and let me tell ya, these things are sweet. Aside from the floor w/ the common room and saunas, everything is split between the guys and girls, and if you can disregard the fact that you’re walking around with about 50 other naked Korean guys, you can really have yourself a grand time. Oh, and it costs less than 10$.
The noraebang is cool too. It has several separate rooms and you and your group can just go in and have a room to yourself and sing ur little hearts out. 60$ gets you 2 hours and when you have 15 ppl…it’s a pretty cheap time.
um....ya. Laundry service? Best thing since sliced bread. It was done by noon on the same day and it cost me $3. It was going to be $2 for me to do it by myself. AND it even smells nice. When was the last time you had your socks pressed for you after they were cleaned? I don't think Oprah is re-tweeting and reading my posts yet....so probably never.
Remember the other day when you were watching tv and that commercial came on with the they guy in chinos and barefoot with his white linen shirt unbuttoned walking in the sand on the beach laughing at his golden retriever fetch the stick he just threw...or the guy and girl walking in Paris laughing as their leaning over the bridge as the street vendor tries to draw their caricature with the Eiffel tower in the back ground?....and then out of no where the narrator butts in on ur mini movie and says if erectile disfunction is a problem for you....or if high blood pressure hinders you.....I mean....I don't know think I have any health problems....but if thats what those patients get to do....sign me up.
Thats kinda what I think of Korean English teacher lectures. Getting ready for lecture lately has involved gym shorts or painting pants. Not pens and notebook paper. Paper mache doll, tae kwon do, painting, improv, drama. These have been the classes we've taken during our first week of "lecture". Pretty sweet. But don't get me wrong...its not board games at summer camp all day every day, but even the informational speaking is amazing. They've put a lot of effort in to finding really good speakers. About half of what we've been doing is for us. Introducing us to and involving us in the Korean culture. Tips and suggestions for getting the most out of our free time, and showing us how different the 7 provinces of Korea are. They have everything from Disneyland to mud festivals, and can see the sun rise and set on the beach over the water in the same day.
We've been learning about time management, how to keep the kids occupied, how to incorporate team and group speaking, games, and quiet written exercises all into the same activity....and its awesome because everything has the ability to be adjusted to different situations. We're the only teachers in the country that have no rigid curriculum. Our class time is ours. Mine. And I can make it as energetic and fun or as boring as I want. A lot of responsibility, but a lot of fun.
Tomorrow: Medical check up and Seoul bound. First time (i think) to ever ride on a passenger car train. I dont t
Well, getting here wasn't all it was cracked up to be, thats for sure. Realizing I'd be spending my first overseas flight on a double decker, i thought there'd be at least a souvenir shop aboard, if not a lounge and theater.....but what I got was a coach seat much like the one in my cousin Brian's Cesna. We sat down and decided I'd find the plug in for my laptop. It was missing, along with the on board mall. After the plane ride, we rode on a tour bus for about 90 minutes to the satellite campus of Korea University in Jochiwon. we got our welcome packets and called it a night.
Monday was decently laid back. we went for a walk around our fair city, Jochiwon (JOE‐she‐won) finding our way into the mechanic district, through what appeared to be the cell phone district, and ending up somewhat lost. we found a Converse store and got directions to a "supermarket" where we walked in looking for a hair dryer and while we were looking around, an employee walked up to us and presented us with said object. A hair dryer! The ONLY thing I can think of is that the Converse store guy called the supermarket and told them we were coming. But I just cant believe he'd do that. I dont know how he knew.
We found our way back to the campus in time for the hike that started at 2 pm. The sign up sheet said 1 mile scenic route that over looked the city. We thought, sure, why not. After passing the sign that said 4.2 km...I was finally convinced the sign was wrong. It was a 5k hike....with hills...steep hills....through the country side...with snow on the ground. But still fun. On the way back, we took the road where I saw a VERY fine specimen for my next car build. Slightly different from my past projects, but I'm up for it (see hinged‐tractor‐flatbed‐cart‐looking thing in the pictures above...)
Tuesday brought more normal‐ness. Because of the extreme time difference, I was up pretty early. My dad and grand dad would be impressed. I was up and at the gym by 6:20, then breakfast and on the bus ready for sight seeing by 8:45. We got to have an authentic Chinese dish in Chinatown of Inchon, see a film and museum documenting the Korean War, and visit an "in progress" city that will be quite amazing if it's pulled off. And I'm sure it will be. What they've done so far is quite amazing. They started in 2003 and the proposed deadline is 2020. These people are building bridges, and erecting CITIES here. Cities. and they will be done in 9 years. I think it was 2 weeks ago I read in the Edmond Sun that the next step had been approved in getting the Oklahoma City Express Train/Light rail/mass transit tracks laid that will supposedly go from Edmond to downtown and to Moore. The expected completion date of this project is 2030. While the Koreans are building entire cities, we're still trying to figure out how to put gravel and wood planks down. But I digress.
It was a very eventful day, and I enjoyed learning a bit more about the Korean war. Did you know that the Soviets were the encouragement for North Korea to invade the south? I had no idea. I thought it was all the Chinese. Stalin encouraged N. Korea to invade the U.S. backed S. Korea. it was like little brother vs. little brother.
Tomorrow is the actual first day of Orientation, with a trip to Seoul to be formally welcomed by the Korean government on TV. Woo hoo!
twas the night before leaving and i was frantically trying to get all my things in order and refrain from crying. not really. i took care of that thursday night. hopefully i will stay normal while getting on the plane. we leave at 10:50 am from dallas and the flight is direct into Seoul, South Korea with a duration of 13 hours. there is a 15 hour time difference FORWARD, so i will land in seoul at 4:50 pm seoul time, which would be 1:50 am oklahoma time on sunday morning. My skype is up and running and my user name is litemupok so adding that name should be the ticket. i really expect i'll need to talk to people a lot not to go crazy.
A lil excited and a lil bummed, i guess i dont really know what to expect still. i'm trying to keep my expectations empty, so that im available for an entirely new experience. my latest freak out dealt with not being able to text anyone. i opted to bring my phone, but im totally convinced that it will be many many weeks before i stop picking it up to check texts and to send them. right now i feel that thats going to be the biggest shock to me.
today i also thought about how to discern the difference between coping with stress (anger/frustration/annoyances/problems) and suppressing it. by not saying anything and just smiling and nodding and thinking that "theres nothing i can do to change this, and being vocal loud and verbal will not lead to a solution" often i will just do nothing...say nothing. is that an appropriate way to manage or is it just suppression. Because one is great and one is not. does everyone need an outlet? or can is it possible to just let it die inside much like letting a coke bottle relax after its been shaken up.