We are all familiar with the hands free Bluetooth headset that the wall street businessman uses, as well as the valley girl from California and the mullet headed "jort" wearing redneck that uses it so he can smoke his "cigret". But something westerners take for granted is the hands free shower. You see, here in Korea we have the opportunity to use the hand held version which has a home on the wall that is usually around chest height.
I love my showers, especially the part where I can stand under the hot stream of water for long periods of time in the morning as I start my day. And unfortunately, its not the same when my stomach is the highest part of my body to enjoy said routine. So I took up the idea of rigging up a temporary shower holder for >6' people. After the $2 purchase of a 3-pack of hot glue hooks, and a 7 minute modification to my bathroom, I am now free to enjoy an overhead hands free shower.
After recently promoting my two feet as my primary mode of transportation, I’m realizing how much of a luxury having a vehicle that can double as your carry-all really is. I’ve made it approximately 3 weeks using big red, my faithful and world traveling Burton backpack that my cousin gave me for x-mas, but I’m tired of using it for each daily adventure. A woman has the luxury of using a tote, and the occasional straight dude can pull the right one off at the right time for the right occasion. However, I get enough flak for my brightly colored boxer briefs, so I’ll pass on the tote.

The same goes for the satchel. While it varies slightly from the tote, it is still not the first bag one needs to purchase for their more fashionable anti backpack…backpack.

So really last option we’re left with is something that more resembles that of a messenger bag. I read through the Everyguyed Network sites quite often, so I decided to skim the pages of recently reviewed bags on their wallet/bag/case/luggage site called The Carry.  It looks like I’ve narrowed it down to 6.

In thinking about the style, I’d tell you that I want one made from canvas, probably grey or tan, or possibly tan leather. I now find it humorous at my selections because when I reopened the saved pages displaying each bag, it is very obvious I am drawn to brown leather. I’d like to get an opinion, the first assuming I can (and will probably) only get one style. And the 2nd being that I would actually invest in two. I think to really be dressed properly, be it up or casual, there will not be one universal bag. However, everyone must start somewhere, and I’m a firm believer that the first purchase of anything should be the most difficult, because it needs to be the perfect blend of functionality and form. So unfortunately I have to save the lime green/orange plaid satchel for a little later. 
I remember my mom telling me one time that it takes 10 good things to cancel out one bad thing. It is unfortunate that the same rule can not apply to people. Specifically Americans. At any given time, we tend to have approximately half a million military personnel stationed overseas. Plus private company personnel, students, and vacationers. And while I believe American citizens, compared with any other country,  are the least likely to travel outside of their own country, we have a huge impact on the the worlds perception because of our military influence. 

Yesterday I went to Daegu to see some fellow teachers. While waiting on my delicious, savory and perfectly prepared snack wrap from McDonnalds, A quite large and demanding soldier also desired a meal. He was apparently famished, because he disregarded the existing line of 13 people (some also soldiers) waiting to also place their order. Instead of properly scouting out what value meal or 3 he wanted, he attempted to order by simply barging to the front counter and shouting "you ready to take my order yet fool! You ready!? You gonna tell me yes or what! You ready for my order! I gotta get back on base!" By this time, half the guests sitting down have shot out the door, while a few other people braved the order line. And as we all know, if someone doesn't understand your language initially, its not b/c they don't speak it, its b/c you aren't talking loud enough. So he then proceeds to shout louder, while also offering some physical assistance in the form of literally punching the ordering computer. The McDonnalds order taker already has his hands on the monitor, but he has to brace it and himself when the lovely gentlemen delivers the right jab. This McDonnalds dude, at best...knows the menu and how to understand the items in english. Think, when was the last time you were able to order something off an asian menu reading the traditional block characters? This guy is already doing more than he should have to. He has to catch the computer the next 2 times its hit...and by now I cant remember if I'm waiting on my food somewhere or I actually enrolled in that boxing and sparing class I've been looking at. 

Now, I'm not a confrontational person...quite the opposite actually. I really don't even get mad. But what I found myself thinking about next was pretty concerning. All these fragmented thoughts were blazing through my mind, along with scenes from Fight Club, X-men, Iron Man and even David and Goliath. Because seriously, there is no way I could ever actually take down someone like this guy....6,4" probably 250 lbs, ANGRY....but I felt myself thinking, if only I had one of those strangling apparatuses or syringe like Dexter uses so gracefully....I think this would be over really quick.

About this time, my snack wrap is finally ready....did you know they put bacon on them here? The US needs to step it up. It was twice as expensive though. Oh well...that goes with my 6$ gallon of milk too I guess. Anyway....

I decided to mingle outside while savoring the small attempt at Americanism and to simply complain to them. But my problem is...I'm exhausted from hearing how rude and inconsiderate Americans are. Its actually pathetic. Americans yell at people in their own country for not speaking english. And we wonder why the world can't stand us and really doesn't care about giving us much support. Complaining about this very topic to another friend today, he informed me that in Seoul this weekend he actually saw a sign on the outside of a building that said, "Because of past issues, we no longer serve military personnel." And I know very few people in the military are like this, and I also know many non military Americans ARE like this, and even non Americans. But I have yet to hear about how crappy the French are, or Italians, Australians, British or Brasilians...when it comes to travel. 
Everything will be put to the test tomorrow. I will officially be in charge of multiple children at the same time, attempting to maintain some since of normality while simultaneously trying to implant within them the idea that the english language is fun to learn. I have a Korean co-teacher and a handful of games to play. We will make english name tags and learn the rules of the class room. With a little bit of luck, I will emerge unscathed and victorious. 
(written 2/26/2011)  Today after our Korean Culture lesson I had the opportunity to try on traditional Korean clothing called Hanbuk. We were provided with several styles to chose from with a rainbow of colors. By the time I walked in to chose my outfit, many people had already been dressed by the assistants, so I looked at my buddy Donald and said, “lets go!” and pointed to the rack. As I quickly gazed the rack, I was naturally drawn to the blue and lime green suit so I grabbed the hanger and turned around to get one for Donald. Just as I was about to suit up, I was struck down by a Korean grandma. This was not a “do it on your own” event.

After getting dressed and positioning for pictures, Donald was informed that I had picked a servant uniform for him, and that I was part of the elite. Oops.

After the organized pictures, the young boy that was dressed for the demonstration came up to me and asked me why I was hiding. I was so confused about why he thought I was hiding that I failed to realize he spoke perfect English. And the thing you have to realize is that there are a decent amount of people fluent in English. But they say enGRISH, or flogs instead of frogs or milkoo instead of milk or jew and not zoo…so I complimented his skills, and then with as much of a western voice as me, he said, “oh thanks, korean is actually my 2nd language.” I assumed this was an authentic Korean family that they brought in to show us. But this guy only sees this lady and grandma (not pictured) and little girl (not pictured) about once a month. So basically its his side gig. He does it for free resume points and his actual family owns an English school in Busan. Moral of the story? Don’t judge a book by its cover. 

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