Hello! Yes, I’m still alive and well and wandering around Seoul, feeling slightly more confident less oblivious every time I set foot out the door. Hurrah!
I really need to write more often so that it doesn’t all pile up like this. I’m still adjusting to my work schedule. Working 40+ hours per week, getting home after 10:30pm, and attempting to still have a social life most nights is a quite a lot to balance.
So, here are the highlights from the last few weeks:
Part One – Cultural Things!
The weekend before last, I took a solo trip out to Changdeokgung, also known as Changdeok Palace. It took me almost an hour to get there—45 minutes on the subway (including one line change) and then a 10-15 minute walk—but it was absolutely worth it. I was there for about four hours just wandering around the palace!
Anyway, the palace itself was massive, and really, really beautiful. I literally had to double-over to walk through doorways though—I’m basically a mammoth compared to ancient Koreans.
Spotted a fellow foreigner at one point and we did the ole’ “I’ll take a picture of you with the impressive landmark, if you take a picture of me with the impressive landmark” trade. Honestly, those odd little moments of teamwork are one of my favorite things about travelling.
Apparently it has a massive 78-acre “secret garden” behind it but you could only visit it on the guided tour, which was sold out. I will definitely go back another day to see that.
Part Two – Bureaucratic Things!
(Alternately Titled: The Time I Broke the Immigration World Record)
My boss (Mr. VH) had finally gotten my medical results (in a stamped and sealed envelope, of course—like I would have been able to read them anyway), so last Friday I sojourned to Omokygo to visit the Immigration Office and apply for my Alien Registration Card (ARC), which is really important because I can’t do a lot of things here until I have one.
I told a few people I had to go to Immigration, and the responses were all generally along the lines of, “Ugh, that sucks. I was number 42 but I was still there for hours. Bring a book!” Every person I’ve ever talked to who had to go to Immigration (in any country) described it as being basically like a trip to the DMV only much longer, and much more awful.
So I set out around 8am on Friday, wanting to get there before they opened at 9. When I arrived it was me and about 600 Chinese people. The ticket machine was broken, so a woman was handing out tickets. I grabbed mine (number 109) and found a seat thinking there was no way in hell my number would be called before I had to leave for work, and I’d have to come back another day.
Then— miracle!—I look at my ticket and notice it’s stamped ONLY CHINESE. Since it turns out I’m actually not Chinese (who knew?), I scooted back over to the ticket lady, point at the ticket and say, “Me no Chinese,” because apparently I forgot how to speak English on this particular morning, and she handed me another ticket marked NON-CHINESE. I’m now number 4! Victory!
So the windows opened at 9 and my number was called within 5 minutes. The woman at the window was lovely helpful and corrected my form which Mr. VH had filled out spectacularly wrong (the Korean form really tripped up the Korean guy), and waited while I paid my fee at the ATM on the other end of the room. She stamped my form, gave me a receipt, told me I would have my ARC within 3-weeks, and sent my on my way.
I got outside; it was 9:17. World. Friggin’. Record.
Part Three – Teaching the Crazies!
(Alternately Titled: You So Babo)
Teaching is honestly the strangest thing. I don’t quite know how to describe it yet. The elementary school kids are absolutely nuts—they have so much energy. I had a boy one day who literally opened the window, screamed out of it, and then closed it again. Just screamed. For no reason whatsoever. What was that? One of my coworkers was teaching in the classroom next door so later I asked if he’d heard the scream, which of course he had. Then he shrugged and said, “Eh. Elementary school kids,” like it’s a totally normal thing. Super.
When they’re not screaming, the elementary school kids are mostly they’re pretty good. Getting them to do any work is like pulling teeth, but I try to have a game or something to reward them when they make it through that day’s material. We play Categories, or Taboo, or Catchphrase, and they seem to really like that. I’m acquiring more games as I go, so hopefully I can keep this up. Here’s a couple pictures from one of our games of Categories. The topic was “Olympic Sports”. Boobslay for the win!
I haven’t officially taught the Middle School classes yet. Their exams ended last week, so we’ll go back into our regularly scheduled nonsense when we return from our long-weekend next Wednesday. Bring it on!
Part Four – Other Stuff!
(Alternately Titled: Stuff I Didn’t Know Where Else to Put so it’s Awkwardly Tucked into the Ending Here)
Other than that, when I’m not at work, there’s a good chance I’m out for drink with some of the people I’ve met here. There’s someone out basically every single night of the week, so if you’re looking for something to do there’s always an option. I try not to go out every night, mostly because I just don’t like the idea of drinking every single night. Plus everyone here smokes (it’s super cheap—about $2/pack), and my lungs are not psyched about being around that much smoke. I literally know one other non-smoker out of a group of 25+ odd people. Ugh.
I’ve developed a weird cough in the last week. It’s a really horrible bear-sounding beast of a cough. I’m not sure if it’s from being around the smoke, the “Yellow Dust” epidemic (South Korea is deluged in horrible fumes from China this time of year—thanks, China!), or if it’s just my lungs’ way of adjusting from lovely country air to crappy Seoul air. Either way, it sounds gross, but basically everyone here has it. Awesome.
It took me about three weeks, but my apartment is now relatively clean. Getting rid of the black mold in the bathroom was gross, but I’m really pleased with how well the place cleaned up. It’s pretty perfect for me. As promised, pictures:
This weekend we get a four-day weekend compliments of two national holidays. I believe it’s Children’s Day and Buddha’s Birthday. So we’re all off of work on Monday and Tuesday. Most of the people I know here are going to Busan for the weekend (about 4-5 hours away by train), but a handful of people including myself are staying in Seoul. I’m psyched to have some time to explore, and hopefully see some cultural stuff. The city is all decorated for the Lotus Lantern Festival, but I’ve only seen the temple here in Banghwa (below), and to be honest that was the result of a rather intoxicated 2am hike through the woods. It was a lot of fun, but I’d love to see some of these things in the daylight
and maybe sober.
Anyway, I think that’s all I have for now. Hopefully after this nice long weekend, I’ll have some good pictures to post.
To everyone at home—I love you and I miss you and I think of you guys all the time. I hope things are good with you all. J Oh! And if you don’t already have my info, I do have a regular mailing address now, so let me know if you need it. If you want to text me for FREE and you don’t have an iPhone (or iMessage is being a douche-canoe), download Kakao Talk. My ID is reallyholly, of course. 🙂
As always, Love from Seoul!