Friday, September 29, 2006


Well, Stephanie was gone from EARLY Wednesday morning to late last night. While she was gone I realized what it would be like to be in this city by myself, and I didn't like it, so I was very glad when she came back home. In fact, I was getting anxious for her to get here, and started to get worried. I looked up her flight arrival time, factored in getting her luggage, getting on the bus, and maybe being stuck in traffic. By 9:30 I was definitely antsy and looked up her bus stop on the internet. I realized that she would be dropped off across the street. I turned off the lights in our apartment and sat and stared out the window for about 25 minutes, trying to spot her as one of the little ants scurrying around on the sidewalk across the street.

I had the elimination going in my head: skirt? nope, that's not her. carrying a bag? nope, she's got her backpack. Short hair? no, not her. On a bike? definitely not. Finally I spotted her, and I tried to wave, but realized she couldn't see me with the light off (duh), so I turned the light on and waved frantically. She saw me, waved, came home, and I got to hear about her exciting one-night stand with Japan. If you want to read about it head over to and read about it there.

I've just been training this whole week, and got finished today, so I'm pretty excited about that. I was supposed to get done at 2, so I arranged with Stephanie to meet her at a certain subway stop near our apartment so she could show me to our school. I'm scheduled to sub for someone tomorrow (saturday), so I needed my materials so I can prep.

Well, I started to leave the training, but found out I had to stay behind and sign a contract. First contract given to me to look over was the wrong one, so she had to go back. Then I realized my name was spelled wrong, she had to change that. All of this took a lot of time and I kept looking at my watch, realizing that I was definitely not going to be able to meet Stephanie in time. So I had to weigh my options. I wanted to be over to the school before 4 so I could see the director or Head Instructor before the kids came.

I got done signing my contract and asked the HR lady if she could give me the address of my school so I could give it to a taxi driver. Instead, she thought it would be easier another way. So she called my director at the school, asked for his cell phone number, and then gave me a note (written in Korean of course), to give to my taxi driver. The note basically told him to call the cell phone number and get directions from my director.

So, it probably came as a surprise (as I just came out of a big business building) to have me (a 23 year old white female) get in his cab. But, not only that, to just hand him a note. He read it over, made the call, and when he started talking, glanced back at me. Of course I couldn't understand a thing he was saying, so I just smiled. We took off for our destination and he began to talk to me, but I just had to smile, look confused, and say "anio" (no). He drove pretty fast, but I arrived at my school in one piece, and in much less time than the subway would have taken. There went 10 bucks.

I just finished "Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee" by Charles Shields. I recommend it. Not a lot is known about Lee, and there are a lot of rumors about her and Capote's work intermingling. It was a really good read.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Food packaging is interesting because we can't read anything. Even if I could decipher the sounds of the lettering (which I hope to be able to do someday), we wouldn't know what the word actually means. Some are easier, like Twix, and the ones here are quite obvious, but some things we have NO idea about.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Big Shoes Sell!

The other night Stephanie and I walked down the convenience store that is at the bottom of our apt. building. When we came back outside, there was this huge shoe sitting by the curb, on the back of a truck. It was a mobile advertisement for Converse. We went upstairs and I tried to get a picture, but I'm not sure it worked out.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Korean food

(I have fixed the second video, for those of you who tried to watch it)

This morning we met Haeseon (Hey-Sawn) and Sue from church for some lunch at the big COEX mall. There are all sorts of American food at the mall, but when Haeseon asked what we wanted to eat, I admitted that I hadn't eaten Korean yet, so we headed up to the 9th floor of the department store and had a nice, sit down meal with Haeseon and Sue. I really liked it, except for the kimchi, of course, which was entirely too spicy for me. Haeseon said that she thought that the kimchi we got was a little too "mature", which I thought was a nice way of putting it.

Haeson is Korean, but moved around a lot growing up, and went to college in Montana (of all places). Sue is also Korean, from Seoul, and went to college in China. Stephanie and I had a good time walking around the mall with them today - Stephanie got a new battery for her watch, we looked at the ridiculously expensive stuff at the department store (Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Beanpole, Louis Vuitton, etc.), and Haeseon talked to one of the cell phone providers about a plan that Stephanie and I could afford, and how it all worked. (You have to buy your cell phone here and they are extremely expensive.) It was so helpful to have Haeseon there to translate and ask questions for us. Yay Haeseon.

From there I went to my training for about 3 and a half hours. You know, company policies and all, but also grammar and reading skills, brushing up on major concepts that... I don't know that I ever learned. Participles and clauses and such. Lucky me, I have a test tomorrow :)

Stephanie and I split off from the mall (her to work, me to training), and I was on my own for the first time in Seoul. I found my building alright, after a quick confusion, and riding the subway home by myself wasn't so bad, except for another small mistake. I'm actually really glad I bought my ipod this summer, because I've been listening to it a lot on the subway. I do a LOT of walking and stair climbing from the subway .. I woke up sore this morning.

So here are some pictures from today!

The COEX Mall is huge, and underground. Just like any mall there are a ton of shops, a food court, etc. This mall also has an aquarium. Since it is underground there is one part that feeds into the subway and then another hall that feeds into the department store next door, and yet another that feeds into the big hotel. It's pretty crazy... it reminds me of Pioneer Place, but on steroids. At certain points there are these big screen laid into the floor with games in them: soccer, try to hurt the badger, and others, and so Haeseon and Stephanie stopped to play.

Our spread. Meat in the middle, being cooked. All the sides, extra rice, and leaves to roll up everything in and stick in your mouth.

Stephanie mixing up the "mixed rice in stone bowl" (the bowl came on a hot platter, so that the food was heating up as she mixed it).

Haeseon at our table.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

1st weekend

Well, usually when you move to a new place you don't expect to be very busy, simply because you don't know the area. That would be an incorrect assumption for moving to Seoul.

Saturday morning after I wrote Stephanie and I set off to find a bed for me. The director of our school gave us directions to a used store and off we went. The subway system here is so organized and easy to use. You even take different exits from the station, just so you can be on the right side of the street when you exit. There are often a lot of transfers to different lines (which are numbered and colored differently), but everything is really well labeled in Hangul (the characters of the Korean language) and then with the English spelling of the same name. There are also neighborhood maps in the subway stations.

Well, the first store had one single bed, but it was sold, and so because Stephanie and I both know NO Korean (except for yes, no, hello, and thank you), we tried to find out where another Recycle City was. The workers were very nice and circled the subway station we would have to get off at. We found our way there fine, but they also had no beds. We began talking to a lady about a bed (basically us finding the word "bed" in the our phrasebook), and she called another Recycle City and said they had beds. She gave us a little map of the store's location and sent us off again.

That was very nice, and so we set off, go to the station, and then walked the way we wanted to go to the Recycle City. Unfortunately we walked for quite a ways and didn't see anything, and so we tried to ask some people for help. "Asking people for help" really means pointing to something (like the store's business card we had), and looking confused. The first lady worked at a pharmacy store, but wouldn't give us the time of day (she held up her hand to Stephanie). The next lady pointed to her eyes because appararently she couldn't see well. A group of boys told to go straight, but we weren't quite sure if they knew what they were talking about because they had a heated discussion among themselves. We finally stopped at a gas station and three very nice men told us that yes, we needed to keep walking straight. We finally ended up at the Recycle City and found no single beds. So back to the subway we went, giving up.

We headed over to the area where my training is, and stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for a sandwich. Apparently Dunkin Donuts is all the rage here. Mood lighting, fancy places to sit and eat, lots of choices, very clean. Not like the Dunkin Donuts I know at home. We then went to the COEX mall, a huge underground shopping center that was packed with people. We tried to find a plug for my computer (successful), and speakers (unsuccessful). We had some frozen yogurt at a place called "Red Mango", and decided to head home.

We were so exhausted by the time we got home that we slept for two hours, got up to do some grocery shopping, and then came back home, where I promptly fell asleep. I think I have caught up on my jet lag.

Today we got up and went shopping at the local EMart for some more basic things- drying rack (no clothes dryer here!), trash can, more hangers, etc. We went over to the church where Stephanie went last week. They have an English service in the afternoon, and a small 20s group meets for it's own class-like time. Some of them are English teachers, and others are here for various reasons. There were about 10 or 12 of us. It was nice to be able to have two things in common with people: Christianity and English.

We went to service and then afterward we went with one of the guys from the church group, Eddie, to see about a power converter for my computer. I was thinking I needed something really special for it, and so Eddie took us to a store where he thought there might be one. He had this whole conversation with the clerk about it, but I finally decided that the plug I had bought on Saturday would probably work, considering my computer has a power adapter. I apologized to Eddie for making him do that for me.

Stephanie said she had been in that area before and thought there was a taco place, and it just happened to be a block or so away from the store we were at. The three of us headed over there to try and get some decent Mexican food. It certainly wasn't great, but I guess decent enough for whenever we have a Mexican food craving.

2 things I've noticed since I've been here:
-Apparently you walk on the left side of things. You know how if we were to walk somewhere, we'd go on the right side? They go on the left side. So as you face the escalators, you would enter on the left side. Funny, since they drive on the right side of the street.
-People here are really very nice. Saturday Stephanie and I stood looking at a map in the subway station. We weren't really lost, just trying to orientate ourselves and see the name of the station we were getting off at. A lady approached us and she spoke some English. She really insisted on helping us, and so we let her. She even pointed us to the right exit from the subway station. Also, people just really try to help, whether it's with directions or finding something in the store. It's quite awkward to ask for help, but they are willing to try and help.

For the videos I'm posting: If you have a faster internet, they'll work. If you don't have a faster internet- you should get it, because I don't think you'll be able to see them. Just press the little play button, and it should start playing when it's loaded.

The first one is of our apartment, and me and Stephanie being silly. The second one is of the busy street we were on tonight.

Eddie and Stephanie walking down a busy street.

waiting for the subway.

what? Jackie's kitchen? noodles and dimsum!

Stephanie walking on the street.

The view from our window, to the street below.

Friday, September 22, 2006


oh my word, I'm in Asia!

Or, Seoul, South Korea to be more exact.

I left Thursday morning from PDX. I almost wrote "I left yesterday morning" because that's what it feels like, but in reality, it's Saturday morning here in Seoul. Anyway, it was a nice, short flight to San Francisco, and then I board there at 1:30pm to Seoul. After 12 hours of being bored, we landed in Incheon, South Korea, an hour outside of Seoul, where all the international flights fly in. My arrival at the airport was what I was most nervous about. I had to go through immigration, get my luggage, go through customs, exchange money, call my contact from a payphone, and then find the right bus to go into Seoul.

And all of it was so incredibly easy. I was picturing the airport as being loud and crowded, which would make me even more nervous, but it was so quiet, and so large that it wasn't crowded at all. The most anxiety inducing thing was that I packed so much I was worried about getting it to the bus. But the Incheon airport provides those luggage carts. FOR FREE. That's right, for free.

I boarded a "limosuine bus" for the ride into Seoul. It was only about half full, and very comfortable. I got out my ipod and listened to music while I watched the countryside pass by. Once we reached Seoul we were stuck in a ton of traffic, but we made it to the Terminal where my HR director, and the director of my school were waiting. My school's director drove me to the apartment where Stephanie and I are living, and showed me a few things before he left. Then I just got to wait around until Stephanie got back from work.

Stephanie gets off from work at 10pm, and I was thinking that it would be a half hour or so, but she came running in the door at 10:15, saying that she and the other teachers had run to the subway to catch the 10:05 train, and then ran to the apartment once she reached her stop. We talked for a long time, and then went shopping at the E-Mart, sort of Fred Meyer or Wal-Mart.

We walked the few blocks from our apartment, which is on a main thoroughfare, and the streets were crowded, even at 11pm. There were street vendors selling DVDs, sunglasses, and other various items. Also, there were more smells than I know how to categorize.

I tried to sleep last night, but only got about 4 hours of it, and I'm not sure why. I should be needing to sleep more because I only slept about an hour on the plane. But, Stephanie and I are going shopping today for some things for our apartment, and hopefully soon we'll have a power converter, so I can then charge up my computer and we can download the season premiere of the Office. Don't anybody tell me what happened.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I don't leave until tomorrow, but last night I was so excited/nervous that I couldn't sleep.

Monday, September 18, 2006


It's really hard to pack for a year in two suitcases. I'm getting very used to giving away clothes and extra things.

I think there's an art to packing for a long-term living arrangement. It's easy to pack for 2 months in Mexico: nobody cares what you wear, and really jeans and tshirts are the best thing to wear. Plus you can always say to yourself "I'll just leave these things at home, I'll be back in 2 months". But, of course, a year is a little different, especially in a country that has four very different seasons, AND my job will be in a more professional environment. My main concern in Mexico was not getting child bodily fluids or bleach on my clothes. In Korea my main concern will be making sure I look the part. I'm packing away things in boxes that I won't see for a year: clothes, books, posters, mementos.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Almost Ready to Leave

Well, the last piece of the puzzle has finally fallen into place. This morning I sold my beloved car. I owned Willis (as I like to affectionately call him) for 4 and a half years, so it was a little hard to let go. It was made easier, however, by the fact that the guy who bought him was a college student who was so excited for him. He just gushed over how great Willis was and I beamed like a proud mother. So I cleaned him out and handed over the keys. That really was the last thing I needed to REALLY do before leaving for Korea, and it is done, and in perfect timing, as I won't be working this coming week, and don't really need to do any more shopping. And I know if I need any transportation I can call Amanda to be my taxicab driver. It's quite convenient, actually!

Also, I received my work visa today in the mail from the Seattle Korean embassy. I had to send my passport and application to Seattle by express mail, and was anxiously awaiting its return, because of course I HAVE to have it to get through customs and stay in Korea.

Stephanie has finished her training and I guess, from what I hear, having a quiet weekend by herself in our apartment in Seoul. She has written about all of her adventures: going to training, using the subway, going to the internet cafe, and so I'm excited to go over and see everything for myself. I'm actually anxiously awaiting to get over there because it seems like this has been talked about for so long - I'm ready to be there! It makes it a lot easier to know that Stephanie is there and has figured out all Seoul stuff already. She even knows where to go to get good frozen yogurt!

I leave on Thursday, the 21st, which means I will be missing the season premiere of the Office!! I'll have to download the season premiere once I get to Seoul so I know what happens in the Jim/Pam saga. If you don't watch the Office yet, you should! It's the only show on TV I always have to watch.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Things get going

Apparently in the Teaching English Overseas World things happen at the last minute. This would be the story of our lives as well. We got a call last night that our school wanted one of us ("us" being Stephanie and me) to come to Korea this weekend, and one of us to come a couple of weeks later. Because of extraneous stuff happening in both of our lives, Stephanie graciously volunteered to go this weekend. Now Stephanie's running around like a madwoman, trying to finalize things here at home and get ready to leave on Friday!

She is a madwoman, because she will be flying over there by herself, and figuring out everything about Korea all alone. I will be the lucky one, getting to arrive and live with a friend who will already know the ropes just two weeks later. I envision Stephanie giving me lessons in how to buy subway tickets, showing me a good place to eat, and welcoming me to our new apartment. It's all very, very exciting, of course, but it's also anxiety inducing.

So here it goes!

Friday, September 01, 2006

I had my first semi-Korean experience. I guess this is just a hint of things to come!

I went to Kinko's today to fax something to my school in Korea, and at first put in the wrong number, without the right country code, and the nice automated lady told me the number I had entered was bad. So then I tried again, except I dialed the wrong number again. I obviously dialed the right country code because it rang once, and then over the ringing was some cute music, and a cartoony voice saying things in Korean.

I didn't know what to do, because I'm not used to using fax machines. Just when I was thinking that I should do something, someone picked up the phone and said "hello?" with a Korean accent. I still didn't know what to do! She finally hung up after saying "hello?" a few more times. I felt bad, and equally embarrassed, being in the Kinko's and having someone say "hello?" to me over and over and again. But what was I supposed to do?

I tried again, and as soon as I heard that cute music and cartoon voice, I pressed stop as quickly as I could. Luckily, the fax machine prints off a piece of paper that tells you whether it worked or not, and what number you dialed. I realized what I needed to fix.

I got it done, don't worry about that, and sent off stuff to Korea. And that costs a lot, so don't ever send anything to me.

The end. For now.