Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas! (Or, The Return of the Prodigal Blogger)

I'm back! It must be a Christmas miracle! It's been a few months since I've written for this blog, and for any possible readers who have possibly noticed, sorry!
Because I've not written in a while, I have a couple posts-worth of stuff to write, but this post right here and now is going to be about my own here and now.

Being on this side of the world has a few advantages, namely, holidays are sorta twice as long: I'll be able to vicariously experience Christmas again on the 26th when I Skype my family on their Christmas morning since there is such a time difference. I wonder if my little package got to them in time?
My own Christmas here has been wonderful. There has been a perfect amount of snow in the English Village to make it look like Hogsmeade and feel nice and holiday-like. I was also able to get work off on Christmas Day (thanks to my weekend boss having a heart), and I was able to go to church and visit with my good friends.
This picture is of the mentioned "Good Friends"

After work on Christmas Eve I traveled to Seoul to spend time with the other single people from church, and we had a nice dinner and a fun gift exchange. I spent the night with a very kind and generous family in Seoul, so getting to services in the morning was really quite easy and quick, which itself was very good because I woke up about 13 minutes before I had to leave (more on that story if you ask for it...actually, no, it's a boring story that goes like this: my phone [alarm] battery died in the night and I thus overslept). For the record, I showered and even still made it to church on time!

My plans for Christmas evening is to go to dinner with many of the people from work to a restaurant called "On The Border" and it has nothing to do with the Korean border it sits so close to. It's actually a Mexican restaurant, and REALLY good. I know this because I had Thanksgiving dinner there last month. Anyway, because I had a few hours before dinner time, and I don't want to go back to EV and then come back to Seoul, I decided to go back to the church to play piano or read or whatever to pass the time. I did have the idea to write a blog post, but then again I've had that idea since September. Turns out, I was bumped off the only piano left by the time I got here because the Korean branch is having a Christmas thing here tonight and they needed the piano. I felt ok about relinquishing the piano because a group came in with a cello, a clarinet, and probably other instruments that I didn't notice because I was grabbing my stuff to leave. I searched for any other piano, but failed to find one, so I found a mostly comfy chair in the main foyer just off the chapel to do the unthinkable: write a blog post.

So here I am, writing this thing. The Koreans are rehearsing for their Christmas program and it sounds wonderful; the arrangements for the carols are amazing, and the pianist is phenomenal! I'm a little jealous. Speaking of Piano stuff, I finally watched and heard someone play Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# minor, and it made me happy to know that it is actually possible to play and that a person with only 10 fingers is fully capable of playing it. It gives me hope. Not that it's the most challenging piece, but of the pieces that I want to learn, it's probably the trickiest. (How does one manage the thumbs?!)

All in all, it has been a wonderful Christmas. I've been able to Skype with my family and spend time with my friends, as well as have really good food that I even helped to make. I think I've been able to have a meaningful Christmas this year because it really wasn't about the decorations or presents - I didn't have anything more that an advent calendar made of plastic wrap and ribbon and candy to decorate my apartment with. I only even watched the first 20 minutes of A Christmas Story (I did watch Flick lick the flagpole). I listened to Christmas music and stayed in touch with family and friends. I wrote a few cards, I read Luke 2. I sang along to carols in church. What more could I ask for?
This Christmas has been wonderful! I love you all!

P.S. My mom said I should post some pictures that I took at the Seoul Lantern Festival last month, so here you go! It was really pretty, and they were all just lanterns!

This one mimics the entrance to a famous palace in Seoul.

This very life-like lantern is an example of a modern, mid-twenties American, with traditional Korean Children playing the background.

Tiger. Tiger, tiger, tiger....

This lantern was really huge, maybe 25-30 feet tall!

Lanterns in a tree...obviously...

I kid you not, this enormous peacock flapped its wings and belched flames. Flames!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chuseok! A Happy Holiday!

Last week we had around 500 students again, but these kids were quite a bit more fun than the previous set. They were more outgoing and willing to participate in class. Friday we had our closing ceremony in the concert hall, but this time there were two musical numbers. There were a couple of boys that had a dancing group at their school, so they performed for everyone during the auspicious occasion. The kids all seemed to enjoy the dances, as is evident by the constant screaming and cheering in the following video.

On Saturday I went shopping for stuff to make a pasta salad that never actually came to be, but while traveling to the store I passed this strange house:

It was made out of dark purple glass! It was the first actual "glass house" I'd ever seen, but as I looked around more as I traveled, I noticed other glass houses to, some dark blue, others sky blue, some black...I wonder why?
Later, when I was at the store, I was browsing for food, and I came across the "International Cuisine" isle. The various countries featured the expected traditional foods: Japan's section had rice and different sauces and stuff, Italy had various pastas, France had some breads and fine chocolates. And then dear ole America had nothing but candy.
It was so funny to me! I had to take the picture. I was happy that there were Mentos in a three-pack for super cheap, so I totally stocked up/went crazy on those. I could eat a Mentos roll everyday for almost a month. I might do it, too.

Here is a picture on the train going into the heart of Seoul.

 While waiting for a certain bus to arrive....

This week, Korea celebrates Chuseok. From what I've gathered, it is a mix of Memorial Day and Thanksgiving. Families all gather and visit ancestral burial places and such. There is  HUGE cemetery by EV and yesterday there were countless cars and  families lining the streets. Because of this holiday, no students come to EV, so the teachers are given the week off! Paid vacation rocks!
To start out the week, I, along with some coworkers (now classified as friends) went to a theme park called Everland! It was very fun, and I took lots of pictures. Instead of doing another photo dump, I made a video using the pictures and videos from my camera (set to music of course), and I hope you like it! I doubt it will have 18,000 views though.
If the video of me on the spinning ride makes you dizzy, just imagine being on the ride itself...

After the park, we stood for about 45 minutes on a really crowded bus back to Seoul, then subway'd back to the other bus station, but the buses were finished for the night. We ended up taxiing back to EV with a very confused cab driver. When I got back in my apartment around 1:20 or so I was so tired! I fell asleep as soon as I got in bed.
It was a great day!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I'm a Model. Seriously.

First of all, thanks to you - the readers of this blog - my visitors count passed 1,000 views last week. I'm sure many are from people stumbling upon this blog by accident, but still, thanks! My precious little blog has readers!
Second, the 30 second video I posted about T.O.P. being at EV has 17,354 views at this time of writing. In youtube numbers, that's not so much, but for Brandon numbers, that's huge! And to think, all I had to do was post a video of a celebrity!

And finally, in a totally random moment, I was asked to be in a photo shoot. I was just walking down the street and a guy asked me if I had 5 minutes to be photographed with an iPad. I knew he wasn't going to murder me for two reasons: They were in EV and had to go through security, and they were already taking outdoor pictures of other people.
I asked one of the crew dudes to take photos with MY camera too, and he gladly did!
There were already 4 or 5 "actual" models there, all posing or about to pose with the iPads and smart phones and laptops. This girl was just finishing up before it was my turn.

The next pictures were all taken with my own camera. It was fun and random and a little awkward, but only awkward because I was holding a display (non-working) model of an iPad and pretending it was real, all while smiling like I was having a grand ole time with the thing.

And there I am, breaking into the world of stardom. How many other people can truly say that they were literally asked off the street for a photo shoot? (And I mean a photo shoot that doesn't show sad-looking homeless people to be shown on the news...)
They probably asked me because I look American and my burnt orange shirt and my shoulder bag made me look like a totally average college student.
Also they got me to do it for free, so....yeah...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Photo Dump

I've been to Seoul. Now everyone can quit being shocked that I haven't been.
This post will be mostly pictures with my explanations. I think they are in chronological order, so I'll get to the Seoul adventure later into this post. Enjoy!

Every Friday we have a "Closing Ceremony" for the students' last activity at EV, and last week's group was huge. This picture is a crappy self-shot of three girls who loved every male teacher they met. It is funny how often they tell teachers that they are beautiful (for women) and handsome (for men), even the boy students. It does wonders for self esteem.

After work on Friday I went with 3 other teachers to a burger joint that literally gives around 10 fries with an order. TEN FRIES! I was warned about it, so I wasn't shocked, but I still felt a bit sad. After dinner we wandered around the shopping center and there was a Lego store! If Chewbacca is in FAO Schwartz Toy Store in NYC, and a Clone Trooper is in Paju, I can only wonder where the rest of the cast is.

Darth Vader here is only about 18 inches tall, but the whole display was pretty fun.

Seoul Tower! I don't even know what it is, but it is famous. This was taken just before we went into the Porta-ghetto Road market streets. Just before this we had been to an English bookstore (yay!) and eaten at Burger King (double yay!). I got cheap ice cream that made the day wonderful.
Proof I was there:

The next couple of pictures were taken in the market place. Besides the constant aroma of smoke and sewer, it was a fun, though crowded, place.
Fans are ridiculously expensive here! These were around 45 dollars!

I think these were all coin purses or pencil cases. There were so many!

Lots of glasses places. I wondered if they did eye exams there too...
For every glasses store, there were 10 bag shops. They like to barter about prices too.

Proof that I went to the place:

A bag full of tiny bears. I don't know what they were for...maybe last-minute crappy Christmas things for the neighbors?

I don't know what this building is but it was tall and big.

A goodies stand on the street.

The subway system was wonderful - very clean and spacious. Adam and Chelsea and I did all our adventures together in Seoul.

Me! My legs are the color of my pants. Well, more light, actually.

Back in Paju, I went grocery shopping. The next two pictures were snapped in the Noodle Isle.

The front gate to EV has a replica Stonehenge. I guess the Druids spoke English too?

This is the sun setting over North Korea. It was really pretty.

These next few pictures were just this last Monday. The weather was perfect! I wish all days felt that way!
This is part of the concert hall. Some days I catch a glance of the hunch-backed bell ringer in there.

This is looking up a deserted Market Street.

Our students played dodge ball outside Monday afternoon, and they were having so much fun. The weather, as I said earlier, was perfect.
Another picture of the Concert Hall.

This big green metal roof thing looks cool, and though it doesn't really provide any shelter, it casts cool shadows.

And what would a week be like without some sort of film crew? This one was very small, only one truck (behind the trees) came for this shoot.

Here is the film set - It's in a currently unused building, and it happened to be right there facing the dodge ball game. I wonder how many rogue balls bounced off the windows? The light inside that room is not from a window, it's the artificial set lights. They were really bright.

And there they are, the worth-sharing pictures from the  last few days. If you read this blog and have comments, I'd love to have them!

Stay tuned for my soon-to-be next post because in it you'll hear all about how I was randomly asked to be in an actual for-real photo shoot today. Until then....

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Movie Set, Part II

It's September!
Today my younger brother flies back to my parents house from his 2-year LDS Mission in Guatemala, and it seems that everyone is quite excited to be there when he arrives. I, however, am not available to be there as I'm literally on the other side of Earth. Or am I?
Thanks to the miracle of iPods, I'll be able to video chat with the family in real time and sort of be there too. When I got back from my mission a few years back, my family had a Wii, and I thought that was cool. My brothers head might blow up at the sight of, get this, a video touch screen (with my precious face on it)!
We are all very happy and proud of my brother and what he has spent the last 2 years doing.
Enough about him, this blog is about me.
The fountain was lit brightly as man-made clouds encircled its babbling waters.

Life on a movie set hasn't changed much, but this week there were a few extra juicy details.
Let me explain this by going back about 10 years in American Pop Culture.
In what was considered to be THE boy band of the very late 90s, N*Sync seemed to rule the radio and steal the hearts of all teen-aged girls in America (little did those teen-aged girls seem to realize, not one of the members of the boy band loved them back). After a few years of unofficially being "the main guy" in N*Sync, Justin Timberlake went on to do a solo album or four, taking with him huge success and the continued love from his even-more-unofficial girlfriends/fans.
Fast-forward to South Korea, 2011.
The very same thing happened here with a boy band called Big Bang and a member called T.O.P. (pronounced "Top"). This week T.O.P. was at EV with a big crew and many extras to film what seemed to be either a music video with action scenes and - dare I say it? - a plot, a la the longer music videos like "Thriller," if that makes sense, or some ad for a company.
Here is a picture of T.O.P.
I couldn't find one with the blonde hair he had while at EV, but I feel
that this picture is the closest I've found to show how alien he looks.

Well, in order to try to delay the inevitable, the Head Teachers at EV decided to tell the students before their classes that T.O.P. was here and that they were to stay out of the way and to not bother anyone. Basically, they told the students they were still at "school."
Like that worked.
All day, getting them to their classes was havoc. Every time the students could see film crew, they'd go crazy trying to get a glimpse of the singer. I tried blocking the door onto the large fountain area to keep the girls in my class to stay inside when, just like you'd see in a comedy movie, the other door burst open with the door I was trying to block. Girls spilled out of the double doors and onto the set. It took substantial effort on the part of several teachers and a fire-hose to get them back in the classroom building.
Later on, after dinner, they were filming right outside of the cafeteria. There were scores of kids hanging around watching, but if the crew wasn't going to make them leave, I wasn't going to try either. It was kinda funny to see all the extras on set because they were all dressed in black business suits with briefcases, walking or sitting around. I couldn't help but to think of the "Burly Brawl" scene from Matrix Reloaded. Compare:
(OK, so there is really no comparison, but it's still what popped into my head.)

These are SOME of the kids lined up to see their famous singer.

 Here is the set where they were actually filming. There is a dead guy on the ground.

And here is the video with, get this, TWO takes! I'm a regular paparazzi.
(Confession - I actually had NO idea who T.O.P. was until after I made
this video. Turns out he is the guy that walks out from behind the building
and toward the scooter.)

After all this happened and I had to be back at work - which happened to be in that building with the greenhouse roof - I walked out the other side to see what a group of people were looking at. Turns out Mr. T.O.P. stands back there while waiting for his cue. So yes, I saw the celebrity. I'm pretty sure the celebrity saw me. I'm sure the celebrity didn't care and has forgotten me. Anyway, that was when I found out who the celebrity actually was, as well as noticed how frightening his face looks. It's like David Bowie (see first picture).

As I finished up work today I noticed yet another crew setting up on Market street - right by my place - and snapped a picture or two before getting home and starting this very blog post.
Behold! As I was verily typing I heard loud music from outside and went, with my camera, to investigate!
Here is the actual harrowing account, filmed only moments ago!
And there you have it. Is it hard being among such famous people all the time? It might be for some, though not for me. I figure this is a good opportunity to ease my way into fame without being thrown into the deep end.

Aside from all this excitement, I'm doing well; my apartment stays clean, but that is due the fact that I have almost nothing to make a mess with, and the teaching is fun too. Today in science class we made soap. I'll post pictures in a different post.
Tomorrow I'm going to get my ARC (Alien Registration Card) finally, though I don't know what difference it will make to me - I was paid today just like everyone else who works here - but I guess it's important to follow the law. I'm going to Seoul on Saturday, and I'm excited about that. I'm going to a bookstore too, so I'll have plenty to keep me happy. I'm sure I'll have new things to tell from that trip so stay tuned!

Here is the cat that hangs out just outside my window.  I think
he wants to see your comments on this blog. 
Don't let him down.