Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Living on a Movie Set

Oh no! Monotony!
Well, maybe "monotony" is not the right word, but for the first time since I've been here I don't really have anything new or exciting to post about. I guess [almost] three weeks is a good amount of time to be used to my surroundings.
I went shopping last weekend and snapped a few uninteresting photos - here are two of them:
This is a funny street because of all the signs.
 These are my two reusable shopping bags (they charge for plastic ones), and my trusty umbrella, which I never leave the house without. They are on my lap and I am on the bus. 

Still, I've not really ventured out looking for adventure, but I bet that I'll finally get to Seoul before long, and I will definitely post about that. I have heard for quite a long time how Seoul is really on the so-called "cutting edge" as far as technology goes, so I've set my expectations on something similar to a mix of Rouge City (from the film A.I.) and Coruscant (from Star Wars) - I'm hoping to catch a glimpse of the flying cars if it's a clear day. I'll also look into a jet pack if they're not too expensive.
I'll be finishing up my third week soon. It has gone by fast, and I'm beginning to feel like I've been here much longer. I've got most things in the Village figured out, but the garbage thing takes getting used to: mandatory sorting/recycling and color-coded garbage bags are new to me.
Starting Monday, the special programs end and the regular schedule begins. I've never been in the regular schedule. So much for getting used to stuff.
This is a lovely statue by my apartment. It's hard to see how shifty its eyes are by this picture.

Last night, as I was sitting at my desk - oh yeah! I got a desk! - in my room, I was chatting merrily with Mother and Father as they were getting ready for their day when I saw out of the corner of mine eye a creature most evil scurry passed my foot. Behold! An arachnid with muscled legs and a body like a peanut was invading! Because of the little beast I had to end my call and hunt for it. I thought I had mashed it dead, but upon lifting the rain boot I was using as a bludgeon, there were no guts to be found.
Fear set in.
Later, I saw an unwelcome black shadow in the corner. I grabbed the boot. I attacked. There was sweat and guts and accelerated heart rates (at least in my case - I don't believe that arachnids have hearts. Or souls). After a short scuffle and half a dozen whacks, the monster rolled sadly onto its back and curled into a rough ball, except for the one enormous leg that didn't bend in but instead twitched as it took its time to die.
It was the third incident of an unwelcome guest in my room, as well as the painful death thereof. Let it be a warning to all - even people.
This week also marked the first time I taught a class on my own. I think it was because someone called in sick and my co-teacher had to cover for them. So it was less of "they thought I was ready" and more of "they had no other choice." Regardless, I did just great. If I can help 15 kids make individual kaleidoscopes by myself in one class period without any screaming or fit-throwing I think I did just fine.
It might have helped that I started class by telling them that I was the only teacher and basically begged them to stay calm and listen to the teacher. At the end of the day my throat was sore from all the talking, but I'm better now.

Today there is a film crew and set along the street in the Village, and they've put up temporary sets as well. Awnings and book stands, a fake cafe, flower shops and more - and they'll all be gone by tomorrow. At first we thought EV was just making itself nicer and stuff, but we were sadly mistaken, and knew it, too, when we saw the film crew vans. Should I try to convince the crew to leave their stuff here? I tried taking pictures, but some guy made me stop (though I did get a few, meheheh).
This and the next picture were taken on my iPod from the 2nd floor bridge between two classroom buildings.

This picture is the one I got just before I was told "No pictures!"
 This was after the "No pictures!" but I took this through a window in the teacher prep room, the guy couldn't stop me. The lady in white (under the umbrella) is some super-model and was treated like royalty. She seemed to be such a diva! As soon as "Cut!" was called she covered her eyes and someone rushed to her with the umbrella.
 There is a hole in the window screen in the prep room, so I stuck my camera out and got this picture. In this one especially (and less so in the one above), you can see that the street is covered in bubbles.

 A coworker of mine said that they were filming an ad for a laundry machine or soap or something, and that was the reason for all the bubbles. Is was sorta fun to watch part of what it takes to make a 30 second commercial.
I hear that this sort of stuff is filmed quite often here in EV - commercials, music videos, movie scenes, etc. and it seems that most employees here are annoyed by the fact. I think it's kinda fun. I live on a movie set!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Happy Slideshow!

Between torrents of rain, I've been snapping some pictures of the Village in hopes that I could make a video.
Glorious day! I did it! I took most of these pictures today and yesterday, so don't think that I never change my clothes - because I do. The kids in this video are the kids that I work with this week, and the other adult in one picture is Mina, my co-worker. Enjoy the video!

Sunday, August 14, 2011


For those of you who don't actually know me, I'm a Mormon. For various reasons I've missed church the last few weeks, but today I was able to go! My friend and I rode the bus for about 20 minutes and then walked like two blocks, and my eyes fell upon the church. Chelsea and Adam had already been there a few times, but as it was my first, I was greeted by many people. They were all so nice to me! There were two Korean missionaries who both knew some English, as well as a lady named Julie, and a guy about my age named Jeff. They were so helpful and nice to me.
Since we got to church a little early, I talked with the missionaries and one of them asked if I had seen Mission: Impossible because he said I looked like Tom Cruise. The other missionary agreed and asked if I get that a lot. I don't. I told them no, but I do get Harry Potter sometimes, and they both thought that was funny.
Church was good, even though I only had about 1/30th of it translated. I found the lesson and read it and the scriptures too, so I still got the lesson.
After church ended, we Americans were invited to stay after for a pot luck/birthday party for a recent convert who turned 70. It was very nice of the ward to welcome us, so we stayed for a bite to eat. It was the first non-cafeteria, actually-made-with-love-and-stuff food I've had here.I tried a little of it all, and I liked most of it. After we had finished, a member gave us a ride back to the Village. It was especially nice because it began to rain really hard.
It's nice to be treated so kindly!
So that was today.
Yesterday I went to Ilsan with my Cedar Friends to see a movie. Here is my ticket:
In case you can't read it (because I sure can't), it was for Harry Potter. The theater was on the tenth floor of the building, but we got there early enough that we had lunch in either basement 1 or 2 at McDonald's. All of the people at the counters have been so patient and helpful. I ordered what I thought to be a hamburger, but the meat was something else that I later found out was pronounced buh-GOH-gee. I don't know what it was, but I liked it a lot. I figure it was McD's so nothing could be any more harmful than their regular food.
After The movie in the quite small theater, we ventured to an actual Costco, also in Ilsan. It was just like Costco back home, except the 7 floors above ground were for parking only, and the 2 floors underground were the actual store. It was the most westernized experience yet. It was so crowded, but it was pretty easy to find my friends because I just had to scan the place for a white person.
After that we rode the bus home and I got so turned around that I didn't even realize we were home when the bus stopped.
And now I'm doing laundry and hanging my stuff up to dry. The rain comes and goes, but the temperature has been nice. And now I'm going to go play the piano.

Friday, August 12, 2011

One Week Down

Today I finished up a full week of work at the Village. In some ways it's amazing how fast it went, but some days I thought the day would never end.
I've been meeting many other teachers, and though I'm still new, I'm making acquaintances that might eventually request my friendship on facebook. That's how we young people know what's legit: relationships, friendships, what someone had for's all there on fb.
I worked with a couple of classes this week. It's kind of hard to explain how the classes are set up and divided, but this week there were six classes of about 15-17 kids aged 9 - 13. The younger kids were FAR more fun than the older kids. It seems that it's not just the movies or American schools where 13 year-old girls are evil two-faced monsters.
On Wednesday or Thursday as I was walking to "City Hall" to clock in via my finger print (way cool) I noticed camera crews and stuff in my usual path. I guess things are filmed here often, and I heard that this time they were filming parts of a music video. Here's a picture of the scene from the top of the stairs by my apartment:
It was not raining that day, but everything still looks wet because nothing ever dries here. I can't wait to laundry!
If you look very closely, you can see a water fountain in the distance, just to the left of the pillars of the building on the right (basically the slightly dark spot on the ground - if you don't see it, it actually doesn't matter). Well, the other day, my co-teacher and I were walking our class to their next class and passed that water fountain. There were lots of other kids around, but one rotten little boy was aiming to throw his empty drink bottle into one of the upper tiers of the fountain (I'm sure because another kid had succeeded at it just moments before). The boy leaned slightly forward and took aim. When he tossed the bottle, his feet slipped from under him and he fell face-first into the fountain! It was SO funny! It took a lot of effort to not laugh. I was literally 5 feet away from him when it happened.
There is some kind of insect in the trees around here that screams so loud! It almost sounds like the constant chirping of a security alarm. When I walk past the trees that the bugs are in, I look really close to try and see what is making the noise, but they must be really small.
Today it drizzled all day. It felt much like when the neighbor's sprinklers are on and you can feel the mist in your own yard. It was like that all day until this evening when it started to really pour, lightning and all. I actually went shopping again tonight (and thus was out in the rain), but this time I went with 3 other people to E-mart and we took a taxi both ways. Turns out there is an E-mart much closer than the one I went to last week, and it is much MUCH better too. There was no cramped isles, the store was spacious and much more like a modern Target or Walmart. They even have a Popeye's, which was were I also had dinner.
Thing of note which I purchased: dish soap (thanks to a very kind lady who knew enough English to help me find it), more plum juice and another flavor called Black Raspberry, a light green blanket for my forlorn bed and for the winter months, and some extra passport-sized photos. The photo requirements included that I could not smile, so I didn't - instead I look totally pissed. Also I look like I'm 16 years old, except with an impeccable complexion. The photos were cheap, and done pretty quickly.
Tomorrow is my first day off, and I plan to lazily enjoy the day. If the weather is nice I'll go for a walk and take pictures to post here.
To tie some of you over, here are a few random pictures I snapped while walking around the village the other day. Let me know what you think!
(This is "City Hall" where I clock in and out of work)

(This is looking up part of Market Street. That trolley is for looks only. It's also where they were filming)

(I can't remember why I took this or the next picture.... The architecture styles are so mixed, lot's of Roman and European styles)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 2 of Teaching English

Today is Tuesday and my second day at work.
During the summer there are special programs, but the one I've been put in for this month is just the regular One Week Program.
Students come to EV for a week and (supposedly) have fun learning different things and playing games while only speaking English. To start out their stay, they begin at "Immigration" near the front gate, where they are given their passports to fill with stickers.
As you may have heard on the news, there is/was a typhoon here during the last week, and yesterday it rained constantly. I had rain boots, so I was totally fine.
I went to a few classes just to observe, but before long I was pulled out by some of the bosses to do some paperwork.
After that, I spent a few hours in the hospital. But don't worry, it wasn't because I slipped on some wet stairs and crashed to the bottom where I landed in a heap with a cracked scapula and vertebrae in front of 30 little kids - that was a different teacher. I had to go to the hospital to get my medical exam. I didn't realize they'd take blood, so I kinda got nervous about that. I think they should have told me that after my blood pressure test. Having my blood stolen out of my body was uncomfortable, but I lived.
Perhaps the more uncomfortable thing was peeing in a cup, then having to walk a long walk down the hallway pretending it was no big deal that I was holding a clear plastic cup full of urine to give to the nurse. You might say that I was being ridiculous and that no one cared. Well let me tell you, if I saw someone carrying a cup of pee, regardless of circumstance, I would totally judge them.
Today I went to some of the shops in EV and saw all sorts of fun things. First of all, they sell solar powered bobbleheads. I don't think anyone could look at one and not feel good. It's like the force you to fell happy. Since I have a window in my room I will have to get one. Or 20.
One thing (or two) my room needs is a plant and maybe a rug. Plants in the house bring good feelings as long as the plant is not poisonous or dead. There's not much more reasoning to it. My floor, however, is super short industrial-type carpet, and it acts just like a lint brush. I don't think vacuuming would do anything to clean it. Perhaps a very stiff broom would.
I bought an umbrella today because I didn't have one during the storm. Today is sunny and SO humid! I haven't needed my new umbrella yet, but people here carry theirs all the time, so I will too.
Since I'm just "shadowing" for now, I'm not really doing the actual teaching just yet. I feel like a teacher's aide instead. It's all fine by me for now, but I suspect I'll be swimming in the deep end before much longer.
Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Royal Bedchamber

I've been here for a full day, and besides the humidity, everything is great. Thank goodness I have two friends who already know how life works here and are kind enough to help me out and go shopping with me.
Here are pictures of my apartment and the view out my window.

The buildings are other apartments for teachers.
In my own royal bedchamber I have no table, and about 2 square feet of counter space, which is filled currently with a few food items left for me by the welcoming committee, along with some of the things I got while shopping today.
Yep, I went shopping today. My friend Chelsea was so helpful and planned to do her shopping today with me. She knew the right words to tell the bus driver to get us to E Mart (like a Walmart from the '90's, I guess, but way more crammed and has about 7 floors), which took probably 45 minutes...? I was taking in all the sights, which included North Korea, the high fences and excessive barbed wire on the south side of the border, lots and lots of stores and shops with brightly colored signs, and sculptures and artwork on almost every corner. When we finally got to to the store, I had to use all my faculties to figure out what things were. I only had to by a few essential things, like hand soap, some silverware, and some food, but when everything is in a language I don't know, it can be really hard to know what I'm buying. I'm pretty sure I got all the right things, but until I open up what I think is laundry soap I won't be sure.
At least Chelsea helped me out, as well as an E Mart employee who could tell I was trying to decide which shampoo to buy. I found the shampoo just fine, but, just like in american stores, there were many many varieties. I wanted to be sure to just get regular shampoo for regular hair, and while I was looking, the employee got my attention and pointed to a gigantic 3-pack of shampoo/conditioner/who-knows-what-else, then mimed washing her hair. It was very nice of her, but it wasn't very helpful since I already knew I was looking at shampoo. In the end I found some that seemed normal, and it was inexpensive compared to the "luxury" brands.
After shopping on that floor, we went down a floor to B1 to get food things. I don't know if I've ever been in a more crowded grocer before. The closest I can compare it to is the Whole Foods on Columbus Circle in New York because they were both underground and bursting with people. The difference is that I could tell what things were just by looking at them back in Whole Foods, and that at the end of every isle in E Mart they were trying to get everyone to sample iced tea and like one other thing that looked like extra wet mud. I bought basic things to feed myself, like cereal and milk and eggs, and called it good. We decided to take a 15 minute taxi back to GEV to protect our perishable food. That, and we didn't want to wait forever for a bus in the sticky heat.
After all that I decided I needed to eat, and since we get a free meal everyday at the cafeteria, I decided to go eat there. I was one of two people there to have dinner, and CNN was on (In English!) to keep my English up. I got rice and potato cakes (like hash-brown patties) and some kind of chicken(?) nugget things and a light soup, and the thing that everybody warned me about: kimchi.
I'll try anything twice, so I went for a small helping with my rice, and it actually was not terrible. It was spicy though. Way spicy. I think I'll wait a while before I try it again. By the time I was finishing up my food, people started pouring in. They looked to be teenagers and there were probably 50 or so. I don't know what they were doing upstairs in the teachers' cafeteria, but I was finishing my food anyway and left pretty soon after that. 
They offer spoons, forks, and chopsticks to eat with, and I got all three. The chopsticks are metal like the other silverware, and so much harder to use than the crappy wooden kind you get at Panda Express! The are slick and don't grip the food to well, and they are heavy too. They'd be great stab weapons, though.
And now, at the end of the day, I am tired and ready for bed. I showered with cold water to get the heat off, and it turned out that my shampoo choice was a good one. I've sorta figured out the fan/air-conditioning (or "aircon" as the call it here) machine so I don't have to baste in my juices anymore. It makes it 1000% better.
Tomorrow I start my actual job, and I'm excited and a little nervous. I'll have to post later about it.

As a random afterthought: My sleep schedule back home was a mess, but I think that it actually helped in that I can now feel tired at 9 instead of after midnight. So, "yay" for that.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Long, Long Flight

I'm finally in South Korea!
The following stuff I typed - on the airplane - while getting to Korea. Probably around the10th hour in the air. I'll do another post later about the English Village itself.

I don't know how flight attendants can keep a smile on after 12 hours on a plane. Maybe it's because they have something to do to keep busy rather than sit in the same spot for literally half the day. I got up to use the restroom simply because I was bored.This is the third flight that I've been on that was longer than 10 hours. I'll get to do it again in a year!There are like 8 other white people on this plane of hundreds.Anyway, after traveling for 24 hours total, I'm looking forward to "getting there". I've watched either three or four movies and at least six episodes of tv shows. At least I have my personal entertainment console in front of me.The weirdest thing about this flight is that it's been light outside the whole way. I left Friday morning and will arrive Saturday evening. It's too hard to think about so I'm just not going to.Being quite tired will allow me to fall asleep quickly tonight and hopefully get into the right sleep cycle. I have my propeller alarm clock to assist in waking up too (thanks you Danessa!).As of right now I'm over the Japanese sea (I don't know if that's actually what it's called) and traveled like 10,000 miles or kilometers. I can't tell for sure because it's in Korean.I had window seats for both flights.Less than an hour till landing!Did you know that you get two free checked bags for international flights? It's true!It's 2:30 am back home right now. My body is needing a flat sleeping area. I'll wait till I have a bed though.I video chatted with mother during the layover in San Francisco and it was fun. I love technology.I filled out my customs card and marked "business" as my reason for coming. I feel so important now. I didn't mark sightseeing, no. I'm here for work!In the cabin of the plane they've kept the lights low the whole time and everyone has had their windows closed. I can't help but to peek out my window every so often, but it lets ultra bright light in, temporarily blinding me and making other people turn to dust. After looking at vast white expanses of clouds and nothing else (except for Japan a while back) I get bored and I close my window again. Then I can't see anything till my eyes adjust. At least flying to SF offered variety in landscape. Actually, somewhere over Nevada/California I saw George Washington's face on top of a mountain due to shadows and shrubbery. I wondered if anyone else in the history of forever ever saw that spot and thought the same.My dinner (the most recent meal?) came with a hershey bar, but I put it in my bag for later. I don't want to puke. I think it's weird/funny/dumb that they give you drinks - including water - all day long, but with the meals they give you a four ounce cup of water with a foil sealed lid. What is the purpose?30 minutes left! I remember thinking on the way back from London that I never wanted to endure such a long flight ever again. Why don't we have teleportation yet?My eyes are suddenly reeeaaly trying to tell my body that it needs sleep. It seems that every time I did fall asleepI would be immediately woken by someone offering me a drink or nuts.The pilot just announced that there is a rain storm in Seoul now. Good thing I brought rain boots! I will be all the rage. 
I look out the window and I SEE KOREA!!!!!
Those were my thoughts, as typed on my iPod. This next sentence is my thought later that night.
And now I'm on top of my bed trying to let the humidity evaporate off me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's Been Nearly a Month!

I have been meaning to write something blog-worthy, if there is such a thing, for a month now, and the closest I came was on July 14th. I had my ticket for the midnight premier of "Harry Potter and the Last Movie" and spent the day contemplating my wicked youth and childhood, and thought how JK Rowling must have done something good by writing her books.
Like probably every other person who had ever read, watched, and liked the HP series, it was a sort of sad occasion, seeing our beloved series come to a close. I planned on letting my childhood officially close when the movie ended, followed immediately by slumping from my chair and onto the floor, where I would roll under the seat and lie there until someone had the gall to drag me out to the parking lot, curb, or dumpster with all the old uneaten popcorn and the old-popcorn-loving mice.
After two weeks of laying on the sticky floor the movie theater, someone finally had the audacity to make me leave.

So now I'm a grown-up and have responsibilities and stuff, but I had a great youth and childhood (which lasted into my 24th year) and even though HP is finished, it's not gone. I really liked the movie - which was made even better by the fun people in the theater - and thought it was a perfect close to the series.

Also in the last month, I continued to do piles of paperwork, this time actually getting my documents to Korea, getting a Visa issuance number back, and sending more stuff (including my passport) off to the Korean Consulate in San Francisco to actually get my Visa.

Guess what?! Today my passport came back to me with the Visa inside - my permission slip to book a flight to Korea!!!
After doing some basic airline price searching and stuff, I bought my ticket to Seoul, Korea. I'm flying away this Friday morning. That means I have about a day and a half to get all my stuff together and my room packed up. I-think-I-can!-I-think-I-can!

Last night my dear friend Rachel and I visited and hung pictures on the walls using a screwdriver as a hammer and an actual level to make them, uh, level. Then we watched a bunch of Modern Family episodes while watercolor painting. It was my first time using actual real watercolors (meaning they didn't come from Crayola) and I had fun. I painted on a big piece of cardboard - like 11" by 36" or something - and lo! it turned out pretty! Here is a picture:
If  I were not moving right away, I might try painting again. Oh well, I have the rest of my life to get around to it.

In other Harry Potter news, JK Rowling announced a new site called, which officially opens in October. It was announced, however, that there would be some lucky people granted with early access, but that there would be some clue-answering and swiftness involved in earning the chance.
Needless to say, I really wanted to be a part of it, so I stayed up late waiting for the clue to be given, and when it was, I raced through the process and registered. Later I got an email with happy news!
So I may have to wait a few weeks, who cares? I'm still pretty excited. I feel like a sweepstakes winner, or like that one time when I won a signed, unreleased-in-the-States, single from Enya. Literally, that did happen. Here's proof:
She wrote "GrĂ¡ o Enya," which is Gaelic for "Love from Enya." Aw, she loves me!
I used to be a huge fan of her and her music. I still am, but not as crazy as I used to be.

Anyway, I should get started with packing, putting it off will be more consequential than my usual procrastination. There are no sparknotes when it comes to being prepared for international travel. College was so easy compared the this!

My next blog post will be from South Korea! Wish me luck!