Monday, July 10, 2006

A new entry

So, how about a current entry?? :-) Now that I've given you all the backlog of typing I had been storing up last week, I think it's only fair that I write an entry that will bring you up to date with this week.

First of all, what a long-ass week this was! I really underestimated how fucking BORING it would be to teach the same lesson hour after hour, day after day. I mean, I thought it would be a challenge, but I never thought I would just plain get tired of hearing my own damn voice.

As the "doctor", I have to teach the kids about different symptoms, illnesses, and how to dialogue with a doctor. There is a specific lesson plan in place for this, but it sucks. And the timing is all wrong (they give enough crappy material there to last for over an hour when I only have 45 minutes). So, I have adapted it, and I think it works fairly well. It's just that when you deliver the same lesson all day, you wish you could turn your own ears off.

Other than that, this week has been fine. I've gotten to know a few of the teachers a little better. Ryan, Emma, and I had a "West Wing" night, so that was a lot of fun. I went to the Carrefour with Daniel, Siamad, and a new girl named Amy (from Minneapolis). We finally got our bank accounts open, with $200 in them as a settling-in allowance. I needed some more groceries and was keen to explore the Carrefour further.

It was so nice to go around the Carrefour with no time pressure. I discovered that they did, indeed, have balsamic vinegar (and quite a good selection of imported Italian ingredients). Also, I nearly whooped with joy when I was in the dairy section and saw that there was a hidden escalator that would take you up to the Wal-Mart type floor, thus solving the mystery from my last trip when I couldn't figure out how people were able to pay for groceries and household goods at the same time. I ended up spending too much money on things like Tabasco ($5/bottle) and imported Italian tomato puree ($4/bottle), but it was worth it to have a stocked cupboard. In fact, I made spaghetti for my main meal this weekend, and it was like having it for the first time!

Daniel and I hung out Friday night (I was sick and holing up in my room), and it was nice to have a long conversation with someone. We ended up going out on Saturday to this place called Yongsan. He needed a plug adaptor for his Playstation and had been told, "Oh, you need to go to Yongsan" but didn't know any specifics beyond that. We figured that we would take the subway there (my first time on it) and walk around a bit, and if we couldn't find a suitable store just grab some dinner and come home.

The subway was a cool experience, except for the fact that everyone was staring at us. Now, I'm fat and he's black. We are oddities, to be sure. But come on!! You've seen movies, people!! We're not total freaks here! Still, we got stares the whole time we were on the subway. There was this one old grandma with her eyebrows tattooed on (in dark blue) who kept staring at Daniel and obviously talking to her friend about us. He just stared back at her, bitching about her in English. Then, when the person next to her got up to leave, she smiled so sweet and motioned to me that I should sit down. She turned out to be so nice!! I told her "thank you" in Korean, but motioned that we were getting off at the next stop. I said to Daniel, "I bet you feel like a horrible person for bitching about that nice old lady! Shame on you!" :-) It was hilarious. Her eyebrows really were blue, too...

Once we got to Yongsan, we immediately saw why everyone had told him to go there. They had a 9 story electronics mall--in the subway station (it was obviously not your run-of-the-mill subway station)!! They had one of everything!! It was truly amazing. The prices weren't super-hot, but they were reasonable. I'll be going there if I end up buying a new digital camera. Anyway, there were so many cool things about this place, and it was just a subway station! There were two huge restaurant areas and a large shopping mall attached. Also, a recreation area that had a great Mexican band playing salsa music right by where we left the subway.

Just writing about this place makes me want to go back. It was just like being in New York, according to the Times Square of Seoul. We came out of the subway area and rounded the corner to find the Mexican band. As we walked closer to them, suddenly a view of the city presented itself and we both just gasped. We must have been at least 4 or 5 stories up at that point, so we could see out over rooftops and into the distance where there were two huge high rises being built. It was just so surprising!

After that, we went into the electronics mall and shopped from floor to floor. Once Daniel found his plug, we went to the restaurant section for dinner. Talk about choices. Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French, American. Fast food, fancy food, ice cream shops. Anything you could want, really. Every place had display cases set up outside their doors with plastic replicas of all the dishes they served. I'm not kidding. They were a little creepy. We chose (or I should really say DANIEL chose) Chinese. I wanted anything but Asian food, but we couldn't agree on any of them. So, we ate sweet and sour pork for dinner (I didn't even think that existed outside of America). I also ordered what was called "Chinese steamed bun", thinking that it would be like these steamed calzones that they sell in the 7-Eleven, but with no stuffing. Well, it never came and never came, so I figured it got lost in translation. Nope, it actually took them about 30 minutes to make and turned out to be 5 pillows of dough that looked like little meringues. Like ribbons of dough, stacked up and baked. They were delicious, but we could only eat a few having already finished our whole meal.

We did, however, have room to try "Red Mango", this dessert place that another American teacher had raved about. All they sell is frozen yogurt, but it is the best I've ever had in my entire life. Now, I'm not talking about TCBY's fake-ice-cream-tasting frozen yogurt. No, this actually tastes like YOGURT, quite tangy and delicious. It actually surprised me when I took the first bite because of the tang...I was expecting it to taste like vanilla. Nope, just plain yogurt, and it *worked*. Phenomonal. The toppings were totally un-American, as well. Whereas in the States, ice cream shops have topping jars filled to overflowing with crushed Butterfingers, jelly worms, Snickers, sprinkles, and only a few mushed up fruit selections...this place was almost all good stuff. Freshly diced fruits, mostly. You get 5 toppings for a small, so I chose diced watermelon, honeydew, pineapple, kiwi, and mandarin oranges. Outstanding. And it was only $4. They did have a couple things like walnuts and maybe even jelly worms, but not much. I will be going there as often as possible.

After gorging ourselves on yogurty goodness, we decided to get a taxi home. Walking out the front of the building, we could see that the whole thing was lit up with neon. It was breathtaking. We were shameless tourists, pointing at the different displays, the water coming down the side that was lit up with changing lights, the front of the building that bulged out over the street, the signs in all the windows. So cool.

We were approached by a taxi driver who looked at my business card with the school's address and offered to take us there for $25. We had no real idea how far we were from the school, so we said sure. Turned out to be an almost hour-long drive (thanks to traffic), so we made quite the deal there. It's so nice to be driven home instead of having to stand up on the subway all the way there.

Driving through the city at night is the best way to see it. By the light of day, it looks a little shabby and dirty. The large crowds grate on your nerves. But at night, it comes alive with neon and the crowds seem bustling and cheerful. You zip down a major thoroughfare and can see the little side streets as you go and they are lit up like pinball machines. You make promises to yourself to explore them later, but they are gone in an instant, always replaced by new. It's utterly enthralling. This place really grows on you.

Anyway, I've been sitting in front of this computer for far too long. I hope all of you are doing well! I miss you! I enjoy reading the comments you leave on the entries, if I haven't already said so. If you don't want to leave me a public comment, you can always click on the "Send a message" link that's at the top of the page under my picture. That will come directly to my email, and I'm pretty sure you don't have to have an account with TravelPod to do it. Anyway, take care everyone and have a great night!

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