Sunday, April 22, 2007

My Night with Miss Korea

So the more time I spend here in Korea the more I realize why I like being in new places so much. Unlike when I'm having fun in the states at a sporting event, a bar, or just with my friends, it's something I have done before in one form or another. But here not only are things fun, they are new too. It brings a refreshing perspective to your daily activities (not that one form of fun is "better" then another, it's just a little different). Well believe me, this posting will be about a fun night, but also about a very different type of night as well. I'm scared as to how long this entry might be, but if you were going to read just one of my postings, this should be the one (so far).
This Saturday started out like many others; a small soju hangover, and sleeping in till noon. But this day was a little different because this was my first weekend in Korea with a cell phone. Yes that's right, up until last week whenever I went home I couldn't contact anyone. I couldn't call anyone to go to dinner, or see a movie, or go hiking...nothing. When I went home, I was home alone, and it was not as cool as when Macaulay Culkin was home alone. Instead of making booby-traps, and eating big bowls of ice cream, I was reading and making peanut butter & Jelly sandwiches. But with the addition of a cell phone into my life I was really hoping it would expand my social network. And just moments after waking up on Saturday afternoon, that's exactly what it did.

A student I tutored in New York City, but is now back in Korea, called me and asked if I was doing anything today. Still in bed, hungry, and half naked my schedule looked about as open as it could possibly be. I ended up taking about a 40minute subway ride down to have dinner with her. Dinner was great. She took me to a restaurant that apparently has its own television show, so it was not the type of place I'd be going on my own. While the dinner with her was a wonderful time, it was what we did after that I will remember for the rest of my life.
We went to a Jim-jil-bong. A jim-jil-bong is a type of Korean sauna. Think YMCA mixed with a New York City gym, yoga, and the movies...all in one. I had read about it a little in my Korean research but really nothing could have prepared me for what was actually going to take place.
I was completely oblivious. On the drive there I was wondering if we were going to go into a sauna together...just the two of us. It's not exactly the prime scenery for a platonic "teacher - student" relationship to flourish. I'm even starting to wonder if we go in naked. I swear I remember something I read saying that you are naked at the sauna's. I'm starting to freak out a little, but because she doesn't speak much English at all, I can't ask her what's on my mind.
We pull up to a huge building and go inside. I couldn't imagine the whole place was dedicated to sauna rooms, but that's what she said. We payed a few dollars at the entrance, were given locker keys, and we took rolled up pieces of cloth. A pink roll for her, and a grey one for me. Then she says to me "meet you at 8". And in an instant my whole perspective changes for the worse.
I'm realizing that we are separating. I will not have to bare myself to her, but now I'm thinking I'm going to have to spend my hours here surrounded by naked Korean men. I still don't know where I'm supposed to go or what I'm supposed to do, but hand gestures are universal, and I separate from the only person I know. She goes downstairs, while I venture upward.
Only two steps into the "men's floor" I can see about 30 naked Korean men. Some are walking around, some are sitting watching tv, some are young, and some are old, but all are naked. I tried to act normal and went in search for my locker. After trying to fit all of my clothes into the "shoes" locker, and kind and fully dressed man took pity on me and led me to my larger locker. I started to disrobe and realized I had no idea what I was doing. I had no towel, no bathing suit, no clue, so I took a look around and just tried to fit in. You know "when in Rome", so I followed were most of the other people were going and I entered another large room. This room looks something like what I would imagine Korean heaven to look like...well Korean heaven full of naked men at least. There were about 7 or 8 different pools, or hot tubs. Some with waterfalls, some with flowing currents, some with statues, and some with beautiful picture backgrounds, and all with elegant overhead lighting. There was an area of men getting massages, and all around the edges of this floor were individual showers. My first stop was at a shower, followed by a dip in the hot tub. Everyone in the hot tub was just watching Korean television on a nice flat screen tv, which were also hanging everywhere in the room. By this time I had basically resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to hang out with these naked men for the next few hours, so I might as well relax. I started talking to another guy, who spoke good English, and his friend who lived in California. They told me there are other floors to this building. Not only a men's and a women's floor, but a coed floor too. Again my mind started to race as if there might be some huge orgy going on, on the floor above me. They quickly put my thoughts to rest by telling me that floor is clothed. Since I told them I came with a lady they suggested I take a look at that floor for her. We went to our lockers, and took out those rolled up pieces of cloth I mentioned earlier. They were shorts and a t-shirt, very baggy, almost like smocks. Then we headed to the other floor.
Right after walking into the coed floor I saw my friend Stella. She looked much cuter in her pink smocks then I did in my grey ones. It was here where we would spend the remainder of the night. It was basically just a communal area. There was a snack stand, a movie theater sized tv screen, pads to sit on all over the floor, and people everywhere. Surrounding the room were little doors, that looked like backyard sheds. However, when you opened these doors, bent over and walked in, they opened up into larger rooms. The rooms were maybe 20'x15' but were shaped like pyramids. Some had walls of intricate gem stone, while others were made of gold, and others still of marble. You would just go into these rooms and "sweat out your impurities". I found them unbelievably relaxing. Each were different levels of hotness, the hottest ones you couldn't take deep breaths in. They even had a cold room too, where everything was white an covered with frost. Two large snowmen kept you company in there.
Throughout the rest of the night it was shifts between the common area, the hot rooms, the cold rooms, and then back to the common area. I ended up meeting about 4 or 5 other English speakers and we all hung out together for the rest of the time. We bought them ice pops, they bought us drinks, and in the middle we talked. There was a period of business card exchange too. We were interested to find out the people we had met were actors on a Korean TV show, and it was then when I found out something really interesting about my friend Stella. She was Miss Korea 1995. Up until that point I just thought she was a beautiful, smart girl, who told me she was a Korean bronze medalist in water skiing. But no, she was a former Miss Korea. Now all of a sudden my day had an even sweeter ring to it. A girl didn't just take me out to dinner, Miss Korea did. And a friend of mine didn't just take me to a Jim-jil-bang, Miss Korea did. I already had a high view of her for going to school in New York, trying to learn English, and wanting to create her own business, but now I think even higher of her. The night ended with an exchange of numbers and a trip down to the lockeroom for one more final shower.
I am sure there are details I am leaving out, and I am sorry for that, but there were so many things to keep track of it would have been near impossible to remember them all. I'm also sorry I couldn't have more pictures for you to see but being the only American brought enough attention to me, I didn't need to be snapping pictures.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My Thoughts on the Tragedy at Virginia Tech

I'm sorry to say, but if you haven't read my last blog about my hiking trip, please do not read it at the same time with this one. Unfortunately, possibly my best day in Korea, so far, shared its date with the unforseen tragedy at Virginia Tech. I didn't know all the information about the event then, so I chose to blog about my hiking experience, but in this posting I plan to be a bit more serious and the two blogs will not read well together. I hope not to put anyone off, but if you were expecting to hear about my travels in this blog you really won't. Whether there is a hundred people reading what I write, or just one, I feel the need to share my thoughts, and I encourage everyone else to do the same in whatever venue you have. We all hoped to never see another Colombine. If it was up to us, all thirty-three of those students would still be laughing, learning, and living the best lives they could, with not even a single thought of danger on there minds. And the shooter, Mr. Cho Seung-Hui, would be getting the treatment it now seems so obvious that he needed. However, that's not the way that it happened. Sadly, the world can be a crueler place then we'd like it to be. But what can we take from this event? I ask myself, how can we learn from it, and make ourselves better, because that is really what life is all about. Life is a constant struggle between success and failure. No matter how good or bad you're doing, it is in the act of striving to be better where real meaningful living takes place. We all make mistakes, and we learn from them (if we're smart), and then we move on as better people...hopefully creating a better world. Well 33 students lost there lives without the opporunity to make this place a better world. 33 young minds, in a place of learning, were quieted forever. Minds that might have one day made us laugh, cry, touched our hearts, or saved our lives, no longer have the opportunity to fulfill there dreams. At least not on there own...
But what if we lived our lives a little fuller with the thoughts of them on our minds? What if we told the people around us that we loved them beacause they made us understand that life is fleeting? What if there deaths meant something to the world? Wouldn't that be learning from this tragedy? The simple act of keeping the image, or news paper heading in your mind is not remembering the event. When people talk of really "remembering" a tragedy they actually mean to be saying 'recognize what you have and don't waste it.' You have the choice, they didn't. Do great things, share your talents, make people laugh, smile, love, and do it not only for you but for those who can no longer do it themselves. And at a time like this, the people who lost loved ones need these type of people around them the most.
I have asked the Principal of my school if he would be interested in sending a letter to Virgina Tech, to express our heartfelt condolences. The shooter was no more a South Korean then the shooters at Columbine were American. He was a troubled individual, an individual that does not represent the peaceful people I have met here in South Korea. I hope that a positive outcome of this tragedy might be an outpouring of love and a strengthening of alleys between two countries. If the opposite happens, it may become the bigger travesity in the end. I do also hope that this days events can help to change America's gun controle laws, but that disscussion is for another time.
Tomorrow life will go on as normal for us, I recognize that, but try to share one gesture of love that you would not have just days ago. Tell someone you appreciate them, like them, love them, or miss them ;) I promise you it will make you feel better. And if we can all make that occurance of "sharing" a normal part of our day, wouldn't that make the world better...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

First Hiking Experience

If you didn't know it, hiking is like the national pastime in Korea. It seems like everyone enjoys it, this is of course besides the few over weight kids I saw this day crying who looked like they would much rather be playing video games, but besides a few exceptions, there is nothing but widespread love for the outdoors here.
Monday was a half-day for the schools physical fitness testing. We were to come in, teach one class, then hang out till lunch while the other teachers had to conduct the tests. Students 40 times, sit-ups, push-ups, and all that other nostalgic analization of our inadequacies. It was always the damn pull-ups that kept me from being the top percent.
All the teachers got off after lunch and we decided to go hiking. After asking every teacher I had come to know in the month here if they were going hiking, and getting NO's from all of them, I really started second guessing this idea. This realization seemed to make the weather get colder, maybe it's too cold to hike? Or it looked like it was going to rain, and I don't want to hiking in the rain. Or I didn't have good enough hiking clothes and I wouldn't fit in. I didn't know where to meet, when to meet, or whom I was meeting with to go hiking. It's amazing how many excuses our mind will make for us to avoid us from looking bad. Luckily I was able to suck it up and head back to the school at 2 where about 15 men were waiting with hiking sticks in hand. I really only knew one of them, and he didn't speak any English. I was the only English speaker. I again was considering pulling a hamstring to get out of a potentially awkward situation. Thank god I didn't. Only moments later Rachel came around the corner, and after a rousing cheer by all the Korean men, she instantly doubled the number of English speakers in the group. She then shared her uneasiness with me about being the only woman in the group, haha, minutes later another woman showed up. We had no more excuses, we were going to make the best of this situation.That is exactly what we did.
I truly love the outdoors. We hiked two mountains this day, one small and one decently big. What exactly does that mean? I'm not sure I don't know the names or sizes of the mountains we climbed, I couldn't be bothered with details, I was having too much fun. After reaching the peak of Mountain #1 we were rewarded with a wonderful view, and even better, a Snickers. These guys come prepared. I hadn't had a full size Snickers bar since I was dressed as Dracula for Halloween back in '01. The view mixed with that combination of chocolate, caramel, and peanuts was a recipe for ecstasy. I was on cloud nine. I also found another place to work out. Believe it or not there are benches, weights, and lifting machines out in the open on the hiking route of this mountain, and many other mountains too. I think Rachel put it best when she said, "Can you believe that? A country that actually promotes physical fitness?" It's also amazing that no one trashes this stuff or steals it. I'm sorry I don't have any pictures of it, I was too dumb struck, but I will be back, and you will see it. Rachel and me were still just talking to ourselves mainly at this point, and we're plenty good company on our own, but it only got better and better. The more we hiked the more pictures I took, and the more people became social. A few Korean words thrown out here and there by myself got great positive responses from the group, and it got them trying to use some English too. We reached the top of the second mountain and it made the view from the first seem like the bunny hill. The scenery was amazing in every direction. Mountains as far as you can see, and not an inch of open space in the valleys that lay between them. It seemed like a sea of apartment buildings. After taking a million pictures, getting a good work out, and having some laughs I was more then content to pack up and head home at around 4. Well that's not how they roll.
On our way down the mountain we stopped and people started emptying out there backpacks, which up until now I figured were full of serious hiking equipment...I was a bit off. Everyone was carrying around food, and alcohol for the descent party. Haha.

Right off the trail with our paper cups, and wooden chop sticks; we dined and drank without a care in the world. The alcohol only loosened people’s tongues more, and we all started talking to each other, in Koreanglish. Laughing, joking, cheersing, and what not. It was around that moment where I asked Rachel what we might be doing if we didn't come, or what we'd be doing back in the states. Her response...watching TV. Sad but true. I'm so happy I decided to go hiking today, and even happier that I decided to try something different by coming to Korea.
As if all of that wasn't enough, we still had more to do and see. After finishing our food and drink, we finished the climb down and it led us to a college campus. I love college campuses. This one was exceptionally beautiful too. Possibly the second best in all of Korea with over 50,000 students. It reminded me of a mixture between Penn State and North Carolina, and anything that reminds me of Penn State instantly makes me happy.
Also being surrounded by women my own age wasn't so bad either, I even heard some English conversation. After a small tour of the campus, we then went to dinner. More food, drink, and fun followed. Then we followed that restaurant with a bar. Then that bar with a taxi ride home where I invited another teacher over for some late night drinks.
Everyone was really awesome, and everyone really opened up as the day went along, myself included. I must have heard lines like "We friends", "I happy", "Much fun" 50 different times. This day really seemed like 4 separate days put together, and it is days like these that I live for. Meeting people, making new friends, creating strong friendships, having new experiences, and seeing the was a full day in every sense of the word. Please check out the complete days pic's on my Picasa photo album link. However, all good things come to an end. I know you thought this entry might not, but it has done just that....Now.

P.S. - Me and Rachel are now "Honorary Hiking Club Members"...ok now it's over.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

First Night in Downtown Seoul

So it's almost Friday, and I have no idea what I'm going to do this weekend, but I'm sure I will come up with something while I'm at work tomorrow, teaching my one class. Last Friday night was my first visit to downtown Seoul's nightlife scene. I didn't know what to expect because around my house there are no clubs, no foreigners, no shirts, no shoes and no problems. It's just not the going out type of place. Apparently the area is a poorer part of Seoul; I've heard it referred to as "Old Seoul", and a blue-collar type of area. I'm not totally sure how true that is, but I think it seems to fit. It really is safe though, or seems that way. No one seems to break the law, and it is amazing how nice a feeling that is. Not having to worry about being pick-pocketed, or beaten up, or bombed by terrorist (if you wanna go extreme) it really is the way life is supposed to be.
So last Friday Rachel came over and we drank "Soju" while watching Borat on my computer. Soju is the national Korean drink, well I'm not sure they have that type of classification, but if they did it would be #1, #2, and #3 on the list. That is because there are three types of it, 19%, 20%, and 21% alcohol. It's basically a beer bottle sized bottle of weak vodka that sells for about one dollar, and they sell it everywhere. EVERYWHERE, like at 7-11, pizza shops, rice huts, E-Mart (the Korean Wal-Mart), candy stores and basically any place that sells stuff that you put in your mouth. Don't take that the wrong way, but yes I'm sure they sell it there too. So we pregammed here a lil, mixing our Soju with Fanta, yup you heard me right, Fanta... now don't YOU wanna Fanta? Don't you? That add is genius. I'm gonna drink a glass of Fanta right now. I just have to take it out of my fridge behind the purple stuff, and Sunny D (I watched too much TV as a child). Mmmm so sugary...Okay where was I, oh yes, going out.
It's only about a 5-minute walk to the subway, then about a half hour trip with one transfer on the subway to the place to be. I can honestly say that's exactly what it was...the place to be. There were a ton of foreigners, tons of young people, and tons of bars. Of course most of them are Karaoke bars, but they probably heard about my hot EMENEM renditions from the teachers party. Just kidding, they aren't mostly Karaoke bars, but they are mixed in there. We ended up going to a bar with a live band and it was a really good time. Nothing spectacular, but a good night out in a new area. It’s not too cheap, about $4 a beer (because I know that's what you all were really wondering), and the bands were okay. It was the first trip of many but it was a success. A cab ride back to my school cost about 7 bucks at 3:30 in the morning. I think this is going to work out just fine. P.S. - Yes, Karl there are strong bottles of alcohol here for less then a dollar, and Fanta, but it's not heaven. Please stop calling me, and no you can't crash here "indefinitely".


Okay, so with a little free time today because the gym was closed for some reason or another (there was a paper taped to the window but it was in Korean, however I gather it said "Closed"), I was able to put up some pictures of things I talked about in earlier posts. So if you’re interested check them out. Otherwise I kinda just wanna catch you all up on some of the events that have gone on in the 3 weeks I've been here. The biggest event so far was on my second day in Korea. It was the schools annual teachers party. It is basically an eating, drinking, Karaoke feast, and it was a lot of fun. At the time I barely knew anyone, but that didn't stop people from being really nice to me. That has to be the best picture of the night...can no one say "Paul YOUR IN THE DAMN PICTURE!!! SIT DOWN" nope, not when they don't speak your language, they just take your camera and then make you look like a fool. It was an awesome night. There was some rookie teacher hazing where we had to sing in front of a schools worth of teachers into a spoon, during dinner. But it was all in good humor. It was my first real taste of the culture. You had to take your shoes off at the door, sit on the floor, and they cooked the food right in front of you. I couldn't sit indian style for more then 10 minutes at a time though, who sits Indian style anyway? I thought that was just for little kids, but that brings me to my first goal to accomplish in my year here in Korea: Get in better shape, strength & flexibility. I felt like a moron not being able to sit the way everyone else was, not like they cared, but I did. When I went to my knees the woman next to me laughed and told me that’s how kids sit at the table in Korea when they're getting punished. So before this trip I always said I was unflexible, like it was a disease I caught, but it's not, it's something I can change so I'm going to change it. Here are some more pics of the night: Me with Mr. Jong
Me with Rachel (another English teacher) and Mr. Kim (the principal) who is a really nice guy, funny, and one of the best English speakers in the school, thank god.

Here is just one table of the 3 that the school was taking up:

Can you see the one white guy in the picture?
That's another foreigner, his name is Paul and he's from Canada. Yup that's right. 3 white people in a school of over a thousand and we have two Paul's. Not cool. Because of this confusion they have made up nicknames for us. His include 'Big Paul" and 'Superman" while mine are 'handsome Paul', 'small Paul', and apparently they kids have some Korean nickname that translates to 'skinhead'. I found a ton of irony in all of this for a number of reasons. They said having two Paul's was too confusing for them, but I teach classes with 12 Mr. Kim’s, 9 Mr. Lee's, and 5 Mr. Pak's. What's so hard about 2 Paul's? Also when anyone referred to me as small Paul...I was bigger then them. It wasn't very PC but it was pretty funny. As for the kids referring to me as skinhead. Everyone here seemed to love to talk about my bald head when I got here. I would say nearly all of my first conversations where about it. I'm not really sure what they thought about it, but they loved saying "so you're going bald, huh?" Or something close to that like "no hair?", "Him hair, you no" all prodding at the same idea. There is even a teacher who is an acupuncturist who wants to give me treatment to help me grow my hair. And yes of course, he's not only the president, he's also a client, he showed me before and after pictures. Alright, well this recap has gone on long enough. You can check out the rest of the pictures from the teachers party night on my Picasa page. I was really dragging today, if I bored you I hope I can cheer you up with a short video from Big Paul:

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another Day, Another Won (Korean Dollar)

So my internet is back up and running. Huray! Rejoice! I'm back to downloading movies, and American tv shows like it's my job. If the FCC or MPA wants to punish me I doubt they'll come get me in Korea. But many of you have asked what my week is like. I plan to make this a short post to let you all in on what a week in Paul's shoes is like here in Korea. First off, I wake up around 7 AM to get to school at 7:50AM.The first class of every day is EBS (English Broadcasting System) which starts at 8AM. It is 40 minutes long and I always have to teach it. Somedays I have to teach it on camera to the whole school, you can imagine how lame that is. But about half of the 40 minutes is spent watching an even lamer video made in 1979. After it I am just supposed to say stuff like "Why do they call him Billy Buttons? Do we like Billy Buttons? Who can facilitate a well thought out discussion on the disintegration of American imperialism?" You know, stuff like that, nothing difficult. Then the rest of the day is 45 minute classes. On monday I have 2, Tuesday 2, Wednesday 4, Thursday 3, and Friday 1. Thats right on Friday I teach for 85 minutes in the whole day. I usually have head to the lunchroom between 11:20AM and 1PM, and if there is all one thing we can agree on about high school it's that we don't miss the lunches, well in Korean high schools is the same. Actually some are okay, but nothing that comes close to Taco Salad back at good old Roxbury HS. So after lunch there is still plenty of school left, but we do have to stay the whole day, from 8AM to 4:30PM. What do I do with the open time you might ask? I'm still pretty slow at making lesson plans, and I have to make tests too (then of course I use G-chat and the internet for hours on end, like the rest of you do at work too). Once school ends I usually hit up the gym to lift some weights, but lifting kilogram weights makes me feel even weaker then when I lift at home. There is somthing about using weights with single digit numbers on them that just make you feel useless. After that I hit up the gymnasium and play some highly competitive Badminton. Did you know that's how you spell Badminton? I didn't up until recently, I mean who plays it? Or talks about it? Or even worse, writes it down? But I must tell you it is an awesome game. It's a ton of fun. It is much more like raquetball then I would have thought. It's fast, competitive, and a good work out. I would have never thought it, but I have really taken to it. But it is a "game", why wouldn't it be fun, people don't make games because they suck, they make them because everyone liked what they were doing. If you are reading this thinking "Eh, badminton isn't for me, it's for little kids, or losers" your only limiting yourself. As much as we all like to think we are different then other people, when you break it down we are all the same. If you get the chance, I suggest you try it. Then after badminton I usually go out for some fried chicken and beers with the other teachers...which only brings me back to my last point (we're all the same).

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Day After...

Okay so after getting the internet hooked up, and everything was working fine, I was told that I wasn't getting the fastest speed internet that I should be getting. I was nervous to change, nothing had gone wrong so far, why fix what isn't broken right? RIGHT!!! I should have not let them touch a thing. Another guy came to my house on Friday and installed a new internet system. It worked really fast friday night. I downloaded "V for Vendetta", and "Borat", both movies I really wanted to see, and they finished downloading within a few hours. It seemed great. That was until the next morning. After me and my computer both woke up on Saturday morning it seems the internet was lost. No surfing the web, no downloading movies, no uploading pictures to this Blog site, nothing. So I'm back in the stone-age again. No internet or cell phone again. It kind of sucks not to be able to talk to people and get this stuff taken care of. I need to talk to a fellow teacher, who speaks English, then ask them to go out of there way to help me. I don't like it. They are very nice about it though, but I just don't enjoy asking them to help me out. Thats probably why I still don't have these important items, but I need to get them soon. On another note, I went out in downtown Seoul this Friday night and it is a really good scene. Lots of young people, lots of foriegners, and lots of things to do. I will fill you in more later.
P.S. - trying to make a blog without the internet at home is annoying...I'm sorry

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Day the World Changed...

Today I got the internet hooked up in my apartment. Yes, that is a big thing, if that sounds lame well then I meant not for me, but for this Blog it's a big deal. I've already started putting up pictures, and I plan to write as close to daily as I can. Okay, continuing on from earlier. Where were we? Oh yes, "The Smell" it was like when you can't find your glasses because you are wearing them. The smell was coming from the drainage hole in the middle of my bathroom floor. I wanted to imagine it was just like every other shower drain I'd ever come across before, but I was only lying to myself. The thing is that Korean bathrooms don't have a "shower" as most westerners have come to think of them. Imagine your bathroom, then take out the shower, and put the shower head on the wall across from the sink, that’s really the only difference...Oh yeah, then put a drainage hole right in the middle of the bathroom floor too. So really the whole bathroom is your shower. Everything gets wet, the toilet, the floor, the walls, the sink, the mirror, and this really scared me (but almost 2 weeks in, I can tell you now that my fears were without merit). Next, I thought I'd outsmart the smell by hanging a scented thing below my sink, much like New York taxi cab's hang the scented trees. Well, it had about as much effect as the trees do, none. It took a few days of dealing with the smell until I realized, like a child who finally saw the way he could climb to get the cookie jar, that simply placing the plunger over the hole utterly and completely takes care of the smell. There is no smell, the smell is now dead, thanks to my trusty Excalibur. That wasn't the only bathroom mishap though. The first morning I showered before work at 7:30 AM (only hours after arriving in Korea) the water was a bitter cold temperature. I swore to myself I could take it, I had to get used to it because I'd already signed up to do this for a year. I told myself I had done it before. The month spent in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala was full of cold showers, and i got used to it there. I kept telling myself this, but it didn't help. After cupping freezing water onto only my most necessary body parts, and washing at least most of the soap off, I cried a little as I put the "big towel" around myself. The biggest towel in the store I bought the night before was no bigger then the ones you get at the YMCA. You know, the very suggestive ones that barely cover all the elderly men? However, my fears of a year spent showering splash to splash were put to bed when my teachers told me I had to change my heat setting. Just a simple button on the thermostat means hot water. It's as simple as that (even though I had my doubts at the time). Now I take nice long hot showers. It's a million times better and everyday I don't take them for granted, as if showering right in front of a mirror isn't enough to put a smile on my face, coupled with the hot water, believe it or not I've become a morning person :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

My Apartment

Okay, so that was my idea of a blogging "cliffhanger"...It's lame I know, but I'm sure I will bore you in a million different ways so if there is one cheap way to keep you interested, you better believe I'm going to take it. Continuing on...My apartment was BEAUTIFUL!!! It was so nice. The second they opened the door I could see new floors, a huge common space, a nice living room, a small bedroom, a kitchen bigger then I've ever had in an apartment, and pretty good furnishings too. I really couldn't believe it. And like all that wasn't enough, then they showed me to my bedroom. I HAVE A KING SIZE BED! Does it get any better then that? My Korean students in New York told me I would most likely end up sleeping on the floor because I'd be too big for most Korean beds. Well they prepared me for the worst, but in reality I'll be sleeping like a king. And believe it or not (well believe it because it's the truth)it goes on. I have a patio too. I can step out of my bedroom and into a small patio. It gets sun light, it has a washing machine on it, and there is a water slide that leads out of it down to the alley and into a huge community pool. Did I loose you with the slide and pool? Okay, so that isn't true, but everything else is really nice. Since everyone I talked to said my place was small, I can't even imagine what they think a big apartment looks like. Just on size, the apartment is at least 3 times larger then I was expecting. Just on cleanliness, the apartment is 5 times cleaner then I was expecting. Over all I give it "3 and a quarter stars". There are however some drawbacks to the apartment. One, it's pretty damn big, and I left all my stuff in America, so for the moment there is just a lot of empty space. I'm not sure if I want to buy stuff to fill it, but some teachers have offered to give me some second hand items, so we'll see how that goes. I bought 1 cup, 1 bowl, 1 plate, 1 knife and chop sticks the 2nd night I was in Korea and that has been my dining set for almost 2 weeks. It's pretty nice stuff really, but it's a pain to do the dishes after every meal. Please do not take your dishwashers for granted. They truly are gifts from above. Now onto the only real drawback, because being too big is hardly a problem. After the first night there I noticed a smell. One of those smells that kind of teases you. You think you smell it in the corner, then when you get to the corner it's gone. Only to smell it again when you least expect it. So I played my college roommates favorite game (besides Nintendo Olympics with the power pad) for a few days, it's called "Find the Smell". I couldn't quite pin it down until my brain started working, but once that happened it seemed so obvious what it was...(schools over I'm out :)