Tuesday, December 17, 2013

And...

Though I wrote about liking winter clothes, I should really pin point that I looove the part about wearing hats. Why? I don't have to do my hair! Call it lazy, but hey, when I can spend 2 minutes as opposed to 15 and still look cute, I'll take it! BAM!

:D

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Cali's Girl Winter Survival Essentials

Thanks to winter my purse gets messier carrying around all the crap I wouldn't carry on a regular basis, especially back home. I'd like to think that after two winters I've mastered being ready for winter and that the extra stuff in my purse will get me through. So what is in my purse at the moment?






1) Chapstick ...I've never taken chapstick this seriously until now by the way. It's truly an essential during the winter, you WILL suffer if you don't have one with you ...I learned that the hard way my first winter.

2) Lotion: Hands get dry too, especially after washing them so got to have lotion handy anywhere.

3) Gloves: duh

4) Scarf: and I mean REAL scarfs, none of that thin fabric stuff. The real ones that are so thick that when you wrap them around your neck two times, you feel like you're wearing a neck brace.

5) Sunglasses: 'cuz, you know, I'm from Cali. No, but seriously I'm surprised that not many Koreans wear sunglasses during the winter. I know it's not hot outside, but it's still sunny people!

6) Nose spray: My nose gets super dry during winter and spring back home, so if I don't use the spray, my nose will bleed with the slightest touch, something that usually happens in the mornings. However, now living with REAL seasons, the problem has become worse. Nose bleeds, no gushing nose bleeds will happen randomly throughout the day. Now I have to carry my little spray bottle everywhere to keep my nose nice and moisturized.

7) Tissues: In case of sudden gushing nose bleeds since they still can happen even if I use the spray. Also, walking in cold weather gives me a runny nose so tissues are always needed.

8) Most people carry Vitamin C tablets or little powder thingies. Not me. Those don't do crap for me. I have a secret weapon. When my mom came to visit last summer, she brought me these bottles of coneflower extract. She told me to add 20 drops in my OJ in the morning and 20 before going to bed and that I wouldn't get sick. At first I didn't believe her, so I wasn't too consistent and of course I got sick, twice! The first time I got sick was back in October, so I started taking the drops right away regularly. My cold only lasted one week which amazed me because my colds always last at least 2 weeks. But again I didn't learn my lesson and got sick again last week. Again, I started being consistent with the drops, and alas the cold lasted less than 1 week!

9) Lastly, my favorite thing evah: Facial Spray! This weather will dry out your skin like you never thought possible ...and this is coming from someone who has an extremely oily skin. Not only does the cold weather dry it out, but also being inside with a heater on will do the same. So spray on this little baby on your face and feel instant moisture.

Peace!

PS. My OCD stopped my from posting this yesterday because the list is not an even number ...just though you should know :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

A love/hate affair with winter

Third real winter of my life is just around the corner *insert dramatic DUN DUN DUUUUN!* And to make matters worse, I keep hearing that we already have advisories for cold weather ...AAND we already had the first few flakes fall in Seoul ....no bueno.

My first two winters (first and second) all I did was bitch about it, so before it gets any colder, I would like to tell you some wonderful things about winter that I like. I know I'll probably regret writing this and curse the day I did, but might as well get on with it now while I still have positive thoughts about winter ...or more like whatever positive thoughts that remain from the last two winters.

Just to be clear, I won't talk about the "romantic" things people usually think of about winter ...why? It's given, duh! ...and let's just say those things don't apply at the moment ... *le sigh*

Laundry being dried!
1) My absolute favorite is my ondol*, or floor heater. I never thought I would be in love with such a simple thing. I have experienced other types of heaters, but this one is definitely at the top of the list. Not only does it keep my whole apartment warm and toasty, but it also has other fun purposes. When I do laundry in the winter, I can lay my clothes on the floor and they will be dry in only a few hours (Korea doesn't do dryers by the way in case I haven't mentioned it). Second, before showering, I can lay my PJ's on the floor, and they'll be warm by the time I come out ready for me; same goes for clothes I plan to wear the next day.

*note: the word "ondol" is actually for non-electric heaters from back in the day before even gas, I just like using that word haha.


Rockin' my winter ear muff-ins ...big as my face!
2011-2012 winter



2) Of course I have to talk about winter clothes. Like I've said, in SD we don't have winters like this so we don't spend too much on knit tops and stuff. I actually enjoy shopping for winter clothes because it's still so new to me. Unfortunately though, I have yet to find "my style." I've already done this with summer clothes; I know what I like, so I know what to buy. But I still can't do "cute" winter outfits.  I feel I just buy whatever is on sale or looks OK, but I still feel my outfits are monotone and boring ...gotta keep shopping I guess.


cheese/sausage thing that works on touch screens
3) ...which is also 76. And speaking of clothes, it's really annoying to have to take off my gloves when it's freezing cold to answer a call or look up something quickly. My first winter I got by with a sausage looking thing....wait, say what? Yup, a sausage looking thing that works perfectly on my smart phone without having to take off my gloves ...actually, I think inside the tube thingy is cheese. Anyways, then last year I bought a "smart" pen which works just like the sausage thing. BUUUUT this year, I have "smart gloves" muahahaha. No need to take off my gloves anymore! The tips apparently have something in them that conducts electricity from my finger to the smart phone? I have no idea about the science behind it, but they work!


**Update: Apparently these smart gloves are not news to my winterless San Diegans; my sister told me she's seen them before in SD. Well, they are still new to me, and I love them!

4) Snow, snow, SNOW! It's still so pretty and mesmerizing to see the city covered in snow ...oh I'm such a Cali girl. I can't wait to take walks when it's snowing and the city is all covered in white.

And with all that snow of course we gotta do all those winter sports. Last winter I think I went snowboarding 3 times haha. It's so cheap too!!! ...suck it Big Bear slopes and your expensive lift tickets!


5) Lastly, which should be my favorite, is that for some reason even if I pig out every single day, my weight stays the same, or I might even lose weight. My first winter I lost some weight, not much but enough to notice. My second winter I stayed the same while I was pigging out on food ...I was a bit sad because vacation was boring and long haha. Again, I don't know about the science behind it, but last year my Korean coworker said "oh yeah, your body is using up more energy to keep you warm" ... sounds like a legit explanation to me xD ...let's see what happens this winter.

I know that's only a total of 5 things, but coming from a person who doesn't really do winter, that's already a lot.

What do YOU like about winter?

Peace!



Saturday, November 9, 2013

75. 봉숭아 (Bongsunga) nail dye

I noticed this last year with my little 4th grader girls, but I brushed it off as just messy finger paint. Then this year, I noticed it again on my university students (who are all girls). I noticed that many of them had their nails done in the same exact color, a light orange color. At first I thought it wasn't anything, but I started seeing it more and more; I knew it had to be something special.


I asked my student if I could take a picture of her nails ^^
I finally asked one of my students what was the deal with the orange color and she told me all about it. She first explained that around this season, a flower blooms which can be used as nail dye. The girls mash the petals and put the mush on their fingernails. They then wrap the fingernails using the leaves of the same plant and some plastic film to keep it in place overnight. The next morning they remove the film, leaves, and mush and voilà! Their nails are now a purty orange color. 

She also told me that nowadays, if you don't want to go through the whole ordeal, there's a quicker way. Now, you can actually just buy the flower in form of a powder at your local cosmetic store. It's less messy, but apparently it lasts less than the real thing.


This is the flower they use, Garden Balsam ...although not sure which color it's supposed to be.
So why do girls do this? ...aside from being fun! My student told me that there's actually a nice little belief behind it. She said that when girls do it, they make a wish. Once the first snow falls, if they still have the dye on their nails, then their wish comes true! 

I should try it and make a wish too! ㅋㅋㅋ

Peace!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

And then there was one...

Last time I talked about wedding cars, and a few weeks ago I went to my friend's wedding, Eunji, and guess what? They had a wedding car! I liked that they went with red and not pink since that's what I see the most.





















71. This takes me the next item on the list, Catholic weddings in Korea. Yes, I've written about weddings before, but that was the standard "wedding hall" wedding that feels as fake as my eye lashes on Halloween (I really don't mean to be rude, really, they just feel weird) . Anyways, I was raised Catholic, well Mexican Catholic, so it was surprising to see how 
different they are from Korean Catholic.


So what is different?

First of all, the mass was in Korean, so I was lost most of the time. I just followed people with the whole sit-down/stand up thing. 

A couple things that were not part of the wedding, which are huuuuuge in my culture, were the lasso and the arrhae (or unity coins). I didn't notice anything similar to symbolize the union either, I'm assuming it's because in the traditional Korean wedding there are lots of similar symbols, so they are not needed in the religious ceremony.


Eunji's traditional Korean wedding

This was also my first Korean Catholic mass, and one thing I noticed that was pretty interesting is that when we gave the sign of peace, instead of a handshake, it was a bow. Totally took me by surprise because I knew right away what the priest meant as people starting moving around, so as I turned to the person next to me, she bowed as I was about to extend my arm ...awkward! 


Another thing was that the priest busted out a song! He sang "My Way", which to be honest I (and other people) felt like it wasn't an appropriate song for a wedding in a church. Then also, two friends (?) of Eunji sang for the couple. I'm not sure whether this was just something for the couple or if it's normal to sing to a couple. I've never really witnessed this before (except here), it's actually a cool and sweet idea, I think. 


 

There was also no "you may kiss your bride," which is not necessarily Catholic, but still.

One interesting thing is that Koreans are given Catholic names when they are baptized, so Eunji's is Micaela and SeungJin's is Gregorio. Throughout the ceremony, the priest would alternate between the names.

Lastly, obviously since Mexican Catholicism is mixed with Aztec beliefs, there was no Virgen de la Guadalupe which means there was no ramo (offering) for her.

Everything else was pretty much the same.

72. Kimchi fridges
This whole wedding business leads me into the next item. A tradition Koreans have here for weddings is the groom (or maybe groom's parents?) buy the home for the new couple while the bride's parents buy the furniture and appliances. And one important appliance most Koreans have in their home is a kimchi fridge!


This is what they usually look like, smaller than the standard ones. And yes, a home will have a normal one and a kimchi one.

What is a kimchi fridge you ask? Exactly what it sounds like: a fridge for your kimchi. So why is it needed? I honestly don't know. The only thing I can speculate is that kimchi is stinky, it will stink the crap out of a fridge so a separate one is needed ...lesson learned, trust me, I don't buy kimchi anymore haha. 

I actually do have another guess: Kimchi requires fermentation, so maybe the fridge has a special setting that helps? Anybody can shed a light on this?

73. Dog shoes. Winter is coming. Puppies need to keep warm, thus ...



I'm also assuming these are used to that the doggies don't get their lil paws dirty when they take walks. I'm sooooo buying some for Bambino!

74. Letterman jackets. When we think of letterman jackets, we think of high school sports. But here in Korea, high schoolers don't have that culture; however,  they have adopted using letterman jackets, not for sports in high school, but for university students to represent their department. 


Here are some examples from the university where I work. One is from my students from the French Department and the other is from one of my students from the English Department. 





a de los Muertos is just around the corner, and I am ready! ...Hope my visitors don't scare the crap out of my neighbors. I still need to find some cempazuchitl (orange marigold), I know, but I can't buy it anywhere! ...I'm going to have to steal it from somewhere like I did last year. Funny thing, I haven't seen it in any flower shop, but lots of places have them on their pots outside their businesses.










I didn't want to end this entry on a sad note, but there is one last thing I want to mention, I am officially the last member of Team Amurrica remaining. Ana has left Korea (for now I hope), and she's safely back in Florida with family and friends ...and fooooood!!!! If you've read my blog, you probably noticed that most of my adventures were with her, what am I going to do now with out my FlaCa?!? (Florida + California = FlaCa lol). Who's going to drag me out on a hike? Who's going to come up with the random traveling ideas? Who's going to go on Taco Adventures with me? :(


Peace ya'll!

PS. I still need some cheering up so care packages, text messages, Skype calls, and such are greatly appreciated. 



Sunday, October 20, 2013

Julio: Better than Authentic ....um, NOT!

This is the first time I write a restaurant review only because this place was so bad that the world needs to know. I unfortunately do not have pictures of the food or place because I didn't think I'd be writing this, but some of the links below do have them.

I don't consider myself a "foodie" ...I don't eat out often because I'm vegetarian/pescetarian. I also like simple food, I could eat bean and cheese burritos for the rest of my life and I'd be happy (plus horchata hehe), so I don't get too excited about gourmet restaurants. I'm also horrible at buffets because I have a small stomach since I've conditioned it to have 4 small meals throughout the day. Anyways, my point is that maybe I am not 100% qualified to be writing restaurant reviews. But when it comes to Mexican cuisine, well, I do have strong opinions. 

Before anyone thinks that I'm being biased may be right, duh I'm Mexican, I KNOW Mexican food, I grew up eating it every day at home. However, I also do understand fusion cuisine. I actually have had all types of fusion cuisines: Mexican-Korean, Tex-Mex-Korean, French-Mexican, Italian-Mexican, and Americanized Mexican, and I have found some pretty decent stuff that I've found myself going back to every once in a while, so I am not bashing the restaurant for being fusion.

So here it goes...

I've tried many other "Mexican" places in Korea (fusion and non fusion), but I have to say that this place has been the worst. First of all, this place is advertised as "Better Than Authentic"...not even close to what I would call authentic even for Mexican food in Korea, and that's saying something. It really bothers me that it's obviously fusion cuisine, but they are using an utter lie as their tag phrase ...the shame!

We started with a gorgonzola quesadilla as an appetizer. When it arrived, I noticed it had some brown pieces of something  I right away thought it was chicken, but it turned out to be walnuts, wait wait wait, walnuts in a quesadilla? Ew! Plus it came with three dipping sauces one of which was honey. Again ew, big ew. I'm all for trying new things (french fries dipped in ice cream anyone?), but this was just plain nasty.

As my main dish, I ordered the paprika cream veggie enchiladas which was basically a dry Spanish rice burrito covered in an ok tasting sauce (who uses flour tortillas for enchiladas?). It came with a side of canned beans, yes I could tell they were canned! My friend ordered the kimchi fries which were the biggest disappointment of the night. And not because the fusion was bad, but because there was barely any kimchi! It tasted like chilli fries. Go figure it was the Korean side they messed up on. We even asked the waiter if they got the order correct because there was no kimchi in the kimchi fries and he said, "Yes, it's kimchi sauce" ...lies! We also had shrimp tacos which were not served until we reminded them about the order. Shrimp tacos are not rocket science, but I guess for their chefs it is because they were awful ...just a reminder people, the shrimp is supposed to be deep fried not soaked in some weird sauce ...grill them at least please. They did give us complementary chips and salsa for bringing the tacos late. But after a quesadilla, an enchilada, and half a taco, we were too full for them, a drink would've been better.

Now for the good things about the place. The highlight of the place were the drinks. We had the orange upside down Corona margarita, which for 10 bucks wasn't bad. Also, we had a nice table next to the window where we had a nice view of the Cheonggyecheon Stream.

The atmosphere of the place was very cold with American pop music in the background. Maybe I'm just used to Mexican restaurants having more of a cozy vibe to them.

To summarize  don't waste your money here. If you want Mexican-ish food, go to Dos Tacos which is on the same street; atmosphere and food are much better, not authentic, but good for whatever they are trying to do.

Funny thing by the way. I've looked up other reviews (review #1, review #2, review #3) about this restaurant and they all rave about it. Ugh! Someone needs to check their taste buds.

Peace!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Made it to #70!


       I don't want to talk about sad things, so I don't even want to get started on the fact that summer is long over and winter is fast approaching. My first winter in Seoul ... no bueno. A good thing worth mentioning is that I made it to #70 on The List! Wow! Two years later. I probably should have more by now, but I haven't been a dedicated blogger. But that's ok, I'm happy with what I have now and can only hope it will keep getting longer. I remember I made a similar list when I was in Paris ...I think I only got to number 15 haha.

     Things in Korea are good. A bit quiet. It's almost midterm week at my university, and I'm barely getting used to being back to work. This summer two-month vacation seriously messed me up. I mean, I used to do this back when I was a student, but it was different. It's work now. I can't slack off. I can't procrastinate ...as much. I'm of course loving work don't get me wrong. I just have to be an adult ...

Anyways, as promised, here are a few more items which take my list all the way to #70! Enjoy!

66. Couple rings. I've talked about matching couple culture in Korea before, but here is something new: couple rings. I actually learned about these back in San Diego when I had two Korean friends who were a couple, boyfriend-girlfriend not married, but they wore matching rings on their left ring fingers. I asked them what it meant exactly, and they told me it was just a symbol that they were a couple. This was a little hard to understand to be honest because to me they were engagement rings. He put a ring on it, so they were engaged, end of story haha. But no, not really. First of all, when Koreans get engaged, the man does not actually put a ring on it ...hello guys! Where be the diamonds?
     What actually happens is that after a couple has been dating for 100 days, the guy (I think?) buys his-hers matching rings. The couple then just wears the rings to symbolize their relationship. I guess it could be similar to a promise ring but toned down.
     Couple rings aren't as glamourous as engagement rings. The ones I have seen are very simple, they are more like wedding bands. Sometimes they'll have some engravings, but nothing flashy. Cute, right?
   

67. Food brought at different times. This really bugs me sometimes especially if everybody sitting at the table gets their food first and I'm still waiting for mine. But then again, I don't mind when I get it first and everybody else has to wait, suckas!
       In the US when we go to a restaurant, the food is usually ALL brought at the same time. If that doesn't happen, people get angry, complain, and might get a free dessert out of it ...I know I do! But here in Korea, it's perfectly ok to get people's food at different times. I think I've waited up to like 10 minutes after the first plate was brought to the table. The only reasonable thing I can think of why this happens is because they don't want to leave food on the hot plate while the other food (which probably takes longer to cook) is being prepared.

68. Parents setting up their kids. Imagine you are single, how do you find dates? Don't worry my friend, your parents have your back and will find someone in no time! Seriously, your parents will find you dates ...or your pastor will, or your uncle/aunt, or a friend.
      Here it is all about networking, and if it's through parents, then so be it. In the US it's a little more common for friends to set you up with other friends, but here it's your parents who will find someone, or will at least try. People here go on blind dates all the time apparently. They are not always successful of course. Some of my students tell me horror stories about their blind dates and have pledged to never go on one ever again.
      It does make me curious about what kind of man my mom would set me up with ...ok, but not curious enough to have her actually do this.

69. Wedding cars. This isn't new to me, we have these in Mexico, but I was surprised to see this in Korea. Love it. So cheesy and tacky. My favorite thing is when it's a luxury car covered in tacky ribbons and flowers. LUV IT!
      I know in the US we sometimes decorate cars too for weddings, but they aren't even close to what I've seen in Korea.


70. Body scrubs. I finally did it! I was scrubbed from head to toe by an ajumma while I was completely naked and she was only wearing her undies. But let me tell you, best thing ever!
      Ana and I went to a jimjjilbang recently and decided to go all out and pay the extra 25,000won for a body scrub. So how does this go down? Well, like I've said before, when you go into these bath houses, there are absolutely no bathing suits, everybody is in their birthday suit, separated by sex of course. The ritual is to spend a couple hours in the baths, saunas, and then scrub your body. If you are feeling fancy, then you pay for someone else to scrub you down. The women who do this are very professional by the way.
      You lay on a massage table, again naked of course, and an ajumma gets to work. She will scrub every single corner of your body ...and yes, I do mean EVERY corner of your body, lady parts and all. They use a loofa that when you see it you think, "isn't this for washing dishes?" But trust me, they do wonders! The whole process took about 15 minutes, and boy oh boy, I could tell the exfoliation was a success because all this crap came out of my body ...ew! My skin is super soft now though, so um yes this is something I will be doing more often.


So that's it for now. I'll try to work harder so I can make it to #100!
Peace!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer is here ...rain is here too


OK, I'm finally getting around to writing; I've been so lazy lately even though I'm on vacation. I'm usually more productive during vacations, so I don't know why I've pretty much done nothing ...maybe I need a vacation from my vacation.

Anyways, first of all, I want to write about my first semester teaching at Dongduk Women's University. I truly cannot find the words to describe the experience. For the first time, I got to finally work full-time at my dream job. When I was teaching at an elementary, I never got this feeling because it wasn't what I wanted to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I did it since I learned a lot from it, but I was never excited to want to talk about it. Now, I am ...I really am. I want to jump up and down and do my happy dance every time I think about how lucky I am ...

So I'm just like...

A while back, maybe half-way through the semester, I told a few co-workers that I didn't want the semester to end because I was enjoying my job so much. It didn't even feel like a job, it just felt part of who I am ...as cheesy as that sounds hehe, but it's true! It's ridiculous.

I know this will come back to bite me in the tushy from my friends and family, but I can say that I can actually stay a wee bit longer in Korea. I had told everybody that I would only be staying 2 years here, and I meant it ...back then. But why leave such an awesome job? Why go back to California where I'll probably have a hard time looking for a job, a full-time job? Of course I miss everybody, but YOU can come visit me hehehe. Seriously, opportunities like this don't come around often, and I don't plan on wasting this one.

Before I go on my The List, I went bungee jumping and water rafting a couple weeks ago! Here's a video I made ^^. Yes, it was scary as hell! But I've been wanting to do it for so long that I could not chicken out, and I didn't. I got some courage from from someone looking out for me from above ;).





Here's the bungee jump video.


Now The List, a few more odd/interesting things to add.

62. Sweet Potato Lattes
Who knew? All I can say is that these things are AMAZING! A must try. You can buy them at almost all coffee shops, but the best part is you can also buy them from your local supermarket and make it in the confort of your own casa.


63. Weird Costco concoction
       I know different parts of the world eat food differently, like in Europe some people eat french fries with mayo, I eat them with BBQ sauce, some people eat pizza with ranch or tabasco sauce, but it's so freaking weird to see something new every single time, you just can't help making that "gasp" face. 
        The first time I went to Costco in Daegu of course we went straight to the food court to have pizza  ...Murrican Pizza! As we walked through the tables, we noticed that each table, where people were sitting, had a plate in the middle with some weird-looking mountain of yellow stuff. We were a bit curious about it but didn't ask anybody. We then turned our attention to the condiments station, and there we saw it. People we grabbing plates, putting a mountain of onions on it, and then adding TONS of mustard and ketchup, and then mixing it all together. They then take this plate to their table and they use as a side dish to whatever they are eating. It honestly looks really gross to see that pile of yellow onions. Maybe it wouldn't look as bad if each individual made their own little side dish next to their plate of food, but nope, it has to be huge communal plate.

The picture below is blurry because I didn't want to look all creepy taking a picture of somebody else's food, so I had to take one as I was walking, and I didn't want to make my own pile of yellow onions because it was just going to go to waste. 


Here's a better picture I found online ...gross, right?

64. Women's only parking
Suck it men! And no, this is not only for pregnant women, it's for ALL women. So yes, we get to park closer to the entrance. I've only seen this at the supermarket HomePlus, but it's still pretty cool. Yay for me!


65. Fans for men ...not short for fanatics, ok?
Imagine your boyfriend using one of those hand fans to stay cool, attractive image? Not really, but in Korea it's very common and normal. Korea during the summer is horrible! Especially now that the humidity is up to 80%. It's gross to just sit anywhere without moving and still sweat gallons. So of course people have to find ways to stay cool, and by people I mean EVERYBODY.  I've seen mainly older men use fans, but now that I'm in Seoul I see younger men with them often. This bboy in the picture for example hehe. I find it cute, why should women be the only ones who get to use a fan? How are men supposed to stay cool? 



66. Fancy drinks
Summer is here which means it's time for some fancy drinks, in front of 7/11? Yes!! In front of 7/11, or GS market, or CU market, or any other convenience store near you. Since it's pretty hot outside, people want to drink outside, so we usually head to our local convenience store to have a few drinks. How does this work? Pretty simple. Almost all convenience stores will have tables and chairs set up in front, plastic stuff of course. We get a drink and/or snack, take a seat outside, and relax! It's great to just sit there, people watch, and see pretty much daily life. I absolutely love this part of Korean culture. It's cheap. It's simple. It's fun!!

Arm wrestling match at our local 7/11
...the local hang out :D
Fancy drinks ...I miss you Pohang!
Soju (with grape juice), beer, and bokbunja

I can't wait for this rainy season to be over. It've been raining EVERY day for the last two weeks. I don't even want to go out and explore Seoul. Supposedly, the rainy season ends in a couple weeks, just in time for when my mom arrives! Yay, so excited!

Peace!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

60. Spring Festivals

60. Every spring semester around this time, all the universities in Korea have festivals. I have no idea why they have them, but I kind of get the feeling they are like our homecoming festivities...minus football ...plus lots and lots of booze, ok well that is the same too. Actually, I've heard that one of the purposes to have festivals is for other students from other universities to visit different campuses. Not sure if this is true, but it makes sense. The festivals usually last about 3 days and the last day is usually the biggest because they usually have a huge concert. And these are usually big name artists, so it's definitely worth making it out to a couple festivals. Though the concert may not be completely free, it is cheap.

Last year when I was in Pohang, I actually went to the local university's festival without knowing what it was. There were a few international food stands, games, and music. Since I didn't know what it was, nor that they were going to have a concert, I didn't think much of it, so I left pretty early.

Now that I know more about them, I decided to go to a couple. This last week I went to Seoul National University's festival to check it out and hang out with Ana and Bénédicte. I had heard that SNU's festival wasn't all that great, but I still went to at least see it on my own. Unfortunately, I have to agree that it wasn't all that great ...it was awful to be honest. SNU is a pretty big university, it's part of the 'Ivy League' SKY universities, so I was expecting some sort of greatness, boy was I wrong.

When we got to the main lawn, there was no concert ...not even a DJ ...not even someone's iPod plugged in to speakers. There were people sitting on the lawn drinking, but it was all mainly young guys staring at the screen on stage, yes at least they had a stage. On that stage there were about 10 computers where 10 people were playing wait for it... Starcraft .... smh! Really? Really SNU?? This is your idea of fun? I mean I guess to each his own, but I cannot understand how this can be considered entertainment. Nope. Granted, that was one day out of the three, but Ana had mentioned that the day before it wasn't great either. So boo you SNU!

The next day we decided to crash Yonsei's festival, another SKY university. A friend had told us that it was supposed to be really good. Unfortunately we made the big mistake of going to a baseball game on the other side of town so by the time we got to Yonsei it was over. Big fail!

So, so far I haven't been successful with this whole festival thing. However, this coming week is my university's festival, hooray! I think I'll be able to attend all three days, or at least the big concert day. The artists scheduled to perform are Benzino, the Korean one, not the American one, and Verbal Jint; I have no clue who they are, but many of my students are excited to see them.

**UPDATE: I tried, I really did. At least I did make it to the grounds and had a few drinks ...ok, too many drinks. And then the dreaded soju devil *in Sweet Brown's voice* got me ...I got bronchitis! OK not really,but ain't nobody got time for soju anymore ...nope, not this girl.

But I did find out why universities hold festivals, or at least why MY university does. So when we (coworkers and I) were walking towards the school, many girls had signs, were wearing cute outfits and were cheering trying to get people to go to their department stand. The point of this is to go to their stand so you can buy drinks and food so that each department raises money.

And just for fun...

61. Hangover drinks ...cuz we will all need them at some point during these festivals.

I'm not sure whether I've talked about the drinking culture here in Korea, but if you think Americans drink too much, Koreans beat us by far. Their home spirit, soju, will get you drunk faster than you can say annyeonghaseyo (hello in Korean), each bottle costing about a dollar fifty. It' very common to drink at almost any event, even if it's a simple work dinner. I won't get into the details of peer pressure, or more like hazing, from bosses, but it is very real and common.

My point is that drinking is an enormous part of the daily life here, so of course Koreans have these little miracle pre-drinking drinks to avoid bad hangovers. Each little bottle costs more than a bottle of soju, at about five bucks each ...oh soju, why you so cheap?! You are supposed to drink two before drinking and maybe another one before going to bed ...if you can remember to do so. I tried drinking them a couple months ago, but I can't really say whether they worked or not. The next day I didn't have a headache, I was only really really tired; so maybe the drinks did help with avoiding a headache only. I haven't tried them again since, and I don't plan to ...too expensive! Water can be just as good if you remember to drink it before going to bed.

Peace!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Si se puede! 화이팅!

When I made the decision to come to Korea, I had two main purposes, 1) to eventually find a uni gig to gain experience and 2) pay off my loans, or as much as possible. As you know, I hope, #1 is going great ...#2 not so much ... or more like not at all. What happened?

Let's start with my first year in Korea. Did I go on crazy shopping sprees? No, because I lived in Pohang. Did I spend a ridiculous amount of money on foreign food? No, because I lived in Pohang. Did I go out every weekend to awesome places? No, because I lived in Pohang. Ok, you get it now: I LIVED IN POHANG! So what happened to all that money I was making? One word: weddings. Not just any weddings but my best friend's and my sister's. Listen, I'm no complaining, nor in any way regret having gone back TWICE back home to support these two wonderful ladies. I'd probably do it again for one more *cough Johnny cough*, but that's it. Of course going back was not just a matter of being part of the weddings, but it also meant shopping for clothes that would actually fit me, eat out as much as possible because I had been deprived of yummy food in Korea, and go out with friends. All this meant of course I was going to need money ....and flight tickets aren't cheaper either. So I saved most of what I earned here and used it to go back home ...not a single won went to making loan payments ... yes, I am as shocked as you.

But again, I don't regret it at all. Nor do I think that my first year here was a total waste of time since it allowed me to find a better job eventually, I made great friends, and I did some pretty awesome things.

So now here's my goal. If I save a little bit more than half from every paycheck for the next two years, I'll be able to pay off my loans completely. Hooray!! Well not so fast because this means I cannot travel outside Korea or go on shopping sprees in Seoul. Yes, I now live in Seoul where I can actually go shopping, find lots of foreign food, and go out every weekend. Not that I'll turn into a total hermit and stay in all the time; I'll still have plenty of cash to eat healthy food and go out every once in a while, I just can't over do it.

It's obvious why everybody who has loans wants to pay them off, so of course I want to be debt free as soon as possible. But there's another reason why I want to pay them off more than anything: so that in case I get a job somewhere in Europe, where the pay is crappy, I'll be ok with JUST living there and not have to worry about the damn payments. Or in case I decide to stay in Korea a little longer, I'll be able to actually travel around Asia since I'm already here.

...damn you education, why you so expensive!?!
Peace!


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

...this city girl

It's been almost two months since my big move to Seoul from Pohang ...and guess what? I COULDN'T BE HAPPIER!!

Let me first start by giving a shout out to Korea. Why? Korea gave me the opportunity of a life time not too long ago. I was able to begin my career and embark on endless adventures in an almost unknown (to me) country.

And once again, Korea came through and has given me the next step to succeed in my career. Not only do I get to live in one the world's busiest cities *insert uncontrollable crazy dancing*, but I have my dream job, my best friend here lives in Seoul too, AND I have a sweet apartment. Honestly, I thought I was going to live in a shoe box considering my place in Pohang was already small. But not even close. My place here is muuuuch bigger, next to a subway line, and in an ok neighborhood. I say ok because there's not much around here except some decent bars and cafes. Food around here is not great because everything is pretty much meat or junk fast food.


I'm all settled into my new place. I already had internet/cable installed. I've been shopping here and there for household items. I figured out the washer machine and my heater hahaha. And I successfully received mail from abroad ...yes, the little things do matter.

Work is great too. I now teach at an all women's university. It's such a relief to finally be teaching the level that I've been wanting full time. Coworkers were all super welcoming, some of them even live in the same building as me. Of course, having a new job is always a little stressing so I had my share of sleepless nights. But now that I got into the rhythm of things, everything is much better.

I'm sad to say though that I haven't done too many exciting things around the city. For starters, the weather is still bad and I don't enjoy being out too much. Also, I've been busy with work, but like I said now things are flowing well, so I should have more free time. And lastly, I'm not that new to Seoul. I was coming up here every other weekend in the last year so it's not like I absolutely need to go out and explore everything immediately.

Things that I'm looking forward to? Be able to navigate the subway without my iPhone app...yes, it's a big deal for me. Find good hole-in-the-wall cafes/restaurants/hangout places around my neighborhood or in the neighborhoods that I already know. And lastly, weekends where I can just go out to flea markets and enjoy the weather. However, I do NOT want to be one of those Seoulites (is that the right demonym?)who never go outside of Seoul; I still want to go out and explore the rest of Korea.

Do I miss Pohang? At the moment, not yet, but I do miss my coworkers. I know for sure that for beach season I'm going to suffer here in the city. I'm going to have to figure out how to make it out to the beaches near Seoul. Also, It's not my first time living in a big city, so the change wasn't too dramatic. I only lived a few months in Paris, so we'll see if a few months in I'll feel the difference.

On other news, it's Spring! ...well, kind of. Apparently we didn't know of "second" winter. Like I said, weather has not improved, only a few degrees difference, but not enough to put away the coats. But hey, I made it through winter without getting sick! Hooray!! ...well, sort of because as soon as spring "started," I got sick -_-.


Peace!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In the Year 2013


Happy New Year! ...said me a month and half ago hahahaha ...But no seriously, Happy Lunar New Year!! I just realized I haven't written an entry this year!! How can that be?!?! ...Oh well, here it goes.

So many things to talk about, where to even begin? I'll start with talking about my winter adventures ...

Korea is pretty much one giant mountain, well according to what I've heard Korea's land surface is 70% mountains. So guess what that means for winter? Hit the slopes!!! ...since there are a bunch of resorts hahaha. And the most important part is that it's cheap! I've gone twice already, one time to Jisan Resort and another to Pyeongchang, where the 2018 Winter Olympics will be held. 
         This is the Pyeongchang Resort

I also went to my first Korean Indie Music Festival. Ana and I got to see about 7 artists for free at this tiny galleria in Hongdae. I was expecting it to be packed, but I guess not too many Koreans are into it. I have read somewhere that the Korean rock scene is very underground even though it has been around since the 50's. Fine by me, as long as I get to enjoy other genres besides Kpop.

My new fave band, Soul Park!

Ice skating! ...yes, we HAVE to wear helmets -_-


                           when it snowed in Pohang

I have a couple items for the list!

56. Coppee?
I never in a million years would've thought that Koreans drink this much coffee ...as much as we do in 'Murrica. You can get a cup of joe pretty much anywhere and almost any get together will involve drinking it. There are TONS of coffee shops, everything from small cute coffee shops to Starbucks. Some big Korean coffee shops are Cafe Bene, Angel in Us, Twosome place, and Mokambo. I really don't have a preference, I haven't been impressed by Korean coffee shops ..their quality isn't great, big or small coffee shops alike. Not that I'm a coffee snob ...ok I am hahaha, I just feel they can't quite get the right flavor. I've gotten pretty bad coffee a few times, some where I know they don't use the right coffee beans, or they don't get right the ratio of milk to coffee, or they burn the espresso shots. HOWEVER, I do have to point out that their instant coffee is pretty good. My favorite is MaximCoffee. It's a little packet with coffee, sugar, and cream in it. You put it in a cup and add 4oz of water and voila! I have even known people who never drink coffee back home but when they have the instant stuff they will down it like nothing. 
 57. Chinese food
You'd imagine that Chinese food in Korea would be even better than from what we eat in the States, right? WRONG! I was super excited the first time I went to a Chinese restaurant. I was expecting to get food that was going to knock off my socks because, well, Korea is right next to China! But it honestly tastes and looks like nothing I have ever had, so who is wrong here? I haven't been to China yet so I can't really say ...I'll just stick to my sweet and sour egg rolls.

58. I'm American ...ok, ok, I'm Mexican - American
Oh Korea. No I'm not Malaysian. Nor Philipino. Nor Indian. Nor Saudi. I don't mind being mistaken by any other nationality, I've gotten used to it. My problem with many Koreans is that they still don't get that an American can look like pretty much anything. Taxi drivers are the ones that usually ask me where I'm from and can sometimes be surprised when I tell them the US. One time, one driver said "but brown skin ...not American," oh boy! *insert biggest face slap ever* I tried explaining it to him, but his English was very limited so I could only say so much. I am glad though that we as foreigners have the opportunity to not only teach English, but to teach about diversity around the world.

59. Bar soaps
Let's just say that when it comes to bar soaps in public bathrooms, you might end up giggling every single time you use them ...check out how to use the bar soaps in the video I recorded below ^________^

Peace!
Selene