Monday, October 26, 2009


I was arisen at 2:05 in the morning by two intense itches on opposite arms.  Oh, yeah: by the way: there's also a hole in my screen and bugs get in. 

Update on the Living Sitch

So as some of you may know from my recent Facebook status, I had a rough Thursday last week due to further discussion with my director about my room situation.  I had asked before about what she could do to get me into a livable apartment (specifically with enough sunlight to tell what time of day it is).  The first time she said she could do nothing.  I went back to her again with a coworker as translator and she said yes, but I would need to pay W500,000 out of my pocket and would need to FIRST find someone to occupy my place before I could even begin to look for other places to live.  This is a very different method than in the US where it's the landlord's responsibility to all their own legwork, so I was a bit shocked and unnerved at first, no to mention being worried about being homeless for a period in between.

But, at the end of the day, I really needed to assess whether over $400US would be worth getting some sunlight.  I thought on it for about a week, and got a lot of input from other English teachers around me.  Some said I should be very firm and insist that they pay for it or I would find another employer.  Others said I should just put up with it and save the money because directors are there make the decision for you and wouldn't budge due to my low rank in the hagwon.  

I was sick of not making progress, so I told my coworkers that I had made a decision about the room which was this: I would offer to pay 1/4 of the cost of moving.  If she said no, I would bargain at 1/3 and stop at 1/2 and after that I would threaten to quit.  What actually happened was that I did all the bargaining, but they still said no because my hagwon is losing a lot of money right now due to students dropping out and going to the brand new Gunpo Global Education Center (GGC) in the next town over, Sanbon, so they wouldn't have any money to do anything about it.  When told my coworkers that I might quit and saw the look on their faces, combined with my stress of trying to drop this bomb, caused me to tear up in a major way, which I wasn't expecting when planning this all out in my head.  I heard through third-hand conversation that a coworker spoke to my director about it, and she asked me to please consider the school's position in their tough economic times. At that point I really felt like I was doomed.  :(

Then a coworker told me not to be sad later on, which made me tear up again, pretty terrible when you're around kids all day.  So finally after all the students were gone and it was the end of the day, I asked my coworker to accompany me once more to officially give my director, face-to-face, my decision to leave.  I just caved and decided to pay.  Wow; did that ever feel terrible. Not only had I felt depressed all day long, but it got me back to square one. For realz? Whew, and it was a workout, let me tell you.  So everyday I now leave my key with the doorman in the case that someone wants to see my apartment.  Am I hopeful? Yes.  And eager?  Yes.  Do I think that people will also be turned off by their being no window?  OF COURSE, but there is hope.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

North Seoul Tower (Namsan Tower)

Namdaemun Market: vendors selling street food.And granny-panties (with butt pads).Namsan Tower is at the top of the highest mountain in the center of Seoul and can be reached by cable car.  The Sunday we visited, it was extremely busy and we waited in line for a while.  We were right behind this cute backpack with some kind of laminated label on it (P.S. If you can read Korean, please let me know what it says!).The cable-car ride up to the top.  We thought it would be maybe four people to a car, but it was more like 30 and we were crammed.There was a treacherously steep climb to the top.  It was a beautiful set of stairs, though.  I saw so many children falling that day, tripping over the last inch of each step their little legs couldn't reach.  And for the 10,000 won fee, the view was worth it!At the top of the hill, there was a warriors-with-sword-staves demonstration.  The man in front with a blue lower-half sliced though straw things cleanly in half with a single swipe.  At the base of the tower we saw a sign for The Teddy Bear Museum.  Diana said she loved Teddy Bears, so we did some photos near the specially marked "photo opportunities." And went inside.  It was really just a very small gift shop full of teddy bears.  These wire sculptures were awesome. These human forms were sculpted from chicken wire and hang above the outdoor walkways of Seoul Tower.I saw two places of art and memory installation: one, you can buy a tile to stick in a designated area to write a personal message on, and two, you can bring a lock (or buy one of theirs if you need spontaneity) and lock it to the outside railing. You can also personalize it with a message.  The entire outdoor observation deck is covered with locks.  From this picture, you can get an idea of how far away the US is from Seoul.  All the major world cities were listed on the windows, and the direction you face out the window is the direction you need to travel to get there.  Diana is from Washington, D.C., so behind her, yeah, she lives thataway. The river in the background is the Han River, which snakes through the city.  While on the train, I've seen the Han and it looks beautiful.  People fishing, jogging, pushing strollers, biking; the same thing people do on urban rivers in the US.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Woohoo!  I think I know the weird ways of the blogger now.  I need to type in a space that is not a box for text and after a few minutes, it appears in a non-active box below in HTML.  Whatever.

So I started really putting the gym membership I bought two weeks ago to good use.  I worked out on Monday and now again today.  Woke up bright and early at 9, which was a killer for me because I usually naturally wake at about 11.  But I got out, I started my day, and it has been amazing already.  Jeon, my neighbor, gave me some tips about exercising, and I took them because he's pretty buff.  He said to do a circuit--which I had heard good things about before--but include cardio as part of it.  I start out by stretching and doing some crunches.  The elliptical machines are really horribly non-ergometric, so next I do the treadmill for 10 minutes, all the leg machines, three sets each, then 10 more minutes of cardio, all the arm machines, and wind up with the ab machines.

This gym is really funny.  First, it's called "Gold's Gym," but it's not the Gold's many people in the states know.  I think it's just a high-class name they stuck on to get people to come.  Most of the machines are either outdated or the padding is wearing down to where some of them kind of hurt.  The second thing is that I am always the youngest person in the gym by a long shot except for the trainers.  Old people (1) galore. And usually they aren't working very hard.  They stand around and b.s. more than they do anything else.  I've seen a guy benching 100 kilos (=220 lbs.) and he still had a gut.  He was about 5'3", too.  I get a huge kick out of every day is that they have two REGULARLY USED fanny-jiggler machines.  You know, with the belt that should vibrate your fat away?  But these ajummas and ajoshis (1) use it on everything: the butt, the waist, the legs, the calves, the arms, the back.  Maybe they use it more like a massage than anything else.  Could be.  When I enter each morning, I grab a pink shirt (that means, "I'm a girl") and a shorts from the pink and blue gym clothes rack.  When I'm done, I take them off, and they wash them for me.  How wonderful is that?

I'm turning over a new leaf in my Korean life.  I was beginning to miss working out, and I'm glad I'm back on track.

1) Ajumma = woman over forty, ajoshi = man over forty.

Sunday, October 11, 2009