So last Wednesday, I had my first tutoring session with Sunny. I was actually 15 minutes late because I confused the lines that I needed to transfer to and ending up going the wrong way. When you look up “Seoul subway map” in English, the maps are a bit outdated and the city has added or extended some lines since then, so be wary. Anyway, I thought one of them had been extended but it ended up being a different line so I had to turn back. I had previously reached out to a teacher friend of mine, Lanai, to ask her for materials. She sent me the entire Oxford Grammar Practice Book and a bajillion evaluation tests. I had Sunny take the evaluation test I liked best but she got bored after three pages. I made her finish six pages total and then I told her to finish the rest as homework. Sunny likes to talk a lot and I don’t discourage it too much because talking in English is also practice. We then did a lesson on prepositions, which her former tutor said she needed help with, but she did just fine with all of the position prepositions (like under, over, between, etc). The next lesson is on in/on/at, which she had mixed up a couple times so I think that will be good for her. Our session went overtime because of all the talking but I went home feeling pretty good about the whole thing and excited for our next session.
After that, I spent a couple days with just myself because my plans fell through. Most of my friends have real, adult jobs, so they’re much busier than I am. I wanted to check out Costco one day but Joohee told me that, in Korea, you can’t even get into the store without a membership card, unlike America where you can go in but you can’t buy anything. I was pissed so I won’t be getting a membership unless I get a job, which has looked pretty bleak this past week. I did my laundry too but I still feel like Korea really needs to jump on the dryer-wagon. I promise, life would be so much easier if we could just dry our clothes instead of having to hang them out to dry. My clothes always come out stiffer too, when they’re finally dry. I also ran into some intense exhaustion. I thought it was jet lag but my parents don’t think it could occur that late. My mom was actually worried that I might have an infection or something but I think it may just be the heat. Either way, I slept for 12 straight hours one day and I’ve been having trouble getting myself out of bed.
Sunday, I was supposed to meet Soojung for lunch at a place called Dialogue in the Dark. It’s an exhibit about experiencing life in a different way and I was really excited about it. So, of course, I slept through my alarm and wake up at 11:30 when I was supposed to meet Soojung at 11:15 and our reservations were for noon. We tried to switch our reservation, which really isn’t that difficult of a request, but the company refused to cancel or move our reservations, even though we called half an hour before the scheduled time. Not impressed.
So, Soojung and I just decided that I would come to her (an hour subway ride) and we would figure it out together. When I finally get there, Soojung is nowhere to be found. I looked for her for a while before deciding that she probably got pissed and went home. But, I figured I owned it to her to wait because she waited longer for me. So I just sat down by our designated meeting place and waited, thinking that our friendship was probably over. After 45 minutes, Soojung actually showed up! I was surprised. She said she thought it would take me longer to get there so she’d gone shopping. I paid her the 60,000 won for our two tickets since I’m the one that screwed up (what a waste of goddamn money) and we went to a café for lunch. She and I talked for a couple hours, mostly her complaining about her job, which she should really, really quit. Soojung is expected to work every other weekend and, during the weekdays, not only does she stay late, but sometimes they call her back in after she’s home. On top of all that, her boss is a jerk to her (made Soojung cry on her birthday) and her boss’s boss hits on her. Nope with a side of extra nope.
After eating, we walked to Samcheong-dong, which I’ve heard is a pretty street. It’s the street that runs alongside Gyeongbokgung and it has a lot of cafes and small art galleries. I actually really liked the area but I learned that day that Soojung isn’t into art at all so she didn’t want to go into the galleries. Without the galleries, the street isn’t all that interesting. There were some graffiti and murals around though, which I really appreciate. Overall, the street isn’t anything mind-blowing but, if you happen to have time someday and like art, it’s worth checking out.
I started out the day Monday with my friends Joohee and Jinseong, who I both met at UND. We went to an Escape the Room that I was looking forward to. I really like Escape the Room; I’ve done four in America and I wanted to see how Korea was different. The biggest different was that the ones I’ve been to in Minnesota and North Dakota have multiple different rooms and escape doors that you have to open. Perhaps because space is so expensive (and rare) in Seoul, this was literally just one rooms with like twelve different locks that you had to open to get the lockpad combo to get out. That was another difference; in America, they really stress that the door isn’t actually locked and you can get out if you’re feeling panicked or if you have to go to the bathroom. I’m pretty sure the room we were in was actually locked. Lastly, the room we went to didn’t have a video cam watching us so instead of simply asking for a hint and having them type one on the screen, we had to use this telecom/phone thing to ask the attendant a specific question about a specific thing we were having trouble with. However, Jinseong said that might just be because the one we went to was cheap (16,000 won as compared to the usual 30,000 won).
We didn’t make it out in time, although we got more than half the locks opened. I think it’s because we went with only three people; I get every time I go with 5 or 6 people but 3 seems difficult. I’m also slightly bitter because they asked for hints that I didn’t think we needed and I actually had figured out what we had to do for the last clue but they both thought that was ridiculous and laughed so I gave up. I’m actually not bitter; it makes me feel better than I was on the right track when they weren’t. Afterwards, we went to an Indian restaurant nearby that they wanted to go to. I prefer Thai curry to Indian curry, personally, but we didn’t have too many options since Joohee is a pescetarian. The food was pretty good actually. I really liked the naan with the curry and the lassi was super nummy and sweet. The curry only came with three shrimp though and it was still 10,000 won. I liked it but I might not go back.
After lunch, Joohee had to leave to meet another friend. She’s moving back to Wonju so she’s saying goodbye to everyone. Jinseong volunteered to talk me to the police station to get my fingerprints taken. You only need an FBI background check for the E-2 (teaching) visa, I think, but I decided to get that process started just in case because it can take a long time. I’ll probably pay for expedited service though, just to have that ready. To get into the building, Jinseong had to give them his identification card (it’s like the American social security card but they actually carry it around) in exchange for a guest pass. Once we got in though, the policeman who took my fingerprints spoke English. The process took longer than I thought but now I have two forms with my fingerprints on them so I’m happy and prepared.
For dinner, I met up with my friend Byul. I heard about this neighborhood in Seoul that houses like 50% of the entire French population residing in Korea. It’s famous for French restaurants, bakeries, and cafes. It sounded unique and interesting so Byul and I decided to go. This was the first time I’d seen her since I got back to Seoul so it was super fun to see her and catch up. We walked to Seorae Village and began our search for food. I was actually a little underwhelmed. I think I was expecting to see like European architecture and everything but it was just another neighborhood in Seoul with some French flags and French restaurants. We finally found a place that Byul had looked up online that was somewhat famous. The atmosphere was very romantic, darkly lit with candles and large wine glasses. Byul and I were both staring – she gets off work late so it was like 8:30 – so we ordered a ravioli pasta that would come out quickly and a French pork dish with cheese, eggplant, and asparagus that the owner recommended. The ravioli came out quickly as promised but it was literally six tiny raviolis. I lifted up the greens on top to get a good look at it and Byul said “Where is it?” For 20,000 won, we both expected more food. The ravioli was alright, a touch spicy, but then the pork dish came out. Again, there were only four pieces of meat. For 30,000 won, mind you. But it was delicious! Oh my goodness. The meat, cheese, and the eggplant just melted in your mouth. The asparagus on its own was good but I ate it with the meat and that was even better because it added a new texture. So, so good.
After dinner, we decided to go to a dessert café. We also ran into a market really quick so Byul could show me where nurungji was, because I mentioned that I wanted to try it during dinner. By the time we were looking for dessert, many of the cafes and bakeries had closed but we found one near the end of the street. We ordered a hard chocolate ball thing with whipped cream and a berry cake. Holy crap, they were good. The chocolate ball was almost too rich at first, like you needed coffee or milk with it, but there was Nutella in the center that really balanced the whole thing out. The berry cake was even better though. I can’t even describe it. It was sweet without being too sugary, the fruit was delicious, and the texture was just perfect. I would definitely recommend. Byul and I caught up and she told me she got back with her old boyfriend, whom I hate and think isn’t good enough for her. But whatever, he’ll either screw up again and underappreciate her or he’ll be a better boyfriend and they’ll be happy. Byul was also really interested in getting me more students, possibly college students so they’d be near me, to tutor but I don’t want to get too involved in case I get hired somewhere. Byul is really touchy and we walked back to the station with our arms around each other the whole time but I don’t really mind because none of my other Korean friends are touchy.
Tuesday was a weird day. I skyped my parents in the morning. It’s always good to talk to family. After lunch, I headed out to have my second tutoring session with Sunny. This time, I had her gone over her incorrect answers on the evaluation test and try to pick the right answer. After knowing her first answers were wrong, she picked the correct one on all of them, which is a good sign for her English and maybe a bad sign for her test-taking skills. We also worked on spelling and expanding her vocabulary. I wanted to do another preposition lesson too but I maybe let her talk too much. Too soon, our time was up and I left for home. There’s a convenience store by Sunny’s apartment that has some foreign products because it’s by an American base so I went to check it out. They did have some products that will be useful to me, like Cream of Mushroom soup, but most of their foreign products were super expensive. I’m talking 14,000 won for a 20 ounce canister of Tang that would maybe be like $4 in America.
I took the train home and went to Emart to buy a new pillow because the one I bought at the Daiso is like half as thick as it was when I bought it and it’s only been a week. I got some bananas too because I ran out of clementines. I walked home from Emart and stopped at the Dos Mas to get a burrito for dinner and the print shop to print out the forms for my fingerprints too. Altogether, I made it home around 6:30 or 7 and was pretty happy with my productive day.
I fire up my laptop and notice on Kakao PC that I have lots of calls from Byul and a message from Jihye telling me to call Byul. I was thinking, “What’s going on? Byul and I didn’t have any plans today that I could have been late to.” And then there’s a knock at my door. I figure it’s a neighbor coming to tell me my music’s too loud so I go answer the door with trepidation. The person at the door isn’t a neighbor but in fact, the goshiwon’s owner who tells me that Byul reported me missing to the police. Let me repeat that. Byul reported me missing to the police. What the hell.
The owner asks me if I know this phone number so I go to get my phone, which has been on silent all day because I was tutoring. I have 80 missed calls. Mostly have Byul but some from the police too after she reported me missing. So I have to talk to the goshiwon owner and the police and Byul and all of my friends that she called to let them know I was totally safe and not missing before I could eat my cooling burrito. I’m touched that she was concerned but I’m honestly kind of pissed and a bit cautious about Byul now. Apparently, this all started because I didn’t answer my Kakao. I texted her when I got home Monday night. She responded much later but I didn’t reply because I was sleeping. The next morning and afternoon I was busy so I didn’t even check my Kakao and apparently, she started panicking around noon. She then called all of my friends she knew asking if they’d contacted me and called every goshiwon around Konkuk until she found mine. Around 3, she reported me missing to the police. They even tracked my phone and everything. It was all resolved when I got home and told everyone I was okay but Byul had the gall to be angry at me! We’ve known each other for three years! I sometimes take days, days, to answer my Kakao and she absolutely loses it when I don’t respond for twelve hours. So I don’t really know what was going on in her psyche and why she was so freaked out but I’m curious and a bit scared to see how our next meeting will go. She thinks I’m at fault because I didn’t answer the phone and I think what she did is totally crazy. So we’ll see how it goes. Eventually, I’ll probably laugh about this.
Today, I went to dance class at the Seoul Cultural Center in Myeongdong. I had emailed them, basically asking for an exception to the new ARC rule, and they responded by telling me that I couldn’t do the other activities but the dance classes on Wednesdays were temporarily open to everyone. Yay! So I went today and learned how to dance to “Why Don’t You Know” by Chungha. Yoojung is my favorite from the first season of Produce 101 but Chungha was my second favorite, plus I love her debut solo song, so I was excited. I had a really good time, actually. I forgot how much I love to dance so I can’t wait to hear what song is for next week. I tried to practice the choreography in my goshiwon but there’s not enough room to move so we’ll see if I remember the choreography.
That’s it for today; I got home after class around 6:30 and ate dinner. I’ve been researching visas and writing this since. Oh! I also signed up for some groups on MeetUp.com so I can make some international friends too (all mine from study abroad are in their home countries L). Overall, I’m pretty happy. The job market hasn’t looked too good this past week but hopefully, with time, a position will pop up that’s perfect for me. Tomorrow, I’m meeting with one of my past mentees from UND to try a bakery in Hongdae that I’ve heard really good things about. I was also supposed to have a session with Sunny but she wants to reschedule so I don’t know if I’ll see her this week. I’m excited for the Japanese bakery~
Even though it’s like 90 degrees outside, a lot, and I mean a lot, of Koreans still wear pants. Even if they’re not going to work, students and people during their free-time and everybody wears long pants. I really can’t understand it but Joohee said to me once that she thought she was too old for shorts. She’s like 24 by the way. So I wonder if it’s a cultural thing of finding pants more adult-ish? I’ve seen Korean adults wear shorts on variety shows but shows do not reflect reality so I just don’t know. It could be that people in Seoul care a lot about fashion and pants look more fashionable? Whatever the reason, I probably won’t be wearing pants until September because it’s just too damn hot here. I tolerate heat much less than Koreans and sweat much more.