Thursday, August 17, 2017

Departures, Arrivals, and Bunnies

Last Tuesday I had my last tutoring session with Sunny. We ended up just talking the whole time. She spent the first hour opening up about how she was bullied at school and I didn’t have the heart to stop her. When I noticed we only had a half hour left, Sunny said “Well it’s the last session anyway” but she picked up a pencil anyway. But I thought she was right and said “screw it” so we just chatted for the last half hour. I’m quite sad about not tutoring her anymore. I told her how grateful I was that I got her as a student and she said she had fun talking to me. We exchanged goodbyes, hugged three times, and sent long farewell texts. It was a bit dramatic. If I were to tutor more middle school kids, I’d like them to be just like Sunny.

Wednesday, I had my interview! It was definitely different from how interviews go in America. I managed to find the place alright and the first thing I did was take a test, along with four other candidates. The test was about editing and proofreading and it was actually quite difficult, even though I’m an English major. After the hour-long test, I waited for my exam to be graded before going in for an interview. The interview was the oddest part. We didn’t talk about the job at all. We just chatted about Korea and translation and other such things. I think maybe he was just getting a feel for me and my personality but it felt weird leaving the office after that. The hiring manager was worried about my low level of Korean and the fact that I won't have my documents for at least 2 weeks. But I think that I still have a chance because I killed the exam, my writing samples are strong, and everyone I talked to seemed to like me. We’ll see.

Thursday Jihye sent me on yet another TVXQ mission, this time to Gimpo Airport. Yunho is the representative for Jeju Air and I guess there was some promo with a free poster that she wanted me to get. I took the train all the way to Gimpo and, alas, all the posters were gone. Do we still say sold out if they were free? I felt a little bad because this was the first time I didn’t get what Jihye wanted but I had to move my plans to go do that and it took a big chunk of time so I didn’t feel too bad. I was disappointed that I didn’t get a Yunho poster.

Friday, I went to the Dongdaemun Craft Mall. I’ve been wanting to buy the stuff to make a DIY phone case since I returned to Korea but no one would go with me. It just kept being pushed off so I finally just decided to go by myself. I’m so happy I did. The Dongdaemun Craft Mall is huge and has four buildings so I actually went into the wrong one first but I figured that out pretty quickly and made my way to the right floor in the right block. The phone cases you can make are basically where you pick out cute charms and then glue them with colored glue to a blank phone case. I just went all out and picked every charm that I thought was adorable. I realized that I had too many charms for one case so I decided to buy two cases and two colored glues but when I handed my stuff to the vendor, I started to freak out about the price. The vendor took a long time tallying the total up because each individual charm has its own price and that process gave me time to panic. I didn’t even look at the prices for all my charms and I didn’t hold back either. I started thinking about if it went over 50,000 won and how I would be okay as long as it wasn’t more than that but then the vendor looks up and says “25,000 won.” That’s it? Can you believe that? I was so happy. I paid him his money and practically skipped out of the building. I’m very happy with my purchase and I’m saving the craft for a day when I have nothing to do.


All the stuff I got for 25,000 won

layout for character case

layout for food case

Saturday, I met up with Soojung for the first time since she bailed on me for the Mud Festival. Neither of us mentioned it, which I thought was a good idea because I probably would have blown up if she tried to make some excuse. Anyway, we met up to tried Hwo Gwo, which is the Korean name for a Chinese hot pot dish that I don’t know how to describe. It’s the Chinese version of Shabu Shabu, in a yinyang-like pot. It’s a dish that has multiple soups/sauces that are boiling and you put the ingredients in. Soojung’s really been wanting to try this dish and at this particular store in Hongdae so we went. It actually wasn’t that good. I think part of it may have been that the tastes were incredibly unfamiliar. Like, I can’t even tell you what it tasted like. And I think I’m allergic to something that was in it because my left hand swelled up and felt numb and I got a rash for two days. I actually liked the middle sauce the best but it took me like halfway through the meal to figure it out. I also got to try lotus root and lamb, which I was happy about, but I wouldn’t have to go eat Hwo Gwo again.

Afterwards, Soojung and I walked around a bit. There’s a quiet, little park with a walking path and a stream that we walked about but it was such a change from Hongdae that it was hard to adjust. When we turned around, I mentioned that there was a bunny café in the area and we decided to go there. I love bunnies; I raised one for eight years and adored him. We found the place with little difficulty and paid for a half hour with the rabbits. There were maybe twenty rabbits there in cages and two pen areas. The rabbits were rotated between the pens and the cages depending on how tired they were. Soojung and I put on aprons and sat on cushions and played with maybe seven rabbits. I bought some food to bring in so the bunnies would love me and that worked pretty well. I really liked it but my only criticism is that they don’t clean up after the bunnies as much as they should so the bunnies’ feet were all wet from stepping in their own pee. That was gross but if you come prepared and don’t let them touch you where the apron isn’t, it’s fine. The employees were nice and spoke English and the bunnies were super sweet. One of the bunnies actually peed on Soojung though so we left after that.

We then made our way, around 10, to some bakery that Soojung had been to before. The cake there was really good. Soojung picked a chocolate ball with honey cream inside and I picked the tropical cake, which was mostly mango with raspberry highlights. It was amazing. I love raspberry so I would 100% go back and get that again. There was a Nutella cake that I want to try too. The honey one honestly wasn’t as good but that’s because the chocolate was too rich. I also got an incredibly strong cappuccino smoothie which was responsible for me not being able to sleep that night. I never used to be affected by caffeine but I guess I’m getting old. After chatting for a while, we parted ways for the night.

Sunday, I met with Byul so that we could plan our trip for this weekend. We went to Garosugil to have lunch first and then went to a café to plan. Byul wanted to go to a hamburger place but I don’t eat hamburgers so we ended up going to a Mexican restaurant called Gamsung Taco. It was fantastic. I can’t emphasize that enough. I was like moaning with every bite. We order shrimp fajitas and the plate came out with two kinds of shrimp, one chili and one with a cheese sauce, and tator tots. The tator tots were actually so good. There was also multiple sauces to put in with the fajitas. It was so, so good, although a touch expensive. Definitely recommend.

After lunch, we moved to a café to plan. We hadn’t picked a city yet but I quickly found out that Byul basically had her mind set on Tongyeong and she wasn’t going anywhere else. If I suggested a place, she talked about all the negatives, despite the fact that her suggestion is 5 hours away and we’re only going for one night. I honestly think it’s ridiculous to spend that much time traveling something to stay such a short time and it’s incredibly expensive too but I couldn’t pull out of the trip without throwing a fit so we’re going. We bought bus tickets and reserved a hotel and thought out the activities for our first day. I’m trying to be excited because it looks beautiful and we picked some fun activities like yachting and luging, but I get severely motion sick so that could ruin it all, on top of draining me of my little remaining funds. Planning took a long time so we could have eaten dinner together but I needed to save money and I was honestly kind of pissed at Byul for not thinking of me at all so we parted ways.

Monday, I skyped my family. My brother’s birthday is coming up so we talked about that, in addition to what we did over the week. My sister moved up to her college so she wasn’t there. I’ll have to set aside some time to skype her and my other brother separately.

Monday night, Jihye flew back to Korea so I went over to Ehwa to help her with her bags and bring her the TVXQ things I had. It was ridiculous. I got caught in the rain without an umbrella because I didn’t think I could carry an umbrella in addition to her stuff. Then, Jihye’s bus didn’t go where she told me so I had to walk all the way back to the station, where I had just walked from. Finally, I see Jihye and her friend, who also flew in that day. Jihye had three bags and one of them was a piece of shit. It was honestly the worst bag I have ever had the misfortune to meet. Picture a duffle but with wheels on the bottom so there’s no solid structure to hold the bag up. The wheels went all way they wanted and you couldn’t pull it by the straps because it would pull over. You had to just grab the material and try your goddamn best to not let it fall over. I was elected to handle that bag because I was the shortest and could just pull the main part without bending too much. It was an absolute joke. I ended up just dragging the thing through hard sections of the sidewalk because it wouldn’t move a feet without falling over and I was sweating like a pig before we made it to Jihye’s place, which was like a mile away by the way. We decided that I was the bag whisperer though because Jihye tried to take over for me for a little bit and she made it maybe ten feet in a minute before I took it back. It’s one of those memories that you know you’re going to laugh about later but we were laughing then too because it was either laugh or cry and give up. And to think, we could have just taken a taxi for 5,000 won.

After that long trial, the three of us went out for dinner at a kimchi chigae place. I’m not too much of a chigae person but it was pretty darn good. Plus, I got to know Jihye’s friend Norma, whose name I only asked as I was panting in front of Jihye’s door. Norma is interesting and she seems nice. After dinner, I went home because the time was nearing the last subway train.

Tuesday, I met Jihye again. We were originally supposed to go to the Hangang Summer Festival, which had an International Food Festival and a Fire Performance that day but, just my luck, it rained all day and those outside events were cancelled. So our Plan B was to have Jihye come to Konkuk and we would go to a meat bar and maybe noraebang. Well, Jihye took a nap and slept through her alarm so we had to make a Plan C. I took the train to Ehwa for the second day in a row and we ate a very late dinner at her favorite Korean BBQ place. There’s always good food there but the chairs are uncomfortable. Given how late it was, dinner was all we got to do before I had to take the subway home.

Wednesday, Jihye and I went to the SM Town Complex to get some TVXQ cheesecake at the SUM café. I also bought the TVXQ flavored tea, which was mango flavored. Both items were good but expensive, as is anything that SM releases. They certainly know how to make money off of fangirls. We happened to run into someone Jihye knew named Jade so she hung out with us for a while. The three of us went to dinner after chatting for a while and checking out the other floors of the SM Town Complex. Jihye knew a guk-bab (soup with rice in it) place nearby so we walked there. The gukbab was actually really good. I had no expectations whatsoever but the meat was very tender and I think I might have to check out gukbab more often. There were some awkward pauses in conversation and I got the impression that Jade and Jihye didn’t really know each other very well. After dinner, we went home a bit early, like 10, which I was incredibly glad for because I got a cold or the flu or something on Tuesday and everything hurt. The pressure in my sinuses was so bad Tuesday night that it hurt to close my eyes. It was a relief to go home and be able to blow my nose in private and cower beneath the covers.

Changmin's countdown til he's released from military service

TVXQ tea, cheesecake, and Yunho

Today is Thursday and nothing has gone my way today. The company I interviewed for wants a second interview which is super great and I’m excited for but there are two problems. 1) the timing is bad and 2) they want a Skype interview for some reason. The timing is bad because I have a cold, which doesn’t give best impression. Also, I had planned on spending Thursday and Friday running a bunch of errands that I had to do, recovering from my cold, and applying for jobs. Having the interview via Skype also puts me in a bad position. Do I do it in my goshiwon where they can see my room but the internet is good or do I do it in a café where it might look more professional but the internet might be bad and there could be noise from other people? I decided to add ‘scouting out cafes’ to my list of errands.

When I went out to run errands, I thought to myself that the most important things were to withdraw money from the bank and buy my CDs. It was supposed to rain all day but it hadn’t rained a drop and it was sunny outside so I left the goshiwon in flip flops and without an umbrella. I went to the bank first to withdraw the money Sunny’s mom paid me for tutoring, which was my primary task to help pay for this weekend’s trip with Byul. However, the lady at the bank tells me I need my passport to do a withdrawal, which I didn’t bring because I didn’t need it last time. It was total bullshit and she was wrong but she didn’t speak any English and my Korean wasn’t good enough to argue with her. So I left the bank pissed off at people who can’t do their job. I then went to the mall to buy some CDs that I’ve been meaning to. I went today because Taeyang’s album was released yesterday and I wanted to put the songs on my iPod for the trip. I was originally also going to go to Auntie Anne’s pretzels and Taco Bell to get dinner as rewards to myself but I was so pissed off that I decided to skip those in the mall. I went to the CD store, something and Bundi, and guess what? They didn’t have Taeyang’s album yet, which was the entire fucking reason I went today. So I didn’t get my money or my CD, which were my main tasks. But, I bought the other CDs I wanted and left.

When I went outside, it was raining. Of course. It was just a little mist so I thought it was fine. I had about a mile to walk to go pick up dinner and scout out cafes for tomorrow. So, on my walk, it starts pouring. I make it to Subway to pick up food for dinner but when I leave the store, it’s become a complete downpour. And I’m wearing a white T-shirt. I couldn’t run home either because I was wearing flip flops that got slippery and difficult to wear in the rain. On the way home, my CD bag broke open from all the rain but that was fine because I clutched the CDs to my chest to cover my cleavage. My shirt was so soaked through at this point that I looked like a contestant in a White T-Shirt Contest. I was so distracted trying to cover my chest and trying not to break my shoes that I forgot to look for cafes. On top of all this, I realized that my rent was due tomorrow and I hadn’t gotten money from my Korean account so I had to go to the ATM to withdraw money from my American account. I eventually made it home, completely soaked through, and hung up my clothes to dry. I also asked a friend to call my landlord and ask if I could stay for two weeks and only pay half-rent. He told her that I couldn’t do that but she told him that I would still leave after two weeks. Sigh. I can’t really be mad because I asked her for help. I really need to just do things myself. So now I have to try and explain to my landlord, who doesn’t speak a lick of English, that I will actually stay a month unless he can give me some sort of discount, in which case I still want to stay a couple more days than two weeks. It’s just so complicated. Oh, I also have no phone service now because each time I go to try and pay for more minutes, they tell me something different. I'm sure there are a lot of things missing from this blog post, details mostly, but I'm so done. 

So, I have my interview tomorrow and a bunch more chores and things to do. Then, I’m going on my super expensive trip to Tongyeong this weekend. It all seems so exhausting so hopefully I’ll get the job and my trip will be fun. Wish me luck. Hopefully I used up all my bad luck today. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Chilling + Small Jobs

Last Saturday I did absolutely nothing. I was going to go see the puppies but it was so damn hot outside, I decided to just stay inside and read. I finished the fourth section of Please Look After Mom so that all that was left was the epilogue.

Sunday, I went to the COEX mall with Byul. We were originally going to see a movie, either Spiderman or Dunkirk, but Byul didn’t reserve the tickets so they were all sold out. We were there at noon and the earliest showing with seats next to each other was after 6. So we decided to just skip that and went to go get lunch. We ate at an Italian place in the mall. It was good food, a cream pasta and a spaghetti with cheese, but you can literally eat that anywhere in Seoul. Italian food is so popular here and somehow, it all manages to have the exact same flavors.

After lunch, Byul wanted to check out the new library that they put in the center of the COEX. They call it a library but I’m pretty sure you can’t check the books out. I’ve actually seen it already but she was excited so we checked it out. There was a triplet playing in the performance area of the library, two cellos and a piano. It was really cool, actually. When we got there, they were playing the theme song of Howl’s Moving Castle, which is my favorite Studio Ghibli movie. After that, they played some French and Korean songs that I didn’t know so Byul and I left after a bit to look at the books. There are no English books in the entire thing so I picked out some magazines and, after hunting for a spot, we sat down and read for a while. After finishing our magazines, Byul and I left but not before listening to the triplet playing the theme song of Titanic. All the feels.

After that, we just went shopping a bit and checked out some places. I almost bought watermelon scented soap but I need to spend my money on more important things for now so I walked away. Then Byul and I stopped in a coffee shop and got some cheesecake and coffee. Byul called it dessert but it was 5 o’clock at that point so if it was dessert, it was pre-supper dessert. The cheesecake was good and Byul and I talked about the plan we’ve been planning a bit. After talking for a while, we decided to split so we’d both get home at a decent-ish time for supper. On my way home from the station, I stopped at Aladdin to buy a new book since I was almost done with my Korean one. I actually found, believe it or not, the book that the TV show I’m watching is based off of. In a Korean used book store, of all the places it could be. So I bought it, of course, and now I’m reading and watching the story at the same time.

Monday, I skyped my family. We decided on a plan for my documents and my parents told me about the presents they bought for my sister’s birthday. She’s moving into an apartment for the first time in a couple weeks, so they mostly got her things she wanted for interior design. I finished Please Look After Mom that day too. It’s honestly not my style. The book is all about family and familial sacrifice of mothers. Of course, my mom sacrificed for our family too but there’s just such a cultural difference that I really can’t relate to the family’s situation in the book. The husband cheats on the wife but she never once thinks about leaving him and she literally dedicates her entire life to the family. She doesn’t have any hobbies or friends, it seems. I know it’s supposed to seem honorable but it just seems unhealthy to me. So, overall, definitely not one of my favorite books.

Tuesday and Thursday, I tutored Sunny. I also faxed out my request for a new apostilled diploma, since they lost the first one. I was worried about where I could find a fax, because that would be quicker than mailing the form, but the print shop right underneath my goshiwon actually had an international fax. It was great. As for Sunny, we worked on writing introductions and we started another essay. This upcoming week is my last week with Sunny but she’s very busy with preparations so it might be difficult to meet. I just hope that she actually retained some of the strategies and rules I taught her. I also gave her the Taemin sign that I was given after taking a picture with a Korean fangirl at the SM Town Complex. I get approached all the time by people who want to survey foreigners about traveling to Korea or people whose homework is to interact with a foreigner. They usually give me gifts of some kind afterwards, like candy or a bookmark. This particular girl just needed a picture with a foreigner and then she gave me a sign of Taemin from SHINee. Super random but then I was in SM Town. I don’t care about Taemin but thankfully, Sunny absolutely loves him so I gave the sign to her. She was pretty darn stoked.

Wednesday, I went to a meetup. It was with the crafting meetup that I joined but didn’t go to last time because it was too early. For this meetup, the organizer was like “I’m on break and I’m bored. Anyone want to hang?” So I figured I might as well go and meet some people in the group. The dance class this week about Big Bang’s “Bang Bang Bang”. I love that song but I actually know the dance so I didn’t need to go to dance class. We didn’t really have a plan so I tried to suggest something fun and new but the organizer’s friend (who was the first member of the meetup group back in the day) wanted to go to Myeongdong to see the new Diaso. So I got out-ranked. I met Lucy and Kitty in Myeongdong; there were supposed to be a couple more people but apparently, people don’t show up all the time without changing their RSVP, which drives Kitty nuts. We decided to go to Johnny Rocket’s for lunch because Lucy was craving a burger. It took us a while to find the shop in the Shinsegae mall but we got there eventually. We don’t have Johnny Rocket’s in the Midwest so I didn’t even know it was American but apparently it is. I thought about getting the chicken club sandwich but I figured I could get that at Korean delis so I decided to order the chili cheese dog because where else can you get that? It was pretty good; tasted like an American dog.

Lucy and Kitty seem nice. Kitty’s American but she literally knows nothing about Minnesota, which she tried to ask me about. She was like “Minnesota’s flat right?” Nope, that’s the Dakotas. “But you have a lot of corn right?” That’s Iowa and Nebraska but sure. They’re both married (to Korean husbands) so we’re in different stages of our lives but I like them. Lucy was talking about how she, her husband, and his family are going on vacation – get this – on an abandoned island. How adventurous is that? They just bring a tent and then hunt for clams and such and cook them on the island. I’m not sure I have the constitution for that, but it sounds really cool.

After lunch, we went shopping and started at the Diaso. The new one is 8 stories tall and just opened so it was absolutely packed with people. We had some expectations because it was so big but instead of having more variety, it was just more of the same things every Diaso has. But still, we found fun things that we wanted. Kitty especially found some stuff for her house and her nephews. I found a scratch off picture that I could bring to the next crafting meeting so I don’t have any supplies with me. I really don’t have much interest in scratch off pictures but they are a small trend in Korea right now and I figured I might as well. However, we got to the first floor and there were probably 50 people lined up at the cash registers so we just gave our basket to the information desk and walked out. We then went to Artbox, which had many of the same things, and a couple cosmetics stores before we realized that it was getting late and our feet hurt from all the shopping. On our way to the station, Kitty and I stopped at ABC Mart to get her some shoes for a wedding she’s going to. Overall, I didn’t buy anything and all we did was shop but they seem like nice people so I’m excited to go to the next crafting meetup that I can and get to know everyone better.

Friday, I went to a focus group done by CJes to help their food expansion in America. I saw it on craigslist and decided that since people approach me all the time for these surveys, I might as well get paid for it. This focus group was an hour long and we got 30,000 won. It was actually a bit of a struggle to find the headquarters but I got there alright and met the two other people in the group. The focus group ended up being specifically about seaweed so it wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it was fine. We answered all sorts of questions about our snacking habits, what we thought of the packaging, how the taste was, and what we thought could be done to heighten the appeal to American audiences. They had some seaweed crisp things they were trying to produce but the regular flavor was disgusting. I can’t even describe it because it was difficult to isolate one taste but let me just say, when I accidentally licked my fingers afterward out of habit, they laughed at my face for like 30 seconds. The other flavor of the seaweed crisps was honey and corn, which I expected to be disgusting but were actually really good. I almost asked to take the rest of the bag with me when the focus group was over.

Oh, and get this! One of the two Korean women who were running it went to school right next to the city where I went to college. What a coincidence. When we were finished, we got 30,000 worth of CJes certificates, which I will probably use at Tous de Jours or Twosome place. The other Americans and I chatted amicably while we walked to the subway station before parting and going home. The certificates are different from the ones in America so I have to figure out how to use them now. Whereas in America gift certificates are plastic cards that can be run like credit cards until the balance is gone, these are literally three pieces of paper that say 10,000 won on them. So if I buy something that’s 5,000 won, do they take the whole certificate? I’m not quite sure but I’m going to try and use one tomorrow so we’ll see.

Saturday, I met up with my friends, Joohee and Jinseong. I haven’t seen either of them in over a month. Joohee lives in Wonju now and rarely comes in Seoul and Jinseong was home in Busan for a month. Jinseong just returned and Joohee had a dentist appointment in Seoul so we decided to meet up. I really wanted to do something fun so I made all sorts of suggestions. There was an exhibition and two festivals going on Saturday but apparently, my friends are incredibly lame. They were like, why don’t we just hang out in a café and chill instead? I finally convinced them to make it a dog café after much struggling instead of a regular café so that it would be a little less mundane.

We decided to meet up in my area for lunch and Joohee suggested that we eat jjukkumi (쭈꾸미), or webfoot octopus, for lunch. Koreans have all sorts of correlations between seasons/weather and food. They have summer foods and winter foods and spring foods and foods for when it’s raining and foods for when it’s hot. We don’t really have that concept in America, which I tried to explain to Jinseong when he asked what Americans eat when it’s hot out, but either way, Koreans like to eat spicy things when it’s hot out. They fight fire with fire. I think it’s stupid because if I’m sweating outside, why would I want to go in the A/C and eat something that will also make me sweat? So, I said that I did not want to go but if they wanted to go, I would. Now, back home, that’s actually phrasing it pretty strongly that I don’t want to go and whoever I’m with would normally say “No, let’s find somewhere that we all wouldn’t mind.” Joohee and Jinseong were literally like “Okay, we out-vote you.” Blew my mind a bit. It reminded me that Midwesterners seem to say things really politely and we have lots of rules for interacting with people in a polite way that the rest of the world doesn’t seem to have.

So I walked to the octopus place kind of put out. There were legitimately two things on the menu and I let Joohee decide since I was already eating what I didn’t want. I was pacified pretty quickly when the food actually came out though. We got rice with seaweed flakes in it and some salad but, most importantly, we were also given acorn jelly in a kimchi naengmyun broth and pumpkin porridge. This is important because both of those things are foods I wanted to try but hadn’t gotten around to yet. I’m always stoked to try new things so I was happy again. The pumpkin porridge was sweeter than I thought. I expected it to taste like squash, which my family eats with salt and pepper, but it was sweet pumpkin that they had added sugar to. It was good but just a bit sweet for me at the time. The acorn jelly didn’t taste like anything. I said that to Jinseong and he asked what I expected, it’s from acorns. He said that most Koreans eat acorn jelly because it’s healthy and low calorie, not for the taste. The broth the jelly was in was super nummy though, so I ate a lot of it. The actual octopus was basically cook like dakgalbi, which I liked, so that was good too. After we paid, we could pick an ice cream treat from the freezer as dessert – to combat the spiciness, I imagine. I chose a cookies and cream ice cream treat which was delicious but melted all over my hand as we walked outside. We got all that food and it was only 8,000 won. Can you believe it? So cheap for so much food. I wasn’t expecting anything when I walked in the door but I would definitely go back. It was called Jjukkumi King for anyone who’s in the Konkuk area.

After lunch, we walked to my favorite dog café, Hirit. It always has lots of fun dogs and I like the layout. I knew Joohee was a cat person but I didn’t realize how much until we went to the dog café. There were five or six dogs playing and they were chasing one dog, a bulldog, around. Joohee was like “aren’t they bullying him?” I told her that they were playing and if the bulldog didn’t like it, we would know. There’s a difference between play barking and a snarl that they mean. But Joohee didn’t look convinced and kept muttering under her breath. I’m pretty sure she thinks dogs are the center of evil now. There was a cute Husky mix that would sit next to me on the bench and I said “kissies” and he licked my nose. Joohee’s face was completely horrified. I think the Husky liked me because I wasn’t afraid of him. A lot of Korean are afraid of big dogs and he wasn’t small. On top of that, he kept barking at people who withheld treats and his eyes were two different colors. So he kept running back to me, which I was totally okay with; he was beautiful. There were also three Corgis, a couple energetic Shelties, a bunch of miniature poodles, a golden, a Border Collie (who should never live in Seoul), a sweet Rottweiler, a beagle, and a bunch of other dogs that I can’t think of right now. There was also a Maltese and a Chihuahua that I held for a while, because they were adorable and kind of looked like my dogs back home.

After a while, Joohee left for her appointment, which was just as well. I don’t think she pet a single dog while she was there. Now I know not to take her to dog cafes in the future. Jinseong and I hung out a bit longer and pet more dogs but it got pretty chaotic as more and more dogs were dropped off so we left. As I was walking him to the station, he asked what I was doing next and I said market so he said “I’ll go with you, I’m bored.” So we went and he helped me pick out things. And by helped, I mean he brought me the most expensive things in the store. I caught most of them but the package of peaches that were $2 each passed my scrutiny. He did recommend some chips that were pretty good; they were basically Fritos but nacho flavored. After shopping, Jinseong left to go home and I put my groceries away.

Sunday, I skyped my family in the morning. My mom started the ridiculously huge puzzle we got her for her birthday and it’s going pretty well I guess. My dad spent the week in Connecticut and my sister leaves for school in two weeks, which she didn’t seem excited or not excited about so we’ll see. My family move her into her apartment today. It’s too bad I couldn’t be there to help. We ended our Skype session early because I had to eat lunch and get ready for another focus group thing. This one I found on Facebook the same day as the seaweed one so I decided to apply for both. It wasn’t quite a focus group, it was a survey and interview about shopping in Korea for a tourism organization. The KTO building was easier to find and the interviewer bought us all drinks at the café. The survey actually took more than an hour and then the group interview was about 45 minutes, so it ended up being about two hours instead of one. I didn’t have anything else planned for the day so I was fine but it would have been cool if they had paid us double since it took double the time. They asked us all sorts of questions about where we shopped, what we bought, what could be improved about the shopping experience, etc. I don’t actually shop that much so I’m not sure if I helped much but I answered as thoughtfully as I could. They gave us 35,000 in cash afterwards and I went home.

Sculptures that were on my way to KTO

Today is Monday and I’ve been doing my laundry and typing this blog since I got up. I also got an email from one of the places I applied for asking for an interview today so I’m stoked about that. I want to stay and continue trying new things so hopefully I will get the job, or a teaching job. I haven’t done an interview since I got to Korea so I’m a bit nervous but it should be fine. If I don’t get the job, I don’t get the job. I’m going to start my new book today too, after I make supper. It’s been a pretty good week and I’m looking to continue that positivity through this week.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Weird Korean Snacks + Loneliness

Well it’s been a lonely past week and a half since I last wrote. I knew when I came here that my friends have their own lives and jobs but I didn’t realize just how little time they were going to have for me. Plans got moved around a lot too, with some disappointing results. Things aren’t going well with preparing my documents for applying for a work visa either so this week was the first time in a while that I just wanted to go home.

On that happy note, let’s talk about last Wednesday. I went to dance class that day, like I mentioned in my previous post. It was the first time I went in three weeks but the secretary lady still recognized me. We learned the dance to Astro’s newest song, Baby. I like Astro’s music so I was excited but the dance was more difficult than I expected. I made some friends though! We bonded over how difficult the dance was. I met a girl named Mayuri from India and a girl from Indiana named Mykah. Mykah is here in Korea on an H-1 visa (working holiday), which I didn’t know was a thing so now I’m looking into that for me as well. We exchanged Kakaos and got some of that ridiculously tall ice cream on our way to the station. It melted like crazy all over us so we washed our hands in a fountain before parting ways. It’s only been a week but I already forgot the moves to Baby. It was just complicated and the instructor rushed through the chorus. But I was excited to meet some foreigner (not Korean) friends.

Thursday, I tutored Sunny. Nothing too extraordinary there. She talked even more than usual because EXO made a comeback last week and she’s super stoked. Sunny is a SHINee fan so she told me she shouldn’t like EXO because they (SM really) are ruining SHINee’s lives but she really does like EXO underneath it all. So we got even less done than usual. She hadn’t done her homework either so we actually just did that. When I got home, I outlined my plan for the next three weeks to make concrete goals for us. Oh, and I got paid that day by her mom. In cash. J

Friday, I did a little voice recording job for some money. This was posted to Facebook in a group for job-seekers of non-teaching jobs. Basically, this company just needed a bunch of foreigners to record some sentences one day, and it would be 50,000 won for 3 hours. I thought the company was an education company but it ended up being a media/technology company. They’re making some sort of technology like Alexa or Siri for homes where you can issue voice commands from anywhere in the house and it’ll do it. For example, “turn on the AC” or “open the garage door.” The night before, I was told that there was actually a typing component too and that recording was taking longer than they expected so the time estimate was now 4-5 hours and the pay was 100,000 won, would I still like to participate? Hell yeah, I would. The studio was far away from my place, but so is Sunny’s so who cares? The typing task was just writing different commands in as many different ways as possible so the technology would be able to identify the request. Then, I recorded 150 or so phrases. They had actually labeled them “utterances” which I giggled at because who uses that word? I have actually recorded before, when I studied abroad at the very end of December, for a friend who was making a travel app about Korea. So I had learned some things, like that the sound booths are crazy hot because of the lack of ventilation so bring lots of water. The mikes pick up everything too, like the noises of your lips and tongue when you open your mouth so water can help with that. After recording for a while, these noises occur anyway because your mouth dries out so I started pausing after opening my mouth to speak so that the noise wouldn’t be too close to the actual sound bite. *proud* I actually ended up finishing in almost exactly three hours; I like to think because of my little know-how about recording. So I got paid 100,000 won for three hours of work! Yipee! That was pretty exciting.

Oh, I forgot! I got a ticket to Taeyang’s solo concert on the day after my birthday!!!!! Yay! Tuesday, I realized that people had returned some of their tickets so instead of buying from a reseller, I could just buy one from the official site. Now, that didn’t go too well for me. You could only use a Korean credit card on the English site (go figure) so I had to register for a Korean account to do the bank transfer. To register for a Korean account, I had to download the app. I downloaded the app and registered for an account just fine but then when I got to the ticket page, you had to do like another register with more information. That’s where I got stuck because I entered the information correctly but when I submitted it, it just reloaded to that form. No error message, just the same page I had been on. I gave up after a while and starting texting everybody I knew, both friends and people in ticketing. Byul offered to reserve the ticket Wednesday. I’m so stoked. She got me a 2nd floor ticket! I don’t know how because like 99.99% of all the returned tickets are 3rd floor and the 2nd floor ones get resold right away but she reserved me a second floor ticket in the section I wanted. I couldn’t believe it. She must have logged in right as someone returned that ticket. So she reserved it Wednesday and then Thursday before tutoring, I want to the bank and did the transfer of money. The tickets will be mailed in August and I’m super excited!

On the other extreme, Saturday was a really crappy day. Originally, I was supposed to go to Dongdaemun with Byul and make phone cases. Dongdaemun has a craft mall where you can buy or do all sorts of DIY things. Some of the vendors are stations where you can make your phone personalized phone case by choosing and places a whole bunch of super cute charms. This is high on my list of things to do because they’re adorable and I love DIY stuff. Byul and I were going to go Saturday but she backed out last minute because she needed a rest day. I totally get that; she works very long hours and, for the first time in 25 years, her parents bought her a bed to sleep on so she doesn’t have to sleep on the floor. The bed also means that she had a lot of cleaning and re-arranging to do. So I was fine with it but that meant I had to figure out what to do with myself. There was a craft meetup that I wanted to go to but the café they were meeting at is pretty far from my house. It’s far enough away that, to be there on time, I would have had to get up at 8 AM on a Saturday. I made a deal with myself and said I would set an alarm for 8 and I could decide then whether to go or not. So, of course, I woke up at 8 and promptly went back to bed after changing my RSVP.

When I woke up again later, I was faced with the same problem of what to do with myself. I decided to maybe try going to the Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain. There was some rain in the forecast but I would check again later and see. So first, I went to the market. When I got home and started putting away my provisions, I noticed that the marinated meat I bought had broken open and spilled the marinade all over everything. The sauce was on the floor where I had initially put the bag, on my cloth desk chair where I had moved the bag too, all over everything in the bag, all over the bottom of the cloth bag itself, and on my shorts where the bag had touched them while I walked back. It was a complete disaster. I spent about an hour trying to clean everything up.

As a reward for my hard work, I decided to try the cereal I bought at the market. I bought an Oreo cereal that’s pretty famous among foreigners. It’s famous because it’s an American cereal that’s only produced in Korea now. It used to be sold in America too, of course, but production stopped when Post’s parent company sold it to a different parent company. So now it’s only sold in South Korea. I had to buy a little carton of milk to go with it (Korean don’t drink cow milk all that often and it’s not very good quality here) but I was excited. It was pretty good. It didn’t blow my mind away or anything and the marshmallows all melted into the milk but it did taste like something from home, at least.

I was so exhausted and disheartened by my marinade fiasco that I thought about skipping Banpo but, empowered by my Oreo cereal, I decided to check the weather again. The weather had been updated to show a 0% chance of rain for the rest of the day. Perfect. If there’s even a chance of rain in the forecast, the Rainbow Fountain won’t operate. I learned this when I tried to take my brother there, who visited me my second semester of study abroad, and it was a complete disappointment. So, I thought this was finally my chance to see the Rainbow Fountain. I took the train to the Express Bus Terminal after dinner and walked to the Banpo Bridge Hangang Park. Zero percent chance of rain, the forecast said. You know what it did? It fucking rained. I didn’t even bring an umbrella because it said ZERO chance of rain. So after waiting for like an hour in case they decided to run the show, because it was more of a sprinkle really, I gave up and left. I had hoped the rain would lighten up but, as I was leaving, the rain got heavier.

There was this nice sign to guide me on my way though. The cafe must've gotten tired of people coming in to ask. 

Now, I had a plan for this. I knew that even though there was zero percent chance of rain, because there had been like 20% chance earlier in the forecast, they might not run the show the whole day. Because they’re dousches like that. I figured that, in case the Rainbow Fountain didn’t show, I would go to Yunho’s 85th Street café that was nearby and get myself a real strawberry and yogurt smoothie, which is my favorite smoothie in the entire city of Seoul. But hey, it was raining hard and I didn’t have an umbrella because there was zero percent chance of rain. Bitter. So, I wasn’t willing to go to 85th Street because it’s pretty far from the station. I took the train home, drenched with rain and sweat, in different shorts than I had started the day in, having achieved nothing.

As a consolation prize to myself, I decided to get some ice cream from a convenience store on my way from the station to my goshiwon. I was deciding between a mango ice cream treat and a chocolate bar when I saw a tomato ice cream treat and figured “why the hell not?” I have to explain something first. Earlier in the week, I bought some weirdly flavored potato chips. They were labeled Hawaiian and, after I got home, I noticed the little sub-label that said “Garlic shrimp pineapple.” What the hell right? Who decided garlic shrimp and pineapple went together anyway and then who made that a potato chip flavor? Korean snacks are weird. But, I already bought them so I decided to try them. And they were good! I couldn’t believe it. It was certainly an odd combination to my flavor palette (I’ve been watching MasterChef lately) but the more I ate them, the more I wanted. They were really surprisingly good and I looked for that flavor the next time I went to the store. So, emboldened by my victory with the garlic shrimp pineapple potato chips and the Oreo cereal, I decided to give the tomato ice cream a try. They can’t sell something that doesn’t taste good, right? Wrong! It was freaking awful. I was so excited to be surprised by the flavor and then the first bite literally tasted like tomato in an ice cream form. They hadn’t tried to sweeten in up at all or add other flavors. After a few more bites to confirm that it was disgusting, I let it melt in my sink. Think about that. I let ice cream, my favorite dessert, that I bought when I don’t have much money melt in my sink. It was that bad. So basically, everything sucked Saturday and everything I tried to do failed. Jihye woke up in America to like 20 texts from me complaining about everything at various stages of my day.

Sunday, I skyped my family and recounted my terrible day Saturday. My sister’s birthday was the next day so she opened the presents from me and my brother. I gave Bryn a recipe book for homemade cosmetics and household items, like shampoo, laundry cleaner, and lip scrub. Like I said before, I love DIY projects and she’s gotten really into environmental responsibility (so proud) so it’s the perfect thing that we can do together. My brother Andy got her a book about the show Supernatural from the cast and crew’s point of view. She and I both like that show so he wanted me to see her open it. I don’t know what my parents got her yet but I’ll find out this weekend when I skype them. We ended up talking about movies and I mentioned Happy Feet, which I had recently watched, and Bryn got all excited so my family watched it together after I signed off. I pretty much like anything with Robin Williams in it. I, on the other hand, spent the rest of the day doing laundry.

Monday, I was going to run some errands. Koreans don’t have dryers for the most part so I also spent some time checking the hanging laundry and folding or hanging up anything that was dry. At 4 in the afternoon, I was getting ready to go out and do my errands when I realized that I had screwed up. I had purposefully put off running errands so I would be done around suppertime and could pick up some dinner. Plot twist! Korean banks close at 4. American banks close at 5 so I hadn’t thought anything of it but literally, as I was putting my shoes on, I remembered that the bank would be closed. Going to the bank was the main errand I had to run, so I decided to just skip it and stay home and recover from Saturday. It’s so hot and humid here every damn day, it’s honestly hard to convince myself to go outside when I don’t have to.

Tuesday I was supposed to tutor (see, this is a week of “supposed to”s, “going to”s, and “was planning on”s) but I woke up to a text from Sunny saying that she couldn’t make it because she was in Jeju. I don’t know if her family ended up staying longer than they expected or if they missed a flight, but there was no way she was going to make it. So I went back to bed to sleep another hour or two. I sleep really late here, like until noon or 1:00 if I have no plans.

When I woke up and after I ate lunch (of the marinated bulgogi that ended up being delicious despite the trouble), I ran the errands I was going to Monday. I started by going to the copy shop to print some worksheets I wanted to use with Sunny, about brainstorming and writing introductions to essays. Then, I went to the bank to withdraw the money I had been transferred Sunday for my recording work Friday. Yay for money. Since I don’t have a Korean credit card (because no Alien Registration Card), I have to do everything at the actual bank. Then I went to the Daiso to pick up shampoo and conditioner since I ran out. I also bought headphones there because, literally on my way, the right speaker blew out. I thought the Daiso headphones I bought were broken too but it turns out that they just have some technology in them that I don’t have activated in my iPod (like voice recognition). So my headphones and my iPod had to fight it out. I think the headphones won because they're working fine now but my iPod is still freaking out a bit. Then I picked up some dinner at Subway and headed home.

After dinner, I had nothing else to do so I decided to retry Banpo. The weather was literally perfect. It was a sunny day, few clouds, and absolutely no rain on the radar at all. This was the day. Third time’s the charm. So of course, I get there and the stupid Rainbow Fountain show doesn’t go on again. For the third time. The only thing I can think of is that it was much windier than normal for Seoul. Maybe they were worried about the water spraying into the other streams? I have no idea. At this point, the Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain is either a complete myth or it has to be the most fucking perfect day ever for it to work. I was pissed and I had a decision to make. Do I keep trying because it’s a personal vendetta at this point or do I give up because it’s wasted too much of my time? I think I’ve basically settled on giving up but we’ll see, I can be pretty vindictive. I really don’t recommend going to the Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain on your vacation unless you have time to spare because it probably won’t show.

Banpo Bridge

That night I also watched the Nu'Est-W V Live. They had a little mini concert with a live band and streamed it live on V Live. As with every K-pop group I like except Big Bang, I'm not actually a fan of the group: I really like one member and so, to support them, I support the group. With Nu'Est, it's Jonghyun. I was really hoping he'd make it into Wanna One and, although he should have, I'm less bitter than I was before. The mini concert wasn't anything too exciting. They didn't perform any of their dance songs and they did some ballad songs I didn't know but I'm still glad I watched it. Jonghyun looked wonderful in pink and he rapped beautifully. I learned that he would want the same super power as me if he could have one and that the other members agree that he's the best dancer in the group. I'm really happy too because they released a special single earlier in the day and it's been doing really well in the charts. Like, beating EXO and getting number 1 well. I'm very proud of them and happy that their talent and hard work is finally being recognized. Jonghyun actually almost started crying when he was thanking the fans so, of course, I almost cried too. It was a good mini concert and I can't wait for their full comeback. 

Wednesday, I went to dance class again! This week was Red Velvet’s new song, Red Flavor. Now, I’m not really a Red Velvet person but I really like this latest song and the dance looked like a lot of fun. I was pretty excited. Neither of my new friends came. Mayuri was busy and couldn’t go that day. Mykah actually tried to come but got hopelessly lost and eventually gave up after 50 minutes. I felt bad, she kept texting me but I was in the middle of dance class at that point so I didn’t check it. I gave her pretty clear directions so hopefully she’ll be able to find it next time. It was okay though, I made new friends. Being friendly at dance class is easy because we learn the dance pretty quickly so you often ask someone else what that move was again or just laugh at everyone’s failure. The dance was really fun and I think I’m going to remember this one because it’s less complicated than Baby and I’ve been practicing a bit. I actually still remember Chungha’s Why Don’t You Know but we’ll see how long that lasts. Overall, it was fun.

I also tried watermelon juice on Wednesday. Koreans love watermelon in the summer. I don’t quite get it because, to me, there are better summer fruits but Koreans just love watermelon. They always say how refreshing it is. So, in the summer in Korea, you see watermelon everything. This summer and this year, there are juice places everywhere, especially Juicy and Juice King. Now, there have always been juice stores in Seoul but it seems like they’re the current trend so they are positively everywhere. Byul recommended the (what else?) watermelon juice to me and there’s a Juicy right underneath my goshiwon. Watermelon juice seems odd to me because we don’t really have it in America. In my opinion, watermelon doesn’t have *that* much of a flavor so the juice would mostly be water. It was actually quite good! I think the biggest thing is that, it’s called juice, but it’s really just blended fresh fruit and ice. So it’s very fresh-tasting. It was, actually, quite refreshing. It was also quite flavorful so I think it must have been a really good watermelon that was blended into my drink. Maybe it’s a different species of watermelon from the ones in America? I know the grapes are definitely different so I wouldn’t be surprised if the watermelons were too. Off topic but I really don’t like the Korean species grapes. You know that artificial grape flavor that they use for candy? I’ve always wondered where they got that because the grapes in American certainly don’t taste like that. Well, I found out because Korean grapes taste like that. It’s disorienting and kind of gross. American grapes are more refreshing. But back to the watermelon juice. I also tried the mixed watermelon and pineapple juice (smoothie) but I didn’t like it as much. The pineapple adds a tangy flavor that doesn’t need to be there. But I do recommend the watermelon juice.

look at the nice Block B models

Thursday I tutored Sunny. We worked on the brainstorming activities I had planned and, although Sunny complained, I hope I gave her some tactics for when she’s stuck on an essay. She leaves in about two weeks now and she’s really worried about Jeju. I love Jeju. I went with my brother when he visited and it’s a wonderful and beautiful place full of things to do but Sunny’s a city kid and she doesn’t like nature. She actually said to me, “I like tall buildings and gray skies.” I’m hoping she adapts well though because it’s a place that I have very fond memories of.

Today is Friday and Jihye sent me on another mission. The TVXQ wet wipes sold at the SUM store in the SM Town complex in the COEX mall were on sale today. They had been marked all the way down from over 20,000 won to 4,000 each. She asked me to go buy a pack so that she could hand them out with her TVXQ tattoos at the next TVXQ concerts. I had a plan for today but I just moved it to Saturday (tell you why in a bit) and decided to go get the wet wipes. I’ve been to the SM Town complex before in my second semester (which I didn’t blog about. Bitter) but I had planned to still look around a bit, see if things had changed. Afterwards, I was going to walk to Jaejoong’s café which was nearby and get a drink. I wanted to buy the tissues first though because TVXQ goods are super popular and sell out quickly. Their fans are dedicated. I took one look at what Jihye wanted me to buy and realized I wouldn’t be doing any of that. The packs were much bigger than I expected and heavy on top of that. There were only five boxes left and I bought two; one for me and one for Jihye. I also bought the TVXQ popcorn because Jihye recommended it. The boxes weighed 10 pounds each, which doesn’t sound like much but it was rough. 20 pounds is fine on your back or in your arms but I had to carry these awkward, un-stackable shapes from their strings in my fingers. It was actually really heavy and the strings dug into my fingers. I just went right home and dropped them off. But hey, now I have 296 TVXQ wet wipes in cool-looking containers and TVXQ chocolate popcorn and Jihye has her stuff.

Pretty popcorn

I especially liked Red Velvet's design

My goodies

the wet wipes come with photocards too

Afterwards, I went to the market and stopped by somewhere to get dinner. At the market, I decided to pick up little melon chocolate pies and lemon tart potato chips. See, I’m fearless with the trying of weird snacks now. The melon pies are alright. The melon flavoring isn’t all that strong but it’s in there enough to be weird. I bought a pack of 12 so I better like them. I don’t think I’d buy them again though. I don’t even like Choco Pie so I think that’s why I don’t much like these. The textures of the crumbly part and of the chocolate outside feel much to processed to me. I just tried the lemon tart potato chips. I don’t like them. They really taste exactly like you’d expect. They’re very lemon flavored and very sweet and then the end taste like a potato chip. Eww. Koreans seem to make most of their snacks sweet whereas Americans prefer salty snacks and this is a mix of the two that is just unforgivable. Thankfully, I bought a small bag. I like the garlic shrimp pineapple potato chips much better.

Now, the reason why I could just shift my plans from today to tomorrow. I was supposed to go to the Mud Festival in Boryeong with Soojung this weekend, which I was super excited about. She's been kinda sketchy about it though, like not really responding to my texts much and won't book a hotel or bus tickets. So finally on Wednesday, when we've been planning this for three weeks, she texts me to say that she can't go. She says it's partly work and partly that she had a huge fight with her mom. She told her mom she wants to quit her job (you know, because she works 12 hour days and sometimes get called back even after she gets home and she works every other weekend or more and she's being harassed by her boss's boss) and her mom called her a loser who never tries at everything. Her mom also said some really personal, mean things that I won’t repeat here. So Soojung's basically grounded and she can't quit her job until she has another one lined up. So I can't even really be mad at her. But she's known she couldn't go for a while now! On top of that, there was a meetup of foreigners going to the festival last weekend that I could have gone with but I didn't because I thought I was going with Soojung. That's what I’m upset about. I wish she could have gotten up the courage to tell me sooner so that *I* could go. I sent out an SOS to my friends Wednesday night but none of them could go to the festival. I'm just really disappointed because it ends this weekend and now I can't go again for another year.

On top of that, I’m having some trouble with getting my documents ready to apply for a job. I’m looking into the H-1 visa that my friend has but I think I’d prefer to apply for a teaching job because it’s more stable and the schools are very willing to sponsor work visas. The problem with that is that my apostilled diploma is apparently lost in the mail and I’m losing it. When my housing fell through, I sent my university an email requesting that the address be changed that the apostilled diploma would be sent to. I know they saw that email because someone responded. But the State Department charged me for the apostille a month ago now and I still haven’t received the diploma. My mom called yesterday and they said they mailed it to the hotel in June. They didn’t fucking change the address when I requested it, despite not having mailed it yet at that point. So I texted the hotel which was extremely awkward given that the boss screwed me over and then I walked out on them and the nice manager checked their mail room and records for me. He looked through every record they have of mail and deliveries and they don’t have my diploma either. So it’s either still coming to the hotel and I’ll go pick it up or, the far more likely option, my apostilled diploma that I need to get a work visa has been lost in the mail because the State Department didn’t bother to put a tracking number. At this point, it’s most likely too late to request a new apostilled diploma because I have to send in the request to my university who then has to make a copy and sent it to the State Department who then have to apostille it and send it to my parents (because I damn well don’t trust them to mail internationally again) who then have to mail it to me. The process will take weeks. So I’m basically screwed. However, I’m going to send in the request and be charged for it anyway because I want to stay in Seoul really bad. I have to try.

Tomorrow, I’m going to my favorite dog café because I need puppies to forget about the disappointment and stress.