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. 

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