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.