Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On Friday, June 10, 2011, the Centennial Christian school year ended around 6 p.m. with the graduation of the senior class of 2011. From that point I had about eighteen days during which to maximize the last of my time in Korea; I had intentionally booked a ticket home to America that left me some time to hang out and have some closure in Seoul.

Also: I'm gonna throw around a lot of names in this post, so if there is one that is unrecognizable to you, check the appendix at the bottom. The names and such are numbered in order of appearance.


Friday (6/10): All morning in school was spent signing yearbooks, handing out awards, saying good-byes, and working on the puzzle. Commencement went without a hitch from 5 to 6; twenty thousand pictures were taken afterward. Then Mark (1) and I (2) went to a jjimjilbang to cope with the day of loss.


Saturday (6/11): Duncan (3), Anna (4), Kara (5), and I went to Incheon and hung out all day at a beach. It was extremely relaxing, I got really sunburned, we climbed a cliff to a military outpost, some snobby hotel owners yelled at us for using their hoses, the sunset was beautiful, and when we got home we went to a DVD room. More on this in subsequent posts.


Sunday (6/12): I forgot to bring my ID card to church, so when everyone went onto the U.S. army base afterward for lunch, I couldn't, but I did get to eat with Jordan (6), Caleen (7), and Ashley (8). Then from 4:00 to 3:30 a.m., I did battle with my apartment, stopping the cleaning only to dine with T-Hanf (9) and his girlfriend (10). I won the battle, ultimately, but it was not easy, what with the combination of the apartment not having been cleansed in a year and me being extremely detail-oriented. Kara let me sleep on air mattress at her place, which I did for four hours.


Monday (6/13): The CCS staff checked out of school. It went smoothly except that it meant more good-byes and sadness. And that I had to take down the Titanic picture frame from my wall. I relocated myself to Ben Sullivan's (11) family's (12) apartment, as that morning they'd left for Canada (13) and I'd surrendered my very clean apartment's keys to the school's administration. After a meal of kebabs in Itaewon (14) with Mark, I met Jordan, Caleen, and Ashley again for another jjimjilbang round. Very relaxing for all involved. Happy birthday, Christina Haggar (14).


Tuesday (6/14): Jordan and Caleen left for the United States, so I moped around aimlessly, finding solace only in moving my earthly possessions from Kara's to where I was crashing. In the evening I found myself at a bowling alley with Kay (16), Becky (17), and Kara. I can't say I bowled well, but I did really want to get 100 right on the nose in the last game. I had 93 with one turn left, so we stopped and prayed for the ball before I rolled; however, during the prayer, Becky ran out and rolled my turn. She did the right thing because she knocked seven pins down, so I got my 100. Then I went to Hongdae to watch Mark and Jiyoon (18) get pedicures.


Wednesday (6/15): Mark and I met former students Yurie (19) and Claire (20) and also Yurie's mom (21) for a feast of meat. Following this feeding, a search for a board game cafe with the board game Taboo ensued; it proved unsuccessful, so we watched "Kung Fu Panda 2" instead. Then Kara and I ate Kyochon (22) chicken to celebrate her birthday.


Thursday (6/16): Two-thirds of the junior class, the class of 2012, accompanied Mark and I to Everland out in Yongin. We rode a million rides, eight hundred thousand of which were the T-Express roller coaster, ate and drank gratuitous amounts of consumables, took thousands of pictures, felt sick, sang the moose song, saw a dude with a Twins hat just like mine but cleaner, and laughed an unhealthy amount. Of course, the day ended in mournful good-byes, but. More on this in subsequent posts.


Friday (6/17): I felt sick most of this day. Mark and Cory (23) demolished me in a morning round of screen golf. Charlie (24) and I had burritos and ice cream all afternoon. Luke (25), Mark, Rusty (26), Elizabeth (27) and I dressed in green and went to view "The Green Lantern" (28) in the evening hours; despite the radio reviews that ripped the movie to shreds, it wasn't that bad.


Saturday (6/18): Duncan, Kara, Anna, Heidi (29), Ashley, and I took a bus from Seoul to the Danyang Caves and perused through them. Then met up with Ben (30) and his four Norwegians (31) for a ferry ride to Chungju, where Ashley and Caleen used to work. Chungju proved to be a nice enough town; we went to a store full of grammatically incorrect shirts, a 4D ride simulator, a barbecue joint of delicious proportions, a quaint, quiet, impossible to find cafe/bar called Jazz and Sancho, and then to the bus station, from where we went back to Seoul by 12:30 a.m.


Sunday (6/19): After the traditional Sunday morning with Duncan and following church, I dedicated myself to Mark for the day, since this nineteenth of June was his last in Seoul. We moved him and his crap out of his apartment and into the one I was staying in and then ate at Kyochon for the last time, much to the dismay of the restaurant's proprietors. After church at Onnuri, a crew of Mark lovers went to On the Border in Sinchon and celebrated his departure with unhealthy Mexican food. We relocated to Han River Park in the dark. Then the good-byes continued at Cass (32) and Judith's (33) and then at Luke's.


Monday (6/20): After Luke's the rest of Mark's night was spent organizing, packing, and clogging the toilet at the Sullivan's for the rest of the week. No sleep til Brooklyn. At 5 a.m. we caught a bus with Elizabeth and Daniel (34) to the airport in Incheon, where we ate with a faithful student and then saw Mark almost but not quite miss his flight to the Philippines. And then he was gone and my life lost all meaning. The rest of the day was spent bumming around, napping, and trekking out to Eungbongsan alone for reflection and contemplation.


Tuesday (6/21): I met with Sunkyu (35) and Nana (36) for a Greek lunch, since we'd just read "The Odyssey" in AP English. Nana left us after lunch, so Sunkyu and I ate ice cream and then went bowling with some other ex-seniors. I left him and went to eat cheap, boring, but delicious waffles and scour the banks of the Cheonggyecheon with Miryang Kim (37).


Wednesday (6/22): In the morning monsoon season began; the tropical storm did not abate by the time I left Korea the following Monday. Perfect sad weather. I finished the massive, one thousand-piece puzzle that had been frustrating my classroom since January. Then J-Kimmy (38) took me out to a lunch of phở in Gangnam, and we had ice cream...rainbow sherbet, to be exact. The evening hours saw the final desecration of The Frypan in Sukdae by Cass and I; we then relocated to a coffee shop called Like a Cafe and ate Oreo-bingsu, which probably took five or six weeks off our lifespans.


Thursday (6/23): Yurie and I ate Butterfinger Pancakes food and Baskin & Robbins ice cream before stomping through Kyobo in Gangnam for books, penguins, and giraffes. We found an abundance of the first, some of the second, and an alarming few of the third. Then Elyse (39) and I went to a dog cafe in Hongdae. Some of the dogs urinated under our table, and the urine got on one of our shoes, and one of the shoes had a hole in it, but it was still fun.


Friday (6/24): Dos Tacos in Ichon was where Eric Lee (40) and I ate. The evening hours saw me and Kara parading around taking pictures for my blog and then meeting up with Anna, Heidi, and some other folks from SIBC (41) for expensive meat in Huam-dong (42). Then we went and destroyed NB1 (43). Like, it isn't even there anymore.


Saturday (6/25): The morning was occupied by a trip on-base to mail a bunch of crap to China (44) and America (45); the afternoon was a ruthless quest to Namhansan (46) southwest of Seoul (47). Ignoring the rain, Anna, Duncan, Kara, Heidi, and I trekked up the hill to the fortress that lies at its peak. More on this in subsequent posts. We returned to Seoul after exhausting ourselves, showered, and ate dalkgalbi in Sinchon (48). Ben and his four Norwegians met us for some noraebang action. I scored an 85* on the only song I am good at, "Drop It Like It's Hot" (49). Then we danced around like barbarians til the butt crack of dawn.


Sunday (6/26): Elizabeth and I met in Itaewon for breakfast. I met the other Namhansan-goers - some of whom had gotten as little as two hours of sleep - for church at SIBC and then for lunch at 김밥천국 (50). Since everyone was exhausted, Duncan, Kara, Anna, Heidi, Ashley, and I planned to go to a DVD bang and waste the day away, but after a Starbucks (51) run and an outing at the batting cages, our path led not to somewhere cozy to nap but from Sukdae (52) to Gwanghwamun (53) and to King Sejong Plaza (54), one of the more beautiful places in Seoul. We departed from that juncture, and Ashley and I went to my principal's (55) home to meet her and her husband's new baby daughter Esther (56). We followed this up with a barbecue meal with Kara and Heidi. Then I went back to the Sullivan's apartment and cleaned, packed, and unclogged the toilet.


Monday (6/27): Elizabeth came over in the morning and made sure I got into a taxi for Seoul Station (57), which I did. I went to the airport and flew quietly to Tokyo (58), and then sat next to a beer-chuggin', small bladder-havin' dude (59) on the twelve-hour flight from Japan (60) to Houston (61), and then flew to Minnesota (62), where - never mind the fact that I'd abandoned them for 2.5 years and that I smelled awful by this time - I was warmly greeted by my parents (63) and the Moravecs (64), Orvises (65), and Micahs (66).


Prior to leaving, a lot of people asked me, "What things are you hoping to do before you leave?" I guess I had a couple things (eat 보신탕 (67), make out with Sandara Park (68)), but what I anticipated missing the most is obviously the relationships, the people who have invested in me and in whom I have invested in. The last two and a half weeks were mostly people-oriented, with some fun activities in the mix, which was the perfect way to go out.


I am in Iowa (69) now, and since there's nothing to do other than watch the corn grow, I will likely write a whole bunch more about Korea (70), reflections and such, and probably some about Beijing (71) and the future (72).



*a pathetic score, in most experts' opinions...

Appendix:

(1) Best friend; www.whoswhoinseoul.com/2045892350
(2) Reuben Haggar
(3) South African Rugby MVP 2011; www.whoswhoinseoul.com/20458332350
(4) Woman from Arkansas/Suwon who has the fewest boundaries in Asia; www.whoswhoinseoul.com/20456129
(5) Korea's Top Frisbee Player 2010-present; www.whoswhoinseoul.com/20234880
(6) Former CCS middle school English teacher who fled to Daejeon; a huge stud; www.whoswhoinseoul.com/564585350
(7) Fiancee of (6); former CCS 5th grade teacher extraordinaire; www.whoswhoinseoul.com/209947780
(8) Sister of (7); Korea's Top Vocal Performer 1995-present; bought me coffee on my last day in Seoul; www.whoswhoinseoul.com/20994880
(9) The All-American
(10) Total hottie
(11) CCS's head upper school teacher who has a sword as a hall pass; www.whoswhoinseoul.com/2061192350
(12) Wife (biggest heart haver in Seoul); daughter (Korea's #1 Moose Song Performer 2010-2011)
(13) http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8Xy4ArAN_A4/TgyaFJChJpI/AAAAAAAABjQ/MYR-IwCXiDU/s1600/canada.jpg
(14) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N8c1t1QTDI
(15) http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-BD6HFzE9LEM/Tgyb4N1-JEI/AAAAAAAABjY/AZgq7uMRacU/s1600/DSCF4408.JPG
(16) CCS 2nd grade teacher who was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, but refuses to accept or embrace her true identity
(17) CCS Pre-K/K teacher; precise bowler
(18) Mark's only female friend in all of Korea
(19) Scored a 5 on 2009-2010 AP Literature and Composition Exam; once killed a grown man who slandered Charles Dickens
(20) Justin Son's hero; would give her life for cooked meat
(21) Korean version of Greek god Xenia
(22) Fried chicken chain whose recipe ingredients include gold, frankincense, and small bits of Chris Farley's body
(23) CCS IT dude; spectacular golfer; dangerously bare head haver
(24) Korean Michael Jordan
(25) Tigers fan; CCS middle school social sciences teacher; www.whoswhoinseoul.com/18
(26) Reds fan; CCS middle school mathematics teacher
(27) CCS middle school English teacher who didn't leave for Daejeon; owner of a remarkable lion roar; www.whoswhoinseoul.com/2023945872465274572472467245725
(28) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oazFv302DIM
(29) Owner of the late "Big A-- Yellow Umbrella"; Bouquet Throwing Champion 2011; www.whoswhoinseoul.com/20611799150
(30) Man from Pacific Northwest/Ilsan who has the fewest boundaries in Asia; Norwegian tour guide; www.whoswhoinseoul.com/1289323508
(31) Got dragged all around Danyang/Chungju area by (30), (29), (3), (4), (2), (5), and (8) despite being jetlagged and missing one leg but did not complain once; great complexion
(32) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=635WWyYIfhY
(33) Roommate of (32); black belt in taekwondo; memorized every "The Lonely Island" song produced to date; cat whisperer
(34) Once bench pressed a car...with one hand
(35) Future dictator of civilized world; unparalleled debate demigod; great cook, especially of Japanese food
(36) Fluent in four languages; constantly hungry
(37) Visited San Francisco but did not go to the Golden Gate Bridge, ride a trolley, eat any good American good, or attend a Giants game
(38) 2010-2011 CCS Secretary of State; Denver Nuggets worshipper; roller coaster tamer;
(39) Grew up in Disneyworld; dog whisperer; www.whoswhoinseoul.com/244443508
(40) Has some connection that allows him to obtain movies and give them to teachers with ease; owns Yonsei University
(41) www.sibckorea.org
(42) Where (2) lived in Seoul; http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-l4bBfRXPGo8/Tgym-_-ONDI/AAAAAAAABkI/X1h2ycrj2D8/s1600/hd.jpg
(43) Didn't you hear? It isn't even there anymore, so it doesn't matter
(44) http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-_zhuDVwAqzw/TgypQkd2tAI/AAAAAAAABkQ/oaAkkoHLFT4/s1600/china.jpg; http://2.bp.blogspot.com/--Azv2TXV7wE/Tgypexd4IlI/AAAAAAAABkY/qIjOG3EKqZs/s1600/word.jpg
(45) http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-OFP2ndw6puU/Tgyqq6UhKeI/AAAAAAAABkg/a78sZXxfibI/s1600/Untitled.png
(46) http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-ij7nMsCOQM8/TgyszsSPBjI/AAAAAAAABko/cJaE1lmRHO0/s1600/Korea-Grid-352x450.jpg
(47) Home of The Great Wall of Korea: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-AU4Ub5Wk6Ug/TgyvPVHdmiI/AAAAAAAABk4/PKEK7kxuXaI/s1600/P1040347.JPG
(48) More innocent than Hongdae
(49) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtUVQei3nX4
(50) (2) ate here alone often; http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-7yTsy4JVprs/TgyvoAFKsNI/AAAAAAAABlA/Thyvx9iBuTQ/s1600/P1040381.JPG
(51) The coffee from which (2) has vowed never to consume in Beijing or in China as a whole
(52) University with highest cute girl/proximity to (2)'s home ratio; http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-0Ur6mOd-NeQ/TgywXYCJ77I/AAAAAAAABlI/Tjajvn6TEWw/s1600/%25EC%2588%2599%25EB%258C%2580%25EC%2597%25AD.JPG
(53) Home of The Korean Tiananmen Square (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-lEsgURbi6n8/TgzGw9EQ64I/AAAAAAAAEJA/YeXJxIodQ8w/s1600/IMG_2462.JPG)
(54) The Korean Tiananmen Square: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-5EBvjb07aik/TgzGxCUiX6I/AAAAAAAAEJI/leAkmfS220s/s1600/jordan%2Band%2Bmark.JPG
(55) CCS principal; proud new mother of (56); congrats!
(56) Welcome!
(57) Subway/Train station with highest homeless person/proximity to (2)'s home ratio; http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-G1KBCMFCpWA/TgyyD3vkelI/AAAAAAAABlY/doVOlBZq3QU/s1600/ss.jpg
(58) Not as cool as Osaka because Osaka is where Tsuyoshi Nishioka is from
(59) Also hideous and illiterate
(60) Not as cool as Korea because Korea is where Inho Yeo is from
(61) Motto: "'Houston' was the first word spoken on the moon."
(62) Not as cool as Iowa because Iowa is where Michael Haggar is from
(63) http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-XpgqieIx7fU/Tgy1WL1e1mI/AAAAAAAABl4/qx2U0GVQAj8/s1600/momreudad.jpg
(64) http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-I6KlXkPYBw4/Tgy2JiJPamI/AAAAAAAABmQ/Um2x2DJWgxQ/s1600/sunshine%2Band%2Bhil.jpg
(65) http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-jliChn2JQII/Tgy2JIWR3NI/AAAAAAAABmI/lA3uIyBDhkI/s1600/orv%2Band%2Bkatie.png
(66) http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-JlUAkT06DXA/Tgy2Ine71XI/AAAAAAAABmA/XL_wrTGa0_Q/s1600/DSCF0682.JPG
(67) One of my students wrote a three-page persuasive essay on why eating dog soup should be outlawed, so I am not that sad missing out on it.
(68) The Korean Anne Hathaway
(69) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djKXmGShNew&playnext=1&list=PL3BE1CBCDC441C33F
(70) http://hagreu.blogspot.com/2010/09/two-worst-travelers-in-world-go-to.html
(71) http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-J6GtlxqGtyc/Tgy-Ncs3KzI/AAAAAAAABmY/S1pzKYem0-M/s1600/future.jpg

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

101 Awesome Things About Seoul: Installment 4

It is common knowledge that Seoul is a neat place. To prove this to the few disbelievers who roam the hills and eat out of dumpsters, 101 pieces of evidence - completely subjective evidence, perhaps - have been compiled. The first twenty can be viewed here. The second twenty can be viewed here. The third twenty can be viewed here. The fourth twenty are recorded here.

(61) DVD BANG

Disclaimer: knowledgeable sources who shall remain anonymous have pointed out that DVD rooms are where scuzzy, willful high school boys bring girls to fool around. Noted. That is not what I have used the DVD bang for. What my people and I use it for is this: watching movies. DVDs, specifically. Enter the complex, choose a film from the vast array of cinematic selections available, pay the reasonable fee for each viewer and for the movie, and find your room. There's a comfy though sometimes dilapidated couch and a big ol' screen for you to watch your cinematic selection on. Then you watch. Lights out. I think I am drawn to the DVD 방 because a) I don't have a TV b) I don't have any movies except "Home Alone," and Christmas comes but once a year c) I don't have a good internet connection to download movies d) going here makes me feel like I went out and did something, as opposed to sitting at home and watching a movie.

(62) CHEAP TAXIS

To be honest, I have little to no experience with taxis anywhere. The ones in Tokyo were expensive. It was $30 to get from JFK to the some hotel in Manhattan, and $30 to get back. So paying a couple thousand won seems like a good deal to me. After midnight the rate at which the fare increases is higher, but it is still not that expensive, especially if you bring your friends and split the cost. Obviously, taking a taxi is inferior to the subway and bus in cost and often in simplicity, given the language barrier I so often encounter, but living up in the hills where only the crappy 02 bus reaches, taxis have eliminated a grim and awful walking trip time and time again. And some taxis have TVs in them.

(63) FRIED CHICKEN

When I was a boy, I detested chicken of all shapes and sizes, much to my mother's chagrin. In college I was never sold on it. But, upon arriving in Seoul, something clicked. Perhaps it was my unkempt, unhealthy persona meshing nicely with the dirty, unwholesome eateries. Perhaps it was the immediate establishment of a tradition with Scott; "Yes! Monday Chicken Night is back!" Perhaps it was the familiarity of that particular food among the mounds of kimbap, galbi, and ddukbbokki that I couldn't even eat at that time because of my ineptitude with chopsticks. Whatever the cause, the high number of fried chicken joints, though admittedly not helpful to the waistline or the blood pressure, rocks my socks off. There are hole-in-the-wall spots, and there are chains like Boor Chicken, BHC, Kyochon. And they are all over the place. Lastly, and incongruously: the crowning moment in my relationship with fried chicken in Seoul: one evening in Mok-dong, Scott, Sarah, and I went to the nearest BHC and ordered two plates. Sarah had three or four pieces; Scott and I somehow put down the rest of the birds. It was not easy, and we (Scott) wanted to quit with three or four pieces left, but afterward...we were heroes.

(64) MILK SHAKE IN A BAG

It's so good. Outside of most convenience stores lies a large bin of ice cream products. Many of them are fine, some of them suck, but one has risen above the rest. This one. Granted, some of the other ice cream might be healthier (ha) and some might be quicker and easier to consume. The milk shake in a bag needs to warm up and/or be crushed into the slushy state that any good shake comes in. It doesn't take very long. Then you slurp it down, and it pleases your mouth. There's straight up vanilla and then there's cookies 'n' cream. They both change lives.

(65) SEOUL FOREST

Concrete. Glass. Brick. Mortar. Stone. The crushed bones of slaves. All these things and more make up many modern cities across the globe. Jobs and money are there; consequently, the population in each metropolitan area rises and rises. The air becomes thick with human pollution. The streets become congested with traffic. The populace has less and less room to live, move, or breathe. Every so often, though, a triumph against all this industrialization occurs. One such victory is Seoul Forest. Located in the eastern half of the city, this arboreal haven is riddled with not only trees but also pounds, grass, brush, animal life, swamps, paths, and a slough of other natural elements, items that one wouldn't expect to find in the middle of one of the biggest metropolises in the world. There are still elements of modern civilization littering the woods - some statues, a band shell, a big skyscraper overlooking the whole thing, Lotteria - but overall this ain't a bad place to bring the family for an afternoon of life not in the city.

(66) 4D MOVIES

I am going to first and foremost refer the reader to a better, more articulate, and more in-depth blog post about 4D theaters. It is Pete's. Anywho, a 4D movie theater encompasses all the joys and pleasures of the first and second dimensions along with the 3D glasses thing, which is fine and dandy as well. The fourth dimension is basically created by the movie theater: the chairs shift and sway as the car in the movie plows through an army of zombies, gusts of air blow in your face as Leonardo DeCaprio lifts Kate Winslet into the air at the front of the ship, something skitters around your feet as the rats sneak past Orlando Bloom, water sprays up as an ax severs Mel Gibson's neck and splatters blood everywhere, etc. The theater attempts to make you feel as though you are physically involved in the movie. It's fun. And more expensive.

(67) ASSIGNED SEATING AT MOVIE THEATERS

Do you know what happens when you let people choose where to sit in a large auditorium, church, or theater? I will tell you. Folks will isolate themselves, leaving a seat or two or ten - depending on how ugly or stinky their neighbor is - between them and the nearest person. Which is fine unless things get full, at which point the space in the auditorium, church, or theater is not maximized. Or you have to get out of your comfort zone and whisper, "Can you move your large rump over, please?" in order to cram everyone in. Lose-lose situation. Maybe even a lose-lose-lose. A simple solution is this: assigned seating. Way to go, theaters in Seoul. You find your row, you find your seat. Everyone knows where to go. Order exists. And if the theater ain't full, sit wherever you want!

(68) CHEONGGYECHEON

As I understand it, this man-made stream used to exist in Seoul up until the late 1950s and then was laid over and turned into a big ol' highway. Then in the 2000s Korea wanted Seoul to be less of a concrete jungle, so the city tore down the highway and rebuilt the stream. It was very expensive but there were a few practical benefits, and the Cheonggyecheon is beautiful and awesome, like Anne Hathaway. It is five or six kilometers long; it begins near City Hall and ends at the end of the rainbow, snaking straight through downtown like a touristy anaconda. There are oodles of activities, demonstrations, concerts, and events centered around it. The lantern festival is usually held there, Christmas decorations are very well done around it, there is an art gallery next to it, and laser shows happen during the summer months. It's a winner. I have about a million pictures that I think would reflect how cool this thang is, but, alas, space is sparse. Go there and take your own photos.

(69) YOU CAN BRING YOUR FOOD ALMOST ANYWHERE

This picture is from a baseball game. I am consuming Pringles that I brought from Huam-dong, where I live, into the ballpark in Jamsil. Every baseball stadium has a giant slough of Family Marts and other vendors selling all manner of edible items to fans so they can get lardy in their seats. A place I like bringing food even more (since that's my favorite thing to do...bring food places and then write about it) is the theater; one of my first weekends in this fine city, I scampered away from work and had no time to eat before meeting Ten-Mile Brit and Megan "Everyday I'm Shufflin'" Schwartz. We grabbed subs from Quiznos right before entering our movie and waltzed right in with our food. Maybe that was what made me stay; no one at the theater got angry that we'd brought in food from a different vendor! It was all good. The one exception might be the subway; various friends have had food and drink taken away by old people when consuming them there. So take care.

(70) GANGNAM

Where dreams come true! "Gang" means a group of like-minded people who are usually thought to push drugs and shoot guns; "nam" is a slang term for the Vietnam War, so when these two words come together in Korean, Gangnam means "south of the river." Which is exactly where it is located. The area is characterized by modern architecture, crowded streets, beautiful people, and lots of money. As with many parts of the world that share these qualities, there is a lot to do in 강남: many nice places to eat, expensive noraebangs to sing in, ritzy bars and clubs to get down in, convenient buses to catch, helpful plastic surgery companies to get "fixed" by, and cool hotels in which to have your winter banquet. It's just a happenin' place to be. There are even poles from which you can have your picture taken, as pictured above by J-Kimmy, me, and our rainbow sherbet. If that doesn't make you want to check the ol' place out, I don't know what will.

(71) PUBLIC PHOTOGRAPHY

It's like a public library, or a public school. It's there and you don't pay. Basically, at various places, you can take your picture and send it to yourself. Sort of strange since everyone and their mother has a built-in camera phone or a flashy Canon camera, but, if you left yours at home, you can get lucky and find one of these unnecessary but sort of entertaining devices. Step up to the screen, hit the "Take Photo!" button, pose, and then type in your e-mail address or phone number. Sometimes you can draw on the picture, if you want to cover up your acne or love handles or anything like that. Then the picture will come to you or, if one of your friends didn't want to come hang out that day, send it to him or her to show how much fun he or she missed out on. Yeah. There is one at the CGV theater in the I'Park at Yongsan Station; Mark and I took a picture (see above) there before going to see "The Green Lantern." Hence the green. If you look even further above, Jason and I graced a camera in Gangnam. But to be honest, the best picture-taking station is in Taejongdae in Busan; as opposed to the two aforementioned pictures, the 태종대 one has a beautiful ocean background that actually reflects where you are. Dawna and I took a picture there, but I will not list it here because it was not in Seoul and I don't remember whom we sent it to.

(72) STREET WAFFLES

Since the day I began eating solid food, I have loved waffles. My family used to consume them a couple times a month on Saturday nights; they were my favorite. Belgian waffle feeds? Sign me up; I'll be there. The DC had a waffle line every weekend morning, and that was when I worked. So when I lurched over to Seoul and discovered waffles being sold out on the street for a buck or two to whomever wanted them, I decided to stay for twenty-five months. The waffles here are thin; they usually get made and then are put out to sit and get less delicious until the buyer comes and demands one, at which point the waffle is reheated and lathered in such things as butter, whipped cream, chocolate cream, or strawberry goodness, or gold. It's then folded and given to you to ingest. Simple and easy, and surprisingly filling. And the ones here actually cure cancer. Get your chow on.

(73) BUSES ON THE LOCAL SCALE

More direct than the subway, cheaper than a taxi, and more lazy than walking: the buses in Seoul are sweet. There are red ones and yellow ones that are rare; there are green ones that are more common; there are blue ones that are everywhere. The blue ones circulate between stations that are well within the city to stops that lie further out. No one cares what the green, yellow, or red buses do. There are plenty of buses that run to nearby cities as well. Additionally, there are villages buses that feed small, specific areas of the city. There are a million convenient elements to the bus system. If you are transferring from another bus or from the subway, you won't get charged again. At many stops there are display screens that show how much minutes it will take a particular bus to reach the stop. The bus numbers correlate to where the bus route runs. There is an app for phones that shows where any bus is at a given time. There are buses everywhere. Bus lanes exist on most major streets and roads. Seoul has made efforts to be more energy efficient and use less gas in some buses (although a student told me a story about how one of the energy-saving engine in one of those buses exploded one day and removed some lady's legs from her body). There are online maps and route planners that can assist in bus usage. And if all these qualities were not enough, there are many more available online. However, there is one main hindrance for the foreigner/tourist: the maps at the bus stop and on the bus are only in Korean (except for subway transfer stops). So unless you can read Korean, figuring out all the stops can be a bit tricky. Other than that, though, the buses can get you where you need to go with grim efficiency, enough efficiency to have had a song written in the bus system's honor by a musical performance group called Slayer in early 2010.

(74) BUSES ON A NATIONAL SCALE

South Korea is not that big. So not big, in fact, that one can go just about anywhere on a bus! The longest trip should not take more than four or five hours, although if it is Lunar New Year and there is a blizzard, one may be find oneself on one's bus for...longer than expected. But on a normal day, the bus system on the national level is outstanding; tickets can be purchased to any major city for an affordable price without much trouble, though it may be wise to go days or weeks prior to leaving and purchase tickets beforehand. There are many different bus terminals in Seoul, including Express Bus Terminal in Seocho, Nambu Bus Terminal in Seocho, Dong Seoul Bus Terminal at Gangbyeon, and if one's destination is a suburb of Seoul, like Suwon, Ilsan, or Bundang, many buses run from Seoul Station or Gangnam Station, among others. Coming from the U.S., where a driving trip from coast to coast takes days and buses are only joked about, I have been quite impressed with how accessible different parts of Korea are once one is willing to get on a bus and go go go.

(75) LG TWINS

Imagine being ripped away from one of the most important things in your life; it's violently torn from you and you are violently torn from it. You are taken away to the other side of the world from where you can only view this beloved element of your being through images and videos from the internet. Not the same. It's a sad story. Then imagine stumbling upon a carbon copy of that intensely valued part of you, one that has at least the same name and actually has a better win-loss record (36-30) than the original (32-39)(but they've won eight in a row and fifteen of their last seventeen!). Well, here's news: imagine no more. I left the Minnesota Twins baseball team in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and found the LG Twins baseball team in Seoul. Happy day! I have seen them play a few times (once with Tony Pekarek, who bought a jersey, see above); the time I remember best is when the Twins ghetto stomped the Hanwha Eagles 14-3. It was a bloodbath. Most of this past year I also had both Homer Hankies and these advertisements from one of the Twins games that said "Go Twins!" on them. A perfect juxtaposition. Undocumented, of course. Anyway, we're gonna win, Twins, we're gonna score. Thanks for being both there and here.

(76) EVERLAND

The bitter rival of Lotte World, Everland is the biggest amusement park in both North and South Korea. It's freaking huge and fairly expensive. There are a million gut-busting rides, rides that will you spin you around, turn you from side to side, and flip you upside down over and over again. There is an animal safari; there is an Amazon safari; there is a parade; there is lots to eat. The most notable ride is likely the T-Express, named after long-time Minnesota resident Tony Ducklow.The T-Express is both the longest roller coaster in Asia and the fastest roller coaster ride in Asia. It has claimed the lives of about 5,018 youth and 2,051 adults. It also claimed Mr. Nola's lunch and some of the snacks that he'd eaten on the day he went. In addition to the rides, Everland also encompasses several other attractions, such as a water park, a petting zoo, a European cultural exhibit, an American cultural exhibit, three hundred thousand gift shops, and a lift, like what you'd expect at a ski resort. Last but not least, there is the Everland theme song. Boo-yah. A fun day for the whole family!

(77) THE COEXISTENCE OF TOILETS, SHOWERS, AND VANITIES IN BATHROOMS

The bathrooms in many small apartments in Seoul place the toilet, the vanity, and the shower in extremely close proximity to one another, all in the same room, obviously. This was perplexing at first; I didn't know where to put my towel, my mirror would get all fogged up, and my toilet paper would become damp and useless. However, I soon adapted and fell in love, especially when I was in a hurry and needed to wash my armpits, brush my teeth, and defecate all at the same time in order to save time. Soon I found myself with all kinds of extra time to do things, like finding a cure for AIDS and calculating pi. And when I went back to America for summer, I was annoyed that I could not do those three things at the same time; in fact, the floor and wallpaper got all ruined when I tried to! Awful. Probably part of the reason bathrooms are set up like this is because space is at a premium in Seoul, but I enjoy the convenience with which one can clean oneself up in the lavatory. Be glad for that.

(78) NANTA

This thing seeks to defy easy explanation. It's a show, a performance. It's not super cheap. Be sure to reserve tickets. There's sort of a plot, it's sort of a musical, it's pretty funny, and there's not really any talking, so speakers of any language can enjoy it. The performance is done by these three chefs who are told by their mean, pompous boss to get some huge hypothetical meal cooked up by 6 o'clock; the boss's young nephew is also enlisted. So they do a bunch of fun stuff to get the meal ready, like fighting with broomsticks and getting their butts stuck in barrels and cutting up incredible amounts of vegetables in incredible ways. Sometimes they pull up members of the audience and embarrass them. And: this is starting to feel like an advertisement. Aren't they all? Go check out Nanta.

(79) SUBWAY/BUS STOPS ARE OFTEN ANNOUNCED IN ENGLISH

Maybe this does not even matter if you know what stop you are waiting for and can hear it pronounced in Korean anyway. But being on foreign public transportation can be scary, especially if it is your first time or you don't know anything about the native language. Hearing things calmly announced in English is great. Not only are the verbal notifications made that way, but - at least in the subway - all maps are in English, too. Most of the bus maps have key stops displayed in English. Lastly, on some subway lines and even on some rare buses, an electronic display will show the next stop; always in Korean, and usually in English. That is best. The most comforting.

(80) JJIMJILBANG

"Jjimjil" means "heated bath" and "bang" means room. A j-bang attendee goes in, pays between 5,000W and 12,000W, depending on the quality of the particular establishment, receives a uniform, gets a locker for his or her shoes, and then opens up a locker for his or her clothes/possessions. From there on out, the possibilities are endless. The most direct and popular place to head from the single-gender locker room is the single-gender hot tub sector, which is not limited to simply a hot tub but has showers, saunas, scrub-downs, those rocks for foot therapy, tubs of insanely cold water, and, of course, multiple pools of water heated to a variety of temperatures. Take your pick. The bad rap that many give the jjimjilbang is the heavy amount of nudity that is included in the hot tub sector. Once one gets over that, complete relaxation can be achieved. Were one to tire of bathing area, the aforementioned uniform can be reapplied to the body and the common area of the jjimjilbang can be attacked. Here both genders are free to roam, and the activity options are dang near endless. Perhaps there will be a PC bang. Perhaps a library. Perhaps a pool. Perhaps a weight room. Perhaps a small theater. Perhaps an arcade. There will surely be a snack or food bar. There will undoubtedly be quiet places to sleep, mats and crappy pillows, and maybe even rooms set to different temperatures, depending on how hot or cold one prefers his or her dream world. So, whether you are in a strange city with nowhere to rest your head, or the weight of the world is crushing you down, hit up the nearest jjimjilbang and be free of your stress, son.

To be continued...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ode to the Students of Centennial Christian School

If you hang out in the foreign community in Seoul, you will probably end up having a conversation or twenty about the students that you teach. You will hear other teachers talk about how they feel like a celebrity at school and hear them boast about how funny or awesome their kids are. Most foreigners feel unique and loved here, perhaps in a way that they never would in their home countries. We must be too lame to solicit love in our home countries.

Anyway, my students are thirteen or fourteen times more spectacular than everyone else's, and there is why. Over the past two years, my students have...

...called the census bureau for me and given them my information when I couldn't.

...eaten and conversed with my mom and dad when they came to South Korea during Christmas break.

...placed anonymous notes on my desk that instruct me to shave.

...added me on Facebook.

...written essays - some, not even for any particular assignment - about me.

...painted my face and put eyeliner on me.

...walked me home.

...let me do all manner of stupid things at their banquets and such, like dance to Michael Jackson or make fun of students who can't get teachers' names right.

...left me farewell notes in their journals that were specifically placed to be removed and kept.

...shot me an e-mail or a Facebook message when I looked like I was having a crappy day.

...made me laugh.

...greeted me before I said hi to them.

...took my parents and I out for [an insanely nice] lunch and coffee.

...told me I like like John Cena.

...hated on Mr. Williams when he gave his heart to another person [read: future wife] and to another school.

...demanded a trip to Everland with me.

...answered my texts and questions about what various Korean words and phrases meant.

...mocked the Twins, and Anne Hatheway, and Iowa.

...told me not to go to Beijing.

...purchased a small Christmas tree for my classroom.

...slipped me candy and shared other snacks.

...made me laugh.

...taken absolutely silly pictures for my blog for me, without question.

...brainstormed absolutely silly ideas for my blog with me, without question.

...forwarded me a vast slough of incredible Youtube videos.

...gotten angry when the school secretary took my hall pass away.

...tackled me into the rain.

...tackled me into the snow.

...spent countless hours in my classroom working on the puzzles there.

...trusted me with their prayer requests, life frustrations, and relationship problems.

...written down a multitude of foods I need to try in Korea.

...surprised the crap out of me with flannel shirts and delicious cakes for both of the past October 23's.

...made me laugh.

...called, texted, or come back to visit after graduating.

...translated for my landlord and me.

...wore a Minnesota Twins shirt of mine on Sports Day.

...chosen me to accompany them on their senior trip.

...turned my crappy Monday mornings around.

...dressed up pretty strangely with me.

...given my parents gifts when they visited Seoul.

...noted how much flannel I wear.

...ran with stupid ideas that I had, time and time again.

...jammed with me on the guitar, drums, and bass.

...made me laugh.

...informed me when they liked my shirt or my shoes, or when I was wearing a pink [read: red and white striped] shirt, or when my "geek-o-meter is at, like, a hundred."

...forced me to listen to music that they liked, whether it be Taylor Swift or Big Bang, sometimes even sending me mp3 files of songs that they've loved.

...sang "The Moose Song" with me countless times, whether it was during kindergarten class or in chapel or on a bus in Jeju.

...stepped it up when a WASC representative came to my classroom.

...bet on the MLB playoff and World Series results.

...destroyed my hand with their high-fives.

...taken my high-fives and made a mockery - a jellyfish mockery - of them.

...come by my room just to shoot the breeze.

...voluntarily read my blog and demanded that I write more.

...left a moose bookmark on my desk.

...made me laugh.

...scribbled on my desks.

...stealthily placed journal entries between two pages that had been glued together.

...brought me a Taco Bell burrito after a class lunch trip.

...included me in their South American history fair dramas.

...Googled my name just to see what would come up. Creepy? Oh, well...

...hummed inappropriate song lyrics that they knew I liked.

...invited me to Korean soccer games and required me to learn the songs and cheers beforehand.

...e-mailed my parents to let them know that we were okay when North Korea bombed Yeonpyeong-do.

...followed baseball just to talk smack about it.

...showed me how to run the clock and keep statistics at sports games.

...made me laugh.

...carried stacks of English textbooks up and down the stairs.

...sung "Happy Birthday" with me to my mom when it was...her birthday.

...played Trash Ball with me.

...sent me e-mails that said "sorry for sleeping in class."

...lent me a snare drum.

...shared websites that work well for illegal downloading.

...written "King Haggar" and "Lord Haggar" on the headers of papers.

...included me in a variety of violent Korean high school pain games, games that have allowed them to smack my head and make my knuckles bleed.

...blessed me with a Jonny Flynn basketball card.

...swung by my room to inform me that it was snowing.

...made me laugh.

...lectured me on things to do, places to see, and words to say in Japan.

...laughed at The Lonely Island with me.

...decorated the door of my classroom.

...beaten me and gotten beat by me on the basketball court.

...produced essays answering the prompt, "If you had to kill Mr. Haggar, how would you do it?"

...policed the classroom for people not following along or eating in class in order to submit the perpetrators to push-ups as punishment.

...gotten each other to be quiet and listen.

...delivered creative, incredible speeches on how to annoy teachers, how to avoid yellow slips, how to kill goldfish, where the best place to poop in the school is, how to hold in bowel movements, why superheroes wear tights, why the walls of my room are boring, how to get a good subway seat, how to avoid getting paper advertisements handed to you, and how to make friends with stray cats.

...whispered tactfully to me that my fly was down.

...cat-called me from a taxi.

...answered the idiotic questions on the top of my assignments and quizzes.

...found internet sites from which I could stream a Twins game during study hall.

...forgiven me when I forgot to tell them all the speech and debate rules.

...made me laugh.

...shown me more love than I could ever have hoped for or imagined, whether they knew they were doing it or not. I lucked out. And, even though I'm still bummin' around Seoul, I often feel pretty stupid for deciding to leave and am sure there will be many moments spent missing the young folks of this fine international school. Thanks, ya'll. You are awesome and I love ya.

...remained silent when I stole their Facebook pictures.



























재미있었어. 안녕.

-미스터 해거