Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day Three Part Three: Buying Necessities at E-Mart

Korea has E-Mart and not Wal-Mart. But they are basically the same.  The  major difference is that E-Mart has a lot more of each category of stuff and the store is 5 levels high! It has escalators and elevators. I think it is awesome. I felt like a kid in there! Oh my gosh! All of the choices of candy and snacks and hello kitty pajama’s! Hello!!! Hello Kitty Pajamas! Yeah. It was that cool. My Sungshin Buddy picked me up at school and we walked to the Metro together and took off to the land of E-Mart. There were tons of people shopping there that day. I don’t know if thats because it was a Saturday or if E-Mart is just that Awesome, but I had a blast. Did I mention that the prices are dirt cheap? Yeah I got a whole pack of Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Wash for just 15 U.S. Dollars! Here take a look at a pic of it. Okay, so if you noticed the small English font that says “Anti Aging”, well do not be alarmed. If you ever plan on coming to Korea you should keep in mind that most Asians have very dry hair and that the water that comes out of the faucet has lots of iron in it. This combination means that most Korean Shampoos and Conditioners are going to be:
a.) Moisterizing
b.) Anti-Balding
c.) Oil Conditioned

Now, me personally, I have naturally oily hair. So, I have to wash my hair every night to keep it silky. I don’t even need conditioner because the oil gets smoothed down to the lower parts of my hair with a brush or comb. So, here I was in this awesome magical grocery/all stuff ever store and I DONT want moisterizing shampoo. Oh geez, that was hard. Well,  not really, my buddy Da Young was able to ask the sales woman (which they have in every section of the awesome E-Mart and yes they give free samples to lure you in ; ) 
It was just funny because the only shampoo that got rid of oily hair was the Anti-Aging hair. Now, to me, that is just weird. I mean, isn’t it pretty much common knowledge in the  US that teenagers are just plain oily? It could be our diet, but it’s not like I eat fried foods every day. So, what ever, I am the old teenager here and proud of it. “Yeh? Whad you say Sonny?” JK JK. The shop keeper was really glad that I bought the shampoo that she helped me find, but she was also kind of giggling because of my diagnosis....old. haha. Anyways, she did give me awesome FREE samples. (yes, I am Scottish...we love free what? haha) 
She gave me Body wash and a small bottle of shampoo as a gift. It was quite nice. hehe.... hehe....

Onto the towels, because remember what I didn’t have when I got here? Yeah. Towels. I got a simple soft lavender set that I quite enjoy. I would have preferred Turquoise or Aqua Marine, but alas, it is better than drying off with a sheet. “What?! What nutcase would do that?” ...uh hem....yeah. So...

I got face wash, a much needed pillow, and some tooth paste. During our journey to the Land of E, I saw four different groups of foreigners just like me. It was rather odd because I usually don’t see any. Da Young agreed and said she hadn’t seen any since she came here last year. (What?.....”You must be a foreigner magnet.”) Quote from Da Young. Idk, but it was really weird for me too, even though I am technically the alien here. I saw two really tall European guys in the rodent section. Two really tall African Americans in the wine section. A whity Mc. White-White getting of the Subway. And a family of three at a Korean restaraunt five minutes away from my dorm. None of them were really approachable at that time and besides I am here to learn Korean, so I didn’t think it was really a good idea to like introduce myself to them. They all seemed to have their own thing going on- like me.  I will most definitely go back to E-Mart when we move into our Apartment, so for now I won't be able to post any pictures of it, but I definitely will later (나중에 ) 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Well, my friends, it has been a while since I have written, and for that I am truly sorry, but let me just say that when you don't bring an international outlet adapter it is hard to charge your many fold appliances. Thankfully, my room mates are kind enough to let me borrow theirs! Wow. I know right. So, I did order one online and it will arrive here soon, at which point I will be able to blog more. Yes! (Asa!) Thats what the Koreans say. hmmmm...okay. I feel like I should fill you in on a big one about my housing situation, but I am a little nervous to start this one without much time before I have to leave for Church. So, I will just fill you in on yesterday and a little bit of my hopes for today.

Yesterday morning, I was happily surprised that I didn't wake up until 9:30. That is a record score for me here! Usually, I wake up at five or six am on the dot! However, it was also a day where I had an appointment to meet with my friend Yesenia and her buddy Jung 10:00 am. Yeah. So, I quickly shoved some decent clothes on and ran out the door. I am sure the Ajussi at the front desk thinks I am a lunatic now because I am pretty sure that I said

Me:     Gamsamnida Thank You  감삼니다

... instead of

What I should have said:    Annyonghigeysayo. Good bye. 안뇽이게세요.

Which basically means I said thank you instead of good bye.

Wow! Okay.

Ajussi: 'Weird American chick.'  "Bye Bye."

So, I ran (okay, jogged....)

no...I just walked really really quickly...

to the subway station and met with Jung Min and Yesenia. We have formed a group where three times a week we get together and help each other with our language problems. Yesi and I help Jung Min with English and Jung Min helps us with Korean. It is a great system and we have a lot of fun doing it.

Specifically, Jung Min took us to the Seoul Art Center where we could use tables and chairs for free. There was a variety of beautiful Classical, Romantic, Baroque, and 20th century music playing in the back round as we each wrote our dialogues and corrected our pronunciations. After spending a relaxing and fulfilling hour at the Art Center Jung Min suggested that we practice our Korean in real life context. So, we went into shops and repeated prompted phrases to the shop keepers. We learned phrases such as:

1. Do you have size 250?
2. Do you have this in another color?
3. Do you have this in another size?
4. Can I try this on?
5. How much is this?
6. Where can I
7. Where should I put my trash? (relavent for restaurants that are styled like Panera)
8. Can I have one Kimchi Bokkeumdi and two Bulgogi Bokkeumdi please?
9. I am lost.
10. How can I get to Sungshin University?

It was really funny. At one store called ABC I asked the shopkeeper if she had a grey men's T-Shirt in another size and she looked at me like I was nuts and said, "That is a mans shirt." I simply, smiled and replied, "I know, but I want one in a small." Oh my goodness. I was certainly not going to wear it or buy it, but I needed to practice my language skills, you know?

One of our stops along the way was an absolutely divine cafe called Paris Croissant. It was definitely my favoriite stop during the morning and I didn't hesitate to take millions of pictures and even snatch a Cranberry muffin for myself. One Americano, and two danishes later we were stuffed with nourishment and laughter. For it was during this time that Yesenia and I filled Jung Min with stories of our school back in America. We went on for ever about Apple Day, Kwanza, the Fashion Show, and Junior Dads- smiling the entire time. It is so strange that you can meet a person and only know them for a week, but feel as if you have known them for a life time. I have not had this occasion occur often, but with Jung Min and Yesi, we are like old friends.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Okay guys, so the other day, I kind of left you hanging. Well, creating suspense is my specialty.  As you hopefully remember from yesterday's blog we left the theme/amusement park, "Lotte World." and it was 9:30 when we decided to head back to the dormitory. We exited the park, stopped by a 7-Eleven to get some water, and hopped on the subway. As we slouched on the subway benches, barely keeping our eyes open, I inquired to Nadeia about what time the last subway ran. She laughed and said it probably wouldn’t close until 3 am because that is the time that they close in New York City (her home town). “Ah. Okay, good. I was just curious because we wouldn’t want to get stuck out in the middle of no where on one of our crazy adventures.” 
Nadeia: “Nah. Don’t worry about it. We are pros when it comes to the subway.”
Me: “Oh. Okay. That’s good.”
So we waited eleven stops in slow anticipation of our crack beds at our temporary home. We got off and trotted through the little boutique walking mall on the way to our dorm. 
Me: “Guys, isn't there a curfew here or something. I think we should get home soon. Let’s hurry.”
Room mates: “Oh yeah, I think it is at 11:30 or something, but it’s not like they would shut us out or anything. We can just call the Ajussi and ask him to open it for us.”
So we walk to towards the campus, past one of the thousands of 7-Eleven’s in Seoul and we see the BIG main gate. ‘Ah. Fewf. It’s open, so we walk somewhat rapidly through the main gate and greet the guards. “Anneyonghasseyo. (bow heads)” We look to our phones, oh my gosh guys it is 11:30 now! So we start going faster up the practically 180 degree hill to our dorm. 
Nadeia; “Sprint guys! Sprint!”
We all three take off on our blistered and sore feet, sprinting up the hill like mad men. When we finally reach the top of the hill, we are tired and out of breath, but we don’t stop there. We see the second (smaller) gate up a head and we run towards it. ‘Ah ha, the light is on, and I think I see construction work signs.’ True to my eyes, there were two big construction block gates up a head so we could walk through those and get to our dorm. ‘YES! We made it!’ Maybe, thirty feet away from our dorm entrance we walk to the glass entrance and see the most horrifying sight ever. There is a huge metal gate that was pulled down from above the door and locked into the ground. The lounge was dark, and the Security Ajussi was no where to be seen. We panicked. What are we going to do? Can we call and ask someone to open the door for us? No! No one has their Korean cell phones yet, and no one else has an international calling phone like me and mine was dead! “Crap!” 
Me: I start looking around for something to climb on. “Hey guys, I could climb up on that dumpster over there and squeeze into the second floor window that's open. Nadeia can you hoist me up?” (Most of the windows have bars on them)
Nadeia: “Are you crazy?! You would like paralyze yourself or something.”
Me: “What about climbing up on that yellow thing and getting onto the balcony first Zerin?”
Zerin: “No way, I would like break my spine or something.”
Nadeia: “I think Zerin could fit into that window there easily.”
Zerin: “Yeah, but I can’t get up there!”
Me: “Oh my gosh. What are we going to do? I guess we could stay at a hotel.”
Our thoughts:  What hotels are near here? Love motels, basement hotels, drug hotels where we get knocked out and our organs are sold on the black market like in that one movie. AHHHH!!!!!
Zerin:  "I have a friend who has been here before and she said that whenever she stayed out past curfew she would just stay at a Jimjiban.”
Nadeia: “Yeah, I have my map with tourist sites on it and it has a Jimjiban close by on it. We can just take the subway there.”
FYI: For those of you who aren't familiar with the word Jimjiban, a Jimjiban is a Korean Spa where you can come for a very cheap price and bathe, shower, swim, massage, eat, and most importantly, SLEEP! If you ever watch Korean television, you will notice that pretty much everyone goes to the Jimjiban. Whether you are running away from your mean husband for a few days, stressed out from school, or go as a family fun day of relaxation, 99.9% of Koreans go there. They provide you with food, water, clothes, soaps, combs, hair dryers, towels, etc. Depending on how nice the Jimjiban is you could get the royal treatment, or a mere scrub down. 
Me: “Okay, we should hurry because I am worried about being out on the streets too late.”
Girls: “Yeah. Let’s go.”
We all are freaking out and screaming oh my g....Brownies!! Because it is such a crazy thing to happen. What kind of dorm locks down like a prison at 11:30pm? What if we were inside and we had a medical emergency? Would they break the glass and throw us out the window and hope we don’t die? What the heck! 

FYI: It was exactly 11:45 pm when we got to our dorm building, so that means that the security Ajussi didn’t even wait 15 minutes for us to get back. I feel a little insulted! Like doesn't he care about the students at all? 
So, we speed walk to the subway and see last minute train stragglers running up the escalator steps. "Wait a minute! Running up the escalator? The escalator is turned off? OMGOSH’, yes people, we walk down the steps to find out the inevitable truth, the subway closes at 11:30 pm just like the dorm. Holy Croookies!!!!!  My room mates being the New Yorkers that they are, suggest we simply take a taxi. 
Me: ‘okay that’s fine. Let’s go.’
However, the taxi driver doesn't speak English. So what do we do? We show him our map and plead Jimjiban gagoshipohyo!!! Translation: “Please take us to a Jimjiban, Ajussi!!” 
So, off we go, the Ajussi drops us off about five minutes away and tells us to be safe. He even gave us a discount! Instead of paying 32 won he only charged us 30 won. How nice is that? He really seemed to care about us like we were his own children.....then we saw where he took us. It looked like some sort of gangster head quarters where we were definitely going to get mugged. We walked down the alley, me pepper spray in hand.  My friends, walking closely arm in arm. We look left and right as we make our way down the dark alley. There were so many places someone could be hiding. It looked and smelled like a fish market. (Yuck!) Finally, at the end of the street, on the right side we saw the Jimjiban. It was really old and run down looking, but where else could we go? This was definitely not the Jimjiban that we had seen on our tourist guide maps. "Oh well!"  Making our way in we found surprisingly that we only had to pay seven dollars a person and we could stay all night. "Yes!" Well, we got our little pink sauna suits and our tiny orange towels and made our way to our lockers. We were so tired that we just showered off a bit and hit the floor. Literally, we had to sleep on a floor. Luckily it was heated though, because we didn't have any mats or blankets. We just had a little, square, block that was meant to serve as a pillow.  If I hadn't been up since six that morning and spent all day running around a theme park in the blazing heat, I would never have been able to sleep. But, oh did I sleep, in the heat, the weird smelling pillow things, and my new friends at my sides. To say it was disturbing was an understatement. The sauna was filled with all these old grannies running around buck naked like wild Amazonian’s. I mean....ewwwww....I would look away to avoid one granny and then next thing I new....another naked grandma. ‘AHHH!!!’ We all chose a corner in the sleeping room and huddled up together as if the three of us sleeping together would provide as a wall and safe guard against the horde of wild, naked, grannies around us. I swear I woke up three times that night, each time thinking I would awake to find myself being taken away by some gangsters for my organs. At one point, I awoke to the sound of a man's voice, alas it was thankfully just an old granny who smoked way too much in her life, but seriously, I was concerned. Nadeia, being the sweet heart that she is, woke up as well when she heard the man-like voice and said quote- “I was about to jump in front of all the sleeping grannies and be like, “I will protect you granny. Quick hide behind me. Quick cover yourselves. You’re like...NAKED!!!” 
I cracked up laughing at this and said I was just about to bite and beat the heck out of any man who came down there. Let me tell you, I was about to go Rambo on someone’s booty. Startled by all of this, I stayed up until we left and that was at 4:15 am. Oh yeah. Seriously. I sat down and kept watch over my friends as they slept. At 5:30 I woke them and said we should shower and get back to the dorms. So, at 6am we left and made our way back. Thankfully, the subway opens early, so we were able to take it and one stop later we were back at our school.  Back through the now completely open gates at 6:15 am, we made our way back into the dorms and slept like there was no tomorrow. Well, my roomies did. I was still to shook up to sleep, so I showered for what seemed like forever and phoned my mom. Yeah, I told her what happened. It was sure one crazy story. And let me tell you, if you ever have problems bonding with your roommates, just go get stuck in the city in the middle of the night in a foreign country and all of your problems will be solved. Amen. I say Amen. I did pray for God’s protection that night and let me tell you. Thank God we were okay. 
Well, this was a long blog post, but I felt like it needed to be in order to make it more real for you over there in the US who can’t hear it in person. I think I will also make a video where I tell you exactly what happened. I will try to get my room mates to do it with me. If you don’t believe me, you will after this video. 

Tip of the day: “Make sure to find out when things close in your city!!” 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Day Number Four
As usual on the opposite side of the world, I wake up when the sun does. Unfortunately, my room mates have already made it past the jet lag and don't wake up until one or two pm. Via my normal routine, I make it out of the room and out to the hall with my cell and some books. Because nothing opens before nine I decided to study up on my Korean, but as soon as nine hit I was out the door and off to find a coffee shop where I could get some wifi. I took a video of all of the cute houses and shops on the way over, but the video was erased! I know, but do n't worry. I will make another one via the same route and it will be okay. 'Fewf...Breathes in.' I really wanted to go to this popular coffee place called, Angels in Us, however, despite the sign saying they were open at 8 am, it was CLOSED. Disappointed, I made my way over to a narrower side street to adventure out some coffee out of this darned place. I had set my mind on coffee, so coffee I was gonna get. Or else Korea!  Well, don't worry. I am actually sipping coffee right now as I type. I was walking along this side street that goes up a hill when I noticed a cute little nook in the wall called Uncle's Beans. Inspired by the Hipster Mustache logo on the door I made my way into one of Korea's cutest coffee shops. 

The front entrance had a cute little stone patio with a small circular table and two chairs angled toward the street on one side, and plants on the other. I made my way through the glass door, down two steps, and into a tiny little place of maybe five wooden tables and ah...finally....the bitter sweet aroma of coffee. A picturesque couple stood in front of me in line, so I took this opportunity to look at some of the options. Iced coffee, hot coffee, tea, smoothies, and some very tasty looking pastries stood before me. Now, granted that the shop didn't have a large selection of pastries, the bread that I chose was delicious! It wasn't sweet, but it had a slightly salty taste. It was the perfect balance between dense and light and fluffy. As I broke it in half the sweet aroma of yeast and sugar filled my nose. It was just what I needed to go with the bitter black iced coffee that I ordered. "Ah." I sipped my coffee slowly and nibbled away at my baguette in between. I decided to choose a table in the front facing the glass wall, but secluded by some tall potted plants and cute pictures. It was at this moment that I finally felt at home in Korea. Ever since I flew here, I have had this nervous anticipation in my stomach and this feeling of de’ja vu. It was as if everything wasn't real, but rather that I was dreaming and would wake up from it any minute. I still have this feeling every now and then, but during my time at Uncle's Beans I was at peace. 

I spent two hours there studying my amazing Korean language book and writing in my cute orange journal that two of my very dear friends gave me before I left. (Thanks Amy! Thanks Ashely!) When I made it back to the dorms, my room mates (룸매투스) surprised me with news that we would be going to Lotte World. What?! I was so excited. For those of you who don't know, Lotte is a very popular brand that sells cookies in the US, but in Korea it is so much more than that. It is like Disney! We took danced in the subway and made American jokes, hit every ride in the massive theme park (including the roller coaster that went 160 mph and flipped us so many ways you would have thought we were pancakes!) we tried churro s, bought adorable bows, and finally....went back to the dorms? 

We took the last train back from Sincheon (the city where Lotte World is located) and finally got back to Sungshin. We walked through the gates to our University and greeted the guards (Anneyonghasseyo! bows head) Walked to our building,opened the door, and went to bed.  


NOT!!! As it turns out, at exactly 11:30 pm every night, the door man leaves, pulls down a metal cage over the entrance, and bolts it into the ground. So, what do we (three 19 year old girls), in foreign country do when we are supposed to be able to take showers, change into our jammies, and get to sleep IN OUR DORMS?!!! No, thats right, because the APARTMENTS that we were supposed to be able to stay in didn't have curfew and this place does!!! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Day Three Part Four:

My new roomies are quite adventurous. When I got back they suggested that we go out to Korean BBQ for dinner. Nadeia, being the crazy awesome chiqua she is suggested that we drink Soju. Nadeia is a great person to have around. She always keeps us laughing. Nadeia,  What's-her-name and I took like two hours getting ready and headed out into the night. Three 5’ 2” , American, brown haired, brown eyed girls, strolling down the sparkling streets to the restaurant. It was a traditionally styled house, with wooden beams, and wooden seats. We sat down and ordered Korean beef and a famous spicy soup called Jajungmyun. It is really good and consists of onions, potatoes, chili paste, meat, and some "other stuff." Of course we had plenty of side dishes (Panchan) kimchi, spicy bean sprouts, lettuce, and sea weed soup. We ate, drank, and laughed until our sides hurt and we had to walk it off. It was a cool night with a slight breeze that made the scenery just so much nicer. On the way back to the dorm we stopped by some cute boutiques called Etude and Olive. They were having a huge sale on facial wash, body wash, and makeup. I got some really cool thing called a Jelly Sponge. It is so neat. It is a spherical sponge that literally feels like a jelly fish! Awesome 대박!!!  It has soap in it too so you don’t have to put your own face wash on it, it already has it inside. Sweet. Yup. I love using it. I am waiting for the moment when I can say, “Hold on, I need to go jelly my face.”  Yup.  When we were dead beat from a long day and lots on our minds we decided to head home and hit the hay.
I definitely enjoyed sleeping with a pillow! ‘nuff said’

Day Three Part Two: Brunch 

So what did I do after my room mates got up? Well, I asked them to show me a place where I could get some breakfast. So we took a stroll down Dongseongdong past little boutiques and street carts to a place called Paris Baguette. Now, according to Nadeia and Zerine, Paris Baguette is quite popular in New York. However, me being from Northern VA, I am more used to Shilla Bakery. We went in and enjoyed not only the saturating aroma of freshly baked bread, but the ever so subtle smell of coffee brewing in the back. I chose a plain piece of bread that wouldn't be to sweet. I didn’t really want a sweet breakfast, but seeing as it was that or the sausage pizza bagel that my friend Nadeia got, I chose plain. Mmm...It was delicious (맛 있어요.) Oh. Whats that now? ....cream? Yuck. FTOYWDKM. (For those of you who don’t know me) I’m really not a boston cream donut kind of girl. I mean when it come to donuts, I like toasted coconut or chocolate frosted. But cream, bleck! So, what to do, when you pay for a delicious pastry? Well, the outside was fine, so I took my tissue and wiped out the cream. ‘Yeah. Thats much better.’ We drank orange juice with our sweets and then headed out. I must say, for not having any thing to eat since 5:30 in the morning, I really wasn’t satisfied by that pastry. I would prefer a nice traditional Korean Breakfast of soup, kimchi, and rice. However, it was very sweet of my roomies to take me out and show me around. From then on, I knew all the places I could go for breakfast (after nine) lol ; )   Don’t let the pictures make you too hungry. lol

Well, my third day in Korea 한국 was much more peaceful and productive. I woke up at 6:30 am Korea Time ( so about 5:30 pm in Virginia USA) I quietly crept from my bunk above Zerine and snuck into the bathroom with my toiletries from the US. I know from previous experience that I am not capable of being quite in the wee hours of the morning, so I stretched and did some workouts in the lounge for about an hour or so. When I got bored, I decided to change and go for a morning stroll and maybe find a place for breakfast 아 침 식 사. It was 7:30 am when I walked down stairs and greeted the very kind old security guard. 
ME: 안 녕 이 주믓새요. Annyongee Jumusayo. Good Morning. 
Ajussi (Elder Man) :  Ne. Anyongegayseyo. 내. 안녕이가새요. 

The Ajussi pushed the button and the door opened to a beautiful crisp morning. I greeted the guards at the gate as I walked down the campus hill and was ready for some delicious coffee or a traditional Korean Breakfast. Da dun. Dun........

I made a video on my phone, but for some reason it says that it was erased from my SD card! I am so upset. I took alot of pictures with my phone. Ugg. I will have to start taking more with my Camera. mmmmm....sad. I will take more though of the same places today if I can. uggg....Here I go again. 

Well.....Nothing is open at 7:30 am in Seoul. I walked....and walked....and WALKED...and cigar. It wasn’t until I came back that the Ajussi told me that breakfast doesn’t open until 9:00 am. What! I was hungry. Man. Yeah. That stinks. So I thought, ‘ Okay, my room mates should be up in an hour. We can go out and get breakfast together.’ Nope. They sleep in pretty late. So, I just chilled out in the room, trying, (but failing miserably) to be quiet. At 1 pm. I begged my roomies to show me where to get some grub. My stomach was like a washing machine/ machine gun. Dang. I have never heard it talk like that before. If stomachs had a language, my stomach would have totally been cussing me out. 

Stomach: “Give me some food chica! You little ..... chick! “ 

Yeah. So, remember guys. Unless you have an apartment with a kitchen and plenty of food to cook in the fridge, when you come to Seoul....nothing opens till NINE !!!