Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rent in Korea?!?

Classes throughout the week started out hard, but slowly became more manageable and more fun. My introduction lesson proved to be too short (I was used to half an hour lessons in Thailand for my teacher practice), and the first couple of lessons had a handful of impromptu activities, which definitely stressed me out. Throughout the week, however, I modified the lesson and by the end of the week they were, I think, fun and successful lessons. My favorite part was introducing my family, and striving to explain the terms that come along with mixed marriages. I had an entire powerpoint devoted to explaining divorce, re-marriage, and the resulting names for my siblings. It was really fun to watch their reactions as my little stick man moved around the screen to form new couplings. I also could not help but to grin when the students screamed to see pictures of Mom, Anna and Sarah and how pretty they were, but then laugh when I showed them pictures of David. Sorry Broseph, but you need better pictures of you on Facebook!
I had planned to spend Monday night reading and studying Korean, but other co-teachers in my building convinced me to go out for a beer at the Canadian brewery. Yeah . . . there is a Canadian brewery down the street from my house. It has excellent beers, but afterward, as it was a Monday, I went back to my place and read most of a Brave New World and then went to bed. The amount of free time I have is outstanding, and I am lucky to have an avid reader upstairs in my apartment complex. She lent me a Brave New World, then the Alchemist, and now I am working on the Satanic Verses. This last book is fantastic, as his writing is impeccable. So well written that it gives me the shivers.
After class on Tuesday, I rushed back home to get my apartment ready for company. I have started this thing called “Tuesdays with Mark” in Kangnam, my neighborhood, during which many of my English teacher friends come over for a pseudo potluck. The first week was stir-fry, second week was sandwiches, and this week is going to be breakfast for dinner. The sandwiches were so good. Maybe it was because someone found American mustard, or maybe it was just all the random ingredients people brought melded in a very random way. Either way, we will probably have to do sandwich night again. Afterward, a couple of us went out for a few games of darts. I really like darts, but mostly because it reminds me of my sister, Sarah.
Work on Wednesday was followed by a nice walk home to my place. I’ve been trying to walk everyday home, and currently look for the fastest way to do so. I think I found it on Wednesday, when I walked up a hill, scaled a little hill in the forest, and ended up somewhat close to my apartment. What a great way to get home, minus all the sweating. The park is big enough that you can get away from the city, but small enough that you do not get lost or overwhelmed. Perfect. The evening was spent in a very relaxing manner: watching Se7en with Rachel in my building. Alright, it wasn’t completely relaxing, but it was nice to lay around for a change. I was a little freaked out afterward and doubly locked all my windows.
I had my first stay late to catch up day after school on Thursday. I definitely have enough time between classes to get all my work done for next week, but I also spend too much time on the internet or reading, and not doing my work. The result? Working furiously on powerpoints until 5:30 and then realizing I need to get to the Sports Complex to see a baseball game. Somehow I have become a lot more interested in sports since I’ve been here. I’m not entirely sure why, but it has definitely happened. The game on Thursday was the first baseball game I can remember staying for the entire duration, and the entire time I was having so much fun. It wasn’t the game, which was actually played between two Korean teams and not that good, but the fans were outrageously fun.

Joining their enthusiasm for the game made the entire night memorable, and the walk home (going from east to west this time, not the other way around) showed me some interesting parts of the city that I will revisit once my first paycheck appears.
On Friday, I was incredibly psyched that it was the weekend. First, however, I had badminton practice. Somehow, I joined the badminton club at my school. When we play badminton in Minnesota, it is a slow, calm, relaxing sport. Not here. I’m sweating like crazy, worried that I will be smelly. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but Koreans do not produce the bacteria that causes people to smell. They do not sell deodorant here because they do not need it. I do need it. Anyways, I’m sweating like crazy, trying my hardest to get the birdie over the net, and learning a lot more about badminton than I had ever known in my life. It is becoming my favorite sport, is a great workout, and hopefully I can pick up some Korean while playing. Unfortunately, they say ‘inuh’ and ‘outuh’ as well as ‘matchuh’, so most of the words are Konglish. Nevertheless, it is a good activity to meet people. Afterward, I headed home, showered, and went over to Aislinn and Emily’s place to watch some TV, chill, and have a calm Friday night. The three of us are, I think, becoming pretty close and I slept over. Good thing too, because a storm picked up early on in the night, and I would have probably been caught in it if I had not already had a place to sleep.
Unfortunately, we woke up the next morning and realized that the girls had been robbed earlier on Friday. Apparently, someone came in through the sliding door between 4:30 and 6:30 and found all the money that was hidden in random spots throughout the house. As theft is relatively unheard of in Korea, our supposition is that the thieves were foreigners, and the girls called the police. The CSI team came, and actually dusted the house for fingerprints. If they found any, they will probably be mine, so I’ll let you know if I get arrested. Hopefully the girls will vouch for me if that is the case. Since this is Korea, I served the policemen coffee and tea, which, although the situation was crappy, did lighten the mood. The three of us were supposed to go to a rugby game in the morning, but because of this major inconvenience we were really late. Instead, we made it to a soccer game at Olympic Stadium. This stadium, built in the late 80s, is magnificent, and there were huge numbers of fans rooting for Jansei and Korea University. We gravitated toward Korea University, but could not watch the game because of two huge sections of cheerleaders who were singing K-pop (Korean pop) and shooting off smoke, fire, and even fireworks. The amount of noise was overwhelming, but we eventually headed to the other side of the behemoth of a stadium for some peace and the ability to actually hear and see the game. A nice Korean man threw us some beers and fried shrimp (tail-gating to the extreme) and we watched the game until the end.
Ais and I!

After an hour walk home, and some delicious food along the way, we came back to my apartment and ate a quick dinner.
One of my co-workers from Applebee’s, Anna, has a friend studying here. She met up with me at my station with two of her friends to go to the musical Rent. After their dinner, we dressed up, grabbed a taxi, and headed to the theater. The show was fantastic, with Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascall reprising their roles as Mark and Roger respectively. Although some of the songs were unimpressive, for the most part it was a great show. The last time I saw Rent was with my mother in Minneapolis, and I would argue that the performance was comparable. I do not know how they could put on this show in the conservative country of Korea, but somehow it worked. The actors’ manager that we met later told us that most Koreans did not understand that there were gay and lesbian couples, because it is quite normal in Korean culture for men to hold hands with men in a very not sexual way. After the show we tried to get to the stage door, but we were not allowed. I asked two young Koreans if I could get by anyways, and they giggled, pointed to my hair, and let us sneak by. As I turned, I kissed her hand to another round of giggles. O, to be blonde in this country! Unfortunately, the cast had already left, but we did later see some of the cast members out and about in Itaewon, where we danced the night away.
Sunday was a lazy day. I love lazy days. I just read, watched tv, ate a lot of scrambled eggs, and got ready for school the next day. The girls headed back to their hometown (north of the city) and I went to bed really early. My lessons for this week focus on dance and theater, and include a six line skit for the students. It is a lot of fun, especially the karaoke at the beginning. Of course, some classes are less enthusiastic than others, but I think I’m going to like this week a lot better than last week! Plus, more badminton practice, every day after school. I’ll let you know if I get any better.

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