Although Koreans obviously don’t celebrate the same holidays as we do, all the foreigners here transformed parts of Seoul into Halloween enclaves on the 30th and 31st. On the first night of Halloween, Friday the 30th, I met up with a bunch of people in Hongdae, which is one of the University areas of Seoul. I put together a cheap and easy costume, dressed as G-Dragon from his Heartbreaker music video; it is always fun to dress as a Korean! Although I got a few stares on the subway for my face paint, Rachel was gawked at for her full mask. When we got to Hongdae, however, we met up with a bunch of our friends and it actually felt like Halloween. Some clubs in Hongdae even had Halloween themes! We went to this bar in the shape of an igloo, which was an experience. You literally had to step over rivulets to get to different clusters of people. Nick was dressed up as Where’s Waldo, which was awesome, and we eventually headed off to a different bar with some of the other guys. A couple of one dollar bad tequila shots later, and I decided I had to head home. Those tequilas did a number for my stomach, however, and I ended up eating 4 hamburgers from a sandwich stall. Oh, Korea.
I woke up at around 11 the next morning to a knock on my door. Groggily, I made my way over to the door in my underwear and was greeted with a large package! I greedily opened it to find sheets, a French press, Halloween candy, and coffee from my mom. She also sent three towels. They looked so gigantic! In Korea, they use these tiny little towels, which you have to wash all the time because they smell horribly after one use. These giant towels, however, are a godsend. Of course, the package also had my student loan bills. Typical mother behavior. The rest of the morning was spent recuperating and then cleaning my apartment. Although my place is just a studio, because of its location it is perfect for hosting parties. I had decided to have a little Halloween pre-game at my place, but according to Facebook only five people were for sure coming. This was fine by me, so by 7 pm, I had bought some snacks and decorated my room with spiderwebs and scary pictures my students had drawn. Apparently, many of the maybes became yeses, as the size of the party reached some 25 people. Byeong Hun and his friend Yeon Hee came, so we all had some practice signing ASL. We turned Byeong Hun into a veritable vampire and Yeon Hee wore Rachel’s mask backwards to give herself the illusion of a bird. It worked out pretty well.
At around 10:15, we taxied to Itaewon to go to The Loft, because ladies drink free. The night was really fun, with a lot of dancing and chatting and looking at the crazy costumes. I love Halloween.
The next morning, Sam, Sonali, Rachel, Paul, Andie, Byeong Hun and I went to brunch at Big Rock in Kangnam. There was an all you can eat buffet for around 10 dollars, which was awesome. After stuffing our faces, we went to Kyobo books to buy some Korean language books to help in our endeavors to learn this language. Everyone was still exhausted from the night before, however, and they all left around 4. I went for a nice walk to Appujeong and window shopped for puppies. I don’t know if I like dogs, but I kind of really want to buy a puppy here. They are incredibly adorable, and I am allowed to have pets in this apartment.
Monday the 2nd I started my week of listening tests. This made school extra boring. Monday night I met up with Byeong Hun and his friends in Jongno 3 Ga, which is another of the downtown areas near Insadong (a street famous for its shopping and art). We went to this fantastic 식당 (restaurant) and I was given another opportunity to practice my ASL. Some Japanese friends were there, and I was once again amazed at how they could communicate through ISL even though they did not have a common linguistic background. It was, of course, difficult and tiring for me to follow, but I did catch a few things and enjoyed signing with all of Byeong Hun’s friends.
On Tuesday, all the second graders and many of the first graders were sent home because of H1N1. This meant that I only had one class on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. My co-teacher, Seon Suk Kim, thought I was depressed, but I just kept telling her I was bored. They also cancelled my morning and afternoon classes, which meant that I had a half an hour of extra sleep the entire week. This was nice, but I would rather be teaching than sitting around all day. Badminton practice wasn’t as fun either, because many of the teachers were heading home immediately after school because of H1N1. Much of my week was just spent walking, because the weather has been perfect. Nice autumn weather: not too cold with a nice gentle wind. The smell here is amazing, with all the trees changing color. I love autumn.
Andie, Sonali, Sam, Rachel and I had decided to meet up on Wednesday to go to BH’s restaurant to try his fusion food. It was fantastic. Eunhoe Choi and Yeon Hee came as well. In between mouths of delicious chicken and pizza, we learned new signs, new Korean words, and new things about one another.
After another lame badminton practice on Friday, I walked home to Kangnam and then ate a quick dinner. Mark, Rachel and I went to Jongno 3 Ga again to meet up with Byeong Hun at a bar called Barcode. However, it was very Korean and very not fun. Luckily, Byeong Hun knew the area pretty well and brought us to a fun little underground bar/restaurant where we drank soju, beer, and learned a lot about one another.
Saturday morning I slept in, and then got on a train to Incheon. Incheon is the fourth largest city in Korea and is only an hour from downtown Seoul. Byeong Hun was in a show at a Deaf play festival and he invited me to come. I took some wrong transfers, unfortunately, and was running really late. I got there just in time to see the start of BH’s show. With three of his friends, he was telling a story about the life of a deaf person in a speaking world. It was ridiculously funny. The first scene was BH using the bathroom and a speaking person knocking on the door. Oblivious, BH continues to use the toilet until the other person barged into the room. Another scene saw BH and his friends fly to America, where they were served by a bimbo-looking waitress who, obviously, did not know any sign. However, they were able to order successfully and the audience roared with laughter. It was seriously one of the best shows I have ever seen, and I understood it even though they were signing a language I did not understand. There body movements and facial expressions were awesome. Out of the 12 teams performing, BH’s team ended up getting 1st prize.
At around 9 pm, we got back on a train and headed back to Seoul and, for the third time this week, Jongno. We ran into BH’s friend Seong Cheol on the subway and I ended up clumsily explaining the differences between the 50 states in sign language. In Seoul, we met up with another Deaf Korean and his boyfriend, and went to a gay bar in Jongno. There are all these narrow allies with old cackling ladies and men in business suits in Jongno; it was quite terrifying, but luckily I was with a group of Koreans. At the bar, I realized that I really needed to work on my Korean, because while I could easily communicate with BH, I could not so easily communicate with his Korean speaking friend. It was a nice night out regardless, and we all headed home around 10 pm.
Noon the next morning we continued our new Sunday brunch tradition at a nice place in Kangnam. I ordered pancakes and eggs and was not disappointed. The bill was a little hefty, however, and we had to wait in a line for an hour so I hope next time we chose a less popular place. Rachel, Mark, BH, Seong Cheol and I all played badminton after breakfast and then went for a walk. This city is excellent to walk around in. Even though it is not as appealing as, say, Boston, it is so big that you always see new things.
My classes for this week have been pretty boring. Because of the H1N1 epidemic, many students are taking their speaking tests this week, which has thrown off the schedule. My lesson is about making sandwiches, which is fun for me and the students, but it also makes me hungry all day. Today, however, is Pepero day, so I was given little candy sticks from my students. Since November 11th is four ‘1’s, Pepero decided to make it into a holiday based on their candy. It is like Valentines’ day, but worst because there is NO hiding its commercialism. However, I did get this cute little stuffed puppy from one student, which made my day. Tomorrow I don’t have school because the high school students have a huge standardized test. Maybe I’ll head to Dongdaemun for once and actually see the crazy market. Have a good day!