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Aug. 24th, 2010

latin by <lj user=erin_icons>

Prague day 2

8/21

My 2nd day in Prague started rather roughly. I woke up later than I wanted to and didn’t get out the door until nearly 11am.  I missed breakfast at the hostel so I had to go out to a restaurant. I then ended up running errands until about 2:30. I first needed to buy my ticket for the train to Stuttgart, which I did, but then found I had to go to a different train station, so I went to find it so that I wouldn’t lose time the next day looking for it. Next I had the issue of my luggage. They were almost too heavy for the plane limits and I didn’t want them to be too heavy when schlepping them on and off trains, so I went to a post office for a box. The box they gave me was too small and they didn’t speak English. So I went back to the hostel and asked about a good P. O. for me to go to, which was the Main P.O. near the National Museum. Once there, just to get a box I had to get through the service system. There’s a machine from which one must take a number. But there are 10 numbered buttons which have descriptions of specific services on them. In Czech. Eventually I found some directions in English and got a number. When it was finally called, I was told I had to get a number from button no. 8 aka “other services”, not parcel services. So I had to wait again just to get the box. The box I eventually got was bigger than the other, but still quite small. Back at the hostel I packed what I could in the boxes; heavier stuff that I didn’t need. So, walking to the post office AGAIN I finally got them sent out.

 

Anyway, its all done and I’m eating in the Old Town Square again, being completely vegetarian for lunch, since Czech food is largely meat and potatoes and its just too hot for that.


More coming soon!
PS. if you want to see pictures, please check out my album on Facebook. If youre not friends with me on Facebook, feel free to friend me.

europe

Prague

From my written journal, 8/20:

I am in Prague. I am in the old town square, drinking a cappuccino and the astronomical clock designed by Kepler is tolling the half hour. I am so happy to be in Europe and so happy that I have pretty much no jet lag.

 

So here’s how it all began. I had my last day of English Camp at Seorim Elem. School and then we all went to a restaurant for sangyuptang, that whole-chicken soup which I’ve had more times than I care for. It’s as dull as you can get. I invited Mallory and James out for a drink in Bupyeong and we ended up at a bar called Woodstock; not for the concert place of legend in the 60’s but for the little yellow bird in the Peanuts cartoons. Koreans have a thing for those characters even though they have no idea who they actually are. Marc and Stuart eventually showed up.

 

I did end up explaining the details of the “incident” that occurred a couple weeks ago. Some of you know what happened, some may not. I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about it at all; I’m not afraid of the memory of it. Stuart told me he thought I was very brave. I suppose I am a “strong” person. Many people keep telling me that, but I’m not really sure what that even means. There are plenty of other ways in which I am not very strong. Anyhow-

 

So I was finishing my cleaning and packing until about 4am and still had to get some clothes dry, make up the clean bed sheets, put all the garbage on the curb, plus go over the floor once more with a swiffer cloth. I tried to sleep but, as tired as I was, I couldn’t. I’d drift off and suddenly I’d feel anxiety about leaving and my heart would pound and wake me up. I’d set my alarm for 7:30, since Lina was coming to pick me up at 8, but I gave up trying to sleep and got up to finish preparing at 7. Lina came at 8:15 and I gave her a CD that I burned for her along with a note and this dollar bill I’d carried around with me from the beginning of my year for Minji, her daughter. I’m going to miss that little psycho.

 

We took the long Incheon bridge to the airport and met Mallory there. She lives on the airport island, so it had been thought a good idea for Lina to drive her to Seorim for the last day of English camp after dropping me off. My voice wavered a tiny bit as we said goodbye, but it was quick, so I didn’t have time to be emotional.

 

Once on the Lufthansa plane, people spoke German to me for the first time in a long while. Having considered this situation weeks prior, my concern had been that my foreign language switch was currently set on Korean and German was not going to come to me very easily. Of course, that’s exactly what happened. No matter how many times I fought to remind myself  not to say “ne” (sounds like ‘nay’), I did. Every single time. Since ne means “yes” in Korean (as well as a good response word to just about anything), and means “no” in German, the German attendant was doubtless finding me more than a little confusing.

 

I didn’t sleep very much on the plane and once we were in Munich, I was too elated to feel tired. Elated, yet I felt more comfortable with the mob of Koreans around me than with the Germans. I sat writing in my other notebook, drinking my first glass of REAL weizen while waiting for my next flight.

 

Once on the plane to Prague, I sat with a Japanese woman who was very kind. Mind, I’m less familiar with the Japanese than with Koreans, but they’re culturally similar enough that I was more comfortable with her than others. She helped me put my laptop case in the storage above the seats. I bow automatically these days, so even though I said “thank you” in English, I wasn’t embarrassed that I bowed to her. It was appropriate. And I would’ve felt a little humiliated if I’d bowed to a European.

 

Once at the airport, my luggage came really fast, I got a taxi, and eventually got myself sorted at the hostel (Old Prague Hostel, right in the middle of the Old Town). My room has 10 beds in all with a myriad of different people. Two German girls, a couple other Americans, and three Malaysians. The Malaysians are very friendly and are well within my comfort zone. I admit to feeling a little intimidated by Europeans now. They are astronomically different from Koreans behaviorally and I’ve had to adjust myself.  In any case, that leads back to where I am now: Prague. Square. Coffee. Everything right with the world.

Jul. 3rd, 2010

korea

twists and turns

I have to confess that the idea of leaving Korea has been giving me trouble. So much more than I thought. Yes, there are many things that I hate about living here and I must not lose sight of that. But some of the people I now know are going to be very difficult to leave behind.

Yes, I don't like my job. Yes, my health has been poor. Yes I hate the dirt and the squalor and the food. But I know I will miss that handful of people who made my life here bearable. I can tell this is going to be much harder than I thought.

May. 22nd, 2010

windmill by maesstria

departure plans

Yes, I've actually been making plans for my eventual leave-taking from the ultimate metropolis for several months now. But just this week they've undergone a shift because I've found that I'll actually be able to leave a week earlier than stated in my contract, which officially ends August 25th. My visa was going to be a problem, because it ended on the 19th of August, exactly one year from my entry. But after talking with her superiors, Lina told me it's been decided that I can take my vacation at the very end of my contract, starting on the 19th, and I will be free to leave. It actually works out quite well for me, since I didn't have any real plans for my summer vacation. Most countries are either experiencing civil unrest (Thailand) or are experiencing monsoon season. Japan apparently will be having typhoon weather as well. So...not much in the way of vacationing. Hannah and I considered Guam (Guam??!!) but after some research found it kind of seedy. Clearly most people go for the tax-free mark-downs on designer items.

So my plan as of now is still to go to Prague first. There's a great little hostel situated right in the altstadt, or whatever its called in Czech. Prices aren't bad either. I would arrive on the very same day as my departure from Incheon Int'l at around 5pm. (Since it took 23 hours from NY to Incheon, this seems very strange to me.) I would stay 3 nights, one for recovery. Next will be Tuebingen for 3 nights at the Jugendherberge, or youth hostel. Now, I had thought about going to Baden-Baden. I know everyone says it very pretty, but all things considered, I just couldn't get interested enough to spend the time and money. Everything that could have tempted me there I can find just as easily in Tuebingen. Sure, there's the Black Forest and the Roman Baths, but the forest to the east is just as nice, I know the paths, and Roman Baths are just another tourist attraction that don't really mean anything to me. So Baden is out. 

So after Tuebingen, I would take the train north to Muenster, where my good friend Anja is attending the University for her PhD, crash with her for a few days, then to visit my friend Merel who lives near/in Maastricht, the Netherlands. She herself will be leaving for her own university town in northern Groningen, which is where I would have visited her if my plans were unchanged. She'll be busy, but then I'll probably be able to find plenty of things to do and see there by myself if not with her.  After probably 3 or 4 days, I'll head to A-dam to catch my flight home. Hopefully no volcanic ash will interfere.

May. 18th, 2010

baboon punching by almostaday

things learned

This is a rant, for the most part, so you are officially warned.

One of the valuable things I am learning from this experience is that I do not ever wish to be an elementary school teacher ever again. The job itself isn't horrible, though my role here in this Korean school can be. And the kids aren't terrible, either; though when they are, I can handle them.

My issue is that I am simply not a person who can be around young kids for an extended period of time without wanting to burst out in a fit of rebellion both against their neediness for attention and my constant feeling of living outside of my body in a persona of a goody-two-shoes teacher. I want to pierce my nose again. I want a tattoo. I want to give the system the finger. Apparently, being conventional to me is psychologically unhealthy.

Which brings me to the other point, that being that I am just not a motherly person. That is the thing I always notice whenever there's a child younger than 10 in the room. The other teachers here or even just some other woman I'm with on the subway train will croon and swoon over "how cute" some kid is. My response is either a muttered, uncomfortable agreement or a full throttle yet painfully reluctant agreement. My normal policy of being outright up front with my opinions diminishes, because its utterly taboo for a woman to respond with, "Eh, I don't really think so. It's a kid. So what?" But I simultaneously think it's ridiculous that I should feel compelled to pretend. It's also utterly taboo for a woman to say they don't want kids, which I do not. Society says children = happiness, which is sheer idiocy because that's like saying everyone likes chocolate ice cream. Which I also do not. It's like saying all women like the same kind of sex. Which they don't. It's like saying all men are obsessed with their masculinity. It's like saying religion is good for everyone. They're not true. Don't believe them. So I officially raise my vigorous objections to this conformist attitude that everyone wants the same thing, or should want the same thing.

"Women have been told how they must have children to be happy. Now here comes a book that shows how happy women can be without children. All of the women profiled are innovators, thinkers, risk-takers who have listened hard to hear their own voice through the cultural din and not followed convention for convention's sake. Each tells us that there are many ways to make the journey of life worthwhile."

-- Pepper Schwartz, review of Pride and Joy: The Lives and Passions of Women Without Children

Are these women less happy, less lively, less passionate for not having kids?? My god, it sounds like it's just the opposite!

Kids aren't bad, just so long as they aren't begging for my attention and I don't have to be around them for more than a few hours. I'm not motherly. So there.

Apr. 27th, 2010

imagination

Korea in Springtime

Last weekend Hannah and I spent all day in Seoul, exploring the Sinchon and Ehwa Women's Uni area. Wanted to take pics before all the flowing trees grew their leaves out.





 

Shim's tapas restaurant, best spanish tapas in all Korea, run by 3 groovy Korean sisters. Hongdae.



Spent three hours attempting to draw. Getting better at heads.





Apr. 22nd, 2010

railway

Mmk Koreans are moody and other thoughts

See the above. Lina's been in great mood lately. I dunno if its because of spring or if there's something going on in her personal life that's changed that. But its been a good week generally. I'll bet you W20,000 she'll be back in a bad mood next week. Mind you, I'm basing this over-generalizing statement on many accounts I have read and heard from my friends. It's all that stoic, bottling-up. If they'd just let themselves genuinely bitch about stuff (and I don't mean the attention-seeking whining they do sometimes - that's namely teenage/young girls), I think they would release a lot of that stress. But its not acceptable, so they don't. Plus, living with stress is second nature, so I doubt they do much to help themselves with that. I don't know if it's because of their somewhat more passive nature or what, but Koreans really (generally) don't do much to help themselves. On the bus in the morning, its always packed with school boys and its usually quite warm. I'm there in a shirt and light jacket and they're still wearing heavier coats, just sitting there, sweating, not opening any windows or taking off any layers. Most people in other parts of the world would take some kind of action to make themselves more comfortable. Not any person I have ever seen on the bus has ever done anything to alleviate their own discomfort. It wouldn't be a far stretch to imagine that there are other situations, like being stressed out, in which they just suffer and don't change anything. This, I do not understand.

Planned to go to Hongdae again with Myung Sun, but it's parents' day soon and since her father will be away that day they're celebrating early. So that's our plans canceled. Probably I'll go to Sinchon to take pictures of the cherry blossom trees since it'll be the last weekend the flowers will be on them.

Frustrated with the lack of time and space to do much physical activity, I'm going to go all the way to Incheon Grand Park to rent a bike and ride around. Its almost as if I've forgotten what its like to really use my muscles.

Sometimes, I have some really great days here and it makes me sad to think that I'll be leaving soon. But then I remember what a struggle it is cooking decent food for myself, living in a window-less box, trying to get myself to exercise in said window-less box, how it takes at least a half hour to get anywhere that I want to go, how much I dislike certain aspects of being a teacher, trying to get lesson information out of Lina when she's having a less-than-amazing day.

There's a lot going on in Korea, it's a very exciting place to live. But I actually do a lot less. Even when I'm jobless and living at home, I have so much more access to things I enjoy. I have a feeling I'm going to need to remind myself of that once I get home. My feelings about home have been evolving over the last month, and I know it won't be all roses. Just the other week my dad showed me my room on webcam; strangely enough I hadn't thought about my room at all, but at suddenly seeing it, I nearly panicked. You do forget lots of things about home when you've been away for this long. Seeing my bedroom, my very personal space that I've  basically lived my life in, just flooded me. It's not nostalgic, its a sudden blast of a psychological reaction. I don't know how else to describe it, but it was my first taste of real reverse-culture shock. I wasn't like that when I left Germany. Well, it was but only for a brief  five minute panic attack when I stepped into my room again for the first time, and it had been building and building in the car ride home, which had been so surreal it felt like I was tripping on something. But it was kind of mild; noticeable, but mild. I don't know how I'll react this time around, but I'm hoping my jaunt through Europe will help ease the transition.
afraid

Writer's Block: Too scary!!

Was there something you were afraid of as a child that just seems silly to you now?

 
Renaissance fair actors

lol!

Apr. 18th, 2010

korea

Noryangjin Fish Market, Giocat cafe, Hongdae

Every travel channel personality who comes to Korea comes here: Noryangjin fish market, the biggest in Korea.
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latin by <lj user=erin_icons>

random picture dump


Jo, Natalie, Sandra, and Andre. Out for the night in Seoul. No idea where we were exactly.

Below: Ehwa (ee-wah) Women's Universi
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