Monday, January 10, 2011

If I take one more step, it'll be the farthest away from home I've ever been

Today marks the seventh week of the winter school term and the start of my eighth week in Korea. It's wild that I've almost been here for two months and that I'm more than halfway through my first term. Things are still going along smoothly and I feel settled here now. So far this is about equal to the longest time I've spent away from home but that was also during college when I was only an hour and a half's drive away. The hardest week I've experienced was Christmas week for obvious reasons but besides that I think I'm doing pretty okay. I wouldn't say I'm homesick really, but rather peoplesick. I'm perfectly content in my new surroundings right now, I just miss the hell out of everyone I left behind.

So it was a wicked nice treat to receive a belated birthday/Christmas care package from home! 
All of my favorite things in one neat little package, glorious. It's expensive to ship things over here but this package was the perfect size for me. The presents were wrapped (Barbie Mulan in Batman paper for my birthday, the HP book in Christmas paper) and my mom also managed to squeeze in the extra towel I'd forgotten to bring along, some facial cleanser I'd requested because I can't find mine here, a bunch of cards, my niece and nephew's new school pictures, and a couple packs of Expo markers since I'd mentioned how bad the ones at school are. Hands down my favorite part was the calendar wall scroll which I was confused over until I saw that it was from the local Chinese buffet place back home and my mom had made sure to tag it as being from my Dad haha. 

I've been keeping myself busy in the chilly weather and trying not to become a hermit though it's difficult when it's so cold out. Two weeks ago I went back to Bupyeong Market on a Wednesday and it was much less crowded than when I'd been on the weekend. I strolled for a while and bought a couple things including a Superman sweatshirt that was only ₩10,000 and is my new favorite comfy item.

I also found a Hallmark-ish type store that had a whole wall of Miyazaki products.
There were some beautiful handcrafted type items that unfortunately were crazy expensive and even the plushies were a lot which is too bad because I'd love a big squashy Totoro.

The best part about this store though was this gem:
Yes, we would all like to know the turemeaning of love. Spelling errors like this are actually pretty common and always hilarious. Apparently one of the other teachers saw a sweatshirt somewhere that says "Boston, Massachubetts". I would buy that in a heartbeat.

Then last week I spent one late morning/early afternoon hiking up the mountain a few blocks from my apartment building with a couple of co-workers. I'm pretty sure it's called Cheongryangsan Mountain and it was a good climb. The paths were still pretty icy and I slipped a bunch but always just managed to keep my butt from hitting the ground which counts for something. There were a lot of steps and thankfully some rope guardrails which pretty much saved me from disaster on the climb down. I'd like to have taken pictures along the way but was more concerned with not wiping out. Here was the view from the top though.
In the distance is Songdo, which is a planned international business district that's supposed to be completed by 2015. The buildings all look futuristicy in the posters and stuff but I haven't actually been over there yet to check it out for myself. One of these days.
See check out that ice! Treacherous!
There are a bunch of paths leading up and down the mountain and I guess some of them lead to temples. I can't wait to hike this in the spring and summer when the ice is gone and the trees are all filled in. I'd imagine the sunset and sunrise are beautiful from up here. It's nice having this so close by!

On Saturday I went with a bunch of people from work into Yongsan for various electronic needs. I didn't need anything particular but wanted to browse the pirated movies section. After looking at cameras and computers in I'Park Mall above the subway station we went outside where there are streets and underground alleys of electronics everywhere. At the DVD booths we flipped through ringed packets of movie covers and whenever you saw a movie you wanted the guy working the booth would come over with a little notebook and mark it down on your own page. I ended up with five DVDs which worked out to ₩10,000 total, an awesome deal. Plus they throw in empty cases and print outs of the cover so you can slide them in yourself to make it look like the real deal. Well, it looks real enough until you notice how pixelated the pictures are and that the cover for Shutter Island is in Korean while the tagline for Jurassic Park is in German. They play crystal clear though so that's all that matters!

Next up was Itaewon and a late lunch at Subway where I got a meatball marinara and oh my god how I've missed meatball subs. It was actually pretty similar to the ones at home though the sauce was a little sweeter and with a little bit more of a kick. So delicious though. I know your favorite version of your favorite food is supposed to be like Great-Grandma's homemade or something but meatball subs from Subway are my favorite. I'm not planning to live off western food in Korea but I'd been craving a sub all week and was psyched I could get one here.

We then went to What the Book? where I scooped up a few more paperbacks to keep me occupied. I think I might be purposely buying only a few at a time so I have an excuse to keep going back. One thing I do miss is not having a bookstore just a hop away. Or at least a bookstore with books in a language I'm able to read.

Yesterday I wanted to do something with my day and spent Saturday night on the search but honestly I was put off by how cold it's been. So instead I slept in wonderfully late and then spent the day reading in bed and watching movies. I do love how walkable this area is and the convenience of the subway but so many of the things I want to do are partially or wholly outside and better suited for warmer weather. I'd say I'm still getting out lots though, at least enough to not feel guilty for having an utterly lazy day once in a while.

I'm not sure if anything is going on for the coming weekend yet but I just discovered the location of the Forever 21 in Myeongdong. Cheap cheap clothes that may actually come in western girl sizes? And today was payday? I see some shopping in my future...

North Korea is Crazy Trivia of the Day: In 1978, actress Choi Eun-hee, recently divorced from Shin Sang-ok, a movie director and producer, was kidnapped from Hong Kong to North Korea. When Shin traveled to Hong Kong to investigate, he was kidnapped as well. The kidnappings were on orders of future leader Kim Jong-il, who wanted to establish a film industry for his country to sway international opinion regarding the views of the Workers' Party of Korea. Kim's plan was to have Shin work as his propagandist and for Choi to be the star.

The North Korean authorities have denied the kidnapping accusations, claiming that they came to the country willingly. Shin and Choi made secret audio tapes of conversations with Kim Jong-il, supporting their story. Shin was put in comfortable accommodations, but, after an escape attempt, was placed in prison. He was brought to Pyongyang in 1983, to learn why he had been brought to North Korea. Choi was also brought to the same dinner party, where she first learned that Shin was also in North Korea. They re-married shortly afterwards, as suggested by Kim Jong-il. 

From 1983 Shin directed seven films with Kim Jong-il acting as an executive producer. The best known of these films is Pulgasari, a giant-monster film similar to the Japanese Godzilla. In 1986, eight years after the kidnapping, Shin and Choi escaped while in Vienna for a business meeting, before eventually fleeing to the United States, seeking political asylum.


  1. oh my god i'm totally gonna watch pulgasari this instant. that sounds amazing. thanks for the trivia!

  2. Finding out that Kim Jong-il has an IMDB page in which he's credited as the executive producer of a monster movie was almost as good as hearing the news that North Korea got a twitter. I haven't watched it yet but it's bookmarked from google video for a rainy day!