Monday, April 11, 2011

Okay- 3, 2, 1, let's jam

This past weekend I came down with a case of Energizer Bunny Syndrome. See I like to get out and about, especially in the nice weather now, but I've always been someone who matches the amount of time I spend being busy with double that amount of time being lazy. It just works for me. Three hours out being social equals six hours reading comments on Oh No They Didn't, collecting recipes off Food Gawker, and watching YouTube videos of Anthony Weiner snarking on the GOP (true story, this was basically my Sunday night).

So usually even if I'm super busy one day, I take the next to relax and catch my breath. This weekend though I stayed pretty active. Let's pick it up from Saturday, starting from the top:

I get home after grabbing dinner after work with Brianna and Kim, our newest co-worker who just started this term. I check online for info about Korea's cherry blossom festivals since they're in bloom now. Except all the festivals are about five hours away and I haven't planned in advance. Boo hiss. So Brianna and I decide to hit up the 63 Building in Yeouido instead. 

Lights out with the intention of getting a good night's sleep in order to be up and out nice and early. 

Planning has never been my forte. I'm still tossing around in bed, trying to empty my head of all thought so I'll fall asleep though not really since actually I'm trying to decide if the books in the home library I am determined to have someday should be placed on the shelves at random or in descending order by height from left to right like I usually do. Conundrum

Sweet sleep.

My first alarm goes off (I always set three alarms, ten minutes apart and wake up on the third) and scares the bejesus out of me. I was in one of those deep sleeps that leaves you confused as hell when you're jolted out of it. When I heard the alarm I thought, "Okay 10 more minutes for the students to finish their tests". No idea.

After pushing out our meet-up time by 10 minutes so we can finish rushing to get ready (always happens), Brianna and I head out to Yeouido. I'm rocking a head of wet hair and wonder how horrified the ever-fully-primped Koreans feel about this. Actually now that I'm thinking about it do other people in the US consider this tacky? I hate blow drying my hair and sometimes just head out when it's still wet. Air drying works best for me. Oh well. I was also wearing the "BOSTON, MASSACHUBATTS" sweatshirt that I finally ended up buying. Tack it up! 

We arrive at the 63 Building and it's a cool place. Lots of restaurants and swanky stores and things to keep you busy.
(Your wooden goat is prohibited from the 63 building, sorry to say.)

We purchase the Big 4 ticket for ₩30,000 (about $30) which gets you into the IMAX theater, the aquarium, the wax museum, and the art gallery/observatory on the 60th floor. You can also purchase tickets for say only two or three of these attractions, depending on what you're interested in seeing.

The 63 Building has a spot called the Buffet Pavilion and the food on the signs looks delicious. We're starving and after checking out the price determine that ₩23,000 is totally reasonable. When we walk in the hostess takes one look at us and instead of offering to seat us says in a helpful tone, "₩68,000". We make a hasty turn back into the lobby and realize that ₩23,000 is the price for just dessert. Uh...

Japanese restaurant and a pork cutlet set for ₩10,000 it is!

Our first stop is the IMAX theater for a screening of Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs. 
It's a pretty nice theater and it's jammed pack with littles on school field trips. Unfortunately for kids here when they usually get trips they fall on the weekends. Similar to how kids in America will wear matching t-shirts on field trips, these kids are all wearing little vests that make them look like crossing guards. They're loving the 3D though and adorably spend the previews screaming and trying to grab at the things "jumping out of" the screen. Since the film has been given a Korean voice-over, the ushers provide us with a little audio set and headphones so we can hear the English version.

After the movie we head to the Wax Museum which is so many kinds of entertaining.
It's a nice mix of historical figures, celebrities, and fictional characters. Some of them were pretty good and others were... not so much. Make your own judgments:
There is a little clothing rack in corner where you can get dressed up to jump into The Last Supper. Will the wonders never cease?
Leonardo DiCaprio. I swear.
The absolute worst James Dean wax figure in the universe. 
There is a section with characters from horror movies. We walk through the doorway and I'm wondering why the Dracula figure is situated awkwardly right by the entrance when suddenly he lurches forward. I let out a scream and call him a not nice word in English. He laughs and tries to get us to go into the haunted house which is connected to this part of the museum. Clearly if I were a full blown automatonophobic I wouldn't even step foot into a wax museum but basically my worst fear is dolls/ventriloquist dummies coming to life and  I hustle out of there.
Next we head up to the observatory and art gallery on the 60th floor. It overlooks the Han River and the view is nice except it isn't really a clear day.

Our last stop is the aquarium, called Sea World.
As I'm walking by this tank I overhear random snatches of Korean interspersed with, "Nemo".
The sea lions have an actual playground in their tank.
And a random Maggie Simpson in one of the fish tanks. Most of the animation for The Simpsons is done in Korea so the characters are very popular here. You see them on everything from pencil boxes to phone covers.

Overall the aquarium is kind of disappointing. It's very small and the animals have very little room. The otters especially look like maybe they could be better taken care of. It makes me apprehensive about visiting a zoo here where the bigger the animals the more obvious the lack of space is but we'll just have to see.

We grab some gelato in the food court and head outside to enjoy it by the river. It's a gorgeous day and the riverside is the place to be. There's a spot where you can take out paddle boats and people are roller blading and riding rented bikes.
View of the 63 Building from the riverside.
We head back to Incheon, making a stop in Arts Center to grab food at this deli that makes great Western-type sandwiches and breakfasts.

Nap time! One of the things I miss most about college is taking naps. When you wake up everyday at noon though there really isn't room for naps so getting a chance for one on the weekends is always nice.

I wake up, finish off a bag of caramel popcorn, and get ready to celebrate Kim's birthday in Hongdae.

Head to the subway with Jim and Brianna and realize that I should have brought a change of shoes since I'm breaking in new wedges. Oh well. At least I packed band-aids.

Begin the night at Ho Bar III which is basically crawling with teenagers. This happens from time to time. My assumption is that they are the kids of military personnel stationed in Itaewon. They're definitely not of drinking age but they're there anyway and acting ridiculous, as teenagers who are underage in a bar are apt to do. When everyone else is just starting the night at 11 or 12, these kids are already super wasted so they've probably been out since 7 or 8. They're gone by midnight though which I figure means they have to make curfew.

It's a fun night and I don't even check my phone so three bars later I'm shocked to hear that it's

The night started with a pretty big group but by now there's about seven of us so we leave the last place and head outside where the guys buy some kebabs from a street vendor because of course it is completely normal for someone to be selling kebabs on the street at 5 o'clock in the morning.

Since the trains are up and running again we head to the station (instead of paying about ₩40,000 for a taxi back to Yeonsu) but not before stopping at Burger King so Brianna and I can get burgers and watch the sunrise.

After a nice shower to wash off the stink of Hongdae (I will never get used to Korea allowing smoking in bars) I hop into bed and I'm out like a light.

I force myself up and get ready because the last performance of The Little Mermaid at Arts Center is today and I have to see it.

Brianna and I are the only non-children/people accompanying children in the theater.
(Stealth shot so the ushers wouldn't come over like they did during Macbeth)

The posters for the show are actually posters for Disney's The Little Mermaid so I figure even though it will be in Korean that they'll sing the songs from the movie, which are among some of my favorites. This isn't the case at all and the whole performance is ridiculous. Ariel is super whiny and keeps making wavey movements with her arms to show that she's underwater. Ursula is dressed like a goth with tentacles coming out of her costume at random places. Instead of Flotsam and Jetsam her sidekick is an orange starfish who she keeps beating with her tentacles and at one point they break out into an 80s dance number, complete with funky moves.

So the whole thing is hilariously bad and I'm not sure it could be anymore absurd when all of a sudden the greatest thing ever happens. One moment the characters are talking and the next moment the speakers are blaring "I LIKE BIG BUTTS AND I CANNOT LIE. YOU OTHER BROTHERS CAN'T DENY". My immediate thought is that someone backstage messed up big time but no no, the characters start dancing to it. Flounder, Ursula, Sebastian, the Starfish Sidekick- all rocking out to Sir-Mix-A-Lot. They only play that first line and suddenly it's over but we are cracking up.

Overall definitely not worth the ₩15,000 we paid but I can add it to the growing list of weird performances I have been to.

Buffet lunch/dinner at VIPs which has amazing cashew chicken, broccoli soup, and the only good Caesar salad I've had since coming to Korea. Very tasty.

Sucker Punch at the movie theater by our apartment. I don't dislike it as much as I'm expecting but the action scenes become redundant and I can only watch Emily Browning do that same dramatic leap in which she lands with one arm stuck into the air so many times. Plus there's too much slow-mo and not enough John Hamm. And Abbie Cornish is awful. But the music is good. It's ridiculous but I could forgive that if only Zach Snyder and Emily Browning would stop going around claiming that it's empowering to women. I especially liked the part where the twenty-year-old protagonist is infantilized, not given a real name, and in her self-created escapist world basically just functions as fodder for male fantasy. Great going Zach Snyder!

Home at last to relax and catch my breath after a good, busy weekend.

Korea is keeping me on my toes. I like it.


Trivia of the Day: Soju (Hangul 소주) is a distilled beverage native to Korea. Its taste is comparable to vodka, though often slightly sweeter due to the sugars added in the manufacturing process, and more commonly consumed neat. Most brands of modern soju are made in South Korea. Though traditionally made from rice, most major brands supplement or even replace the rice with other starches such as potato, wheat, barley, sweet potato, or tapioca. Soju is clear in colour and typically varies in alcohol content from about 18.5% to about 45% alcohol by volume (ABV), with 20% ABV being most common. It is widely consumed, in part, because of its relatively low price in Korea. A typical 300mL bottle of soju costs the consumer 1,000 to 3,000 South Korean Won in South Korea (roughly $1 to $3 United States Dollars). Soju was first distilled around 13th century during the Mongol invasions of Korea. The Mongols had acquired the technique of distilling arak from the Persians during their invasion of Central Asia/Middle East around 1256, then it was subsequently introduced to Koreans and distilleries were set up around the city of Kaesong.


  1. Hey there,

    It seems like I'm about to depart from California to Incheon in the next few months--late June, probably--and I found this blog as I was researching the city. I hope I'm not imposing.

    Anyway, I've been teaching English for some time now and I feel like Korea would be a great place to go. Would you mind if we corresponded a bit? I'll definitely be looking to meet people who speak English while I'm there so I figured I'd get a jump start.

    Here's my email: and my Facebook handle:

    My main question is whether or not you're enjoying your time in Incheon and if there are plenty of English speakers to connect with. I definitely want to assimilate into the culture as much as possible, but I also am completely aware of culture shock.

    Well, from one American to another. Cheers! Plus, my old roommate is from Rye, NH so I don't feel too disconnected from the Boston folk.


  2. Is "3,2,1 Let's Jam" in reference to Cowboy Bebop, cuz if it is, it = Awesome.

    I liked Sucker Punch, only because I wasn't expecting great things from it.


  3. Hi Daniel,

    I'd be more than happy to get in touch with you over email. I know I had a lot of questions about coming to teach here and about Incheon specifically so if I can help out I'll be glad to. I'll shoot you an email sometime over the next few days about how I'm enjoying Incheon and about the assimilation process :)

    And @ AJ: Yes, it's a reference to Bebop! I was listening to Tank! as I was writing this entry and it seemed like an appropriate title. I left my DVDs of the series at home though and I'm starting to regret that decision...

    I went into Sucker Punch with low expectations too which is what I didn't hate it, I just felt let down.