Wednesday, July 25, 2012


So, it has recently come to my attention that my friends and I are quite spectacular at norebang. What is norebang? 노래방 translates to "song room" and it is just that -- so think karaoke, but not at a bar in front of tons of strangers, but a private room with your friends/coworkers. AND WITH TAMBOURINES. I've been to a private karaoke room once, last summer in Austin at the Highball, so if you've been there, norebang is like that, but BETTER. 

The room rentals are decently priced, especially when you split the cost among the group. The rooms range in size, from a small one perfect for four or five people, to huge ones that can accomodate over twenty. After renting your room, you can order drinks and food (or break out the ones you've smuggled in), settle in to flip through the songbooks, and then sing your little hearts out. 

Just look at that big book of songs! And the tambo! 

Typically, norebang seems to be a popular after-bar activity. They're open late and they're a good place to go as you sober up a bit. Or, it's the place to go once you've had a fair bit to drink and you've lost all fear of singing in front of your friends. They're so, so easy to find. I'm pretty sure I can't spit in my neighborhood without hitting a norebang. Just look for big ol' glowing signs like this in pretty much ANY area that has bars. 

Thank you, random site, for the stock norebang picture. 

Before coming here, I haaaaaated karaoke. I remember actually telling a friend once that if she tried to pull me up to the stage, she would literally have to drag my lifeless body as I had every intention of going into dead-weight mode. Here, it's different. Not only do the Koreans take it REALLY seriously, but it somehow isn't nearly as embarrassing. Maybe that's the makgeolli speaking, but having a private, dimly lit room with fancy disco lights and tambourines makes this pretty damn awesome. 

I believe this was during our rendition of "Build Me Up Buttercup."

Once, after a work dinner, by boss actually led the entire staff (Koreans and expat-teachers) to a norebang room, where I got to watch my normally quiet and polite (and one that I would actually describe as meek) Korean coworkers belt it out. And rap! And dance! Even my boss sang a few songs, and was very insistent that everyone participate. 

That's Mr. Kim there on the left, holding the microphone. 

At one point he was really concerned that I hadn't done a song yet. Sadly, Mr. Kim missed when one of our Korean staff, who knows I'm a dancer and also that I know some choreography to "Thriller," played it I could dance for everyone. So, that was interesting. Talk about a team-building exercise. Especially since we were all far from drunk. 

Yeah, it was awkward.

Recently, among my friends, norebang has taken on a dresscode: pajamas. 

Striking a pose on the sidewalk. And yes, Corey is wearing a fanny pack.

Why, after a long night (or day) of running around Seoul for shopping and hanging out and eating, stay in your going-out clothes? I'm not sure who among my friends started this trend, but I'm backing it 100%. (But this is coming from the girl who would happily stay in pajamas 24 hours a day.) 

We're into it. 

Singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" like professionals, nice and comfy in our pjs.

So, it turns out that the girl who never sings is completely into acting the fool and belting out a medley of 90's pop (and some classic oldies, obvs) with her friends on the weekends. Not all the time, as norebang as a tendency to kill my voice and throat ("go big or go home" is my approach to public singing), but it's definitely become a Korean hobby that I've embraced. 

Also, so much dancing! Really, you can't help yourself. It's infectious. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

long overdue...

oh, hey, rainy season. 

so despite my promises to write in this regularly, i have failed. spectacularly. it has been over two months since i've updated, and for that, i apologize.

since i last wrote, a term has ended and a new one is nearly halfway over -- we just finished week six of thirteen. i only have a little over four months left on my original contract here, meaning it's time to make some decisions about what comes next. my plan for now is to stay longer, but negotiate a term off either next spring or summer so i can come home for a bit. not sure if i'll be able to swing it, but i'm going to try. korea is still just too wonderful -- and my time here has gone by far too quickly. i'm not ready to say goodbye yet.

it's finally "hot" here, by korea standards. i haven't seen it break 90 degrees yet. the humidity here sucks, but really isn't any different from what i'm used to. the one thing about summer in korea that's really thrown me off is all the rain. summer means monsoon season. we've only had a week of it so far, but i'm already miserable. i need sunshine! especially when it's july and that's the time of year to be spent outside and in a swimsuit and sweating. the rain stopped last night and we actually have a weekend of blue skies and sun, so this morning was spend sunbathing at a park with a book. i'm thinking tomorrow may be outdoorsy... perhaps a hike and a picnic? i need vitamin d so i can survive the rainy weeks to come!

work is still great. this term i have some really spectacular students who just make my day better. the elementary kids in particular. this term i'm only teaching level two classes -- meaning these kids are really quite proficient in english. these classes are twice a week, one day dedicated to reading and the other to listening. each lesson is based around a particular topic, from honeybees to allergies, high fantasy literature (i got to talk about lord of the rings all class!) to bats (which also included a short reading passage on chupacabras?). sometimes the lessons are a little dry, but we find ways to have fun. for the most part, the kids are really receptive to my antics and i do my best to add interesting things to the lesson. for the bats lesson yesterday, i tracked down a good video of the congress bridge bat colony in austin, which they loved seeing. they were fascinated by the bats and asked me a million questions about what it looked like in person.

i'm also, after months of keeping my fingers crossed, teaching one of the masters literature classes. the theme is literary adventures and we're reading the true confessions of charlotte doyle, the hobbit, kidnapped, and peter pan. the students in this class have just moved up from lower levels, so literary analysis in english is still very new and intimidating. but guiding them along has been great -- they're starting to understand how to craft a strong thesis and express their analysis and interpretation of events in the novels. they've still got a long way to go, but they're definitely making progress. sadly, class was cancelled this week and next week because, as middle school students, they have their quarterly exams in their regular schools right now. we'd just started with the hobbit, but won't revisit it because by the time they come back, we're beginning kidnapped. with the other levels, classes being cut during middle school exam time doesn't affect the class -- each lesson is just for that class, so if you miss one, no big deal. with masters, it's cumulative, and we have a limited number of weeks to spend on each book. so, it's a bummer that we won't have a chance to finish the hobbit, but oh well.

besides work i've been trying to explore here and there. lately there's been a whole slew of birthdays, so the weekends have been spent in seoul celebrating in some fashion. my latest resolution is to go hiking more often. i've only done a little bit since getting here, and i'd really like to do more. there are a few mountains in seoul that i've got my eye on... originally, that was the plan for this weekend, but the rainy weather has made my knee so, so achy. since i'm gimpy, i'm going to take full advantage by resting and napping today, so hopefully tomorrow i can go for a walk up the small mountain near my apartment.

i also just bought my ticket to japan! my vacation is coming up in almost two months, and it is high time that i (finally!) go to japan. i'm really excited. i've been looking at all kinds of travel sites and blogs for ideas as well as listening to the suggestions from the friends i'll be visiting. i can't wait. though i do need to brush up on my japanese... it's seriously rusty after six? (or seven?) years of disuse. i've decided i'm staying in the general tokyo area, somewhat because i won't have a huge budget for this trip, but mostly because i don't want to cram too much into ten days.

that's really all i've got at the moment. life hasn't been particularly eventful, but it's been good. my birthday is coming up next week, so i'll try to post sometime soon to recap the festivities. (well, part one. part two comes on the 21st -- corey's birthday is a couple weeks after mine, so we're doing a joint party that weekend.) i think i'm going to challenge myself to update this weekly. i've come up with some ideas for entries -- like a review of the strange (and delicious) korean snacks! (there are SO MANY shrimp/squid flavored chips, and they're kind of excellent.) or maybe my observations about fashion here -- some of it is amazing, but then there are still a whooooole lot of mullets... and i've always got great stories about students to share... so, i make no promises, but i'll try to update more! really truly. i would even pinky promise this -- which is a SACRED oath here in korea. i make pinky promises with my students all the time.

but also, give me some feedback! family and friends: anything y'all want to hear about in particular? leave me a comment and let me know!