Saturday, November 23, 2013


I know, I know -- this is not one of the blog posts I've promised to publish. My apologies. The end of term has been busy, as usual, this time more so because two dear friends just left to make their way back home, meaning a lot of evenings were spent hanging out.

However, I just feel like this is important. Maybe it's old news, but I was just informed of this and I just need to tell everyone.

I have gotten Netflix and Hulu to work in Korea. 

I've tried various other ways to block my IP address, but none of the free services worked as well as I wanted. I got annoyed with the buffering and poor quality, and I really didn't want to pay for a better VPN service. Since the free ones sucked, I just gave up. Until earlier this week!

The tip came from one of Corey's former coworkers, and it's super, super simple.

1. Download Google Chrome.
2. Download/install the Chrome extension called "Media Hint."
3. Never leave your apartment again because you're watching ALL the movies and TV shows on Netflix and Hulu.

Mega easy. Really, this will work for anyone outside of Netflix-designated countries. You're welcome.

And with that, I'm going to go back to marathoning "Supernatural," so, byeeeeeeeeeee.

ps. Netflix and "Supernatural" may or may not be a contributing reason to my lack of posting lately. I'm kind of sorry... ish.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Monthly Photo Recap: October 2013

This past week has been spent fighting off a nasty head cold, so I'm a little late (again) with getting this recap up. And with posting half a dozen other entries... I think I'm going to start using my weekly planner (yes, I obsessively still use one of those... Carver Middle School and those "Time Management" binders did some serious conditioning on me) for blogging stuff. Between this blog and working for the Aclipse blog, I just don't seem to make the time for all of it.

Anyway, I've been excited about this recap, you guys. A lot of things happened this past month, including my mom being in town and two friends from home also coming for a visit. And! It was Halloween, which is my absolute favorite holiday.

Choosing photos was really hard because it was a seriously photo-heavy month. So, that's basically your heads up that this entry is loaded with pictures. :)

A true stroke of inspired genius: doing a purikura-style photobooth with my mom. We were endlessly entertained by the photo decorating process as well as our final results. Definitely a hilarious memory of her visit here. 

All of these notes were drawn by six of my elementary students, who were horribly affronted when another teacher, Angus, teased them about how he was the best teacher at CDI. He'd received a sweet card from a student stating this, and my (suddenly very loyal) students were furious. Only one of them has ever even been in his class, but she rallied her friends and they went to town. In their minds, in order to trump this one card saying he was the best teacher, they needed to produce x number of papers saying that I was actually the best. It's hard to see in the photo, but these girls were actually signing the notes with fake names and even trying to disguise their handwriting. It became quite the production, especially when they delivered all of these notes to Angus at break time, only for him to look at them one by one and dismiss them for various reasons. "This one doesn't actually mention me, so it doesn't count." "Oh, you have a spelling mistake, doesn't count." "This is written in pencil. So, no." They were howling at him by the end, a crowd had formed of other teachers and students, and I couldn't stop laughing. These girls have brought this incident up almost weekly since, still finding it hilarious.

We spent one weekend afternoon walking around Changdeok Palace in Seoul and even took a tour of the "Secret Garden," which was nice, but the having-to-be-on-a-guided-tour part kinda sucked. It would've been much nicer to just wander aimlessly, like we had on the rest of the palace grounds. But oh well. It was still awfully pretty. (Though I do still think Gyeongbokgung is my favorite of the palaces.)

Crazy hat hair! This picture just makes me laugh, and I think it's also an accurate representation of how Corey felt after doing souvenir shopping with my mom and I all around Insadong. 
It's also just occurred to me that it's a bit "Eraserhead," actually.

Mom's last weekend in Korea was a busy one, including the most crowded subway car I have EVER been on. We were trying to make our way to the Seoul International Fireworks Festival, which ended up being a mess of people and overall not really worth the hassle. At least not this late in the day... We'd gotten sidetracked with the aforementioned souvenir shopping in Insadong and should've headed down to the Han River much, much earlier. Instead, my mom got quite the subway experience. 

On Mom's last night, we headed back for another round of purikura. This particular machine is one that enlarges your eyes and makes you look generally creepy and doll-like. I have a series of photos from this set, but as they're a gift for Emma, who's now in France, I don't want to ruin the surprise of the other creepy ass pictures. After I've (finally) mailed them to her, I promise to post the rest -- they're hilarious and terrifying and they make me so happy.

For all of you that miss In-N-Out, Korea has your back: Crycheese Burger in Bucheon basically IS In-N-Out. The dude who owns the place used to work at In-N-Out in California and brought the recipes back to Korea with him. Seriously, it looks, smells, and tastes like In-N-Out. I'll definitely be going back.

A few days after my mom left Korea, round two of my October visitors arrived: Dinah and Marley! For the weekend they were here, we headed off to Korea's east coast to hang out in Samcheok. As you can see in the picture, we are standing next to a giant penis. Samcheok is actually home to an entire park full of phallic statues and sculptures, known as Haesindang Park, or Penis Park. It was an odd thing, walking through this beautifully landscaped park with its ocean views, rocky beaches, and carefully manicured flowerbeds. Every now and then you'd forget what park you were in, only to turn around and notice that the bench behind you is shaped like a penis and that giggling you hear is coming from the middle-aged Korean women currently posing for a picture while straddling a giant dick-shaped cannon. (I will forever regret not snapping a picture of these women -- they were having the best time posing for pictures with all the penises.) My only photo with any of the phalluses is the one above, where Dinah and I are standing with our Zodiac penis, the Year of the Ox. 

Wandering away from all the penises, we were able to get down to the beach, which was just gorgeous. I definitely need to spend more time exploring Korea's coasts. 

Our second day in Samcheok was spent in one of the huge caves in the nearby mountains. This cave, Hwanseongul, is the biggest limestone cave in Korea, with over 6 kilometers of known passages. We spent quite a while wandering through this place, marveling at the huge caverns and the strange/obsessive use of rope lights. Definitely cool, and definitely something I would recommend should you find yourself in Samcheok.

The subway shopping in Korea is the best shopping. Seriously. Where else would you find a random Heisenberg sweatshirt? And for less than $10?! I had to buy it. No question. Bupyeong, I <3 p="" you.="">
(ALSO, I'm only in season three -- no spoilers!)

"I want pizza for dinner." 
"I kind of want chicken."
"Why don't we get both?"
"I'll bring the fries."
This is how we de-stress in the middle of the week. With a disgusting(ly delicious) food party. Sidenote: There were five of us eating this and we weren't able to finish, just so you're not completely judging us right now... 

While Dinah and Marley were here, we did a DMZ tour, some of which I'd seen before. During the planning and booking process, it dawned on me that we would have to take a photo with this sign. DeMilitarized Zone? More like Dinah Marley Zannah! 

One thing that was different about this DMZ tour was this one actually took us to the Joint Security Area, and with that, North Korea. The blue buildings in the foreground are under South Korean control, straddling the actually demarcation line between the two countires, but the big building farther back is North Korea. If you look closely, you'll see the North Korean soldier that was watching us through his binoculars. 

In this photo, I am technically standing *in* North Korea. That soldier is South Korean, and his job is to guard the door behind him, which opens up into the North. He doesn't move, he doesn't speak, he just stands there, like a creepy breathing robot-statue, and watches. He also apparently knows two kinds of martial arts and could probably kill me with, like, two fingers. Standing this close to him made me very, very nervous. Stay tuned for a full write-up on my visit to the JSA... It was interesting.

A little while back, Corey finally figured out how to get onto the roof of our apartment building. I'm not entirely sure we're allowed to go up there, as we have to walk through a maintenance room full of breaker boxes and other noisy, large things, but we also have to tap our building key cards, and they work... so... maybe it's okay? Anyway, this is the gorgeous view of Incheon from my building's roof, about 27 floors up. Pretty spectacular, eh? 

GPOY. Because I just love fall fashion and I'm really enjoying layering skirts and blouses and sweaters and stuff. Unfortunately, it's getting cold fast, so I better enjoy this while I can. I'm also just obsessed with this skirt because it's covered in dalmatians. 

A student was using colored mechanical pencil lead the other day, and upon seeing my fascination, he awkwardly gave me one stick of each color after class. (Pretty sure he thinks I'm a weirdo for being so excited about pencil lead.) This was the result of my first experiment.

A picturesque view of Seoul, from the 60th floor of the 63 Building. Blog entry coming very soon, as I've written one for the Aclipse blog that will go up later this week. :) 

We have new neighbors! And they brought us a present of sweet potatoes, persimmons, and choco-pies. They seem to be a nice family, with a high school aged son that the mom is already pushing to practice English with Corey. I'm curious to see if anything comes of that, but even if it doesn't, it's nice to know our neighbors! Plus these new neighbors have a dog... So while they're angling for English lessons, I might start angling for puppy playtime. 

This year's Halloween makeup/costume! I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out -- I swiped ideas from several different versions of deer makeup that I'd seen on Pinterest. Halloween, lately, has started to become all about the makeup for me, rather than planning an elaborate/really awesome costume. And I kinda like that my Halloweens have been headed in this direction -- gives me a chance to play with makeup and test my ~art skillz.~ I've already started trying to think of what I want to do for next year...

The gang out in Seoul! We headed to Hongdae for this year's celebration, bouncing between a retro dance party and drinking in the park from cocktails-in-bags. As you can see from this picture, the park was where the real party was at. Much longer post about Halloween, with lots of pictures, coming soon. 

Day one of this term's level-up exam proctoring, this time playing with some new gel pens while my classes tested for hour upon mind-numbing hour. 

On actual Halloween day, my classes were taking level-up tests. My master class, because they're awesome, all brought in candy for each other (and me!) to eat while they took their test. Since they're at the top of the levels at CDI, they can't level up or down -- taking these tests is just extra practice. So we had some fun and quietly celebrated Halloween on our own. Definitely a nice way to end the month. :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Quick Guide to Halloween in Korea

I. Love. Halloween.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. And when I say favorite, I mean it

I spend the months before Halloween dreaming of costume possibilities. Then I spend the weeks after scouring/trolling the Internet for great ideas for the next year. Unfortunately, Halloween isn't a big holiday in Korea. Giant seasonal costume stores don't pop up in empty storefronts and the grocery stores have a pitifully small section of Halloween items. It's basically all witch hats and cat ears. 

But, don't let yourself get discouraged, fellow expats in Korea -- you won't miss out on getting to celebrate. Here's a glimpse into what I got up to last year, as well as some events I'm eyeing for this year...

halloween hongdae seoul zombie walk
Comin' to getcha.
Last year's Halloween, like this year's, fell in the middle of the week. Luckily, everyone is completely into partying the weekend before the actual holiday, so there are always plenty of events to choose from.

Before hitting the town last All Hallows' Eve weekend, we attended an organized event called the Seoul Zombie Walk, which brought us to Hongdae. The awesome part, however, was the fact that we started off at Seoul Forest, meaning we had to take the subway to get over to Hongdae. As zombies. Imagine a hundred or so zombies, stumbling around subway stations and cars, just... being undead. For information about this year's event, click here. We had a lot of fun last year, so I highly recommend it! 

halloween hongdae seoul zombie walk
Ready for some braaaaaiiiins!  
halloween hongdae seoul zombie walk
Zombies as far as the eye can see...
halloween hongdae seoul zombie walk
Zombies take public transportation too, y'all. And no one cares.
halloween hongdae seoul zombie walk
So many pictures were taken with strangers -- all zombies were wonderfully obliging, though.
Then, on actual Halloween day, I was pleased to hear that the expat bars in my area Incheon were having their own events. (Definitely something to remember for your respective areas.) And hey, even if there isn't something organized, if you and your friends want to dress up on the actual day of Halloween, just start your own party.

expat halloween korea

One spot was even having a costume contest, which my friend and I handily took first place in for our stellar Dia de los Muertos makeup. (We were celebrating that particular holiday a day early, technically, but it was a lot of fun to do the makeup.) Our prize? A bottle of vodka, to be kept behind the bar for us. Not bad, eh?

expat halloween korea
We win!
expat halloween korea
The costume contest participants!
Finding an actual costume is definitely more difficult in Korea than it is back home, since there's a lack of proper costume stores, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. The internet is always at your service, including Korea's Ebay/Amazon-type site, GMarket. In addition, there are a handful of Halloween supply stores scattered about, one of which got a great write up in Serg's recent blog entry on the Aclipse Blog -- I checked this same store out last year and it really is a good resource. I have also heard rumors of a pretty decent on in Bupyeong. The times they are a-changin.' 

As for me, I'm going full DIY and taking inspiration from some pictures on Pinterest... Not going to give my costume away just yet, but keep an eye on my Twitter and Instagram feeds for pictures of my Halloween celebrations this year. I'll do my best to document the madness.

This year, we're planning to head back to the Hongdae area. Last year it was packed full of people dressed up for the occasion, and I can only imagine that this year it will be even more popular. There seem to be plenty of events being advertised on Facebook, such at this booze cruise and this dance party. Even better, most of the events I've come across seem to include a drink in the admission price, as well as some incentives for being in costume. (Read: free shots.)

Also, here are some super useful links with extensive lists of events this weekend for Korea's two biggest cities:
So, it's time. Start planning your costume(s), watch "Hocus Pocus," eat a lot of candy since you're too old for trick-or-treating, and get excited. 

Let's get weird, y'all. Happy (Almost) Halloween!

What are your Halloween plans this year? Do you know of anything awesome happening this weekend? Leave a comment below! 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Great K-pop Adventure, Part One: The Flashmob

[This entry is hideously overdue... So my apologies for a delay of nearly two months for the full story of my K-pop experience...]

Somewhere, on my lengthy Korea Bucket List, is "see a K-pop concert." 

Now, I should start by saying K-pop isn't my style really at all, but, being as I'm in Korea, and I hear about K-pop constantly in the classroom, I've managed to develop a passing interest. By this I mean I don't listen to K-pop and have actually only bought one K-pop song on iTunes... Overall, I'm not a fan of K-pop simply because I'm rarely a fan of anything "pop" in general, the notable exception being NSYNC, of course. However, I do have to admit that some of those songs are damn catchy. If I was the type of person who worked out at a gym, I can see a K-pop playlist as being really fun to do workout things to. Truly. But otherwise? I'll stick to my mellow, folky-indie-rock, thanks. 

I'm sure you can see the dilemma here. I don't like the music, but I want to see a concert in person. Why, you ask? Because the atmosphere at a K-pop concert, from what I'd been told, is nothing short of Beatlemania. (Stay tuned for part two of this adventure, where I describe how it is, indeed, sheer insanity.) I just really felt like this was something I wanted to witness myself. Lately it's seemed that K-pop, if it has its way, would happily take over the world. And I wanted to see this hot mess with my own eyes. 

So, on September 1st, bleary-eyed and semi-apprehensive, my friend Talisa and I woke up early so we could catch a cab to the Chinatown area of Incheon. We knew very little of what the day would entail, but the promises of "flash mob" and "free tickets to a K-pop concert" were enough for us to jump right in, hoping the day would exceed our (admittedly low and/or vague) expectations. 

k-pop incheon korean music wave 2013 flash mob

At some point back in July, I'd happened upon a Facebook invite for the event via a local expat/teacher group. Some organizations, somehow affiliated with Incheon Tourism Organization, were looking to promote their upcoming annual K-pop concert. The concert, Korean Music Wave 2013, boasted a massive lineup of 20 different idol groups, many of whom I hear about on a daily basis from my students. The actual tickets to the concert were a cheap ₩5,000, and apparently they sold out lightning fast. In order to promote Incheon's tourism (and Korea in general) to foreigners, they also set aside a ton of foreigner-only tickets for various giveaways. Some options involved buying something from an Incheon business and showing your receipt, while others were more extravagant, such as spending a night in a particular Incheon hotel. The option that caught my eye, however, was a K-pop flash mob. 

Free ticket in exchange for dancing? WHERE DO I SIGN UP

k-pop incheon korean music wave 2013 flash mob
Yes, "flash mop." 

As we got out of our cab at Incheon Station, we easily found the stationed flash mob coordinators who gave us directions to the rec center where we would be learning our choreography. Once there, we got checked in, which included the first of three stamps that we would get throughout the day. Maps and schedules were also handed out, and we were ushered into a black box theater to begin rehearsal. 

k-pop incheon korean music wave 2013 flash mob
Stamped and mapped. 

Before rehearsing, we also got a rundown of the day. After practicing the dance, we would walk to the nearby Jayu Park for our first performance. Second, we were to head to Sinpo Market for a performance near one of its entrances. Then, our third and final performance, was to be outside of Munhak Stadium, where the concert was being held. As the day went, we would also get vouchers for free coffee and ₩5,000 in "money" to be spent at Sinpo Market. Upon completion of the final flash mob, we would get a souvenir shirt and a concert ticket! Simple enough, right?

k-pop incheon korean music wave 2013 flash mob
Our teachers, explaining our marathon, K-pop filled day.

The choreography was from the videos for two popular K-pop songs: "Fantastic Baby" by Big Bang and "Gentleman" by PSY. A fairly simple routine, but definitely one that required more rehearsal time than we were given, which was about an hour. Maybe I have outrageously high standards due to twenty or so years of dance training and classes, but they really didn't teach us well... But that's a long-winded rant that none of you care about. 

Though we were under-rehearsed (and generally confused), our first two performances were (luckily) in pretty uncrowded areas, giving us some much needed "dress" rehearsals.
Dancers starting to fill in at Jayu Park. 

I have very few pictures of us actually dancing since I was in the middle of dancing myself! I managed to snap the above photo right before jumping in, since we were supposed to trickle in instead of joining the flash mob all at once. (Which was a concept most seemed to... have trouble understanding. Mostly because I don't think that was explained well. Le sigh.) 

incheon korean music wave 2013 k-pop flash mob
First round of freebies to use at Sinpo Market. 

incheon korean music wave 2013 k-pop flash mob
I wonder what that very conspicuous group of foreigners is doing lurking in the street? The area of street pictured is where we had our second performance.

incheon korean music wave k-pop flash mob
All stamped and ready for the final performance!

After grabbing food and coffee with our vouchers in Sinpo Market, we hopped on some shuttle buses to be driven across town to Munhak Stadium. The final performance was scheduled for 3:30pm, almost five hours before the concert was set to begin, but we knew that this last flash mob would have a much, much larger audience. 

Walking up to the stadium, you could feel the energy and excitement from the throngs of K-pop fans. Vendors were selling various items that declared your love for the idol group of your choice, long lines had already formed outside the gates, and we saw quite a few groups of girls run screaming past us for no apparent reason. We milled around our designated dancing space, trying (and failing) to blend into the crowd until the music started at 3:30.

So, without further ado, here's a shaky, blurry video of some clips from our dance: 

I was actually surprised that by the end, we'd drawn quite a crowd! After our performance, our dance teachers did some K-pop dance covers of their own. They were, of course, way, way better than us, as they'd actually rehearsed their routines carefully and for longer than an hour. When the guys were dancing, the teenage girls around us looked like they were ready to faint -- the screams were deafening. One of the dudes took his shirt off and all hell nearly broke loose. Needless to say, I began bracing myself for what would happen once I was actually inside the stadium... 

incheon korean music wave k-pop flash mob
Part of our audience. 

incheon korean music wave k-pop flash mob
Panoramic shot of the circle that had formed, with the girls dancing in the middle.

After the dancing ended, we were all done! We lined up to get our souvenir shirts and tickets, and shortly after, all we had to do is wait for them to let us inside the stadium. Everyone was getting really excited for the show itself at this point, though after all that dancing and trekking around Incheon, we were also all hoping our ground tickets would magically involve chairs...

incheon korean music wave k-pop flash mob

The experience, while exhausting, was really great. I've been in a few flash mobs before, back in Austin, and they'd always been loads of fun. Getting to run around town and dance was enough for me, really, so the free concert ticket was a bonus. Definitely one of the more memorable days I've had in Korea so far. 

Stay tuned for Part Two, which will cover the concert itself, including some moments when I was actually afraid for my life... I'll just leave you with this as a preview/hint: Teenage girls are intense when they're mere feet away from the objects of their lust... 

incheon korean music wave k-pop flash mob

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monthly Photo Recap: September 2013

I'm not really sure where the month of September went... In fact, I'm completely bewildered by the fact that we're already a week into October? September was full of the beginnings of fall, a Chuseok vacation to the beautiful island of Ulleungdo, and the start of my mom's visit to Korea! I was kept pretty busy, as can be seen by all the blog entries and emails that are piling up...

Surprisingly, I didn't take many pictures last month. Well, on Ulleungdo I took a cool 200, but I don't want to post too many of those here... they deserve their own blog! So, this month's photo recap will be a little shorter than the past two. October's, however, is already off to a bangin' start.


So, I went to a K-pop concert... It was interesting. I came out of it caring no more or no less about K-pop than I did going in, which is fine. It just isn't my "thing," but I still had a really good time. Blog entries about the whole experience are going up soon -- we got in for free for participating in a K-pop flash mob! Pretty cool. Stay tuned for the full story. 

EXO, at the concert, Incheon Korean Music Wave 2013. 

We had -incredible- seats, by the way. :)

Scorsese is such a weirdo. Cats are aliens.

But why?
I got to check out a HUGE exhibit of original Studio Ghibli sketches -- it was pretty amazing. 

And across from the Ghibli exhibit was a wonderful Mucha show -- seriously awe-inspiring. As a massive Mucha fan, it was nearly a religious experience for me. 

Starting off my Chuseok vacation the right way: watching the sunrise on a beach on Korea's east coast.

Ulleungdo! Billions of photo-heavy blog entries coming soon about this magical place. 

I would happily trek along Ulleungdo's coast every. single. day. 

Me and my mom! In Korea! 

Mom brought Reese's to help build our depleted stockpile back up. Sorry, not sharing. 

It isn't quite cold enough for "real" sweaters yet, but they're already on the racks in the subway shopping centers! And for W10,000 each?! (That's less than $10 USD, y'all.) Can't wait to wear these this winter. I think I have a sweater buying problem. (Also, I need to clean my mirror... -_- )

I envy all the napping he gets to do.

Ended the month with the last day of the Gauguin exhibit in Seoul, which was really great. Way too crowded, but that's what we get for going on the last day... Still worth it.