Sunday, June 16, 2013

The story of a tank top.

As many of you know or have seen on this blog, you can find some really, really strange, random t-shirts in Korea. To give you a taste, here are my favorites that I found while wandering around shops in Osan last week.

"Erpretatiou, and theint the words of the wivi"

"In every other state that the wolf lives in they are endangered
She was disappointed his face that ugly enough to tree a wolf."

And then here's the one I actually bought, because it was the cheapest (and strangest) at only $5:

The front, with a big "Save Ferrets," instead of the popular "Save Ferris."

And then the back: "Get it dyed red" and "Naute not to asy for anything from but simply tc say thank you." 

It absolutely baffles me as to how some of these things end up printed on shirts -- we've found logos for various stores back in the U.S., different organizations (Red Cross, Girl Scouts), a wealth of strange Engrish, and the occasional logo for something that appears to be from a personal event (family reunion, wedding, etc.).

Normally, when I've seen the latter, I've assumed someone is just making up names and stuff for the sake of slapping it on a shirt. However, while in Osan, there was one that really caught my eye:

I did a double-take as soon as I saw "Tulsa" on this shirt, surprised to see something with my hometown printed on it. After getting a good laugh, showing everyone I was with, and taking a picture, I put it back -- $20 was too much to spend on a tank top while on my current budget (called "it's two days before payday and my three month vacation took all of my money..."). And, yellow just isn't really my color, you know?

In hindsight, I've made a huge mistake. I should've bought that shirt.

Why? (Besides the obvious reasons of it being so damn random and also about my hometown?)

Well, because I found Jason and Kasia. 

Once I got home that night, it dawned on me that I should Google the info on the shirt. Was this a real wedding? Are these real people? Could I somehow find them and send the picture of the shirt?

A quick Google search led me to the website for their wedding photographer, where I found a password-protected album of their wedding photos. Unable to access it and find any more info about this couple (like their last names so I could try to find them on Facebook or something), I emailed the photographer, explaining this strange situation and my mission to show them the photo of the shirt.

Their wedding photographer quickly emailed me back, also sharing my confusion and amusement. He then forwarded my message to the contact email he still had on file for Jason and Kasia, and I had a message in my inbox from Kasia when I woke up last Sunday morning! Apparently the logo is from their wedding invitation -- the girl who designed it must've had it up on her website, and somehow, someone found it and decided to make a shirt.

And this is where I started kicking myself for not buying the shirt -- Kasia, of course, would like to have the shirt and has offered to pay for me to send it to her. But, it was in Osan, which is two hours away from where I live in Incheon. I was able to enlist the help of my friend, Amy, who lives in Osan, but by the time she made it back to the store, the shirt was gone. Sigh.

I hope that I might be able to find the shirt elsewhere... next weekend's plans involve a shopping trip to my dear Bupyeong Underground Shopping Center, which is home to all of the wonderfully bizarre shirts I buy (and give to family and friends). Bupyeong has a remarkable mess of completely random things, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that fate will reunite me with this shirt.

Kasia has been understanding about not being able to get the shirt to her, and I can only hope that somehow, I'll come across another one. If nothing else, she's got a great story and a photo to prove it! And hey, I do too.

ps. Anyone in Korea that is reading this, whether I know you or not: if you find this shirt, buy it and contact me. I will pay you back! And then you can feel awesome about yourself for helping me complete this unusual quest to send a very special shirt to some complete strangers. :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Top 5 Must-See Spots in Incheon, South Korea!

This blog entry was originally published on the Aclipse Blog, which is produced by current Chungdahm Learning teachers in Korea! The blog features entries on current events around Korea, advice for incoming teachers, and the best spots sightseeing, shopping, and eating. The original entry can be viewed here

When Aclipse helped me get placed at a Chungdahm branch in Incheon in November 2011, I immediately started doing my research. I was pleased to see that it's the third largest city in Korea and it's next door to Seoul -- meaning popping into the city for weekend adventures would be a cinch. However, I quickly noticed that there's a serious lack of Incheon-coverage in the blog world. So, I present, in no particular order, my top 5 spots to check out in Incheon! 

1. Incheon International Airport

Chances are, you'll be checking out the airport whether you mean to or not, simply because you'll be flying in here. But let's be real: that first visit through the airport when you arrive is going to be a blur and you're probably going to miss all of the cool things. 

What makes this airport top 5 worthy? Well, for starters, it's been rated the best airport in the world for the past seven years. Also, it happens to have a spa, an ice skating rink, a casino, a golf course, and all the duty free shops you could ever want. 

icn incheon international airport

And check out that architectural design! This airport just looks cool, you guys.

So, while it may seem strange, by Western standards, to hang out at an airport, my students tell me it is a thing. And honestly, an airport that boasts a spa, ice skating, golfing, and the obvious shopping and restaurants? Hard to just ignore. If you don't want to make a special trip out to the airport, next time you're flying through Incheon International -on your way to Korea, on your way to a vacation, or whatever it may be - budget a little extra time just for walking around. 

2. Muuido, Wolmido, & the other surrounding islands

One exciting thing about Incheon is being right on the coast. Since my days are spent surrounded by high-rise apartment buildings, I often forget that I'm about fifteen minutes away from the ocean, albeit an area that's mostly industrial shipyards. However! There are islands! Tons of them, actually. And the best part: they have beaches

muuido island incheon travel beach summer korea

So far I've only visited Muuido, but so, so many more are on my to-do list for the summer. Muuido is great because it's easily accessible -- you catch a bus from Incheon International Airport, grab a quick ferry, and you're there. While it can be done as a day trip, you have the option of renting a pension room for super cheap rates, or you can rent a little hut on the beach (that sleeps about four people) for as little as ₩30,000 a night! 

muuido island travel beach korea summer

Muuido is great for summertime beach fun, Wolmido has fresh seafood and a small amusement park, and that's just the beginning. Stay tuned for more posts on the islands around Korea -- it's my goal this summer to explore as many as I can. 

3. Chinatown & Jayu Park

I'm grouping these two together because they're literally next to each other, so visiting both in one go makes an excellent day trip. Incheon is home to the only "official" Chinatown in Korea! It's at the Incheon-end of the Seoul Metro Line 1, directly across from Incheon station. 

chinatown incheon korea travel

Chinatown is full of delicious restaurants (make sure you stop for some jajangmyeon -- a black bean noodle dish that the area is known for!), adorable tea and coffee shops, excellent souvenir shopping, and great photo ops! 
After wandering through Chinatown, head up the hill (er, mountain) to Jayu (Freedom) Park! The park gets its name from the post-Korean war era -- there's a statue of MacArthur in the park, commemorating his landing in Incheon and important role in the war's outcome. In addition to MacArthur's statue, the park has lots of other sculptures, is beautifully landscaped, and has some great views of Incheon and the port:

chinatown incheon korea travel jayu park

4. Bupyeong Ungerground Shopping Center

My dear friend Kara already wrote of the wonders to be found in Bupyeong's Underground Shopping Center, so let me just underscore how amazing this place is. 

bupyeong shopping incheon korea

Bupyeong has everything you've ever wanted and more. It's a confusing mess of aisles, with stall after stall packed maybe a little too full -- in short, complete sensory overload. And it's awesome. Ever look at Korean fashion longingly and wonder where you can get clothes like that? Bupyeong is your place. Clothes, bags, glasses, shoes, phone accessories, party supplies, stationery, Engrish shirts to send to folks back home... It's all here. With an extra helping of the Engrish.

bupyeong shopping incheon korea

After you conquer the seemingly endless maze of Engrish shirts and awesome fashion, venture above ground too: there's a neat area full of name brand shopping, great restaurants, and a lively bar scene. A little more wandering will also bring you to a traditional-style market selling everything from produce to fresh fish to blankets. 

5. Sorae Fish Market

Taking full advantage of being on the coast, the Sorae neighborhood of Incheon has a lively fishing industry, including its own market. The day I spent in Sorae last fall for their annual festival was probably one of the best days I've had in Korea. Even though Sorae is minutes away from my bustling, modern neighborhood, there's something about this place that feels like it hasn't changed in decades. 

sorae fish market incheon korea

Buildings and buildings full of fresh seafood -- cooked, dried, fried, and some still alive. You can stock up on groceries to take home or you can pick up what you want for dinner, head to a nearby restaurant, and they'll cook it for ya. For fans of fresh fish looking for a traditional fish market experience, get to Sorae as soon as you can. 

sorea fish market incheon korea

I have to say, I'm really happy that I ended up in Incheon -- it's a great city and I'm really looking forward to exploring it more! Even if you aren't placed to work at a school in Incheon, I highly recommend spending some time here. 

Have you even been to Incheon? Are there any spots in Incheon that you would recommend? Leave a comment below! 

EDIT - June 6, 2014 -- NEW entry with even more to do in Incheon is up! Check it out!

Hey look, I'm (kind of?) a professional!

As some of you may already know because we a) know each other in real life or b) you are friends with/follow me on one of my various social media accounts: I'm actually getting paid for this bloggin' stuff now!

To clarify, it isn't this blog that's actually bringing in the cash (...yet?? ;) ), but it's this one:

When I decided to move to Korea to teach English, it was Aclipse that helped me get there. They're a recruiting company that works specifically for Chungdahm, my school. Chungdahm has locations all over Korea and Aclipse is constantly looking for new teachers to come overseas.

As of June 1st, I'm officially one of their International Marketing Assistants, meaning I write for their blog and maintain a social media presence that promotes coming to Korea to teach English.

The blog itself is updated almost every day by current teachers in Korea and it's full of really great information about living and working in the ROK.

And! My first blog post just went live on the site: Top 5 Must-See Spots in Incheon, Korea!

So go check it out, click around a bit, and enjoy!