Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dog Tales

So, my friend Lauren got a new dog. Well, I wouldn't exactly call him new, but he's new to her. He's a 10 year old Doberman named Kayser. He's completely wonderful and satisfies my "big dog longing syndrome" that I've developed while living here in Korea. Well, I have started walking him in the mornings. I think that might be why I feel so tired all the time, but it's ok, I'll get used to it! Anyway, it's quite the scene with us walking down the street together, a foreigner and a HUGE dog in the middle of the city. I try to take him down different paths near our house so he doesn't (and I don't) get bored. I've had some funny experiences recently with this and wanted to share some.

First there was the ladies who work at a store about a block behind my apartment. The one saw us coming, ran outside, then summoned the other one to come out. She asked me in Korean if he bites, and I told her no, so she started petting him saying "Wow, what a good looking dog" and such things. They asked how old he was and almost fell over when I told them he was 10.

On Friday morning, I was walking near Yawoori (the main road/department store near my house), so I went on the block behind it, assuming that there'd be less people there. I had two different groups of guys stop me, asking me how old he is, what kind of dog he is, how old he is, and how much he cost. Lauren got Kayser at a shelter, so he only cost 50 dollars. Their jaws almost dropped to the ground when I told them that! These guys had kind of smothered him, but he seemed to be enjoying the attention.

On Saturday, I walked past a shop where this guy was sitting. He came outside and told me to come back over. So, I walked back over, reassured him that Kayser didn't bite, and then he started petting him, talking about how big and good looking he was. Then he pointed into his house at this TINY little dog that was was definitely a puppy, standing on the table just chillin. I picked that dog up, Kayser sniffed him a little, and then the puppy settled into my arms cuddling up next to me. It was SO cute I didn't know what to do! The whole time this is happening, this guy and I are trying to communicate in Korean which is pretty entertaining itself. Then I started to put the puppy down to leave, and he said "같이 가자" meaning "let's go together" AKA "Take the puppy with you." Hahaha, I laughed so hard. I think he wanted to get rid of that thing. Anyway, it was pretty funny!

Then on Sunday, after Kayser had gotten in a hissy fit with a cat (AKA Kayser started sniffing a cat in a corner, which I didn't see, and the cat hissed at him and batted at him), we went on our walk. On the way back, we went behind Yawoori again, for the sake of less people. Well, the night before, Korea had lost their soccer match, so people were still out from drinking after the game. There were these 4 people who were being REALLY loud and I was thinking "Wow, they are so drunk!" Well, when I came closer, one of the girls looked like she wanted to pet the dog, so I stopped, and the four of them practically pounced on him. I soon found out that this was a group of deaf people, which explained the loud behavior from before. I ended up having a conversation, partly in English, partly in Korean, with one of the guys who could read lips pretty well. It was quite the adventure trying to figure out exactly what each other was saying, both always wondering if we were speaking in Korean or English! Then one the other guy in the group looked at me, and in his best English (remember, he's deaf, so he's never really heard English), "Can I have your phone number?" HAHAHAHAHA. I about died rolling on the ground in laughter. It was really funny, and luckily, it was meant as a joke from him!

Oh, and I almost forgot this one...I was walking once this week and these two grandmas came past me. The first one said "와 진짜 큰게!" like "Wow, really big!" and the second one said "와, 외국인!" meaning "Wow, foreigner!" Haha. I should have probably been offended in that moment, but I just laughed at the situation.

So, these are some of the stories I've had on my morning adventures so far, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were many more to come! I hope you enjoyed them!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Korea!

Well, about 2 hours from now will mark my one year anniversary in Korea. I cannot believe it's been that long already!! I mean, I feel like I've been gone from home for so long, but I don't feel like I've been here that long. It's crazy! So, since I was trying to be stubborn and not blog when I first came here, I thought I would memorialize this day by telling some stories about my first day in Korea. :)

So, before I got on my flight, I discovered that one of the other girls coming in my program was on the same flight. So we connected via facebook and exchanged numbers so that we could find each other in Chicago before our flight. It was nice feeling like someone else was experiencing the exact same thing as I was. When we got on the plane, we were in the same 1/3 of the plane, but not within speaking range, so we only talked once or twice on the long flight over. Also on this flight, I watched Marley and Me and bawled my eyes out...I think it was a sign of going through some emotional changes at that time. I didn't sleep at all in the plane, and when we got to Incheon Airport, it was about 4:00 in the afternoon. My luggage didn't fly overseas with us, so they told me I'd have to wait until the next day to get it (I ended up waiting almost 3 days for it). So, after a quick pass through customs, we went out to the bench where we were supposed to meet Terry, one of our program's representatives. We walked out and were greeted by a middle aged Korean man. He said "Englishee teacher, yes?" So, after some skepticism on my part and some sleep deprivation on both of our parts, we started following this guy who clearly didn't look like Terry (from the picture we were sent), but he called a number from Katie's information and then said "Follow me." So, against my gut feeling, we followed him. We were at the door to go to the parking lot and this man received a call. He hung up and turned to take us a different way. We went to a cafe downstairs in the airport, and he said "Wait here, we'll come to get you." THAT doesn't sound shifty! Anyway, we sat, sipped coffee, got to know each other, checked our email, told our relatives we were alive, etc. Then, as it was past the time we were supposed to meet with everyone, I heard them call our names over the intercom. So, we made our way back (in a very very scenic route) to the place we were originally supposed to meet. The others had been waiting for us for quite a while already. Then Terry got us KFC (served with fries...kind of weird), and we got in the bus to go to Cheonan. I sat near two people, Julie and Ryan, who I soon found out were also music majors in college. So of course we talked music almost the entire two hour trip back to KNU. Then, we got to our building and upon arrival, Terry took me, Ryan and Julie up to the 5th floor, then walked to one single room's door, looked at me and Julie and said "I'm sorry, but just for a while, you will both stay here." One desk, one wardrobe, one twin sized bed. Nothing like getting to know your friends REALLY well right when you meet them, right?? :P After that, we had a huge greeting party of the others in the program, including an incredibly excited Amanda Knodel and Becky Brents who had been informed that we were arriving. The group had been in the common room singing worship songs together, so we went in and joined for a while, then chatted for a while, then went to our room to pass out asleep. Then we went back to the group of people and asked if anyone had blankets, pillows, towels, etc. that we could use. Needless to say, the program really wasn't prepared for our group when we came in. That night I woke up so many times, including finally giving up and getting up to get ready at around 5:30.
That next morning was full of memories also, including getting locked in our room, meeting our first Korean friend, Jason, and so many other things. Gosh seriously, thinking back on it, it feels so fresh in my mind that it doesn't seem possible that it was a year ago! And when I look back on all the things that have happened in one year, I am so amazed and feel so blessed to be where I'm at.

I had a really rewarding moment a couple weeks ago. It happened just before my food poisoning, which is why it got postponed in my writing. Anyway, I went to buy hair dye at the grocery store near my house, and I had a conversation with the store clerk. The entire conversation took place in Korean, and this is about the gist of it:
Oh, Hello.
Oh, you speak Korean very well!
No, no, just a little....yeah, I want this one.
Ok. It has a little bleach in it. Is that ok?
Yeah, it's fine.
Ok. So, where are you from?
I'm from America..
Ok. Don't you want to go back to America?
No, it's ok. I like Korea.
Good. What's your job?
I'm an English teacher.
Oh. How long have you lived here?
One year.
Really? One year? You've only been here one year and you speak Korean like this! I studying English so much in school and I can't speak any!!
Do you live near here?
Yes, I live at Sambu Renaissance Apt.
Ah. Do you use makeup on your skin?
No, I don't use it. you use moisturizer?
I just use body lotion.
Ah, I see. *points at blemishes on my face* Don't these hurt?
No, they don't hurt.
I see...*puts samples of skin care products in my bag*
....*awkward silence*
Ok, well, thank you.
Yes, thank you!

By the end of this conversation, I was really nervous that she was touching my forehead because I was POURING sweat out of it! I was SO nervous the entire time we were having this conversation!! I don't know why I was so nervous to talk to someone Lotte Mart lady, but the more I understood and responded, the more nervous I got! Haha, it was great. Then afterwards, I was so proud of myself...silly, but rewarding.

All of this to say, it's always an adventure here...everyday I experience something new, and I love it. It's not always easy, it's not always fun, but it is an adventure and a challenge...and you know me, I love a good challenge. :)
So, hats off to Korea...we've been together for one year, and I'm looking forward to another great year with you! ^^

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Something odd to experience in a different country

So, two nights ago, I had an interesting experience. After a typically busy night, giving two piano lessons, then going for a walk with a friend, I felt a little sick to my stomach. Nothing too crazy, just a little indigestion. So, I took some Tums and decided to go to bed early, as I was going to be getting up to hike the mountain in the morning. I ended up going to bed by about 11 (yeah, so early, right? :P ) and not long after, I woke up feeling very uncomfortable. I had realized before going to bed that my dinner didn't agree with me, but I assumed it was just because it was quesadillas, and I don't really have cheese much here. So, I woke up, and my stomach hurt even more than before. I tried to just "sleep it off" assuming that the pain would go away if I didn't think about it. Well, by about 1am, I was on my couch (that's where I sleep these days because of bad air circulation in my room), writhing in pain...I felt like someone was treating my stomach and intestines as a wet wash cloth, trying to wring out all of the moisture. It was awful. I staggered about my apartment for about 45 minutes until I decided (of course with the suggestion from my mom as well) to go to the doctor. I had a friend that was online at that time, and after suggesting that I thought I had food poisoning, he offered to go to the hospital with me. I went down to the mart in our building to get some cash for a taxi ride, hoping all the while that the taxi would actually get me to a hospital that was open. I also bought a bottle of water, and upon receiving my change, looked at my friend Josh and said "Yup, I think I'm going to throw up." Next, I became very familiar with the trash can directly outside the mart. I think that something that's even worse than throwing up is throwing up into a trashcan that wreaks of cigarette smoke. Yuck. So, as we're walking to the taxi, Josh says "You know, I'm usually skeptical about people saying they have food poisoning...everyone thinks they have it when they really don't...well, that pretty much just sealed the deal for me." Haha, I tried to laugh, through the waves of cramps coming and going from my abdomen. We got into the taxi, and the driver seemed a little weird about it when I asked him to go to the Cheonan WerioWon (one of the hospitals near us). I was hoping, once again, that they were actually a hospital with an emergency room and that I wouldn't be taking some taxi ride in vain. So, we pull up, I see the light on at the ER and I feel a slight comfort. Then as we got out of the taxi, I looked at Josh and said "Do you have my jacket?" He had been holding it since I was throwing up back at the apartment. He chased the taxi briefly, in vain, and I dismissed it. Unfortunately, it was a pretty staple jacket in my wardrobe, but...I was in too much pain to care! So, we made our way up to the ER, and walked in. There was a woman sitting at the front, but she didn't really acknowledge us, so we walked past her to the doctor. The doctor looked at me in confusion and I said "Shik Joong Dok"...the Korean word for food poisoning, which I had looked up in my telephone dictionary during the taxi ride over. He said something else to me in Korean, and I was like "I don't know where to go." He said "Ok, but you need to sign in over there first." Wonderful. He speaks English! That was an incredible relief to me! So, I go over to the lady who I need to sign in with, and she hands me a paper to fill out. I take out my ID to write down my address, and I get another incredible cramp. She takes my ID and tells me to just go. After this, it's all kind of history. The nurse asked me what was wrong in Korean, and I was telling her everything, in our broken Konglish. Then the Dr. came over, asked me the same exact things in English, and then told me to lie down and wait for them to take an x-ray. They took an x-ray and a blood sample, and after that they hooked me up to an IV to give me saline and some sort of pain killer. They ended up coming over and giving another shot of some sort of pain killer after they noticed that the cramps weren't going away. During this time, the nurse came up and asked me something in Korean. I answered her, and she said, in Korean "Oh, you understand Korean." So, for some reason, against how I normally decline that accusation, I said "Yeah, I understand some." So the Dr. was there and said, in Korean, "Oh, you speak Korean well, huh?" I said, in Korean "No, just a little." Then, in Korean, he said "Ok. I'll speak Korean then." AHH! No! I was like "No way! Your English is way better than my Korean!!" Haha...Finally, after about 3 hours in the ER, all of the IV had drained into me, and I was free to go home. They told me I needed to go pay and that I would be able to get my medicine from the pharmacy after that. So, I reluctantly went to the front desk lady again, unsure of how much this visit to the ER would be...I knew it would probably be less than in America, but I figured with the x-rays, blood tests, etc. that surely it wasn't going to be a happy number. So, she looks at me and says "Yuk man, Ee Chon, Ship Won." Translated, that's 62,010 Won....converted, that's currently about 50 dollars and 62 cents. Unfreakingbelieveable. She asked me if I was going to pay for it all in one payment, which I kind of laughed at and said yes. After leaving her, I went to the pharmacy, grabbed my medicine, and became aware of the fact that the 50 dollars I had previously paid included the charge for the medication. I should have bounced for joy leaving that place, but I was still feeling pretty rotten. I hadn't had the cramps for a while though, which was good. I thanked the Dr. up and down, then as we were leaving, the second I left the hospital, I felt another awful stomach cramp! I'm assuming it was probably because of the amount of time I had spent standing up and moving around at that point. Anyway, after a fairly uncomfortable taxi ride home, a pretty unrestful few hours, and a call to my school to inform them of my sickness, I was finally able to eat some food and take my first bit of medicine. I didn't want to eat any food of course, but I saw the "30 minutes after breakfast" label on the medicine, and I didn't want to disobey the rules. So I ate some rice and took my medicine. After that, I slept really well, and then came a day of sleep, eat, take medicine, reassure family and friends that I'm ok, feel like I'm going to throw up, sleep some more, repeat. And today, I'm feeling much better. I've eating Jook, which is rice porridge, for the past 3 meals. They say that's the magic cure to food poisoning here in Korea. I also had a teacher from my school bring by some homemade plum juice, which is supposed to be good for digestion. I drank that today after feeling a little uneasy after lunch. And, I've been drinking barley tea like crazy, which I guess is also the magic cure for food poisoning. So, all in all, I've got plenty of magic and medicine to cure me! Lol. And thanks to everyone for your prayers..I'm sure those were much more helpful than my magic Jook. Lol. And everyone can rest assured that I have now lived through my first (and hopefully last) medical crisis in Korea...pat on the back for me. :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's Been Awhile...again...

So, right now I'm fighting with facebook. We're arguing over how and when photos should upload onto my profile. I've been trying to get one stupid facebook photo album to upload for about a day now! And not just upload, but I'd prefer for it to upload with no repeat pictures, and to actually have the pictures in order. Unfortunately for me, facebook is winning. I'm so sick of trying, that I just don't care whether or not I get the photos uploaded!! Goodness gracious.

Ok, so went to a couple classes today, and came back from my 3rd period very frustrated. I'm frustrated with the system of subtitling in Korea. That sounds silly, right? Well, I have just cause...please continue reading. Here, in the theater, if there's an American movie showing, they put Korean subtitles on it. If someone in the movie says a highly inappropriate word...well, they kind of water it down to make it not sound as bad as it is. You'd think that'd be a good thing right? It's like shielding their ears. hear these words, and they think "well, it just means ____" so they think it's ok to say it. So, when I'm giving my kids an example of when I would say "Bummer" they say "Oh, like S*** or F***...right?" Ugh, I just want to scream when they do that. And mostly because they think they know what those words mean, but they were to say those words in Korean during one of their Korean classes, they would get slapped upside the head! Ugh. It just makes me sick thinking about it. Anyway, I'm done with classes for the day, so that's good! Yay for the weekend! I had a bunch of actually useful things I was going to write on here, but I'm frankly not in the mood to write anymore. But, if I get back in the mood to write again later, I'll put something worth while up here. :)