Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving! Good one Palin...

Not being home for Thanksgiving made me feel pretty darn sad. That is, until three specific things eased the homesickness back down to a bearable level.

1. This "invitation" written by a 6th grader during an invitation writing activity. Note: it is not directed toward me (thank God). 

2. Sarah Palin made me so embaressed to be an American that even if I was in America I'd get the hell out of there ASAP. Or at least it's comforting to say I would ;) I'm not buying any of the slip of the tongue crap. Yah right! But thanks for the entertainment.

3. A lovely Thanksgiving dinner with some very lovely people. Groooovy!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone (especially you, mom)!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

French Press that Korean Conflict.

I'm sure most of you are well aware that today at about 2:30PM, North Korea opened fire on Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea. In pictures. Two South Korean marines were killed, fifteen injured, 3 civilians injured, and the neighborhood lit on fire. Not until reading a fellow teachers facebook status did I know about the event because there was absolutely no word of it at my school (at least not in English and not directed toward me). Once I brought it up, the subject was quickly changed because "there is nothing to worry about" and "this happens all the time." I certainly feel as though outsiders might over-exaggerate the North and South Korea conflict, but I also think that South Koreans have become desensitized when a threat does still exists. After all, two are dead and many are losing their homes. A uranium enrichment program does exist and who really knows with any clear evidence what exactly takes place or is happening in North Korea. Anyway, the whole thing certainly put me on edge, but the worst part was being the only one amongst many that felt this way. I needed someone that felt similar to feel better, to feel a sense of support.

So Jake and I met up for some dinner. We didn't need to say much about the incident, just quickly discuss what had happened and how crazy it is that nobody cares! Don't laugh, but we also assigned two meeting spots in case of an emergency. And after this post, I will register with the U.S. embassy (something I have not yet gotten around to). Not to scare anyone back home because I really do feel, for the most part, safe. I just want to be as safe as possible.

So Long to Instant Coffee

Oh my gosh, how I hate you so. You are disgusting, make my stomach hurt and to top it off, I'm not convinced you even contain a single drop of caffeine.Call me a coffee snob, but I am from Portland and have been spoiled to death by all of Portland's REAL and GOOD coffee awesomness.

Today, I finally put my foot down and decided to say NO to instant coffee in this land where its dependence is fanatic. Why the obsession? I do not know. What I do know is that I cannot stand another sip of this crap and so I bought a french press at E-Mart.

"Oh yeah, I need real coffee, though. Instant coffee in the french press? I don't think so." So, I hesitantly headed to the coffee section of E-Mart. Everything was instant, grinds produced by the instant coffee companies or waaaay overpriced. Quickly, I texted my friend that has a coffee shop (SuA Bean) below my building and, score, he told me sells grinds too! I buy 100 grams of a chocolatey Tanzania, Kiliminjaro blend. I cannot express how excited I am to wake up in the morning and drink a cup of strong, dark, fresh 커피.

And to top off the evening, my friend threw in some chrysanthemum for free.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Flaming Lips Embrace Seoul and Oregonians Unite!

The week passed and the highly anticipated Friday finally came. The day was special because my best friend from home (and an English teacher in Daegu) headed up for a weekend visit. The time together was much needed. Next to my mom, she knows me better than anyone else in the world. So, for two days, I felt more grounded than I have in a long time. She gets me, and I get her, so together everything just feels natural. I've met amazing people here in South Korea, but there is something extremely comforting in being past the "getting to know one another" phase and being able to jump into conversation about absolutely anything. Or do absolutely anything and not give a rats butt about what the other thinks because you know they don't care.

On Friday, Shannon and I shopped around Namdaemun and Myeongdong, but who shops on an empty stomach?

"MEEEEOOOOWWWW!" A young boy started mimicking our cat noises.

Jake (from Oregon and teaching in Anyang) and Chris (from Oregon and teaching in Jeonju) joined for an Oregonians Gathering. Jake was in graduate school with Shannon and I and Chris, in high school with us. One time Chris saved my life, but I must not share details...

A little pre-Flaming Lips celebrating.

Despite a little confusion on both our taxi driver's and our part, Chris, Shannon and I finally arrive at AX Hall.

He loves bubbles.

We are actually watching The Flaming Lips IN SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA. It still feels surreal.

Of course.

Feeling the music.

Hardly a shortage of confetti!

And guess what? The lead singer, Wayne, has an Oregon sticker on his guitar. He's not even from Oregon, so go us :)

Absolutely enchanting environment.
There was definitely a chicken.


And some BBQ to end the perfect night.

Stayed in Happy Guesthouse Hostel off of Beotigogae
Station, Exit 1. *****
For breakfast and pre-departure.
For some really great photographs of the show, click here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Namdaemun Market: a colorful shopper's paradise.

Today is a huge testing day for grade 3 high school students in South Korea. So, how does this affect me? There are high school students testing at the middle school down the block from my elementary school. To keep the neighborhood quiet, my school had the day off. Like I said, huge testing day.

I needed this day off. Lately I've been feeling pretty run down and, of course, there is always someone there to remind me: "you look tired." So, I slept in until 9, laid in bed until 11, drank an unhealthy, but satisying amount of coffee until 1 and then finally took off to explore Namdaemun Market in Seoul. Namdaemun Market is one of the oldest (dating back to 1414) and largest traditional markets in the country.

Talk about a treat! You can find anything and everything within this maze of about a dozen blocks. You've got your clothes, food, candy, jewlery, paper, music, toys, etc. etc. etc. The catch? You music weave through herds of people traveling at all different speeds, many ready to use any means to get you out of their way. If you're lucky, you can trail behind a highly coordinated native going at just the right pace. And don't forget about the motorcycles rushing up from behind. Cars are not allowed on the streets, so these rather fast fellas are constantly on the go, delivering materials to all of the market street stands. So very much worth the experience. Oh yeah, and worth the prices! For girls, there are tables with enormous stacks of sweaters (5,000W), shirts (5,000W) and jackets (10,000W) all throughout. For everyone, most of the tastiest treats cost just 1,000W.

And tomorrow my BFF/vfaceypeupsexy Shannon comes to visit from Dague. We will be going to Seoul for our second dose of the Flaming Lips. It will be an Oregon reunion with another Oregonian friend teaching in Jeonju joining us. Hip, hip, HOOORAY!

Shannon and I, Sasquatch Music Festival 2008
The Flaming Lips, Sasquatch Musical Festival 2008

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Pepero Day, Veterans Day, and Birthday to me.

Usually birthdays are somewhat awkward for me. Generally, the day feels the same as any other day of the year and my age, the same as all previous adult-ages. This birthday, however, felt different.  Being in a foreign country as I hit my mid-twenties surely added to the effect, but what stood out most was how much I have grown over the past year, maybe two. This growth felt worthy of celebrating. In my entire life, never have I felt this confident, this wise, this sure of every decision I make and my ability to do whatever I put my mind to. Never before have I cared less about potential failure or whatever others might think of my actions. Sure, I still have insecurities, like all people, but I don't feel like these insecurities will ever define who I am or what I do, as they may have in the past. Get ready for major cheese, but I feel like I am a strong, independent woman. No longer do I feel like I'm still a 20 year old girl, and that would be the reason I finally felt different this birthday. The past two years threw some pretty intense hurdles my way, just up until my breaking point, but never past. I've grown, I've learned and I'm just ready for this new year.

November 11th was not only my birthday, but one of my students birthdays, Veteran's Day in the states, and then, here in South Korea, Pepero Day. Pepero Day is similar to Valentines day, only instead of shitty Barbie and Rugrats cards, students (and lovers) pass out the tastiest of treats: bread-like sticks dipped in chocolate and sometimes rice krispy treats, peanuts, sprinkles, etc. Unfortunately, my school canceled the celebration of Pepero Day because it is "too commercial." Certainly true, but come on, they have me teaching about Christmas, Santa, and elves this week...

Despite Pepero Day being canceled, I was welcomed with kind birthday wishes, gifts, and company on both Thursday and Friday from co-workers, students, and friends. The best gift of all was receiving a spare key to my bike lock and unlocking my bike from its dwelling outside my school where it has been stranded for two weeks. To my surprise someone had attempted to burn their way through the lock, but fortunately, were unsuccessful. So what did the pesky thief do? They stole my blinkers and a little heart sticker placed on the bike by the previous owner. Way to be! 

Unlocking the bike meant a ride I've been meaning to take since I got the bike: biking to The Han River, Seoul via the Anyancheon River. I DID IT! About 35 miles and I was there, rode along the river, and back. It was freezing and my nose running uncontrollably, but it was so incredibly invigorating.Especially when I stumbled upon a Samul Nori group playing along the river.

Samul Nori on the Anyangcheon from Lana Wright on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Seoul Lantern Festival: seoul, a source of beaming hope

A couple days ago my friend Jake and I visited the Seoul Lantern Festival along the Cheonggye River. The 15,000 lanterns (most made of paper) from 25 countries were quite the sight to see. If you're interested, it will be held until the 14th and is just off the City Hall subway exit number 4.

As I walked down the river, each lantern became my new favorite. They truly were captivating. My favorite part of the festival, though, was definitely the mini laser light show.

Seoul Lantern Festival 2010, South Korea from Lana Wright on Vimeo.
(Excited kid in the background=precious)

On a school related note, I totally have a student whose doppelganger is Velma Dinkley from the cartoon "Scooby-Doo." Today I showed her a picture of the Velma and she loved it. She, of course, giggled uncontrollably and said, "Thank you! I LOVE YOU! BELMA?" So sweet.

Mom, I miss you.