Something Wicked This Way Comes…

With Halloween falling on a Wednesday this year, we did what any responsible adult would do – we partied the Saturday prior. Joe, Emily and I went with a group costume that I’d wanted to do since the previous Halloween but did not yet have enough friends to pull off: Rock, Paper, Scissors. I’d seen it on Pinterest and when I came to Korea and saw how hugely popular the game is here, I knew I HAD to do it. In fact, wanting to do this costume in Korea makes up an irrational percentage of why I extended my contract. Seriously. The costumes took us four tedious days to create, but they were totally worth it. They looked great. We were nervous because it had rained all day and our costumes were made out of cardboard, but the weather gods smiled on us and the rain ceased before we went out and didn’t return for the remainder of the night. Getting in and out of taxis was still a bit precarious, however. I thought our core concept was pretty obvious, but somehow, even when the three of us were standing RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER, people still managed to be slow on the uptake. In some cases, there was no uptake at all. People kept asking Emily if she was a notebook. Yeah, I know, I can’t believe it either. We ended our night at a fairly packed bar, and I was alarmed to find how quickly my cohorts were willing to jump ship on the costume because “it was getting in the way.” I, alone, remained dedicated to the costume because a) I have no problem getting in other people’s way and b) you go big or you go home. I will keep this in mind when choosing costume partners in the future…

Our school Halloween party was in similar fashion to last year’s. We began, as any good party should, by scaring the shit out of small children. The kinders were the worst. I had one whose head was buried in my stomach and one grabbing on to my leg so tightly that I looked like I was walking with a peg leg. It took almost 10 minutes to calm them down. I felt TERRIBLE. Other teachers, however, were undeterred by the hysterics and continued to scare the bejesus out of kids for the remainder of the day. One of the Korean teachers seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it. Even after the haunted house portion was over, she hid at the end of the hallway scaring children as they walked by. One of my kinders, Daisy, had to go to the bathroom and was too scared to go by herself, so I had to walk with her and hold her hand. She got halfway down the hallway when the teacher came out from a doorway and Daisy immediately turned around and bolted back from whence she came. Attempt #2 was much more successful. However, while we were in the bathroom Daisy asked me, “Monica teacher is what are you doing?” This is 5-year-old Konglish for “What is Monica teacher doing?” I responded, “She is scaring children.” Daisy thought for a minute and then said, very matter-of-factly, like the following was a total normal question, “Monica Teacher is eat children?” I laughed and informed her that no, she was only scaring children. And that’s when Monica came in and ate Daisy. Just kidding! No children were eaten that day. Promise. The second round of students that went through the haunted house were also pretty hysterical. I thought comforting them seemed like the best approach. My Korean counterparts had their own way. They, after being the ones that scared the holy living hell out of these kids, yelled at them that if they did not stop crying they would take their party money away and that they would have to go through the haunted house again. Oh Korea, I have so much to learn about your ways…

After we finished tormenting students, they went around to different classrooms and played games. I hosted a dance party wherein we listened to Gangnam Style ALL. DAY. LONG. Listening to Gangnam Style for 8 hours on repeat changes a person. I may look, sound and act like the Megan you all know and love, but know that something inside of me has been forever altered. And may cause me to dragon kick any radio that plays Gangnam Style. Consider yourselves warned.  During the second round of kids, Monica came into my classroom and when the music in the song pauses, she turned of the lights. Bad idea. These kids clearly hadn’t fully recovered from the earlier trauma and looked like they were having Nam flashbacks. Megan Teacher gave LOTS of stamps at school the next day in an attempt to buy back some of their affection.
Note: I have umpteen adorable videos from the Halloween party, but cannot figure out how to get them from my phone to my computer. Will update when more technologically advanced. Until then, enjoy the photos.

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Chuseok is a 3-day holiday in Korea, often likened to America’s Thanksgiving. It is a rotating holiday, they make a lot of food and it coincides with the fall harvest. But that’s where the similarities end. Typical Chuseok festivities include: wearing a hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), bowing to their ancestors graves, bowing to their grandparents, getting money and making songpyeon (rice cake balls with a sweet filling). We had a party for the kinders the Friday before the holiday, and all of the little ones came to school dressed in their hanboks. So. Freaking. Cute. Seriously, people, look at the pictures. LOOK. They played traditional Korean games, made hanboks out of origami, made songpyeon and did a traditional Korean song and dance. And then we sang “Gangnam Style.” I feel like it added a whole new level of authenticity to the celebration. Or something. Ok, not really. But it was really cute watching them do the Gangnam dance. I was in the songpyeon making room, where my Korean coteacher informed me that the more beautiful your songpyeon, the more beautiful your daughters will be. Let’s just say I now hope to have sons. The kids’ songpyeon turned out pretty interesting, as you’ll see in the photos. Here’s a picture of what it’s actually supposed to look like.

Since we had a long weekend, Joe and I decided to head up to Suwon Friday night to visit Xander, a friend of mine from college. Suwon is about 30-45 minutes outside of Seoul and where I’m looking to go for my second year. After work, we booked it to the train station and made it to Suwon just in time to meet Xander and crew for a few drinks. The next day we got up and made our way to Hwaseong Fortress, which is basically an old, giant, cool-looking wall in Suwon. We wandered around the base for a bit, then followed the signs for the temple on the top of the hill. Which lead up to an iron fence where we were able to see the path to the top, but not actually access it. So back down we headed. Did I forget to mention that I’d been lugging around my carry-on this entire time? Cuz I had been. We finally figured out where we needed to go, but it seemed like too arduous of a trek for one encumbered with luggage. Also, we were really hungry and a little hungover. I decided to put it on my list for next year, and Joe decided he was willing to live the rest of his life without experiencing it because he’s not cool enough to be coming back next year. After lunch at a restaurant with a very menacing pig statue  in front, we reunited with Xander and crew to hang out at a pub for a bit and then we collectively made our way to Seoul. After Joe and I checked in to our hostel, we grabbed a bite to eat and then met some of Xander’s friends to celebrate a birthday. It was decided that we should try and hit as many clubs before 11 as possible because apparently there’s no cover charge before 11 and once you get the stamp you can get in all night.

I should preface this by saying that I am NOT a club kinda gal. I just feel like the music being so loud you can feel it on your insides canNOT be a good thing. Oh, no! Does that mean I’m old?! Am I a crotchety old lady complaining about kids these days listening to their music too loud? Oh, god. At least I have my cats… Ok, pity party over. Back to the matter at hand. The first club we went to wasn’t too bad. God knows it’d been a long time since I’d heard anything resembling hip hop outside of my own apartment. The second club we went to didn’t want to let me in because I was wearing sandals without a heel strap and they were concerned about me cutting my feet on broken glass. But the girl behind me with a tiny bit of leather going around her heel but otherwise just as much foot exposed as me was totally cool. Seems legit. Also, I would be way more concerned about the girls walking around in stripper heels. That’s just an accident waiting to happen. Eventually Xander came out and said that if I couldn’t come in, our entire group was leaving, so they caved. Apparently they weren’t that concerned about my feet, after all. As it turns out, this place was the reason the term “meat market” was invented. I felt dirty just being there. Fortunately we didn’t stay long, because diseases were definitely being spread that night and I didn’t want to stick around long enough to catch one. The next place we went didn’t let foreigners on the first floor where the party was at, but rather sent us to a basement type area where there were only a handful of other people. The rest of the night progressed in a similar fashion, going from club to club and going back and forth between feeling supremely underwhelmed and like I needed a tetanus shot.

We headed home much too late and, in turn, got up much too late the next day. Fortunately, being in Seoul, our options for food were greatly increased and I was able not only to indulge in one of my favorite hangover foods, but introduce it to Joe, as well – Taco Bell. It had been a year since I’d partaken of the sheer joy wrapped in a tortilla known as a crunchwrap supreme. The nacho-cheesiness touched my lips and I knew that all was right in the world. Joe was not as enthusiastic about his meal. It’s not his fault. He’s British. We spent the rest rest of the afternoon exploring the Hongdae area. We were amused by a person in a cat costume (the kind that team mascots wear, not the Halloween kind) laying on the sidewalk, occasionally handing out flyers. Further investigation revealed that they were handing out adverts for a nearby cat cafe. We were sold. Gimmick: 1 Innocent Passersby: 0. I was so excited at the prospect of holding a cat, I almost couldn’t contain myself. As it turns out, you’re only allowed to pet the cats, not hold them. And only if they are not sleeping (which most of them were). And they only wanted to come up to you if you had food for them. They were kind of assholes. I should have expected as much from a roomful of cats, but my prolonged absence from my own kitties has made me forgetful. The only friendly cat was one of those gross hairless cats, and I suspect that’s only because he’s so ugly nobody wants to pet him, making him the only cat there starved for attention. After the cat cafe, we again joined Xander et al. at a baseball game. It was my first Korean baseball game, and Joe’s first baseball game full stop. It was mostly just like any other baseball game. Except for the cheerleaders. Holding ramen. I can safely say I’ve never seen that at a ball game before. It was a pretty exciting game for a first game. A guy fouled the ball back into his own face and had to be taken away in an ambulance and the game went into extra innings. Joe wanted the real “American experience,” so he went to order us hot dogs. When he came back with only one, I looked at him, affronted, and asked. “Where’s mine.” He replied, “She only let me have one.” We shared the hot dog, but were still hungry. We decided that I should try this time. I walked to the counter and tried my luck ordering two hot dogs, and was happily handed  precisely that. When I returned, Joe looked at me agape and demanded, “Why did you get two?!” I decided that the lady looked at him and thought, “No American (He’s not American, but they assume all white people are American.), two is how you get fat.” Then she saw me coming and thought, “Please, take these hot dogs, just don’t eat our children!” Afterwards, we again headed out for dinner and drinks, and shuffled from place to place as every bar/restaurant seemed to be closed or about to close. There was one amazing moment, however, where Joe got locked in a bank. Yes, you read that correctly. The bank was closed, but the ATM area inside was open. Joe went in to take out some cash, but it wouldn’t let him. He attempted to come back outside, but the door was locked. Never have I ever seen anything so funny as the “oh shit” look on his face when he realized he couldn’t get out. He tried to use the phone inside to call for help, to no avail. Eventually, Xander decided to give the door a good shove, and I think it must have been scared of his brute strength because it opened right up. Once we all recovered from a bout of hysterical laughter, Xander and his  friends decided they wanted to try and find a bar playing the Niners game, which is no easy feat in South Korea at 1 a.m. on the Sunday of a holiday weekend. But we made it happen. So Joe also got to see his first football game that night. Or half of one. We bailed at halftime. It was ridiculously late (or early, depending on how you want to look at it), and neither one of us actually likes football.

Again, we stayed up much too late but did not have the luxury of being able to sleep in this time. We had to check out and get our day rolling. We had lots to do before heading home. We started by going to the largest market in Seoul to look for some souvenirs. Unfortunately, all the lockers in the subway station were full so I was stuck hauling my luggage again. Then, the specific places I wanted to pick up souvenirs at were closed for Chuseok. After an hour or so, I admitted defeat and we headed to Gangnam Station to take some “Gangnam Style” pics. Ever since I shared the idea with Joe, his eyes lit up at the mention of Gangnam. I, on the other hand, was torn between my desperate want to do this and the ensuing embarrassment of taking such a photo.  In the end, it was only mildly embarrassing and Joe can now die happy. Next, we made our way to the main shopping district to get Joe some clothes. Initially we had wanted to wander around for a bit, but we were so tired and bogged down with bags and baggage that we decided to call it a day and head home. We had a great time, even if the trip was not as fruitful as we had hoped. Looks like we’ll be making another stop in Seoul on our way out.

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Children’s Day/Parents’ Day/Teachers’ Day

Well, May is a busy month here in Korea. We get the party started off on May 5th. No, not Cinco De Mayo (or Cinco De Drinko, as I like to call it). May 5th in Korea is Children’s Day, which is kind of a big deal. It’s even a national holiday. Tragically, it fell on Saturday this year, so I got exactly zero days off. None of that, “Well, go ahead and take Friday off business here.” Korea isn’t as lazy as America, so they would never dream of giving us a day off that they didn’t have to. Anyway, on this day, parents traditionally give presents to their children and spend time doing fun things with them. My mom was in town for the holiday (more on that in a later blog), and we spent the weekend at the local Hanok (traditional) Village and at the zoo and there were plenty of goings on and people out. We had a party at school (similar to our Halloween Party) where the children got to exchange stamps that they’ve been earning for fake money, which they then spend at our “restaurant” and “stationery store”. They also go around to different rooms, where each teacher hosts a different game. We had the ever popular “candy pong.” Yup, it’s exactly what you think it is. But with candy, not beer. Also, pictionary, canape making, beading, and then my room (OBVIOUSLY the most awesome): dance party. I basically spent 8 hours dancing (1/2 the time by myself because teenagers are douchebags). It was Kpop city. I even learned some Kpop dance moves. Kpop is Korean pop. It’s amazing/awful. Again, another blog for another time. I was SO tired by the time I was done (and also a little smelly). But overall, it was a really fun day. Then, May 8th is Parents’ Day. It is not a national holiday, so again, no day off. On this day, children often make paper carnations for their parents and give them a card. I was hoping we might make some paper carnations at school so I could give one to my mom and send one home for my dad, but no dice. My folks got zilch that day. What a horrible daughter. I don’t feel too bad, though, because I’m sure they’re used to it by now. And then, on May 15th, there is Teachers’ Day. Best. Day. Ever. Teacher’s get showered with presents. Okay, more like some light precipitation in my case. I didn’t receive as many presents as I expected. I know that sounds really greedy, but based on what I’d heard, I thought I’d get more. HOWEVER, they presents I did receive were much more generous than I was anticipating. And really, the cards I got were the best part of all. My students are really so adorable. SOME teachers got the day off, but not I. Fortunately, this coming Monday is Buddha’s birthday, so finally a day off! Below are a bunch of pictures from both the Children’s Day party and Teachers’ Day. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did! And here is a video of one of my favorite students dancing at the party. He shows me his sweet dance moves everyday at school, and now you can enjoy them as well! Flippin sweet dance moves.

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I realize that Valentine’s Day was a few days ago, so I’m going to go ahead and call this post “fashionably late.” Contrary to popular belief, they do celebrate Valentine’s Day here in the land of the morning calm. It is, however, celebrated a little differently than the way we do it back home. There are still the requisite grandiose wine, chocolate and flower displays in every store that rub your singledom all up in your face, letting you know how very, very alone you are this year. The difference is that on Valentine’s Day in Korea, women are the ones that typically give gifts. More specifically, chocolate. And often they make the chocolate themselves. Then, on March 14, they have White day. On White Day, the men are expected to pay back the women who gave them chocolate on Valentine’s Day by giving them candy. And once again, women get shafted. Men get homemade truffles while we get some Starburst and Skittles they probably bought as an afterthought in the checkout line. I suppose I ought to find some comfort in the fact that April 15 brings Black Day, a day in which the singletons get together and celebrate their loneliness by eating jajangmyeon. What is in this magic bowl of  jajangmyeon that heals all lonely hearts, you ask? Well, let me tell you. It is noodles in a black bean sauce. Sounds appetizing, right? Yeah, I didn’t think so, either. As it turns out, it’s one of my least favorite dishes in Korea. The silver lining? In Korea I have three excuses to be a *boozey trollop, instead of just V-Day. So there’s that.

*Mom, boozey trollop is a euphemism for a really nice girl.

Seoul-long 2011!

Forgive my feeble attempt at a pun. Although I’m certain that in some circles I’m very funny… My friends, Joe and Emily, and I had a few days off between Christmas and New Year’s, so we decided to spend them in Seoul. We booked a private hostel room for three, only to find when we arrived that we actually had a private room for two, and that Joe was going to have to sleep on a bunk in the hallway. But wait! The plot thickens! The attendant opened the door to our private room, and someone else’s belongings were strewn about the room. Turns out they overbooked (and also have some serious communication issues). At this point, the attendant offered to let us sleep at her apartment on traditional Korean style bedding (which is basically sleeping on the floor). Generous as it was, we said thanks but no thanks. She did, however, help us find another hostel nearby where we were to stay for the first three nights, and then go back to our original hostel for the last night. These types of shenanigans  happen to me often when I travel. This one time, on the way to Paris, we were a full day late arriving! But I digress… While in Seoul, we ate copious amounts of Western food, visited one of the royal palaces (they have 5 – no big deal), walked around a Buddhist temple and shopped til we dropped. The first night we met our friend, Scott, and his family for dinner. Scott’s family was visiting from Scotland. After dinner, we went out for a few drinks (sans parents) and then out to the noraebang to get our sing on. That night, I’m pretty sure I heard the greatest version of “I Kissed a Girl” ever sung. Sorry Katy Perry. The next day we met Scott (sans family) at Gyeongbuk Palace to watch the changing of the guards. I’m not sure why, but it never occurred to me that this happens at palaces other than Buckingham. After the changing of the guards, we wandered around the vast labyrinth of buildings that make up the palace for awhile. Then we popped into The National Folk Museum of Korea to warm up – 15 minutes before they closed. Shortest. Museum tour. Ever. Later that night we met my Korean friend for dinner and drinks. We had the best burgers I’ve eaten thus far in Korea, and learned that my Korean friend occasionally gets drunk and wakes up in foreign countries. See mom, it could be worse. On day 3, we wandered around a Buddhist temple on a mountainside for a bit. We didn’t get many pictures, or explore as much as we wanted, because we kept encountering people performing rituals and we didn’t want to be disrespectful. Then we headed to Cheonggyecheon Stream to watch a light show of epic epicness. At least that’s how the guide book made it sound. We walked with great anticipation until we found some weird flowers projected on a wall. Suffice it to say, it was a bit of a let down. However, in my research to find the name of the stream, it appears as though there is a distinct possibility we were in the wrong spot. C’est la vie. Then we went out to try and find some people who knew what the what was for New Year’s Eve. We made some new friends and had a great night, right up until Joe lost his wallet on the cab ride home. Also, I had a kebab for the first time ever. It was delicious. On New Year’s Eve, we started our day shopping. I made Joe and Emily let me stop at Starbuck’s, we shopped, ate lunch at an American style buffet, then shopped some more. It was exhilarating. Then Emily and I spent an obscene amount of time on hair, make-up and wardrobe changes while Joe, well, I have no recollection of what Joe was doing because I was busy being pretty. We met up with our friends from the night before, and made some really interesting new ones. Including one girl that we saw the next day around noon, in the same outfit, her black eye shadow now located on her under eye, and her hair weave falling out. She had only just concluded her drinking and wondered should she go home, or go back out again and get REALLY crazy. But here I go, getting ahead of myself. We spent most of the evening at a bar called The Wolfhound, where there was great music, great conversation, some dancing on chairs, and a couple of guys who seemed to think they were Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover. At midnight, I got the new year started off right with a friendly peck. HOORAY! Shortly thereafter, we relocated to the noraebang from Wednesday night. I met a guy there that told me I had the voice of an angel. He was drunk, but I feel like that doesn’t make him any less credible. Then, in an effort to really get 2012 started off with a bang, I lost my entire purse somewhere between the noraebang and the next bar. But I didn’t realize it until Joe and I were walking to the subway at 5 am. We spent several hours the next day attempting to recover the purse, but in the end, we left empty handed. This is now the second time I’ve lost my wallet since coming to Korea. I’ve also lost 6 half pairs of earrings. Next paycheck I think I am going to invest in one of those leash backpacks that lazy parents put on their children. My friends can take turns holding the leash. Clearly I am not to be trusted. Over all we had a really great time, and Joe and I will be investing in the wallets you can chain to your pants.

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Christmas in Korealand

Sorry for not posting in a while, but I’ve been a busy girl. I’m planning on doing several posts in the next few weeks to catch you guys up on what I’ve been up to. For now, I’m starting with Christmas. Christmas in Korea is very different. It is not nearly as commercialized as it is in the states. There isn’t the ridiculous overindulgence and materialism. Aside from some sporadic decorations and the Christmas carols, you barely noticed it was that time of year. The incessant playing of Christmas carols is one of the few Christmas traditions that the U.S. and Korea have in common. Except that they play, like, the same 5 Christmas songs over and over. They REALLY seem like to George Michael’s “Last Christmas.” A lot. “Feliz Navidad” is a close second. I was fortunate enough to have the week after Christmas off, but many people I know didn’t get any time off at Christmas. It was a little hard for me because I missed my family a lot. Christmas is my favorite holiday and I really missed all of our family traditions. Fortunately I have a really great group of friends here that helped make up for the absence of my family. A supercrazyawesome care package (complete with a Christmas tree and ornaments from my cats) from home definitely helped, too. The Friday before Christmas we had a Christmas party in the morning for the kindergarteners and a Christmas carol contest for the older students. The guy that played Santa was hilarious! And sometimes had an Australian accent… All of the kids said they didn’t believe in Santa, right until he showed up. Then magically they believed. Mostly because they were afraid they wouldn’t get a present. I spend most of my teaching hours with my kindergarteners, and I absolutely adore them, so I got them all a little present. They love Pokemon, so I had my mom send me some American Pokemon cards. They are also crazy obsessed with Angry Birds here, so I got them some Angry Birds paraphernalia. I thought they were going to lose their minds! It was really adorable. All in all, it was a pretty fun day. On Christmas Eve, I met up with my friends Joe and Emily to go shopping for our Christmas day feast. Then we met up with my coworker, Teresa, at a local diner owned by a waygook. They had a delicious Western-style Christmas feast and an abundance of free wine and whiskey shots. The only disappointment was the lack of stuffing. I REALLY wanted stuffing in and around my mouth. Then we headed to our favorite bar to hang out with all of the other expats. It’s called Deep In and it’s the kind of divey bar with so much character and such a great atmosphere that you can’t help but love it the moment you walk in. It helps that they play really fantastic music (think Journey, The Proclaimers, Neil Diamond, etc.). Somewhere between dinner and last call, something magical happened. “Summer Lovin” from Grease came on, and without any prompting the girls lined up on one side, the guys lined up in the other. They guys were singing the guys parts, the girls were singing  the girl parts and for a brief, shining moment, my life was like Glee. It was A-mazing. There was another awesome moment when Oasis came on. I like Oasis as much as the next person, but the guys from the U.K. go a little nuts when they hear them. As soon as the song started, all of the U.K. boys got in a circle and took off their shirts while singing at the top of their lungs. Not to be outdone, the Americans soon followed suit. Best. Night. Ever. I crashed at Emily’s that night so we could get an early start cooking Christmas dinner. And by early, of course I mean noon. We spent the day eating, drinking, exposing Joe (who is British) to American Christmas movies, and playing Cranium. I had never played Cranium before, but learned that I apparently do a fantastic Justin Timberlake impression. And I can spell backwards like a champ. It was a great weekend, and I am so thankful for the amazing group of friends I have here. But in all honesty, I’m looking forward to spending Christmas at home next year.

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Pepero Day

Yesterday in South Korea, we celebrated the most sacred of all holidays – Pepero Day. Pepero is essentially the Korean version of Pocky. It is celebrated on 11/11 because the date resembles 4 Pepero sticks in a row. I know whenever I think of November 11, I also think of candy. Then again, I also think of candy the other 364 days of the year. Pepero is made by one of the major Korean conglomerates, Lotte Co., Ltd. They own everything here – a chain of department stores, a chain of Walmart-esque stores, movie theaters, an amusement park, mildly tasty candy… Lotte corp denies “inventing” the holiday, but it hasn’t been around very long. In fact, Pepero itself  is younger than I am (as one of my coworkers was so kind to point out to me). Word on the street (and by street, naturally, I mean Wikipedia) is that students at a middle school started giving it to one another with the wish that they might grow as tall and thin as a Pepero. In fact, I heard one of my junior high students utter that exact sentiment. Body image is a major issue over here, but that is another post entirely. I scored a pretty decent amount of Pepero and other candy from my students, half of which will be going home to my family in their Christmas package (what? don’t act like you’ve never regifted). Happy Pepero/Veteran’s Day all!

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Halloween in Korea

A couple of weeks ago, Americans nationwide celebrated my second favorite holiday – Halloween. Children observed this holiday by dressing up in adorable costumes and binging on sugar, adults by dressing up in the sluttiest and/or most inappropriate costumes they could find and binging on alcohol. I usually enjoy participating in such festivities, but it was not in the cards this year. Halloween has only recently begun to gain popularity in South Korea. Mostly, the Americans living and working here pretend like we’re still stateside by dressing up and drinking copiously, while the locals stare at us like we’re idiots, thus perpetuating the stupid, self-absorbed American stereotype. However, the younger generations seem more willing to embrace the excuse to dress up and act a damn fool. At my school, we had a Halloween party all day. I was informed approximately 3 days prior that I was required to wear a costume, which didn’t bother me much because I was planning on dressing up anyway. I was completely oblivious of the quest that would soon begin. Because Halloween is not that popular, and Koreans hate fatties, trying to find a costume was like trying to find a job in California. Borderline impossible. I got excited when I learned that there was a party store near my house that had costumes, but my excitement was short lived.  The selection resembled that of a drugstore (say, CVS or Walgreen’s); mostly cheap crap for kids. They had few adult costumes that were one size fits all, but in Korea, “one size fits all” really means “one size fits fun sized.” So I struck out on a journey both far and wide, on a quest for an appropriately fitting costume. I searched fervently online for a DIY costume (tragically, I am not clever without my sewing machine). I went to both Emart AND Homeplus. Such a costume was not to be found. I ended up with with a $4 pair of bat wings made for a child that came with…wait for it… bat horns.  Which I totally rocked. At the Halloween party, only the kindergarteners dressed up, which I thought was kind of a bummer. Two little girls came dressed as Tinkerbell (which if you know me, you know totally thrilled me). I said to them, “How cute! I love Tinkerbell!” In return, I got a blank stare followed by, “Who is Tinkerbell?” A travesty. The Halloween party consisted of turning off the lights and scaring the shit out of the little kids until they cried. Seriously, many a child called out, “OMA!” (mommy). Two teachers were going out of their way to make this happen, but I just felt terrible watching those babies cry. I wouldn’t have minded making a couple of the junior high boys cry, though… After we calmed them down, they got to go to different teacher’s rooms to play games. They spend all year collecting stamps in class and get to trade them in for play money which they, in turn, spend on crappy food and lame toys like it’s the greatest shopping spree of their lives. In my room, we played “Pop Goes the Balloon,” in which the student is blindfolded, given a sharp object, and made to pop a balloon. The number inside the balloon is how many pieces of candy they get. This was seriously poor planning on my part. Not only did I grossly misjudge the amount of work this would entail, but I managed to forget the fact that I LOATHE the sound of balloons popping. So that was special. Other teachers did face painting, or had games like “Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin” or, my favorite, “Candy Pong.” I did go out with some friends Saturday night, but it wasn’t the same. I missed home. =(

I have decided to end every blog post with something I love about Korea and something I miss about the good ‘ol US of A. Right now I am loving the weather (still wearing jeans and a t-shirt most days) but missing the stars. There is so much smog here that I am lucky if I can spot one at all at night.

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