Destination: Korea

Recently, the late night TV show 1st Look did an episode in Korea. They spend an afternoon and evening in Seoul, pick green tea leaves in Hadong, visiting the seaside in Busan and a temple in Pyeongchang. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to visit either Hadong or Pyeonghcang myself, although they look stunning. I visited Busan my first year in Korea, but didn’t have a great experience. The Brit and I wanted to give it another try this year, but, as usual, life had other plans. However, I can say that the portion of this video that is filmed in Seoul captures pretty perfectly my life here. Give it a watch here for a taste of life in Korea.The photo below is from one of the fish markets in Busan, albeit not the one in the video.

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Vatos Urban Tacos

Guys. Since I’ve officially begun my foray into restaurant reviews, I’ve been dying to tell you about one of my favorite restaurants in Korea – Vatos Urban Tacos. Aside from the fact that I like the name, the food is AMAZING. I’ve been looking forward to telling you guys about it for ages. Except I kept forgetting to bring my camera to the restaurant. Or forgetting to take pictures of the food before I shoved it in my face. Fortunately, they recently opened up a branch near my apartment so I don’t to schlep all the way out to Itaewon after one of those days where you need a drink as big as your head. Which they totally have. They’re called makgeollitas. It’s a margarita made with makgeolli and it sounds gross but it’s heaven. I highly recommend the peach flavor. They also have those margaritas with upside down beer or wine coolers in them in some fabulous flavors. My personal favorite is “I’m Rick James, Peach!” The Gold Digger is also quite good. While their beverages are a huge part of why I frequent this fine establishment, their food ain’t bad, either. My hands down favorite things on the menu are the kimchi carnitas fries and the fish tacos. While the kimchi carnitas fries (or some incarnation of them) are becoming a staple at Mexican restaurants in Seoul, the fries at Vatos are still the best. The Brit and I split an order literally every time we go. You would be remiss not to give them a try. I also get the fish tacos every time I go because THEY TASTE LIKE CALIFORNIA. For real real. Sunshine and surf. Right in my mouth hole. The Brit is a bit more adventurous and mixes it up from time to time, but is a big fan of the Vatos burrito. The kimchi gives it a nice kick. The guac and queso are good, but a little pricey for what you get. But sometimes you just need a little guac or queso, you know? The only thing on the menu that I’ve tried that I didn’t like was the tamale. But tamales are one of my favorite foods and I’m used to home cooked tamales. Also, I’ve never ordered a burger because TACOS.

So, if you find yourself in Seoul, head over to one of their many locations. And if you’re in Daejeon, keep your eyes open for a new location opening soon! Check out my tumblr for some mouth watering photos.

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Linus’ Bama Style BBQ

Guys. I know I don’t usually do restaurant reviews here, but I went to a restaurant so good that I have changed my mind! Over the holiday weekend, The Brit and I headed to Namsan Tower to put our engagement lock on the Locks of Love wall. Since we were in such close proximity to Itaewon, we decided to make our way over there for dinner. We’d heard great things about Linus’ Bama Style BBQ from our friends and had been wanting to try it out for awhile. We figured that due to the holiday weekend, the crowds wouldn’t be out in full force. We were right! We had a very short wait before we were seated, but had decided we loved the restaurant well before we were seated. The restaurant has a backyard BBQ atmosphere, with wooden benches for the outdoor seating. The oldies playing overhead reminded my of summertime BBQs from my childhood and had The Brit and I singing along. The humor in the signage was an added bonus; the wifi is Guess What? The password is porkbutt. Another throwback to my childhood days.

The service is excellent – especially by Korean standards. We were promptly greeted by our waitress and offered drinks. We had another laugh as we perused the menu. Each item has a chuckle inducing description that makes you want to order one of everything. And we nearly did! We got the BBQ set for two, which comes with two kinds of meat, three sides and six buns of sliders. We got the fries, mashed potatoes and potato salad as our sides. Can you tell we love us some potatoes? The mashed potatoes were great, but the potato salad was legit the best I’ve ever had. We also ordered the fried pickles, fried okra and smokey mac ‘n’ cheese. We ordered so much other food that we never ended up touching the fries. We also ordered a Great White and an Indica IPA, which always makes me happy because it reminds me of home. The Lost Coast Brewery is in the same town as my university and was a staple at all the college parties.

By the time we left, we were in full on food coma status. I was uncomfortable for hours. But oh so satisfied. We couldn’t believe we waited so long to check it out, and we will definitely be back again soon. To get to Linus’, go to the McDonald’s in Itaewon. Directly to the left of McDonald’s is a glass door with a staircase leading down into a shady looking hallway. Go through the shady looking hallway and emerge into BBQ heaven. Here is their Facebook page. And here is my Tumblr so you can check out more hunger inducing photos from our dinner.

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Tiny Korean Apartments Round 3

It’s time for everyone’s favorite blog post of the year! Tiny Korean apartments. This time we’re seeing Joe’s accommodations from last year. He lived in a part of Seoul called Sadang, not too far from where I live. Now, I know this may be difficult to imagine if you’ve seen the other videos, but Joe’s old apartment is even smaller than either of my previous apartments and about half the size of my current apartment. Which you might get to see before I leave, but we’re all familiar with how well I update this in a timely fashion – so don’t hold your breath.

Joe’s apartment had a wardrobe, a desk, a fridge, a microwave and a bed that looked like it belonged to one of the seven dwarfs. Like, even MY feet hang off the edge. I have no idea how Joe actually slept in it. But I like to picture something like this:

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Here’s the video. Forgive the quality, it was done with a cell phone because we forgot to do it until move out day. And here are Round One and Round Two, in case you missed them the first time around.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

“Guess who’s back, back again. Megan’s back, tell a friend.” I’m pretty sure those are the lyrics, right guys? So it’s been an embarrassing amount of time awhile since my last post… But now I’m back! With new and improved intentions! And with an exciting topic so you’l hopefully forget that I’m terrible at this I haven’t been here in awhile. As you may already know, the new Avengers movie was filmed in part in Seoul. Last year, The Brit and I went to Gangnam to watch some of the filming. I meant to write about it last year but… Anywho, the scene we saw being filmed was the one where Black Widow is cruising through the streets of Gangnam on her motorcycle and I have BIG NEWS about ScarJo’s stunt double. In the wise words of Austin Powers, “That’s not a woman, that’s a man, baby!” I don’t know why this thrills me so, but it does (let’s be real – we all know why this thrills me.). And I learned something else very important that day. Watching a movie being filmed is decidedly less exciting than you’d think. Especially when Chris Evans isn’t even around.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when The Brit and I finally got around to watching it on the big screen. (Comic book movies get released in Korea early. NBD.) My professional opinion was that the movie was…wait for it…alright. It was fun, but maybe a little long. I liked the first one better. But the parts in Seoul! The Brit and I agree that that was hands down our favorite part. It was so exciting to see  places we have been/regularly go on the big screen. This is a new experience for me. Not a lot of movies take place in Sacramento, guys. Though it hasn’t happened yet, we’re certain that it will pique people’s interest in our lives here in Korea. Much like Gangnam Style. (Please ask us questions! We love it. Seriously.) Fun fact: the building they pretend is the Korean doctor’s office is actually a convention hall. And the other building has a cafe called CNN Cafe at the bottom. If you go into the cafe, they have CNN constantly playing on, like, six TVs. It’s kind of weird. It’s a bit of a shame that they didn’t film it at night because at night it looks like this:

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If you want to check out a few more photos from the filming, check out my Tumblr.

Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival

I don’t want to freak you guys out or anything, but I’m about to post about something I did…wait for it…this weekend. And also last year. But most recently this weekend. A group of us went to the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul, which celebrates Buddha’s birthday. During the day they have cultural events. I have no idea what that means because aside from the fact that it’s very vague, due to a series of unfortunate events I didn’t make it to that portion either year. I did, however, make it to the lantern parade both years. The parade this year was a little lacking compared to last year’s. In light of the recent ferry tragedy they shortened the duration which was better for my feet, but worse in terms of seeing shiny, pretty things. Plus, there was only one fire breathing dragon lantern this year. And going back through photos from last year, almost all of the lantern floats were the same. Get it together, Seoul. I mean, people have expectations. This year I was really looking forward to the after party because according to the website “flowers rain from the sky.” I mean, who doesn’t want to see that? Once the parade ended, we promptly walked over to the giant stage to be greeted by some very loud music that was really not our jam. So we decided to get dinner and come back for the flowers falling from the heavens. Unfortunately dinner ran long and the party ran short. No flower precipitation for me. I did, however, score a hand held lantern that someone left by the subway entrance. I was growing concerned that I might have to steal one from a kid or an old lady. We then made our way to the nearby temple to take photos of it all lit up at night. We arrived precisely as they closed. So that was special. Our next plan was to go down to the Cheonggycheon (a pretty, long river in Seoul) to have a couple brewskies and admire the hanging lanterns. We asked our Korean friend how to get there from the temple. Against my better judgement, we hopped on the subway and ended up at Dongdaemun. A 30 minute walk from where we needed to be (which was, incidentally, about where we started). All in all, it was a nice night and I’m glad I got to bring Joe this year, but I’m also glad I went the first year because it was way better. If you want to see more pics, check out my Tumblr.

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My Korean Apartment/Shoebox

Welcome to the second edition of Megan’s Korean Apartment. I’ve been meaning to make this video for awhile, and was finally prompted to because I’m moving apartments on Friday (same building, slightly different layout). Nothing motivates me like a deadline… My apartment this year is a little smaller than my last, but a LOT nicer. For instance, no ceiling caving in. No washing machine in the bathroom. The list goes on… My building has a front door with a code, similar to last year. Except this year the door is always locked and the code isn’t written on the front door with a sharpie. So it’s safe to say I feel more secure here. I live on the third of five floors. The top floor houses the landlord, and the other 18 rooms are occupied by myself and my coworkers. So it’s kind of like a dorm/frat house sometimes. It’s nice for me because I never actually lived in the dorms, and this way I get to experience it (sort of) with my own room and shower.

I have way more storage at this place, and even a closet of sorts. My cupboard are in a normal location so I don’t hit my head every time I do dishes. I no longer have to do my hair and make up at my kitchen table, as I have a desk that I have converted into a vanity. Priorities, guys. I do, however,  have to use my refrigerator as an entertainment center. We all make sacrifices. You can check it out yourself here. And in case you missed the shenanigans that were my first apartment,  that video can be found  here. Photos of my apartment are on my Tumblr. As well as some really cute pics of my kids making mandu.

I’m Baaaa-ack!!!

Well hello, there. Come here often? Cuz I certainly don’t. <–See what I did there? I made a joke about being the WORST. BLOGGER. EVER. So here’s the long and the short of why I haven’t posted a new blog in 7 months. And 17 days. But who’s counting? (Put your hand down, Mom!) I had a really lazy start to my year and right around the time I decided to get my ass in gear and get caught up, my computer decided it had other plans. And it took all of my photos from the first half of the year with it. Due to Dell cancelling my order without notifying me more than once shipping complications, it finally arrived mid December (suck it, customs!) just in time for Christmas play meltdown and sweet freedom Christmas vacation. This weekend I finally got my personal savior computer savvy friend to help me extract the missing files from my dead computer. Turns out they were on my external hard drive the whole time. Just sitting there. Waiting for me to be less computarded. So, now that I have all the files, I am in the process of uploading them all on Tumblr because I don’t want to pay to keep uploading them here. So in future posts, I will post a picture or two and then link to my Tumblr so I can upload a million and five photos, as I am wont to do. I am hoping to start getting y’all caught up with my escapades in the very near future. For real real. It’s, like, number five on my list of New Year’s resolutions. So it could happen. Maybe. At any rate, here are some interesting things to come out of Korea recently to tide you over.

First, this happened. And people freaked out. I can assure I am fine and just as safe as in the states. Probably more so because I actually have health care in Korea. Second, It snowed a lot last week and I was really excited. For about a minute. Then my suspicions about the evil that is snow were confirmed when this came out. I’m lucky my face didn’t melt off. My friend posted this article. Which is horrifying  interesting. And speaks to the view on plastic surgery in Korea. Maybe don’t open it if you’re eating right now. And I will leave you with this article about racist fried chicken. And this picture of food. Shaped like poo.

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New School

Here it is, finally, and only 3 1/2 months in! Here’s the low down on my return to the Land of the Morning Calm. When I arrived at the airport, I was under the impression that I was the only one being picked up. Wrong. There were three of us, all on the same flight, and we didn’t even know it. I also assumed that I would be getting my own hotel room. We all know what happens when you assume… The other two girls and I crammed into a tiny hotel room with only two beds and an exorbitant amount of luggage. For a week. We got to know each other REALLY well really quickly. On the upside, there were sandwiches and drinks waiting for us after our long journey.  The next morning at breakfast, I was again surprised to find that there were 12 new teachers, as I had been told there would only be a couple of new teachers. Obviously something was lost in translation. After what seemed like forever (a week) of mind numbing training and sharing cramped quarters with strangers, I was finally able to move into my new place. It is much smaller than last year, but also much nicer. A post on that matter later. And if we’re being real, probably MUCH later.

Now for the school itself: It is MUCH bigger than my last school. There are 20 foreign teachers (as opposed to five last year). And we all get along pretty well. I knew that out of that many teachers I would easily find friends, but I genuinely like ALL of my coworkers this year. The same cannot be said for last year. And there are men. This is partially lost on me in that I am no longer single, but is still appreciated as working in an all female environment can get a little catty. My boss this year is not terrifying. And he speaks English. He’s actually very friendly and generous and I genuinely enjoy working for him. I feel much more appreciated this year than last. The hours are better. I get paid on time. I get paid more. I have my own classroom that I can decorate, which I’m pretty sure I did an awesome job of, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. You can check out the pics down below. Last year I had to haul materials from class to class which was a pain because if you forgot something you had to rush to the teachers’ room and hurry back before the kids staged a coupe. This year, everything is at my fingertips. Last year my school had three helpers for the whole school. This school has one helper per class. This is particularly beneficial if someone has an accident, gets sick, or is trying to convey something that I don’t understand. Which is not to say that my ajumma can then relay what is happening to me, her English is pretty mediocre, but at least she can take care of it. Plus, she’s really awesome and nice to me (shout out to Miss Rosa!). I only teach two classes, plus three one on one lessons. This is great in that the older students tend to be more difficult to handle, and I don’t have to deal with them as much. But a downfall is that my kids are so little that I rarely get those little Konglish nuggets of hilarity to share with you all. I expect this year’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things” will be decidedly less funny than last year’s. I apologize in advance and will try and make my kids funnier. But I make no promises. My coteacher is a superstar and amazing and I love her. She mostly just lets me do my own thing and only comes to me if there is a problem. Which is the way I like it. I don’t know what I’m going to do when she goes on maternity leave. Probably die.

There aren’t many downfalls. The biggest one is that I don’t enjoy my kids as much this year, which is really sad for me. I loved my kids so much last year that I nearly stayed at a school I hated. This year, I love my school but my kids are a royal pain in the ass. Which is not to say that I don’t absolutely adore them on an individual level, but as a group they are exceedingly difficult. I’m not sure if it is partially due to the fact that they are from more affluent families. Seriously, these kids’ wardrobes are more expensive than mine. One kid uses Chanel lipstick as her “play” makeup. My biggest problem is that they just don’t listen. Ever. I have to repeat myself a million times and by the end of the day I’m at the end of my rope. I’m constantly trying new methods to get them to listen better, but nothing seems to work. So if you have any suggestions, please feel free to share!

Also,  I am in a new location this year. I said fairwell to Jeonju’s small town ways and hello to the big city. I live in a relatively affluent part of Seoul, right next to Gangnam. Yes, of Gangnam Style fame. There is a beautiful lake a few blocks away that my friends and I hang out at and sometimes go running (read: walking) at. On the lake is a small amusement park called Lotte World. Kind of like a poor man’s Disneyland. A very poor man. But that’s another post for another day. I live in between two subway stops and am so glad to have such easy access to it. Thanks to a subway app called Jihachul (Korean for subway), I am a subway pro and am venturing to parts of Seoul I’d previously never heard of. If you’re in Seoul or spend a lot of time there and don’t have this app yet, download it, like, yesterday. My area’s so fancy, it even has garbage cans. I know what you’re thinking, “Megan, garbage cans are not fancy nor are they notable.” In America that is true, dear friends, but I am not in America. Last year I did not once see a garbage can on the streets of Jeonju. People just threw their trash on the ground and this was totally acceptable. My inner Girl Scout had a difficult time with this method of garbage disposal, and I often carried my garbage in my purse until I got home. This year, garbage cans abound! Just kidding. They’re still hard to come by. But they exist. I have photographic evidence of it. Anywho, that it my new situation in a nutshell. I promise to update you guys with my exciting adventures more frequently than I have been (my mom said I have to).

I just have to tell you about my day…

I know, I know. I made promises about posts and have neglected to keep them. But let’s be real for a minute, by now you’ve surely grown accustomed to the fact that I seldom do anything in a timely manner. At any rate, rest assured that they are in the works. I have several posts to knock out before my aunt and sister get here in a couple of weeks. Then I’ll have a whole other slew to procrastinate on. For now, I’m going to write a post unlike any other that I have ever written. I am just going to tell you about my day. Because as days go, it was pretty epic (as I’m sure anyone who is my friend on Facebook has already gathered from my incessant posts today). But this. needs. to. be. shared. My first student to arrive today, Ian, walked in and informed me that Annie (whose birthday was today) looked like a princess. I said, “Wow. That is fantastic.” Clearly he could sense that I was not yet fully awake and feigning interest, so he replied, “No. Like a REAL princess.” I wasn’t sure what that meant. Would there be red carpets and fanfare? One never knows with Annie, who celebrates her birthday everyday during play time. All I could say was, “Oh my.” Several minutes later Annie waltzed in. Dressed like a bride. A tiny, little, 6-year-old bride. With gloves and a veil. I kid you not. Scroll down to the picture if you don’t believe me. Then she said, “Miss Megan, look at this!” She proceeded to to twirl in her dress while coming to a seat on the ground with her dress puffed out all around her. Like she was freaking Cinderella. I was in awe of this child. Actually, I am often in awe of this child. She continued to swan about the room until class started. During the restroom break before class started, Ruby stuck my finger in her mouth. In retaliation, I wiped my salivated on finger on her face. She proceeded to make me hit myself in my own boob. Well played, kid. But watch out, I’m gunning for you… The next two classes passed pretty uneventfully (unless you count their adorable rendition of Friday by Rebecca Black). Then it was time for board games. Yes, board games is an actual class at my school. Sounds awesome, right? Not so much. Mostly they just fight and I referee. At any rate, we were sitting on the mat playing Jenga. Last time this happened, one of the kids started rubbing my back. This time I managed to trick them into thinking it was an awesome fun thing to do, so they spent the entire period taking turns rubbing my back. During the course of this epic back rub, one of my students, Jay ( I’m just not really sure how this kid is going to be able to function in society. I adore him. But he’s…interesting.)  turns to me and says, out of the blue, “Kiss a fellow.” I think this stems from something I said in passing a million years ago. (This is why I love this kid. He can’t use silverware, but he can remember an offhand remark from ages ago.) Then another student’s eyes lit up and he said, “Miss Megan kiss SO fellow.” This is Konglish for Miss Megan kisses a lot of fellows. Then he leaned over and kissed my chest. Before I could recover from the assault on my “jijis”, I looked over and Annie had pulled up her dress and down her underwear and was showing 2 other students her promised land. Right about the time I got that situation shut down, it was time for lunch. And not a moment too soon. After lunch was play time. Halfway through playtime I looked over and Jay was lying on the floor with his arm over his face. I looked at him and said, “Are you taking a nap?” He replied, very dramatically, “No. I am die.” And then I proceeded to die. After lunch we had a review period where they spent most of the time coloring activity sheets. One the rare occasion that this happens, I usually put on some Disney tunes and we chit chat while we color. During this period, Henny (I know, I know.) looked at me and said, “Miss Megan! Look at this!” (Her coloring.) I responded, “That’s amazing!” Julia asked, “What is amazing?” I said, “It means very good.” She said, “Miss Megan, you are amazing.” Preach. Then Ian, who likes to pull a Gilbert Gottfried face, started doing Darth Vader impressions and saying in a deep voice, “No! I am your father!” Except I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know who Darth Vader is and thinks he made it up. Then they all started calling each other muffs. Which is apparently short for muffin. I don’t even know. Don’t you wish you spent every day with 12 6-year-olds (which really means 5-years-old Western age) whose primary language is not the one you speak?

Ian's Gilbert Gottfried face.

Ian’s Gilbert Gottfried face.

Annie the birthday bride.

Annie the birthday bride.

Jay: No. I am die.

Jay: No. I am die.