Sunday, August 31, 2008

An Outback Oasis

With the stress of being homeless, breaking up fights between six year olds, and trying to complete simple errands with a completely different language and cultural barrier, a red juicy steak was just what I needed. For the last two weeks a meal for us was school lunch, which is not the most appetizing meal. I always thought American school lunch was scary but it is probably safe to say that the lunches at my school are scarier. The safest dish is the rice- so I generally stick to that.

Before I left for Korea, I was on a diet that Nancy and I referred to as "poverty." My new diet is "language barrier." The language barrier diet is more frustrating than the poverty diet, because I have money but I can't communicate to get food. Poverty diet was expected as I knew that I could not afford certain foods. As I walk the streets, images and scintillating wafts of food haunt me because I have money, yet I cannot say what I want. This is just more motivation to learn Korean.

Early Sunday afternoon, Chandra was able to move out of the love motel and into her apartment. This meant that I was able to escape my awkward living arrangements and sleep chez Chandra, but it also added new stress of shopping for random household items at Home Plus. Home Plus is the giant equivalent of Wal-Mart. It is about 5 stories tall (this is an estimate) with flat escalators that allow for your shopping cart to travel freely throughout the mega shopping center. After an exhausting and unsuccessful hunt for basic pillow cases, Chandra and I checked out. The cart was full, however the clerk did not give us bags. Normally this problem wouldn't have been so frustrating, but we still had to figure out how we were going to load five pillows, a shower curtain rod, and random odds and ends in the taxi. We realized that we needed to go up to the fifth floor and pack everything into boxes. With a giant box of pillows and a curtain rod, we wandered out to the streets to get a taxi. At this moment, not only were we the only white people, but we were the crazy white people making a scene. I was so scattered all over the place that as I ran for the taxi I nearly got hit by another taxi.

Off to search for food, the neon sign "Outback Steakhouse" called to us like sirens. The force pulled us up the stairs and we were seated in a booth with a lovely window view of the city. Our server spoke English which made the moment even more beautiful. I am not usually the person to dine at chain restaurants, but in this case it was absolutely appropriate to splurge and spend 30,000 won on a steak dinner at Outback Steakhouse. I left my oasis completely satisfied and was ready for bed with a full belly- quite possibly the greatest and my most missed feeling.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Once again I have managed to be homeless for the first two weeks of my new life abroad.
My current habitat is the Pares Hotel (pronounced like Paris). Before I left for Korea, my ignorance often conjured up visions of me arriving to Seoul and sent to a back alley to work- not as a teacher but as a prostitute for the Korean mafia. I had this dark image because I have incredible luck and I can be terribly naive, not to mention my family's history with mafias and black markets.
Before Chandra and I left for Korea, we were informed that we would be staying in a hotel for our first night. It was about 10:30 pm by the time we finally arrived in Seoul and I could not wait to sleep in a bed. After our hour long drive from the airport we finally made it to Seongdong-Gu, however the driver drove down a dark alley and parked in front of a random building that I could only compare to as an adult movie theatre for its giant poster of upcoming films and flurescent sign. In the back of my mind I was that the driver must have made a mistake. We entered the dark motel and were led to our rooms. As I wandered upstairs to my room I noticed the condom vending machine and fear began to settle in. What the hell did I get myself into?
Well, I found out the next afternoon that my school was legit when I had to be at work to meet everyone. The love motel is not as haineous as it sounds aside from the small living quarters and the screams and banging of furniture from the other rooms.

I begin teaching this Friday. Over the past five days I have felt like I am back in elementary school since I have been observing so I simply cannot wait to actually work with the little ones. I am teaching first year preschoolers- ages 7 (in America they are actually about 6 years old)which means they are have only been studying English for about six months. My students are absolutely adorable and they call me Niki teacher- occasionally Monkey teacher (they have just found the humour in calling people animals).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Wake up.

I procrastinated to leave Columbia. I packed my life, which consisted of three boxes, two suitcases, and a bicycle in my car and finally left at 10 pm after I visited my Starbucks. I don't know why it was so hard to leave. It was 12:30 am when arrived in Lebanon and I didn't exactly get a warm greeting. Since I have been away for college my mother has started to collect dogs. Five dogs who have been awaken from their slumber by a strange person who has entered their territory doesn't exactly go well, so I spent thirty minutes trying to shush the small alarms by bribing them with cold hot dogs from the refrigerator.
The next morning I was awoken by the newest edition of the collection, a miniature Yorkie named Raymond. As I lay on my back on the sofa I lifted him in the air admiring his submissive personality. Just as I was about to tell my mother how adorable he was, I looked up and Raymond vomited all over my blanket. Earlier that morning my mom felt it was necessary to feed him baby formula, since he was a puppy. This didn't settle very well in his stomach. After working at a dog shop, one can probably sense the frustration that I have had over this. Over the past few days I have been fighting with my mom about what she can and cannot feed the dogs. For example, mozzarella sticks and pizza rolls are not dog food. My mom sees it like she is spoiling them by giving them junk food.
Some people are morning people. My mom was up this morning at 6 rearranging the living room furniture. That was the initial sound that woke me up. I got off the couch at nearly 7 am and found my mother on the back porch hosing down the deck in her pajamas.
So now I am regretting not coming home more often. My family offers free interactive entertainment.
Just an update: I have three days before I jump on a plane. I leave August 19th at 7:35 am. I have my visa, my passport, and alas I have my flight information. This time around leaving the country seems easier. I think for that, my extreme move doesn't seem real.