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Oh Europe

29 Sep

SERIOUSLY. I’ve been in Europe for three weeks. time F*(@#*@ flies. I am going to try and remember everything that happened because the first two weeks were a whirlwind.

I did a Contiki tour to start my vacay to try and see as much of Europe as possible in a short period of time, and be able to meet some cool new people as well. 7 countries in less than two weeks, probably not the best idea but it was INSANE. To insane for this little old lady.

London: London was to short, I basically just met my tour group the first night, had dinner with them, went to a bar, walked around Russel Square a bit and thats it. I need to go back.

Netherlands: Well Amsterdam to be exact. It was cold, dreary, and a looong coach ride from London. We stopped by the hotel FIRST but I had to rush, and shower so didnt leave much time to get ready. Afterwards, we went to dinner with everyone and went on a canal cruise where the party started! It was really fun actually, and I met the first few people who I automatically loved, Mahe and Sara. and of course, Kiran who I hit it off with in London immediately. We got drunk on the canal, then went straight to the sex show WTF where we thinking. So mechanical. thats all. Then we went to some pubs got more drunk, danced a bit partied with people. hung out. then taxid back with Mahe and Sara. fun fun.

The next day, we took pics at the big Amsterdam sign and then walked around the area. Went to a COFFEE shop. Yay! fun. Then had lunch, did some more sightseeing, touristy shopping. It was a dreary rainy day.

Germany: Alright, so Munich was AWESOME. my fave was the bike ride, we had a fun guy from DC, super cool! Toured the amazing park by bike, then went to the largest outdoor beer garden, had a beer with lemonade i forgot the name! had some pork knuckle, bratwurst, potatoes, salad, it was delish. Then biked back, then went to a hofbrauhaus, beer hall, drank to much beer. Thats it I think. ohhh then went back to the hostel/hotel which SUCKED, stupid door keys. and partied in the bar downstairs, danced reggaeton with Anna who is my fave little Mexican girl in the group. danced a lot actually, got sweaty. then tried to stay up late and walk around Munich which was DEAD anyways. it was raining too. then went back and fell asleep.

Austria: Everyone was white water rafting, i tried to sleep but failed. but had a nice walk with my boo Sandrini, las Japoneses too they are cute. Then went to hostel, which was cool! had my own room. and got ready to party. The first white, tight, and bright party, prepartied in the room with mahe, Sara. Oh wait, im confused where did I have my own room, oh in Rhine Valley! Thats where we did the wine tasting which was awesome! but yeah the other Austria was the party where I got way to drunk and smuggle alcohol in, which was way to strong! but i had fun dancing on poles and booty dancing with Kelly who could barely stand she was so drunk, haha! oh yeah and Ghoulash, yum!

Italy: HANGOVER has set in. tired and exhausted for most of the day on the coach.  but Italy was so romantic, or Venice was which just made me happy. The grand canal, the pizza, the atmosphere, st.marks square. just perfect. the sunset gondola ride. Dinner SUCKED. well gnocchi sucked, and carpaccio was a bit much. shouldve stuck to pasta.

Switzerland: WOW mesmerizing. amazing. Luzerne, Lucerne, was sooooo picturesque. We ran around shopping, i got a swiss watch yay!

Then we headed to our amazing hotel by the waterfall, wow! BUT i was so sick I couldn’t eat dinner one night, so i just slept or at least tried but couldn’t because i was feverish. it was terrible. Next day felt great, went up to Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe which was spectacular. The plateau, the picture, the ice cave, and the ramyeon of course! Delish. The cog railway up and down was good too. .

The base jumper accident was a buzzkill but somehow the boys seemed ok.

Skipped the swiss party, didn’t feel well.

FRANCE: Next day was PARISS finally started feeling ok, The first night we went up the Eiffel tower at night and just walked around, i bought wine and drank with like NO ONE, wow I thought I was lame. but yes I drank red wine under the eiffel tower what what?!

The next day, we got to sightsee allllllll day which was awesome. We started with Notre dame with everyone, had lunch at an overpriced place, then we split up. DJ, me, Kiran and Mohammed got a little drunk, shopped, walked around and went to a random street fair, it was SO Parisian. It was funny but I got tired. So our last night! WOW. It’s almost over. It was sad actually.

Our dinner was FANTASTIC. unlimited wine. escargot. duck L’orange. beef bourgignon. (spelling?) fromage, dessert, yum yum yum. Mase and Sandrini are sooo sweet, love them! Started taking pics. Everyone went to the cabaret show so a few of us decided to go get drunk on the street. It was so cool, Montmarte area is soooooo hilly and beautiful but interesting and kinda ghetto too. We went in some sex shops, some bars, Chat Noir the famous jazz club and THEN DJs phone got stolen. WOW. So yeah killed my night. plus i couldnt even get drunk anymore, to much red bull. Then we met everyone at O’Sullivans. danced danced. Left around 230, went home, and fell asleep. YAY. Go Fucking Paris.

Next morning was sad. everyone left, said goodbye to everyone. Then I spent the day with Sandrini and Anna which was nice. went inside Notre dame, then shopping. Then went to my hostel at Gare du Nord and SLEPT FOR TWO DAYS. haha.

I explored Paris a lot more before I left, Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Lafayette, Republique, Catacombes, yeah yeah. oh the park was my favorite wow so beautiful!

Then NICE! Which is where I am at now. Nice is spectacular, I MIGHT be able to live here but then again its tooooooo small of a beach city. It was crazy during the summer but now it is more tranquil and while the beach is beautiful, the rocks kill it. Ive been spending time with people in my amazing hostel, and with Kai who has been flaky but we had a great day two days ago. The foods been awesome, cheese, bread, meat, wine, more cheese, pizza, pasta, yum yum yum. I miss KBBQ and mexican food though. I should cook for the hostel but im lazy and insecure about my cooking, haha we shall see.

Tomorrow, MONACO, yay finally!

I think that is it. WOW im tired. no more writing. I will update you as soon as I can, I missed you!

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GRE

20 Nov

My GREs are over! Yay! Ok, I did average but hey it’s ok, now I can start applying to grad schools.

I want to reminisce a little bit on the whole experience, considering I did take it while in Korea and not back at home in California.

First of all, I work full-time as a teacher and it is no cake walk! Secondly, I’m trying to learn Korean which again is no a piece of cake, and third, I have school loans so I do extra tutoring on the side so that’s another piece of cake gone missing. Fourthly, haha, fourthly sounds strange, I need to find time to work out, grocery shop, clean my apartment, yoga, go to the doctor, go to the Korean target, and oh yeah HAVE A LIFE. After all, I might only be in  Korea for a year, and I’m trying to meet as many Koreans as possible! How else would I be getting all of this information?

So overall, I have about one slice of cake left and that is dedicated to studying. It has been tough! It’s been 8 years since my last standarized test, and I just don’t have the stamina anymore. Plus, I haven’t seen a geometry problem in 10 years, and let’s face it, some of the vocabulary on the test, no one uses those words! I’m an American, I like my vernacular, haha.

So back to the test, after a 70 minute subway ride, I walk to the testing center which is about a ten-minute walk from the subway. The whole time trying to get in those last vocabulary words ingrained into my memory. Palms sweating, brain racing, basically scared shitless.

I want to do well, I want to do amazing, but I know my test taking skills are bad, I know that my vocabulary isn’t as extensive as I’d like it to be, and I know I am slow on answering tricky math problems.

So, I go in to the building, and their is about 50 other people, all with the same anxious look on their face, all waiting to take this terrible 5-hour test. About 80% are Korean, while the rest are various foreigners. I’m thinking hey, Koreans are taking the test, I have a chance, I can kill it! but then I think again, they probably studied for 7,083 hours more than I did, and they will probably kill me in the math section. Shit.

It’s ok though, I pump myself up again, and this time I’m cool, calm and collected. I give my ID, take my test and the test begins. You start with the two essays, those aren’t to bad, they are about topics I am somewhat passionate about, but hey hey hey, this is the GRE, you need to be impartial.

Then the English, WOW OH WOW, hardest verbal section ever. Then math, ugh…huh? Then English again, alright not to bad. Break time. I drink some water, eat some peanuts and get to it again.

By this time, my mind is weary, my eyes are strained, and my attention span is worse than a pineapple. Of course, the last three sections are much easier, but now I’m lazy, and I just want to look at the problems and know the answers without really thinking them through. I start using the calculator A LOT, I start going with my gut and not using process of elimination. I’m hoping for the best and wishing for the perfect score, hahaha.

In the end, I got average, and I was content, not wanting to cry but not always ecstatic. Hey, I’m not a genius, what can i say?

I leave mentally exhausted, and all I want to do is eat, I havent eaten in 7 hours, and those peanuts weren’t exactly a meal.

In my opinion, they need to change the test, why is it so long? Why are the essays first? Why not one essay, one verbal, one quantitative and call it a day. No ones brain works on hyperdrive for that long and consistently enough to do amazing on every single question, and if someones does, they are obviously on adderall or ritalin.

 

A Korean Wedding

13 Nov

Alrighty! So, at the moment I am practically dying of a sinus infection. The weather here is so dry that my sinuses can’t handle it and even after a week of anti-biotics and a shot, I am still no closer to getting better. I don’t know how the fifteen pills a day regimen didn’t help but maybe our drugs in the United States are just that much stronger.

So, I am sick, I have my GRE in five days and am not nearly prepared enough and to top it off, I had to go to a Korean wedding yesterday.

I’ve been here three months, and this is already my second wedding! What?!

I’ve been to more weddings in Korea than I have in my entire life in the U.S.

Even though, I genuinely didn’t want to go and was sick, my co-worker assured me that attending the first co-worker’s wedding and not the second’s would have been rude.

The first wedding I went to was about two months ago, and back then it was new, it was exciting, I was intrigued. BUT, this time it was totally different. I was bored, uncomfortable, and I honestly felt kind of dumb.

I’m sure being ill didn’t help, but Korean weddings are honestly just not very fun.

You go to a big hall, or church, or building, the first thing you do is pay for your attendance. Well, technically you are giving the happy couple a gift but you basically grab an envelope, put however much money you want into it, give it to the man at a table at the entrance and then you get a food ticket. Essentially, you’re paying for your meal while also giving them a gift.

The second thing you do is go to see the bride, who is sitting alone in a beautiful room surrounded by lights, white flowers, white vases, white everything, and you take pictures with her. It’s very systematic, you take a picture, you leave, the next person goes, and so on. All the while, the bride is sitting there for well over an hour smiling, nodding, and taking pictures with people she’s probably only met one time in her life.

Once that is over, the ceremony can begin, it’s not the traditional Westen-style wedding where the groom is at the front and the wedding song begins and the bride walks down the aisle and the groom sees her for the first time in her dress. Nope! The groom walks in first, then the parents, and then the bride, it’s like a train. haha I guess that is the only way I can put it. It’s not as romantic to me for some reason, the groom seeing the bride, them standing in place at the back of the room and trying to make it look like a Westernized wedding but it’s not really.

The ceremony lasts for about 20-30 minutes, and since I’m not fluent in Korean, I have no idea what is going on, I just doze off or stare at my phone. Not to mention, everyone is talking! I’m use to silence during the exchanging of the vows, but everyone is just chattering away, laughing, pretending like it’s just another day. I thought it was rude but, then again their technically was no exchanging of vows, the pastor talked and that was it. No kiss, no hug, no ring exchange, NOTHING!

Once that’s over, it’s time for more pictures. First, their is a picture of the bride and groom with their entire family in the background. Second, comes the “friends” pictures, where all the husband’s friends stand behind him, and all the bride’s friends stand behind her, apparently the larger the group, the more successful in life and marriage the couple will be. I think the sentiment is nice, but at this point, I’m hungry, in pain from my sinuses, grumpy, and tired of not understanding what is going on.

Finally, we can eat! We head downstairs and my co-workers and I sit at a long table. I sit next to the oldest and most religious teacher, and on the other side my favorite teacher who I love and doesn’t even teach at my school anymore because she’s pregnant. Across is the other older teacher, so already I’m like great, this is going to be terrible.

 But then I notice something that lifts my spirits, SOJU! Even though I’m sick, I’m thinking one soju might lighten my spirits a little bit but for some reason, no one is drinking the soju in the middle of the table. I’m staring at it, wishing I weren’t sick, wishing my co-workers would make themselves a drink but they don’t and I’m stuck. I decided since I am sick it’s best not to indulge in one measily drink, and I definitely don’t want to be the only one drinking at the table.

The first few courses are brought to the table, and the last few are buffet style which i didn’t really understand but at this point I didn’t care, I just wanted to eat. The soup was great, just what I needed, spicy shrimp not so much. Noodles were ok, bulgogi was ok, overall it was just OK.

All the teachers speaking in Korean just sucked, I couldn’t keep up, and was to sick to smile and pretend to be happy even though I just wanted to go home.

After a pretty lame $40 dinner, an American would want some drinks and some dancing, but not Koreans! Their is no reception, no party, no celebration, everyone just eats and goes home, the only time you get to be with the bride is for five seconds during the picture at the beginning of the whole thing. I thought the point of the wedding was to celebrate it with all of the people you love and care about, and to want those people to hear the special vows to the person you plan to spend your life with.

Is this really what the “sacred” institution of marriage is all about?

Another Day, Another House Wife

3 Nov

Teaching is amazing, it’s a truly great feeling. Seeing the smiling faces on the children every morning, seeing their cute little outfits, but I especially love their attempts to say “good morning Michelle teacher” because their Korean accent always sneaks in. Day after day, I slowly began to notice something though; every single child was being dropped off by their mother. Wow, I thought to myself.

There are a few rare occasions when I would see the grandfather and grandmother drop off the kiddies but eighty percent of the time, it’s their mothers. They are usually dressed to the tee, looking ready for a long day out on the town. Some of the moms carpool, some walk together in groups to drop the little Koreans off but it’s always the mothers, always beautiful, and they are usually always house wives.

At times, I think to myself that could be me that could be the life I could be living. But then I think again, and I realize that could never be me. I would never trade my life right now for their lives.

God willing, the mothers of my students are doing something besides shopping, eating and gossiping with friends. Hopefully, they are being active members in society and making a well-deserved contribution to Seoul society but more than likely they aren’t.

Many Korean women are raised to be house wives, focusing their attention on keeping the men in their life happy and healthy with little focus on their wants and needs. In many women’s minds as long as there is bread on the table and their husband comes home at a reasonable time, that is suffice for them, but not for me, never for me.

I want more; I deserve more and so do women all across man-centric Seoul and Asia for that matter. Unfortunately gender inequality is just another fact of life in Korean culture, another accepted norm by women across the country.

Yet, statistics show many women in Korea do work BUT one must always look at the socio-economic background of these women, many come from lower class families and therefore work to help maintain the family. Many of the married women in Seoul tend to come from the “high” society or from more respected Korean families.

I work and live in Songpa-gu, the wealthiest district in Seoul, and every single one of my Korean, women co-workers lives in other areas in Seoul, more inexpensive areas, less ritzy areas. Songpa is considered an area of happy families, and even happier husbands, considering most work in downtown Seoul and away from their families. After all, in Korean culture, it is normal to work sixty-hour work weeks at the very least, let’s not forget to mention, Korean’s largest company, its pride and joy, Samsung has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. So, something is going on here, what exactly happens behind closed doors? Well…one can only assume.