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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mama, I'm Comin' Ho -o-ome!
Bags packed and ready to go!

Wow, the last post I'll write in Korea. Assuming I don't wake up really early tomorrow and decide to post one last entry before I leave. Which I won't do.

After some last-minute re-shuffling of my suitcases due to weight concerns, I think I have everything under control. I'm not looking forward to when I have to transport my bags alone, though. But I did it for a brief time on the way to Korea, so I think I can handle it on the way out. And I think they're not as heavy as they were on the way in, since weight restrictions got more strict this past year.

Charlie and Will came over tonight and we said our goodbyes. They also both left with a ton of crap that they raided from my apartment. Initially, I thought I was being kind by leaving all kinds of helpful stuff for the new guy...but now most of it's been taken. Better my friends get it than some weird Canadian guy named Zico. I had to buy everything when I moved in, and now so will he!

I got some uber-Korean parting gifts from my school. Once home I'll post pictures of them. The crowning moment was getting these super gaudy rhinestoned hair things from my co-teacher. Very Korean. I also got a purse from my vice-principal, but due to luggage issues, I left it behind...I gave it to Charlie to dispose of (it was not one I'd ever use). Again, the purse was very Korean.

I felt like a celebrity during my last classes today. My students were killing each other to get my email address and signature. I was honestly being mobbed at my desk. I now feel really bad for celebrities where this happens to them daily. And I don't blame them if they fly off the handle or get rude at times. At first I was wary of handing out my email address, but I bet only 1 or 2 will actually email me. Because they don't really know English. Some of them wanted my phone number in the US. Why, I have no idea. Kids.

Anyway, I need to get to bed now. Talk to you all next when I'm on U.S. soil!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I'm So Excited!!!
I just can't hide it...

One more day at school left!!! So, tomorrow I have to teach 4 classes, then I'm DONE...FOREVER!! I am so tired, it's not even funny. With trying to pack and clean, I am exhausted this week. To top it off, I've had to go out to dinner numerous times this week, thus cutting into valuable time at my apartment. I had to go out to dinner with the whole school on Tuesday night (in honor of the new teachers and those who are leaving). School dinners drag on FOREVER. Seriously. Even if I spoke Korean they'd drag on forever. Seriously, I think we had like 10 courses. And the principal kept handing me raw crab to eat. Nasty. Besides the fact that you had to slurp it out of the shell. Ewwwww. So that night blew hardcore, as I think we were in the restaurant for over 2 hours. And I had to sit near the "Big Wigs."

Then after I got home Will came over to visit with me. Which was nice, but I was really tired. So I didn't do anything that night.

Tonight I went out to dinner with my old co-teacher. I had to give her some English math books that my dad brought over for me to give to her. It was nice seeing her again, but again...I was tired and just wanted to stay home.

Tomorrow night Charlie and Will are both coming over to say goodbye to me. But I think I'm pretty much done packing. And whether or not I clean any more depends on how nice I'm feeling. I probably won't clean anymore. It's not too bad. It's not like it was super clean when I moved in. Plus, my replacement isn't moving in until Sept. 8, so they have time to clean it themselves (my school).

I'm a little worried about my suitcases. I got everything packed up and fit into my 3 suitcases, but then I went to move them and my big suitcase had to have weighed 150 lbs. Seriously. I don't have a scale, so I can't weigh them. But I was certain it had to be over 70 lbs...and you can't have any luggage over 70 lbs (if it's over 50 lbs you have to pay a $50 fee...which I most certainly will have to do for at least one of my bags). So I had to open them all up again and I ended up throwing out more clothes. There's a big pile of clothes that I'm leaving here. Hmmm. Oh well. I hope everything is under 70 lbs, at least. My carry-on suitcase is pretty heavy...I think I'll have a hard time hefting it up into the overhead bin things.

I also thought my co-teacher was going to give me a ride to the bus terminal on Friday morning. Which would have been nice because I have 3 suitcases plus my laptap bag. So I was worried about getting to the bus terminal on my own. But it turns out she's not. But she will stop by my apartment before I leave to get my key...I hope she helps me bring my bags to the taxi stand. Otherwise I might be in trouble. Or I could try and communicate to the security people to call one for me...even though there's a line of them a block or so away. I don't know. I hate dealing with a crap-load of luggage. Especially on shitty Korean sidewalks.

I'm also betting 9 million dollars my co-teacher will show up late so I'll have to take a bus at a later time than I want. I'm pretty sure if I miss the bus I want to take it'll be more than fine, but I like to be early. I hope there's not a lot of traffic going into Seoul at 8:30-9am on Friday morning. My co-teacher assures me there wouldn't be...but she's Korean.

I found out more info on my replacement. The last you heard about him all we knew was that it was "a man with blue eyes." I have since found out that he is from Canada. Also, my co-teacher told me, "His name is Zico." Whaa?? Zico?? What an odd name. Then I had a weird train of thought: 1) He sounds Latino or something. 2) Wait, he's from Canada. 3) Well, he could be a Brazilian-Canadian or something. 3) Wait, he has blue eyes. 4) So maybe he just has a weird-ass name. Anyway, I then thought that it's most probable that his last name is Zico, not his first name, like I was thinking. Hey, when someone says to you, "His name is Zico," you generally don't assume they mean the last name. But then I remembered I'm dealing with Koreans. When I first arrived in Korea my name apparently was Emily Christopher Son. And this one kid they thought was named King Brian, instead of Brian King. Hahahahahaha!!!! So it's probably his last name. But it's still kinda weird.

Anyway, he's coming Sept. 8. I wrote him a long letter about the apartment and how random things work, and what buses go where and stuff. I hope he appreciates it.

Yeah, so today after lunch the teachers were all freaking out and rearranging the English room because I guess there was going to be some conference where they discuss some English thing and Sosabul was hosting it. I was really tired and annoyed because I didn't know what was going on and I was not looking forward to sitting in a meeting spoken all in Korean. I just wanted to go home and finish packing and sleep. Then at like 3:00, my vice-principal looks at me and says, "Why are you here?? This is your free time!" I didn't understand what she meant by that, so I just made a confused face. Then she says, "Go home!!" and starts yelling at my co-teacher. I presume for not telling me that I could have gone home after lunch. Which really would have been nice to know. So that annoyed me. But at least I didn't have to sit through that friggin' meeting.

I'm really going to try and go home after lunch tomorrow, as I don't teach any classes after lunch. It's weird enough as it is, because the 4 classes I teach in the morning I have to teach with the new English teacher who I just met. Seriously, I'm leaving tomorrow...can you not just give me the day off?? Whatever. What can you do?

I got all my crap straightened out, I hope. I transfered all my money to my US account and closed my Korean account. All my money transfered ok. I got my visa extension all set, and I filled out the requisite paper work for my pension money refund. I'm pretty much packed and the apartment is cleaned enough. I took out a couple massive bags of trash and these 2 ladies were staring at me. I wished I could have explained to them that I'm moving out...it's not like I'm this incredibly wasteful person who goes through hoards of trash each week. I think there's a bin around my apartment somewhere to throw old clothes you don't want anymore. I need to find that. I'm also leaving lots of shoes here, which makes me cringe a bit. But not like I can't buy shoes in the US.

I need to shower now. I don't have any sheets to sleep on the next 2 nights because I had to wash the only set I have...and I have to wash them early because they need to dry on a "clothes line." Yeah, so I'm going to go shower now and then pass out on a naked mattress. Which, I just found out after stripping off all mattress padding, is a Verlo, made in America. It must be the hardest friggin' mattress America makes. It's like brick wrapped in cloth. Actually, I'm used to it. Ok, ok...shower...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Peanut Butter and Ham Sandwiches
Yummy! I'll take 2!

A few things that occurred today that I thought were worth noting.

First off, let's all give a big celebratory cheer for the first week of English Camp being over--Hip, hip, hooray!!!

Ok, onwards.

So, today's topic was the kitchen/cooking. When I was initially given this topic, I inquired as to what was at our disposal in terms of cooking mechanisms. The only thing I saw in the room was a microwave, so I asked, "So it has to be something that uses only a microwave?" I was then told, "Oh, that's not for use...just for decoration." OK..."So, no cooking? Something else that needs no heat?" "Yes."

I decided at that time to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Koreans don't eat peanut butter, so I thought it was an easy thing to make that is very American and that they don't eat often, if ever. So peanut butter, jelly, and bread was put on the list of things to buy.

Fast-forward to yesterday when we're going through the planned schedule. I'm asked, "How about if we make ham sandwiches?" Fine by me. I really don't care what kind of sandwich we make. So they ask me to write up the ingredients and instructions for the kids. We decide that the ingredients will be as follows: bread, ham, cheese, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and mustard. I write the instructions for making it and it's like 8 simple lines or something. I'm then told, "Can you make it more easy, like maybe 3 lines...we want them to memorize it." Wha...Ok, but you can only shorten it so much...I mean, I'm giving instructions here. I think my final steps were as follows:

1. Slice tomatoes and onions.
2. Spread mustard on the bread.
3. Add ham and cheese.
4. Add lettuce, tomatoes, and onions.
5. Put the other piece of bread on top.

Which was more lines than they wanted. Since they already had sliced the tomatoes and onions and the kids wouldn't be doing it, I suggested taking that step out to make it shorter...but they really wanted to keep that in. I then said we could just say, "Add ham, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions" all in one step, but then it's just a big list that they still have to remember. Finally they agreed on my steps.

So then one of my co-teachers look at the list and says, "Oh! Where's the peanut butter??" I then had to explain that we don't put peanut butter on ham sandwiches. "Peanut butter was on the 'to buy' list when we were going to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Now that we're making ham sandwiches, we don't need peanut butter." I then thought I made this clear to everyone.

So today the teachers came in with all the ingredients...complete with a bunch of peanut butter. WTF? Did they buy it in case some kids just wanted peanut butter sandwiches? Whatever. So we start the lesson then get to the part where I demonstrate making it. I make it and start to eat it when one of my co-teachers says to me, "Emily! You forgot one thing!" Then proceeds to hand me the peanut butter. Hahahahahaha!!! I just waved my arms and said, "No, no!" with a disgusted look on my face. However, when the kids all file through to make their own sandwiches, half the kids are putting peanut butter on theirs. I can't think of anything more disgusting than adding peanut butter to the sandwich we were making. Peanut butter and onion? Peanut butter and mustard??? After the first class I again told them that Americans don't put peanut butter on this kind of sandwich, but come sandwich making time, everyone was adding peanut butter. The funny thing is, they all seemed to like it. Whatever...

Also funny was that I ended up having to eat the ham sandwich I ate during each class. So by lunch time I had already eaten 2 ham sandwiches. Then they asked me what I wanted for lunch (we've been ordering food for lunch each day). I said I wanted nothing and they were all shocked. I'm like, I've eaten 2 sandwiches...I'm full. To them, sandwiches are a snack, I guess.

So then I was explaining to one of my co-teachers how I went in to the immigration office last week to extend my visa (since it expires on the 21st and I'm here until the 1st). I told them how I had to extend my working visa until the 31st, but since I fly out of Korea on the 1st I needed to go back to the immigration office on the 30th to get a 1 day tourist visa extension. Which is a huge pain in the ass, btw.

A little later in the day that co-teacher approaches me and says, "I talked to Ms. Shin (the vice principal) and she said that's it's ok if you leave a day early on the 31st so you don't need to get another visa extension." Uhhh... I then explain to her that I need to because my flight is on the 1st. She says again, "Well, you can leave early, so you don't need an extension." At this point I feel like bashing my head against the wall. Again, and slowly, I explain, "I already bought my plane ticket. It's for the 1st. I NEED to get the extension or I'll be fined when I go through customs." I'm then told to just call and change the day of my flight. They then seemed shocked when I said I think there'd be a fee..."But it's 2 weeks away!" Yeah well, they don't like you to switch crap around. So I guess I'll call and see, but honestly, I think I'm just going to keep the same flight. I mean, it's only one day difference and everything is already planned and stuff. Plus, the in flight movies for August are really crappy and I was realy looking forward to seeing "An Inconvenient Truth" on the plane...which starts in September. But hey, if they want to let me take the 31st off anyway to pack and stuff, that'd be great!

More teachers were finding out that I wasn't renewing my contract. They are really sad about it, especially this one teacher who I don't even talk with that much. It's kind of weird. Since almost all the teachers are female, they really aren't happy that my replacement is apparently a guy. Even though he has blue eyes.

Anyway, that was my day. I'm going over to Elissa's tonight to help her eat the rest of her food (she leaves next Wednesday for her Trans-Siberian train trip through China, Mongolia, and Russia and onwards into Eastern Europe). I think we're going to watch Ewan McGregor's 'Long Way Round' because they go through a lot of those countries and I'm obsessed with it.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I May Not Be A Man...
But at least I have blue eyes

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, but
1)I've been busy thinking about my summer English camp and mentally preventing myself from physically throwing my body off my balcony, and
2) Since I'm coming home soon I have this thought that I don't really need to update people. But mostly it's 1.

Anyway, I'm not going to write a lot now because I have to go to bed, but I remembered something that happened today that I need to write about because it's funny. Yet not, when you really go into it.

So, I saw a bunch of people from my program this weekend. Most of them knew about the people who were going to replace them...where they were from, etc. So I was curious if my school knew anything about who would replace me. So today I asked a teacher, "Does the school know anything about the native English teacher who will replace me?"

She replied, "Yes, we know who it will be."

I then asked, "Where are they from?"

"I don't know. I only know that it's a man and he has blue eyes."

Well, at least you know the important stuff...

My principal must be happy because he wanted a boy in the first place but got me. I guess a lot of schools request to get blonde-haired, blue-eyed Americans. And many like men because...men are more important. Right. So if my replacement is blonde, they hit a home run. Unless he's Irish and no one can understand him or something. Haha, that'd be great. I hope he sucks so my school can garner more appreciation towards me. Even though I'll be gone. For good.

But I'm not bitter or anything...

Monday, August 07, 2006

My exploits in the country to the East

So I left Pyeongtaek for Japan with Jaclyn on July 29th (a Saturday). It’s only an hour and fifteen minute flight to Japan from Seoul. We found it humorous that it took longer to get from Pyeongtaek to the airport in Seoul than it took for us to get from the airport (in Seoul) to the train station in Osaka. Our onboard dinner was eel and fish. And rice. The eel wasn’t too bad but I dislike fish. A lot.

Japan almost didn’t let me into the country. I say it was due to my ugly haircut, but I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure. We filled out our embarkation cards or whatever, and had to give them to the customs people. We both forgot to fill out the back (which was like 2 boxes where you had to check “No, I didn’t bring any drugs into the country.” Jaclyn’s customs guy let her quickly fill it out when she was up there. My lady made me leave and go fill it out at some table. Great. So I filled it out and waited to get back to the customs person. Then there’s a question on the card that asks for your intended address in Japan. I just put Osaka because we didn’t know what hotel we were staying at. Jaclyn wrote the same thing. They let her through no problem. They then proceeded to hassle me about where I was staying. Which was confusing because they didn’t speak English well and I speak no Japanese. They were like, “Are you visiting a friend?” “No.” “What hotel? Write the address here.” “I don’t know what hotel. No reservations.” Etc. This went on for a while. Finally they let me though. Crikey. I though it was weird because I would assume a lot of people may not know what hotel they’re staying at when they first arrive. Anyway, I managed to get into the country, so that was good.

We ignored the people at tourist info booths various times while on our trip. The first being when we first arrived. We got to Japan and went to the tourist info place at the airport to see if they could tell us where to get a cheap hotel to stay at that night (it was getting pretty late and by the time we got into the actual city of Osaka it’s be around 11pm or so). The lady gave us one hotel option and it was the equivalent of $140/night. We asked if we could find a cheaper place on our own and she said she didn’t know. We were a little nervous, but ultimately decided that there had to be cheaper places than that to be found. I mean, I know Japan is expensive, but $140? Come on.

So after taking the train into Osaka we just left the station searching for a cheap hotel (we were only staying in Osaka that night before heading to Hiroshima the next morning). Now, in Korea there are a bunch of “Love Hotel.” Named love hotels because it’s where people go to…love…one another. Often with a prostitute or mistress. Anyway, many love hotels in Korea are actually pretty nice/clean, but they’re cheaper than other hotels. I’ve stayed in a few and they’ve all been fine. One even had a dvd player and computer with internet. So anyway, we thought maybe we’d find a love hotel to stay at. We walked into the first place we saw...the sign outside was all in Japanese, but we did understand the 2,900 yen part ($29). Definitely seemed very reasonably. The desk people looked at us a little weird then told us that they had no room. Ok. Onward to the next place. Same thing occurs. I think maybe they’re turning us down because we’re 2 girls and they don’t cater to homosexuality or something. Anyway, we then see another sign that has some English on it. It turns out that we were walking into places that only rent out rooms by the hour!! Hahahahahaha!!! I’m guessing they all just knew we didn’t understand what was going on and saying they had no rooms left was the easiest thing to say to us. But we then found a place that was definitely more reputable looking and got a very small twin room for about $25/person. I’ve included a picture of the sign we saw that clued us in to the by-the-hour thing that we took the next morning.

Let me just take a moment to say that it was friggin’ hot in Japan. And humid as hell. Ugh, I shudder just thinking about it. Lonely Planet said something about traveling in Japan at this time that was akin to, “Walking outside turns into an immediate soup bath.” That’s about it. It was constant nasty sweating. Horrid. I hate sweat. Ugh. So yeah, it was super hot. Also, before we left I checked the weather for Japan for that week and it said it’d be rainy the whole time. Great. Now, I have this poncho that I bought a couple of years ago before going on a hiking trip. It’s in this miniscule package and I always think that once I take it out there’s no way I will be able to fit it back in that package. Luckily, I’ve never had to take it out. I call it my lucky poncho because every time I bring it on a long trip with me I never need to use it. So I packed my lucky poncho. Did it ever rain while I was in Japan, I ask?? No, sir! Lucky poncho pulls through! Still sittin’ pretty in its miniscule package. So that was nice…although I wouldn’t have minded more clouds instead of constant blazing sun.

This entry will get really long. I should break it up into parts, but then people will probably read it in the wrong order. So I won’t. So deal with it.

The next day we went from Osaka to Hiroshima via train. We bought train pass things which turned out to be very handy (if you go to Japan and plan on using the trains a lot buy a JR Pass because it’ll save you money…but you have to buy it outside Japan, so plan accordingly). Trains are really expensive in Japan. It’s about a 2 hour train ride from Osaka to Hiroshima. We asked the Osaka info people about what train to take. They gave us a really confusing answer involving multiple transfers and a whole hell of a lot of time. While waiting for our train, we noticed another train coming that seemed to us to be a much better option. So we ignored the info people again and got on a different train (a lot of trains have no reserved/assigned seating). This new train involved transferring at one city, which happened to be a city we wanted to stop in (Himeij) because it is the home of a castle. So we took the train to Himeji, and went to Himeji-jo…Or Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle is one of the oldest surviving structures from medieval Japan, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sometime it’s called the White Heron Castle…because it’s white. One of the castle’s most important defensive elements is the confusing maze of paths leading to the main keep. The gates, baileys, and outer walls of the complex are organized in a way that requires an approaching force to travel in a spiral pattern around the castle on their way into the keep, facing many dead ends. This allowed the intruders to be watched and fired upon from the keep during their entire approach. But Himeji was never attacked in this manner, so the system remains untested. Also, the wooden floors in the castle are built to be really squeaky as another defensive measure…no one can sneak around/in the castle. It was pretty cool. See picture. We then boarded another train to get to Hiroshima. We ended up getting to Hiroshima in the same amount of time it would have taken us if we had followed the info people’s advice…but using our way we also saw the castle.

So we arrived in Hiroshima on Saturday afternoon. We asked the info people about hotels and they gave us a few nice sounding options, one of which we took. We stayed 2 nights/3 days in Hiroshima. That day we walked around the Peace Park. It is a really nice park, built right around the hypocenter of the A-Bomb explosion. It has all kinds of monuments in it. I have a lot of pictures of the Peace Park. This first picture is of the monument that houses the cenotaph that lists all the Japanese who died in the bombing. Each year they add more names to the list, as people are still dying from ailments/diseases caused by the radiation from the bomb. You can see in the background the A-Bomb Dome (which I’ll discuss soon) and the Peace Flame (although you can’t really see the flame in this picture). The Peace Flame will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation. As a tidbit of info, any time a nuclear test of any kind occurs, the city of Hiroshima sends that country a letter of protest. You can see lots of these letters in the museum located in the park.

The A-Bomb Dome is the skeletal ruins of the former Industrial Promotion Hall. It is the building closest to the hypocenter of the nuclear bomb that remained at least partially standing. It was left how it was after the bomb in memory of the bombing. It is probably the most well-known symbol of the park. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I took a picture of it in daylight and at night when it’s lit up. I also included a picture I found of the building prior to the A-Bomb explosion.

This is a monument to the A-Bomb Children. The statue is dedicated to the memory of the children who died as a result of the bombing. The statue is of a girl with outstretched arms with a crane rising above her. The statue is based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died from radiation from the bomb. She believed that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes she would be cured. To this day, people (mostly children) from around the world fold cranes and send them to Hiroshima where they are placed near the statue. The statue has a continuously replenished collection of folded cranes nearby. The millions of cranes are assembled into long strings or into collages making up pictures, often presenting an inspiring message of peace and world fellowship. After display, the cranes are pulped and recycled into bookmarks, notebooks and other souvenirs. They’re kept in those cases to protect them from rain, etc.

Here is the memorial for Korean victims of the bomb and includes a cenotaph with all the Korean victims from the bomb. Japan was occupying Korea during World War II and had lots of Korean forcibly working in Japan at the time, including many in Hiroshima. It’s thought that 1 in 10 (I’ve also seen 1 in 7) of the victims were Korean. Almost 20,000 Koreans died from the bomb. The Cenotaph was originally dedicated in 1970, but prejudice that remained between the Japanese and Koreans kept the Cenotaph outside the Memorial Park until 1999, when the then mayor of Hiroshima allowed it back into the park.

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound is a large, grass-covered knoll that contains the ashes of 70,000 unidentified victims of the bomb.

Here is a statue from a monument dedicated to the students who died in the bomb. In Japan during World War II, everyone was enlisted to help with war efforts, including school children. Japan knew that Hiroshima was a target because it housed an important military base, so prior to the bombing they had evacuated quite a few young children out of the city (but not all). Actually, throughout the war (until the atomic bomb) Hiroshima was never bombed/air-raided because the US knew it was a possible target for the atomic bomb and they wanted to be able to accurately measure the destruction of the atomic bomb.

Anyway, there were some other monuments as well, but these are the ones for which I took pictures. A few days later we went to the Peace Museum located in the park. It’s a very nice museum, albeit depressing. It’s all about the bombing of the city and has all kinds of artifacts displayed and information and stuff.

The next day we took a trolley and train and ferry ride for a day trip to Miyajima, an island near Hiroshima, which is considered one of the 3 most scenic spots in Japan. In the Shinto religion the island is considered to be sacred and there are no maternity wards or cemeteries, as no one is permitted to give birth or die on the island (I actually don’t know if this is still true, but it used to be, anyway). Cutting down trees is also forbidden, leaving the island covered in virgin forest and providing a habitat for dozens of bird species and deer which are allowed to roam freely (and are considered national treasures). One deer attempted to eat both my map and my passport…which you can see in a pic I’m including.

Located on Miyajima is the Itsukushima Shrine and its floating torii (gate). I included lots of pictures of this since it’s apparently one of the best views in Japan (it was kind of foggy-ish when we were there). This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Also on Miyajima is Daisho-in temple, a Buddhist temple (Itsukushima Shrine is of the Shinto religion). We also took a cable car up Mount Misen where there was a nice view of the islands in the Inland Sea. Apparently sometimes there’s monkeys up there, so Jaclyn and I were both a little nervous (we both have had mildly frightening experiences with monkeys…me in Thailand and her in Bali). However, we didn’t see any monkeys.

The next day we went to the Peace Park again. There was a big group of little Japanese school kids there who were practicing their English (5 year olds). We were approached by quite a few of them: “Do you have a moment? What is your name? Where are you from? Do you like Japanese food?” Etc. It was adorable. Then they gave us paper cranes they folded (or their moms folded, as one kid said). So it was nice to get paper cranes from little Japanese kids in the Peace Park the week of the anniversary of the bombing. [It’s weird to use the word anniversary when talking about a very unhappy event]

We then took a train to Kyoto. We got there late at night. We tried walking around and finding a hotel on our own, but we weren’t having any luck so we went back to the station and asked the info people for help. He ended up calling a lot of places for us (lots of places were full). We ended up staying in a hostel that was pretty cheap, but was also pretty much a piece of crap. We stayed there 3 nights. One person at the hostel who came our second night said that Kyoto was all booked up. So at least we weren’t sleeping on the street (and only had to spend $20/person/night).

By the time we got to Kyoto I had huge blisters on the bottoms of both my feet (right on the balls of my feet). It was very painful to walk. Excruciating as the day went on and I had been walking for a while. I started walking on different parts of my feet to avoid stepping on the blisters, but this just made the rest of my feet extremely sore (as well as my shins). I don’t think my feet ever hurt so much as they did on this trip. Seriously. Which really sucked, but hey. To describe the weather--“Due to the surrounding mountains on all sides, Kyoto is famous for its stifling summer nights with no air movement.” The nights weren’t too bad, but the days sure as hell were stifling.

Anyway, we hit up the main spots in Kyoto, all of which were UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Kinkaku-ji Temple
Very pretty, but the original was burnt down by an obsessed monk in 1950, so this one is a rebuilt version. It’s also referred to as the Golden Pavilion.

Ginkaku-ji Temple
The actual temple here wasn’t too amazing, but the walk around it was really pretty—lots of woods and moss and stuff. It’s also referred to as the Silver Pavilion, but it was never covered in silver. So the name doesn’t really fit.

Kiyomizudera ("Pure Water Temple") is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. It was founded in 780 and remains associated with the Hosso sect, one of the oldest sects within Japanese Buddhism. Okay, but not that amazing.

Heian Shrine
Has a pretty nice garden stroll, albeit a bit pricey ($6). I thought I was going to die of heat while I was here.

Fushimi-Inari-taisha Shrine
Dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of cereals, Fushimi-Inari-taisha is the head shrine (taisha) for 40,000 Inari shrines across Japan. Stretching 230 meters up the hill behind it are hundreds of bright red torii (gates). This was probably my favorite thing in Kyoto. It wasn’t so crowded and I liked how it was very woodsy (which also helped keep it a bit cooler than other places).

After Kyoto we took a day trip to Nara. Nara is an ancient capital of Japan. It also has a crap-load of the UNESCO sites. It also was super hot here. Like Miyajima, there are deer than roam around the city (regarded as messengers of the gods by Shinto).

A Buddhist temple and reputedly the largest wooden building in the world. Inside there’s a giant statue of the Buddha Vairocana.

Another Buddhist Temple

Kasuga Shrine
A Shinto Shrine thats interior is famous for its many bronze lanterns. Also, many stone lanterns lead up the shrine. Over a thousand stone lanterns line the path to the Shrine. This was my favorite thing in Nara.

That day we took a train back to Osaka. That night for dinner we had sushi and sake…and pizza…in an interesting restaurant experience as the menu had only Japanese and no pictures. But the waitress spoke a little English and was super nice. We woke up the next day and headed right to the airport, where we then flew back to SoKo.

I had a really good time in Japan, even though it was hotter than bejeezus and my feet hurt like a beotch. I really like Japan. All the people were super nice and helpful. Also, I didn’t get stared at because I was white like I do in Korea. Which was nice. With the combination of Korea and Japan I’d say I’m sufficiently templed-out…one can only see so many temples. But Japan was really pretty (they don’t have rows upon rows of high-rise apt buildings like Korea!). Also, old Japanese women are cute and sweet…old Korean women are scary and rude. The Japanese seem very polite. Maybe if I lived in Japan I’d notice more things or get annoyed by more things, but the short time I was there I really liked it. It was a nice change from Korea. When I got back to Korea I found that monsoon season was over and it's now into super hot season. Great.

And that’s all I can write for now because I’m officially on page 6 of this word document (and that’s without the pictures!). I need a break. As do you, I’m sure.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I Think I'm Turning Japanese, I Think I'm Turning Japanese
I really think so (do da do da da da da)

I've hit one of those points where I haven't written in so long (of anything of consequence, anyway) that I don't really know what to say.

I leave for Japan tomorrow, which I'm excited about. I'm packing and trying to solve tough questions such as what kinds of shoes, are shorts acceptable, etc. It's going to be hot as hell and humid as all get-out, so I really want to wear shorts. I'm not sure how acceptable shorts are in Japan, but my friend Charlie (who lived on Japan for a few years) seemed to think that shorts and tank tops are fine...but most Japanese don't wear shorts because they don't see them as fashionable. Also, I want to wear my birkenstocks because of the heat and (like in Korea) you have to take your shoes off a lot. But I think it also might rain a lot when I'm there...and then sandals might be annoying? But do I want to bring along an extra pair of tennis shoes that I'll have to carry around?? Man, the tough questions. Then again, whatever I do I'm sure will be fine.

I'm super annoyed because suddenly out of nowhere my computer monitor has this thin vetical line running down it, a bit left of center. It's bright blue (about the width of a pixel). Against light backgrounds it's barely noticeable, but against darker backgrounds it very annoying, especially when watching tv shows on my computer (such as 'So You Think You Can Dance' and 'Project Runway' and 'Stargate'). I did minimal research on it (perused the Dell forums) and it seems like it's probably an unrepairable problem with my LCD display and it'll have to get replaced. Which means I'll have to wait until I get home. Then I freaked out because it's apparently pricey to replace the screen and I thought my warantee would have just run out. But then I looked up my warantee on Dell.com and I guess I have it for another year. Phew. What's up with these friggin' monitors?? They really good when they're functioning properly, but crikey--Upon arrival of my computer the LCD screen was 'broken' and had to be replaced, and now, only a year later another issue has come up. They don't build things as they once did. (That last thing was for you, Liz--in one Stargate episode Teal'c said that in reference to 'an old Jaffa saying') :)

I got a haircut. Pretty drastic. As opposed to my last haircut when I asked for bangs and didn't really get them, this time I got them...and shorter than I wanted. Plus, she layered my bangs so they look almost feathered at times. The rest of my hair is about chin-length, maybe a bit longer. I'm not a fan of it. It just looks kind of shapeless or something. It reminds me of that 'Friends' episode where Phoebe cuts Monica's hair. Monica told her she wanted to look like Demi Moore, but Phoebe thought she meant Dudly Moore...resulting in a bad short haircut. And I thought I was communicating fairly well with the hair cutting lady. Apparently not. I was a bit worried because the style in Korea right now is what I like to call "the shaggy dog" look. Oh well. Hair grows. I'm sure you'll all see loads of pictures of it when I get back from Japan and post my Japan trip pics.

I've been organizing my iTunes library the last couple of days. Which is very tedious and time-consuming. I'm going through every song and making sure it has the proper album, year, and album art attached to it. I have found wikipedia to be most helpful in easily locating all of the above. When that fails I search through cdnow. I'd say I'm a bit over half done (I have over 2000 songs). Have I mentioned that I think I'm a bit OCD?

I got a notice in the mail about my Visa expiring soon. After I get back from Japan I have to try and extend my Visa (it expires on the 14th). I hope I can manage to do it alone, because my co-teacher is going to be in the US. Not like she would have gone with me anyway.

Which reminds me--my co-teacher is going to visit her sister in North Carolina (I think she leaves either today or tomorrow). She asked me last Monday about money. She is bringing $3,000 worth of cash with her. Wtf?? A bit much??? Anyway, she wanted me to tell her what kind of denominations to bring! I said hundreds, but then she said she was bringing $1,000 in hundreds, $1,000 in fifties, and she wanted the remaining $1,000 to be in twenties, tens, fives, and ones. ????? I didn't even know what to say to that. The thought of carrying $3,000 around with me was absurd. I think she's really nervous about tips and stuff. She wanted to bring $100 in ones!!!! I was like, "No." I think I managed to talk her down to $20 in ones, which is still stupid. She's going to have this gigantic stack of cash with her. Then I started to get nervous about her. Korea is still very much a cash carry society. They've never had checks, but they do have credit cards. But people don't use them as often as they do cash. And the biggest bill in Korea is the equivalent of $10. So you see people with big wads of cash a lot, and they don't really hide it. So I got nervous that she'd be in the US and be waving around stacks of money. So then I told her to be careful with it and to keep it hidden and stuff. I think that just freaked her out into thinking that she's going to get robbed and attacked. Koreans think the US is really dangerous. Numerous teachers have said to me, "I thought about teaching in the US but I'm scared because it's so dangerous to be a teacher in America." No, it really isn't. Most places, anyway.

It's been raining cats and dogs here well nigh on 2 days and nights.

I have to do my dishes before leaving but I don't want to.

I don't know how much cash to being to Japan. Apparently it's hard to find international ATMs in Japan, and many places don't take credit cards. So with food and accommodations, I don't know what I'll need. And Japan is expensive. Maybe I'll just bring $3,000 to be safe. :D But Japan is one of the safest countries to travel in. Unless it gets bombed my NoKo. ;)

Ok, I should go now. And finish packing. And sleep. And all that jazz.

Monday, July 24, 2006

What Is Wrong With Koreans???
(rhetorical question, but if you have an answer feel free to contribute it)

Ok, so an update on what's up. After 2nd hour the phone in my classroom rang. It was my co-teacher. She says, "What are you doing?"

"Uh, I'm just in the classroom wondering what's going on today..."
"I am in 6-1 room. [6th grade class 1. Late last week she taught that class because the teacher was sick]. I will be here tomorrow, also."
"So you have today free."
"Ok, thanks. I'm sorry for you!"

Is it just me, or would it have been more prudent to let me know this before school started instead of after the 2nd class of the day? Also, I still don't know why I didn't have my 1st hour class since I teach that with a different teacher. Oh well. I feel bad now, like I should be planning all kinds of camp stuff. But I don't want to...I'd rather wait and finish my camp stuff the week before camp when I have to come in to school and...plan camp stuff. I have a feeling the teachers are beginning to think I'm really lazy about school stuff. Which is partly true, but more just that I have no idea what's really going on so I don't feel I can do anything.

I officially have no idea what's going on right now.
(big surprise, eh?)

It's Monday morning. Usually on Mondays my first class starts at 9. It's a class I don't teach with either of my main co-teachers. Most days it starts about 20 minutes late because generally there's an all-school assembly on Monday mornings. I went to my classroom this morning and my co-teacher was not there yet. Which isn't entirely unusual because we have 2 English rooms and she likes to hang out in the other one when there's no class. So this morning there was no assembly, so I assumed I would have class at the normal time. 9 o'clock comes and goes and no class. Ok...so maybe they'll just be late? Time keeps ticking away, still no class. Finally, 9:40 comes and the bell rings for class to end. Ok, so I had no 1st hour.

Do I have a 2nd hour? I'm expecting my co-teacher to come in now becasue we teach the rest of the day together in this classroom. She doesn't come. Neither do students. It's halfway through 2nd hour and still no co-teacher or students. Hmm. Do I have ANY classes today? (It's possible I don't since tomorrow is the last day and it's just an assembly). I think maybe they have no electives today. But then I notice that there is a class in the music room next to me. Hmm. So I went down to the other English room to ask my co-teacher what was going on today. No one is there.

So here I am sitting in my classroom not knowing what to do. Do I have class today? Do I not have class today? Is my co-teacher even here today? Maybe she's sick and called in and they canceled my classes because of that...and decided it wasn't important to tell me. I really don't know. But as far as not knowing what's going on goes, not having class is the best kind of confusion I can have. I guess.

Twiddling thumbs.

Huh, there was just an announcement over the intercom. Too bad I have no idea what it said.