Monday, November 30, 2009

A city tour of San Francisco

A secret to shopping...

As I am now working in Macy's, I have learned one very valuable secret when shopping. A Children's XL is about the size of a women's/men's small... Therefore, when buying expencive things... like Northface (my department), buy in the Children's department if you can find the style you're looking for there.... it is considerably cheaper than shopping in the adult departments.

One other comment about working at Macy's.... I can't get over how many languages I hear in a day. All sorts of Asian languages, Spanish, and all sorts of creole sounding languages. I guess that's America for you. I really don't hear that much English, come to think of it...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday

The official day of the start of the Christmas shopping season. Where was I at the crack of dawn (actually considerably before dawn)? Not in line at a store, that's for sure. I was standing in the Northface department of Macy's, greeting customers, straightening racks, finding sizes, promoting our sale, and generally trying to sell the only money-maker in the Children's department in Macy's. Yup, meet Macy's newest Northface Specialist. Funny how exactly one week ago I was a teacher... oh how the mighty have fallen... well, I guess a hagwon isn't that far up the totem pole. 5am-2pm I worked hard to make sure that everyone will have a Northface jacket on Christmas morning.

Now, why any fool would get to Macy's at 5am on Black Friday if they weren't being paid to do it is beyond me. But then again, I hate Christmas shopping and I tend to avoid it whenever possible. I'm just about done with my shopping. I did it all in Korea before I left. Though getting a nice jacket wouln't be so bad...

Why am I ruining my vacation with this torture? Because last time I was home and not working for an extended period of time I gained about 5 pounds and did nothing with my life. This will just make the crap hagwon that I will wind up working for seem so much better when I make it back to Korea... I don't actually need the money either.... which makes it bite even more... Oh well.. I guess I'm just a workaholic.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving at home

Today was Thanksgiving. I tried to document it well, make all you folks in Korea jealous, but I didn't do a very good job. Here's what I was able to capture on film...

One of several appetizer plates. We also had my mom's famous kielbasa and some strawberry dip. In our family, the appetizers are about equally as important as the meal.... to me slightly more important actually..

Here's our table... I thought everything was out, ready to eat when I took this photo. Turns out this wasn't even half. We had my mom's famous mashed potatoes (with sour cream and cream cheese and garlic infused), sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, homemade stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce (and the fake stuff for the wimps), squash with brown sugar and maple syrup, rolls, and probably some food I'm forgetting too...

Unfortunately, I had a coughing fit at the table from this obnoxious cold (or whatever) that I have and eventually had to excuse myself from the table. I never finished my meal. Unfortunately, the downside of jetlag is a severe lack of appetite, which is normally not a problem, but is quite unfortunate on Thanksgiving. My plate is still sitting in the fridge waiting for me many hours later. Still not hungry enough to eat it...

Pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie and a pumpkin cake roll for my cousin's birthday. We just ate the cake and couldn't manage to get into the pies... that's for another day....
btw, those apple and pumpkin pies were all me...

A great site more people need to contribute to...

As I'm in the process of searching for a new school, I really would like to read some reviews from actual teachers about these schools. Yea, I know about the black list sites and green list sites and so on, but the only way to search for a school on those kinds of websites is through the FIND option on your browser.

There is only one review site out there that shows up on Google. These folks contacted me to write a review when they first started the site many months ago. They have a great rating system, plus an area to write any comments you like. You can type in your school and find reviews. Unfortunately, while they have many hagwons in their register, few people have actually reviewed them. I think it's very important that people contribute to sites like this about their hagwon/school. It's so helpful to future teachers. Why not take 10 minutes out of your day to write a review and help someone like me, in the job hunt?

In the meantime, I'm applying to a hagwon called Kang Tae Woo English Academy. Anyone have any experience with these folks?

**I'm no way affiliated with this website, I just think someone out there is a genius. **

A ride on the San Francisco Cable Car

On our last day we finally got a chance to ride on the famous San Francisco Cable Car. The price seemed steep, $5.00 per ride, but actually it was lots of fun, especially standing on the edge and holding onto the pole.

Speaking of holding on to the pole, here is my friend, blatantly breaking the posted rules of pole holding. Tisk, tisk.. ^^

As you can see here, the trolleys are so old that they have no reverse switch. They need to be pushed manually onto a turntable, and the driver has to actually spin the turntable by hand, as this man is doing here. The drivers were an eclectic bunch, our first driver was a very entertaining Western guy. Then coming back we had a Middle Eastern looking man with a turban, and the conductor was a Chinese man who spent his time after collecting the tickets standing in the back and chatting in Chinese with some of the other riders. That's just San Francisco, I guess you could call that reverse culture shock, that I'm so surprised to see so many different cultures here...

The rest of the photos are things I shot while the car was moving. They came out pretty good, none the less, I think.

A view of Coit Tower in the distance on Telegraph Hill. We never got up there, we were too sick and tired the whole time to think about climbing such a big hill.

A view of Alcatraz in the water below.

Dear Korean Employer

Dear Korean Employer,

May you be a hagwon, or other category, I'm out there looking for a job. I'm moderately qualified, and I lived in Korea for a year and 4 months at the same job. I even speak Korean quite well, if you need someone to scream at your kids in a language they understand. I can't stand teaching Kindergarten, so if you have something for me that's Elementary school or older, pay basically anything, and within 20 minutes drive of Dongdaemun Stadium, please give me a job. Pretty please. I'm better qualified than you're average inexperienced recent college grad. And you can even pay me the same. Just give me a job. Please.

Thank you and hope to hear from you soon,
조안나 <3

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Some lovely food sights in San Francisco...

Some food delights I enjoyed/ witnessed while in San Francisco...

Ice cream at Ghiradelli Square
Vietnamese beef Pho
California roll... in California!
Chicken Parmagana.... can't find this in Seoul...
A sight never seen in Seoul... An Italian supermarket with an endless case of cheese...

Cheesecake from Cheesecake factory (1000 calories a slice.. almost)

Potstickers, not quite like I had in Taiwan, but delicious anyway...

Pork Buns :-)
Famous San Francisco sourdough bread... in some interesting forms.

First real culture shock..

We went to the North Beach section of San Francisco to get an Italian dinner. I ordered my chicken parmigiana and we thought a glass of wine would be nice to go with it. I ordered a nice Riesling and the waiter turned to me and asked, "could I see some ID please?". ID? What ID? They took my Korean ARC at the airport in immigration when I left Incheon, I left my passport in my hotel room, and my Vermont license was sitting in my jewelry box in Boston, expired, over a year ago. "How about a photocopy of my passport?" I asked, since I carry that around with me when I'm out of the country at all times, just in case. "Sorry, ma'am, I can't serve you tonight."

What a far cry from Korea where I'm fairly certain you could get served in your high school uniform at the right place. Oh well, I just saved myself $8.00 on a glass of wine I didn't really need.

Since we're on the topic of culture shock, though I'm feeling there is a severe lack of convenience stores in this country. Where's my Family Mart on every corner???

Monday, November 23, 2009

iPhone finally makes its way to Korea

South Korean regulators finally granted Apple a licence to sell the long awaited iPhone in Korea. It was always a mystery how such a popular phone worldwide had not yet made it to Korea, who is always one of the first in phone technologies. Anyway, it's set to be released on November 28th with a contract through KT, a mobile service provider. Starting price is only 132,000 won with a plan through KT. SK is also in talks to begin providing this phone as well.

On a side note, the iPhone was just released in China a month ago, though, without WiFi in accordance to regulations.

See this article from PC World for more details.

Job Hunting Frusrations

Here I though I'd certainly have a job secured before I left the country, and yet, here I am, out of the country, and still no job lined up to go back to the ROK. I had two interviews. One of which I thought went very well and sounded promising, and another that went ok and looked fairly likely. And it's not that I haven't been rejected from these jobs, it's that I haven't heard. One interview was 3 weeks ago. The other was just Thursday, though they told me that they would give me an answer, yes or no, before I left the country. How can both these jobs be holding off so long to give me an answer? It's driving me nuts. One of them starts January 4th, which means I'd need to be buying plane tickets... oh, say NOW!!! If I don't hear something soon I think I might just go nuts! Even if it's a no, at least I'll know and I can start applying to more jobs. I don't care!

Jet Lag

Yep, it's 4:30 am and I've been up since 2:30 am and here I am blogging. Actually, I might be able to sleep much better if I weren't suffering from an awful cold (or something) that causes my nose to block up just seconds after I empty it of all its contents. Next to my bed there is a huge, disgusting pile of tissues that I'm too lazy to get out of bed and clean up. I tried taking an anti-histamine. All that resulted was a painfully sore throat and about a 20% decrease in nose blowing. Therefore, only blowing my nose every 5 minutes instead of every 4 minutes.

Is it so much to ask for a little respite from the nose blowing so I can get some sleep?? I'm exhausted...... and my poor friend is suffering from my jet lag with me because I keep waking her up with my nose blowing and computer typing not to mention falling asleep at 7 or 8pm...

San Francisco: The Golden Gate Bridge

We joined a city tour that allows us access to their buses for the remainder of our trip. We got a tour around, and then we got on a bus that took us over the Golden Gate Bridge. Now, the bus driver tried to explain to us why it was called the "Golden Gate" bridge, since it's not very golden, but I didn't really understand the explanation (and it was in English! Go figure...). It seemed to have something to do with how it is painted every year, and is always under the process of being painted. By the time they finish painting the bridge, it's time to start again.

Though, actually... while it is a really nice bridge, I still don't get why it's so famous.... after all, it's still just a bridge...

But, it was really fun to drive over on the roof of the tour bus!

San Francisco: Fisherman's Warf

Well, there's not much in the way of fishing to see here. It's mostly a big tourist trap, but you can also get some good sea food here if you like that sort of thing. And you can see the sea lions chilling out at pier 39.
Some sea food stalls with all sorts of food for take out.
Our lunch of shrimps at Boudin's. It was great, but they weren't shelled so we had to take off the shells ourselves. It got a little messy.
The sea lions at Pier 39.

Some bread at Boudin's.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It never rains, but pours...

Yesterday (or today, however you feel like counting it since I flew back in time) was time for me to catch my flight to San Francisco, my extended lay-over before I go home to Boston. We had the boyfriend's car nearly completely packed to go to the airport and we were running a few minutes late getting the last things ready when my boyfriend received a phone call that his car was being towed away. He ran downstairs to catch them before they left, but no luck, he missed it and the car was towed, with all my luggage inside. We grabbed all the stuff we could and ran out the door to get on the subway to Chungjongno where the car was being brought. Fortunately the car arrived several minutes before we did. We jumped into the car and went towards the airport.

While making our way to the airport, we were suddenly pulled over by the police. We were in a part of town we're never in and evidently he made an illegal left turn and walked right into a police trap. I guess the look of real confusion on my boyfriend's face made the officer let him go with a warning. Then we sped off to the airport. We got there at 4:00 for my 5:40 flight. He dropped me off at the departure drop-off area and went off to park the car. In my haste to get out of the car and into the airport, I left my laptop bag in the car. I was hoping my boyfriend would see it, but he rushed so quickly back to meet me he missed it too. We then had to walk back together to the parking lot and get it.

Finally I got back, and went through security, got on the plane with no problems. In fact, I found out that in my section of seats, there were two other empty seats so I could spread out. Then of course a woman took one of the seats, but I still had plenty of room to lay down. I flew Singapore Airlines, and basically decided that I was never going to fly any other airline again. They came by 3 times before dinner was served to give free wine, etc. After the first three glasses of wine, I thought it would be enough to knock me out and I stopped drinking (maybe my first mistake). anyway, after a great dinner of bulgogi and ice cream for dessert, I tried to go to sleep. As usual, no luck (it was still early my time). I always have a terrible time sleeping on planes.

The flight was going well despite this, and I tried to pass the time by watching the amazing selection of TV shows and movies on my own personal TV screen when all of a sudden the captain said that we were going into some turbulent weather and we needed to put on our seat belts. Then before I new it we were being jostled around like I've never been on a plane. I've felt bad turbulence, but usually for only a few minutes. This went on for at least an hour, maybe more because it would seem to pass, then come back as strong before.

If you know me, I get a little nervous on planes, usually on take off and landing... I have this fear of falling, and when the plane is flying smoothly, I never feel like I'm going to fall. But once anything that doesn't feel normal (like say turning and taking off and landing) I get a little anxious. I've basically decided that I'll probably die in a plane crash some day, due to my frequent habit of traveling and flying. Therefore every time I get in an airplane, I'm sure it's my last day to live.

Finally, after at least an hour of me hugging my pillow and/or gripping the arm rests (and even a small scream at one point) we made it out and I looked out the window to see sun and a blue sky and blue sea. We landed without problem in San Francisco and I got off the plane as fast as I could. Leaving my jacket on the plane. While I was waiting for them to return my jacket, I also realized that I lost my hat, and I was almost certain I'd lost it in Incheon, because it had fallen out of my pocket once while at the airport, and I didn't remember seeing it after I went through security. -_-. Anyway, I got my jacket back and had no problem meeting my friend. We got to our hotel without problem and the rest is for later.

Anyway, fear not, my loyal readers, I'm applying to more jobs in Seoul starting in January or February. I also have some posts planned about my neighborhood in Seoul and my last week in Seoul, so stay tuned. You can also expect some restaurant reviews and Boston photos as well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Seoul Lantern Festival

Last week was the kick off for "Visit Seoul Year" which... ironically... is a two year event. Despite this oddity, they started off their "year" with a bang. I guess Thursday night they had some pop stars by the Cheonggyechon and they installed a huge lantern display along the Cheonggyechon. I'm not talking little lanterns that you see when you go to Bongeunsa or something, I'm talking larger than life paper creations lit up before your very eyes. I was determined to see this, despite the cold and lack of time (I'm leaving in a few days) and so at 10 o'clock on Sunday night (the last day?) We headed down with some friends to check it out.

Me and my zodiac sign: the ox (소)


Chile represents with this from Easter Island (Isla de Pascua)


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Apples to Apples

Have you ever played that game, Apples to Apples? It's a really simple game that provides hours of entertainment by mearly matching adjectives to nouns. Flip an adjective from the top of the pile, and everyone chooses an noun from their hand. A judge needs to decide which is the closest to the adjective given. For example, for the adjective "quiet" you could put down "hat" because it makes no noise or "Anne Frank" for purely statistic reasons. The game becomes quite entertaining seeing the random cards people match with the adjectives.

Now, imagine playing this game with one other American, three Koreans, and a British guy. There are many words that have very strong emotions for Americans (it's an American game), like "infomercials" for example, but have little or no meaning for Koreans, or possibly even Brits. Same goes for actors or particularly TV personalities that make their way onto cards. "Rosie O'Donnell" has endless opportunities for amusing matches, but if you're not American (or at least North American) you're probably not ever going to get them.

I've discovered that playing this game with an international crowd has come down to judging the judge of the round and thinking what card HE (or she) will understand the best. My opinion no longer matters in the game. Anyway, it's a new strategy that never occurred to me while playing with all Americans back at home. An interesting cross-cultural experience for you today.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

As usual, tensions with North Korea aren't even conversation worthy...

By now, most people must know that on Tuesday (11/10/09) there was a naval skirmish between the North and South along the disputed border region off the west coast of Korea. No one is talking about it. No one cares. I jumped in surprise as I read it that evening and said to my boyfriend, didn't you hear? There was a skirmish today between North and South. "Yea, I heard. So what?" was the only reply. "It's happened before". Ok, but it's been 7 years. Shouldn't this be at least conversation worthy? Nope. I mentioned this on a Facebook thread, and another Korean friend chimed in "Yea, so?". It's amazing how little the Koreans care about this topic. But, I am much less nervous about it than I would have been a year ago. Maybe few more years in this country, and I'll say "Yea, so?" too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where oh where should I exchange my money?

Since I'm leaving in a week and a half (*gasp*) I have to decide what to do with my hordes of money. I know I could just transfer it all into my bank account at home, but I will lose money on either end if I do that. I was thinking I might take some of my money (maybe not all, that would be a little much...) to an exchange house in somewhere like itaewon, namdaemun or dongdaemun and exchange it to US dollars. Does anyone have experience in this area? Is this the best way? and if so, do you have somewhere to recommend?

Thanks my loyal blog readers...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A very Potter halloween!

Professor Dumbledore, though he looks as though he's shaved for this photo...

Ready to ride the Hogwarts Express (they must be first years, they look a bit nervous)
Tackling Platform 9 3/4. Hedwing looks ready...
Hagrid tring to rescue the Weasly car from the Whompping Willow

Snape's classroom, ready for potions Class

The Weasly car is still up in the tree...

Olivander's Wand Shop

Snape and Belatrix Lestrange at work in Potions class

Malfoy, Harry Potter and Ron with the school shield

Bonus: Fornax and Jupiter (my old preschoolers) all dressed up. My favorite is Zorro in the front...