In Which Forever 21 Declares War On My Butt: A First-Time Trip to Seoul

As promised, the saga of Seoul in all of it’s glory! Roy-Gene and I hopped in a cab at DGEV with a dream and a cardigan around 6:15 with our coworker Casey. We went first to Waegwan, where we caught a quick 15-minute train to Dongdaegu, the big train hub for Daegu. There we boarded the KTX, the super duper fast train to Seoul–it takes just shy of 2 hours and you get in at Seoul station, the heart of the city. Image

We got in around 10, and then began to wander and wander and wander as we looked for the way to Hongik University, our stop for the hostel we were staying at. I had downloaded an awesome subway app, but my smaller-town brain and the pretty much million subway colors and lines of Seoul weren’t working late at night. We began to ask Koreans to direct us the right direction, and they were amazing. Actually, all weekend Seoulites were the most gracious people ever, going above and beyond time after time. They made me love Seoul.

ANYWAYS, we made it to the hostel–at every turn I didn’t know what we would do, but it just. kept. working out! Pencil Hostel/Guesthouse in Hongdae is seriously great. We walked in to bedding, towels, shampoo, soap, A/C, TV and a refrigerator and slept like the dead until morning.

Friday morning dawned fair and bright and we headed out in search of breakfast: Image

Now that we were experienced in all things subway, we went to Myeongdong on the reference of a co-worker to check out H&M, Forever 21, and a host of Western brands. We met a lovely older Korean man, who helped me as I struggled with how to use my subway card in the reader. He then asked if he could help us find anything and recommended a breakfast place to us. We then explored H&M and I felt super thrifty as I picked up a $70 (aka 70,000 KRW) navy blazer for only $30, and a purse $13 instead of $35.

Then came Forever 21. It had FOUR FLOORS. It was magical. Escalators everywhere, men, women, kids, accessories, and I found two cute shirts and some leggings that I figured I should try on. I got to the dressing room and the girl took my items, turned to me and said, “these 2 ok, this (points to leggings) not ok, you will stretch out the shape,” and walks me to a dressing room. I try on the shirts, trying to shake it off. Having worked in retail, I cannot come up with a good reason for what she did. I tried all the “be flexible, this is a different culture” ideas I could think of. And even though I liked one of the shirts I tried on, I left, handing her the items without a word.

I mean…they were leggings. $16 leggings. Was it really vital to not let me try them on? Obviously your brand is doing well for itself; do you really want to…I mean, c’mon. I realize I have a butt. It’s big. It’s out there. It’s also pretty strong. It’s taken a lot of stairs and lunges and hours on a stone floor of an Apple Store. Lately it’s also worn a lot of heels. And you know, as much as I’m trying to eat well and work out and drop some weight, the butt is still gonna be there. It doesn’t need your $16 leggings to feel good about itself. So you, Forever 21, can shove them up your ass.

Meanwhile, back in happy-about-my-life world… ImageRoy-Gene and I continued exploring with a trip up to the US Embassy, where this exchange occurred:

Me: I can’t wait to go in and be all ‘AMURICA!’

RG: You know it’s like the heaviest fortified embassy ever…you can’t just walk in.

Me: Don’t you just run up to the front gate and scream “I’m an American!” and they have to, like, contractually let you in under asylum?

RG: (jaw drops, shakes head)

So, I didn’t. We ended up walking by, and visited a former palace instead. We then rested up a bit before retrieving the David Brown from the KTX. We traversed back to the hostel to make David think we were pros, and went to sleep to prep for Saturday. Well, tried to sleep. DB got the giggles so bad, I’m not sure he ever slept.

We woke up and headed out around 9, and went to Itaewon, the foreigner district, to find David some clothes, and me some Diet Coke, Roy-Gene some proper coffee, and breakfast for all of us. On Leslie’s (another coworker) recommendation, we went to the Flying Pan-Blue, which was expensive, but good. ImageAfter that, DB and I trundled around, searching for clothes. I found an appropriately touristy t-shirt that said “I ❤ Korea!” and some leggings at a store for Big and Tall women, where I got to meet 2 South Africans and an Italian expat, all of whom teach English for EPIK, the government program for teaching. We all commiserated about the Forever 21 experience, which is apparently common for those of us lucky enough to be voluptuous in Korea. Dave found the button ups that he was looking for, and I found what made my trip worthwhile: Image

After that, we went back to our hostel to pick up our bags (and for me to repack to accomodate the plethora of Diet Coke), and headed home on the KTX. All in all, a great trip, and we got to rest and recharge today to prepare for the week.

It was interesting how the vibe and feel of Seoul was very different to Daegu. Everyone was gracious and kind and intentional about helping us. We had people carry bags, ask questions, and race up an escalator to make sure they gave us the right directions. We met expats from all over the world and shopped at a foreign market. I think I understand the feeling people get about New York–it’s huge, it’s overwhelming, it’s fun, but when it boils down to it, it’s about people. I loved every minute.

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The Wrap Up

Things that happened this week:

  • I had just started cleaning my bathroom yesterday when my razor, which hangs from my bathroom wall via a suction cup, fell, separated into 2 pieces, and the razor part promptly bounced into the toilet bowl. I had only one option for retrieving it, and after checking my right hand for cuts and nicks and thinking “Brianna would lecture me FER DAYS about the germs in here,” I retrieved my razor, and dumped it in the sink, whereafter I soaked it liberally in scalding hot water. True or False: can I use the razor or am I bound to mutate into a lesser Batman villainess? Image
  • New teachers arrived! Jen and Angela got in yesterday, which officially makes Steven and I not the n00best people on campus! Roy-Gene and I got to take them around downtown Daegu a little and the lovely ladies from the UCCS campus joined us! Daiso, By The Book, and even some Coffee Bean. 
  • PS: This means I’ve been here 1 month. PPS: Not by my contract (which started June 1), but rather by the actual days on ground in Korea. Image
  • Week 3 of teaching went good. After very low levels of English my first week, and the unanimous Hell Week that was middle schooler gauntlet last week…this was surprisingly low-key. Kids were pretty polite, some said “thank you,” (! I know!) and were generally great. Group 1 was the sassy group in the Broadcast studio, and I had the pleasure of teaching them 4x. Super grateful for them.
  • sub-bullet: there’s a K-Pop song here called “I got a Boy,” and the chorus sounds like “I got a boy, chicken,” and I know that’s not it, but I still like to sing it and Group 1 called me BOY CHICKEN TEACHER all week and I loved it. Image
  • WHAT ELSE…I put off writing this post because I was watching a video on the Foreign Service. Anyone done this/know anyone who has done this? It looks awesome and terrifying in one bag. I need to see how this year in Korea goes at least. I’ve only been here a month, after all.

So here goes week 4. I got this. I think. Ian? 

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Proof!

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This post is mostly for Adam Herbert, who thinks I just take pictures instead of teach. I hope Millie bites you.

Pendulum

Today was the first day I haven’t disliked my new job. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. (Yet.) Hopefully the pendulum is beginning to swing more and more to enjoying it.

All new jobs have their quirks and adjustment period. This one includes a new country, new language, completely new alphabet. And new wardrobe: no more blue shirts and jeans; I have to think about what I’m wearing (Sidebar: I totally wore a miniskirt and leggings to work today).

My sleep has been terrible, my sheets are uncomfortable, I go to sleep with headaches and wake up with them, my dreams are super weird and I’m not good at this teaching thing. It’s very, very different from an Apple workshop.

So, to cheer myself (and you, Mom) up, here’s 10 things I do like about my new job:
1. I’m teaching a class on Zombies.
2. The food on campus isn’t bad, and off-campus is amazing.
3. There’s a full-size plane OUTSIDE MY WINDOW.
4. Next month we’re migrating to brand new teacher dorms.
5. I’m learning how to use chopsticks.
6. I don’t have to pay rent, utilities, gas or insurance.
7. There’s an Apple Authorized dealer that I’m going to go to for my fix.
8. I look like a Mad Men character in all my skirts. (“Say fellas, ‘yeah?’ Fellas, ‘yeah?’ Has your girlfriend got the butt? ‘Hell yeah.'”)
9. Today I taught drama in a veil and a ball under my shirt, telling the kids I was a bride, pregnant with a zombie baby.
10. I’m in Korea. It’s different and scary and cool and only for a year. As someone important told me: It’s a year. It’s going to pass one way or another. Why not Korea?

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Caption: survival kit for zombie apocalypse–if you could only have 10, what would they be?

Supahstah.

Today, I was scheduled on-call for the afternoon. Two callouts later, I had my first (mostly) full day of teaching. And it was pretty great. After Thursday, where due to nerves, being observed by a trainer, and a bunch of wild Korean kids, I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to stick this out for a year–leaps and bounds better. The kids listened, I got to teach a class on ZOMBIES (!!!), and most of all, I ended the day feeling good.

Before:

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After:

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Lazy Sunday

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Sitting in Holly’s coffee enjoying the above vanilla latte and waiting to FaceTime with the family. They’re 16 hours behind so it takes a little finagling to line up a talk time. Maybe it should be a regular Sunday morning thing. I don’t know. It’ll probably take a few weeks to figure it out, but I’m sure we will.

The last few days have been full–first trip to Costco, which is culture shock in itself–it’s Costco, but everything is in Korean. Really gives the brain a whirl. First jaunt downtown with David Friday night, again Saturday with Roy-Gene, and today with both o’ them boys.

I’m exhausted, and just found out I’m on call for tomorrow and someone already called in. After my first teaching on Thursday went not-so-great, I’m hoping to redeem myself with my Zombie class, YES, ZOMBIE CLASS tomorrow.

Allonsy!

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