“‘Pokemon’ Is Short For ‘Pocket Monster'” and other things in Japan

Not my best title, I know, but I’m writing this over a month later after returning from Japan, so…a lot of brain cells and one egg have died since then, so I’m not on top of my game. Yep.

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It always felt that my time in Asia wouldn’t be complete without visiting Japan. For $50 you could fly from Busan to Osaka and stuff yourself full of sushi, roll in piles of Doraemon swag and perfect the art of karaoke, so that was the easiest decision ever. I finished up 2 years of work at K. Hogwarts and left for 10 days in the land of the rising sun.

Continuing with my Philippines tradition, I went makeup-less and packed just a backpack to carry on my flight, only to run into one of my bosses at the airport, so it was a great start to the trip. After landing on the island airport of Osaka (no, really, it’s an island)

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I realized that I couldn’t remember the address of the hostel I was staying at, and in immigration there was no wifi…so I lied and wrote “friend’s apartment in Osaka” and cried a little in the line after copying the phone number of the guy in front of me. Sorry Marty (and Japanese immigration official) and random stranger. I just was dumb and forgot about the paperwork part, I didn’t pre-plan to fraud everyone I JUST WANTED THE DORAEMON SWAG.

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After renting a data ‘egg’ and slowly, awkwardly reading train signs, I made it to Osaka Station. I…was not prepared. It was like Seoul Station on crack. There are at least 7 lines running out of there, and sub-stations and new letters and new solar systems and *cue hyperventilation and hypoglycemia* someone finally came out to help me because I was sweaty and awkward for too long. I finally made it to my hostel in Osaka, and it was perfectly cute and quaint–Air Osaka Hostel via AirBNB in Kitagaya was warm and friendly. They also included a map that pointed out some awesome hot springs (that I visited twice), a delicious, cheap restaurant (again, twice) and a sushi place (once, because money).

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LOOK AT THAT DESTRUCTION. I am the destroyer of Japanese foods. I also visited the Pokemon Center in Osaka and…well…

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Squeeeeeee. I never got into Pokemon as a kid, but who doesn’t like Pikachu? I bought myself a soft little squishy Pika and a coin purse because anything less than a 1000 yen note (around $8USD) is a coin. SO MANY COINS. Also of note, the only ONLY song that plays in the Pokemon Center? The Pokemon theme song in Japanese. On loop. I fear for their employees because they must walk in to work hoping for–

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After more Osaka explorations, including a 3-story Sanrio (Hello Kitty) store, Osaka Castle and a peaceful, rainy Shinto shrine:

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I then lovingly tucked my Pika into the backpack and took off for Fukuoka!

In August 2014, I got to lead a program of 60 Japanese students from Aso College, in Fukuoka and 60 Korean students from my parent school, Yeungjin College in Daegu. We mixed together the students for a 5-day, 4-night English intensive camp, and it was one of my favorite teaching experiences ever. So I was unbelievably excited to see several of my Japanese students again–they even let me stay with them, they COOKED, we talked–it was so much fun. Plus, OWL CAFE.

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You pay 1500 yen (about $12-13) to hold these handsomes. The first 15 minutes you read some safety tips, including “please don’t forget owl is rapacious bird” and “when you see hate signs while you touch owls, please stop touching owls right away.” I don’t know what a hate sign is, but look at this bro, who was bestowed the name “Nuts.” HOW COULD HE EVER HATE SIGN?!

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The next day, after a delicious homecooked meal from Tati, my students took a taxi WITH ME to the airport. They refused to let me pay and they even bought me some Pika swag from the Fukuoka Pokemon Center! I’m so happy to have met them and been their teacher and their friend too. I was a little sad to go on to Tokyo, but off I went, backpack bulging with Pikas and gifts from the Super Daiso that I had gotten lost in. Thanks so much to Tanya, PJ, Tati, Ryota and everyone else I got to see!!

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In case you are planning to go to Japan, you need to know that Narita Airport is in the middle of Egypt nowhere, so plan accordingly. I made it into my hostel in Tokyo’s Shibuya district around 10 at night, a little lonely and ready to eat my own hand. I walked up the four flights of stairs, ran down to find food and smack into a guy staring at his smartphone exactly the same way I had been 5 minutes before. I asked, “Are you looking for the Geekhouse?” He looked up, and stammered “ah 애, yes” and when I looked closer, I saw the telltale signs of Korean 20something guy–Carhartt and white socks with white tennis shoes–I replied “진짜?!” and laughed, watching his jaw drop. It had only been 6 days, but I’d already missed speaking in Korean and feeling halfway knowledgeable in a foreign country. He threw his bag upstairs and we got ramen and a beer together on the corner, talking about our lives in Korea and our travels in Japan. When we figured out that we wanted to see the same areas the next day, we ended up walking around all of Shibuya and Harajuku together–Won Geol and I, the photographer and the makeup-free white girl. (You can see him peeking his head into my otherwise flawless pano of the Meiji Jingu below)

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Over my last 2 days, I discovered a shop that sold $20,000 original, single, hand-painted animation cells from classic Studio Ghibli films like “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Totoro,” stood in Shibuya Crossing, the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world, and walked an hour back to the hostel, letting myself crack a little and grieve about leaving Korea soon.

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I left Japan after not-so-gently shoving my Pika and all his friends into my backpack, and hoping that Peach didn’t have weird restrictions on carry ons since my bag weighed as much as the Sherpa I would need to carry it, and headed home to gimbap and soju, ready to live up my last 2 weeks in Korea. Pictured below is me and my Pika:

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A lot of people have asked about the differences between Japan and Korea, especially my Korean friends, so here’s a brief list of things I noticed that may or may not be unique in my experience:

1. It’s quieter. There’s less noise, less ambient music, less screaming, less “Oppppppppaaaa” and less honking. Every city I was in was just calm. Even the busy areas–even in Shibuya crossing, it was remarkable. No one is talking unless they have to. Everyone is respecting everyone else’s space. Even Won Geol said, “it’s more quiet than Korea,” so I feel this one is true.

2. The food–obviously these are different places and no one does a food like a home country but DAMN. The ramen, the udon, the SUSHI, my god, the sushi, where is this drool on my chest suddenly coming from…? But wow. Japanese food is glorious, full-bodies tastes. From restaurants to home-cooked meals and even convenience store sushi, I never had a bad meal. tumblr_logdznWf4X1qzbb14o1_1280

3. Hot Springs/Onsen: Korea has jimjjilbangs (짐찔방) but while similar to Japan, there are some definite differences, chief among them, not staring. This matters when you’re a very naked, very white, very alone, chubby white girl. If they did stare then they were truly CIA-level because I felt perfectly calm and alone. Also, fun fact–the onsen I went to switched sides every other day. I went on one day and the door was the left one, and the next day, it was the right one! Amazing. However, had I never been to jimjjilbangs in Korea, I would have been quite lost in Japan.

4. They drive on the left side! I guess somewhere back in the deep recesses of my lizard brain, I knew this, but after about 5 minutes of confusion, I realized that something was wrong with the street and it was not opposite day. This did a number on me because not only do you have to be conscious while crossing the street, you also have to be aware what side of the street the bus comes on, an error I made while standing on the right in Fukuoka, watching the bus I was meant to be on drive away. Across the street.

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Anyways, that’s all for this wrap-up–you can see more pictures on my Facebook of foods and owls and temples–I’ll try to sum up the last month here in America this week and we will be *GASP* up. to. date.

ありがとう, Japan–thanks for the best food, and even better people. Especially you, immigration guy. I’m sorry I was shady I DID IT FOR THE POCKET MONSTERS!

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Baguio, Baby! Reincarnated Dogs and Questionable Meats

So, I’m as bad as a network season finale cliffhanger for that last post, am I right? “I’ll post tomorrow,” I said. It’s only been (counts on fingers)…it’s been more than “tomorrow.” My bad. I have excuses, but most of them are flimsy and since y’all all WHEN YOU GON’ UPDATE, sit your Bellatrix selves down for the rest of the #PhilippinesAdventure.

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You’ll recall that day 1 in the Philippines, was, to use the colloquial, a shit show. I was seriously looking into tickets back to Korea that night, but I didn’t want to face the peanut gallery of “WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST GO TO EL NIDO I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU” and since I am a dumb woman who repeatedly forgets that pride goeth before the shit falleth, I couldn’t have that.

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I asked my new AirBNB host, Nick, for some advice, and what I got was advice AND DINNER, y’all. At a place that was like “The Hangover,” pre-hangover.

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AND HE PAID. Yes, y’all. This dude definitely paid more for my dinner than I paid at his hotel. And it was crazy delicious. He (and his business partner) both recommended that since my first choice place of Sagada was supposed to be raining all week, I should try for Baguio, which was “just 5.5 hours away.”

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My main goal in this unplanned trip to the Philippines was to relax and unwind and just be around green things, which, in a nutshell, was what it was like in Jeju for me just 5 days before, and they assured me that Baguio was like that, and they had contacts there. So I folded myself in half in a tricycle, YES a trike, and went to the bus station. I then proceeded to think “don’t pee don’t pee don’t think about peeing you definitely don’t have to pee, you’ve never peed in your life” for the next 5.5 hours, which I am sure my sister the nurse would not be proud of.

Watching the scenery go by, I saw more and more green, making my heart excited. However, I’ve got to tell you guys that the ratio of Celine Dion songs I heard to hours I spent on that bus was just unreal. I was in love with the guy next to me by the time our ride was finished. Upon arriving to Baguio, I checked into my new AirBNB place and promptly got rained on. But the view, even in the rain, was magnificent.

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Originally, I’d just planned on staying 2-3 days in Baguio, and getting ideas for somewhere else. But, like all places, there were people that changed my mind. My new AirBNB place was hosted by Robert, who was convinced that his dog, Bruno, was reincarnated and could tell bad people (barking) from good people (no barking), and that since Bruno and I got along like gangbusters, I was a good egg. Just look at this fool, who clearly has superpowers.

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Robert fed me, answered questions, and let me just chill and be myself on his balcony for hours. I also met 4 girls who lived in the house–they are from neighboring provinces and are in Baguio for jobs/training/schooling for a temporary time, and they are awesome–they took me to night market, to bars, on walks, and got me to eat new foods, all while chatting and talking about life. They completely made my trip worth it.

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I ended up spending 5 days in Baguio–and I have to say, I never anticipated in my life being crammed into a Toyota 4 Runner taxi with 4 Filipino girls, eating corn kernels that were coated with macaroni cheese dust out of a plastic cup, and rocking out to “Gangster’s Paradise.” Sometimes when you just let the journey take to the weirdest places, it treats you to pretty wonderful experiences.

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Highlights in Baguio:

-The night market–at 11pm they close down one of the main streets in Baguio for a clothing, shoes, and trinkets free for all that is manic and wonderful and super cheap. You should all know that I really restrained myself in not buying you all vintage Nike tees. And then I ate some weird foods that I’m still not sure about.

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-Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary–aka one of the weirder things I did in Baguio and I…I’ll just show you some pictures. This is touted as a garden, and as I was here to see green things, it seemed logical…To start with, this is how this starts:

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YES. Am I right?! I  swear, if there was just a weed scent, this would be right at home in the Pacific Northwest. This place/garden has a “history of the world” theme, and it did not disappoint with the weirdness. There were dinosaur eggs, mini-caves, and even weirder religious motifs. I wished so bad that RoyGene had been there to livetweet it with me, because it was glorious. Also, there *were* beautiful flowers, but I was too lost in the hilarity of strange.

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-Mines View Park–WE DON’T NEED NO STINKING BADGES to look at a bunch of hills that once had mines that produced valuable stuff. Not the most exciting pit stop, but a cool view indeed.

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-The Mansion–aka where the President goes to get away from the oppressive heat of everywhere else in the Philippines. I know it looks like the gates to Arkham, but I swear this is the summer white house.

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I returned to Korea, a little wiser and with mostly healed cheesy thunder thighs, and missing the one guy who knows me inside and out: Bruno. I mean, seriously, look at this fluff basket. He knows what’s up.

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TL;DR: #PhilippinesAdventure

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So if you go to the Philippines, either 1) plan better then I did or 2) just go to El Nido already and you’ll probably love it. I don’t regret going on my journey of strange, as it’s made for some awesome and horrific stories but I could have saved a lot of hours and several inches of chewed of fingernails if I’d planned better. But the Filipino people made my trip a glorious bag of experiences and for that, I’m pretty damn grateful.

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Next post: How to end your job gracefully without crying, by Not Me, #JapanAdventure and OWLS. Yes, Anderson Cooper, OWLS.

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How Not To Start A Vacation: Philippines Style

You know how people are like, “don’t plan out your vacation! Just let it take you where it will and you’ll discover blah blah blah its the journey, not the destination?”

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Such crap. I mean, like, half crap. At least when it came to my Philippines trip.

*sidebar: this coffee shop I’m at right now has an amazing, killer iced Vanilla latte. Think Sonic cup ice and creamy, glorious vanilla tears of a mermaid–it’s great. However, I was like, YES, I would like a chocolate muffin with it and this muffin tastes (and has the texture of) ground up Cheerios boxes. Not Cheerios. The cardboard box that holds and smells faintly of Cheerios. Like, I wouldn’t feed this to chickens my worst enemies anyone. But I bought it so I am damn well gonna eat it. Stupid pride. Anyways…*

Philippines. I finished up my aforeblogged Jeju trip on Monday, May 18 (happy birthday, older bro! You’re 30! I should shut up now!) by flying back to Daegu in the morning, then showering and discovering I’d been attacked by what looked like angry gnomes…I had countless bug bites, scratches, scrapes, tiny sunburn on the tops of my feet (knew I’d missed somewhere…) and the cheesy maiming of my thunder thighs. Everything hurt in that shower. Did I really want to leave the country again for 6 days? I mean, sure, the $168 round trip flight from Seoul to Clark was too Dutch to pass up and I am an adult female woman person who has pride, power and is a badass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody so HELL YES we are going to go and…have fun…and whatever. Also, it was my last week of vacation at K.Hogwarts, so I *had* to use it.

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Everyone who knew I was going to the Philippines was all “OH MY GOD EL NIDO EL NIDO PALAWAN (that’s it, right? I have a sneaking suspicious it might be Padawan but that could also be a Star Wars thing) YOU’LL LURVE THE BEACHES” and I’m all, “please look at my skin tone and tell me about how perfect I am for beaches and snorkeling, please.” No. I was going to the MOUNTAINS and having HIKING TIMES and FINDING MYSELF like that lady from Oprah…stuff.

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So I get to Seoul, get on the flight, and immediately, start to have a weird feeling about the trip. Not enough to break aviation law, but I did have a “which sickness gets me off of here without thousands in fines” thought and I will confess to thinking about throwing nuts at a steward but I did not because I am not a chaebol lady pre-apology. I shrugged it off and said to myself “IT WILL BE AN ADVENTURE,” confirm texted my AirBNB host about the car picking me up, and then departed from Korea.

I landed to…nothing. Wait, that’s not entirely correct. I landed, went through customs, whole shebang, got the stamp, got my bag searched, walked out the doors to…nothing. No sign for the car I had previously arranged. No person saying any version of my name, mangled or otherwise. Just looking at about 200 Filipino people looking at me as they were sitting, and waiting, for other people that were NOT me in the 84 degree heat at 11:22pm at night.

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I could not figure out what brand of cross-cultural muckup I had walked into here. I frantically tried to connect to the semi-shady free wifi spots at this tiny, useless airport (that $168 ticket price tag is starting to make sense, isn’t it?) to check my AirBNB app for something, anything from my host to discover why my already exhausted, possibly hungover, bug-bitten, sunburned, cheesy maimed ass was alone in a new country and up shit creek. To add insult to these various injuries, I was an IDIOT and forgot my foreign credit cards. I know. I blame it on the Jeju magic; I’d still been in Korea in Jeju, so I was able to use my Daegu bank cards and Korean ATMS (my Korean cards wouldn’t work here. I checked). I was now in a foreign country with just under $404 in Philippines pesos FOR THE ENTIRE 6 days.

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I used 400 ($9) of my precious pesos to buy a SIM card to contact the AirBNB host, since she’d given me her number to call her in the event of…anything. Nothing like hearing the message “this call cannot be completed as the receiver is either out of service or this number has been disconnected” to make your heart sink. I hadn’t eaten in almost 9 hours, and it was just past midnight and hot and dark and I was, to be frank, scared. Yeah, I was. I was alone, and knew no one in this country. I don’t want to lie to you guys. I wasn’t totally in panic mode, but I’ve seen “Taken” and I couldn’t go back into the main airport without a ticket (which I wouldn’t have for 6 more days) and I was rapidly approaching some unattractive tears. I had no credit card to get any more money, I had no sleep options (this airport is 15 minutes from anywhere), and I was feeling really dumb about the whole trip.

I frantically tried to book different places on AirBNB, since I could use my credit card number online to pay, but since it was past midnight, I couldn’t book for the night I was currently living (18th/19th), but rather the next night (19th/20th). I still hadn’t cried by this point, but this wasn’t a moment of pride for me. In desperation, I posted an SOS on Facebook, which prompted a text from my best friend saying “you know your mom is going to freak out, right?” Yeah, I did. But it felt like a legitimate post to throw up there since I was literally sitting against a wall in a strange airport in a strange land without any plan other than “don’t get kidnapped or robbed or sold into slavery.”

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At this point, a guy wearing an official-ish badge walked up to me and asked in a not-unkind way, “what are you doing?” By now, I’d been pacing around with a constipated look on my face for about 2 hours. It was just shy of 1am and as I blurted out my story, he said he knew of a close hotel. I informed him that I didn’t have much money, which probably was mostly sold by the fact that I only had a small backpack on and smelled like anxiety. He said his job was “taxi chief” and that he knew of a good, cheap place that was safe, including “guard have gun,” which, after living in Korea for so long…is kind of unsettling…but whatever. I’d already created a frightening backstory for a lot of the guys walking around the airport, so the word SAFE SAFE SAFE was circling my head like little Disney birds. He bundled me into a cab (500 pesos) and told me the hotel would probably be about 1200 pesos.

It is possible that in the dark of the cab, to the dulcet tones of 1980s Whitney, that I maybe shed a few tears of thanks and frustration but I hid it real real well under all the makeup I was not wearing. But you can’t prove that.

10 minutes later, upon arriving at a hotel that looked not unlike the motel/gas station from the movie “Cars,” I paid 1400 pesos (you win some, you lose some) and collapsed in twin bosoms of air conditioning and fast, fast wifi and actually, did, cry for about 30 solid seconds. I opened my messages to read replies and tips from friends from all over the world, plus family who was praying for me and a message from a college friend who hooked me up with names and numbers of her dad’s missions contacts in the Philippines. It was almost 2am in Angeles, and I was exhausted in every sense of the word. Despite the fact I was 88% sure there was a lipstick cam in the ceiling (it just had that vibe), I stripped down to my underwear and tried not to think about the sheets as I passed out.

I woke up 7 hours later to some emails from AirBNB customer service (awesome, awesome people) and messages from more people (yet, never ever heard from my original AirBNB host by email, messenger or phone). AirBNB hooked me up with some credits and helped me book a place that night. I spent the rest of the morning lazing about in the air conditioning and watching some form of an “Underworld” movie before deciding to check out and walk to my new place. But since this is getting long, I’ll save the rest of the story for tomorrow–including tips on how not to pee yourself on a 5.5 hour bus ride!

TL;DR First night in the Philippines:

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Unemployment Day 1: Let’s talk about Cheesy Thunder Thighs

It was with the happiest, Disney-villain gusto that I woke up at 9:24 this Monday morning to no alarm. No dulcet tones of BigBang’s “BaeBae” (it’s grown on me, guys), no “Cruella DeVil” 5-minutes-before-the-bus-leaves-get-yo’-ass-UP alarm, nothing. It’s like vacation BUT IT WILL LAST FOREVER or at least until August-ish. I hope. You know what time it is, y’all, it’s time to:

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I’m curled up in the mothership, enjoying a horse-sized iced vanilla latte after going to the bank and transferring money home LIKE AN ADULT (after staying in bed until 11:47am LIKE A CHILD), and I feel good. Sure, this latte cost as much as the cab ride over to this side of town but I’m happy with it.

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LOOK AT HER SEXY VANILLA CURRRRRVES.

It’s so strange to think that there’s nowhere I need to be. I have these 5 days to move stuff out of my apartment and into suitcases/friends’ caves before I leave for Japan for 10 days next Monday. I have no idea what I’m doing in Japan, which is a terrible/wonderful thing according to my Philippines vacation 2 weeks ago, wherein I landed at 11pm and my AirBNB host went COMPLETELY AWOL and I was stranded, sticking out like the tall, sweaty, uberwhite uberwomensch that I am.

But we’ll get to the Philippines in the next post. Right now, I need to back up and tell you about winning the field of dreams of Jeju while getting fantastically maimed.

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It was Thursday, May 16, and I had just landed in Jeju for my second “Jeju Furey Beach Volleyball Tournament,” where my team’s name was “William Shatner Face” (say it 3 times fast and you’ll get where our minds were at), where we sweat, sunburned, got bit by a host of radioactive spiders, and I got scalding cheese on my lady bits AND THAT WAS JUST THE FIRST NIGHT. Here’s a visual of what was dropped on me:

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You know like, when you get fajitas and it’s all steaming and they’re like, “do not touch this hot metal thing in the middle of the wood trough we brought you human piglets?” Yeah. Like that. Dancing front the table onto my uncovered, lily-white, Snow White-esque upper thighs and into the stuff of LEGENDS. If you’ve figured out the gist of our team name, just imagine the kind of jokes we made of THIS incident–which, by now, is past the “blistering fields of delicious, cheesy thigh pain” phase and into “Pink post-surgical scar where they hid the drug-filled condoms” phase, aka it’s definitely almost healed. Also, I artfully hid the burns in following picture because Photoshop.

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Friday was spent on the southern side of the island as I got my tourist self on and visited all 3 big waterfalls of Seogwipo and wrote a lot in a journal and had generally awesome solo white girl travel times while sipping on tea and meeting Mr. Darcy and then traveling on a bus full of 35 high school boys practicing their English on me “YOU LIKE DRAKE?!”

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I really loved these places, chock-full of tourists (like me) as they were. There’s just no bullshitting with a waterfall. It’s not a museum or a monument or something man-made. It’s powerful and peaceful at once. The color of the water here is just unreal. It feels like you ran into a Totoro tunnel and came out in a different world where your other worries and cares are gone. I could have sat for hours except rocks are not the most comfortable seats, y’know? But if you are lucky enough to get to Jeju, screw any other tourist spots (except maybe climbing Hallasan, which I have not done:( but heard is also naturally wonderful) and just get to these waterfalls and bathe in their serenity.

Saturday began volleyball times. I’d played with a different team last October and had only met one member of my new team, so you know I made a great first impression with le cheesy thighs of power and grace. We slowly warmed up on Saturday, getting to know each other’s positions and strengths and alcohol tolerances. I’m very proud to say that I drank an entire bottle of Hallasan soju (한라산 소주) in a scant 6 minutes and 43 seconds, beating everyone else on my team and establishing myself as alpha wolf of the drunk tank.

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After a restless, sleep-ish night, we went on to win our bracket/division and I promptly ran my championship exhausted ass into the ocean and waved at you guys…what, didn’t you hear me? from the sandy, gorgeous, alcohol-infused sands of Hamdeok Beach.

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It’s my second time going to this tournament, and both times, it was stupid fun. The typhoon of last October and the glorious weather of this round, the people who I recognized and those who remembered me as “Dan Quick’s friend,” it was all awesome. Thanks to the other members of the heroin centipede (really, you don’t want to know) and here’s to cheesy thunder thighs forever.

Bonus pics:

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*post ocean run WHY WAS THE TIDE OUT THE WATER WAS SO SO FAR AWAY model look*

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*Sunday morning 6:30am sunrise. Magical.*

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*Hamdeok Beach being a lovely little volcanic wench*

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*I might have had a slight little extreme sports crush on this Korean guy’s skills*

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Next time: Adventures of Ma’am in the Philippines!

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5 Korean Husbands. 13,000 Fans. And Me.

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Through a magical twist of timing and fate, my favorite Korean boyband, BigBang (yes, I know, people, I have betrayed my NSYNC roots hard) had their first comeback in 3 years and first concert in Korea in over a year, last weekend. The weekend before last. April 25-26, in Seoul. Naturally, I was ready to leave some bodies in the streets in my quest to see them live.

I enlisted one of my Korean co-workers, Ara, to help me, and we made plans to go to a Starbucks and buy the tickets. But that didn’t happen; another friend recommended a PC Bang (bang=baang=room, aka what we would probably call an internet cafe), where the internet connection is super fast due to all the people playing MMORPGs and trolling the respawn, Jeremy. We planted among the horde of unwashed college guys screaming creative curses while playing “League of Legends” (also known as just “LOL” here) and pulled up the ticket-buying website, G-Market. Ara and I looked like totally out of place with our work clothes and ovaries.

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We pulled up a clock and the website and then proceeded to fight thousands of other people for seats. By that I mean that EVERY SINGLE ONE we clicked on that was free, disappeared immediately? Our conversation was “yes!” “gone” “none” and “ahhhhhhh…” Finally after about 15 minutes, we found one on the 3rd floor and we were both shouting “BUY BUY BUY” among the curse-hurling, ramen-eating college boys. I was elated: it was really happening.

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I spent the next 2.5 weeks preparing emotionally and physically for this concert: bought train tickets, booked AirBNB, and purchased an external battery so my iOS stuff could just keep going and going and going. Friday, April 24 couldn’t come fast enough–so I jumped on the train with a dream and a cardigan (a yellow one. The cardigan. Not the dream).

I arrived in Seoul and made my way to the AirBNB and had some potato wedges and take-out beers whilst watching kids screaming for their mothers across the lake at Lotte World amusement park. I found myself waking up at 7:30 the next morning to start the process of sexy-ifing myself. Which of course took less than 5 minutes. You know what Tae and I are about.

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I headed over to Olympic Park early to get in line to pick up some merch for friends and found myself in line for 3 hours…alone…surrounded by Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese speakers. It was a multicultural love fest of sharing umbrellas and interacting on Twitter with other shameless BB lovers.

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After the line came some lunch, then waiting, more waiting and then finally, I got in line as we heard the thumping bass sounds of dress rehearsal. We got in and I found my nosebleed seat on the 3rd floor, section 33, #231.

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And then, at 6:34pm, April 25, the BigBang 2015 Comeback began.

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Glorious, dorkery. And then I went back the next day, to suffer through standing, pushing, rib-cracking, fainting women for a chance to see these idiots’ faces.

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Notes:
-standing area tickets are like volunteering to be tribute to die in the arena but there are no hot Hemsworths. I have never been so sweaty for a non-sport event, ever. It was like a sauna that you paid obscene amounts of money for. I saw at least 10 people lifted out of JUST MY SECTION for fainting.

-Their video teasers and filler videos were AMAZING. I was so impressed; the Sergio Leone vibe was strong in music, in the look and style and the Tarantino influence was tangible and awesome. I would just flat-out buy the music from them. So impressed.

-YG Entertainment does not play around with photos/video. I had the girl next to me pulled the first night and they deleted all her photos/videos and let her come back. Another girl on Twitter said she got pulled from standing and was forced to delete everything AND kicked out. That said, I felt for our section’s security guy, who was jumping on the barrier screaming in Korean to put our cameras down. I wanted to pat him on the back like “you tried, bro. There was no stopping us, but we know you tried. Nyah, nyah nyah.”

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-The concert was awash with their hits; opening with “Fantastic Baby” and running through “How Gee,” favorites like “Haru Haru” and “Cafe” as well as the VIP anthem, “Lies.” Each member did a 1-song solo stage (with the exception of Seungri, who had 2 songs/a mashup) and I got to dance along with people who knew every.single.lyric.

-you really can see all of their faces and joy watching fans sing along with them. It really was cool to see them respond and point at people, to throw water on fans and towels and then take their mics away to hear us sing *their* lyrics back to them.

-These idiots are hilarious and put on a huge, big, insane show, and I am so, so glad I went. I know it was a lot of money, but I tried to remember–when am I ever going to do this again?! Thanks to everyone on Twitter (@alyssa_bailey), Snapchat (baileysayswhat) and Insta (@a_bailey) for the love and translations! Until whenever, VIP nerds.

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PS: Taeyang. Stop trying to steal me from TOP, you thankful little shit. King of fan service, indeed.

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Pre-Grieving

I should be home by now. In fact, I’m sure my coworkers are already snug in their Woobang nests. Instead I got off downtown for 2 fake errands…and I can’t really tell you why I did it.

I guess I’m starting to get nostalgic.

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Which…is dumb, because I’m still here, right? I have over a month to go. It’s like I’m pre-grieving someone or something that hasn’t died yet. But I feel it slipping through my fingers. Another week went by, then another, and another and it’s already almost the end of April.

I’m sitting in a cafe I’ve never been in that has open-air windows and I’m on the second floor, overlooking one of the busiest intersections downtown. Couples, kids, couples with kids, college students in letterman’s jackets (although I couldn’t tell you what on earth they lettered in), high school kids in their dark colored uniforms, and the occasional sore thumb foreigner walking by.

The weather is gorgeous, 68 degrees (20 for y’all metric/celsius normals) right now, at 7:44pm. There’s a slight breeze and there’s lights everywhere still. I’m facing another coffee shop (sans open-air windows, BOO), and I see 2 no, FOUR cellphone stores from my vantage point. Is it creepy to people watch this much?

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I think 98% of all the dudes walking by are drop-dead beautiful. I wonder if I will find Korean guys so heart-stoppingly lovely when I’m not surrounded by them 24/7. Sorry, all Korean guys. I’m watching you. You’re gorgeous. Don’t worry about stereotypes. If someone doesn’t want you or doesn’t like “Asians” then they are the idiots, not you. That said, try not to be dicks to women about their weight/looks (not that you all do that). It’s ok if you’re not into a certain type; just say someone’s not your style. Don’t be an asshole and point out exactly what it is. You’re not all Kim Woo Bin either. And if you *are* Kim Woo Bin, just. Message me. I’d like to punch you on the shoulder like a 8-year old boy on the playground and pull your pigtail and shout “I LOVE YOU” and then run away and tweet about our moment forever.

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I’m eavesdropping on all these conversations right now. I understand zero of them. I’m sitting with one headphone in and frantically typing this nonsense, looking busy. I look totally professional, right? RIGHT? I wish I could understand; I pick up words and verbs here and there but I’m like level 1-2. I know, I’ve been here 2 years and my Korean is still shit, despite all the kids being like “TEACHER YOU KOREAN SPEAK WELL” and my frantic “Shhhh don’t let a Korean adult hear that I”m talking Korean to you in class” mode.

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I’m so deep into pre-grieving that I’m looking into grad schools in Seoul despite the fact I’m A) definitely going to Chicago for at least a year to study at Second City Improv and B) I don’t even know what I would *want* to study. I’m all “I would maybe spend thousands of dollars on that major, sure, or maybe that one,” which obviously makes a lot of sense.

I hate this part. The tearing apart part. I put it off for so long that I pretty much just bleed when it happens. There’s no slow tapering off. It is violent and gross and I’m kind of worried how I’m gonna be those first few weeks back. Leaving Arkansas…I mean, it’s been two years and I still miss most of them with all of me. I sent them dorky care packages full of weird makeup samples and even weirder socks, and they returned the favor. Sure, the magic of technology keeps us tenuously connected, but it’s not the same. And I’m going to miss THESE idiots (lovely idiots) fiercely. I’m already planning on spending my weeklong Philippines vacation next month just sitting in an hammock writing thank you/goodbye letters to everyone (and that’s a lot of everyones). Or maybe I’ll just kidnap you all and put you in my suitcases. I’ll poke air holes.

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I know in my sad, sad, banana strawberry smoothie-filled heart that its time to go, though. Today I was walking to class and one of our Korean staff leaders asked me to take part in a group picture that I had no part of. In that, I didn’t know nor was I interacting with this tour group all day, they just wanted a foreigner face in their group shot. And I got so…angry. Just immediately, 1-60mph/96kph anger. We jumped over irritation immediately. In the past, I wouldn’t have minded. And I wasn’t having a bad day; I was doing ok. I was just immediately DONE. It was like “do you not see me walking to class? Do you think I must just be free since you see me?! WHO DISTURBS MY WALKING SLUMBER?!” And of course my customer service self said “sure” but when I walked away after the picture I looked at our Chinese intern and we both made the most irked bitch face at each other about it. And 20 minutes later, our photographer is in my classroom for 5 minutes taking “action shots” as I have a rude posse of 6th-graders ignoring me and I almost asked him to leave (super faux pas) before I yelled in Konglish.

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DGEV has been a good part of my life the last 2 years. I’ve learned a ridiculous amount of slang/Korean and met wonderful people both Korean and foreign, I’ve learned that I can handle just about anyone for 45 minutes and that I’m ok in front of crowds of people I don’t know. I didn’t think it was possible after working retail, but I’m even more comfortable introducing myself to seriously, anyone. Bus, street, doctor’s office, doesn’t matter–there’s always someone in your face asking “where are you from?” since the answer clearly isn’t “here.”

In a glorious way, I’ll probably never be rude to an immigrant again. Not that I think I was…I just now would have more grace with people. Being an immigrant/non-native you guys–it’s like pulling your skin off everyday. You’re putting yourself in an uncomfortable environment BY CHOICE and saying “I will make it work and I will become a better person through this.”

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I’ll never forget in my last 2 weeks at the fruit retailer, a guy came in and asked for “Opis.” I was like, “I’m not sure what that is, can you repeat it?” “Opis, OPIS.” *thinking* “Is it an acronym? I can google it for you” and he’s frantic, loudly saying “OPIS OPIS for computer, OPIS” and I’m like “can you spell it for me I must be doing this wrong” and he then turned and his eyes lit up when he pointed at a yellow box on our shelf that said “Microsoft Office.” A half-second later I realized, having read Roy-Gene’s post about f/p sounds for Korean ESL learners (wherein he found out that his hospital Visa visit “check finished” was definitely not “check penis”) that this guy was Korean and just wanted Microsoft Word and I was just in the way.

I cannot tell you the THOUSANDS of Korean people who have had buckets, mountains of grace with me. I accidentally swear in Korean, I mispronounce, I use the wrong level of honorific (or none at all) and they are unending in grace. They laugh at my bad jokes and over exuberance at K-Pop. They try their best to use English with me and walk me far, far out of their way to help me get where I’m going (even if I just got lost around the corner). They help me buy tickets and text cute boys and box up my groceries so they won’t be squished on the bus. So helpful.

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Maybe I could have gotten away with more time here. Maybe I could just change jobs and stay in Daegu. Or make the big leap to Seoul and do comedy with some of the Stand up Seoul people there–who are equally awesome. Maybe. But right now, I know that DGEV has been a good chapter, but the DGEV chapter just has a few pages left.

I don’t have words for how nervous I am about this Second City chapter. It’s scary and weird and what if I can’t make it in America anymore? I might now be as funny as many of you have said, but I want to try. I want to be a shriveled up, awesome old woman in sequins saying at least I tried it and didn’t wonder “what if”—OH MY GOD I just want to be Betty White, don’t I?! Well, that just clicked. But anyways, improv…I think it’s like Korea. I’m throwing myself somewhere uncomfortable and saying “I choose to make this work for me and I will become a different, better person through it.” Or at least look cool while trying.

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You are not perfect, Korea. Nowhere is. But you have been very, very good to me. You’re trusted me with your children, with your time, with a very lovely sum of money. You write English on your signs for me and smile when you see me like I’m someone famous. You’ve let me eat your food, blog about you and fall in love with your people. Thank you. I mean, I doubt Park Geun Hye would read this, and if she did, that it would mean much, but it’s been very, very good, and I’m grateful.

I’d like to come back sometime. If you and Kim Woo Bin would have me.

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Thingamabobs (you know, I got 20).

In the words of my Korean non-husband (WHO IS HAVING A COMEBACK ANNOUNCED TODAY), “long time no see long time no see.”

Here’s what you missed in the last 4 months on “Glee:”

  • Pizza Hut is the husband I tried to cheat on with McDonald’s, the evil, non-delivering, dicks and yet Pizza Hut lovingly takes me back like Hosea’s wife and delivers me gorgeous, glorious pizza with no trauma or difficulty or Korean. Website here
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  • me trying to teach kids how to say “freckles” and explaining it in Korean only to discover I’ve been saying “줄넘기 (julnumgi aka jump rope) instead of “주근깨 (jugeunggae aka freckles)” FOR MONTHS. MONTHS. “Hey kids, look at all the cute jump ropes ON YOUR FACE.” Not nightmare-inducing at all, I’m sure.
  • getting into an existential crisis about how I’m now Korean 29 years old (read this for why) and I’m like one foot in Ms. Havisham territory despite the fact I TURNED 27 JUST 3 MONTHS AGO. I’ve slid over into the mental block of being 29 and I can’t claw back out.
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  • doing one of those quizzes where you put your music on shuffle and answer questions to only get “This song describes how you will die: Too Much Food-Jason Mraz” and “This song will play at your wedding: Rollin’ Home Alone – Jason Lytle” which is unacceptable and hence I’m never playing again because my iTunes is clearly out to get me and artists named “Jason” are dicks.
  • met a guy from Bellingham who went to Sehome High School on my birthday in Seoul at a random, hole-in-the-wall bar and he kissed me on the cheeks 3x as he told me to smell a fir tree for him when I went home (I did).
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  • I’ve been writing down my dreams and you guys, you should all try this. There are some real gems, such as “at one point I reached up and touched his right bicep as part of the dance. then we took a weird group photo where someone sat on me and i was their legs. ” as well as “i was at first on horseback and we were like, trying to catch a old murder/solve on a and were riding down the hill behind the now food pavilion in lynden. […] then other people came and i fake slit my own throat and laid down in the water and watched what they did.” Just…even weirder things going on in my sleep, guys.
  • I need to throw out a shoutout to O’Fallon Brewery for spotting me a 6pack, and my former co-worker John Mitchell for draggin it over halfway around the world. I told none of my other fiends about this because you best believe I gollum’d those real hard and told NO ONE MY PRECIOUSES WHEACH BEER JUST FOR ME.
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  • Just was gifted some gummy bears from a student and the bag said “made with real fruit juice” and let me tell you that is a nightmare waiting to happen. I used to work on a raspberry harvester and when the season is done and limping out with its’ tail between it’s legs, that’s when you do “juice” barrels (or some farms just do juice only). If you’re lucky, there’s a sorter sitting there throwing out the weirdest stuff (dead birds, worms, plastic bread ties, mold, unsolved CSI mysteries), but usually, there’s not. They are literally pulling blood from whatever turnips (raspberries or whatever else) go across the belt. So the next time you see “made with real fruit juice,” you better start hoping you get one of the *good* superpowers.
  • Saw my first Korean celebrity, “God of Asia” Lee Min Ho, when I went to H&M for a pair of leggings and emerged empty-handed to about 250 people outside the doors looking expectantly towards the black, heavily-tinted bus in the street. I grabbed a passing Korean girl and, gesturing at the bus, asked “누구세요?” (who is it?) and when she replied I shouted “진짜?!” (REALLY?!) in her face like a grown-ass woman clearly in control of her faculties. And let me tell you, it is unfair for him to actually be so good-looking in real life. There is some weird juju going on there. anigif_enhanced-buzz-14966-1389606273-34 vs IMG_0592
  •  Had an impromptu 8.5-year high school reunion when I was home and everyone is married to everyone else’s somebody and half of the people are showing baby pictures and it was great. Beer and people you used to be afraid of sharing bottomless fries with you is just magical. Also, when you see a guy that 16-year old you had a huge crush on and 27-year old you is still like tumblr_lu5jnkcTFs1qd3x44 then you know it’s time to go before you embarrass yourself and his mom (hi Leslie!).
  • I have less than 2 months left in Korea. I know. It’s weird. I’ve decided to go ahead and pursue a year (at least) of Second City improv comedy training in Chicago. Yeah, dreams! I can’t even tell you exactly what I’m going to do with it, but unless I want to be a shriveled up “what if” grandma wondering about it…I’m going to do it now, before the aforementioned fake Korean husband locks this down. Classes start August 17 and before then I’ll wrap up Korea life, travel to 3-4 Asian countries (Japan, Philippines are locked, possibly also Thailand, Cambodia and/or a Vietnam, China) and then be home for a couple of weeks, Tulsa/Little Rock for a week and then the great migration to the Windy City around August 1.

I’ll let my spirit animal, Adele, close us out.

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