Thursday, May 31, 2012

What a Year!

Today marks my anniversary with the Galapagos Islands... one year ago today I found myself hopping aboard a boat and sailing the rocky seas!

I look back on everything I've done in the past 14 months.. and I'm quite amazed!!!  I traveled alone.. although I never really ended up being alone.  And I am without a doubt 100% confident in recommending solo-backpacking to everyone I meet.. given they be careful.  I fell in love with trekking.  I saw amazing things that the world hadn't deemed 'amazing'.. like playing pool with 2 old Colombian men in ponchos in the middle of no where.. I saw things the world deems 'amazing', but what I felt was a mediocre Disney Land ride at best ::cough:: Machu Picchu.  I hosted my first Couch Surfer in Korea, I surfed on my first 'couch'.. floor futon.. in Japan.  I got a CELTA certificate through Cambridge University.  I'm nearly finished with my 1 year stint in Korea.. and I CANNOT wait to get back home to my loving family and friends!!!

Looking back...
I think the treks were my most daring accomplishments... I never would have imagined I would be physically or mentally capable of them, it was never something I imagined myself doing.. but I did it anyways.. trek to The Lost City in Colombia (6 days), Huaraz (4 days) & Colca Canyon (2 days) in Peru..  I would say those experiences helped me grow... A LOT!

I also saw THE Galapagos Islands, and THE Amazon Jungle... two things that I never would have dreamed I would see when I was younger.  You read about them, you think "Oh, someone got there somehow, to take these pictures that are in our text book.. that's lucky."  But I'm just so happy that I figured out how, and then I went out and did it!

I met so many amazing people along the way on my first ever solo-backpacking trip of 4 least 10 of which I still keep at least monthly contact with!  Each person I met taught me something new about the world, people and myself.  My 'best friends' I met in Colombia, Sean and Luca, still have their friendship bracelets on, legit.  Sean is in Sri Lanka with his girlfriend, Luca is finishing up his doctorate degree in England.  My new Colombian friends, Jorge & Andrea opened their doors for us and let me experience their culture first hand.. they now have a baby.. Henry taught me how to Salsa!  The two Aussies (Vanessa & Joss) I met while trekking up to The Lost City and later traveled with for 3 weeks throughout Colombia, and saw once in Ecuador.. they have a baby girl now!  Leigh, who took the CELTA course with me, he is now teaching in Colombia.  The girls, Colo and Mandy, that I met while taking my CELTA.. they're still living the Cumbia life in Montanita.. they know exactly how to make a girl jealous!  And Nicki who I met on my Huaraz trek in Peru, she is about to move to DC to be an elementary school teacher! Lucky me.. we will hopefully be traveling in India together next summer!

Given, my return to Korea was a tough one.. I had only 2 weeks post-backpacking to say "Hi" then "Bye" to my amazing family and friends... and my first semester as a University English instructor was sort of rough!  BUT, my time here got better.  I met some amazing ladies, Chelsea, Rehana & Ali.. and now I have 3 new best friends to add to my list!  It's amazing, when you move to another country.. your friends become your family away from family.  These girls are like sisters to me.. and even though Chelsea left a month ago.. I got to re-visit her in Japan!!

Although this year has been chock full of excitement... I am thankful for everything I have been able to experience, not just what I've seen.  I thank God for every day I have been given.. for my friends and family.. and for smiling faces!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Konglish basically consists of English words, made into Hangul (the Korean language) that sound.. well.. stupid!

Sometimes you add 'uh' to the end of a word.  If you need directions to somewhere like the store E-Mart.. You don't just say 'E-Mart?'.. you say 'E-Martuh?'

Or sometimes you will add an 'ee'.  For example, 'Teacher finishee.'  However, the 'f' is constantly pronounced as a 'p' because the 'f' sound does not exist in the Korean language.
Puguson. (Ferguson.. it is also difficult for them to make the 'er' sound)

When speaking to a Korean who does not know English well, it is almost imperative to add these endings to the end of words.  Or else they simply do not understand.  Seriously, you would think a taxi driver would know 'McDonalds'.. but they will stare at you blankly until you say 'McDonaldsuh'.

Sometimes I have students who maybe don't understand a question until I say it 'Konglish' style... and when they hear the difference between the English question, and the Konglish version... we generally both start laughing.

Some interesting Korean to English direct translations:
wrist = hand neck
fingers = hand extensions
toes = foot extensions
fish = water meat
seal = water dog

Something my students taught me while playing the game Outburst:
Premise of the game, you have a category, and a list of 10 nouns that you want your partner to guess.  The category for one student was 'Things with Holes'... they needed their partner to say the word 'bagel'.. so to describe 'bagel'..
He said:  "When you're walking down the street, and you see a girl with a beautiful baby face, and a gorgeous bo..."
Me: "WOAH, woah woah!  ::strange look:: Um.. you find this in a bakery!  It is round, with a hole in the middle.. really popular in America."
Other student: "Bagel!"
Me: "Yes! Good.  :::looking at the other guy::: What the heck?!? Why are you describing a girl??
Student: "Because, a "bay-gul", is a girl with a baby face ("bay") (of course, the younger you look the more beautiful you are here) and a glamorous body ("gul") (they pronounce it "gulamuh" in Korea).  So 'bay' 'gul'... Bagel!

Mind = Blown!

I find Konglish hilarious sometimes... but when you hear kids say 'teacher pinishee! teacher pinishee!' 15 times a day.. you're pretty happy you have two fingers to plug your ears up every now and then!  Even though I normally just say 'student pinishee! student pinishee!' in a really annoying voice in their face.. and they get my annoyance level!  :)  Come on, I'm a nice teacher.. but it's so true!!

Spring Weather Means Adventure Weather

I'm getting antsy over here kids!  I have less than 3 months of my Korean life to go... so bittersweet!  Although I am SO excited to move back stateside, I KNOW it won't be as easy for me to roam around Virginia as it is for me to roam around Korea!!

So I planned a trip... a.) because I feel like my life has been slightly lame this year.. I adore my friends here.. but it isn't filled with as much as adventurous curiosity as last year!  b.)  girlfriend needs to hear the ocean and get her tan on!  c.) I need to be outside!

10 people graced me with their presence, which was a perfect number, especially for the pension (imagine renting a hotel room with a few rooms/bathroom/small kitchen.. with zero beds)!  We left in two separate groups, those who wanted to hike and those who wanted to skip hiking/go straight to the beach/find us a pension! :)  And they found the perfect one!! It was about $130 total, split between 10 people... SO nice, SO cheap, PERFECT!!!!

Bus to Buan (1.4 hours) - Inner-city Bus to Naesosa (40 min) - Hike to Jikso Pokpo (3 hours) 
The bus rides were long enough for some of us to catch up on recent happenings, some of us to sleep, and some to almost pee our pants because our bus driver thought he was a Korean taxi driver (I get nauseous thinking about it).  When we arrive din Buan, we didn't know where to catch the inner-city bus to the Naesosa temple.. so I went inside of the station.. put my arms up in a questioning fashion and said 'Naesosa bus-uh?'.. batting eyes.. smiling.. head tilted.. and the sweetest ajushi (old man) waited for me to gather my friends and he walked with us for 5 minutes to the bus stop, I LOVE KOREA! Kamsahamnida!!!

We took our time meandering around the temple entrance, eating pajjeon (a Korean savory pancake with lots of onions and veggies), buying things.. enjoying being around trees again.  It definitely wasn't quiet though!  It was about 10:30 AM and the Korean men had most likely gone up the mountain, already come back down, and drinking all the makgeoli (korean wice wine) that they could get their hands on.  HEAPS of men.  It was table after table of ajushis getting down with their bad selves.

Korean hiking culture is hilarious.. they will get SO decked out in super expensive hiking gear (as if they're about to hike Mt. Everest), pack an entire picnic (including a small gas grill) to eat the top of the mountain, enough makgeoli to get toasty at the top of the mountain (I guess it makes coming down easier?!)... and then when they're back down the mountain they eat bibimbap and drink makgeoli until they decide to go home!

Never fails.. every mountain is the same! Big or small!

The hike was beautiful, and we had lots of pit-stops and laughs to enjoy the hike, rather than acting like we were running a marathon.  The Jikso Pokpo (waterfall)... was...erm... not as amazing and majestic as all of the pictures I had seen.  THOSE pictures must have been taken during rainy season.... but it was still gorgeous.

When we reached the end, a lady at the national park center called us a taxi.  There were 6 of us who hiked, and we asked her for 2 taxis.. but the taxi driver was insistent that we only needed one.  So Michael and 3 girls squished in the back, and Julia and I squeezed up front (I bet the taxi driver liked that, I was practically sitting on his shifter!)

Gyeokpo Beach
A 30 minute ride along the majestic misty coast, and we were at Gyeokpo!!! 4 people were waiting for us, so we found them, found our pension and we all separated to eat different things.  One group went to samgyupsal, Rehana, Michael and I ate fresh fish.  However, by the end of it we were slightly wishing we had gotten samgyupsal... the fish... well, of course all 4 of them were whole, heads and all.  And it was Michael's first time using chopsticks on a fish, picking the bones out with chopsticks, and learning to be a rockstar.  BUT, 3 of the smaller fish were FULLY in tact.. when I say fully, I mean intestines, guts and all.  I tried one piece that had a bit of gut on it and nearly died.. it tasted like ammonia.  Apparently, some Koreans LOVE eating that, sort of like a Chinese medicine/stamina thing.  Gag me.

The sunset was lovely and drinking on the beach was more lovely!

Since it was still mid-may, it was quite windy and chilly at night.. so the party headed in early, where the mekju and soju abounded!  The card game Ring of Fire (Kings) began.. this time playing 'the international' version where we played with Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kiwi (New Zealand) rules!!!  Yes, at times it was super confusing.. but so funny.

Our pension was like a cultural extravaganza:  3 Kiwis (NZ), 4 Canuks (Canadians), & 3 Yanks (Americans... even though I aint a Yankee, people from other countries label all Americans as that).

The sole 2 boys in our group wandered off at 11PM, and came back with ARM FULLS of fireworks.  Haa, leave it to the boys.  So we went outside and played with fireworks for a while.  SO great!

The next day was literally spent sleeping/chatting/eating on the beach. LOVE.

Making a friendship bracelet with Rehana :)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Kyoto, Japan - Arigato Gozaimasu

When I told my students on Friday that I was taking a spontaneous trip to Japan the next morning.. they started freaking out about the Japanese not knowing English very well... and they were worried because I didn't know a lick of Japanese.. I wanted to tell them that the Koreans don't speak English very well and I hardly know Korean.  But I refrained from that discussion and simply replied.. of course I know a little bit of Japanese... SUSHI!  Happy?

I now know some Japanese though post-trip, the words are quite fun to say :)
Arigato Gozaimasu - Thank you
Konichiwa - Hello
Sayonara - Goodbye

Success... it took me 2 full days to fully grasp 'arigato gozaimasu'.. sometimes I would just freeze.. wait a few seconds, then say "uh..Thank you" and scurry away!  Such a tongue twister and mind boggler.

Couch Surfing
Chelsea and I's first order of business was finding our COUCH SURFING HOUSE!  Thankfully, two of my friends had JUST visited Japan 2 weeks earlier, they stayed with a couch surfer and highly recommended him... I contacted him, and he had room for us even with such short notice!  It was actually quite amazing, he had a separate small house that he used just for couch surfing.. he travels a lot, and he wasn't using the house.. so now it is exclusively "The Couch Surfing House"... it was wonderful, there were a few French people there, a British guy, and some others... it started off as 5 of us, and ended with 12 by Monday night! We met Soji on the last night, because Chelsea and I kept waking up at 7AM and not returning to the house until 11:30PM each day.. but we finally got to meet him, and he was super nice!!

It took us a while to find the house.. he lived right outside of the city and a 15-20 minute walk from the subway/train... once we figured out how to get there it was quite simple.. however on our first night, we were both tired, it was dark, we had our backpacks on, and the map I was emailed was all in Japanese (as were the street signs! :) )... so it was a bit of an egg hunt!  After asking a few people, we finally found it.. after walking past it 2 times!  

Day 1 - Nara - Deer, Giant Buddha, Nature
Wow is Japan expensive.. I had always heard that.. and the rumors were definitely true!  Of course, it is nothing compared to Europe/America.. for Asia it was quite ridiculous!  

 Chelsea and I woke up at 7AM, and jumped on the train to Nara.  Nara is about an hour & a half outside of Kyoto, it is more countryside than city and quite famous.  I was most excited about Nara because I had seen my friends' pictures of the deer there.  There are heaps of deer that just wander around a park, you can feed them, pet them even, and it's simply their home.  Legend has it that when a the Kasuga Taisha Shrine was founded, a god came to Nara riding a white deer.. and since then, the deer have been respected and protected as divine messengers by the people.  They were obviously very proud of their deer.  There were all sorts of deer souvenirs you could buy it was quite hilarious!

I was like a kid in a candy store as well... living in Korea, you rarely see animals of any form.  They've all died off, I've seen 2 squirrels since last August, I've seen quite a few birds and cranes, no deer, no wild animals that's for sure!  It was like being surrounded by a little piece of home.

The first Japanese person I had a real conversation with was an 80 year old man at the tourist information center in Nara.  HE is the reason I think I really fell in love with the place.  He pulled out a map, circled everything on it and told us why we should go there, he told us which order to go to the places, and he talked to us about where we lived, and where he had been.. he was so good at English, and so kind.. I didn't want to leave!  He had just finished making a crane, so he gave me one.. and he said "Do you have a minute?  I will make another one for your friend!"  Of course I about died, and said "Of course, Of course!" Holy Japanese dreams coming true!  It doesn't get more stereotypical than that!

We mainly wandered around the park area sweating our booties off, walking through temples and shrines, seeing one of the largest Buddhas in Japan and relaxing by the many lakes/ponds in the area.  It was so great... can I go back now??

Before Chels and I got back on the train, our stomachs demanded to be fed!  And we luckily found a DELICIOUS noodle house... O M G, I can still taste the curry noodles and the whatever the other noodle dish we got.  It was awesome.. and there is rarely English on the menus/signs in Japan.. so when we found a restaurant with pictures on their menus.. we could rest easy!  Luckily neither of us are picky eaters.. thank God my taste buds are ready to try ANYTHING now.. definitely WASN'T the case a few years ago! :)

Day 1 - Kyoto - Just a bit
We arrived in Kyoto at about 5PM and headed to Ponto-cho, which is a popular night-out district.  The famous Shijo-dori street is there, which is a historic street that looks extremely traditional, with heaps of expensive restaurants, possible geisha spottings, and it allows you to get lost in another world.

My goal for the night?  Find a geisha.

Chelsea and I first grabbed a beer, and headed down to the riverside where lots of people were gathered having picnics and watching fire shows/musicians/artists... so relaxing, great for people watching (however the people watching in Japan is NOTHING compared to the amazingness of people watching in Korea!!!... the Japanese are MUCH MUCH MUCH more tame).

Then, we visited the most famous market in Kyoto.. it was much 'nicer' than what I expected.. very clean, not too crazy, no shouting.. lots of random food items!


After eating dinner, I told Chelsea... I WILL NOT be a happy camper if I don't see a geisha tonight, because if I don't.. and I don't get to see one tomorrow night, then my chances are OVER.. my life dreams will not come true.  So I looked in her Lonely Planet, and mapped out the 2 popular streets to possibly see a geisha scurrying from one appointment to the next.  They are so mysterious, I still have a lot of research to do on their 'job' but apparently a type of 'hostess'... they are very skilled at singing, poetry, dancing, tradition.. they aren't prostitutes, but I believe sex may be involved with the right clients.. they are more like respected entertainers.. in the 1920's the amount of geishas peaked at 80,000... nowadays there are less than 1,000.. most of which are in Kyoto because Kyoto is the most traditional city in Japan.

After getting close to the supposed popular geisha street, and not being able to find it, I got quite bummed.  We were exhausted, looking for WiFi (which was surprisingly was difficult to find), and I had pretty much given up.  When all of a sudden, I'm blankly staring down the street figuring out my next move, and THERE SHE IS... here comes a geisha... I tried to snap a picture, but they walk soo fast and look straight ahead (on a mission, really) it was difficult.  Chelsea was embarrassed, because I sort of... followed her down the deserted street for about a block (Chelsea standing in the same place we were before)... but it was so interesting, I had so many questions, I just wanted to watch her!  Creepy, and stalkery, and TOURISTY.. I KNOW!  But I got to see one :) .. so we went home for the night! 

Mission... Accomplished!

Day 2 - All Over Kyoto
Another 7AM wake-up, woohoo!  I apologized to Chelsea.. but it's not my fault I only had 2 days in Japan.. blame it on my job :).  Our first stop was Nido Castle.. unfortunately we only looked at it, there was no way that our cheap butts were going to pay $8 just to look around a castle... when I look back at it now, it seems a bit silly.. but you gotta do what you gotta do to stay on a budget!  It looked nice from the outside though.


The fun thing about being well traveled, is that we aren't afraid to try out the bus systems in countries.. even though the subways seem super easy, you see SO much more on a bus.  And honestly, I think the buses were a bit more efficient than the subway system anyways.. hardly any of the lines connected.. Kyoto, shame on you for your horrible transportation system, shame shame!  We hopped on a bus and headed to Kinkakuji.. also known as the Golden Temple.. it was gorgeous!  Kyoto was so nice for that reason, it was very easy to all of a sudden  be totally surrounded by nature.  At the temple, I lit a 'cancer get well' prayer candle for my Aunt, and I felt like a kid again unwrapping a slip of paper with my fortune on it.

Although the fortune wasn't inside of a fortune cookie, it was very interesting.  So there were four fortune MACHINES at this temple.. you put in 100Yen ($1) and a folded up piece of paper pops out.  If your fortune is fair-excellent, you should keep it.  If your fortune is less than fair, then you are 'supposed to dispose of it as suggested'... from what I could figure out.. that meant you either caught it on fire, put it in the proper 'dust bin', tied it to a nail.. etc... that's just my guess from what I saw around me.  Mine was excellent, and quite interesting.

I found the first part of it very interesting. "Beyond a pinetree in the garden in the morning sun, happily is a crane calling out to his mate." ... SO Buddhist.. Hello Japan!

Arishiyama was highly recommended to Chelsea by some of her Japanese friends, and the guidebook highly recommended it as well (I only wanted to go there for the monkeys... and I knew that Chelsea HATES monkeys.. so I secretly acted like we had to go, because it was so popular.. hehe).  

Something I should tell you about Chelsea and I... we enjoy the challenge of saving money.  You won't even believe what we did to save $2!!!  So we had bought an unlimited bus/subway ticket for the day... unfortunately Arishiyama is right outside of the limits for our ticket... and we were told we needed to pay $2 to ride all of the way there.  We asked to see a map, and decided it looked easy enough to walk there.  I took a picture of the map, and off we went.

30 minutes later, we were grumpy, tired and HUNGRY.  Once we finally reached a town area and not finding a single restaurant for a good while, we FINALLY found one.  And it ended up being a ramen restaurant (see food section below).. it was amazing, the service was awesome.  Unlike other restaurants in Japan where you rarely say a word to the waitstaff, these people were hootin' and hollerin' everytime someone came in, they were shouting the food orders at each other, constantly smiling and helping us.. and the English menu they had .. had hilarious grammar.  A+ find... my favorite meal in Japan!  And we never would have found it had we not taken the less traveled path!

A 10 minute walk,and a sweet lady literally taking us to our destination, we found Arishiyama.  There were SO many Japanese tourists, but it was such a lovely area.  I've never seen so many Kimonos in one area in my life.. we were in Japan during a Japanese holiday, that was our only guess as to the reason everyone seemed like they were leaving a party, with a few of their friends wearing kimonos.  HOW JAPANESE?!

We wandered along the river, tried to stop by some temples and a bamboo forest (there are monkeys rumored to be living in the bamboo forest).. they all were charging $5-8 to get in.. we found it so ridiculous, I guess we were spoiled by Korea.. but I found it 'let's take their money any way possible' kind of rude.  I admitted to Chelsea that I REALLY REALLY REALLLLLLY NEEDED to see some monkeys, so we headed to the monkey park across the river... it was $6 to get in, but fully worth it.

We got to do a bit of hiking, saw an amazing view of Kyoto from the top, HEAPS of Japanese SNOW monkeys (sans snow)... it was all amazing.  Even Chelsea agreed it was worth the money, mainly because of the view.  The monkeys are free to roam all over the big mountain.. but we saw most of them at the feeding center.  At the top of the mountain, you enter a human cage/house basically.. and the monkeys climb all over it from the outside and you can feed them... my, how the tables have turned! mwahahaaaa.  

Unfortunately none of the monkeys went down the slide at the playground.. you can see my friend Dana's picture below of a monkey going down the slide after she had gone down the slide... taking the phrase 'Monkey see. Monkey do.' to a different level!

After Arishiyama, we went back to Kyoto Station to map out how to get to a cheap sushi restaurant that was listed in the guidebook (see the food section, for an amazing sushi story).  After sushi, we wandered around Ponto-cho some more, it was a bit rainy unfortunately but totally doable.  LUCKILY, saw another geisha... woohoo!  And we retired slightly earlier because I had to wake up at 5:30Am to get on the train to head to the airport!  KYOTO I LOVE YOU!!!

Japan is famous for its noodles.  They are 90% of the time homemade.. obviously with the price.  We paid $9 for homemade Ramen.. and it was SO worth it!!  Salivation!  My goodness, they put really thin meat (like you would eat in Shabu Shabu) in it, lots of flavor, it's not very spicy, and the noodles weren't wavy like the instant kind.  I am now a believer in Japanese ramen!  T-totally worth the price!

The okanomiyaki that I tried was not as delicious as I had imagined... however, I think it was just the place I tried it at.  Although the food wasn't delicious, the restaurant sure was interesting... it was filled with random lady mannequins... as in most tables had a mannequin sitting at the table, awkward if you ask me, but quite entertaining to take pictures of.

SUSHI!  Amazing story.. so we were standing in the Kyoto Station looking at a map.. I don't think we looked confused or anything.. but 3 guys came up to us and asked if we needed help.  We told them that we thought we were okay, but thank you.  However, they insisted.. "What are you looking for?".. a cheap sushi restaurant we said, and we showed them the name and area.  They said hang on, and started looking it up in their phones to figure out the best way to get there (we had been to the same area last night, so we knew how to get there..) and they insisted we take the bus.. and they would go with us.  .. if you've ever been to Asia, you know that this isn't a creeper situation normally, they like to go out of their way to make sure you get to where you want to, and in some cases it involves them TAKING you there .. so we follow like puppies.  Their English was pretty good, turns out that they are soldiers (volunteer) and are purely studying English right now at their job.  So what great practice, aye??
After being on the bus for 15 minutes, we had to walk in the rain for 20 minutes (I THINK Chels and I could have gotten there faster AND drier, haha).. they 'found' the restaurant but it was under construction.  So they suggested a different restaurant they knew that was a few blocks away, however, it was more expensive.  We said totally cool, because we only planned on trying SOME sushi, not intending to make it a meal because 1.) It's super expensive 2.) Chelsea doesn't like seafood 3.) We wanted to save room for a new type of food 4.) It's freaking raw fish!!!
Chelsea and I ordered one soybean one and one tuna one (tuna is a mild fish, so she likes it) and we were going to share it.. both cheap, both small.
What happened next, was 12 plates of sushi on our table... only 2 ours.. and the rest ones that the boys had ordered even though ALL of them said they weren't very hungry.
The sweet guys, just wanted us to try them.. by us, I mean me.. because Chelsea doesn't like seafood.. I guess they couldn't quite wrap their heads around that one.  Some were quite scary looking, and I didn't want to try them.. but guess what.. ya can't refuse, especially when the cost had to have been out of this world.. I act like it was a problem, but it was so delicious.. although nerve wracking at times!
And the nice thing, is we paid our part.. they paid for what they ordered.. and there was no awkward goodbye or can we hang out with you, they needed to get back to the base for curfew.. and 2 of them had wives.. no awkward 'we want something ::wink:: in return'.. hallelujah .

Random things I loved about Japan
-the men in the crosswalk signs were all wearing hats
-eating sushi with 3 soldiers
-delicious ramen.. even if it was $9.. and in America it would have been 0.30
-seeing magazines (may sound random.. but I NEVER see magazines in Korea.. not in supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores.. for some reason, I guess I am homesick for seeing magazines!)
-not having to be afraid of bakeries (Koreans are not able to make a proper pastry!)
-not being afraid that everything is filled with red beans
-the subway arrival chime.. SO asian
-eco-friendly toilets (there is a little sink on top of the tank.. when you flush the toilet the sink automatically turns on, you wash your hands and the used water then fills up the tank!! genius!)
-alcohol vending machines

-not a mini-Korea whatsoever

-taxi cabs with automated doors (literally, the driver presses a button, the door magically opens, you get in, he presses a button, the door magically closes!!!!)
-Timberland shoes (on guys and girls.. non-thugs.. non-rednecks ) for fashion
-the popularity of girls wearing knee socks
-Animation (cartoon) porn magazines.. sounds crazy.. but in every convenience store,  correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm not so sure that westerners would be into this?!  Korean guys wouldn't even be into this!! SO bizarre!!
-less crazy lights and traffic like than I had imagined (so stereotypical.. not everywhere is like Tokyo! Kyoto is famous for strict codes to preserve its heritage)
-less English
-SO polite & quiet
-sake in a juice box

Main Differences from Korea
-more diversity
-less giggly girls
-clothing style
-less man bags, longer hair, more facial hair, more testosterone!
-rarely saw a smart phone, and people were not annoyingly glued to their phones 24/7
-more boobs
-Buddhism - they practice Shinto Buddhism (many gods)
-less 'fashion' glasses
-less noise
-they drive on the opposite side of the road
-rarely hearing music coming from a store (when you walk down a street in Korea, you hear about 7 different songs within one block)
-CLEANER, absolutely no littering (even though they still didn't have trash cans in public)
-no drunks blacked-out and sleeping on the sidewalk, no puke from a crazy night on the sidewalk
-no pushing.. or touching.. they paid much more attention to personal space
-less hideous huge apartment building clusters
-much calmer than Koreans, less craziness, less shouting

Things I Disliked
-less bad English written everywhere (it's quite entertaining to read signs in Korea)
-paying for EVERY little thing
-transportation system

Spontaneity at it's Japanese-ist

So, here I am on a Thursday night... lying down in my bed, chatting with Chelsea on Facebook chat.  Chelsea left me in Jeonju.. given she didn't leave me all alone, I still had Rehana and Ali.. but one of my BEST friends here finished her contract and was headed off to a brighter world!  So she was traveling in Japan at the time and she was telling me about how amazing it was.. of course a 'you should really come here... you should come now!' joke got brought up.  And I must admit, it got my brain a tickin'!

I told her to hang on a minute, I just might be able to!

The following week was a level testing week.. where I only had to be in the office all day on Wednesday, and one kids class a day other than that.  I figured if I could find someone to cover my Mon/Tues class, I could find a cheap ticket, and I didn't need a Japanese VISA.. then I would be set to go!

Guess what happened?! Everything fell into place within 30 minutes!  Ali said she would teach my two classes, I didn't need a VISA, and I found a round-trip ticket for $280.  "Hey Chelsea.. guess what?! See you in Kyoto sucka'!"  It turns out that it was PERFECT timing in her travels, she was only going to be in Japan for 2 weeks, so she had her cities planned out already, she would be arriving in Kyoto the same day I was.. woohoo! And even better for me, she pretty much already knew what she wanted to see in Kyoto.. which meant I didn't need to plan a thing. Easy-peasy!

Unfortunately, there was an awesome concert on Friday night.. that I had promised a concert I would go to with... bad idea!  I got home at 4AM.. got on the bus at 8:30AM and my flight left at 1PM.. let's just say I got quite motion sick on the plane for the first time in my life!  Not pretty.  And I thought I had learned a lesson from my Cambodia trip?! Negative.

At 3:30PM I ARRIVED at the Osaka Airport!!! Chelsea was supposed to meet me there.. and she did, just an hour-ish late.. slightly freaked me out, because I didn't want to waste my precious time in the airport, yet I knew it would be SO difficult to meet up anywhere else in Kyoto!  So she finally arrived, because she had missed her train... we reunited after being separated for an entire week.. and it felt SO great.. we had always said we needed to be travel buddies in a different country together, and we got to be!!!! :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

OoO! That Purse Brings out the Color in Your Eyes


Ever wonder why you have yet to see a picture of me with my Korean boyfriend??

That's because, he doesn't exist!

Would you like to know why?

This picture speaks louder than words.

Living in Korea, it is quite normal for me to see men with 'murses' (male purses).. however this guy's murse absolutely takes the cake.  Not only is it a gigantic murse, he is also wearing black skinny jeans, and a black shirt trimmed with leapord print.  I'm sure the Korean ladies were swooning. I found myself just staring.

Now ladies... don't you all be booking your flights to Korea too quickly.

I'm not hating on a guy needing to carry something larger than a wallet... it's just... I MISS MASCULINITY.  There, I said it.  I do, I miss guys not looking in a mirror 24/7 or using their iPhone for 2 minutes just blatantly staring at themselves through their camera.  Turn. Off.

Grow a pair boys.  Mama's getting bored!  Can I come home yet?

(p.s. I just passed 3 guys walking down the sidewalk holding hands on campus... let's not make this blog longer than it has to get the point I believe)