the first weekend…

bummed and frustrated…ATM machine ate my card…

20 minutes later…and this bank guy saves the day, and I’m no longer poooor! And have the deposit for my new apartment!

The first weekend in Seoul has been interesting. First of all I’ve had no money! I brought over some American cash but I was waiting to get to a bank to change it to Korean Won…little did I know that the banks would be closed all weekend. And my BofA Visa lacks the international debit/credit symbols (PLUS, Cirrus). However, the Visa still works at restaurants, etc, but when it comes to having money, cash is pretty much king around here. Luckily, my friends have really been helping me out with this. AND I realized after a lot of stress that I had another checking account through ING that DOES have international access…and I was stoked. So we went into Myeongdong today to do a bit of a shop and to try out this ING card at a Korean bank called KB. Of course, the ATM eats my card. I just tried my hardest to remain calm while my friends helped me out and a bank security guy was called to get the card out of the machine. Turns out I pressed the wrong button on the machine. So, when I got my card back (which was a moment of pure happiness, let me tell you)…I had the guard stay with us while I did the transaction correctly. Whew, cash!!

Yesterday we spent the entire day apartment shopping. I chose to take the school’s housing allowance instead of taking their housing so that I would be able to live in Haebangchon–closer to my friends and a popular area for foreigners. Plus, I was sooooo excited to do this because I’ve never been able to choose my own place EVER! Grayce and Ryne took me to see all the realtors they have worked with…and quickly this process just became overwhelming and seriously had me questioning this whole Korea thing. Seriously, these realtors were showing me the tiniest, darkest, oldest, and even smelly places, some high up on hills. I had visions of me starving in my room during the winter because it was too far from the center of the town and high up the hills. There was even one apartment where I stepped 2 feet inside and turned around and said “no”. Seriously, I was about to just give up and call the school to tell them I needed help when I remembered a realtor named Mandy that I’d spoken to while I was still in the States. I gave her a call and she had something in my price range…so 10 minutes later we met up with her.
This apartment is a dream! It is actually so brand new that I can’t even move in for another week (so I get to stay on Ryne and Grayce’s couch one more week, yay!). It’s technically an “office-tel” with a bed that is in a loft area…it’s only about the size of my bedroom at home, but hey, things are small here. Utilities are pretty low, there is a rooftop for summer tanning, a window facing east (easier to wake up in the AM, good light!). The 3 other apartments surrounding it are also being built, so I told Mandy to find me a cute boy to move in next door…. 🙂
Pictures to come…
Other highlights from this weekend…
*Going out in Itaewon…drinking soju on the street…
*Tenjan Chigae…my new favorite soup full of veggies and tofu and seafood and spicy!
*shopping in Myeongdong

I’m hereeeee!

After a 12 hour flight, me and my 2 giant blue steamer trunks (plus 2 carry-on’s) arrived yesterday around dinnertime!

The flight wasn’t too bad…Korean Air has a personal entertainment center on each seat so I basically watched 12 hours of movies, documentaries, and TV shows! Didn’t sleep a wink. And the flight attendants are beautiful young Asian women who wear these futuristic outfits and you can tell they earn their paycheck onboard that plane–they were at the cabin’s beck and call for 12 hours straight. The food on the plane was…interesting. Lunch was actually decent. Bimbimbap. Dinner was a bland fish with some mayonaissey yogurt on the side.

Took an hour long bus ride to meet up with friends…and just looking out the window I realized that I could have left everything at home and bought it here! Yup, one outfit would have been just fine. Which I probably knew beforehand, but just couldn’t part with my stuff. Something to work on, I guess. There are cute little shops lining the streets and I can’t wait to go take a look! Well, lesson learned.
When I arrived at the bus stop, I had to somehow get across the street with all my stuff. Luckily, two Canadian teachers picked up on my confusion at how to solve this debacle and were kind enough to help me across the street. TRAVEL LIGHT!!!
I should have been exhausted but I was full of energy once I met up with my friends, Grayce and Ryne. I’m staying with them (thank you guys!) in Haebangchon until I find my own apartment, which will probably be in the coming few days. So, they asked what I felt like doing. Of course, I was STARVED, and I’d watched every foodie documentary available on the flight, so I was dying for some real-deal kimchi and Korean bbq, and very ready for a drink of soju. So, they took me to this amazing little place and we had a feast!
I think I’m going to really like it here…
Time to go get ready for my first day of work!

Packing…

I’m sitting on my knees on the floor, staring at two enormous blue suitcases. I’m simply staring, frozen, at the two suitcases that will contain my life. My life in possessions that surely weigh more than me.

How am I supposed to pack up my entire life for a year into two suitcases? Did I mention there is a 50 pound weight limit per case?! One already has too much in it (read: stuffed with clothing), the other is starting to become full of essentials like vitamins, a year’s supply of deodorant and toothpaste, sheets, large (American-sized) towels, and my daily necessity that I heard is hard to come by: a little spice called Cinnamon (I even put this stuff on my eggs).

If you’re wondering, in 5 days, I’m leaving my Southern California beach life for Asia. I’m off to teach kindergarten English for one year in Seoul, South Korea. The opportunity kept coming up through a friend for about a year before I jumped in. Korea appealed to me because not only is it near top vacation spots such as Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, and more (plus Korea has it’s own vacay spots like Busan!), but also the school’s compensation package allows teachers to save some money (I want to travel and teach in Latin America after this, and it would be nice to not have to worry about finances while doing some good down there…) while being able to travel and live a comfortable lifestyle. Also, having some friends already living in Korea is a big plus!
I’d traveled Europe when I was 19 and LOVED it…a summer study abroad program in England. I’ve never felt so alive. I’ve always had quite the independent spirit, and during that trip, I found out I’m a pretty adventuresome traveler. I always lost the group and found my own adventure during that summer, sometimes bringing some fellow study abroaders with me, and always making newfound friends along the way. The Euro trip culminated with a 3 day solo trip to the island of Ibiza, Spain. Looking back…kind of a bold move for a 19 year old girl, but I had the time of my life.
On January 1 of 2010, I found myself rummaging through our storage unit, and I stumbled on my travel journal from that magical summer. The journal was full of excited, alive writing, and little things like seashells and sugar packets and plane and subway tickets from all over Europe. I was in a pretty good position at my job, with some amazing coworkers surrounding me, but I was trudging through the mud everyday. An adventure was desperately needed. So, I took this as a sign. New year, new life. A week later, I put in my 2 weeks at my job, trusting that this new plan would unfold perfectly. And 2 weeks later I’d secured the job in Korea. Pretty cool.
Now it’s almost time to leave. And this whole packing thing has really jolted me to the core. When did I become so tied to my material possessions? What’s with the anxiety surrounding packing, and leaving my “stuff” behind? Logically, I know a person does not need much stuff. I know to only bring the things I absolutely adore. But going through my clothes (oh, and being an avid thrift store junkie, oh there are a lot of clothes), I’m coming up with outfits that I haven’t even worn here in the U.S., and thinking, “well, I could layer this with that…”, and “that shirt would be good to teach in”. Then my logical side comes in and says Elisa, you haven’t worn this outfit all year…what makes you think you’re going to start now?
 
This mind-boggling packing dilemma has me asking questions of my friends already in Korea. One says to bring only the essentials, because people tend to accumulate during their stay. Makes sense. So, in theory, this is what one should pack for Korea.
Whew. So much for packing light…better get down to it! Till next time…