December 28, 2010

under pressure...

At 11.30pm I sprung awake, my eyes were wide. It was like I struck up an AMAZING idea. so I shall describe my look as Newtonesque, because I imagine he was kind of shocked when he got hit in the head. anywho. Staring into my bleak apartment I felt relief for the first time in hours. the pressure in my ear was releasing. I was praising my decongestant and the capful of phantom medicine (that later turned out to be a health drink) I had taken. Although how many of us can say that we have had one of those 'aha' moments? I'm fairly sure comparing my moment to Newton's cheapens one of the greatest 'aha' moments of all time. Besides my moment was not really an 'aha' moment. It was more of an 'ohhhh yeah' moment.

The build up was completely backwards, instead of silence before the storm (or silence before being smacked in the noodle with a russet (type of apple) ), it was like being hit with an exponentially growing number of russets, and then being whacked by a single granny smith, then encountering silence. The discomfort in my ear was continuously getting worse. My ear was fine when I started work on Christmas eve, only 9 hours previous. I was even fine heading into my first blocks of classes. It was my 6.40 class where things started to go badly. My hearing became extremely sensitive, my ear was throbbing in tune with my heartbeat. Any loud noises, either from the classroom, or any noise from me would exacerbate the pain. I spent most of the class hunched over my desk with my kids worried about me. I received one Christmas card advising me to get healthy over the Christmas break.

I didn't fare much better my next class. I knew at this point that there was something really wrong. Yet I stuck through it, I don't really know why. I'm not trying to milk people for sympathy, or come off as some sort of beaten down ESL hero. I simply didn't want to have to ask my bosses to go home early, because I didn't want to go through the hassle of getting a doctor's note on Christmas eve (you know they would have asked for one).

The agonizing thought of having to teach another class was relieved when students didn't show up. I was thankful because I'd lost the ability to properly function. I ended up sitting in the classroom with a toque and hoodie over my head staring at the floor. It was the quietest, most peaceful place I could be in the school. I didn't want to be a scrooge towards my coworkers, but being around cheerful holiday banter was quite literally painful.

That pretty much brings me right back around to where I started, 11:30pm. At first I was quite lost in the pleasure of the moment, the hours of agony were over. I mistakenly thought the decongestant had worked and loosened my ear valve thingy, I was wrong. During my eargasm there was a clear ooze flowing out of my ear, down my neck.

The feeling was amazing, it was euphoric, peaceful. It was gratification at an unexpected moment. What I did not know is that this was not the kind of gratification I was seeking. Instead of my the pressure being released internally, I blew a casket.

I woke up expecting to feel great after my eargasm. I didn't work out that way. I awoke the next morning with waxy goo covering my pillow, neck and t-Shirt. The liquid was clear, my ear was ringing , and I couldn't really hear much on my left side. I had dun gone and busted my ear drum.

December 16, 2010

a year in pictures (pt.II)

This is the second part of my year of photos. I published some of these on my blog, yet some haven't seen the light of day. I hope they help make up for the lack of photos. 

July: Loveland was a great, and full of family friendly statues (Right). There was barely any room for more side dishes on the table. Susan seems to agree (Left). Read about my adventures in Jeju.

 July: A tugboat pulling some evasive manouvers (Above). In a more serene setting, a lava stone statue chills by a stream (Right).

 September: I met a girl, Corwin (Above). I believe this is the only photo of the two of us. A better photo of Corwin, mostly because I'm not in it to ruin it (Below). I love the chinese writing in the background. This fisherman seemed single as he waited for the fish to bite (Right). I loved the giant jax type water breaks they use in Korea.

 September: Dinner of champions, or birthdays, in Sokcho. Well this is what is left of one(Above). The markets in Korea offer food straight off the ground, bag or bowl (Both pictures below). My return to Sokcho.

October: The Hi Seoul Festival had one of the most impressive fireworks displays I've ever seen, despite the rain (above). 

November: In front of a temple in Suwon, a Korean skips down a tightrope (Right). He would later incorperate a pelvic thrust into his routine. I was hiding inside a bin used to store rice in previous centuries (Below). The story behind the box: A member of the royal family was stored in a box as a form of torture.

October: One of my favourite students left, I was really sad when I found out. This is the only picture I have, his name is Matt. 
December: FC Seoul won the K-League Championship. I went to the last 7 games, I've started to really like soccer. I love already confetti, and what a great way to end this segment, yay confetti!!

a year in pictures (pt.I)

I've gone through and selected several photos that span my first year in Korea. I kind of feel bad because I haven't added and to FB.

February: Shortly after I arrived Canada won gold. The game started at 5am in Seoul, Gillian and I stayed up all night and shortly after 8am Canada won. This photo was taken shortly after they won Gold.  Read my post about the Gold Medal Game.

April:  Yeonshinae is a place full of lights, cafe's, restaurants and litter (Above). It is a place I've learned to love since arriving. 

These trees @ Namsan Tower in central Seoul are covered with cherry blossoms (Right). Koreans flock to see, and photograph these trees. It looked similar to mornings after icefog, except it's warm out, and there are bees everywhere.

May: Biking in Yeouido (Above right), and Baseball @ Jamsil stadium (Above). May had the best weather by far. I really wished that weather had lasted longer.

For Buddha's Birthday a group of us ventured down to Sokcho. Corwin was shaking off the sand (Right), and I was shooting fireworks from the hip (Below). Read my Buddha's Birthday blog.


May: One of my first adventures into the world of coffee (Above). I admire the handywork, and perhaps this was the start of a small love affair. 
June: The police guarding a train station after Korea beat Greece 2-1

June: Korea went crazy during the World Cup. Several thousand spectators would show up to watch the games @ City Hall Plaza. The screens were huge, the fans were loud, and sitting. Read my blog series about the World Cup.

June: I'd never seen a proper horse race until I went to Seoul Racehorse park (pictured above). I planned a day around horse races and perogies. When we arrived @ Happidus in Anyang, they were sold out. read about potato mandu.

July: I was supposed to get perogies one afternoon when I was playing beach volleyball. Instead I ended up in hospital, and my doctor snapped this shot of me (Above) moments after my knee was put in place. Read about the hospital.

I finally got perogies two weeks later, and honestly they were amazing (Left). I wouldn't say worth it, because I'd trade the ability to run over food anyday.

December 15, 2010

sitting, waiting, wishing, drinking...

Toy Kittie Death @ Coffee House
Believe it or not, I've never been a huge coffee drinker, I have an aversion to hot drinks. For some reason I am like a 5 year old child, and I sizzle my tastebuds on hot liquids. This includes all hot liquids, not just coffee,  hot chocolate and soup are also guilty. Until a couple of years ago I put ice cubes in my soup and hot chocolate. I couldn't trust myself enough to wait for it to cool down on its own.

Since I've arrived in Korea, things have changed. It is like I have finally matured (I'm sure that is debatable to some) and I can enjoy warm to hot liquids. It didn't take long after that for a formal introduction to coffee. Especially when Corwin is a caffine junkie, and former Starbucks employee. She has taught me the ins, outs and in betweens ofcoffee. I have tried to be a good pupil, and learn quickly, although I'm nowhere near the critic she is. Instead I'm a willing participant in her coffee adventures around Korea.
Cafe Mocha @ Coffee House

Coffee has become a very trendy thing to drink in this country, and there are many great coffee shops in Seoul.  But, I don't think coffee has been around long enough in Korea to serve as fuel for the masses. The zombies that walk around at the trapse of dawn can't find a cup of coffee in this country, they have to wait many many hours. Coffee shops here seem to open around 9 or 10 (sometimes later, whenever the owner shows up) and stay open well past midnight.

This trend has worked its way into Yeonshinae, a local  neighborhood. I can't begin to count how many have opened since I arrived last february, and more seem to be sprouting up. Corwin and I have found one in particular that suits our fancy, Coffee House. I'm happy because they serve mocha's and Corwin is in love with their foam. This cup of boiling water heaven was also included by association to a recent article in 10 Magazine (an expat magazine in Korea) in their article about the 10 best cups of coffee in Seoul (read the article here). Coffee House's main branch in Anguk is hailed as the second best cup of Jo in Seoul.
Caramel Machiato @ Coffee House

The Yeonshinae version of this cafe is trendy, and often quite busy. I have spent more than a few afternoons injesting their brew, and abusing the free wifi. The staff is pretty awesome, and never appear to go home. One of the girls running the place took the 18 month barista course offered by Gwang-su Jeon (if that doesn't make sense to you, that is because you didn't read the link, haha). If I had a complaint about the place I would say that they have overused (the) Jack Johnson. I have been there often enough to recieve free cups of coffee, and JJ has been played everytime. I think for Christmas Corwin and I are going to burn them a new CD of equally trendy coffee shop music.

December 10, 2010

the west is the best ? ? ?

I've taken a look back at some of the entries that have chronicled my time here in Seoul, and I'm kind of shocked that I haven't included more about food. I mean I have written some posts, but interestingly enough, I've only been posting about 'western' food, most of which y'all can enjoy on a regular basis. My blog has a glaring omission of Korean cuisine. I will try to amend that situation. I swear I will, I love Korean food. Yet because I eat Korean food everyday, I find myself more giddy and excited about edible reminders of the west.

For example, the other weekend I found an amazing Mexican restaurant.  Not only was the food fantastic (and cheap), the place had actual Mexicans cooking, and serving the food.  The sight of this threw me back a little, seriously! Anyone from Calgary might also be confused what a real Mexican looks like for two reasons: #1. Calgary doesn't have a huge Mexican population, and #2. Most 'Mexican' restaurants seem to be run by the Japanese (ie. Taco Time). These Mexicans in Korea fed me my first ever corn tortilla (pictured). A Mexican food first in Korea! what are the odds of that?I would like to say that I also enjoyed some Mexican beer while I was there, but I'd be lying.
The Mexican joint is located right beside... (drum roll) BIG ROCK!!!!

That's right, the microbrew turned regional brewery in Calgary is available in Seoul. The bar looks familiar to the brewery in Calgary (If you have ever been). I have no idea if the place is actually run by Big Rock or just licensed out to some expat.I've read that the beer is not actually brewed here, it is imported. This means quite literally that I can get Calgarian beer in Seoul, YAY! I've been told the food isn't the greatest, but what does it matter when there is an authentic Mexican joint next door. Big Rock's entire liquid menu is present, from the new Jackrabbit and Big Rock Lime, to the classic Traditional and Warthog Ale (pictured). The food was great, the beer stirred memories, a perfect afternoon.

P.S. I swear that I will start writing more about Korean food instead of western food.

December 09, 2010

오징어 vs 피라니아

I'm a pretty lanky fellow, so I often find that I have nowhere to put my arms or legs. It's time for a moment of pretty sincere honesty. Most of the time I don't know what the fuck to do with them. It's probably not a very shocking revelation, but hey whatever. One of my classes has taken to calling me 'ojinga teacher' (ojinga means squid in Korean, 오징어 is ojinga). They like to dance around the class exaggerating my arm motions.

I went zip lining for the first time a couple of weeks ago and if you would like to find an activity to highlight limb control, zip lining is it. There is something about hurling down a 100m track suspended by the waist, that highlights your abilities. My (not so) graceful moments were recorded on film as I dangled lifelessly, flailed like a ragdoll, and sailed like a human torpedo through the trees. My arms and legs were simply passengers along for the ride. My friends laughed, and snapped (photos).

In sharp contrast, Koreans seem to know exactly what to do with theirs. I checked out an International Food convention the other weekend, and some Koreans were snapping up giveaways and freebies with surgical precision. I could say that I was shocked but I'd be lying (I've lived here for 9 months now, I was shocked for the first 8, I've given up sampling most things).

Yet, I have to stand somewhat in defence (and admiration) of some of the actions at the convention. This convention was handing out free booze, and a lot of it. You could easily get hammered if you sampled only half the booze being dished out. Most people tend to get a little grabby when they are tipsy as well. I don't know if I'm excusing the actions, or simply explaining them. I don't know if being grabby is ever fully excusable.

Anywho, I think I'm writing this more out of jealousy. From my inability to know what to do with my limbs comes the fact that Koreans know exactly what they would like to do with theirs (even drunk). I swear some of these Koreans would be able to grab a grain of rice flying through the air, with a pair of chopsticks. I'm speaking of some serious precision here.

Free samples would disappear with lightning speed. I came across a booth selling French chocolate truffles. These delicate truffles would barely hit the bottom of the dish before they were gone. The two Frenchmen working the booth were visibly disgusted as they gawked at the Koreans (I found it a little funny to watch their expressions) The same thing occurred with pajong (what am I? click and learn!). I'm surprised the chefs had it cut up before it vanished. I had to go back to the booth 4 times in before I managed to sneak some Korean pancake action.

Even a chaotic line up for free samples in NA is tame compared to Korea. I'd compare a Korean line to a piranha (피라니아 ) feeding frenzy. It's totally different, and something to truly behold. I'm jealous not because of the frenzy, but the precision. You can't strip an animal to the bone with random bites. It takes accuracy, and the ability to know your weapons. Judging by my zip lining pictures, and current nickname at school this isn't talent I possess.