Friday, August 28, 2009

Episode 2: In Which DFM Discovers A Plot To Unleash Giant Destructive Guinea Pigs In Korea, And Has A Mishap With A Hot Glue Gun

My first full day in Korea was a very long day. For the most part this can probably be contributed to the fact that my body had not yet adjusted to the time difference and I woke up at 3:30 AM.

When I arose it occurred to me that I had not yet procured food stuffs for breakfast, and while the bars and clubs seem to stay open all night in Korea, the "food marts" keep fairly "normal" hours.

Around 9:30 AM (local time, obviously) I decided to explore my surroundings and find a food mart. I was amazed at the variety of stores in my neighbourhood. When I lived in Itaewon I could find an overpriced, "over sized" store for giant tourists without a problem, and I could also have a tailor made suit constructed, but other than that and drinking there were very few stores. Here, though, it seemed like I could find anything and everything. I even found a pastry shop that wasn't called Paris Baguette! Most importantly I found a reasonably priced small food mart, and a couple of local food vendors that sold fresh fruit - including the juiciest nectarines I've ever tasted - for a much lower price than in Itaewon. Apparently the harvest season is upon us (er... me) though, so that could have something to do with it.

After some breakfast, Lee and I went to Itaewon to get my "hand pone" (mobile phone) set up. While the Immigration board was being contacted to make sure I existed, Lee and I went to his office close to the Han River. Lee went to lunch with his boss, so I called up Hyeun-A (who shrieked with excitement) to tell her I wanted to have lunch with her (Hyeun-A works with Lee at the same office and used to teach me Korean during my last visit to Korea).

Hyeun-A surprised me when she said she wanted to go to the nearby taco restaurant. I wasn't thinking straight yet though, and thought I would be getting an American style taco, but I forgot that this is Korea and so my burrito contained rice, coleslaw, and some sort of ranch dressing, along with extra spicy pork. It was still delicious though, and since I wasn't sure when I'd be able to eat supper I made sure to stuff myself full.

After lunch it was time to do what I had been waiting two and a half months to do, ever since deciding that I would return to Korea - surprise Ji-Hyeun and Choi at Ace Climbing Centre. When I arrived, I opened the door and proudly proclaimed "hello!" (in Korean). Ji-hyeun and Choi both had their jaws hit the floor, and they stammered a bit before being able to say something along the lines of "how can you be here now?" Later I asked Ji-hyeun about what she thought when she saw me and she said, "I thought, 'I can't believe my eyes.'"

At 3:30 PM I had to leave for a meeting with my boss. The last time I was here this used to involve going to his "headquarters" in downtown Seoul. However, it now required traveling over an hour and a half to another city to reach my "local office." My hour and a half trip this time turned into a two and a half hour trip though, because I accidentally got on the wrong train and didn't notice until I was heading out of Seoul in the wrong direction. Eventually I was able to get to the proper station but then I almost missed my connection because I got caught up watching a Peruvian pan flute band (I hope the giant guinea pigs decide to wait until I leave Korea before they come to destroy it).

I should mention the bus ride from the subway station to the local office, for it was a most incredible experience. On narrow mountain roads with no shoulder whatsoever, this bus raced around blind corners, sometimes even cutting them. At other times, the outside section of our lane was narrowed even further by rock slides, but still the driver did not slow down and neither did the cars from the other side, and what would have been considered a one lane road in Canada was transformed into a Korean freeway. All this happened while destroying the buses suspension and the passengers' skeletons on the copious speed jumps bumps (jumps?).

The meeting went longer than expected, but was mostly uneventful except for when I burned my finger using the hot glue gun (don't tell my mother or she won't let me use a glue gun again either as well as the knives she is already terrified of seeing in my hands). Also, on the way home I could have sworn I saw the Korean David Suzuki (either that or it was just a Japanese tourist), but that isn't really important.

Finally I made it home at 10:00 PM, absolutely exhausted and incredibly hungry since I hadn't eaten since noon. Tomorrow I start my first day of teaching at a new school though so I'm fairly excited about that (I work at two schools). Since no one knows how many lessons in this unit the children have covered I cannot adequately prepare. This makes me just a bit nervous, so I'll just have to do what Hank Hill would do and "fall back on natural instinct."

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