Thursday, July 31, 2008

mushi mushi

off to the enemy land this weekend: "teacher, japan is bad! i don't like japan", one of my students told me this morning. i can understand this kind of statement after spending the last few days reading the history of both korea and japan. very interesting (and tragic at times). just reading a country's history is so helpful when it comes to understanding their cultural beliefs, and where some kinds of behaviors stem from. all of a sudden, so many things started to make sense.

the last week has been exhausting, but also very exciting. we brushed elbows with a pretty famous korean band, Sogyumo Acacia Band. aaron interviewed them after seeing their amazing performance at pentaport, and hopes to be able to bring them to the Pop Montreal Festival next year (that's where he works). the interview was so pleasant, i just tagged along for the ride. we had a meal with them, then coffee. i was amazed to learn that they love sonic youth and neil young. you can read the interview here, i helped aaron remember all the details and posed as a photographer.

alright, i'm off to packing my belongings needed for 2 weeks in a school-sized backpack. sounds a bit scary to me. i keep staring at the backpack suspiciously, wondering how i'll survive with that amount of clothes. wait, only one pair of shoes?!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

pentaport: the style

one of the best parts of a music festival (after the music, of course) is the people-watching. what to wear for a muddy music festival under the rain? rainboots, of course. here are a few snapshots of my favourite outfits for pentaport.

pentaport: the music

"and all the rainy days, they ain't so bad when you're the king... the king they want to see"

(kings of leon)

pictures: dressed for the part. the muddy, muddy banks. new korean friends. the vines: easy on the eyes, not-so-easy on the ears. the music, including new moves from robert harvey. korean coolness.

i should be sleeping right now after pulling an all-nighter and getting back from a 2-hour subway ride all the way from incheon. summer fun has officially kicked in with
pentaport music festival, here are the highlights.

the good:

'the music'(the band, that is), the dj area, the rain (yes, it adds fun to a festival), the rainboots, the cool people we met (koreans and foreigners), the people-watching, getting a press pass, getting to be so close to the artists, the movies shown, being interviewed and photographed by the korean media, the mud (when you have rainboots), getting free stuff (towels and bracelets), how young koreans are always so well-behaved, generous and kind, and just being at a summer music festival in korea.

the not-so-good:

not very foreigner-friendly (laguage difficulties especially, food), not the best line-up possible (i mean, the band 'travis' headlining?! odd choice). although the band 'the gossip' pleasantly surprised me. i was expecting to dislike them very much, thought they were lame, but was one of the best acts. that girl has more energy than myself on any given day at the gym.

good times, good times.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

summer madness

august is almost here, which means a full month of (paid) vacation. what's not to love? the first few months have been pretty rough at times (homesickness, food, school issues), but finally i feel like the reward is coming so, so soon. the whole reason i came to korea... to see the world. or at least a part of it.

right now we're almost done with the summer camp madness. summer camp is like day camp: we teach intensive english classes in the morning, then have games and field trips in the afternoon. it's actually a lot of fun, i must admit. but so much work, i'm exhausted. it reminds me of my days spent as a camp counselor, it's fun to live those moments again. in the morning i teach my international class for three straight hours. my international class is a small group of eleven (very) smart grade 2 kids. i teach them language arts (stories, grammar, writing), science and fitness (which i know nothing about, i just pretend i do). i've been teaching them every single afternoon for the whole semester, so i feel pretty close to them, it's my own little classroom. summer camp is also good in the sense that i can sleep in an extra hour, and next week we only have mornings.

the week has been crazy hectic for another reason: booking the whole japan trip. so much to do in advance, and japan is so, so expensive. the ferry fare to cross the pond between korea and japan almost gave me a mini heart attack (it's a quick 3-hour trip). the japan rail pass fare also made me gasp... but it's all worth it. trains in japan are proably the most efficient in the world. we knew it was possible to do japan on a budget, but that meant a lot of research. we finally finished booking everything tonight, it feels so good. we'll stay in a bunch of different places to experience everything: youth hostels in kyoto(i've never been in a youth hostel, not even when i was in europe! i'm excited but anxious a bit, i mean, a mixed dorm?!), some regular hotels in fukuoka, a capsule hotel in tokyo (for the experience.... kind of scary but should be interesting), and even a traditional japanese ryokan guest house (you sleep on the floor, you wear the japanese gown, and take the traditional baths). we still have to list everything we want to see, on top of attending tokyo's summer sonic music festival as vip guests, thanks to aaron's job. should be a blast.

so much to organize but hopefully it's all worth it. alright, now off to bed. summer fun is officially kicking in this weekend with another music festival, seoul's pentaport. i'm officially attending as a 'photographer'(chuckles), and aaron gets to interview a band.

bonne nuit!

Monday, July 21, 2008

on making friends.

before coming to korea, i had envisioned meeting heaps of new korean friends... just sitting at a café, being me, and swapping cell phone numbers on my hello kitty phone. that's me being me: i live in some kind of fantasy world. the harsh reality hit when i moved to seoul. maybe it's easier for foreigners to attract korean friends in smaller towns, but in a big city like seoul you're not all that special. they've seen foreigners before you. you're not a curiosity, you're just another lost soul in seoul.

my first months were a whirlwind of everything new, and everything exciting, and roller coaster emotions. most weekends were spent sightseeing with aaron and just settling into my new life: getting a gym membership, a bank account, some appliances. however, after a bit, i started missing my old life and my friends from back home. i missed sunday morning brunch with my girlfriends and shopping sessions and 'the hills' marathons. yes i'm like that (a bit).

i realized i didn't have too many close friends here. luckily i had some amazing co-workers who became good friends, but i needed more. how do you meet people you can relate to when you're abroad? i guess you have to go out of your comfort zone when you're living in another country. i know that most foreigners hang out at bars and meet loads of people that way, but i'm not too big on that scene so it was going to be more challenging.

so comes the internet. yes, as dorky as it sounds, i think meeting people online is probably the best way for someone like me to find girls who share the same love for seoul, the same love for traveling, the same love for stuff we can't afford, the same love for overpriced coffee and fancy bars. i found not one, but two girls who were in the same boat: loving life in seoul and everything it has to offer, and longing for new friendships.

meeting them in real life is like a blind date. after a few email exchanges you finally meet. you wonder if the other person is going to like you and find you interesting and you worry about how they'll perceive you. you go out for lunch and drinks then totally hit it off and can't stop talking for four straight hours. it feels so great, and having friends here make me feel so much more like at home.

and my boyfriend can finally take a break from my gossip girl drama talk.

oh, and today's observation: i never got so many stares from koreans as i have today... walking around seoul carrying a huge, costco-size box of honey nut cheerios.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

the real lost in translation


the first time i saw 'lost in translation' i fell in love with it. i probably went back to the theater to see it another time... then another time, like i usually do with movies i love. i never get tired of them. i was drawn to the asian culture, and with the whole 'being lost' aspect. then i bought it, and probably watched it another fifty times, until i knew all the lines and all the little details. i'm also slightly obsessed with sofia coppola and everything that relates to her.

and every single time i watched it, i was equally fascinated with all the lights, the sights, the sounds, and the people of tokyo. i had never seen anything quite like it before in my life: so much people, so many neon lights, so much technology in one place.

fast-forward to korea, february 2008. the first night we set foot at incheon airport we had our recruiter driving us to seoul, and i felt the same way, but this time it was for real. neon lights everywhere, korean signs i could not read at all, korean people everywhere (uh, yeah).. and feeling (and looking) like a complete stranger.

fast forward to now. i just decided to watch 'lost in translation' for the first time since i got to seoul. i figured i should watch it in preparation for my japan trip (i'm nerdy like that). and strange thing happened: everything felt normal, nothing felt exciting anymore. i guess i'm now living the movie fantasy i was longing for...

which is even better. and next week i'll get to see tokyo for real.

ps: i can now read korean signs.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

my favourite reads

when i entered the blogging world a few months ago, i never thought i'd make so many great discoveries. i enjoy getting a peek into other people's lives.... what they like, what they wear, where they travel, what they eat. here are my favourite daily reads:

the lovely emily from cupcakes and cashmere, my top pick, actually mentioned me on her own. she writes about everything: fashion, food, home decor, lifestyle. she always posts the best finds, and i love her writing style. thanks emily!

then there's pammish from cuervogirl. she is also an expat, living in shanghai, so in many ways i can relate to how she feels. and she wears amazing clothes.

to continue on with my fashion obsession, i love fashion is poison. the girl has the best sense of style and the most adorable pictures.

and totally un-related to fashion, is my breakfast love expressed here: simply breakfast. she has the most simple, beautiful pictures that make me want to eat breakfast all day long.

and lastly, aaron's quietly loud: my boyfriend's own tales of living abroad, and other great reads stemming from his love of music. i especially enjoy reading his early entries, when he spent time in korea for his first trip two years ago. his stories makes me laugh and i can also relate to it so much, as i am going through my first experience here as a newbie.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

gettin' dirty at the mud festival

the idea of spending the weekend in the mud with a horde of drunken foreigners is not the most appealing idea for me, but i couldn't really miss it either. it's a once in a lifetime experience, and getting dirty could be fun, right?

the mud festival is an annual event that takes place at daechon beach, on korea's west coast. basically, the town has way too much mud, which they can't really use, so they just throw a big party every summer. it's definitely more popular for the foreign crowd (a.k.a. us), but nowadays many young koreans seem to participate in the festivities.

we packed our oldest clothes and headed for the beach on saturday morning. the streets of what looks like a resort in florida were already swarming with muddy esl teachers (and a few koreans). i think the korean papparazzi was invited as well: i've never seen so many photographers trying to capture every moment, or rather every foreigner covered in mud. we changed into our swimsuits and got dirty: the mud slide, the mud bath, the mud massage, the mud wrestling. it was so much fun to watch.

the weather was scorching hot (as usual), so it was nice to be able to swim in the sea and wash off the mud.... only to get get muddy again. we managed to have a great time (while remaining dignified of course). the best part (after the mud) was when we hung out on the beach late at night to watch amazing fireworks.

Monday, July 7, 2008

sunday brunch (and saturday cocktails)

i really miss "la croissanterie" in montreal, where my friends and i used to go for sunday brunch, or late-evening coffee. i've been longing for that kind of place in seoul, and i finally found it. it's a belgian café where they serve good coffee, waffles, crêpes, and all that good stuff. i found myself there early sunday morning.... the sun was shining too hard in my bedroom, i got up at 8am and decided i needed a waffle:

the best thing is, they have a sunny terrasse overlooking the gorgeous, stylish ann demeulesmeester store. maybe it's a belgian quarter, i don't know. i can't afford anything in that store (the cheapest item is a 210$ tank top), but i love the architecture:

i walked around so much to find it, i wanted to show it to aaron, but my sense of orientation is awful and i had no idea where it was anymore... "oooh i think it's here... wait... no... oh i don't know anymore". typical vivian.

and saturday night i got introduced to this amazing bistro, part paris, part new york city:

the places you can stumble upon in seoul... the surprises never end. i love it, i love it!

(and as for "la croissanterie", aaron re-created his own version of the breakfast crêpe, which is even better than the original one).

Friday, July 4, 2008

red and white: canada day

in honour of the first of july, us canadians abroad celebrated our country, in true canadian fashion: BBQ on the rooftop terrasse, miller genuine draft beer, and fake flag tattoos. a bit on the trashy side, which was the beauty of it. "real" western food from Costco (salad, a bunch of fruit and veggies, hot dogs, chicken). lazy sunday afternoon, a bit cloudy but very, very hot. i don't think there is a way to ever escape the seoul heat actually, it's just getting worse. we invited our korean and south african friends and introduced them to a bit of canadian culture, they seemed to really enjoy it. our korean friend actually came back later asking for more canadian-themed party favours. we used our rooftop terrasse- koreans usually only use the roof to hang laundry or store kimchi pots, but us canadians saw the full potential of it: the perfect venue for a party, and hopefully many more summer night get-togethers.