May 28, 2009

Korean Culture Experience

So, without pictures at this point, because it still takes forever to post them, I am going to give you a run down of the daily cultural differnces we tend to encounter.

6:45 am
We are the only ones up in the whole city minus the Agimas who are older women with visors decked out in full hiking gear who clean up the city.

8:00
Walk to the gym and pass the other Agimas outside selling their goods and who gossip and call us cheap behind our backs when we try to bargin with their prices. At the gym, we take off our sneakers before going up the stairs and put them on again once in the gym. You are supposed to work out with a pair that you use strictly for the gym, only to be worn inside (but we have only brought one pair of sneakers with us) We can also wear the Blue for Adam and Orange for me shirts the gym provides.
On the way home we stop at a great little store owned by a couple and try a new type of juice or tea.

9:30
Turn on the hot water for our showers. During our showers we have to manuever through showering while using the little shower head which has no place to rest but in our hands while we try to bathe ourselves. Then, we have to squeegie out the bathroom

10:30
PC Lab, in the morning it is basically empty. There are probably 50 computers in here most in the smoking section. The workers always bring us some coffee out of the machine, it is very good!

11:00
Walk to Emart down the street for whatever we may need. In Emart, you can even put your dog in a locking cubbie. On the way, the Koreans bump into you, dont smile, dont make eye contact, and the cars don't stop for you. But, when you engage someone in a conversation and ask for help or try to speak with them, they are so helpful and patient with you which is completely backwards.

As you walk, the kids skip and flock around you like you are a rock star. They say, "hello, how are you?!" "Nice to meet you." Giggle and run away. Just to have a second and third group do the same thing. They are always eating popcicles.

We walk through the city where the Agimas farm and it smells like complete garbage if the wind blows a certain way.

12:00
Walk Olive, who everyone is petrified of, so weird.

1:00
I go to work

2:00
Adam goes to work

10:00 pm
I get out

11:00 pm
Adam gets out, I stop by the Paris Bakery and get a loaf of the best baked bread there is!

Back at the house, you have to enter a quick code to get in the door, it is so odd not using keys...kind of liberating if you ask me.

Other things we notice:
There is no oatmeal, protein, cottage cheese, all natural peanut butter

Everyone drives one of 8 or so models of cars: Kia, Daewoo, Hyundai, Samsung and a few others. I love the Kia Morning.

The older men try to talk to us more than other people, one read our palms today. (im over 19, am going to have 2 kids and live in the middle class)

Shoes off at most restaurants and in the home. The restaurants and vendors will give you "Service" or free food as a bonus for being american.

Everyone has cell phones (except us)

Most of the city is in cartoon and brightly colored and Open at all hours! 10-midnight most stores are open and people operate on the oddest time schedules.

They serve pickles with everything, including the pizza

Promise to add pictures as soon as our computer is set up!

May 25, 2009

Swine Day!

Alright don't freak out but we were supposed to start our training sessions at school today but due to a small breakout of the Swine Flu in Seoul stemming from an english teacher we were given 2 days off. So now that i've opened this blog on a high note i'll fill ya in on the goings on since we had the day off!

Nicole and I got up today at 6:30am and made some breakfast before we headed out to find our new gym. Shane and Lisa who are both english teachers at the same schools and seem relatively awesome told us about this gym that is close by so we checked it out but the one guy that spoke english was off so we have to go back and sign up tomorrow. Since we couldn't work out we decided to go exchange out dollas for won at the bank and then hit up emart since we are addicted to it.

Once we exchanged moneys we hopped over to emart and bought a few things after which i realized that a few things must have been quite a few since the bag weighted about 375lbs on the walk home....allright this post sucks, i'm actually boring myself. Fast forward to like 2 hours later when we hopped a cab to Downtown Gwanju to check out the GIC(Gwangju international Center) for some info on Korean Language lessons that are offered. We got the info and met a pretty cool and fantastically excitable guy named Doug who is an english professor at a nearby university. He sat down and with us and our map to show us some hot spots for some future trips which was pretty sweet. After that we hit up the market across the street for lunch which was actually pretty damn good and we were all really happy about our choices, not to mention the price for me and nicole combined being just over $5 for a ton of food.



The market was really an experience in Korean culture with quite a variety of fish, veggies, meats, flowers, sneakers and pig heads. Yup, check it..... The market is full of older women, i cant remember the name they go by either, but they are all very short and hunched over from years of farming. They sell all of their goods in the market. I really wanted to buy veggies from all of them, knowing how hard they work.





We grabbed a cab back and thats about it....we'll probably be off tomorrow as well so we may try to hike it up just outside of town after the gym so we'll hopefully have some great pics to share from that very soon.

(side note) Here is a pic from dinner last night, i can't remember the exact type dining they call it but we had no idea what to order since the entire menu was in Korean (oddly enough) so we had the wait staff pick for us. They set us up with a hot plate of pork and mushrooms that were cooked on a hot plate in front of us and ventilated with a genie type of fan that came down from the roof. We wrapped in lettuce and mixed other various items in with is like garlic, ham, tofu and sprouts. Nicole ate the lettuce ;) Its was pretty awesome and the people were great.

I think we're starting to gain a better understanding of our surroundings and Korean people after only a few days. Its an adjustment learning some of the neuances that exist within the culture but its all very exciting.

May 24, 2009

32 hours of travel and the following days...

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i could try and cover every detail of the first 30 hours of our trip but that would be obnoxious and boring....no? you want me to tell you? all righty, here we go.

so we went to bed around midnight on thursday so we would get a solid 4 hours sleep before waking uo at 4 to get to the airport for our 7am flight. They say to be there 2 hours before which is crap. Our flight on lovely United was a shining example of why that airline is rated lowest in customer satisfaction amongst all US airlines but its cool because we weren't expecting much from them anyway ;) I slept most of the flight while Nicole read and schmoozed with some other passengers and watched peanut blart and jelly.

We arrived in San Fran about 10:15 had some Mexican since we weren't sure when we'd get to eat it next. The Flight on Singapore Air (aka Amazingness) wasn't until 2:15 so we had time to chill and I caught some more zzz's at the gate. We gave our final phone calls home as this would be the last time that our T-Mobile service would work.

We boarded on Singapore AIr at 1:45pm on the 777-300e which was a frikin huge piece of machinery that had some crazy awesome first class and business class seats by the way. Literally beds that you could sleep on the entire time. Although we were economy class, the amenities were sweet. We had individual TVs with remote that gave us access to like 40000 movies(not really, like 200) and games that kept us busy most of the time. We also got socks, a toothbrush and lemony fresh cloths! (twice). The stewardesses were adorned in fairly lovely gowns that made it feel like we had stepped back in time but it was really something to see on top of the customer service was so spectacular that it almost felt weird, like they were going to do something awful to us eventually...but they didn't. I think the best part of the entire flight though was the mass quantities of food we were fed throughout. We had peanuts first, then lunch which was your choice if chicken, beef or veggie. All the meals came with sides and a dessert and if you were in the mood, a free alcoholic beverage. We declined the booze. Then a snack which was a sandwich or fruit which was followed by dinner which was again a choice of chicken, fish or veggie. The food was really good too.

We arrived in Seoul around 6:30pm on friday night and made it through customs without a problem. They even had these really techy thermometers to check everyones temp as we walked through. They just put this wand up to your neck for a second and it read out the temp right away! We had no SWINE!!

Once through to baggage we were greeted by a man with a sign that read Olives Mom.....i walked the other way. Eventually Nicole noticed and we met up with Olive who at that point had already learned how to speak fluent Korean.

After we gave that man all our money we bought our bus tickets and met Rupsha who is another arriving teacher from Boston. The bus ride was about 4 hours and I guess the one highlight was our rest stop food which was not exactly gourmet. In fact, it was nasty. Some kind of pretend sushi and ultra spicy kimchi which sucked because i didn't have much to drink other that some tea that was i think meant for animal consumption.

We were picked up by two people at the bus station from the school who spoke great english!....no, no they didn't. They helped us to our place and carried our immense luggage to our temprary studio unit which is small but workable until we move into our two bedroom upstairs in a few weeks. The neighbor teachers were awesome enough to greet us right away when we got in which was really nice. Kaitlyn was even cool enough to give us some toilet paper, bread and bananas! Olive greeted everyone by taking a piss right at their feet which was sweet.

Once our new friends had left we went for a quick stroll to find a pay phone which didn't happen and to pickup some milk and cereal at the store for the morning. The city is extremely safe feeling at all times and its not uncommon to see younger kids strolling along without their parents which is odd but comforting at the same time. We came home and crashed on our plush air mattress for the night.

Ok, my back hurts from typing on the floor so Nicole is going to start off our day 2 details.

Day 2, we set the alarm for 7:30 hoping if we got up early and stayed awake all day we would beat jetlag. Great idea, but all day we had to consciously pry our eyes open.

We are cereal out of our coffee mugs we brought with us and got dressed. The shower took a bit getting used to, you can only clean one body part at a time and have to turn on the hot water from a digital read out completely in Korean.

After getting ready for the day, we went for a walk down the street. We found a dunkin donuts and grabbed coffee! (woohoo), saw where the school was located and headed further down to emart. Emart is their form of Walmart I would imagine, a one stop shop with 4 floors of goodness. The bottom floor is a grocery store, the second is more of a department store with clothes and luggage, and makeup, the third floor had housewares, the fourth a dry cleaner and a bank.

Before we went in, we checked out a gym across the street which was $300,000.00 won for the year. They give you work out clothes, women wear grey shirts with a hot orange stripe down the side, men have a black stripe. They have yoga and body pump as well as a much bigger bathroom than at our apartment and machines and weights. We did not sign up yet, there are a few other places we want to check out before making a decision.

Back at EMart, we spent $110,000 won on housing goods, a bathmat, toothbrush holder, plates, cups, silverware, a squeegie, dish soap, blow dryer etc. (they have those material bags like publix but they are 4 times as big and way sturdy. We bought three and they are FANTASTIC since we have to lug everything back to our place.

We had a 1:00 meeting at the school, so Rupsha, Brenda (from Toronto), Adam and I walked back to the school and met with Joey and Sue. Joey gave us a tour of the schools and we met the other staff. Already, I am so excited at the difference between American education and here. The schools are so modern and colorful, who wouldn't want to learn here. After the tour, Joey showed us a restaurant where a lot of the American's like to eat. I have no idea of the name of it, but we all ordered something different and sat on the ground to eat. The cups for water were so tiny we had to get up every 2 minutes to refill. Poor Adam can't sit indian style so he had a hard time sitting on the ground. The food is interesting. It is good, but after a few bites, I can't seem to finish it, the flavors are just so different here. I had some type of soup with fat noodles and mussels, Adam and Brenda had a pork and rice dish and Rupsha had some fried pork thing that is very popular, each meal cost about $4,000.00 won.

We headed back to EMart to do some grocery shopping. This place is incredible. The shopping carts go on the escalators with you but freeze up once they are placed on the moving ramp to go up and down to different floors. (PS. I am lying here typing and Adam is on the floor behind me doing push ups and sit ups, he is so dedicated) anyway, we tried to stumble through our Korean language books to find where certain things were located. We picked up toilet paper, paper towels, the most expensive coffee grounds every (thank god we brought our french press with us), bread (which is very hard to find here) oil, tuna, honey mustard, water, apple juice (which is so sweet and yummy) eggs, wine, body wash and a few other things we needed. They say there is a veggie stand down the road that has affordable fresh produce, but we ran out of won, only exchanged a little bit at the airport because the exchange rate sucked there and no one here will take travelers checks or american dollars. So, until the banks open Monday, we are SOL when it comes to buying anything else.

On our way back to our apartment, these American's we didn't know called us over. They work at a school a block from our house, ACI (there are like 15 schools within 5 miles) They were throwing a party and asked us to come. We went home to drop off our groceries and pick up Olive and headed down the street. They gave us a slice of pizza!!! (woohoo, thank god for pizza) and let us try Korean beer and Sojo. The beer is called OB, all I could think of was tampons, which by the way ladies, don't exist here.

We only stayed for an hour or so before truly having to come home to sleep.

So, here we are, day 3. We woke up, showered, made eggs and coffee (just like in the states) and are going to head to the left of our apartment today to discover what lies on those roads (we went only to the right today)

Who knows what we will discover. But, below we have prepared a short slide show of pictures we have taken so far so you can see what it is like. Remember, only 2 days worth, we havent ventured too far out.

If you would like to send us anything, letters, care packages of great american things or whatever, you can send it to the address below.

Adam Damiano or Nicole Appel
c/o Reading Town/ Avalon Gwangju
538 J Building 4th floor
Bongsun-Dong Namgu
Jeollanam - do, Gwangju
South Korea
503060


(dong means city)- we learned that much yesterday as well as Hello, goodbye and many thanks. We are going to look into Korean lessons at the Gwangju international center.

Oh and here, in Korea, we are rock stars. All of the kids giggle and say "hello, how are you" it must be the first thing they learn in school. It's great!

Im sure we have forgotten so much to say, but this novel is very long. Be sure, if you are just reading this in your email that you go to our blog so you can see the pictures and videos. They don't show up in the email you may be receiving.

We miss you all but are so happy we made the decision to come here. Start saving your dollars, it is totally worth every penny to come and visit!! (in the winter, our floors heat up to keep your toes toasty!)


We have also included pictures of some of the things we have bought in the last few days. Ask questions!

So far, we have not been able to find oatmeal, protein shakes or any type of meal replacement bars. (we are working on a nice size shipment list for friends and family :)) Also, they don't sell flip flops here. Very odd.
video

May 20, 2009

Goodbyes



We leave in 42 hours or so and most everything is done, thank god. My Mom and Maryanne both threw us excellent goodbye parties this weekend and all of our closest friends showed up. It was great to see everyone and know that we have their support.

Our apartment is packed and cleaned, Our suitcases are packed, but need a diet, they are too heavy and we are all set.



Olive left today for Korea and it was very sad to see her go. But in a way, it was a relief. I was calling up through this morning to be sure everything would be okay with her.
She is flying on Delta to Atlanta and then on to Korea. www.petairlines.co.kr will be picking her up, clearing her in customs and bringing her to us on Friday at the airport.

We are ready to go.

May 16, 2009

ATL and The VISA




We have Visa's! Our apartment is rented and Olive has a plane ticket. Now, we just have to pack and catch our plane.

We drove up to Atlanta on Thursday morning, leaving Orlando at 2:30 am. I slept the first half and Adam drove, then we switched positions. We arrived in downtown ATL around 9:30. Our hotel let us check in early, which was fantastic. After walking 7 blocks or so we got the the consulate.

We sat down with the Korean Consulate gentleman and three other girls who were also leaving for Korea within the week. The man made the meeting a bit uncomfortable. He mentioned that as Americans, the procedure to enter their country is very easy and much harder for Koreans to enter America, but since the alliance between the countries is so long standing... He also said that American's have the tendency to come over, drink too much, are too sexual, abuse the children etc... he had us freaked out that we wouldnt get our visas. But, twenty minutes later, all 5 of us were approved and we were told to pick them up in the morning.

So, Adam and I spent the afternoon walking around ATL. I have to say, it is a big city and I felt a bit out of place there. We went to the underground, which is not at all how I remember it and to the coca cola factory which was pretty neat.


Back at the hotel, we watched the Magic and ate room service.
This morning we picked up our Visas and headed back to Orlando.

We also booked Olive's flight. She leaves Wednesday and stays overnight in San Francisco before taking a flight Thursday to Seoul. We will pick her up there an hour after she arrives on Friday.

So, it is all done. I am sorry I don't write as witty as Adam...but well he is definitely more entertaining then me.

Tomorrow night and Sunday morning we have two parties in our honor, we will be sure to post pictures :)

May 9, 2009

Next Stop...NY, then the ATL!

So we've had a pretty hectic week or two since the last post as we've been trying to get someone to rent the damn apartment which is still in the works, getting our E2 Visa interview squared away and arranging a trip to see some of my family (adam) in NY before I go. Well, we managed to get our packet out to the Korean Embassy in Atlanta, Georgia today which is the same place we'll be traveling too next thursday which will be chaotic at best since we'll have to leave around 3am to get there for an 11am interview. But by the time its over we'll have our E2 Visa which allows us to legally work in South Korea for a year which is a good thing. Then we'll be able to square away our flights with the recruiting company to South Korea on or around May 21st.

Today we leave for NY for 3 days to go see my dad, his wife, sisters and some friends i grew up with which will be awesome as always. I wish we had more time to chill than the 3 days but just like everything in the past 2 months for us it had to be compacted into a tiny cube to fit into our life ;)

Thats about it but i did have a small epiphany this week that I thought i'd share. While I was sitting at home, half naked, playing xbox, eating eggs and some cottage cheese concoction I thought, are we doing the right thing? i mean, right now i get paid to stay home and not shower or shave while Nicole works all day! This Korea thing means going back to work all the time!!! What have I done!!!.....wait, ok, maybe thats not the attitude but it crossed my mind. i mean, other than Olives obvious misery when i'm around, i've become quite the housewife. Ok enough, i'm kidding but it gave me an excuse to photograph the moment and share.

Peace and Love all. We'll have more adventures next week so tune in!!!!!

May 2, 2009

Rid of it all

Well, (it's Nicole) it has been a busy week of preparations for our trip. We have sold over $600.00 on ebay of clothes and drapes etc and our garage sale has brought in a little over $200.00 so far. Here is a great picture of Adam in his glory at our garage sale.


Anyway, as for our trip out of here we have had a few surprises this week and an incite on Korean culture. We were told Monday we had not done part of our paperwork correctly, so a trip to fedex and $80 dollars in fedex fees later we sent more documents off to Tallahassee for Apostillizing and then the forms for them to send it directly to Korea. We were told that we are cutting it very close by the school and they must have everything by this Monday.
Well, we rushed once again to give them everything they need.
Yesterday when I checked the tracking on fedex, I guess there are three holiday's in Asia over the next few days and nothing opens again until the 6th...hence they won't receive anything until then. So, when we look at our short time line in what still has to be accomplished we are becoming a bit worried. They say that it takes the Korean government two weeks to get our visa number. The consolate here says they only hold meetings on Tuesdays. That means that we will probably be spending our last Tuesday in Atlanta, spend the night there to get our Visa, drive home Wednesday early afternoon and leave for Korea Wednesday night...which obviously is not necessarily what we want to happen.

On top of that, we haven't heard about Olive yet nor have we heard about our plane tickets. They say, "when it gets closer we can talk about that..." PEOPLE it is now 17 days away. The problem with the waiting is that I am paying my own flight over there this time (a round trip flight to come back for Nicole's wedding) the closer that it becomes to our leave date, the more expensive the flights get. The school obviously doesn't care because they have unlimited funds, I however do not. This also complicates matters when I am trying to get my Mom a ticket to fly back to Korea in June with me. The school will be buying my ticket this time to go back to start my contract, but I need my Mom to be able to afford her ticket as well..so the same issues apply.

Okay that was a lot of complaining and maybe none of it made sense...but it is definitely something we are running into and since this is supposed to be a collection of our experience to Korea, I must include it.

Anyway, I am off to help Adam finish up this garage sale. We still have a bit of furniture to go. (I hope it all sells!)

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