Tuesday, September 25, 2012

iPhone + Weather + Korea Is Gross

I have finally joined the rest of the civilized world and recently have acquired a smartphone. By recently I mean about two months ago. We have been in Korea since December and I decided that it was about time I get a phone. Al had gotten one from an old teacher a few months after we got here but I lazied about telling myself that I didn't need one. But as the months wore on and I started making some friends who I'd actually like to contact once in a while, I decided to schlep myself to SK Telecom. The way cell phones work here is that you don't pay the price of the phone up front like at home. The price of the phone is paid off in monthly installments in addition to your monthly plan for the duration of the contract. Therefore, the longer the contract the less you pay on the month. Apparently, a lot of foreigners sign up for the three year contract and then when they leave they pass on the contract to a newcomer to the country (or just close their bank accounts and hightail it out of here, but I think that's a little a-hole-y). So that's what I did. I have never in my life had a smartphone. I've usually had the cheapest phones available, including a Motorola RAZR for like 4 years. Once smart phones came about, we could never afford to get one and then we moved out of the country. Our school in Japan paid for us a cheapo phone so we didn't get one there and now that we're here, I decided it was about effing time I get my hands on one.

iPhone. I love you. Having the internet/Facebook/Pinterest anytime I want is amazing! Why didn't anyone tell me this! I always knew it was frustrating feeling like the only person ever who still had real buttons on my phone but I never in my life realize how much simpler a smartphone makes one's life. I'm determined not to let myself become Korean and have it surgically attached to my hand. I'm on it a lot but only in my downtime or if it dings or something. It's also extremely nice to be able to text friends from back home anytime I please without having to wait until I get on Facebook or skype. Fantastic. And don't even get me started on Instagram!

The weather is cooling down. :::sad face::: I know it's inevitable considering it's nearly October but it doesn't mean I want it to happen. It stays about 75 in the day and about 65 at night. Not too bad. We turned our air conditioner off a few weeks ago and just keep the windows open. There have been a few too-hot days where we've turned it back on but overall it stays pretty comfy in here. We left it full blast for about 2 months straight 24/7 and our bill for one of those months was roughly $376. Yikes. Koreans (all Asians, really) refuse to turn on the air conditioner until it's absolutely necessary and then scarcely use it because of the high cost. No way. I'd rather pay out the rear for cool comfortable bliss when it's 100+ outside. Also, there is no insulation in any building. None. Zero. So you're either sweltering or freezing in your own home because of it. If you turn the heat/air conditioner too high you pay for it because it just seeps out. Problem solved by insulating buildings? Nah. Too logical. I could go on and on about the insulation issue...I'll spare you.

As mentioned in my titled, KOREA IS GROSS. I don't know why I've never written about this before. I could dedicate pages upon pages about the uncleanliness of this place. I've always noticed it, always cringed, perhaps it's the fact that I could be escaping here within a matter of six months so it's bothering me more, but either way, it's nasty. For the most part, I'm very open and accepting of a new country. I try and understand their way of life and take it all in stride. But there is something to say about straight out filth. I don't know which country is highest for litter but Korea should be well at the top. Let's compare Japan and Korea for a sec. Neither country have (has? have?) trashcans anywhere (I have a Japan post about the lack of them) and yet Japan is a spectacularly clean country. Korea is buried under litter. I asked my kids if they throw their trash on the ground and they said yes. I asked why and they said, "because there aren't any trash cans". Again, a huge issue with a very simple solution. Put insulation in buildings. Put trashcans on the street. Then there is the spitting dilemma. Korean men spit like there's no tomorrow. They spit anywhere and everywhere. And by everywhere I mean also indoors. I've seen them spit in lobby of my building, in department stores and one time a man spat right next to me in the elevator. It's so gross. I even slipped on some in the subway station before. Disgusting.
Moving on. Koreans do not flush toilet paper. Yes, you heard me correctly. You put it in the designated trash can next to you in the stall. I'm not joking. An open trash can. No lid. For all to see. It doesn't matter if you are on your period or just took a huge dump, you don't flush it. Just the other day there was a bloody pad (they don't use tampons) stuck to the side of the can with the soaking red paper inside. I about barfed. I see it on a regular basis. This one of those things that, I'm sorry to say, I do not abide by. A friend told me that back in the day Korean plumbing couldn't handle the toilet paper so that's where it started. People continue not flushing it today even though a lot of the plumbing is updated and modernized. All I can say is I'm not putting bloody toilet paper in a garbage can

Well, that was my rant of the day. Have a good one!

Monday, September 17, 2012

What's Going On Across the Pond

First things first, we survived Typhoon Sanba. The last typhoon to roll through this area was a huge disappointment even though I did get the day off. Poor Al, he didn't get the last typhoon day off nor did he get this one. I work for the elementary school though, so when they close, I don't go in. This storm, on the other hand, was just what we (the foreigners) wanted. Both storms seemed to have been the strongest overnight/into the morning/afternoon and end up fizzling out mid-afternoon, which is unfortunate since we all kind of wanted to be blown away at the beach by pounding wind and rain but we'll take what we can get.

When Al left for work today around 2 I headed to the coast with a few friends who also had classes canceled. The rain had already stopped about an hour previously so by the time we all made it down to the beach it was just incredibly windy. If I were to take a very unscientific guess at wind speed I would put it at about 25-30mph sustained with some pretty good 40-50mph gusts thrown in. Not too shabby.

After playing around in the wind for a while we went to a BBQ place for a late lunch where they happened to have a TV on the news. They played a constant loop of footage from the storm and although I didn't see/hear of any damage or flooding in our area, other places across the country got SLAMMED. There was a lot of flooding, mudslides and damage from the looks of things, though I have no idea where any of these places were. By the time we finished eating everything had calmed down quite a bit and the sky was clearning up. It was still pretty windy but nothing like it was before. I came home kinda early to do some cleaning (still sitting in front of the computer...) and wait for Al to get home at 10.
There hasn't been a lot going on. We have a 5 day vacation coming up in a few weeks and we're gonna head up to Seoul for a few days. If it were up to me I'd be taking a plane straight to Vietnam or Beijing or someplace awesome but Al wants to pinch pennies and stay here. Boo. So off to Seoul we go. The holiday is called "Chuseok" and it's kind of Korea's version of Thanksgiving. It's a big travelling holiday and everyone goes to visit family and yadda yadda so all the trains to Seoul were completely sold out for the weekend (and there are like 30 or 40 trains a day or something) so we're flying. It's only an hour flight so that will be nice. Just a shame because usually when I'm in an airport it means I'm going someplace awesome but now it's just heading up to Seoul. Oh well, it'll be fun anyway.We decided to stay in a fancy hotel (very out of the way) because it's our 7 year anniversary weekend (dating, not wedding) and wanted to spend a bit more on someplace nice instead of a cheap old hostel.  I totally need out of Busan for a few days. We get a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesay off (Oct 1, 2, 3) but after this holiday there is not one day off work for ELEVEN weeks. The next holiday after this is December 19. Yikes.
Al and I have officially decided to go back to Japan after our year here in Korea. Before coming here all I read was "if you want money, go to Korea, if you want a culture experience, go to Japan". Boy were they wrong. If you want money, do NOT come to Korea! We are making pennies compared to what we made in Japan. Now, if you want to live in Tokyo (or the surrounding area) or even Osaka then you'd probably not be able to save too much and the salary would be comparable to here. But if you are willing to live outside the huge cities then you will make a TON more than coming anywhere in Korea. We have now saved in our bank account after 9 months of living here what we had saved in 3 months in Japan. Now, I know there are exceptions. The couple whose apartment Al and I took over saved a crapton of money living here but really, for the life of me, I do NOT see how they did it. I am very, very excited to go back to Japan. I was never really sure about this place to begin with. Granted, it has grown on me but all in all, I still think I prefer Japan. Yes, the country and its people are...backward...and just straight up weird and illogical most of the time but there are more good things about there than here, in my opinion. Al and I have our sights set on Fukuoka. We have friends there (a married couple) that happen to be leaving in the exact time we need to get a job. I am interested in her job and I hopefully have a good chance of getting it with my experience and a reccommendation from her. We just need to find Al a job! I've never been to Fukuoka but I only hear great things. And there's Forever 21, Ikea, H&M...all the things that keep me from going insane.
After this next year in Japan I'm going to be ready to come back to good old America. I think if we came back after our year here in Korea I'd regret it because there is still a lot more travelling I want to do. Once back in the US and living out a normal life there, overseas travelling opportunities will be much more slim. So while on this side of the earth I'd like to get a lot done before coming back to the grind of trying out the "American Dream". If I ever had a teaching job that I absolutely loved, like if I happen to die over the one I will get next then I really wouldn't be opposed to doing it one more year but after that, I'd definitely be finished. After that it's just running away from real life instead of simply teaching abroad for a few years. The girl whose job I may take over loved her job so much they stayed for two years, so maybe I'll like it too, if I get it. Oh, by the way, all this would be going down in March. My contract ends in December but I'm going to work two more months (Jan and Feb) and then go home for a visit in March until Al finishes his on March 31. Then hopefully it's back to Japan we go!
Last weekend Al and I had a photo shoot with these two amazing people and photographers, Jill and Aaron Osteen. They had advertised that they wanted to pad their portfolio before heading back to the US to start their photography business in Charleston, SC and wanted to shoot some couples, so I jumped on that! We had an amazing time and here are a few of my favorites:

If you love them (which of course you do, because they're awesome) visit their photography blog: aaronnicholasphoto.blogspot.com and be wowed. They are fantastic!

Nothing else going on! School is the same. It's all a bit monotonous, still have the wretched kids who make my days difficult. But, I really do have a better job than most teachers. I just keep telling myself that and it puts everything back into perspective!
Off to do some cleaning! xo