Jun 26, 2013

Grocery Delivery, part 2

THEY'RE HERE!! I can finally make my ramyeon (ramen) dinner.

 You may be thinking, "Uhhh...Meg...there's no ramyeon in that bag..." You're right, but this bag has all the goodies I add to the ramyeon. But that's a whole different post. Stay tuned. 

Grocery Delivery, part 1

Today on my way home from school, I stopped by the little grocer by my house to pick some stuff up. I finally worked up the courage to ask for it to be delivered. Gave them my address, everything seemed fine. I don't know how long it takes, but knowing Korea, it shouldn't take too long.

That being said, it's been almost 2 hours. I'm getting hangry*.

*hangry (adj): when someone is so hungry they get angry.

Jun 25, 2013

Korean Baseball-- exactly the same, only totally different.

Ahhh, summer. The heat is upon us here in the land of the morning calm. Most of the time, that means endless hours of lamenting the fact that a "sunny day" in Seoul really means that the sky is just a lighter shade of gray than normal, sweltering in my poorly ventilated classroom and mentally raging at the Korean concept of "saving energy" by turning off the aircon and promptly OPENING ALL THE WINDOWS. Seriously, how does this make sense?

But summer also means baseball.  Having spent the past 6 years of my life in Boston, it is hard-wired into my brain that the two go hand in hand. So, to ring in the first official day of summer last Friday, I took my English friend, "R", to a Korean baseball game.

When I got out of the subway in front of the stadium and beheld the scores of vendors selling everything from dried squid to boxes of fried chicken that you could have delivered to your seat, I knew that this would be very different from American baseball.

We didn't get to the stadium until the top of the 4th inning (clearly, the actual game was pretty low on our priorities). We also hadn't gotten tickets in advance. Instead, we just walked up to the ticket counter and bought two seats in the second-cheapest section for about 9 bucks each.

If you're a Red Sox fan, please take this moment to pick your jaw up off the floor.

Tickets in hand, R and I set about gathering supplies. In another profound difference from American baseball, K-baseball games are BYOB. We bought 4 beers from a seller out front, who put the beers into a little tinfoil bag and filled it with ice. They think of everything here.

Next, we stopped to get some snacks. We could have gone for kimbap rolls or dried squid, but I opted for a corn dog instead. What can I say, I'm a traditionalist.

We took our goodies to our seats and settled in for the game. As I mentioned, we arrived at the top of the 4th, so the game was already well underway. Seeing as this was R's first exposure to America's pastime, I had to give her a crash course in the rules of baseball. Anyone who knows my general attitude towards and knowledge of American sports will probably find this hilarious. I know.

As we started watching, my suspicious were confirmed. This was not American baseball. We were not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

First of all, I hate to say it, but the baseball just was not very good. Even I'd seen enough American baseball to realize this. However, this had a weird effect of making the crowd even more excited than an American baseball crowd. For example, when the home team batter hit a pop fly to left field, the home team crowd went crazy!! It was like they weren't even sure the fielder would catch it.

I was so confused. I kept thinking, "I'm sorry, is this not a sure thing? Is there actually a chance that this guy won't catch this ball that is literally coming straight down at him?"

Sure enough, he caught it, the batter was out, and that was the end of the inning.

But this brings me to the fans. Oh, god, the fans. They were enthusiastic and coordinated in a way that I have never seen. There was actually a guy on a platform in the first row who was in charge of leading all the songs and cheers. Each player had a special song that had been composed just for him, each song had specific hand movements that fans enacted with their identical white thunder sticks, and each point of the game seemed to have a special cheer or chant.  Please enjoy these videos.

One thing I failed to capture was the cheerleaders. Yep. Korean baseball has cheerleaders. And they're shockingly scantily clad, considering how modest Korean society is as a whole.

The other weird thing was that the fans would keep singing and chanting even when their player was up to bat! I ended up missing a lot of the plays by watching the singing and dancing because I (falsely) assumed that they would stop to let the pitcher throw the pitch.

Despite all of this, I enjoyed myself immensely. As I explained to R, baseball games are not always about the game. It's about the atmosphere. The quality of baseball may have been lacking, but Koreans sure know how to create a fun game atmosphere. Those four beers certainly helped, too.

Jun 21, 2013

Journalist Doing Science

Hello, my wonderful readers. Time for some shameless nepotism.

You all should check out the blog by my lovely, beautiful friend Chantal. Her blog is called Journalist Doing Science and it's about her journey towards becoming a doctor. She and I went to J-school together, and I'm immensely proud of all she's accomplished on the incredibly challenging path she has put herself on. Plus, look how pretty she is!
So check out her blog. Now.
I'll wait.

Jun 19, 2013

Student of the day: Eric

This is Eric. He is another of my 6th grade students.

Boy, is this kid a FLIRT! No matter where I seat him, he always ends up chatting with the nearest girl.I'll look over and all the ladies in the vicinity of his seat are leaning out of their chairs and giggling with him. Repeated rebukes of "Eric, stop talking to the girls" have gotten me absolutely nowhere.

Despite this, he's a good student and is an enthusiastic participant in most of our discussions. He just has to get those hormones under control.

Jun 16, 2013

On Fear and Fearlessness

Today I accomplished something I wasn't sure I'd ever have the courage to do. I went bungee jumping.

It was part of a day trip put on by Adventure Korea. We went whitewater rafting in the morning. For many of my friends, that was an adventure in itself. However, I'm a bit spoiled. I grew up in Montana where the primary recreational bodies of water were rivers, so I've been riding rafts down rivers at various speeds since I was big enough to hold a paddle. 

This particular day, we were outfitted for a full whitewater adventure-- complete with helmets and the awkward lifejackets that come with straps to loop between your legs. However, the rainy season hasn't started yet and the river was quite low, so we spent most of the time bouncing up and down on our raft to unstick ourselves from submerged boulders. Had it been a raft trip in Montana, we would have been loafing about in our swimsuits while drinking and taking naps on the boat. 

We did take a fun pit stop to do some minor cliff jumping. Due to a family history of severely breaking bones from jumping off cliffs into unsuspectingly shallow water (cough cough dad cough) I allowed several people to go in front of me before I took the plunge.

This jump was only about fifteen feet, and yet as I stood at the top of the rock, I hesitated for a moment. I don't care how brave you are; when you're contemplating jumping off a high point, your very basic animal instincts to not die kick in, and suddenly a paltry 15 foot jump becomes a terrifying plunge to your death. Still,  knowing what I was facing later in the day, I forced myself off the edge. Obviously, it was a pleasant little leap and I lived to tell the tale.

Eventually, we got back on the river and floated (ahem, sorry, rafted) the rest of the way to the takeout point. We ate lunch there, changed out of our damp clothes, and hopped on the bus to head to the  bungee jumping point.

As soon as  I got on the bus, my stomach started to clench. I kept thinking about the moment on the rock earlier, and wondering how on earth I was going to be able to hurl myself off a 180-foot drop.

the view from below

When we got there, we had to pay up and get weighed. Apparently they sort you into weight classes and that determines which bungee rope (band? cord?) you get. Then it was time to climb the stairs. Several flights of tight, metal spiral stairs later, and we arrived here.
The view from the top

There was no turning back now. The people strapped us into our ankle harnesses and led us out onto the platform. Much to my chagrin, I was one of the last people in line. They sorted us by who needed which bungee, so all the "red bungees" went, then all the "blue bungees" went. Because I'm a midget, I was assigned to the yellow bungee. I was not pleased about this because I was the only person who got the yellow bungee, so I didn't get to have the reassurance of watching other people use it and, you know, not die in the process. I passed the time by staring straight down at the drop, trying to get as acclimated to looking at it as possible.

Finally, my moment came. With shaky steps I approached the end of the platform and the guy hooked me up to the bungee.  What followed was the most terrifying ten (or possibly 2, or possibly 1000) seconds of my entire life. No matter how much you psych yourself up for it, no matter how many people you watch jump before you, no matter how much time you spend staring down at the air below you, nothing prepares you for the moment when you're standing barefoot on the edge of a platform almost 200 feet in the air, so close to the edge that your toes are hanging off. I had told myself that I wouldn't linger. I wouldn't stand there to think about it. I would just take a deep breath and go. 

I wish I could say with certainty that that is what happened, but to be honest, I don't quite know. One moment I was standing there contemplating the air below and around me, and the next moment I was in it, plummeting through space and frantically bicycle pedaling my legs into nothingness.  I don't remember stepping off the edge. I can't even tell you if the workers gave me a countdown. I think I was screaming. I'm not sure. There were no thoughts in my head, only pure, animalistic terror.
 The most terrifying moment of my life, immortalized on camera

Then, as fast as my free-fall began, it was over. The bungee caught me, I abruptly flipped upside down (being strapped in by my ankles) and started bouncing. And we're not talking little bounces. If you've seen videos of bungee jumping, you know that the first bounce brings you almost all the way back up to where you started. But the fear was over. A sense of calm came over me.  I stopped screaming, stopped moving, and stopped fighting. I just relaxed and reached my arms out like a bird. I was flying.  

The bounces turned into slow swings back and forth across the river, at times bringing me almost parallel to the ground.  After a few moments,  those slowed and I was able to grab the hand of the man in the rowboat whose job it was to retrieve the jumpers. The workers on the platform lowered the bungee until I touched the bottom of the boat, my rescuer pulled me in and unhooked me... and it was over.

Here's the video of my jump, courtesy of my lovely friend Regan.

As I approach my ten month anniversary of living in Korea and prepare to bring this chapter of my life to a close, I find myself looking back on my time here and what I've learned about myself. I've learned a lot of things. Some are good, and some are bad. But at least today, one day in my life, I can say I was fearless.

Jun 12, 2013


I'm finished booking all the flights for my epic tour of South Asia in August, henceforth known as Asiapalooza.

Seoul-Bangkok-Phuket-Phnom Penh-Singapore-Hanoi- Seoul

Behold, the flight map:

View Asiapalooza in a larger map