So this past weekend was quite a journey. On Friday night I went with my coworker to a Mongolian restaurant. The whole thing was kind of an amazing experience because I had never eaten that kind of food or really experienced any of the culture other than a video of people drinking fermented mare's milk that my mom showed me. (My mom is a geography and global studies professor). It was also wonderful because I got to spend some time with the people that my friend had met through the Mongolian club she started. This was actually very interesting because the girls were pretty close to me in age. In addition, the whole thing was amazing because the food was so good and I got to see a corner of Seoul that I did not really get to explore before.
Saturday was interesting because there was a Thanksgiving dinner I was trying to figure out how to get to all the way out in Incheon. I knew I was going to have to stay at work for a long time, since it would have taken way too long to go all the way back to my host family's apartment, and then all the way out to another city. Of course, Saturday also happened to be the day that i had almost literally nothing to do. This was because the 17 year old boy who is in charge of planning things for Model UN forgot to tell me that the training could not happen this week because too many people were busy, so I showed up and everything was locked up tight. I did get into the office and sat there for a while working on English to English translation for a document I used Google translate on to do the initial translation from Korean. However, the whole thing actually turned out to be pretty cool, since my coworker treated me to lunch and introduced me to a bunch of volunteers participating in a campaign about littering and trash in Seoul. They were all really nice, and we managed to communicate with each other with a mixture of English and Korean, or "KONGLISH" as Korean people say. The girls in the group decided I was like a "happy virus" whatever that means. Then, I got on the hour long subway ride to Incheon. I found the correct building by finding the main building and getting some help from one of the pastors who spoke English. The whole Thanksgiving meal was amazing and the atmosphere made me want to stay forever. I met a bunch of English teachers and some of the kindest people I have ever met. These were people who wanted to listen to my story and made me want to listen to theirs. I would recommend the Sojourn Fellowship to any Americans looking for a community. The best part was that I could not find the subway station after the dinner, but a tiny Korean man realized that I needed help, recognized the building, and happened to belong to the same church that had hosted the dinner I had just attended. he was very kind, and told me he hoped to see me at a service some day.
Of course, by second guessing myself and not paying much attention since I was so full of turkey and potatoes, I got lost and ended up having a journey back that a journey that should have been 100 minutes ended up taking closer to three hours, something that put a bit of a damper on my amazing mood.
Sunday I sat in bed for a long time because it is very cold here now, thinking of my adventurous last few days with a satisfied grin.
Be thankful for something,
Birthdays Across the Sea
When I thought about going to Korea, it never truly hit me that I would be spending my birthday far from home. I guess that for some people this might not seem like too big of a deal, but my birthday always falls really close to or on Thanksgiving day. This means that "birthday" has always been synonymous with "turkey" for me. This year has not really been like that. The day dawned like any other day, except for the fact that it was snowing a little bit (I wake up every morning around 6am). I talked to one of my dearest friends from high school for a bit and then my parents, and then I set off for work. I arrived around the same time as always, trying to be inconspicuous (something that is extremely hard to do since everyone greets you out loud as soon as you walk in the door- guess I'm still not used to that). Then the big boss walked in, the guy who almost never comes into the office where I work. Someone said my name. I froze. I knew I was in trouble; had someone noticed the videos of people finding good places to eat I watched last week? Could they fire me? My heart rose in my throat as I rounded the corner of a row of cubicles... There were cupcakes. I am lactose intolerant, and in Korea lactase tablets are extremely hard to get a hold of, so the cupcakes were rice cake and what I thought was frosting turned out to be colored sweet bean paste. There were two cupcakes filled with each flavor of filling, and I managed to snag the one that had chocolate in the middle, since I was the closest to the arrangement. In Korean age I am officially twenty, and the candles reflected that, something that was pretty weird to me, it actually felt like I was blowing out the candles for someone else. Essentially this whole seeing the cake thing was like having the boss at your job walk into the room and pull you over to a table where everyone else is already standing. There is some kind of treat- food on the table and your co- workers begin to sing and clap in a dignified manner before lighting two meaningless numbers sticking out of the treat on fire and having you blow them out. After that, there were presents, most of which I did not understand as well as two cards, all of which was written in Korean (that I have to translate), and the small card read "thank you" in curly letters. All in all, the whole thing was quite an experience.
As a child I was afraid of change and would cry whenever something different or new happened, and I guess that part of myself was the tiniest bit freaked out about changing tradition, since I have spent Thanksgiving with all of my family in the same place with a lot of the same people since before I can remember. I guess nothing really changed, though, since I got to talk to my family this morning on the phone (Of course, this morning I went in to work late so I could talk to people and there was no wifi for me to Skype with in the apartment). I have to say that this has been a pretty amazing birthday, and I cannot wait for the rest of the holiday season. The excitement will build in me regardless of the attitudes of those around me, especially since my parents arrive in Korea on Christmas Day!
I also get the opportunity to go to a Thanksgiving dinner put up by a Christian fellowship in Incheon on Saturday, so I will keep y'all in the loop about that.
Elena who is now in her last year of being a teen
PS: Did anyone else notice that my coworkers sang/ chanted first, then lit the candles? Now that I think about it, that is vaguely strange to me, since in the US it is not the norm... Oh well, here's to the unknown and things you don't understand but do anyway!
In this blog, I write what I am feeling... (To the tune of something from Les Miz)
Alright, so bad musical theater spoofs aside, I want to talk about Tuesdays. I never liked them, since it always felt to me like by the time Monday was over enough had happened to warrant at least Wednesday, but now Tuesdays are officially the worst part of my week. Imagine being in the outside of an inside joke. Now, imagine that you work in an office and 90% of what everyone says is an inside joke which everyone understands other than you. Alright, that is what it is like where I work. I guess another thing I should point out here is that the things we learn in Korean class are amazing, helpful, and informative, but absolutely cannot aid me in the battle against "Things to say that make me sound productive and intelligent for weekly progress meetings". Essentially my confidence is the Titanic (I worked for a long time to get to this point of self- acceptance and love), and the Tuesday Meetings make up the ice burg. My heart goes out to people who immigrate to another place and then are expected to quickly become fully functioning members of society... Also, why is it that when I try to speak Korean in these meetings, everyone laughs, but when I try to say anything in English, no matter how simple and/ or funny I try to make it, I get the kind of looks the president of the United States probably receives when addressing his cabinet. I guess I know what it is like to stand before Judge Judy as well...
Also, I have some more cultural observations for you. I guess most of these are just not normal to me, even now.
1) People do not drink water until after they have finished eating. This seems odd to me considering how salty/ sweet/ hot/ spicy the food can be. These are the different options that will be present in what you eat in Korea. In fact, most foods will combine at least two of these. Anyway, I really like to eat, but I just tend to enjoy water or another beverage with my meal instead of following it. Additionally, people chug one cup of water after their meal right next to the filtered water thingy, maybe two cups if they are really feeling it that day. This whole concept of not really drinking water is just weird to me, and even as I try to follow cultural norms, I feel like I leave the office enough that I seem like a walking bladder... (!)
2) During the afore- mentioned meetings, it is acceptable to interrupt each other, text, and talk at the same time as someone else, even if that person is the boss...
I still feel like I have fallen down a rabbit hole every day. Is this what the professional/ adult world is like all across the globe?
Also, this is my last year of being a teenager, I want to stay youthful at least that long, someone help me, I don't want my heart to die when I grow up! (Breakfast Club reference)
AND I"M STILL NOT FUNNY HERE!!!!!!!! :(
How nice is too nice?
There are a couple of things that I should probably come clean about. Even though I have tried to take all of you along this journey with me, I have also tried to be conscious of my positivity. This means that anything that is too negative gets taken down and rewritten. Basically, I am finally being unleashed from the shackles of culture shock and beginning to turn back into the Sun from the Tellytubbies. However, I am not sure if this is due to my experiences in Korea so far or my inherent need to not infringe on other people's privacy or make them feel bad, but I have had a hard time asking questions that "really matter".
Example 1) The Shower.
First of all, the temperature control dial for the water is is in the room where my entire host family sleeps, and someone is almost always in there. I am not quite sure why, but I have never actually walked into that room. In addition, I feel so bad about the water bill that I have only been actually showering once a week... I am still sanitary, washing in the sink and such, but I feel like a huge burden, since it seems like my host family is not getting any money out of this... Basically I have been showering once a week in ice cold water because I do not want to make other people at all uncomfortable. Maybe I should do something about this...
Example 2) Work.
Volunteer work is never easy. However, when I signed up for this Quest, I was looking forward to working with children in some capacity... (blah blah blah, you already know this part of the story). The point is that I really was gearing up to do something about this, but then balked at the idea that I would make the rest of the people in my office feel bad as well as creating more work for the ICYE staff. Yet again, I am putting a pre- concieved idea of cultural taboo into the mouths of others, making me avoid doing something that could potentially improve my own quality of life.
Example 3) Food
I cannot really afford food. This sounds worse than it is. I mean, I have lots of snacks from my care packages and there is food in the apartment, but I cannot afford to really buy anything to eat, meaning that Wednesday nights before Korean class are pretty difficult... i just want a 12 inch Subway sandwich. Realistically speaking, I do eat a lot. However, I need all my muscle and body fat to stay with me because "Winter is Coming". Yesterday, I claimed that I was not hungry to my coworker and the volunteers for Model UN when they were all going to lunch, since I knew that there was no way I could afford wherever they were going. My coworker offered to pay, but I am also pretty aware that my department is not very rich, that any money spent helping me comes from somewhere else that is probably more important. Instead of going with them, I laid my head down on the freezing desk and took a nap, dreaming of dancing Hangeul (Korean written alphabet) characters. I wish that there was something that could be done about this, but know that there is really nothing that can be done.
The moral of this story is that I need to learn to follow through with things that will make my life easier. I mean, there is really no way for me to make any sort of positive change without standing up and saying something. I just hope that I am able to actually do something about some of these things, so that creepy men on the subway, and being unable to speak up about things passes. This was never really much of a problem in the USA... However, I know that there is nothing that can actually be done about the amount of money given to me by my project not being enough to buy enough food to keep me from being hungry (Seoul is freaking expensive!) or the fact that our office building is like sitting in a meat locker, so I hope that I can obtain the courage from deep inside myself to be the change I wish to see in my situation.
Love you all and hope you feel inspired to tackle something (today I plan on cleaning my room)
Foreigner buddies or Nah?
Today's youth (people like me) have adopted the rhetorical "or nah" as a sort of validated method to say no to something while sounding trendy and vaguely under- educated. On that note, this morning was quite an adventure. First of all, I tripped and almost fell on this dark skinned gentleman who told me that it was okay after I had apologized. He asked me some questions, I reciprocated, and I remember thinking "Oh, foreigners always end up talking on the subway like this, there's no harm in telling him my name, talking about my experiences in Korea". Unfortunately, no more than a minute later, he asked if we could be friends on Facebook. Now, this question is all well and good as long as you do not follow it up with the question he asked immediately afterwards. "So, are you like available to text anytime?" I felt like an animated Disney animal. I made a very weak affirmation, trying to think of a way to get myself out of this mess. I mean, I really did not want to be mean to this South African guy, but the whole thing was creeping me out, as he held up a picture from my profile to show me. "Are these your parents?" A few stops later, I raced off the train (in addition to being scared, I was late since there was something wrong with the subway train we were on and everyone had to transfer over.) As soon as I entered the building and saw that no one was in the office, I unfriended Mr. South Africa, reminding myself that Seoul is a really big city and I would be difficult to find again.
In other, slightly less terrifying news, I went to Itaewan with Germany after work yesterday. The whole thing was actually really awesome.... Until we went to a global ATM so that she could take out some money. The first machine said that she sis not have sufficient funds, even though she was certain there should have been enough since her mother had just sent her 200 Euros. We tried two other machines in different locations, only to end up with the same result. Perturbed, frightened, and hungry (the prices for food anywhere and everywhere in this entire city are way outside of the price range of poor volunteers such as ourselves), our night drew to an early close. Of course before the misfortune grasped hold, we had a great time walking around and finding shops. I bought a jar of pesto and a hair clip that is a stuffed animal duck. We discovered a store with a huge silver greyhound in front of it, a shop that looked like Moomins and the 70's had exploded all over kitchenware and cacti, and a foreigner shop that sold lots of the things that we have been missing lately.
Call me Awkward Girl!
(Insert majestic and heroic music here, like the Utena theme song or something by Twisted Sister)
To begin with, let's discuss some things that have not gotten less awkward with time:
1) How difficult it is to find cheese (real cheese) in Korea.
2) The fact that I barely ever have anything to actually do at work, and yet I'm still somehow supposed to have something meaningful to say I did/ will do/ contribute to the weekly progress meeting which takes place completely in Korean.
3) The fact that people in Korea don't know who Beyonce is...
4) The fact that my humor does not translate at all here, but I'm still trying because it is my major mode of communication...
5) The fact that I'm not sure anyone is reading this or watching my YouTube videos or liking my pictures on Facebook, but I'm still doing all those things and uploading more content.
Anyway... awkward segue....
This week was interesting. I got to "help" with another of those pre- teen boy fake campaigns against smoking. This time was worse than the first time because it was raining and the boys were extremely rude. It was obvious that they really did not care about what any of the adults were saying or the message that they were supposed to be sending with their boards and shouted slogans.
Then, Tuesday was a really big youth orchestra concert that my whole department got wrapped into. I got to go into work at 12 instead of 10, and even though the subway trip was 53 minutes, getting to work for a day on one of the outer edges of Itaewan was actually tremendously cool. My coworker and I shared a burger that was basically as big as my head, and even though the burger did not taste like home, the whole idea of a coke and a burger with fries felt pretty familiar (even though I almost never have a burger with soda of any kind)... I spent that day working hard, finding chairs, lifting boxes, slicing my right middle finger open with a program, putting up VIP signs, and even making a small video of the super cool bathroom. I must admit that I try to be the best at everything I do, so of course I taped the informational posters in a way that spaced them completely evenly, as well as matching each one to one of the sign boards above them. Obviously, this arrangement did not look aesthetically pleasing from above, so my coworkers moved it all around and I winced internally, before remembering that I had to leave before the concert anyway, so the whole thing did not really matter much.
Speaking of things that matter, that same day I received a series of calls from someone who said my phone number had been stolen and was supposed to belong to the US Army. The man on the other end spoke English, but refused to believe me when I denied any association to any armed force, and continued asking me if I was part of the US Army. Finally I handed the phone over to my coworker, who then had a fast paced conversation with whoever had called me involving a complete set of words that I had never heard in Korean before. I went to the phone shop yesterday with one of the higher- ups in ICYE, and the man in the shop said that I could ignore any more phone calls like that, since they were probably fake.
Also, yesterday I had Korean class, something that I always look forward to. We wrapped up our section on making phone calls by watching a funny video clip of some guy telling his boss that he was sick to avoid going on a business trip, and ordering fried chicken and jap che over the phone to practice our language skills. The food was good, but that probably had more to do with how hungry all of us were, rather than the food's actual quality. Our teacher also regaled us with a story about the most handsome guy she had ever met, who was from Sweden, and both of them happened to be studying in the US. Apparently he flirted with her and she felt so uncomfortable and awkward that she responded to his kiss on the cheek with "no thank you". I feel her pain, and when she asked us what she should have said to him, we all had good ideas, but everyone agreed that my response was the wittiest (If I ever need to use it, I'm armed and dangerous with flirtatious language and talents such as touching my nose with my tongue and singing in Pig Latin, I doubt I'll ever have to use them). She asked us who was the most attractive man in Northern Europe, and three of us came up with Dan Howell at the same time... Then, we digressed into arguing about attractive Europeans, and what the difference was between adorable (Phil Lester) and attractive (that one British guy whose name sounds like a sneeze in a wet bathtub). We also did some actual learning, studying the words and titles for different family members. We had time for two people to draw their family trees, me (I'm extremely boring, since most of the drama in my family is inconsequential when talking about actual blood family) and Switzerland (whose family tree is convoluted even without the inclusion of all the family members of her step- parents). We will see who else has a confusing family tree next week!
In other news, by the middle of January, all of the ICYE volunteers in SK will be living in the same apartment. Finland is moving in with everyone else this Saturday, and my host family leaves for vacation in the middle of January, so we will all end up under the same roof. Yay! Explosions ensue! Well... probably not. However, this means that I will have to beg and plead my parents to take one of my bags back home with them, since there is not chance in Hogwarts that there will be space for both of my suitcases, or really any of my personal belongings that is bigger than a screwdriver.
Sending loving thoughts to everyone being affected by everything that is awful in the world these days,
(Also, if anyone wants to buy me a Piglet onesie, that'd be great :))
In the Heights
I would like to first submit a formal apology to anyone who read the original draft of this post and came away from it feeling moderately discouraged. My intention is always to uplift your mindset, and if you read something I wrote here and did not laugh or learn something (or both), then this sincere and heartfelt apology is for you.
Yesterday I got to go see In The Heights, which is one of my favorite musicals, in Korean with my host siblings and host mom. It was an amazing show (I mean, the music is phenomenal, so there is no way it could possibly be anything less than stellar). However, I must say that it was difficult to watch the show when I could not understand what everyone was saying, even though I have the lyrics to every song in the original version memorized. I also found that I got some different things out of the performance than I did when I first saw the show in the United States. I expected to feel more in tune with the girl who dropped out of Stanford, since I am nearing the point in my life where I will enter into college. However, I felt myself identifying with the premise of the overall show. I cannot say this with complete confidence, since I am not and never will be Lin- Manuel Miranda, but I will just go out on a limb and say that the whole thing is a celebration of what it is like to be different and how that changes what it means to be alive, a celebration of culture in the United States of America (and honestly anywhere else as well).
That being said, my experience in Korea has made me think more about cultural appropriation than I ever have in my life. The idea that taking a concept out of the original situation can result in a loss of significance was something that became even more clear to me after seeing the show. I realized that most of the people surrounding me in the audience might have been missing the point, since the parts of Latin American culture that were being presented on the stage were not as accurate as the portrayals could have been. I guess that it is just becoming a lot clearer to me that when you see something without truly understanding the cultural context of it, you are not getting an accurate view of whatever that thing is supposed to be in its purest form.
To make a long story exceedingly short, I fell in love with the play all over again, and anything that I disliked will promptly be forgotten and replaced with the pure excitement I felt at getting to see a Broadway Show in Korea at all!!!! Yayay!
My heart and love goes out to all of you, especially those who were affected by any of the terrible awful things that have been happening in the world lately. I stand with all of you.
Paying with a kiss
First of all, is anyone even reading this? "Are you there readers? Its me, Elena."
Okay, so my birthday is coming up and I have always been one of those people who likes to celebrate the whole month leading up to their birthday, and not just one day. This might have more to do with the fact that my day of birth falls rather close to the United States' Thanksgiving Day than anything else, but who just knows. The point is, I know that I really will not get to have many presents this year, since the care package from my aunt may yet proof to be a myth/ get lost and never get to me, and my parents arrive in Korea almost an entire month after my special day. So, I decided that the correct course of action would be to buy myself a nice pair of shoes to complete the outfit I will be wearing to "In the Heights" this Sunday. I dragged Germany along with me for the endeavor, figuring that she owed me for two weeks of wandering around in the cold trying to buy her a coat. Ultimately, I did not end up really wanting the shoes, since the ones I had been eyeing did not come in my size (250 in Korean shoe sizes). However, I decided to buy them simply because the poor shop owner had to run off to some other part of the subway station- mall, just to find the correct size for me. I felt like I needed to buy them after all the work h went through just to find a size that would fit me, and he was gone for a long time looking for them as well. Then, I tried really hard to barter and bargain, my pride and joy lying with the fact that I got him to lower his price from the equivalent of 55 USD to 50 USD along with a kiss on the cheek from me to the shopkeeper. I suppose that now would be the time to tell you all that the first and probably only instance in my time in Korea where a male has shown visible interest was this shopkeeper, and I am pretty sure that he was just joking.
In other news, today is a very special day for Korean high school students. Those in their last year are taking their University Entrance Exams, if they screw up today and cannot afford to take the next year off just to study for this time next year, they are effectively screwed. This is because the results of the exam mean the difference between getting into one of the two good universities in Seoul, or not. In this case, the school is a really big deal because only students who go to one of these two good universities will be considered for higher- level type jobs. The idea of this is pretty frightening to me, and I survived two years of International Baccalaureate testing (like OWLs and NEWTs, for any Potterheads out there... Again, is anyone there?) Basically, talking about all of this yesterday meant that Korean class last night consisted of all of us arguing about how bad our educational systems (the ones in our countries: Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, USA) and the fact that the Korean system is definitely worse by far. The only Korean we did was call the 24 hour "Questions about Seoul and South Korea operator" and ask a question about the DMZ, to which the response was that we should look it up online. Honestly, our Korean teacher is one of the most adorable people I have ever met, and the fact that we all felt as though we were making a prank call in Korean in Korean class just made the whole thing better. Oh my goodness, the operator lady talked so fast it sounded like her words were being sped around with an electric eggbeater.
I am settling into the purpose that I suppose has been thrown onto me here in Korea. I am the court jester... Just kidding, I am the unofficial English Teacher for everyone I meet ever. Yay.
As a testament to how wack I am feeling right now, I had a lot of fun correcting some high school student's speech for Model UN (in English, in Korea), got chastised for laughing silently in the office, and abandoned my sugar-free lifestyle in favor of Coca-Cola and gummy candy, and that was all before lunch.
Lots of love to anyone reading this...
Settling in Slightly :)
Yesterday was a lot more fun than I expected it to be. The Sewing/ Fashion Club went on a field trip. We went to Dongdaemun, where there is a large collection of vendors selling sewing necessities. The whole thing is inside and you can buy anything from buttons to neon zippers to caret- like fabric to make a coat. The kids had a whole lot of fun, and I look forward to bringing my parents there to look around and maybe buy something, since the prices are probably a whole lot cheaper than anything that can be easily found in the United States. The kids were searching for things to make into the faces of their dolls and small bits and bobs to decorate their dresses once they made them. The best part was seeing how into it the kids all got, especially the two boys in the club. The two little English- speaking girls were really excited about the whole thing, chattering to me about the differences between Seoul and their homes in Australia and Connecticut.
In other news, last week I got to go on a very small walking adventure with one of my coworkers. First we went to a small store (I have no better word for this than colmado, which is neither English, nor easy to spell- I might not have spelled it correctly) to pick out snacks for the upcoming weekend's activities that have now passed. The cool thing about this is that after the snacks were chosen, my coworker told the cashier the address of our place of work, and the snacks were then delivered in a bog box, so we did not actually have to lug the whole thing around with us, to my pleasure. We also went to two bookstores and a craft store. I was in heaven in both, being surrounded by so many things that exist for the primary purpose of building up and exploring creativity always makes me really happy. While we were in the craft store, I heard the best line in a KPOP rap I have ever stumbled across. The guy in the song said something about "I got a lot of ice like an Eskimo." I laughed almost to the point of tears in the middle of the small store, something that I am sure the shop workers and the woman I work with thought was pretty odd. The whole purpose of the bookstore stops was so that I could locate some text books to work my English curriculum for the office around.
Just as a side note, it was so helpful to have my parents helping me with all the things that have to do with culture sickness. I am settling into my new role as teacher of English, even though that is most certainly not what I want to be doing with my time in Korea, especially because it means that I really will not be leaving the office much... sigh. Basically, I just have really high hopes that everything will get easier for me soon, especially since November is my favorite month of the year, and I hate being negative because I feel like I am wasting my time being mean and sour when I could be having a bunch of wonderful experiences. Next weekend my host mom , host sister, and I will be going to see "In The Heights" in Korean and I am honestly completely excited, especially since next week holds a Friday the 13th, a day that is always a good one for me. Then, the weekend after that, Germany and I have plans to go thrift shopping (yayay)!!!
In Korea, eating with your mouth open seems to be culturally permissible, something that I have a really hard time with, since it is a sort of taboo in the States. In addition, it seems that pedestrians do not have the right of way in Korea, so y'all need to pay attention to that if / when you come to SK.
I love you all so much, and please recommend my blog to your friends!
Korea's Twin Towers
Yesterday I had a long conversation with both my parents and some of my fellow volunteers about my feelings pertaining to the job I am doing while in Korea. The basic gist was that I really should talk to someone about it because the number of times I have left the office other than to eat lunch is still lower than ten, and this will soon be my third month in the office. This would not be an issue if I had signed up to be an intern or something, but I most decidedly signed up to work with children, not sit in a cubicle all day. Of course, the day that I was decidedly thinking about how to best phrase an inquiry as to finding another project to work with, even for one day a week, I was invited to go on a small field trip. The people in my office have to go various places to check out their suitability or to gather information about a location or activity before taking a large murder of children out and about for said field trip or activity.
Yesterday I got to tag along to an excursion to the LG Twin Towers. It was honestly one of the coolest buildings I have ever been inside of, all crafted out of stainless steel and glass. I wish I could see what the inside of the right building was like, since I only got to venture inside of the left one. It also helped that it was located in Yoido, the Wall Street district of Seoul, and since we were on a bus, I got to see the building where the lawmakers and Senate- like people actually work, as well as the State Building/ Court House place where the ultimate decisions actually get made. Basically, it was just really cool for me, and also not made out of tan carpet- like stuff like my cubicle is... The purpose of our visit was to check out the LG Science Hall, which was honestly really cool. I hope that I get to come with the kids when they actually go, because I want to get to see all the pieces in action, instead of all the tiny fragments of all the possible attractions (Orientation Platform, Wonder Cubes, Body Story, House Story, City Story, Earth Story, Science Drama, and 3D Theater). I felt like a small child, just like when the other volunteers and I were given free reign to act like children in the kids' section of Energy Park during orientation. As a side note, there were two women giving two different tours while we were there and they were dressed exactly alike, which was actually pretty disconcerting and I am not exactly sure why. Both of them had their hair done in a low bun- thing that was covered in a thick black hairnet with a black bow over it, they both had cream bowties with small black dots on them, grey pencil skirts, nylons, and really short high-heeled shoes, black with gold edging and black bows on top of them (like ballet flats but with a really short stacked heel added to them), as well as white collared shirts. The only difference was that our tour guide was wearing a navy blue zippy over her uniform, complete with the logo for LG Towers' LG Science Hall on the right breast. It was just really odd for me to see two people who looked so alike.
Yesterday I did a budget for myself, and learned that I can spend about $8.50 every day with the amount of money that I get from my project. This means that I really get $4.50, since it takes me about four dollars every day to get to and from work. To put this in perspective for you, it means that I can get a 6inch sandwich from Subway, and not much else in a day. Also, a 6inch sandwich is not enough food to keep me going if I eat at 5:20 and have not gotten to eat since noon, as I found out yesterday. If I were actually working an office job, I would at least be making more money than I am now. In all honesty, is this much money really how much people think is needed for a month? I mean, we paid a lot o money to be here, and supposedly should be getting enough to live comfortably-- which means eating. (I really should not be saying things this way, I understand that people live on less than that all over the world. However, I have no control over where I work, and some of the money is meant to go towards food, but that is decidedly improbable with the amount.) Also, I am a little bit scared at how much I can spend in a month that has 31 days...
On that note, yesterday one of the people that is in charge of the volunteer organization got me to help her to cancel the phone contract for a volunteer who is no longer in SK. As is often the case in things such as these, it turned out that they did not really end up needing me, and all I had to do was sign the form pretending to be her... This is the reason that we now all have prepaid phones, since it was decided that the rigmarole associated with trying to cancel a contract that must be for a minimum of two years for someone who will only be in the country for 6 months was not worth it.
Today I taught my coworkers to say "Excuse me, but may I ask who is calling?" and "May I take a message?" I was pretty proud of them, especially since I know that these are the kind of words that will come in a whole lot of handy within the office...
Happy November, my favorite month of the year!
Everyday Acts of Activism