Sunday, May 20, 2012

My first (and probably only) birthday in Korea

I'm sorry I've neglected you.  I just haven't done much worth documenting during the past couple of weeks.  The weekly routine is pretty static now, but there are some exciting things coming up. Please stay tuned :)

My birthday was last week, and I am so lucky to have made friends here who wanted to celebrate with me.  The Saturday before my birthday (it unfortunately fell on a Tuesday this year) was spent in Seoul.  Kyle and I walked around Itaewon for an hour or so checking out restaurants and the menus they post outside their establishments.  We finally settled on Praha - some sort of Bohemian restaurant.  The menu boasted many German and Polish dishes, which sounded like the perfect way to soak up any remaining kimchi and red pepper paste lingering in my system from a week of school lunches.  We both ordered tall beers and discussed the mammoth portrait of Franz Kafka on the wall.

Here's Kyle's meatloaf, not as good as Kesia's, but he still cleaned his plate.

And here's my chicken schnitzel with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes, mm mmm.


 After dinner we visited one of our favorite restaurants for dessert.  I enjoyed red velvet cake, while Kyle took down something called chocolate mud.

To no one's surprise, I ate it all.

Arm in arm, we met up with some friends and hailed a cab for Hongdae.  We found the nearest convenient store and grabbed as many beers as we could carry.  Others chose Soju, which I've sworn off since our first weekend in Korea.  Among our friends, Soju's nicknamed "the bad ex-girlfriend."  You never want her around, but for some reason she always shows up and spoils everything.

We wandered into a park with our purchases and sat around enjoying one another's company.  We heard some music not too far off, so a few of us went to investigate and stumbled upon a drum circle.  There were a dozen or so college-age guys banging on various drums, creating catchy tunes.  A small crowd filled up the surrounding benches and some people danced along to the music.  We packed up our plastic bags of refreshments and joined the spontaneous party of strangers. 

The drum circle turned into a dance party, and eventually everyone was getting in on taking a turn on the drums.  I've been told I took part in a dance off, but my memory's been tweaked by the alcohol or embarrassment... Here's the only remaining evidence of such an event:

After the drum circle dance party faded out, we took off for another bar that was literally like an open garage with a few folding tables lined up to separate the bartenders from the customers.  We took a cab home, but the driver never turned on the meter and tried to rip us off when we finally got to the apartment.  He was a maniac driver and we feared for our lives during most of the trip home, so we threw a few 10,000 won bills at him and got the hell out of there.  I collapsed into bed and stayed there for much of the next day.

On my actual birthday, while trying not to wake Kyle, I snuck out of the apartment to get ready in the apartment next door. I returned to fresh coffee and breakfast waiting for me.  We didn't have much by way of groceries at the time, but in my opinion, grilled cheese and tomato soup tastes great for any meal! Kyle started my birthday off perfectly that way.  Later that evening, I also came home to a spotless apartment with all the dishes washed and put away.  Why can't every day be my birthday?! :)

On May 15, we were also celebrating Teacher's Day at school.  Our boss bought us pizza to enjoy after a long day of preschool, and many of the students brought in cards and chocolate.  All the teacher's sang "Happy Birthday," to me and we shared a birthday cake.  The preschool teacher's took me into Bupyeong for a celebratory dinner and ice cream (of course).  I ate well over my weight in junk food that day, and the remains fill my desk drawer.  I dig into that whenever I'm stressed (every day). 

I received two amazing packages on my birthday, one a week before, and several very sweet birthday cards.  I am so lucky to have made great friends here in Korea who took time to celebrate my birthday with me, but I am even luckier to have amazing friends and family back in the states who planned ahead and made the extra effort to send something for me all the way to Korea! Thanks to everyone who made my day extra special - it was a spectacular day! I love and miss you all dearly.

Dinner with most of my fellow preschool teachers

My collection of gifts and cards!

The strange/adorable cake my Korean co-teacher got for me. Oh, Korea...

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