Monday, August 4, 2008

I Almost Cried in Hello Kitty

It has been a busy few days! When I left last, I was on my way to have a physical for my alien registration. It was the most complete prodding I have ever received. My teeth were checked, I had a chest x-ray (Korean hospital gown < Me), my blood pressure checked (3 times, I was nervous), height and weight (have lost 3 kilos! [6.6 pounds]), eye sight (contacts still work well), hearing checked (no deaf people allowed?), gave a urine sample (hit the "call a nurse" button instead of the flusher), and had blood drawn. Whew! Thursday I find out if I passed. Here's hoping!

That night was the best I've felt in a long time--months. So I took a 2-hour walk. I, Kathleen Elizabeth, took a 2-hour walk for the fun of it. I'm willing to say Korea's going to be good for me. Has already been.

On Saturday, Tere gave me instructions to downtown Daegu, so my wallet and I went with a mission: buy a book in English. I took the 704 bus from the school on a nice 40 minute tour of the city, marvelling at the driving ability of the bus driver. Pulling up in front of the Outback Steakhouse (dad was right), I excited and found the Starbucks. God bless Starbucks. Grande caramel macchiato is the same! Italian is Italian everywhere. After my refreshing, rejuvenating, mind-stimulating drink, I turned left instead of right, and I found Pink Heaven! It was a store with everything Hello Kitty--pens, pencils, alarm clocks, vocabulary books, backpacks, just everything. Drawn towards stationEry like a moth to a flame, I instantly had enough stuff in my hands to warrant a clerk handing me a basket. I stood in front of the paper reading someone's attempts at English when a pre-teen girl approached me to practice her English.

Already this has become something I look forward to. A stranger comes up to me and says, "Hello?" Invariably I respond with a big smile and "Hello!" If they choose to linger, I go into the level one questions. How are you? What is your name? Etc. Questions to help them feel confident. Her name in English class is Gabrielle, and she has been teaching her younger sister some things, too. After a while, they returned to their mom and I continued with the task of choosing weekly planners. A few minutes later, Gabrielle returned to say, "You are very pretty." I was so shocked! I hugged/embarrassed her and thanked her.

For a week I have felt like Katezilla. I am so much taller and so much fatter than everything, and a perfect stranger returned specifically to tell me in my own language that I am very pretty. I almost cried in Hello Kitty.

$20 later, I headed out to find the bookstore. Keep in mind, I had turned left, and the bookstore was to the right. An hour and a big circle later, I was the proud owner of several copyright infringement photos and (unknown at the time) blisters at the end of 3 toes. About ready to give up on the mission, I stood in front of starbucks and in a flash remembered, turn right! Oh yeah. (For the record, I did turn right... I was just facing the wrong way so it was actually left. :) ) I stopped and asked 2 girls if they spoke English. One friend ratted out the other, and I came to some sort of conclusion of going straight. After teaching "high five," I headed off, desperate to get out of the heat. While walking, 2 angels appeared. "You are looking for Kyobo?" the girl asked. "Yes!" "Oh, we go this way!" So she and her boyfriend literally took me inside of the bookstore! I lost them while staring at the beautiful building, so let me shout this into the world wide web: Thank you!

One grande iced tea later (yeah, that's right, more Starbucks), I was a member of a bookstore, had a copy of The Hobbit (mom = proud), Stabilo pens (my favorite!), and speakers since Vista messed with my laptop. Mission: Successful. Right? Only when you get on the right bus. Which I sort of did. There are two 704 buses, one that goes to Kati's house and another that continues away from Kati's house.


An hour later, I was the only one on the bus and the bus driver was very loudly asking a lot of stuff, I guess? I gave him my boss Jin's business card, and thank God she helped clarify. I guess that he was done for the day, and he demonstrated with his hands that I had gotten on the wrong side of the street. Oops. Turns out eye rolling is universal. He put me on another bus, which I rode quite happy for another hour and forty minutes until I was safely redeposited at ECC. So, I had a great air-conditioned tour of Daegu for $1.10. Awesome!

Once I got home, I showered. (Imagine!) I have developed a naked habit because the only towel I have is a hand towel that is almost never dry. So, a half hour later Mel dropped by to check on me, and apparently I had not latched the front door. So I am sitting in the dark with the door open, naked, playing a a computer game. ... I double check the door, now. She invited me for drinks and some downtown action. After some reassurance that I did not need to look like a Jeju goddess, I acquiesced and showered again (more thoroughly).

I had an awesome time. Ashley, Mel and I met up at the bank (bumped into David and Jin!) before heading over. They found apple pie! There is a Costco not far away, which is where Ashley procures her cheese. (Mmmmmmm.) Settling in, I enjoyed girl time with wine... then Soju. Heather prefers Soju with aloe juice, and for some reason my inner frat boy (who knew?) came out and well... excess is bad. We headed downtown and I only made it to 2:30 before begging for a cab. So tired. The girls were out until 7! I admire the dedication, but as the remainder of a mild hangover leaves me, I don't regret my decision.

Sunday's highlight, then, was dinner with Tere. She invited me for bibambap, so I drained my blisters and headed out for my first real, authentic Korean meal! The restaurant was closed. Around the corner, though, was a Japanese restaurant. I had two of the biggest shrimp ever with noodles (and chopsticks) while Tere had some spongy things that later made her ill. :( Sorry, Tere. The best part of the meal was slurping noodles I ensnared in the chopsticks. I figured out I could tie them to the chopsticks in a knot so they could not escape. So here I am figuring this out, while the 4-year-old next to me was using a fork. Cheater.

For dessert, we went to a corner shop and had buns with a light maple-flavored shell baked with a pad of butter in the base. Oh so yummy. It's a good thing they're a mile away.

Told you it's been busy! Now for my first afternoon classes. Here's hoping.


Tamara said...

I'm so happy you're enjoying your crazy adventure in Korea. I miss you, but I'm SOO happy for you and taking this leap of faith!

Hummie said...

You will be happy that you took the time to blog all of your stories--someday you will look back and enjoy these writings yourself.

Keep it up and keep happy!

Your Mom's DigiBuddy :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy that you are doing so well and having such a good time. I know this is going to be a great experience for you... and thank god there is Costco's for bread and cheese... wooo hoooo. Don't forget to email me your addy at some point. I have something I need to send you. Miss you Flame *winks*.