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Month: February 2016

Tinderella

Tinderella

My sister (see last post) has been a huge help to me since I arrived in Seoul. On top of providing me with basic provisions (like peanut butter) that are either too expensive or non-existent in the Korean market, she has also given me a ton of advice on day-to-day life here. One idea that she suggested was for me to use Tinder to look for friends.

I had been on and off Tinder while I was living in the U.S. Despite having matched with hundreds of people, I had had zero success in meeting up with anyone IRL. I only really used the app when I was on the toilet and had run out of Candy Crush lives. So I did use it quite often. But, like my love-hate experience with Grindr, I would usually download it while drunk and thirsty and then delete it a few days later after having no luck.

But, a new city and country could prove to be more fruitful. And my #1 priority was friends. A boo would be nice, but I’m very aware that I’m not the luckiest when it comes to relationships. So, I downloaded Tinder once again.

I tried to make it pretty clear that all I wanted was friends.

pretty clear right?

 

But there were still some people who could not understand friendship.

Joseph’s first questions are: 1. where are you from? 2. top or bottom?

 

So, I wasn’t having tons of luck at first. I was matching with lots of guys, both Koreans and other foreigners, which was a huge confidence boost. It led to a few conversations with people promising to show me around Seoul sometime. But, there still seemed to be a sexual undertone that our meetup was ultimately going to end with me putting out.

One Saturday I was on my way to work and running through the next batch of potential matches to see if there were any possible friends. And then I came across Nick.

Are you fucking kidding me? How could I not want to be friends with this guy? If your profile makes me laugh and not because it’s so sad, I’m a fan.

After we starting chatting, I found out that Nick lives in Cheonan, a city about 30 minutes past my sister on the subway line. He was in Seoul for the weekend visiting friends and invited me to hang out that night so that I could avoid my sad weekend past time of sitting alone at coffee shops in my neighborhood.

IMG_0127

It felt great to be invited out by a potential new friend, but it was also scary because I had never met up with anyone from Tinder! What if we couldn’t find anything to talk about? I was nervous and very non-committal in my messages leading up to the burlesque show we were going to so that if I chickened out last minute, I could always block him on Tinder and never have to think about it again.

I finally decided to bite the bullet and give it a try even though the temperature was well below freezing that night. The subway ride there took longer than expected and I kept thinking how I would be 100% okay with him not waiting for me because I was late. I would just do an about face and head back home where I would watch Netflix over some camomile tea like the 45-year-old woman that I am.

Despite arriving about 15 minutes late, Nick did wait for me. He was easily recognizable with his long hair, backpack, and cell phone plugged into the wall. To my relief, we got along really well from the beginning. Nick’s a very social person and I feel like he could make conversation with pretty much any human or animal. On our walk to the bar, we found out that we both went to college in Oklahoma. What a coincidence! At the bar, I met some of his friends as we waited for the burlesque show to start. It was my first time out in Seoul (sadly), so I decided not to hold back when it came to drinking.

The burlesque show was a cool new experience for me. Nothing enticed me obviously, but I appreciated it. After that, we went to Homo Hill, Seoul’s aptly named gay-borhood. It sounds like a bunch of bigoted frat guys came up with that name but whatever. I’ll just call it The Hill. We first went to a party at a “gay-friendly” bar where there were a lot of welcoming lesbians but not many gay boys. I don’t remember much of it because I was holding that cup like alcohol all night.

courtesy of www.heezyyang.com
courtesy of www.heezyyang.com

I don’t know who three of those girls are.

We danced and whipped our hair for a while before Nick took me to my first full-on gay bar in Seoul. It was obviously also on The Hill. Only a few seconds after walking in, a Korean guy stopped me and showed me that we had matched (no joke) on Tinder. He then introduced me to his very drunk Irish friend who was apparently nervous as this was his first time at a gay bar. Because I was liquored up, I ever so benevolently tried to help him overcome his fears and dance with some Korean guys he was interested in. Of course, this being the gay world, some signals got mixed and I ended up spending the night with the Irish guy in a hotel room that he paid for (#sugardaddy). It turns out that this might have been his first time at a gay bar but he was no stranger to the world of gay hookups.

But back to Nick!

Nick has been an ideal Tinder friend match. On top of taking me out in Seoul for my first time and introducing me to new people, he laughs at my jokes, which is the most important quality I look for in friends. He’s stayed with me for a couple nights while visiting Seoul and I even went down to Cheonan for a visit. Thanks for everything, Pussy Monster. Looking forward to many more fun times together.

<3 Chodie

yaaaaaaassssssss kween
yaaaaaaassssssss kween

tl;dr: gay shit

Seoul Sistah

Seoul Sistah

As I said before, one of the main reasons I chose to find an English teaching job in South Korea was because my sister would be stationed here for a year. When I finally accepted that I would have to teach English if I wanted to get out of Washington and the U.S., I explored opportunities everywhere. I could go back to Latin America because I already know a good amount of Spanish. I could explore a new place and go to another country in Asia like China or Thailand. But, I kept coming back to Korea because it seemed small enough to explore but with lots of things to do/see…and my sister was here.

My sister and I are only 13 months apart in age (she’s older) and about 2 inches apart in height (I’m taller). Growing up, we were constantly moving around because both of our parents were in the Air Force. When I was about 5, my parents officially divorced although they had been stationed at separate bases for a while. For the next five or so years, my sister and I were each other’s closest and sometimes only friend. It was hard to move so much and constantly have to start over at new schools. But, we were in it together whether we liked it or not.

My mom remarried when I was 10. Soon after that, she had my little half-sister Alexia. I consider Lexi my full sister even though we only share our mom because I’ve watched her grow up. Can’t believe she’s 16 now.

We know our positions

But, there’s still an age difference of 11 years between us. Melanie, my older sister, and I were always known as the “big kids” in our family and we stayed close even as our family expanded. Together, we somehow made it through the scary times of puberty. We both had acne but Melanie also had glasses and braces. I wasn’t any better. I accidentally shaved off part of my eyebrow and had armpit hair by the sixth grade. Not cute.

Melanie and I left home at about the same time. She went to college after graduating high school, and I moved to Costa Rica for what would have been my senior year. I think we were both so excited by our new adventures that we weren’t really sad about being apart. We wanted to show that we were independent and could take care of ourselves. But, we haven’t been close (geographically) since.

I was super excited to have the opportunity to be near my sister once again. She moved here at the end of last November, and I came right before New Year’s. We’ve met up a few times already: both in Seoul and when I went to visit her. It takes about two hours to get from my place to hers on the subway:

I'm purple. She's red.
I’m purple. She’s red.

Since I’ve arrived here in Korea, the main difference between my sister and me isn’t the length of time that we’ve spent here but rather our jobs, experiences, and the locations that we live/work in.

Me My sister
I was picked up at the airport and driven two hours to my neighborhood. She landed on base so she didn’t have to go anywhere.
My apartment was already picked out for me. She got to stay at a hotel on the base for a week and shop around for her apartment.
My apartment’s a studio and I don’t pay for it. Her apartment has three bedrooms and she doesn’t pay for it.
A small thing of peanut butter costs $6 in my grocery store. She can buy pretty much everything you can get in the U.S. for cheap
Legs and subways all the time She has a car.
The principal of my school (an English school) needs someone to translate in order to talk to me. Her whole area is pretty much half Americans. All the signs are in Korean and English and people speak almost perfect English in all the shops.
 There’s a 7-Eleven across the street from me. There are three Turkish kebab places within walking distance of her.

So, we’ve been living in very different worlds in Korea. Although I think it’s harder for me to adjust because I’m outside of my comfort zone and America-land, I’m hopeful that this immersion will give me the opportunity to master enough Korean language and culture to get around on my own. But having my big sis around has definitely been a huge help. She’s gotten me sheets, towels, silverware, and PEANUT BUTTER from on base. What a godsend!

She’s also taught me things about how to live in Korea that I assumed my school would tell me. Like that you have to buy special garbage bags and separate your trash. Now, how the hell was I supposed to figure that out on my own? I had just been throwing my Wal-Mart bags in the big pile of garbage outside my apartment. But, you apparently have to separate organic matter from general waste from the different recyclables and put each in its own appropriately colored bag.

But which one’s which?

And every part of Seoul uses different colors. Fuck me, man. Why it gotta be so hard?

In conclusion, thanks a ton Mei Mei for letting me invite myself to join you in Korea and unknowingly going on this adventure with me. I’m looking forward to traveling, drinking soju, eating tons of Korean food, and going to gay bars with you. You’re my favorite big sister.

LOL (Lots of love),

PJ

A duck and the kid from Up

A photo posted by @pitajones on

Hagwon School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Hagwon School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

The first weeks at my job were pretty demanding. My school’s a private language academy (also called a hagwon) so kids come to class at our school outside of their regular school time. It was winter break for the kids in January, so there were winter camp classes during the daytime in addition to the evening classes that we usually have. That meant that I was at work from 12:30-10 p.m. everyday and I even had to work a couple hours on Saturdays. Gross. My Korean coworkers had it even worse. They had to work 9 a.m.-10 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays. They were so exhausted, they often took naps in the teachers’ office during their breaks from class.

And these poor kids. I feel bad for them because they come after their normal school hours. I thought that they would come for one hour a couple times a week. But most of them are bused here from their schools by 5 and then they study here until 10 five days a week. 10 P.M.!!! These kids are elementary and middle schoolers. They have to eat dinner here. They fall asleep in class sometimes and I let them. I also try not to always push them that hard because I don’t agree with their parents sending them to classes for so long. I think they should just be kids.

They are also supposed to only speak English with each other while they’re here. If they speak Korean, they get their name on the Korean Loser List.

A photo posted by @pitajones on


I don’t approve of the list’s name. One of the Korean teachers is so insistent on them speaking only English that he sounds exactly like this:

Apologies for the R word. Thank you if you know what movie this is from.

It’s kind of awkward though because the Korean teachers don’t speak great English. So forcing the kids to speak English all the time makes them speak crappy Korean “English”. But, some of them really try and some of them are really cool kids. Others suck.

Here are some things that the kids at my school do/have done so far:

  • They call each other “idions” instead of “idiots” and tell each other to “shut down” instead of “shut up”. I don’t know if it’s better to correct them or not.
  • They say “I’m finish” instead of “I’m finished” which drives me fucking insane. And where do they get that? The teachers! “You finish?”
  • The kids are very honest and they (mostly boys) have no problem calling me handsome. I have no problem with that either. One kid told me I looked like Adam Levine. Yeah…no. I think he just really wanted me to give him a piece of candy.
  • The kids watch a lot of movies here to practice speaking and listening. I love that because I don’t have to talk all the time or make that many lesson plans. One time they reenacted a scene from Elf and one of the kids was the manager. The manager’s black. So, of course this kid painted his face black. Whoops.

    Excuse me?
  • I gave the kids lifesavers and they think the mint flavor is so strong it hurts. Some of them spit them out. Fucking wasted my good candy.

But, I’m finally free from winter camp and ever so slowly settling into my shoebox apartment and life in Seoul. Another foreign teacher explained to me how to turn on the heat and hot water in my apartment so I’m set there. There are actually pipes that run hot water under the floors, so I never have to wear slippers.

Finally, here are a few of my observations about Korea and Koreans that I’ve learned so far:

  • It has the second highest suicide rate in the world and the highest suicide rate among OECD countries. Probably because their parents make them go to school for 13 hours a day.
  • They really hate Japan because they haven’t forgiven them yet for what they did in the past. One kid said in class that he’d rather commit suicide than move to Japan. I don’t think that’s very healthy.
  • When I started talking about gay marriage and marijuana in DC to another American teacher, he instantly told me to stop talking. I wasn’t trying to spread my agenda, but apparently both of those things are hella taboo around here.
  • Some websites are randomly blocked. I can’t logon to OKCupid at my school and I couldn’t watch a video called “Lesbians Touch Penis for the First Time” at a coffee shop. Call me a radical, but I think it’s my god given right to be able to watch lesbians touch penises for the first time.
  • Koreans brush their teeth all the time, even while sitting at their desks.
  • They also eat pizza wearing one single plastic glove. It look like this: IMG_2769
  • Plastic surgery’s a huge deal. Maybe I’ll get something nip/tucked while I’m here.

Can you believe I posted twice in one week? Man, all this free time and lack of a social life has its perks for now.

Seoul-ja Boy

Seoul-ja Boy

Once I booked my flight to Korea, I had a ton of things to do before leaving. I had to drop my visa application off at the embassy, move out of my apartment, and pack for an indeterminate amount of time. It’s really hard to pack for a place you’ve never been. There are plenty of blogs and vlogs that past English teachers in Korea have kept that did help me a lot. I learned to pack things like deodorant because it’s expensive here since Korean people don’t really smell bad.

I picked up my visa on a Monday and left for Korea the following morning. I also bought a new phone that I planned to use once I got to Seoul. But, this was poor preparation on my part because I miscalculated the cost of an international phone plan and I didn’t back my phone up. So, I got to keep all of my contacts but lost several years’ worth of work in Candy Crush. That fucking sucked.

RIP Level 400

I would like to give a big shoutout to my mom though. She helped me a ton while getting ready to head out. I think she was really excited for my sister and me to be in the same place at the same time. She claims she’s going to come visit, but I don’t know how she’s going to handle dat kimchi.

Y’all just jealous that you didn’t get a custom nameplate for your mom’s bday

A photo posted by @pitajones on

 

I flew from Washington to San Francisco to Seoul. I was surprised that the flight to Seoul was under 12 hours. But I still hate flying and have trouble sleeping in anything that’s not a bed, so I arrived in South Korea after having been awake for around 24 hours.

Once I made it through customs, I found the taxi driver who was waiting for me outside the airport. No one had ever held a sign for me at an airport.

This is what the sign said. Of course, I said, “No, I’m fucking tired.”

He drove me the two hours through rush hour traffic to the school I would be working at. I nodded off several times and really just wanted to get to my new apartment and sleep. Most schools here provide foreign teachers with an apartment, so it was nice not to have to look for one on my own. When the taxi dropped me off, someone from the school met me and took me to my new home. I knew to expect a small apartment because this is a very populous city so space is expensive. I’m sure the school was looking to save a buck too. I held my breath as the door opened hoping that it would be a decent size. It’s not. It’s a fucking tiny ass studio. There’s barely enough room for me to practice doing the splits.

I dropped my bags off and followed this man (who never introduced himself to me) back to the school. There I was passed around to several employees, and no one seemed to know what to do with me. Eventually, I was told to go to sleep and come back the following day at 4 p.m. So, I went to my tiny apartment, which I realized had no heat on, and slept for about 12 hours.

The next morning, I tried fiddling with all kinds of buttons and breakers to figure out how to turn the heat or hot water on. No luck.

What do dat say?
What do dat say?

So, I welcomed myself to Seoul with a cold shower and blew myself dry with the random hairdryer left in my apartment. I expected there to be some furnishings like cups and plates. Nope, just a bed, a microwave on the floor, and a TV. What more do you need?

I walked around my new neighborhood for a few hours and quickly realized that almost nothing has English translations. Living in Korea with no Korean skills might be harder than I thought.

I knew that my teaching hours were supposed to be from 1-10 p.m., so coming in at 4 p.m. was really like a half day. But still, having to work less than a day after flying halfway around the world made me nervous. What if I couldn’t stay awake in classes? All I had to do was shadow teachers, but I didn’t want to leave a bad first impression.

After one night of shadowing two teachers and the world’s most boring New Year’s celebration alone in my apartment, I showed up to work the following Monday with no idea what to expect. To my surprise, I was given my own teaching schedule and thrown into things. I was already expected to teach my classes all by myself. Wait, what?