Monday, April 13, 2009

Cameras, Crazy Cabbies and Cherry Blossoms

I meant to get up early(ish) on Saturday to go into Yongsan and get my camera checked out/consider buying a new one. My mother called at noon my time and wondered why I was still home/hadn't eaten breakfast yet. I went to a party Friday night, full of teachers and random Koreans that C. met on the street and in shops. It was a lot of fun to blow off steam from a week of teaching and I didn't end up getting home until nearly 3 in the morning. Twelve hours later I ended up buying a camera, a Canon IXUS970IS.
It has everything I need plus I got a 20 minute tutorial on how to use all of the features. I had a blast taking pictures of life in Anyang on Sunday and again today, taking pictures of my kids. One girl, who isn't overwhelmingly pretty in real life, is so happy in front of the camera that she is unbelievably photogenic. I keep trying to use "the magic voice" my mother used on my brother and I when we were kids to get us to relax in front of the camera but A. I don't think it works as well when they don't understand the language and B. I just don't have the knack. I'm more apt to amuse my students by suddenly contorting my face into something very silly.

Going north into Seoul is very easy for me. Get on the 1 train, sit for half an hour or so and then get off and voila--I'm in the heart of Seoul. Technically, 10 minutes and I'd be "in Seoul" but not anywhere very fun. However, coming home is an absolute pain. My line branches off in 2 directions and you have to choose the train going in the right direction but each direction has 5 different names, depending on which city it dead ends in. I got on the wrong train but changed before the branch to another one which was one of the freakish trains that goes to the THIRD branch of this line that I had forgotten about (the branch only has one stop on it). Does this sound confusing to you? It's ridiculously confusing for me. To make matters worse, that one micro branch isn't on the older subway maps because it's brand new. I got off there and realized that it was the same station that I took the high speed train to Busan from and only about a 5,000won cab ride from my house (5 kilometers or so I think). This was around 7:30pm. I got in a cab with my friend, and said my address, one of the only things I know that I say in Korean with a perfect accent. The cab driver had NO idea where it was. Usually they will tell you to try another cab or type it into their GPS before starting the meter. Oh no, this guy drove around for 5 minutes and then stopped (with the meter running to type it in). I also realized at this point that his meter was (for whatever reason) set way higher and a fare that should have cost 5,000 total was already around 6,000 and we were no where near my apartment/decent bus routes. I said forget it, we're getting out here (Korean woot) and handed him the 5,000. It was a nice night and I had a vague idea of where we were. We figured we'd walk until we got tired of walking and hail a cab from the street instead of a station cab. The sidewalk was next to the river, lined with cherry trees in full blossom and it was pretty full of people, young and old, strolling under the street lights, taking pictures and enjoying life. Instead of being peeved about cab, I was happy it had happened, to put me on the street at that moment. To be fair, I freaked out for about 5 minutes and then calmed down and had a lovely time. Anyways, in the grand scheme of things those 5 minutes don't count.

As we walked along, the people meandering with us started to become more numerous until we realized we were approaching the edges of some sort of festival happening down by the river. Thus the mystery of the festive decorations on the streets near my apartment solved! Like many other parks in Korea, it was a cherry blossom least that's what I think it was. Unlike the popular ones in Seoul, my friend and I were the only foreigners there among hundreds. There was live music, cheap food and Soju stands, tables, chairs, and fireworks for sale. We had a little of everything and enjoyed sitting along the river bank, listening to terrible Korean pop covers. Sitting quietly off to the side isn't an option when you are as interesting to look at as the cherry blossoms. People of all ages came over to talk to us, mainly in Korean though we got a few 'hellos' in passing. My favorite was a "Hi Alexandra!" from one of my elementary school students. It ended with a spectacular, 10 minute fire works show. I love living in Korea.

I have never been so happy to get lost in my life. I kept starting to freak out a little and then realize that it really didn't matter. Yes, it sucks to be lost and not know the language or be able to read the signs or ask a passerbyer for directions but if you don't worry about it, everything works out.

Sunday I spent in a park in Pyongcheon. My camera died before I actually got to the park but I managed to take lots of photos of the best part: the street in front of the park that the city closes off every Sunday afternoon for kids to roller blade in and drive automated toy cars (different sections). Think Hot Wheels Barbie cars meeting Korean entreprenuerial skills. And yes, I did get not one but two cotton candies from the vendor on the sidelines. I have a sweet tooth...and I like to indulge it.

It was a fantastic weekend and made me loath to start another grueling work week. I love teaching, I just don't love teaching quite so many classes. Next year I want to work in a public school. I'm tired of being jealous of the public school teacher's time to do things during the week like take calligraphy or taekwondo classes.

Right now I'm in between Hocus Pocus (another Vonnegut novel) and Borges' collection of short stories, Ficciones. I've been working on the Borges since December. It's not to say that it's boring or slow, it's just incredibly challenging. I like to savor every bit of it and it's unusual for me to have something I know I won't finish on the way to school and then be bored on the way home. That is, for the rare occasion where I forget to put 2 (or 3) books in my backpack. There is something magical, surreal about Borges' writing that makes me feel like he couldn't possibly be human, only to realize that his writing is marvelously human.

There would be far more pictures in this post only the INTERNET IS BEING EVIL and not cooperating with me. I've given up. More next time.


Luis said...

Nice story Alex... and nice camera purchase... but I'm biased, i have the next level up from that one for my diving stuff, so you should be golden ;)

Nancy K said...

LOL. Great post Alex. The camera should be great for you. Enjoy!

Alex said...

Well since I don't go diving :-p. Though I did appreciate that camera of yours on our trip!

Jessica said...

I am excited for pictures more frequently! Yay. Hope the internet stops being evil

Nancy K said...

So, where are all these pictures?