Monday, January 02, 2006

Couchsurfing and Toothaches

A new year has come and it's back to work again today. Although I didn't really miss the school, it was really good to see Kitty Class-- they all ran up and hugged me, told me about their Christmas and how they are all six years old now. In Korea, everyone adds a year to their age on January 1 (Korean age is one year older than American age).

I started out my break last Saturday by taking the KTX train to Busan to arrive just in time for Christmas Eve. I showed up at Haeundae Beach and met Mayo, who let me crash on his couch for 4 nights and introduced me to the nightlife in Busan on a very atypical Christmas Eve in Korea. I met Mayo through, which has serious potential to be the adventurous budget backpackers best friend. To sum it up in a sentence, couchsurfing allows you to meet people from all over the world who are offering their couch (or extra bed, floor or broom closet) for travelers, and in return at some point you return the favor to another traveler. Think 'Pay It Forward', worldwide vagabond-style. I can only imagine what my mom was thinking when I called her on Christmas morning and told her I was sleeping on the couch of someone I only recently met *gasp* online. (Probably the same thing she was thinking when I called home from London earlier this year and whispered that I had lost my bag on the flight from Sevilla to London. Why was I whispering, she wanted to know? Because I don't want to wake up the people I met on the flight who invited me to stay on their couch for the night...but that's a whole other story.) Couchsurfing was great, Mayo was a very gracious host (and a great vegetarian cook also!), and Busan was fun. It was my first Christmas away from home and it was a day quite undistinguished from other non-holidays; I had to keep reminding myself throughout the day that it was Christmas.

My parents sent me a Christmas package the week before and I unceremoniously opened my stocking and presents directly after class on the day I got it. I couldn't help but open the wrapped books--I'm a huge book-nerd, what can I say? And after the books I thought I might as well open the others, it's not like I'll be home to open them on Xmas anyway...Smartwool socks! I love them and I was needing another pair of the greatest socks ever! Grandma's honey cookies were also a huge bonus. If I close my eyes while I'm eating one it almost feels like I'm in Kansas... Thanks Mom, Dad and Grandma! And thanks Granny for the money I will no doubt be putting towards books. You are all the greatest! I can't wait to try some of Tanya's soup recipes, I'll have to go out and find myself a cheap blender now.

From Busan I moved on West to the port town of Tongyeong, then up to Jinju, West to Hadong, Sangyesa, Changhakdong, back to Jinju and home to Seoul on Saturday. I inevitably amassed many tales from the road but will post more on them later... I have yet another cold and a frickin toothache that is sending me in a frantic search for an English speaking dentist. Preferably a dentist that doesn't use silver or gold fillings that are oh-so-common here in this country of rotting teeth. There is an undeniable overabundance of silver fillings in my school and the country. Okay, okay so not everyone has rotting teeth but it looks like many of my students were put to bed with bottles of sugar water and their parents have yet to discover the wonderful invention of the toothbrush. I've been told that parents in Korea don't spend much time or money on the first set of teeth because they eventually fall out and then they'll inherit a completely new set that can be properly taken care of. Correct me if I'm wrong though. Happy New Year to all! I wish everyone a year free of toothaches and colds and bosses that suck.

Where I work (1st & 2nd floor) and live (4th floor)