Sunday, September 28, 2014

Of Taxis

Hi everyone. Oni here.

You remember me, right?

I wrote something for you once… about Nabi’s difficulties with the showers in Korea…


I’m here to tell you about taxis!

First of all, if a cab driver doesn’t want to go where you want him to take you… he won’t. He’ll tell you to get out of his cab. Sometimes verbally, sometimes they’ll just point at you and then at the door. Once, after an unprecedented string of get-out-of-my-cabs, I theorized that I was being tossed out because I look like trouble. My friends dismissed this idea out of hand (whatever, losers).

Cab drivers do not care about traffic laws. I have lost count of the times drivers have broken the speed limit, run red lights, etc. The most terrifying ride I’ve ever had involved a cab driver who went over 60 mph in the middle of the city and over an interchange, turned into oncoming traffic, and used his horn liberally. He was not my new best friend.

Sometimes cab drivers are incredibly nice and helpful. Once, when I was quite new to Korea, a driver could tell when I got out of the cab that I wasn’t sure where I was. He parked and waited until I oriented myself. Another, having asked us our plans for the holiday, showed Nabi and I where we’d need to go the next day; found a clean, reasonably priced hotel for us; came in to the hotel and translated price, etc (AFTER turning off the meter); and even arranged for a wake-up call.

Some cab drivers like to get in fights! When Nabi and I arrived in Busan one night, we got into a cab, told the driver our destination, the driver made a U-turn, and off we went… or so we thought. The driver got a call about thirty seconds later and started yelling into his phone. Then he parked the cab on the curb, told us to “wait a minute,” got out of the cab, and yelled at someone on the other side of the road. When he got back in the cab, he made a second U-turn, told us to wait again, and yelled some more. He finally moved us into his friend’s cab so he could wait for the person he really wanted to fight, who wasn’t present (yet). And just last night, Nabi’s driver got into a fist-fight with a drunk who was blocking the road.

Lastly, some rides are just awkward. Like the time I opened the door to discover someone already inside. I backed away, apologizing profusely, but both the driver and the passenger (a woman) motioned for me to get in. I did, and the lady helpfully explained that she was the driver’s wife. Even if she hadn’t told me, I would’ve figured that out, as the two proceeded to bicker and fight for the entire trip. Meanwhile, I made myself as small as possible in my corner of the cab.

And… that’s all I have to say about taxis!

See ya—


Friday, June 27, 2014


Lovely folks, do y'all remember the post* Oni made last month about a certain tale of showers (to be found here), in which she trolled an unsuspecting Nabi (me) into getting drenched ON PURPOSE?

Well, I'm here to let you know that karma is a thing. And it's a vicious one.

Let me tell you the tale...

So Oni, Mandu, and I are all hanging out one night. Since I have to work earlier than them in the mornings (10:00 AM vs. 1:30 PM), I normally go home much earlier than they do.

This night is no different.

I get up, go into the foyer, and close the dividing door into the living room. I get my shoes on, and I press the button to (very noisily) unlock the door. I remember at the last second that I left something in Oni's apartment.

So I turn to open the door to the living room again.


Thinking I was safely on my way, Mandu and Oni started talking. Not about much, just what they did at work that day, or some TV show they were watching.

So I decided to listen to see if they talked about me.

After about five minutes, they put on an episode of Vampire Diaries*. They settle in comfortably, completely unaware that I am mere feet away on the other side of a closed door.

Another few minutes pass.

Slowly... carefully... noiselessly... I open the door.

Mandu is the first to see me

"OH GOD!!!!"

Oni joins in.

"What the HE....?!"

Squeals of fright turn into sputterings of displeasure as the realization sets in that it's just little old Nabi.

It was glorious.

Now, I know this is sure to have backlash.... Mandu and Oni are not the forgiving sort of shenanigans such as these (however justified they may be... though Mandu didn't drench me on purpose. We'll call her collateral damage).

I didn't plan to scare them. But it was just so simple... it fell into my lap. I'm an opportunist. Who could blame me?

Regardless... I don't know what revenge shall befall me (I know it's already being plotted), but I simply had to share this age old piece of wisdom: karma's a bitch.

Nabi out.

* you should, since it's the ONLY ONE she's ever posted.

*'I'm not judging since I'm the one who got Oni hooked. Bahahaha.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Great Chicken Ordeal

Weekends are fun. Fast food is easy.

One of these statements is correct. (I'll give you a hint, in case you couldn't infer from the title... weekends are fun is the right answer)

O..... M..... G.....

We just wanted some chicken.

So let's set the scene...

There's me, Oni, and Mandu; we're all chilling at my apartment after a looooong night out on the town (I'm talking out until the sun comes up), and we decide we want some fried chicken.

Not just any fried chicken, mind you. We want the best fried chicken the great metropolis of Gwangju has to offer... and that is Kyochon chicken.

It's so legendary that there is literally no word or phrase to describe it's awesome amazingness. It's the god of fried chicken. It makes all other chicken look like raw, overcooked, dry, and greasy all at once.

In a word: perfection.

That's all we wanted. Just a little bit of perfect chicken.

 So we went out in search of it.

Lo and behold! There on the corner (meaning: a mile away from my apartment) was  Kyochon chicken. We went inside, taste buds a flutter....

And the men working behind the counter ignored us.

At first we were so enthralled with the smell of chicken that we didn't notice. When we did, we though "Hey, maybe they didn't see us! That's okay. We'll cough and shuffle and get their attention"

No big deal, right?


So after a few minutes of hemming and hawing, we finally get the idea that they know we are there, but are simply ignoring this fact. We went from being stunned and heartbroken to angry and indignant in 2.4 seconds.

How dare they keep our chicken from us. How dare they.

So what did we do with our righteous anger? Our justifiable rage? Our completely validated and understandable hatred of their impudence?

We took it outside.

Not quite as dramatic as we might have hoped, but we were hungry and.... tired, and.... so.... yeah... we went somewhere else.


Yes!!! Twice in one evening, we were snubbed at a chicken joint! This time, however, we were just stuck in a corner at a table, given styrofoam-esque snacks to nibble on, and forced to sit and watch as table after table of people were served and group after group of newcomers entered and were waited on.

It was the most traumatic experience since I've arrived.

Eventually, we got the message, and went downtown to the best pizza in Gwangju where we knew we'd get a friendly reception. It was great.

But my story is not over yet...

Oh no, my marshmallows... we were not quite beaten. The chicken-greedy evildoers were not to be the cause of our downfall. WE WOULD RALLY AGAIN!!

The next day, whilst Oni kept guard of the hollow mountain, Mandu and I set forth on an epic, hours long trek in search of chicken*.

We dared two bus transfers, three crazy drivers, bands of vicious vagrants*, and one very unhappy poodle.... all in the name of chicken...

Adventurous is my middle name

... and we found it.

On top of the world, we discussed among ourselves. We knew we were so far afield from whence we began that, were we to take the bus, we'd never make it back before the chicken got cold. That would be simply unacceptable.

So we said "To hell with it! We're taking a taxi."

Hailing the first available cab, we settled in for the long ride home.

Five minutes passed....

And we were at my apartment.

I'm sure you are just as confused as we were. With that in mind, here's a nifty little visual aid of Mandu and I's trek around the citadel:

Basically, we made a big "L" in our travels.

OK, so maybe it's a cursive L.... with a lot of curly Q's... and a dash of squirrel on acid....

Moving right along... we got our chicken.

You've never tasted it. You wouldn't understand.

The guys at the other place were super nice, we discovered an exceptionally beautiful park full of roses, and we got inspiration for our  next adventure: Bus Days!

Some weekend, we're going to pick any random bus and hop on just to see where it goes. We're going to pack sandwiches, drinks, etc in our backpack, and when we feel like it, we'll hop off and explore, nibbling on goodies as we go*.

When we get tired, we'll pick another bus. At the end of the day, we'll either grab a hotel, or take a taxi back to our apartment(s), depending on how far Google maps says we've strayed from our neighborhoods.

So there you have it: the tale of the great chicken ordeal, and the brave souls who survived it.

Nabi out.

*You think I'm joking. I'm not. It took hours.

*Small Korean children

*it's considered rude to eat while on the bus

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Trivial Details

There are so many big differences in the culture here; everyone expects you to have culture shock. Everybody looks different, the language is different, the food is different, they open doors differently, they dress differently....

Wait, back up. They open doors differently?


There are door handles in Korea. There are automatic doors here, as well. But a good number of places that are hugely important to your survival (marts, restaurants, coffee shops), have this little gem:

It may not look like much, but it's a truly terrifying thing if you've never experienced it before. A flood of questions run through your mind: is it automatic? Is it locked? Is it biometrically coded for members-only? Or to electrocute foreigners??

Solution? Walk away. I don't need to eat that badly right now, and I'm pretty sure there are still some ketchup packets in the fridge leftover from the last teacher*.

You may think I am kidding, but when you're in a foreign country by yourself, a simple thing like not being able to open a door becomes a huge deal. However, common experiences like this can lead to great stories and even better friendships. A real life example is my friend Mandu.

Mandu had just moved to Gwangju two weeks before, and she came across one of these doorknobs (door buttons?). Many days she had walked past the restaurant, but one day she decided to be brave. She marched right up to the door, and tried waving her hand to open it.

Obviously, it did not work.

However, it did catch the attention of another expat who was in the cafe that poor Mandu was trying so pitifully to enter. This girl was a Gwangju veteran of two years, but she still remembered her first experience with those door buttons. So she came to the rescue of my friend, and after an awkward shared giggle, they became friends.

Now, don't think I'm making fun of Mandu, because I'm not. If I hadn't had Oni to show me how to work the blasted things, I would have eventually been waving my hand at a cafe door just like Mandu.

That's what has been the worst so far - the little things that I'm not expecting. I expected to miss my parents; I didn't expect my hot water to only work between 1 AM and noon. I expected a mild amount of terror due to the language barrier; I didn't expect to make the exact same mistakes here as I did back home (over committing, over working,  and over thinking everything).

So what's the point?  It's the small stuff that will get you. Every single time. The Devil is in the details. 


* a lot of times you are replacing another teacher who already lived here for a year or so - quite literally. You get their job, their classes, and a lot of times their apartment.... and sometimes their ketchup packets.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Red Lights Optional

Let's talk about taxis.

So far, I have had* good experiences with the cab drivers in Gwangju. For the most part, they are friendly, knowledgeable, and very eager to try and communicate in a mix of Korean and English* to figure out where exactly I want to go.

Don't get me wrong, there have been some less than chatty drivers. Some of them get frustrated that we can't communicate more than we can. In all fairness, I know how to say the name  of the highschool that is nearest to Oni's apartment, and the name of the apartment building that is nearest my apartment. So, it can get confusing.

However, one thing they all have in common is this: they are slightly insane when it comes to driving.

Yes, I realize this is not specific to Gwangju. This is a trait that I believe is inherent in the species cabbicus driverus.

It also may have something to do with the moon, because it gets worse after midnight.

For example, red lights are more of a suggestion than a command during the day. At night? They don't exist.

I've taken to keeping my eyes closed during the better part of a taxi ride.

Especially when it's raining. And the cab smells distinctly... sweet. You know what smell I'm talking about. Don't pretend you don't.

However, the most important thing I've learned is this: Don't panic. Chances are, your cab driver knows where he's going. If he doesn't, cabs abound in Gwangju. You can jump in another one. If all else fails, you can call your boss or Korean friend and have them tell the cab driver where to take you.

Basically, you probably won't die. And if you do, we all gotta go sometime.

Nabi out.

*  mostly

*termed "Konglish". Not even kidding. It's a thing.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Of Nicknames

Oni is very unhappy with me.

Don't worry, I haven't intentionally set her shower to drench her in the middle of the night*.

No, she is unhappy because I don't have a Korean nickname for the blog.

"You get to call me Oni, but I always have to say 'le younger sister' when I talk about you. It's annoying! Fix it."

Alrighty then.

Therefore, I set about fulfilling Oni's commands. Later that day, two of my Korean friends heard of my predicament and began helping out.

They suggested many nicknames, but nobody liked them. Then I heard someone say "Nabi".

Curious, I asked what that meant. My friend told me it translated into "butterfly", and I was sold.

See, my nickname in America was "Flutterby". My Dad always told me that I "fluttered by" and didn't pay attention to anything when I was a child.


So, from now on, when Oni posts, I will be referred to as "Nabi".

Just so you know.

Speaking of Korean nicknames, we have a very good friend here with whom we hang out a lot. She already had a Korean nickname: Mandu.

That means dumpling.

She chose that herself because, in her own words, she is "short, dense, and round"*.

So, there you have it, friends. The three (expat) Musketeers: Oni, Nabi, and Mandu.

All for one, and one for all.

*though I've been tempted

*false. She is beautiful and shapely. But I'll still call her Mandu because it's cute.

Friday, April 25, 2014


So far I've only discussed the positive elements of living in Korea.

It's time to discuss some of the not-so-hot moments.

To date, I have not cried out of homesickness. However, I was able to live with Oni for the first ten days.

Then the vacation ended, and I had to start my new job and move into my own apartment. 

Because THAT'S not terrifying in the slightest. 

And then, there was the medical check. The usual pleasantries: blood work, hearing/vision test, urine sample. Fun, fun.

The worst part, however, was the getting sick.

Apparently, everybody gets sick when they first arrive. Everybody. And not just "Oh, I don't feel so well. I'll take some Tylenol and sleep this off."

Ooooh, nooooo.

More like "Dear God, take me to the hospital, I've had this shit for a week and I think I'm dying" kind of sick.

It makes sense: new environment, new air, new germs. No immunity.

Regardless: it sucks. I'm far away from home, I don't have my mother to make me soup, and I can't even get my favorite comfort food because they don't sell it on this continent*.

Add into the mix that Oni just came down with the same thing, and you've got two miserable girls. Oni blames me for giving her the flu. My response? Deny, deny, deny. You obviously got it from the kids you teach. Because everyone knows kids are germy. The end.

So that's all for now, mah peeps. I'm off to sleep this off, and go back to the hospital on Tuesday for a follow-up.


*it's creamsicles, by the way.