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The 12 Stages of a Korean Spin Class

29 Aug

There is nothing like taking a spin class in Korea.  Nothing.  It’s a cross between biking, disco dancing, and the 4th circle of hell.  Much like I imagine women do with childbirth, I keep forgetting how terribly painful it is, so I keep going back.  Mainly because I can’t think of a good excuse not to.

*It’s worth noting that much like every building in Korea, air conditioning and heating are used minimally.  It’s actually hotter inside the gym than in actual nature.  Gross.

The 12 Stages of a Korean Spin Class:  A Cautious Endorsement

Stage 1:  Tepid excitement: Regular lights off, spinning disco lights on, door to the tiny jam-packed spinning room closed, causing sweating to begin.  Sidenote: Today my spin instructor turned on the strobe lights, which was fun until I almost had a seizure and fell off the bike.

Stage 2: Smugness.  No matter how ridiculous you look, you will always be a better dancer than the moms and dads in this room. And if not better, then at least, you know, younger.  Also, you know the songs.

Stage 3:  Overheating.

Accurate.

Stage 4:  Overwhelming regret.  It’s been 15 minutes. TOTAL.

Stage 5: Bargaining silently with the instructor to: 1) go easy on you 2) unexpectedly stop the class after 5 minutes 3) actually kill you

Stage 6: Irrational anger. Thissucks, thissucks, thissucks, thissucks.  Bonus:  Most of my instructors make let us yell to keep up general enthusiasm and momentum.  What they don’t know is that I’m just screaming the name of whichever student pissed me off the most today. I would bet money that my coworkers could name the top 3.

Guess what bitches? Surprise spelling test tomorrow!

Stage 7:  Envy.  Why is my androgynous spin instructor in such bangin’ shape?  Do I have heat stroke or is she getting way hotter? Also, we have the same haircut. Also, her English name is Gun.  GUN.

Stage 8:  Daydreaming, which helps block out the excruciating pain in your thighs and ass.  I like to mentally run through my fall shopping wish-list. (polka-dot skinnies? Don’t mind if I do!) If I get really bored, I make lesson plans.

Stage 9: Evaporation.  My eyelashes are sweating.  It was a poor choice not to bring water – in that it could result in my actual death.

Stage 10: Party rock! Heat stroke be damned, I love K-pop and I love dancing.  And I look good.  This is also the point where I convince myself that I’ve lost at least 6 pounds so far.

Surprisingly, not that far off.

Stage 11:  Awkward stretching while on a bike. The main goal is not to slip off.

Stage 12:  Avoid the 40 naked old Korean women in the locker room.  Crawl home.  Attempt to drink Vitamin Water, but instead pour it all over your face.  Lie on floor and will your body to clean itself.  Weep.

*Tonight we full-on recreated the dance moves from Gangnam Style (recent internet sensation and the story of my life) Gun knew all the words.

Rehash, Rewrite, Refresh

1 Jul

As my sister-in-law says, “When you’re not writing, I know something’s wrong.”

So I decided to stop being lazy and catch you all up.  In my defense, I haven’t written this month because my mind has been elsewhere.  About 6 weeks ago, my personal life literally imploded.  I’m talking my love life, my relationship with my friends, everything.  And I feel like I’ve spent the weeks following working through all that.  And I don’t write about that stuff, or at least I try not to.  So I’ve been avoiding y’all, while slowly moving things back on track.

Without further ado, Awesome Things I’ve Done While Not Writing:

1) EVERLAND!!!!  To celebrate Teacher’s Day, which was anticlimactic to say the least, some of the ladies and I finally ventured out to Everland, which is basically Korea’s own Disneyland.  Everland is an amusement park, zoo/safari, and full-on entertainment venue, with performers, parades, singing, dancing, and of course, lots of merchandising.  It was beautiful, and SO FUN!  And unlike Disney, it didn’t cost a million dollars:  we got in for $19, and all the food was about $5.  Please for a minute imagine if Disney or anything theme park in the US was like that.  You can’t, because it will never happen.  But don’t worry, we’ll always have Everland. And I finally rode the famous T-Express roller coaster – a huge wooden monstrosity, that has the scariest vertical drop EVER.  And it.was.awesome.  Honestly worth the nearly 2 hours we waited in line for it.  Oh, and it also gave me infinite street cred with my students – most of whom are too scared to ride it.

Bad things don't happen here. That's a fact.

T-Express: Please note the pee-in-your-pants drop at the beginning

2) Buddha’s Birthday/Lantern Festival

Earlier in May, we headed out to Seoul for the annual Lantern Festival and parade.  It was really pretty, colorful, and tame – meaning we sat in chairs and no one got into a fistfight because this is Korea, not the US.  Happy Birthday Buddha, you look great!

Not Buddha

 

3) The sweet escape:  Earlier this month we had a 3-day weekend for Korean Independence Day (or something like that, my students weren’t exactly clear, or helpful).  We decided to take advantage of the time off and head down to Busan, a huge city on the southern coast.  And while the city is broken up into many different parts, we really only explored Haeundae Beach, which kept us more than entertained.  We spent our days relaxing on the beach, which was hosting all kinds of contests and activities because this was a huge weekend for travel.  And we spent our nights partying.  Please note, I saw more foreigners this weekend than I have in the last 10 months.  White People Spring Break 2011 was a great success.

The ratio of Koreans to umbrellas is approximately 1:1

4) FINALLY going out in Hongdae, the university party area in Seoul.  (Also home to Korea’s 2nd Taco Bell, but that’s another story) Hongdae is just a huge, winding maze of club and bar-filled alleyways.  It’s full of foreign teachers, military guys from the US, and more drunk Koreans than you can count.  While Koreans are the epitome of prim and proper during the day, they have no shame in their drinking game.  It is absolutely normal and acceptable to get black-out drunk, stumble around while balancing on a friend’s arm, or just straight up pass out in the street.  No one will look twice, or rob you.  My favorite of the night  was a guy driving a Vespa, with his comatose friend sleeping on him on the back.  That is love people. And that is Hongdae.

5) Getting my early morning meditation on: the ballet studio changed owners, and so we are now taking yoga class 3x/week.  While this is not “hot yoga” it is a veritable sweat lodge in there, due to my sadist teacher’s aversion to air conditioning.  Oh, and did I mention it’s now at approximately 300% humidity here?  So despite losing at least a pound in water weight every morning, I’m loving the class.  They’ve finally hired a replacement ballet teacher so next week we start ballet on Tues/Thurs., meaning I will be working out before work every day.  I will pause for my parents to express their surprise, pride, and utter delight.

6) Preparing for the apocalypse: and by that, I mean the rainy season.  As I said, the humidity is stifling, and it’s been raining for the last week.  Every day.  All complaining aside, I really do prefer this to the cold.  And since everyone has been warning me about this for months in advance, I knew what was coming.  This weekend I bought my first pair of real rain boots (in eye-assaulting teal), and my 3rd umbrella in Korea (while buying rain boots, I LOST my umbrella in the store. . .only to have to buy another one in the same store.  Both ironic and cruel) Either way, I’m now fully outfitted for this season, which is best described by Forrest Gump:

“One day it started raining, and it didn’t quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain… and big ol’ fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night… “

This is basically how I look and feel everyday.

At least it’s given me a plausible excuse to wear my hair in a ponytail every day, and whittle my makeup routine down to eyeliner and chapstick.  What can I say, I’m a sweaty kid.

7) Reading like a mad woman.  I’ve been geeking out, and devouring books left and right lately.  Currently finishing up the 19th Wife, and just finished an engrossing non-fiction book called Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, written by an amazing journalist.  Like I said, geeking out.

8) Contemplating how the hell an entire year has gone by since I graduated.

9) Crying over pictures of my nephew (no really) and getting really excited to see my parents and younger brother in LESS THAN A MONTH!  I might literally pull a Scarlet O’Hara and faint with heatstroke emotion.

10) Freaking out that I am the next teacher to leave.  Granted, that’s not for 3 more months, but it’s still pretty weird.  There is absolutely no other word to describe it than bittersweet.

11) Bungee jumping!  Some of the teachers and I peed our pants had our first bungee jumping experience at Yuldong Park in Bundang.  It is insane how long the free fall feels (say that 3x fast).  It’s just like falling. And falling. Forever.  Then you bounce up, and do it again. And again.  And finally, we were lowered into a  row boat, with a less than enthused teenage driver, that would take us to shore.  Nothing makes you feel more like cattle than being lowered via crane, into an awaiting boat.  I also used this prepaid harness time to work on my Circ du Soleil moves, but like I said, the boat guy was less than impressed.

Peer pressure: If all your friends jump off a bridge-type building, are you going to jump too? Why yes, yes I am.

And lastly, I’ve just been trying to figure out what the hell happened the last 6 weeks.  Not that it has been terrible, or in any way unbearable, just confusing and at times sad.  And like I always try to explain, everything is magnified when you’re in another country.  As my very wise friend Betsy said, “You just feel so vulnerable here.”

So, onward and upward.

Rehash.

Rewrite.

Refresh.

While I was sleeping. . .

22 Apr

An entire month passed.  Without a single post.  And with many an angry Facebook post on my wall about said lack of blogging.  I apologize. . . at first I was just completely uninspired and I didn’t want to force out some super lame posts.  And then the days sort of turned into weeks, and now it’s been a month, and that’s just stupid.  So here we are.

So during the last 30 or so odd days, I’ve been:

-Watching NCAA basketball. . . at least until both Arizona and Kansas lost on the same weekend.  But I did log some pretty fun (early morning!) hours watching the games via laptop here. Highlights include a 4am watch-party date with Bossman, and a few (loud) expletives shouted while watching Arizona play Duke – while I was at work.

-Finishing my 30 Day Shred, which seems like a million years ago. That was possibly the most anti-climactic workout moment ever.  I finished the 30th day and thought “now what?”  Turns out, now means a normal workout routine to avoid any future 30 day shreds.

Owned.

-Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day:  . . . at a festival in Itaewon with hundreds of my closest, drunken foreigner friends.  In order to pay homage to the Irish in the most authentic and sincere way possible, we got good and day-drunk.  We drank, listened to the bands, laughed at people, got 3rd degree tongue-burns while trying to eat some street food, and fell asleep on a bus.  And of course I also (once again) extolled the virtues of the Boondock Saints to Lauren.

Soju on the left. Orange soda on the right. Someone who's going to regret it in the middle.

-Going on ridiculous adventures: A few weeks ago, some friends and I joined a group tour to the south of Korea, where we hiked Jagged Ridge and went to the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival.  What was supposed to be a relaxing, nature-loving weekend turned into the near-death experience of a lifetime. More on this later, once my PTSD subsides.

-Planning more trips: This weekend I’ll be getting my zen on during a temple stay. And next weekend, our boss is bankrolling a company trip to Nami Island for some moral-boosting fun.  I can only hope this retreat includes both norebanging and trust-falling. More on both of these to come.

-Battling two serious addictions.  The first is with Dexter.  I avoided this steamy serial killer for years, but found myself completely hooked last month. Obviously I had no choice but to stay in and watch all 5 seasons.The first step is admitting that you are powerless to your addiction, after all.

Social-life killer/ serial killer

My second addiction happened just this week.  I have reignited my passion for Carmen Sandiego, travel, trivia, and wasting time all at once!  I’m obsessed – I play it at work until my computer dies.  Only then do I realize that I’m at work, and should in fact be working.

Where in the world is that saucy minx?

-And previous Cherry Blossom Festival aside, I’ve also been enjoying the cherry blossoms closer to home.  Namely, on the way to work everyday, and last weekend at Yeouido Park in Seoul – the place to be (especially if you’re a couple and you own matching outfits. No. Joke.)  I’ve never been much for plants of any kind. . . but cherry blossoms are amazing.  All beautiful and fluffy.  It’s finally spring.  And we finally have pretty stuff to look at.

If only I could have class outside

-Writing for the Go! Girl Guides site:  Despite my lack of motivation over here, I’ve kept up my weekly posts on all things Korea, women, and travel.  You can check out my stuff here

-And lastly, I’ve been battling some hardcore homesickness.  Oddly, it didn’t hit me until around the 6-month mark.  And then it hit me. Hard.  Definitely spurred on by the fact that my family went on an amazing Florida vacation without me.  And that Tator Tot is getting cuter (and chubbier!) by the day.  And that college basketball always makes me think of my parents, some of the most loyal Jayhawk fans you’ll ever meet.  Luckily, I’ve had some good Skype dates with the parents recently, and I’ve channeled the homesickness into excitement for our reunion in Thailand this July (Hooray! Elephant rides and bottled water for everybody!)

So there you go, all caught up on the last month.  I promise not to go all MIA again.   Here’s hoping your last 30 days were as fab as mine!

.

Le Has-Beens

10 Mar

As I briefly mentioned a few times, I have been taking ballet class for the last month. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday before work, I take an hour-long class along with 2 other teachers I work with.  And while they are learning something new, I’ve taken dance class my entire life – at least until 3 years ago.

Hence, Le Has-Beens.  Granted, I’m the only Has-Been, but group solidarity and support is key when you’re  23 and wearing a leotard and pink tights.

Luckily, ballet class is not for talking. Because the last thing I want to do after I wake up is speak. But dance, well that I don’t mind. Even if it means losing an hour of sleep, packing my work clothes, and consequently getting ready for work in a tiny dressing room with 2 other people.

Part of the reason I like the ballet class? Our teacher, whom I call Princess Grace.  She weighs 90 pounds tops, and is everything a dancer should be: effortlessly graceful, outrageously flexible, and teeny tiny.  Even though I understand about 1/8 of what she says (and that’s usually just when she uses the French terms for the ballet words), I’m borderline obsessed with her.  She is really patient with us, even though it’s early for her too. And she probably laughs at us after class, much like I do with my own students.

Fact: Princess Grace is unamused by your pain and thinks you can stretch further.

And the other reason I like ballet class?  It’s my happy place.

First, a bit o’ background: I started dancing when I was 3, and continued up through my freshman year of college. I got serious about it during middle school, and in high school it became my only “after school activity.”  And by activity, I mean I was part of a  competitive company that did a lot of competitions, and practiced 6 days a week.  And I really, really loved it. Especially during those melodramatic high school years, when everything is either absolutely amazing or insanely bad. There was no in between. But dance kept me balanced. And focused. And introduced me to people, places, and feelings I otherwise probably wouldn’t have discovered as a teenager in Kansas (this also started my obsession with gay men and rhinestones).

And during my freshman year at Emory, when I was homesick and confused, dance remained my happy place.  It was the one thing that seemed to stay the same that year. I needed that.  And it was the only class(es) I never skipped. (sorry Mom and Dad)

And then of course, I took a 15 pound 3-year hiatus, which happens.

Then, in February, as I approached my fifth month in Korea, I realized that my life here was starting to seem normal, and at times, lacking. So I set off to find my happy again. Or more specifically, something that was “mine.”  I think that’s really important in a new place – you have to have something that is just yours, that you do for pure pleasure, and that will sustain you through the less glamorous times.

And thankfully, I’ve found mine. I found my happy.

This is what 11 a.m. looks like.

And yes, half of the lesson is in Korean, but the basics are the same. Dance is the universal language, and for the most part, my body still speaks it. I’m definitely not as strong or as flexible as I used to be, but my muscles generally remember what to do.

It feels right and yummy and exciting and normal all at the same time. Finding your happy is definitely worth losing an hour of sleep for.  Even if you have to wear a leotard.