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여형과 다른 일

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January 18, 2014 | 07:19pm
Mood: happy

First post of 2014 and it's almost the end of January... oops.

In order:
1. VACATION. First I went to Paris, France. I was extremely jet-lagged. The first day I took a suburban train (the RER) to Versailles. I stood waiting in line for 2.5 hours. I was very happy that I brought a book. I wasn't crazy about Versailles - or rather, the palace itself was great, but you could hardly see anything due to all the people. The gardens were amazing and far larger than they appeared, although I managed to injure my ankle and hobbled through it.

The next day I went to the Louvre, discovered an epic line, sat in the Tuileries and read a book, walked down the Champs-Elysees, went to the Arc de Triomphe, found another insane line, walked to the Eiffel Tower, found another line from hell, and took the metro back to my hotel. The next day, New Year's Eve, I got up early to go to the Catacombs and ended up in a 4 hour long line. That's one block an hour. BUT the catacombs were incredible. At one point I'd lost the people behind and in front of me, so it was just me, the bones of thousands of dead people, and the ringing drip, drip, drip of leaking water. Amazing.

I accidentally fell asleep at 7pm and missed celebrating the New Year. I woke up at 12:50am when the people in the next room came back.

New Year's Day the metro was free in the morning, so I took advantage of it and went back to all of the places I'd mentioned before, as well as a few others (Les Invalides comes to mind). I ran into a random parade and gorged on crepes and potato soup. That evening I met up with a former Truman alumn, which was pretty awesome.

Thursday, January 2, I went to the airport to catch my 7:30am flight to Fes, Morocco. After arriving in Morocco I discovered that my hotel hadn't sent a taxi for me as I'd requested, so I figured out how to take a bus to the city and got off at a stop that seemed appropriate (but ended up being quite far away from my hotel). I then trekked to my hotel, checked in, and walked to the Medina, where I was scammed by a couple kids, got horribly lost, and accidentally underpaid a petit-taxi driver.

Let me put it like this: I really, really hated Fes. I think I fetishized the idea of Morocco: "Oh, it will be just like they did it hundreds of years ago!" Yes, I saw donkeys in the streets, and people did the typical third-world walking ("Sidewalks? Streets? What are those?"), but I felt deeply uncomfortable in that city. Obviously I stood out, but I hated seeing women in head scarves, I hated seeing children who should have been in school selling things on the streets, I hated seeing the men sit at any of the ubiquitous coffeeshops and eye everyone who walked by. I just- didn't like it.

I hated it so much that I booked the first flight out of the country possible. I ended up spending 3 days in that country, wandering the streets and avoiding people trying to rip me off, and they were 3 days too many. I've never had such a negative reaction to a place before, but Fes took the cake. Maybe if I'd gone to a more touristy city like Marrakech or Casablanca I would've enjoyed it more, but I hated every minute of my time in that country. The second the plane took off back to Paris I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders.

I felt like such a travel failure after my time in Morocco. I didn't want to spend the rest of my trip (about 4.5 days) in Paris, although I certainly could've found something to do in Paris in that time, so I looked for the cheapest flights from Paris to other cities in Europe. After a coin toss between Warsaw, Poland and Lisbon, Portugal, I decided on Lisbon.

I had a day layover in Paris. I decided on a different hotel for that stay, this time close to Gare du Nord instead of off in the suburbs. I arrived at maybe 11pm and discovered that, in exchange for the good location of the hotel, I was in the fricking ghetto. I felt like I was going to get knifed just walking down the street.

Sunday, January 5 was my layover day. I got up early and did a walking tour of the medieval district (close to Notre-Dame Cathedral). It was fantastic. Good photos. Maybe one day I'll get around to uploading them. (lol yeah right). Later I checked out, took a train to Orly Airport, and went to Lisbon.

I'd lucked out on my hotel in Lisbon. It was a fancy-schmancy hotel that ordinarily went for, like, 400 euros a night. I got it for 85 a night. Not bad. The buffet breakfasts were INSANE. Fig jam, you guys. That's all I'm saying. Fig fuckin' jam. I would eat that shit off the floor if I had to. No joke.

Lisbon was great. The first day I went to Alfama, one of the historical districts, which was quite beautiful. And then St. Jorge Castle, which was just- amazing. Parts of it had been standing for about 1000 years. Incredible. And it was a bit rainy and hardly anyone was there... just wonderful. The next day it was raining quite hard so I turned it into a museum day. I went to the Gulbenkian Museum, which was a few blocks from my hotel. As I wandered I started to wonder how I could get a job at a museum...

My last full day I went to Belem, which is a historical neighborhood. I took the suburban train, only I took the wrong train because I'm a moron, and I had to walk a ways to get to Belem. I did, however, manage to wander down a street where all of the ambassadors from Middle Eastern countries lived. When I got to Belem I went to the Tower of Belem, which was nice, and Jerónimos Monastery, which was so beautiful. I will admit that by that point in my trip I was tired of traveling so I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have. I ended up taking a bus back to my hotel, which was an adventure in and of itself.

Thursday, January 9, I took a taxi to the airport, waited for a few hours (including in a line that just didn't move...), took a 2.5 hour plane to Orly in Paris, took the train from Orly to Charles de Gaulle, waited, paid huge amounts of money for food at a coffeeshop at the airport, waited some more, and took a 10 hour flight back to Korea. Then I caught a 4 hour bus down to Gwangju. All together it was 28 hours of traveling back to Korea, which was insane, but the trip - highs and lows together - was worth it.

Also, Portuguese guys are quite possibly the most attractive in the world. That's all.

2. Winter camp has started. I'm teaching Drama this year, which is lots of fun, especially the first graders. Sometimes I think I should teach a lower grade... and then I remember how tired I feel after a day with my 4th graders.

3. Tomorrow is the TOPIK exam, which is a proficiency exam for Korean. I am... unprepared? Maybe? I haven't really studied all week (more on this in a moment), but I just looked at an old exam and it didn't look too bad. I won't get a perfect score, but I doubt I'll fail miserably, either. Well, maybe. Cross your fingers!

4. I read 227 books in 2013, which is my personal record. (Crushing my previous record of 167.)

5. I made the executive decision to focus more on reading in foreign languages this year. I don't care about how many books I read this year (... 25 Korean books/25 French books...), just as long as I'm reading in more languages. I did decide to try to read 1 book every two weeks, which is a struggle. My French book (The Princess Diaries #1) is not bad at all, but Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Korean... Christ. It's just a struggle. I've hardly studied anything this week because I'm spending all my time reading that damn book.

6. Wednesday I went to Korea Exchange Bank (KEB) and got a new bank account. Well, two, technically. I just sent money to my US bank account, which is the first time I've sent money home since 2011.

7. Friday my hot water heater died, so (some part of) it had to be replaced. I took a very cold shower yesterday morning.

8. I may or may not have started studying Portuguese. You know, because I really have the time for one more language. And besides that, Russian was supposed to be my next language... sigh.

9. There's more, but I think I'm caught up.

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