24 May 2012

An Extraordinary Week

Tuesday 15th May: Teacher's Day

Some of my wonderful cards
Strawberry jam from Julie
I can't quite put into words how much my students mean to me. I've been working with kids for a long time. Over the years, I've met a lot of amazing kids and I have kept in touch with many of them.

Nonetheless, the kids I have taught for the last nine and a half months are in a class (no pun intended) by themselves. I have learnt so much from them. My time at Maple Bear hasn't always been easy, but these incredible children have left an indelible mark on my heart. I will never forget them!

Flowers from Yeon-Soo
They showered me with love on Teacher's Day. I got lots of hugs and beautiful flowers and even homemade jam! But... the cards were the best part! I will always cherish the cards that these kids made for me. Some of their words even brought me to tears.

This one made me cry!
The 15th of May also happens to be my mom's birthday -- 81 years old this year -- and she continues to amaze me. I called her when I got home from work and told her how special my day had been. This made her happy.

Wednesday 16th May: A Very Meaningful Day

I will never forget this day! I awoke to the exciting news that my piece on the Morrissey concert had been published (by the amazing Kitty Amsbry) on the one and only Andy Taylor's remarkable website ANDYTAYLOR.TV. I cannot begin to express how much this means to me. Not only is it an honour and a privilege to actually see something that I wrote featured on Andy's website, but the amount of support and praise that I have received from friends, fellow writers and fellow music lovers has both touched me deeply and motivated me to write more. Special thanks to my dear friend, Suzi Parker, who inspires me daily.

In the evening, I had a Skype date with my beautiful friend Isabelle. She is one of the most important people in my life. We're so much alike, it's almost as though we were separated at birth. We've been friends for almost 20 years and have always kept in touch, but we haven't seen each other in over 10 years. I always enjoy my Skype dates with Isabelle, but this one was particularly special, because we were counting down the hours until the pre-sale for the Duran Duran concert in Hartford, CT on 24th August that we will be attending together. Isabelle & I have never seen Duran Duran together, so we are both extremely excited about this show! In my mind, we were going to score excellent seats. In the weeks leading up to the pre-sale, I could picture the two of us standing in the front row. I was not at all prepared for what happened at 1am Seoul time (12pm Hartford time) on my freaking birthday -- well, in Seoul, at least -- no less. The tickets available through the pre-sale sold out in one minute flat and I suddenly found myself with nothing. I was in a state of shock and so was Isabelle, who was standing by on Skype.

Thankfully, our Girl Panic didn't last long. I soon realised -- with a little help from my friends -- that if I refreshed the page, the "Buy Tickets" button would magically reappear, as people were holding on to tickets and then releasing them when they found better ones. In the end, I did manage to get tickets, but they aren't very good at all. Of course, I'm thrilled that Duran Duran are doing so well with ticket sales, but as a fan, it hasn't been easy securing tickets to the upcoming US shows. I'll actually be attending four shows in August -- fulfilling a dream that I have had since adolescence -- but I'll write all about that another time. Anyway, I'm so stoked about seeing them with Isabelle that it doesn't really matter that we'll be in the 18th row.

Finally, I ended up staying up way too late. Even after I had secured tickets, I continued chatting with friends on Twitter and refreshing the pre-sale page -- hoping for better tickets -- until the wee hours of the morning. Then suddenly, Simon Le Bon appeared on Twitter! I tweeted him, letting him know that he had arrived just in time for my birthday. Haha! Quite a few of my friends were online at the time, so they started tweeting him about my birthday, too. I have very good friends, don't I? No response. He appeared to have vanished. I continued refreshing the pre-sale page... to no avail. Then, a little after 3am Seoul time, Simon tweeted this...

... and I just about fell out of my chair! I was delirious from lack of sleep and honestly thought that I was hallucinating.

He then tweeted this...

... followed by this ...

...and finally this...

I was so gobsmacked that I didn't even bother correcting his grammar (it's "whose" birthday, Simon -- for crying out loud!) and I thanked him, and so did my friends. It's silly, I know, but I really love Simon Le Bon, no matter how cheeky and infuriating he can sometimes be.

Finally, around 5am, I tried to get some sleep. It was fruitless! Between my piece being published, the stress of purchasing tickets and the birthday tweets (sort of) from Simon, I was so wired that I didn't fall asleep until after 6am. I went to work the next morning after only about an hour of sleep. Needless to say, I was a little late for my 9:30am meeting...

Thursday 17th May: My Birthday!

I called Pearl to let her know that I was running late. I asked her to please not wait for me and to go ahead and start the meeting. I got to work at around 10am and headed straight to Pearl's office, where the meeting was taking place. The door was ajar. I opened it and was genuinely surprised when everyone started singing Happy Birthday. I was overwhelmed with emotion when I found out that Sameen, Sierra and Pearl had baked me a scrumptious homemade strawberry shortcake. It was the perfect start to the day.

The best birthday card ever!
My day just kept getting sweeter. My students' moms had birthday cakes for me in both my classes and the kids eagerly sang me Happy Birthday and showered me with cards and gifts. My co-workers also had some lovely gifts for me, which I was totally not expecting at all. They even made me this amazing birthday card! I love it!

It isn't always easy celebrating your birthday when you're so far away from home, and everyone at work made my day very special. Words cannot express how grateful I am for that. I went home feeling very, very loved. Of course, I was also completely knackered.

Moreover, I was pleasantly surprised by a birthday package sent by a dear friend, which arrived right on time. I had already opened my birthday care package from home when I received it weeks ago, but I waited until my birthday to open the cards from home. I nearly started to cry when I read those cards. Furthermore, the amount of birthday love that I was shown on Facebook and Twitter -- from my friends across the world -- made my day even brighter. Honestly, I couldn't have asked for a better day.

Saturday 19th May: The Lotus Lantern Parade

I'm in the parade and I've got a lantern!
Although I did go on a tour of some of Seoul's most famous temples on Buddha's birthday when I lived here in 2008, I had never attended this particular event before. Wow. What an incredible experience this was! For those who are interested, click on the link to learn more about the wonderful Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival, held in honour of Buddha's Birthday.


After work, I walked to Jongno with a few of my colleagues, where we ate a delicious dinner of samgyeopsal and then headed to the parade. At first, we didn't have a very good view, as it was so crowded. Then, we decided to walk a little farther ahead and finally ended up joining the parade ourselves! We didn't have any lanterns, but that little problem was promptly rectified by locals who handed us lanterns. Everyone was so warm and friendly. People on the sidelines were waving at us. It was so much fun! I couldn't stop smiling!

Beautiful Colours at Jogyesa Temple
The parade ended at Jogyesa Temple in Insadong, which is adorned with brightly coloured lanterns for the festival. The temple will remain decorated like this until after Buddha's Birthday, which falls on 28th May this year. If you ever find yourself in Seoul at this time of year, I highly suggest attending this spectacular event. It was a magical experience that I will never forget.

Incredible lantern floats that were featured in the parade
Amitabha Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, and Bhaisaiya Buddha in Jogyesa Temple

Monday 21st May: Everland!

Everland - The Happiest Place in Korea
I really am just a big kid -- I love theme parks so much! Everland is located in Yongin -- an hour's bus ride from Seoul -- and is Korea's largest theme park. I spent the day there with my wonderful friends (and colleagues) Dao, Sameen & Sierra. I couldn't have asked for better companions or better weather. I was so excited that I actually did several happy dances throughout the day!

Double Rock Spin
The Double Rock Spin in Rock Ville was the first ride of the day and actually the only ride that I didn't go on. I kept on telling the girls, "I don't go upside down. There's nothing you can do to convince me." It's okay -- I enjoyed watching my friends on this ride. Little did I know that later on in the day, I would end up going on the Rolling X-Train, a roller coaster with two 360 degree loops... a first for me!


Afterwards, we took the chairlift to the Alpine Village, where we ate lunch. It was a pretty surreal experience -- eating roast chicken and sausages and drinking ein Bier in a fake Beer Garden --  in the middle of a theme park in Korea!

After lunch, we explored Zoo-Topia, where we saw all manner of adorable animals and even a Three Musketeers-themed Seal Show! It was all in Korean, of course, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

Love, Love, Love, Love

During the months of May and June at Everland, there is an annual Rose Festival. We visited the Rose Garden, splashed around with the kids in the fountains near the Four Seasons Garden, and
then headed  to what has always been my favourite -- the Log Ride. We waited an hour in line, but it was totally worth it. I sat in the front and got totally drenched!

The T-Express
The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the T-Express. It's currently the world's steepest wooden roller coaster, and I still can't believe that I found the courage to ride it! I would never have been able to do it without my friends' encouragement and I'm so glad that I did. What a thrill! It was simply exhilarating!

It was supposed to be our last ride of the day, but we were on such an adrenaline high after that -- we decided to stay until closing. We reveled in the magic of a brightly lit theme park at night, went on a few more rides, then overdosed on cuteness at all the gift shops. I didn't get home until about 1am. It was a perfect day!

This video of the T-Express is a must-watch! It's hilarious!

So... this extraordinary week can only mean one thing: this is going to be one hell of a year! I'm reminded of a quote from one of my favourite films, Dead Poet's Society: "Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary." I'm excited for what comes next!

No comments: