Puma in Seoul: Day 4
Shopping, shopping, dodging clumsy walkers, and more shopping!
I've been having lots of nosebleeds since I arrived in Korea. I don't like it. If there's anything Korean dramas have taught me, it's that a nosebleed means you're gonna die soon! Ack!! I have to say, I can never get used to the fact that motorcycles ride on the sidewalks here...and I've had a few close calls, haha. I panic every time I see one! My brain is like "umm...Natalie, you should probably move. NOW." But my body freezes and I just stare like a deer in headlights. It's kinda pathetic...I usually have very sharp reflexes... And what a lame way to die! "Budding talent Pumashock crushed beneath a pizza delivery bike because she couldn't take a step to the right! Tonight at 11..."
And don't even get me started on the traffic in Korea. I thought driving in LA was wild and crazy...they've got NOTHING on Seoul. I've seriously seen like 100 situations that SHOULD have ended in huge wrecks! Maybe that means Koreans are really the best drivers, since they seem to avoid the pile-ups...?? Oh well, let's hope I make it home in one piece!

Smile while you can, Eun-Suh...'cuz you're gonna get a nosebleed, some funky chapped lips, and then you're gonna die!
Thursday morning started the same, with me expecting to have free time and ending up super busy. The Windows Live folks invited me for a visit, which I'm so happy I got the chance to do. I thought I'd be brave and take a cab by myself...sounds easy enough, right? Well...apparently not. The first cab took me to COEX shopping center, which were 3 words that never even came outta my mouth. So then I jumped out and ran over to what I thought was the right building. It, of course, was not. I hailed another cab. This guy was too busy fishing out a pen and paper for my autograph (which was really cute) and talking to me a mile a minute in Korean to pay attention to anything, so he ALSO dropped me off at COEX shopping center. Mind you, it's cold as the North Pole right now and my dreadlocks feel like flaming whips against my frozen ears. Eventually, I find the Microsoft building. I was so excited to finally meet Jiyeon and her co-workers. I can't express how nice everyone at Microsoft was...I had a totally great time greeting folks, taking pictures and signing autographs. My signature, by the way, sucks. I need to find a cool way to sign my name, haha. Sorry to everyone who got such a crappy autograph from me.

Rinsing our feet before the sacrifice - How was I to know this would be my final smile...
After that, Mike and I found a place for me to try out that foot massage where the little joyfish nibble on your feet. I've always wanted to do it! I believe the place is called The Foot Shop. I really thought I was brave but I found the whole ordeal pretty freaky. I didn't get scared until we walked over to the pool, because those bastards KNEW we were coming and they swam over to us all excitedly. Ick! Oh, and they're not tiny either...they were like the size of my thumb, all yellowy and greenish and slimy with their faces sucking at you! Eww Eww EWW! Mike went in first to distract them for me...then I got in. Ohmigosh, ewwww. It felt soooo weird. It wasn't ticklish to me, like most people describe it... it felt more like my feet were falling asleep while being poked by toothpicks. You know that strange tingling sensation, right? Ugh...and I couldn't hardly look at or it almost became too much to handle, haha. I kept stomping around and freaking out...haha, I hope I didn't kill one of the poor little guys. After that we relaxed in warm lounges and got massages. Well...maybe I shouldn't say "relaxed"...because this massage was HARDCORE. It was the kind of thing they make you sign a waiver for in the US. You know, just in case you DIE. This man was tugging and kneading and yanking me all over the place and I thought "Surely, you can't be serious, dude?!" I know you're supposed to raise your hand or something if it hurts too much, but I didn't want to be a total wuss... besides, a super intense massage makes you feel even better afterwards, right? So I hung in there. At one point, he almost hit me in the nose with my own knee! He was bending my legs in ways I didn't think the human leg was supposed to bend. It was not sexy. Still, I don't know which was more painful - the massage or the fact that we had to watch "Into the Blue" starring Jessica Alba the whole time...? It's a close call, folks. When I thought it was finally over, he just climbed into the lounge chair behind me and proceeded to karate chop me in the back and then yank on my arms like I was human kayak. In the end, I did feel very refreshed, which was nice since dance rehearsal was up next!

My totally rad dance instructors. How dude could dance for so long in that hot ass leather, I'll never know...

This time, I learned the dances to go with the Korean songs I'll singing next week - 'Mirotic' & 'Nobody' (no dance for 'Molla-ing'). The 'Mirotic' dance was a lot of fun to learn...the trick will be to dance it well and sing it well at the same time, haha. But the teacher dude is really great and he had me run it over and over until I got super comfy with the moves and could focus on singing it well. The 'Nobody dance' took no time at all, since I pretty much knew it already...doesn't everyone know that dance?? I'm happy though because it's so feminine and will be a nice change from the 'Rainism' and 'Mirotic' dance I have to do. This time for dinner we had Chinese and I got to try jjajangmyun. DELICIOUS. I have to find this when I get back home! Or better yet, I bet my iron chef boyfriend can figure out a good recipe for it. It was so good and exactly what I needed after all that hard work. I happily slurped up the entire bowl... we also had a big platter of fried chicken and some gyoza. It was fantastic.

That's pretty much if for Thursday...
I'm gonna go to bed fat and happy now!


Puma in Seoul: The Weekend
Saturday, I went out shopping on my own. That probably wasn't the best idea, because the streets (and stores) of Seoul are CRAZY PACKED on the weekend. I couldn't believe my eyes when I entered the department store. It took so long to just reach the darn escalator, that I kinda lost my shopping fire... I really wanted to buy some gifts, so I tried to stick it out, but I really do not deal well with crowds of people NOT paying attention to the flow of traffic...and instead just wandering in every direction. That really drives me nuts. The stress became unbearable when I realized that I needed more cash. Thus began the never-ending quest for a freakin' english ATM machine! After many Oscar-worthy mime performances of "Where is the atm machine please?"...I finally found one in the store. Unfortunately, it was totally from space and I couldn't figure it out. I'm actually not 100% certain that this electric box I was trying to jam my credit card into had anything to do with money....

So I hit the streets and walked forever searching for ATMs in every Family Mart and 7-11 I could find. I started to get really hungry and grumpy. After what had to have been an entire decade of walking, I found a freestanding ATM in a tiny booth... After that, I was too exhausted and famished to try to shop again, so I stopped by the closet Kraze Burger (and Krispy Kreme) and went straight to my hotel room. It wasn't my first choice in cuisine, but it was right next to the hotel...so it won! I got this insane burger that had a beef patty under a disk of fried cheese... I thought surely my heart would stop pumping on the spot. I'm sure that green-tea glazed donut I ate afterward didn't help much either.

Right when I was ready to give up and collapse on the bed, my rent-a-friend Mike called me up. We met up and gave the department store another shot... this time I came out victorious with a couple lovely (but seriously overpriced) items. We went walking further near some women's college and that's when the shopping got really fun. I LOVE finding shirts with bad english written on them more than anything in the world! Tokyo truly reigns supreme for that sorta thing, but this area of Seoul had some real gems too! Check out the video below:

Note: New Kpop star AJ wears the same "Roial International Califoria" shirt in his "Dancing Shoes" vid. Rad.

YouTube credit: jaeuraznMV

On a side note, I'd been spending the entire week trying to find a place to get a pedicure done. I found it ironic that I could not find any place in Korea to get one, haha....when I have like 5 Korean-run nail shops right on my block back home. They were hard to find, and once we did, they were always full and had a crazy waiting list. Maybe they were afraid to service my American size 9s. Sheesh...this city almost gave me a complex about my (what I thought were reasonably feminine) footsies! I can't even shop for shoes, because no one has my size. What a cursed fate - No shoe shopping or professional foot maintenance! I couldn't let it go, since I knew I'd be dancing barefoot on the show Monday, and I wasn't gonna have gnarly paws on national TV... so, I just bought my own nail polish and did it myself!

My diaphragm had no idea what struggles it was about to face...
After shopping, it was time for my first vocal training session. I was SOOOOO excited about this. After my zombie performance on Monday, I was eager to do another singing performance and really give it my best. Thankfully, only Juhyun (my vocal coach), Ms. Kim, and Mike were in the room. I totally wasn't digging that "show & tell" set up from the day before. It's so weird, I can sing in front of a large group of people, no prob...but put me in a tiny room with a handful of folks (or even worse, my family), and I totally freak out. Mike and Ms. Kim were like old pals to me now and I knew Juhyun was there to help me improve, so I could relax. We spent a lot of time working on Mirotic. We went through and fixed all the little pronunciation mistakes I'd been making, so it was like getting a Korean lesson and a singing lesson at the same time :) Mirotic was a fun song to work on because it gave me the most opportunities to play with the melody and do some adlibs. After that, we worked on my English performance - "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" (the Lauryn Hill version). Of course, I felt really comfortable with this one, so I was able to just let loose and wail, haha. I love that song and I was looking forward to singing it on the show.

Here we are at Blues House. Isn't Ju adorable?

I was SO exhausted after rehearsal, I felt like I'd run a marathon...or at least felt like I'd been banging my head against the wall, because I had a killer headache! Plus my voice was getting super tired and I was more crooning like a dying rooster than singing. So we called it a day (thank God). Ju was so kind and took Mike and I for a yummy sushi and udon dinner. Then we went to a bar where her boyfriend was DJing. It was great...the place was spacious and had a nice laid back vibe. It's famous for it's good music, and I certainly wasn't disappointed. I heard some great jazz, classic rock and R&B...it was a nice place to unwind after such a stressful day and intense voice class. Ju was a sweetheart, and we have so much in common! I felt bad for Mike because she and I were so eager to talk to one another and he had to translate everything. Still, the three of us managed to have good conversation all around. Ju's really stylish and has an amazing voice! She's worked with some of the most talented Korean singers in the industry, so I felt very honored. I believe she'll be singing with one of the performers for the Korean Music Festival at the Hollywood Bowl this May. I wish I could keep taking class with her...I could learn a lot. I got to meet another famous Korean songwriter who just happened to be at the same bar, so I was excited about that. We had a couple of cocktails and did lots of chatting and listening to music. It was a nice night.
When I returned to my hotel, I went straight to bed... I was beyond drained!
...stay tuned for my final 2 days in Seoul!

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