Thursday, December 22, 2011

I Made it Halfway!

The first semester of teaching is over! Only one more semester and I won't have to say this is my first year of teaching. :) I can't believe it.

Before we left for the holidays, our school had a decorating contest. And guess what?? My class won!! I don't have pictures of all of it, but here are the highlights. I have to give credit for the Christmas trees to my sister, because I remember she made a Christmas tree out of magazines once and I thought it was cool. I asked my lead teacher to call the local coffee shops and ask if they had any extra magazines, and they did, so we made cool decorations for really cheap. My room has 2 walls of windows so that's what we decorated on. The one at the bottom says Jesus is the Reason for the Season, you just can't read it very well. And the trees are made from rolled up magazines.

Since we won, we got a pizza party. Which was awesome, considering I bring my lunch to school every day. Free pizza, and we watched Home Alone 2. It was great. And now for some time off...

Monday, December 5, 2011

How to Make Kimchi 101

Not this past Saturday but the one before me and a friend had a chance to make kimchi! For those of you who don't know, kimchi is the most essential part of the Korean diet. It is served with EVERY meal. It is basically fermented cabbage. Every year the women in the family make a year's supply of kimchi and it's an all-day event.

Originally I thought me and the friend were just going to stand around and watch. Oh no. We were the only people the lady invited over to help make the kimchi. When we arrived I was completely overwhelmed at what I saw. There was a HUGE bowl of red sauce sitting on the counter, 3 stacks of empty buckets, a huge pile of radishes, and piles of various green vegetables.  But this wasn't all the ingredients. Not long after we arrived a man showed up carrying a box of cabbage. Then he went back downstairs and came up with another box. And another, until there were 6 or 7 boxes stacked on top of each other!

This reminds me of the story of The Little Red Hen by Florence White Williams. The hen planted the wheat, harvested the wheat, milled the wheat, baked the bread, and ate the bread. And that's what we did (except for making the bowl of red sauce). We shredded the radishes, chopped the greens, blended the ginger, chopped the onions, poured the krill, added the pepper, mixed it all into the red sauce, stuffed the mixture into the cabbages, and ate the kimchi! Eating it fresh out of the bowl was awesome. But enough descriptions. Here are the pictures!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Korea Lately

Disclaimer: I might repeat stuff I already said.

I'm assimilating into this culture much better already.  Of course I stick out because I'm white (this country isn't very diverse), but I sort of blend in better because I know the way of doing things now.  I can ask how much something is, and now I know the numbers, which is important because if you ask how much something costs then you need to know how to understand the answer.  Their numbers are done in 10s and you just add 1-9 to the beginning so it's not too hard.  Like 90 would be pronounced 9 10, and 900 is 9 100 (same as English), and 9,000 is 9 1,000 (same as English).  Ex: 675 would be 6 (yuk) 100 (paek) 7 (chil) 10 (sib) 5 (oh). 

So let's pretend I'm walking into a store.

I walk in and the ALL the people working there say "Anyoseyo" (hello) and some of them bow.

I nod my head slightly and say "Anyoseyo."

The people working there stare at me until I look at them and then they look away and try to act like they're not staring.  I go about my business until I need help, and then I look at the person and gesture towards whatever I need.  They come up to me and try to help the best they can.

I never ask a question that I know will be too complicated for them to figure out if they don't speak English.  And when I ask a question I try to use sign language while I'm talking.  Sometimes the person will start speaking rapidly in Korean once they understand what I want.  The key here is to nod my head and act like I understand. 

Here is a huge difference between Korean culture and American culture.  When an American doesn't know something, they act like they know it anyway.  Like if you ask an American for directions, they'd rather lie to you and send you the wrong way than admit they don't know.  Koreans are the opposite.  If I start speaking to them in English and they don't know it, they immediately start shaking their head and putting up their x sign (meaning no).  Not all of them do it, but a lot do.  When this first started happening I thought they were saying no to whatever I was asking.  I realized that they just don't want to try to speak English or don't know English.  Now when people do that to me I attempt to communicate with them at least one more time because they probably don't know what I'm asking for (as I said before I try to keep my requests simple). 

I'm getting better at using the subway system and the bus system.  The buses run pretty much everywhere, and I figured out that if I don't know where to get off I can just ask the bus driver to tell me.  The bus drivers can be pretty rude, but if you ask about a stop they'll let you know when you need to get off.  Riding in one of these buses is like riding the Midnight Express from Harry Potter.  The closest thing I can compare it to is driving down the back alleys of Rome in our huge tour bus several years ago.  Basically anything and everything in its path is in danger - old ladies, babies, nothing is safe.  The bus will swerve lanes at all times and cut cars off, honking at people and cars who usually have the right-of-way.  They don't hesitate to run red lights either.  Despite what you'd think, being inside the bus isn't any safer than being outside, because the bus driver will hit the gas as hard as he can for the quarter mile to the next stop and then slam the brake for the doors to open a split second, close the doors and then hit the gas again.  Taking corners isn't any better, and sometimes I wonder how they don't flip over. 

What's even more impressive is watching the people who ride the bus.  They will hop on quickly with their arms full of crap, swipe their card (to pay), have headphones in, and pull out a book and start reading (sometimes without even grabbing the railing).  It freaks me out.  I was doing good not to fall over my first couple months without carrying bags, and more than once I've held on with both hands to the railing.

The food is killing me.  I can't stand it anymore.  I tried, and I gave up.  Now I just buy whatever American food I can find at the store and make whatever I can from the stovetop.  I have some friends who have an oven, but it's pretty small.  I've made brownies at their place once.  This week I made chicken and dumplings.  The chicken looked really small when I bought it, but I figured that was just cuz it wasn't bloated with water.  I've been eating a lot of eggs: egg sandwiches, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, microwaved eggs.  And I eat cereal.  Basically each week I try to find something new I can make by stovetop. 

School's going great.  The kids are good generally, and I have the freedom to change my teaching style when something isn't working.  I'm really tired though despite the good work environment.  I'm beginning to see why teachers get summers off.  Thankfully Christmas isn't too far away.

Shout out to Seth and Beth - CONGRATULATIONS ON GETTING MARRIED AND I WISH I COULD BE THERE!   I hope everyone has a great time!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Think I'm Turning Japanese...I mean Korean

Last week I went to Japan for business purposes, people.  I'm not that frivolous with my money yet.  But since I had to go, I decided to take the long way there - i.e., the Korean speed train KTX from Seoul to Busan, and then the ferry from Busan to Fukuoka, Japan.  Overall the trip was up and down.

The KTX train was great, and it was great to see the Korean countryside.  And the trip from Seoul to Busan was only $60, which is a great deal I think.  The train took 2 1/2 hours because it was going really fast.  Originally I think it's supposed to take 6 hours.

The ferry was fun, but I was so tired when I got on (around 9 pm) that I went straight to sleep.  I woke up around 2 am and I could feel the boat swaying back and forth.  I got up and got some water, and I would sway to one side of the hall and then sway to the other side.  I wanted to go outside but the doors were locked.  The doors were also locked on the way back because the sea was so choppy.  The waves were 4 meters high.  I took motion-sickness medicine both times so it wasn't too bad.

When I got to Japan, I realized quickly there was no way I could figure out the subway system.  It was all in Japanese and the maps were impossible to read, so I had to ask help how to get where I was going.  The first guy who helped me looked like one of the Beatles except he had really gross teeth and bad breath.  But he was nice, so I tried not to mind. 

The people in Japan looked really cool.  I could see right away why Americans know about Japan but not Korea.  Koreans are so clean and polished compared to the Japanese.  I was talking to some kids outside the terminal in Japan and found out they were Korean.  I asked what's the difference between Korean and Japanese?  He said Koreans are more handsome.

I had 2 full days in Japan, but each morning I had to get up early and take care of stuff so I was pretty tired the whole time.  My favorite thing was eating sushi.  They have restaurants with the chefs in the middle, like a bar, and rotating plates that go around the whole bar.  So you can pick whatever you want.  I chose 4 different plates with sushi and had that.  It was so good.  My other favorite thing was the zoo.  The animals were so cute, and it was different from America because there was hardly any glass in front of the cages and the walkway came really close to the animals.  So you could see everything.  I don't have any pics from that because it was raining the whole time.  I also went to a botanical gardent connected to the zoo and it was gorgeous.  No one was there because it was raining, so it felt very quiet and beautiful. 

I'm back in Korea now and I had the feeling that I was relieved to come back home. :)  Can you believe it?  That was a surprising feeling to have.  Enjoy the pics! 

KTX Speed Train through South Korea

Port of Busan, Korea

I stacked 3 of those beds on top of each other to sleep.  It was comfortable believe it or not.

Fukuoka, Japan

Home Sweet Home!

Thanks for the purple towel Gran! It matches the roses in my bathroom perfectly.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Art Museum Etc

We went to this art museum in Seoul about 2 weeks ago.  It was really cool because every picture had some way you could interact with it.  This one you act like you're pumping air into Mona Lisa's mouth.  There were a few I didn't show.  The coolest was too dark on my camera.  It was a slanted room where one person stands on one side and the other on the other side, but the roof is tilted so it looks like one person is really small and one is normal. 

Afterwards we went to walk around and have dinner.  My dinner was at a hot-dog stand, and it was pretty good.  We walked through an area that had a lot of clubs and it was fun to see how the people were dressed.  In the last picture, if you look closely, you can see bubbles.  They were coming from one club trying to draw in people.  Marketing strategies here are pretty intense.  I'll be just sitting on the subway on my way into Seoul, and the door will open and this random person will jump on the train with a bag of stuff.  When the doors shut they start talking quickly and loudly in Korean, showing everybody whatever it is they're trying to sell.  I've seen women's pantyhose, feet scrubbers, and a kid's light-up spinning toy so far.  They talk and sell until the next stop, which is usually only a few minutes away, and then they disappear again.

Things are going good.  The people at my church are really nice and helpful. Last night we went out to a restaurant where they bring you an endless supply of beef for you to cook on a hotplate in the middle of the table.  There was a pile of lettuce to put the meat on, and a little plate with raw garlic and a red sauce.  After we grilled the garlic and put it all together it was really good.  At the end of the meal they asked if we all wanted ice cream (they love it here), and of course we all said yes, so a guy ran to a nearby convenience store and came back with a bagful of ice cream pops.  Mine was a green tea cone.  It was so good!

I've been taking Korean lessons once a week from a person who goes to Danguk University, which is just down the road from BHCS.  At this point I can mostly read the whole alphabet and make all the sounds.  I can't understand everything though.  We meet every Sunday, and I get the chance to ask questions about the culture and why people do this or that.  This past week I found out that, yes, it IS rude to give your trash to the person behind the counter.  I was wondering why I got nasty looks for that, but it's so hard to find a trash can!    

Friday, September 23, 2011

Classroom and the Grocery Store...

Yay! I'm a teacher now!
Here's the front of the school! BHCS stands for Big Heart Christian School.

You can't see the pics, but I have a pic of Obama, the South Korean president, and Einstein

My first bulletin board! I think it turned out pretty good.
 If you look through the window you can see the chicken pen.  The rooster crows ALL THE TIME. But I don't mind.  Makes me feel like I'm back at Granny's.  I love my windows!
Here's a closeup of my board.  Highlighting instructions at the top and Be Verbs at the bottom. 

Here's the chickens.  The kids love to watch them and "the chicken man" when he comes to feed them.

This is the view from my colleague's window.  The construction isn't pretty, but beyond that it's kinda nice.

 Ladies here always carry umbrellas because they WANT TO BE PALE.  That's right, pale is in style in Korea, so I fit right in. :) 

Okay, here I'm transitioning to the trip I took to the supermarket. 

Going in, it looks very much like a normal market, except you can't read anything.  If you start looking closely, though, you can see there are American brands that have produced Korean products.  Like I bought some sparkling lemonade thinking it was Korean, but when I read the back it had "product of the Coca-Cola company" stamped on it. 

Mostly everything is normal, until you get to the deli area.  There are ladies everywhere ready to give you samples of stuff.  The question is whether or not you want to try what they're making.  Last week I took my camera through that area, and people were motioning to me not to take their picture and talking in Korean about me taking pics, but I didn't care.

 These are side dishes and appetizers that go with the meal.  Either that or seasonings.

 These little colored dumplings are dessert.  I've actually tried them and they're not that bad.  They just don't last very long at all in the fridge.  They're chewy and slightly sweet - it's like eating a ball of rice.
Can you believe people buy this and cook it daily?  And can you believe I've eaten some already? They cook this stuff up in a million different ways in different sauces, soups, fried, whatever.  It's like Bubba talking about shrimp on Forrest Gump, "Squid stew, squid sandwhich, squid gumbo..."


The aliens from Independence Day anyone?