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?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pics Galore!

Aren't they the cutest little Korean girls you ever saw?  Say "Kimchi!"

I'm really excited about this post because it's the first one with pictures!  It makes it all much more exciting when you have to wait, don't you think?

 The bottom part of the pic is where my apartment is.  This is the skyline near my apt.

If you look closely, you can see the left is the same as the pic above.  So this is the city next to where I live. The white thing is just the top of an awning.

This is just more of the city.  These pics were taken from above the park - hence the trees.  This main drag is one I walk down any time I need to go to a bus stop or head to the subway station.  In the background you can sort of see the mountains.

This is the park.  It looks so much better at night when it's all lit up.

If you look at the bottom of the building you can see Dunkin Donuts.

I tried to act like I was taking a pic of the building.  Typical Korean schoolgirl.  Many of them wear this.

Dunkin Donuts at the bottom floor, and then Korean businesses on every floor with signs to advertise.

This is a street vendor selling popcorn.  They are set up everywhere and stay open late.  Hard work.

Here is a street menu, with pictures and prices of all the food.  These are the only places I would eat at when I first got here.  Now I know this is pretty much the cheapest food you can get.

Here's a closeup of the menu.  3,400 won is $3.40.  So, like I said, really cheap.  What you're looking at is steamed white rice, fried shrimp, and traditional Korean sidedishes like kimchi to go with it.

The trinkets here are so cute!
Little dogs are common here, but they don't have the attitude of a Paris Hilton pursedog.  These are tough little dogs who go through a lot, and I mostly feel sorry for them rather than thinking "How cute!"
Kraze Burger is my favorite place to eat! 
They are obsessed with blondes here.  Many ads feature a white woman with blonde hair.
I chose this pic because you can see that the little boy is wearing a tie.  This is not uncommon.

And last but not least, a little Korean.  Okay, what does it say?  Shu something, that's all I got.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Survival lately and secondary retreat...

So this post will be a bit of a doozy again.  For those of you that get bored, the second half will have details about our secondary retreat for school that I went on the last few days.  I'm still figuring this blog stuff out, so I don't know how to respond to comments yet.  So here goes...

Kara: Thanks for your comment! I'm enjoying my time here so far. 
Dad:  Good to hear from you! I'm planning on setting up a Skype soon with Aunt Jodie!
Jill:  Good to hear from you!  Thanks for the comment.  And I'm having a hard time finding tribal masks here so far, but I'll keep looking.
Joey:  Thanks for all your comments! I have about 10 words down so far I'd guess.

Thanks for all your comments because I feel like I'm sending information into the nothingness of cyberspace sometimes.  But now I don't feel that way. :)

So I'll begin by bragging on myself.  I'm much more adept at survival in Korea than I was a month ago.  I'm learning a few words and phrases I need to get what I want.  Whatever I don't know I look up in the dictionary and point to.

One of the important things I've learned is that when people say "no" or mean "no", they cross their arms in an "x" at you.  I went to several coffee shops and asked if they had decaffeinated coffee and they all put up a big "x" in my face.  Needless to say I was very offended and felt very rejected.  Until I learned I could do the same thing and they (Koreans) would know exactly what I meant.  I still don't know the word for "no" because I just put up an "x" with my arms and it works like magic. 

Next thing:  Most if not all Koreans will nod their head in agreement and smile at you no matter what you say and regardless of if they understand you or not.  I can tell the waiter that I want mustard and mayonnaise and they will smile at me and then bring me a burger with ketchup on it.  I found out the hard way that the only way to make sure they understand is to have a written translation of what you want.  Otherwise they'll only act like they know and bring you whatever's convenient.  Some of them mean well and some of them know exactly what they're doing.  Koreans are sneakily pleasant.  I can't figure out a fake smile from a real one.

The preachers here like to sing during their sermons.  I've been to church 4 out of the past 4 weekends, and 4 times I've heard the preacher start singing in the middle of the sermon.  I found it annoying at first because the translators never translate that part and I had no idea what was going on, until I realized that if preachers did that in America it'd be much more interesting.  And then I realized my last pastor in College Station did that.  So that's one more thing to put on the list of things that formerly annoyed me but now I don't mind.

I'm very good at being prepared for when I have to go the bathroom now.  Like I mentioned earlier, bathrooms are only found in-between buildings, never inside a restaurant or business.  Now when I go out to eat, whatever napkins are given to me I take and put in my purse for later use.  I now only use 1 napkin at the table.  The rest are recycled.

Speaking of recycling, I'm getting good at that too, because everywhere I go there are specific trashcans for everything.  I cannot toss stuff into the trash before looking at that trash (because I can't read it in Korean yet).  So I open the little bin or door and double-check, and then I put whatever I have in the trash.  Plastic is the one I'm good at.  I see a bottle and I think, "Oh that's plastic! I need to save it for the plastic trash bin." 

I'm good at using chopsticks, and all those times eating sushi were good practice for Korea.  I've gotten several compliments on my chopsticks skills.  I just get frustrated having to eat soup with a spoon and chopsticks when it's full of noodles.  I prefer a fork and spoon so I can twirl the noodles nicely and then eat them.  But slurping isn't considered rude here so I try it anyway.  I've learned to be a very clean eater (I know you'll like that Mom :) because chopsticks are pretty much the only utensil and napkins are very rarely given for the meal (which is why I take them whenever I get a chance). 

Yesterday was my first excursion on the subway by myself into Seoul.  I was very proud of myself for figuring it all out, because everything is in Korean 1st and English 2nd.  So when the train stops, the overhead speaks in Korean and then switches to English, but it's all written in Korean on the bus.  The stops look like in London and have a little circle and have it written in Korean and English, but they're hard to see because the train stops so fast.  When the train stops, you have to know if you need to get off or not because the doors open and close quickly.  What's funny is that there's an overhead speaker that plays music that sounds like the horseraces before the train comes.  And sometimes they play music that sounds like play music for little kids.  It's really weird.  The subway is cheap and it only cost $4 to go into Seoul and back.  Pretty amazing compared to Europe, where the same ride would cost $60. 

A quick part about what words I've learned.  The spelling is wrong, but here's what I've got down so far.
kamsamidah - thank you
anyoseyo - hello
anyoseyo kaseo - goodbye (said to the person staying, and there's a separate phrase to say to the person leaving, very confusing)
cho gi yo - excuse me
ee kilo oh to kay kan ay yo - which way does this street go?
ne - what you say when someone greets you as you come into a store
Jesu nim - Jesus, nim is a word that is put at the end of a name as a term of respect
mul - water
yogi - here (I've already heard this word used a lot)
chogi - there
oma - mommy
opa - daddy

The Korean alphabet is odd looking too, but I've got about 1/3 of it down by now.  Look at if you want to see some of the words.

Secondary Retreat:

This past week was very long because of everything going on.  Monday our lesson plans were due for 2 weeks, Tuesday night we had Open House and I was nervous because Korean parents' expectations are really high and I didn't have a translator.  Wednesday all the kids from Grades 7-12 went on a retreat in the northern part of South Korea and all the teachers went too.

The retreat was fun but the timing was bad because I was so tired.  We were supposed to lead our kids in cheers and stuff, and I did, but I didn't have the energy I needed to keep it up.  We had a worship time at night and thankfully the staff at the retreat took care of the kids at night and getting them up in the morning (for exercise time :). 

The place was beautiful.  We drove into the mountains and over a river to get there.  Everything was green and the horizon was just more mountains.  (Sorry to hear about the fires in Texas.  I actually had my kids take notes from that news story because we do that every Tuesday.  So I know about it and I'm thankful for the rain here.) 

Thankfully our leader let us take a break the next day (Thursday), so I spent about 4 hours catching up on sleep while the kids did ziplining and horseback riding.  I wasn't the only one, by the way.  All the meals were provided, but there was some weird stuff.  I had to eat it though because it was free and there weren't any other options.  I was so excited on Friday morning because there were scrambled eggs on the buffet!

This was a good time to get to know the kids better and let the kids get to know each other.  I think I scored points with my 9th graders (those are the kids I see every morning for a devotional time) when they saw me trying to sing the Korean songs Thursday night.  That night we had a famous Korean gospel singer come and perform, and he got everyone to stand up and jump and stuff.  I was mostly watching until I decided to try to read the Korean words and sound them out. 

We are off from school Monday and Tuesday because it is the Chusook holiday here, which is the equivalent of the American Thanksgiving.  So today at church they hosted a party for the foreigners and we all played games and ate Chusook traditional food.  They played hacky-sack but called it something else, and we played this really different game where we had to stand in a row and throw these logs and try to make the logs land on a flat part (the rest of the log was round).  And they had a dance contest which I did good in. :)  I won $10 in Korean money to use at several places (like a gift card).  The food was pretty good.

Everything is closed tomorrow because of the holiday so I went and bought food, and tomorrow me and some other teachers will get together and have dinner and watch a movie as our own small celebration. 

My bed is as hard as a rock but I'm finally used to it, and my apartment still smells but I try to air it out everyday.  The shower only goes from really hot to really cold and they tried to fix it but it didn't work.  Right now I just take cold showers. 

I realized that Korea may be God's way of playing a joke on me and forcing me out of all my habits: I have to eat really clean now, I can't sleep too long, I can't take a long shower, I can't watch all the movies I want, and I can't have decaf coffee.  And I can't buy shoes! (My shoe size is too big here and the highest size they have is size 8 and I'm a 9 1/2.  I have to get custom made shoes and they cost a lot of money or I have to wear men's shoes:(

Oh well, all for now...