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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Travellin' Pack O' Whiteys

So, I got a haircut on Saturday. I've determined that I live in Hair Salon Central, so it was quite easy for me to find a place. The first place I walked by had way too many people in it, so I meandered a bit until I found a less crowded place. Hopefully it also didn't mean that it was a crappy place, but I thought I'd take my chances. So I walk in, look at the first person I see standing there, and motion "cut" with my hands. That lady didn't work there. But she did point me to a lady that did. I only wanted my hair trimmed...I didn't want to walk out of there with some wacky hairdo. I held up the ends of my hair and made an "icky" face. The lady then said something to me in Korean. I have no idea what. I made an "I don't understand" motion. She then repeated the same phrase as before, to which I then decided just to say "Ne" to (yes). Whatever. But then she held up my hair at a certain point to "ask" if that's about where I wanted it cut and I nodded. We were off. The good thing about getting your hair cut in a different country--not feeling the need to chit chat with your hairdresser. So anyway, she cut it fine, but then went to town styling it. She curled all the ends so I looked really odd, in my opinion. I saw some of my students walking home and I got weird looks from them. Let's just say I won't be styling my hair like that in the near (and probably far) future. But the cut is fine.

Later that day I attended a birthday party for a 13 year old (12 US years old). One of my students invited me to her bday. It was a little awkwards since a bunch of my students were there, but it was kinda nice. I talked with her mom a bit, who speaks fluent Korean, English, and Portuguese. I guess they lived in Portugal for a while. They had really good food there. Chicken wings, these jello-like things, fruit soup, crackers with chocolate, gummy bears, wonton type things, strawberry cake, and cream cheese and chocolate brownies. Plus, we made and ate pizza. Very good. They also had in their house the full Anne of Green Gables book collection in both English and Korean, which made me happy.

Sunday I went to the Thanksgiving Feast with about 20 other people from UW (and a few from elsewhere, including a Canadian). It took about 2 hours to get there and 2 to get back. IT was in a rural area and the kid lives in part of a house on a farm. It was really funny, because about 15 of us traveled there together. It's about a 20 minute walk from the bus terminal in his town to his house. So there was this pack of whiteys herding down the streets. To make it even more amusing, many people brought insruments because they wanted to play music there. 2 people had guitars, one guy had a drum, a girl brought a cello, and another guy had a tambourine. You should have seen the looks and stares we got. This was probably more white people than has EVER been in this town (Jo-am) combined, and here we all were together in one pack. Hilarious. Anyway, it was nice. We had a lot of good food. Mom, I used all the jello you sent for it. I felt kinda bad about that (I wanted to eat it myself!) but everyone seemed pretty happy about the jello. Anyway, here is our menu (from what I can remember): Appetizers: bread with olive oil and pepper, prusciutto wrapped persimmon (or something), orange slices with cinnamon, shrimp. Main Course: turkey, mashed potatoes (but no gravy), stuffing, kimchi stuffing, jello, asparagus and cream of mushroom dish, chili, spaghetti, and baked beans. Dessert: sweet potato pie and apple crisp. I was really full after eating. We also had a bunch of wine that was gone before we even started eating. We didn't have a table to hold the food dishes, so we just had to line everything up on the ground outside. Not your typical Thanksgiving Dinner setup, but it sufficed. We also didn't have plates because the store in his town only sold paper bowls. But there's a picture of my bowl. Which looks kind of gross, in part because the green asparagus mushroom thing is on top. And, of course, my jello is on the bottom. Mmm.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Gobble! Gobble! Gobble!
Happy Thanksgiving!
"Turkey and dressing, after the blessing..." (that was just for you, Sarah)

Ok, so I have a few pictures, so I thought I'd post them. They aren't incredibly interesting, however. Also, a few of them are digital pictures of actual photos, so the quality may not be the best. This first picture gave me a mild heart attack when I saw it. One of my students ran up to me before class and said, "Teacher! Picture!" I looked at it and for a split second I swore it was a picture of me at Disney World. I was like, "How the hell did he find a picture of me at Disney World???" But then I recognized that it was when I went to Everland with the students earlier in the year. And the student followed up his initial statement with the word, "Everland!" But anyway, he gave me the picture, which was nice. It's not exactly a nice picture of me, but that's ok. Actually, it's a downright bad picture. Huh.Then there's this other not-so-great picture of me...it's me at the Disease Party. Will had run out of cups, so I'm drinking out of a bowl. The kid next to me is Andy. He is dating Jaclyn, the girl who lives in Pyeongtaek who is wearing the hat in this picture. The girl with the cake is named Erin. The girl with Jaclyn is Canadian and I don't remember her name. The next 2 pictures are from a couple nights ago when I went out to dinner with Will and Jaclyn. We've gone to this restaurant a few times where you get a crap-load of side-dish type foods. It's kind of like a sampler meal, I guess. The first time we went there it was 12,000 won each (about $12), but this last time we splurged and got the 15,000 won sampler. It wasn't terribly different, but we got an extra meat dish thing that was good and in my mind was worth the extra $3. But you can kind of see the copious amounts of dishes on the table. And that's just a portion of what we got, since the food comes in waves. Don't ask me how the nasty looking fish got placed in front of me...especially since I hate them and the others quite enjoy them..Anyway,this pic of me isn't very good either (I'm batting 0-3 in the photo dept here). What's with my smile?? I look like either Mrs. Duncanson, the John Adams PFLS teacher, or Greta Van Susteren, pre-cosmetic surgery. Ew. Hey, didn't Greta Van S. attend UW?

In other news, I received a birthday invitation from one of my students the other day. It's on Saturday. I feel I have to go since I met her mom at school last week and according to the student (He Hyun), "My mom really wants you to come." Both the student and her mom speak pretty good English, so that's nice. It won't be really awkward and full of pantomimes. Plus, I guess we'll be "making pizza and playing Monopoly." Who would turn that down?? So that should be interesting. I'm just hoping that every kid doesn't start inviting me to their birthday parties. Because one is enough, thank you very much.

So I'm pretty sure I'll be going to a Thanksgiving luncheon/dinner on Sunday with a bunch of other English teachers from UW. It's at some kid's house who lives way out in some rural area on a farm. But he lives in a house and has both space and an oven. It'll be interesting. I'm not looking forward to the amount of traveling that will be required on that day, but what can you do? It seems we've got quite the menu going for us so far (probably turkey, stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, jello, and more!). I don't know what I'll be contributing yet. I want to bring a pie, but I don't know if you can buy a pie in this country. I'll check it out.

Monday, November 21, 2005


It was very exciting for me on Thursday as I received 2 packages from my mom. Woo-hoo! Thanks, Mom! I now have normal bedsheets (very comfortable). My bed looks like a big candy since it's all pastels. The sheets are light blue and my comforter is light pink and light purple. At first I was worried the sheets wouldn't fit because they were for a queen bed. When I first moved in I thought my bed looked huge (my whole life up to this point has involved me sleeping in a twin bed)...and my contract said I'd be provided with a queen sized bed. But I must have slowly gotten used to the size, as now it doesn't seem big to me at all. So I was seriously doubting it being a queen, but the sheets fit fine, so no worries. Although I do think it's a bit smaller than a queen...but maybe it's just that the mattress is a lot less thick. Whatever. I also got some more candy, books, computer games, and magnets to spruce up my place. Nice! She sent it "normal paced" mail, so it took just shy of a month to arrive. But I guess she was told it'd take about 6 weeks, so it was ahead of schedule!

It's really getting cold here. Not Minnesota/Wisconsin cold, but cold. I'd say hovering right around freezing, getting a little below that at night and in the morning. I need to look into buying myself some mittens soon. Anyway, it's friggin' freezing at school. All the doors stay open at the school, so the hallways are pretty much the same temperature as outside. Each room has it's own gas heater. Well, ours wasn't working. Our room was super cold. The kids and us would wear our coats in class. Miss Lee (my co-teacher...who is actually Mrs. Lee since she's married but she's very adament on being called Miss) called to inquire about the heat, and I guess "it wasn't cold enough to turn on the gas." Ok...I guess it has to get to -3 degrees (celsius) for them to turn the heat on. That would be [checking google...I seriously check google 8,000 times a day. There was an article I read today about how many people use the internet for search engine purposes vs other features (like news and email) and the search engine usage is increasing], anyway, where was I? Oh, that would be just under 27 degrees fahrenheit. Wtf? That seems a little crazy to me, but what can I say? It was working today at one point, so we cranked that baby all the way up. It especially sucks because I wear sandals (not jandals...aka flip flops...more like the adidas kind, but much crappier) at school. You know, you have to wear different shoes inside than outside. I find it very annoying. I need to buy shoes for inside that cover my toes.

Anyway, this is why I hate this separate shoes policy: In theory, it makes sense. Don't track your dirty outside shoes all over the inside of a building. Keep it clean. Ok, I get that. But...the inside floor of the building is not cleaner than the ground outside. I might even go out on a limb and say it can be worse. Let me use the bathrooms as an example. The bathrooms at my school are nasty. All the toilets are squatters. I swear there's piss all over the floor. They are cleaned horribly. And they reek. Anyway, you walk in the bathroom once and your shoes no longer have any semblance of cleanliness, thereby making the whole shoe changing thing nothing other than an annoyance and waste of money. Yeah, yeah, yeah, tradition. Well, I can shit in a box and mark it tradition (I've got spare time), but that doesn't make it nice. Sorry about the altered Tommy Boy quote. Ok, sorry for the rant.

On Friday I went to another demo class (observing another English class at a different school). I guess it didn't go so well, but I didn't really notice. Again, taking some pressure off of when I do mine (December 9th). Also, on Thursday the 4th graders at my school had a talent show thing. All the classes have their own...they just do it in their classrooms. It lasted the whole morning. They decorate the classes with balloons and shit. All the moms come the day before to help set it up. The day of a bunch of people come to watch and they have food and the whole shabang. So Miss Lee had me walk around and peek into all the rooms and take pictures with her digital camera (we had to teach 5th graders at this time, but she let me skip out some to watch). But I just felt really bad whenever I'd pop my head in to watch. I'd come in when a kid's in the middle of performing and every single kid in the class will stop watching them and wave and point at me and yell, "Oh! Emily teacher!!! Hi!!!" Totally disrupting the performance. I'd have to keep shushing them and pointing for them to watch the performer. Then all the parents would stare at me to see what all the commotion was about. Kids would get out their cameras and start taking pictures of me. Seriously, this happened in every classroom. I felt really bad. On Friday it was the 5th grader's turn, and they did the same thing when I popped my head in. I have to say as a general observation that Koreans are not very respectful in performance situations like that (as an audience member). Actually, the same can be said for when they're at meetings. I should clarify that they're not respectful from an American's point of view...it must be fine in their culture. People don't listen or even pretend to listen, people talk on cell phones, etc. The first week I was here there were about 200 foreigners all attending this seminar at this resort place. We had to sit and listen to speeches and stuff. I personally thought many people (foreigners in the audience...but not anyone from the UW, of course) were rude, but I later heard that the Koreans there were amazed at the amount of attention everyone was giving the speakers. Huh. To each his own.

So today for whatever reason the teachers got to leave early to do...whatever. Something fun, I guess. So I went with my fellow 5th grade teachers to a movie. First time I went to a movie here! We went to 'The Brother's Grimm' (probably because of me). I didn't really like it. Btw, it's weird because the Korean subtitles are written vertically down the side of the screen. Not sure why, but there you go. And there are assigned seats, but it just confused me. And it wasn't crowded, so we just sat down somewhere. I also went to a bakery the other day and got some really good bread. I've seriously almost eaten an entire loaf in 2 days. Ok, so just over half a loaf, but still. It beats the piece of crap butter flavored bread I was getting earlier.

The other English teachers here are discussing Thanksgiving plans. We all want to get together and bring a food item to celebrate Thanksgiving. Although we're going to celebrate it on Sunday, not Thursday because of the travel involved. But we can't decide where to do it. Most people have tiny apartments that fit like 4 people. People with big apartments generally live way the hell out somewhere that's hard to get to. Plus, we want to go to someone's house who has an oven, but they are also few and far between. Honestly, it's like no one bakes anything here or something. So I don't know what will end up happening with that, but I'm sure I'll post an update after the fact.

Ok then, I think that's all for now. Although I do feel the urge to tell everyone that Encino Man was on today. How funny is that??

Monday, November 14, 2005

Da Classroom

Since I had my camera with me, I took a few pictures of my classroom. Most of the stuff on the walls are things that were there already when my co-teacher and I arrived...from the previous English teacher, I guess. It seats about 42 students (on average)...not comfortably. I also included a picture of my computer monitor and how it's embedded in my desk. I don't like it. The "outside"shots are the views from the windows. My apartment complex is a block behind the apartment complex that you can see just across the street. My classroom is on the 4th floor (of 5 total). I think there are about 2,000 students enrolled in the school. Enjoy. I'll try to get a picture of the actual school sometime. It's well into fall now and all the trees are shedding their leaves. I guess winter gets pretty depressing looking here because it's neither green nor white. Just brown and grey. Huh.

Happy Pepero Day!

Friday, November 11th was Pepero Day here in Korea. Pepero is a kind of cookie stick dipped in chocolate. Here's a brief article on the meaning and possible origins of Pepero Day:

Stores are stocking up on Pepero, a popular snack, and driving up the cookie maker's sales as Nov. 11, Pepero Day, draws near. Lotte Confectionary Co., which owns the Pepero brand, said yesterday that last month, it sold 13 billion won's ($11.7 million) worth of the snack to food retailers. "As a single product, this is the highest sales we've seen, second only to Xylitol gum. Sales of Pepero have seen double-digit growth since 2000," said PR official Ahn Sung-keun.

The Pepero snack is a replica of Pocky, the Japanese treat of chocolate-dipped cookie sticks. T
he 11th of November is known as Pepero Day, because "11/11" looks like four sticks. Pepero Day supposedly started in 1994 at a girls' middle school in Busan, where students exchanged Pepero sticks, wishing each other to become as tall and slender as a Pepero. But some suspect that Pepero Day was actually dreamed up by Lotte's marketing team. Today, it is an unofficial holiday celebrated mostly by children and couples, like Valentine's Day (another "holiday" some cynics say was created by a marketing team).

So, my co-teacher and I received a crap-load of pepero from our students. I've included a picture of some of what we got, but it really doesn't do our actual amount justice. You see those individual sticks strewn across the pile? Yeah, we probably got (not exaggerating) 100 of those, but we gave away about 20 of them each class (4 classes). And we left at lunch (to go to a demo class, I'll talk about it later), otherwise I'm sure we would have got tons more. Crazy stuff. But I guess they're pretty cheap. I love the ones that come with notes that say, "I love you!"
Yeah, so on Friday I went to a demo class at another school. Pretty much, I (and a bunch of other people) go and watch another class and then discuss it afterwards. I have to do a demo class on December 9th. I guess they're a big deal...I don't know. But I went to one that was also a Korean teacher and a native English speaker teacher (like my set-up). I have to say, it kind of sucked. So I'm feeling pretty good about my classes now. :) There were 4 others whitey English teachers there that I met briefly. A bunch of the Koreans teachers there seemed to know my name, which weirded me out a little bit. Then during the discussion this one Korean lady turns to me and says, "Emily, I hear you can speak some Korean!" So everyone stares at me and my co-teacher starts urging me to speak Korean. Ok, honestly, I really don't speak any Korean...at least not enough worth mentioning and "showing off." So it was a bit embarrassing and of course, put on the spot I couldn't think of a single thing to say except dumb things like, "kamsahamnida (thank you)." Maybe someone from my school told someone I could read Korean and it got morphed into I knew Korean. Oh well.

I didn't do much this weekend, again. I watched a movie (Legally Blonde) with Will on Friday night. Saturday morning I talked with Joleen on the phone (after ignoring her first 2 calls because I was afraid it was a teacher from my school harassing me about a lesson plan). Then I took the subway to Suwon and went to a bookstore there. I bought a few books. The Rule of Four, The Dante Club, Sophie's World, Roadmap to Korean (a book on speaking Korean...I seem to think that simply owning more books on speaking Korean will improve my ability...while ignoring the actual studying part), and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in Korean. Yeah, I can't read it, but I just thought it was cool. And it came in 2 volumes. The latest must come in like 20 volumes. The new movie comes out here in December, I think.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Very Macheetah! Or not...

Here's my info on school lunches: First off, I eat with a different 6th grade class a week. I don't particularly like this. I teach kids all day, I'd like to have my lunch to myself. Anyway, this week I was in the 6-10 classroom (10th 6th grade class)...and it's the last 6th grade class, so I'm hoping I'm done eating with the students. I think they wanted me to eat with the 3rd graders as well, but their whole point in wanting me to eat with the students was to have as many students as possible get to talk with me (since I only teach 4th and 5th graders). But next semester (starting in February) the students all move up one grade so I'll be teaching the current 3rd graders making my eating lunch with them unnecessary. So I hope I'm done with it.

Anyway, it's just kind of awkward. Most of the students are either too shy to talk with me or just don't know enough English. I mean, you can only say, "Hello. How are you? I am fine thanks. And you? Nice meeting you." so many times. So I just kind of sit there feeling like a moron. Also, the kids usually dish up my meal for me, giving me no say in what food items I want lots or little of. Some classes give me heaping portions of everything, which is not good. Many of the foods I don't even want to eat any of, but here I am with a big ol' plate of it. I was originally concerned with offending them by not eating most of it, so I'd try to eat some of everything. But now I just say screw it, and if I don't like it, I don't eat it. No one has voiced their outrage yet. Other classes seem to give me small or large amounts of food by guessing what I'd like. Usually they're pretty accurate, which is good. For example, they'll just give me a small portion of kimchi. But it can also be bad. The other day one of the items on the menu was little hotdogs. I liked the little hotdogs...but in moderation. Because I'm American and Americans eat hotdogs all the time (according to Koreans) they gave me the most gigantic portion of mini hotdogs imaginable. I thought I was going to hurl after eating them. Plus, there's always a huge portion of rice. Rice fills me up quickly on its own without the million other side dishes. And there's always soup. And some sort of kimchi. And usually some sort of other green fermented vegetable that I usually don't eat. They also eat a crapload of tofu here. I don't even know if I had ever eaten any tofu before coming here.

This may come as a shock, but many of the soups I can't stand. You all know how I love my soup...I used to say that aside from clam chowder and Wisconsin cheese soup there wasn't a soup that I didn't like. That was until I hit the Korean fish flavored soup market. Most of the broth base in the soups here is made of something that I find unpalatable. I don't know what it is (fishy or not, I don't really know), but I don't like it. Now, there are some I do enjoy...I've had some good chicken noodle soup, and some beefy kinds. I even like the kimchi soup. But most, not good.

The other day one of my students gave me this cheese roll thing. It's like those cheese and beef tubes you can buy in the US. Kind of like string cheese, but not stringy. More mushy-like. Anyway, I'm glad I waited until home to crack it open. I was pretty excited about it, so I open it and take a big bite out of it. I almost puked all over my table. It was squid flavored cheese. Seriously, one of the grossest things I've ever put in my mouth. No wonder the girl was giving it away... :D

So most Koreans don't have carpet. But, they do have heated floors. So you crank your heat on and your floors all get warm. It's kind of nice. I guess that's why a lot of Koreans sleep on the floor...because it's warmer.

Ok, to add excitement to an otherwise boring blog, here are some pictures. Not ones I've taken, but ones that do represent things I've seen here.

The first picture is a classic example of what you'd get at a restaurant...only the main dish seems to be missing (and I've never got peanuts). Since there's a basket of lettuce on the right, I'm assuming they're eating galbi...which is beef fried over some coals that you then wrap in lettuce with rice, etc. That would also explain the red sauce in front. Seriously, no matter what you order you get a plethora of side dishes. Most of which do not get eaten. Or much of it, anyway. The soup in the picture actually looks like one I'd enjoy. Side note: Korean chopsticks are harder to use than the ones we're used to...aka the cheap-ass wooden ones from Chinese restaurants. Korean chopsticks are flat and thinner and harder to manipulate. I'm getting pretty good at them, however. Hopefully I am, considering I use them on a daily basis! I even eat my ramen noodles at home with them. I bought a chopstick/Korean soup spoon set and they're really pretty. I'll take a picture of them sometime so you all can see them. I'm sure you'll all be waiting with bated breath.

The middle picture is soju. The last is Hite, a Korean beer. Koreans drink a lot. And when they drink, they either drink soju or Hite. At least from what I've seen. Soju is made from rice and apparently it packs a wicked punch. It tasted like rubbing alcohol. I haven't had much of it, but I think it makes me feel like shit (how odd...an alcohol that makes me feel bad). I think the only beer I've drank here is Hite, a cheap-ass beer. To be honest, I don't think it tastes much different than any other beer--bad. But according to those who fancy themselves beer connoisseurs, Hite sucks. Whatever.

On the left is the South Korean flag. I actually don't know what the North Korean flag looks like. I should really look that up. In the middle is a picture of Suwon Station. It's the subway, train, and bus station in Suwon, a big city. I think it's the biggest city in Gyeonggi-do (not including Seoul, which is not techinically a part of Gyeonggi-do, even though it's in the middle of it). It's pretty nice and new looking. Pyeongtaek Station is much smaller. Seoul Station is much bigger. The last picture is of Michael Jackson in Korea. No, I didn't see him here. I just thought it was funny that when I did a google image search for "South Korea," that picture comes up on the first page. What a creepy guy. I think there was a headline on Yahoo News today that was, "Jackson says he may never live in the US again," or something. I didn't read it because, frankly, I didn't care.

So that's all I have for now. Or, I'm sick of writing. Or both. And maybe you're sick of reading...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Let's play badminton!
Sorry, I can't. I need to evacuate my bowels.

A few amusing anecdotes to relate to y'all from my in-classroom experience. The 4th graders are currently on a unit called Sorry, I Can't. They pretty much learn how to say, "Let's play [insert sport]." Then, "Sorry, I can't. I'm sick/hungry/tired/have a cold." And the sports they learn are baseball, basketball, tennis, ping pong (table tennis, but I tell them all to say ping pong), soccer, and badminton. I guess badminton is pretty popular here. Anyway, we were doing this skit and it involved the kids having to say, "Sorry, I can't. I'm sick." Well, one kid who was doing the skit sits up there and messes it up slightly, saying instead, "Sorry, I can't. I shit." My co-teacher and I both just cracked up. Sorry, I can't play badminton right now, I have to take a shit. :D For some reason I thought of you, Joleen.

And my co-teacher has been cracking me up lately with a new phrase she's used more than once to the students. When she's mad at a kid, recently she's taken to yelling at them, "What the hell do you think you're doing???" Whoa! Granted, the kids probably have no idea that hell is not a good word to say, but it still takes me aback when she says it. And the kids are still yelling, "Shut the fuck up!" to each other. I am now convinced that they don't know it's really a bad thing to say because the other day a kid yelled it and then a sweet little girl who would never intentionally do anything wrong repeated it while giggling. I'm still sticking to my ignoring that comment approach. I'm pretty sure if they knew it was a bad word I'd just hear it increase in usage.

I've got no plans this weekend. But I had to go in and teach 2 classes this morning (Sat), which sucked. One day a couple weeks ago my co-teacher couldn't come to school because she had to take her mom to the hospital. I can't teach classes myself, so we had to reschedule them for a Saturday. I still had to go in to school that day, so it sucks that I then had to come back on a Saturday to make them up. Whatever. At least it was only 2 classes.

Ok, nothing else for now. Seacrest Out.