Sunday, November 30, 2008

Some really bored Weigooks....

So... these crazy westerners obviously don't have a life... but it is slightly entertaining... If you're not living in Korea or at least understand Korean culture I'm not sure if you will appreciate this video, but who knows... at least you can see some ridiculous shots that blatantly make fun of Korean pop culture...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dongdaemun, Barganing, and shopping 'til 2:30am

Before I start, I thought I'd just point out how close Dongdaemun is to my house. Those tall buildings you can see there in the skyline? Those are some of the shopping towers in Dongdaemun. I walked home last night after shopping, and it's only about a 10-15 minute walk.

Anyway, while I have walked around the area of Dongdaemun and been to the movie theater there, I've (surprisingly) never been shopping there. I guess I'm not a big shopper, since I'm so cheap.

My friend decided at about 9:30 last night that she needed to go shopping, so I volunteered to go with her. We got there at about 10:00 and the streets were packed with people and the street was one big traffic jam.

Our first stop was the building where most of the vendors buy their merchandise. For this reason, you can get good deals for clothes and such, because you're buying wholesale. The downside is that you can't bargain here where as you can and SHOULD in just about ever other part of Dongdaemun. We didn't buy anything here the first time around, but my friend went back at the end of the night to buy a coat she really liked. In many places here you can not pay with credit card/ bank card, so be sure to have as much cash as you plan on spending with you. ATMs of most major banks are located on the first floor in most buildings.

Next stop for her was to buy some ski gear. She needed some new snow pants because she's going snowboarding today (lucky bum). Down on the second basement level of Doota (one of the shopping buildings) is a whole bunch of shops with ski gear. I'm not sure where to buy equipment, I didn't see any here, but snow pants, jackets and anything else ski wear related you can find here. Prices weren't that cheap, but they did have a lot of name brands here... the one I recognized was Burton (Vermont Represents!). Shopping here can be so nice in some places, because the Korean shop workers live to cater the customer. They have no problem spending 1/2 an hour with one customer to help them find exactly what they need. Of course, they will always tell you that you look pretty in what you're wearing... (ipuda- pretty in Korean) so you can't trust them to make a good decision usually. After my friend finally found her snow pants, we went shoe shopping for me. We found a small shoe store on the street and I found lots of cute shoes there. I finally found the ones I wanted, and found out they cost 30,000 won.

See, this is the point where I would have said... no thank you, have a good day. I'm way too cheap to pay 30,000 won on shoes, but my friend came over and I finally understood why she put on make-up before leaving the house. All she had to do was bat her pretty eyelashes and the price went down to 28,000 won. But she wasn't done. "No... it's too expencive.... please... my friend really wants these shoes, but she doesn't have enough money... can't you help us...??" Or at least that was the gist of the conversation from the words I was able to pull out. Finally, reluctantly, the seller smiled at me and told me 25,000 won. And... they were cute shoes... and I do really need black shoes... so I buckled too and bough them.

While I understand all the mechanics of barganing, I'm still too shy to try. But if I were going to bargan... this is what I'd say....

너무 비싸요! (naw-moo pissayo... emphasis on the naaaawwww mooo)- It's too expencive!
까가주세요! (ggaka chuseyo- not said as a demand, but more as a plea) - Please give me a discount!
If the shopkeeper is a youngerish man and you are a youngish female you can always try-
오빠! 너무 비싸요 (Opa! Naw-moo pissayo!)- Literally Opa means older brother, but it is often used to speak to older guy friends. If you say it to a shopkeeper... or any other guy you just meet, its slightly flirty...
Then there is the classic:
학생 이에요!! (Haksang ieyo) I'm a student! (Implying that you're poor...hey, all is fair in love and barganing...)
Well... I am a student... sort of... I do take Korean class once a week! And, speaking of this fact, if I got any of that Korean wrong, please write me a comment so I can change it. I'm still learning and I did that all from memory. I finally put the Korean keyboard stickers on my computer so I can type in Korean without having to guess which letter is which and punch buttons till I find the right one. I don't know about on PCs, but on Macs its easy to add a forign language keyboard. All you have to do is go into the international settings in system preferences. I have three keyboards on my laptop. English, Spanish and Korean... its quite convienient, I love it.

Anyway, I digress. The biggest barganing victory of the night though was at our next stop. My friend wanted to buy herself a big men's t-shirt that would come down to her mid-thigh to keep her warm. We met this shopkeeper who wanted to sell her a shirt so badly that when he couldn't find one in his own shop that fit her qualifications he started to go to around to the shops around him to find something for her. Unfortuatly for him, he was not able to find anything. We wondered around 'til we found a really long t-shirt. We asked the woman how much it was. She told us 28,000 won, which we knew way waaay too much, and my friend told her as such. She told her she would only pay 12,000 won. The woman lowered the price down to 20,000. Still way too much for basically just a t-shirt. My friend tried to walk away, but the vendor was insistant. She put it in the bag for my friend and told her 18,000 won. My friend pulled out 14,000 and said that was all she had. The vendor woman tried to peak in her wallet to see that she had more. Then she tried to convince me to lend her the rest of the money. I knew enough Korean to reply to this! 없어요! (Opsoyo-I don't have any!)This whole discourse happend while laughing of course. This is really one big game to all parties. My friend finally gave the bag back to the woman and walked away. At this point, the woman chased us down and said fine, 14,000. So... my friend cut the price in half. And it wasn't even a guy she was pretending to flirt with!

We walked around for a little while later and I bought myself a cute dress for 10,000 won (it was so cheap it wasn't even worth barganing for). Finally when we decided we were done, I looked down at my watch for the first time all night and realized it was 2:30 AM!!!! Who would have thought? The streets were packed (and evidently it's like that even when it's not christmas season) and the shops showed no sign of closing for the night. Evidently some places never close, others close at 4:30 am and open again at 10:30am. I guess going out all night isn't restricted to partying and drinking here... You learn something new every day!

To get to Dongdaemun, you can take line 2 or 4 to Dongdaemun Stadium Station, or line 4 or 1 to Dongdaemun Station. This is a fun alternative to partying all night on a Friday or Saturday night! Though it might be more expencive... haha...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Limón y Sal

Hace unos dias bajé Limewire... he estado bajando muuucha musica... y... encontré esta canción de Julieta Venegas.... y me encanta! Escuchala aqui, y agregué las letras aqui para acompañarla.

Tengo que confesar que a veces
no me gusta tu forma de ser
luego te me desapareces y no entiendo muy bien por qué
no dices nada romántico cuando llega el atardecer te pones de un humor extraño con cada luna llena al mes.

Pero a a todo lo demás le gana lo bueno que me das sólo tenerte cerca siento que vuelvo a empezar.

Yo te quiero con limón y sal, yo te quiero tal y como estás,
no hace falta cambiarte nada,
yo te quiero si vienes o si vas,
si subes y bajas y
no estás seguro de lo que sientes.

Tengo que confesarte ahora
nunca creí en la felicidad
a veces algo se le parece, pero
es pura casualidad.

Luego me vengo a encontrar con tus ojos y me dan algo más
solo tenerte cerca siento
que vuelvo a empezar.


Solo tenerte cerca
siento que vuelvo a empezar....

Letras gracias a

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving day....

Well, today was thanksgiving, though it didn't feel like it... It was really just any other day here. Me and two friends decided to go to Subway before work, because that is one of the few places where you can get a turkey sandwich. Though, frankly, I didn't even enjoy the turkey that much... luckily I got bacon on my sub, which is something that I haven't eaten since coming here. That one slice of bacon that they put in my sandwich was amazing.... Tomorrow morning I will wake up early to call home (it will be Thursday evening at home). Hopefully I'll get to talk to everyone in my family. It's been so long since I've talked to most of them. I do talk to my mom a few times a week usually (thank god for skype). It was too hard to have any sort of celebration today of course with work and all... Tuesday/Thursdays are my long days too... I work 'til 8:40 on those days. So, I just came home and ate my soup. I've been on a homemade soup kick lately.

This weekend a bunch of people from work and some other friends will get together to celebrate the holiday. The tricky part about thanksgiving in Korea is the fact that the vast majority of apartments and homes don't have ovens (what would they cook really? All they eat is soup, kimchi, rice, fish and bulgogi.... if you don't believe me, go ahead and ask your students what they eat. What do you eat for breakfasat? Rice and soup. What do you eat for lunch? Rice and soup and kimchi. What do you eat for dinner? Rice and soup and kimchi and fish). The only way you'll probably find an oven in Korea is if you're living in Haebongchong or some other area with a high concentration of forigners living there. I've seen some stovetops in E-mart that have a small broiler oven sized oven under the range. Still, not big enough to bake anything more than cookies or maybe a steak. Anyway, I digress..... I think we're going to eat some pan fried chicken as the next best alternative. Some people got some packages in the mail with gravy mix and cranberry sauce... so we'll do our best. I still need to think of some food to bring to the party... any suggestions? Maybe an appetizer or dessert that is easy to make with ingredients found in Korea?????

A fun song to sing when learning Korean

I found this nice song thanks to a random person on a forum on Dave's ESL Cafe. This isn't a video, just the song here. This song is called 개똥벌레 or firefly (or glow worm? I haven't studied insects in Korean... I'm just relying on other people's translations. Anyway, I have no idea who the singer is... if anyone does, let me know.

Here are the lyrics and the translation. Again, thanks to random posts on dave's ESL... I didn't write or translate these...

아무리 우겨봐도 어쩔 수 없네
Even though I insist, I can't do anything
저기 개똥 무덤이 내집인걸
Over there, the dog dung's grave is my house
가슴을 내밀어도 친구가 없네
Even if I throw my chest out, I don't have any friends.
노래하던 새들도 멀리 날아가네.
Even those singing birds fly away.

가지마라 가지마라 가지말아라
Don't go away, don't go away, please don't go away,
나를 위해 한번만 노래를 해 주렴
Please sing once for me.
나나 나나나나 쓰라린 가슴 안고
Na-na na-na-na-na- I hug my bitter heart
오늘밤도 그렇게 울다 잠이든다.
I fall asleep while crying tonight.

마음을 다주어도 친구가 없네
Even if I give all my heart, I don't have any friends.
사랑하고 싶지만 마음뿐인 걸
I want to love but it's only my mind.

나는 개똥벌레 어쩔 수 없네
I'm just a firefly, I can't help it.
손을 잡고 싶지만 모두 떠나가네.
I want to hold other's hand, but they all leave.

가지마라 가지마라 가지말아라
Don't go away, don't go away, please don't go away,
나를 위해 한번만 노래를 해 주렴
Please sing once for me.
나나 나나나나 쓰라린 가슴 안고
Na-na na-na-na-na- I hug my bitter heart
오늘밤도 그렇게 울다 잠이든다.
I fall asleep while crying tonight.

ps, here is another site. it's in korean. maybe the artist's name is here.... can anyone tell?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Having Fun With Gadgets

So, Blogspot lets you add "gadgets" to your blog, so I just spent the last hour playing around with various gadgets to add to my blog. If you scroll down, you will see them on the right hand side under all the other links and mumbo jumbo over there. Let me know if there is something that you like/ don't like.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another North Korean Documentary

Maybe I'm boring my readers with North Korea info, but I came across another documentary filmed by two American tourists to North Korea. The things that they managed to get on film is amazing, and this is definitely worth checking out.

Here is the first part, there are 14 parts in total.

Here is the link to their website for the rest of the episodes:

I do need to put a disclaimer here though. These guys that made the video were able to get some amazing footage, but I have to say that they did it without any cultural awareness of North Korea, and Korea in general. It seems as if they made the documentary just to prove that they could do it, and not for any actual interest in North Korea and the North Korean people. How difficult is it to learn how to say hello and thank you? They sort of make a mockery of the people that they meet, and if the North Korean government ever sees this video (which they probably will) it's quite possible their guides and their guide's families could be sent to prison, if not killed. That is the reality of North Korea, and they did not take this fact into consideration when filming.

That being said, it is still an amazing video to watch, and it gives you an amazing perspective into the country.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Jimjilbang or Bathing in public naked

Jjimjilbang (찜질방) is the Korean version of the public bath house. These bathhouses are equipped with everything a person could possibly need and more. Herbal baths, saunas, massage chairs, pay for a real massage or a full body scrub. Eat your dinner, check your email, sleep for the night and even norebang at some.

For my first few months here I was so scared to go. Why? Well, you have to go into the bath area naked. Since my friends are my co-workers... I just didn't really like the idea of my co-workers knowing every intimate detail of my body. After one of my friends nagged me about it forever, I finally broke down and went. I'm so happy I did. Being naked in public is not that big of a deal. It was even nicer, because we went so late at night that there was hardly anyone around to see anyway. I've decided that 10:30 pm on a weekday is the perfect time to go.

So, how it works: You need to go in (look for this sign, it usually means jjimjilbang, though, sometimes motels use this symbol too, so be careful). I haven't quite figured out exactly what to say when you get there, since there are different options, if you only want the bath, if you want bath and sauna, or if you want to spend the night. Eventually after some gestures they figure out what I want, and they give me my towels and my receipt.

Take your shoes off at the entry way and enter into the women's side. At my jjimjilbang there is a special locker just for shoes. Take the key out of that locker and bring it in. I hand my key and my reciept to another lady. She gives me my shirt and shorts that I will wear in the common area, but thats for later. The lady gives me a key to a big locker and thats where you have to strip down and get naked. Then you can enter into the bath area.

Before you can get into the bath, you must shower. There are lots of showers, and the Korean women will really scrub themselves down, or even get someone else to scrub them. I'm not so hardcore, but I just wash myself clean like I normally would, then head over to a bath. At my jjimjilbang, there are several different baths, The first changes every time I go, but its always some kind of herbal bath, usually some fun color like bright purple or green. There is a super hot bath, I've never gone in that one. There is a bath made out of pine wood, I'm not sure what that bath is either, but it smells really nice. The last bath is the cold bath. It's only 20˚C, which feels mighty cold after stepping out of a steaming hot bath. This bath is good though, because sometimes all the hot water and steam can get to you.

Once you finish in the baths, you can dry off, put your towel in the hamper, and get dressed with the clothes that they give you. You can head over to the common area where all the fun stuff is. At our jjimjilbang, we always frequent the snack bar and buy 2,000 won chamchi sandwiches (tuna sandwiches) which are so yummy and delicious. Maybe after that head over to the massage chairs which cost 1,000 won for 10 mins. These chairs are not just some vibrations on your back. These chairs really make you feel like someone is massaging you. I usually spend about 20 mins here. They have foot massages here, but I don't particularly like them... they kind of hurt my feet. Next is the saunas. There are many different saunas... dry heat moist heat, super hot, ice boxes... we kind of switch between the ones we like.

The common area also has a big tv, a restaurant, PC bang and a massage room. The vast majority of the common area, though, is just one big open space. People tend to sprawl out on the ground and either chill out or pass out. Looks pretty tempting actually, I might try it sometime. The sleeping area I guess is separate, and I think it's just a dark room where you can sleep on the floor (they probably give you a blanket and a pillow, just like renting any sort of ondol room in Korea).

After we're done here, we usually head into the baths one more time for a few mins, dry off and check out. We return our suits and key, get our shoe locker key back, and head out. And it's amazing.

My jjimjilbang is very close by Wangsimni station (line 2, 5 and 1) if you want directions, just leave me a message. I'm not sure of the exit number at the moment.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Pepero Day!

For some reason or another, for reasons I can not exactly begin to comprehend, November 11th is the official Pepero Day in Korea. Pepero is basically the same as Japanese Pocky, if you're more familiar with this name. It's a stick of sweet cookie, coated in chocolate. Then, of course, there are many variations on this general theme.

This holiday is especially geared towards giving Pepero to your friends/ significant others, much like Valentine's Day. There are many stories about why they celebrate this holiday, since it does not have any sort of historical background... the holiday was just created about 10 years ago... The best explanation I could get from my kids is that because 11/11 looks like 4 pepero sticks, they celebrate Pepero Day. For me, that's not really an excuse to celebrate... but, hey, what do I know. This holiday was actually somehow created by Lotte (the company that makes them). I don't know how you can turn a marketing scheme into a cultural tradition, but whoever figured it out must be a genius.

I must say, though, that I do appreciate this holiday. It means that I get to eat lots and lots of Pepero that students give to me. If you want to learn more about this ridiculous holiday, check out the wikipedia article.... not that they are able to tell much more than I can.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Children's Grand Park

This week's adventure was a trip to Children's Grand Park. This was a rather interesting park, though I'm sure I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had been a small child. This park is quite big, and it has a botanical garden, zoo, amusement park, playgrounds, basketball courts, teaching gardens, and lots of big open areas to run around.

We found this creature in the photo area (I'm in Korea, of course there is a special area designated just for photos)... Yes, the statue is peeing... (teach 'em early). Speaking of men peeing, I saw a man peeing in the street last week around 10 pm on a Tuesday night... Sorry.. that was off topic...

These elephants were one of the first things we saw when we entered the park. We were excited, until we went over and saw that they were chained to the ground. Then we were just sad.

We found this beautiful tiger in the zoo. Unfortunately, what you see of its habitat is about the actual size of his area. The animal's habitats in this zoo were wayy too small. I didn't take a photo of the lion area, which had 2 male lions and 3 females in an area about the same size as this tiger habitat. We didn't stay very long in the zoo... it was too depressing...

We meandered our way around and came across a full amusement park. I don't think that Six Flags has anything to worry about here for competition, but it did have one upside down rollercoaster. We seriously considered riding it, but we have no idea about safety regulations in this country, and we didn't feel like dying. There were plenty of carnival style rides, and we decided to take a ride on the Ferris wheel.

Here's the view from the Ferris wheel. I like the graffiti on the window for some reason... I think it gives my photo more character... or maybe I'm just strange.

We stumbled across these strange creatures in the amusement park. I've always wanted to ride a dog... though... not enough to actually pay money to do it...

To visit Children's Grand Park, take line 7 (olive green line) to Children's Grand Park station, and follow the signs. Amusement park rides are 4,000 won each (or you can pay for a package and do many rides).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yay! Obama!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Korean War Memorial

This weekend we headed over to the Korean War Memorial. This museum is both a history of the Korean War, and a museum with artifacts of many ancient wars. When you first arrive outside, you'll find lots of planes and helicopters and tanks and all sorts of war vehicles. You can go in some of them. I'm not sure if they are replicas or the real thing, but either way it's really interesting to see. There's also randomly a traditional wedding hall here, and we sort of stumbled across a wedding where the whole wedding party was in hanbok. It was pretty cool to see, I wish we could have gotten closer.

There are also lots of statues, mostly dedicated to the Korean War. This one was particularly interesting.

Here is the front entrance to the museum. The big 60 is for the 60th anniversary of the Korean war. Oh! I had to include this picture. This is the Singicheon... the "divine weapon". The Korean movie I reviewed a few months ago was all about this weapon. It was awesome to see what it really looked like. This weapon was probably one of the most deadly weapons in the world for a long time. It was developed during the reign of King Sejong, probably the most famous of all Korean Emperors. He also invented Hangul (the alphabet), among other accomplishments. This weapon shot many arrows at a time at high speeds, using gunpowder. You should really check out the movie. I thought it was excellent.

The Korean War Memorial is located close to Samgaji Station on the brown and light blue lines. Go out exit 11 and walk for a minute or two until you see the enterance on the left. The are open until 6:00 pm and the entrance fee is 3,000 won. For the size of this museum, it's well worth the money.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween at SLP

Thursday and Friday were Halloween days at work. Every teacher was assigned a room to decorate and to run an activity. Wednesday we all stayed late to decorate. My room was the ghost room. Probably one of the easier rooms to decorate... skeletons take a bit more effort that ghosts. The activity that we ran in our room was digging for worms. I made dirt out of chocolate cookies and water. Then threw gummy worms in the bowl. Then they got chopsticks to dig them out in a race against another kid. Whoever found the most worms won. It was messy, but it was easy to run and quite popular. I never really got a break the whole day. It was exhausting. It was really fun to see all my students dressed up. All the preschoolers were dressed up. Only some of my older students dressed up. In this picture at the top are two of my students. One from my Hi Kids 2.3 class, and one from my 1 Jump High class that I actually don't teach any more. My day is so much nicer without those kids, but I must say, this boy, who's name is Do Won was one of my favorites. He was so funny and smart. He would often misbehave, but I think that was mostly because he was really too smart for the class, but he was already in the highest level. Sometimes he would draw pictures of a dead teacher... but that was usually the way he showed his affection. Once he wrote a story. I told them, write a story about 5 baby ducks. Here is Do Won's story. I may get one or two words off, but this is almost verbatim:
There were 5 baby ducks. Then a giant octopus monster ate them. They swam in its belly. Then the octopus hiccuped and the ducks came out. (and yes, he really did know the word hiccup... sort of amazing now that I think about it. He is a first grader.)
This is me with my Fly High sophomore class. They are middle school students. 15 years old Korean age, which is 13 or 14 American age. As you can see, while they are not so tall... I am quite short. I'm only shorter then them here because I'm leaning over. But, I did check with one of the other girls in that class. She is taller than me. How encouraging. Then again, I did stop growing when I was 12.... so I guess it makes sense. These are my oldest students. Most of my kids are much younger, elementary age. I have one preschool class and one other class of 6th graders.
This is Kenny, he is one of my 4 Jump High students. He was one of the few students I could convince to eat a worm. His class is very smart, because they all started in intensive preschool and then have continued at SLP going at least 3 days a week, though when they were younger they were probably going 5 days a week. But, while they are very smart, they like to fool around a lot. They are a class of five 4th grade boys. They love making up stories about each other. The boys tell me that Kenny has two girlfriends, but he only loves one of them. Billy, another boy in the class (probably the smartest) supposedly has a girlfriend named Su Ji. They love to swear in English, and are smart enough to actually spell out swears instead of just saying them. Thier favorite is F-U-C-K-E-R. They have no idea what it means, but they know how to use it and love calling each other by that name. I had the hardest time controlling this class, and I'm just now finally figuring out some tricks. I tried negative reinforcement, but it didn't work very well. Now I'm experimenting with possitive reinforcement, and it's working much better. They would always only speak Korean in class, even though they are quite capable of speaking English quite well. Now they have some insentive to speak English. They need to earn stickers for me. Once they earn thier stickers and fill a page of thier stickerbook, I buy them something from the supermarket downstairs. Thier favorite thing to eat is sundaegochi (not sure if I'm spelling it right). It looks disgusting to me. What it is, is intestines filled with glass noodles. But hey, it's only 500 won, so I don't care. It's worth it if I can get them to behave in class. So far it seems to be working quite well. I never thought I'd spend money on my kids. Especially not to make them do thier work. But at this point I'm grateful for anything that makes them behave. Now that they are a little better in class, I enjoy them much more.
This is Min Ji. She looked so cute I had to take a picture. She is a student in my 2 Jump High class, so she is another girl who came out of intensive preschool. They have class 5 days a week. I only teach her class 3 days a week. This girl is very sweet, and always tries very hard. She worries a lot about quizes and tests and gets very freaked out. One of the first days I taught her, she was crying because she had forgotten about the test, freaked out and refused to do it because she was so upset and convinced that she couldn't to the work. But, actually, she usually gets some of the best grades, because she is one of the few students I have that study.

I never thought I would be so involved with my students. I feel with just about all of them I could write paragraphs and paragraphs. Sure there are a few that just blend in with the walls, but they are all such individuals... they have thier strenghts and weaknesses and quirks. Now that I've been teaching almost all my classes now for three months, I feel like I really know my students. I'm becoming rather emotionally attached to them. I don't know what it will feel like after a year and I have to leave them...