Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Field Trip Day

Every month at SLP, generally the fourth Thursday of the month, the preschoolers get to go on a field trip. I was just happy, because I didn't have to teach. We got to school, made the kids go to the bathroom, stuck name tags on them with our Korean partner teacher's phone number on them in case the wandered off, stuck them on a bus and off we went.

I didn't really know anything about what we were going to see, other than the fact that it was some sort of show, that it was in Hyehwa, and that it was in Korean. It was called 오디 (Audi). Sadly, I kind of enjoyed this production made for pre-schoolers because the Korean was only just slightly above my level instead of completely incomprehensible. I found that I could actually understand every third word or so, and could follow along quite well. Every once in a while I asked one of the Korean teachers what some word was, but they were generally words that I could have guessed on my own, but I just wanted to make sure. I learned two words: akki (instrument) and insa (bow).

The show first took about 20 minutes showing off some strange instruments and letting the kids try them.

Then after the woman (who exaggerated every word out of her mouth) introduced all the instruments, she called out the other "teachers" to the stage. Then they taught the kids from a storybook about a Gorilla who paints pictures. Actually, I think this is an American picture book, because it looked familiar, but they made the production in Korean.

My kids were very well behaved and they all seemed to love it. I was so pleased when one of my kids screamed out in English (Very Nice!!!), even though all the other classes were talking in Korean.

The Korean "Teacher" showing us the book and explaining art to us...

Then we headed back to the bus and back to SLP just in time for lunch. After lunch the kids got to watch the rest of the DVD that they had started watching on birthday party day. Lucky me, I had such a nice, peaceful day. Why can't everyday be so easy??

Line to go home from Hyehwa

Rock Paper Scissors in the bus ride home.... if you don't know, this is the most popular game in Korea... and also the end-all be-all of deciding who goes first in any other game.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Voice of America Broadcasts to North Korea

I just read this article about a AM radio broadcast making it's way into North Korea. As important as this is for North Koreans, I just worry that this will raise tensions even more. Things are so tense as it is right now, we don't need to make any more provocations to North Korea since they are planning their missile launch next week. If anything goes wrong with that missile and it lands in the wrong place or flies in the wrong direction... it could mean war. It's kinda scary... Anyway, there's nothing I can do about it. Anyway, the article is interested, check it out here:


A Visit To Yongsan Base

Last weekend, my one friend in the American military invited me and some friends to see a movie on base. While I knew nothing about the movie (what else is new? I don't watch TV) I jumped at the opportunity to see base. I've always wanted an excuse to go, and I didn't really want that experience to be from some random soldier who wants to pick me up in Itaewon....

We met at Samgaji Station (line 4/line 6) and walked to base. Just to get on base, we needed two forms of ID, a passport and a license. OR just our Korean Alien Residency card. Luckily I always carry around my ARC. Probably a throw back to Chile where you needed to carry around your national ID card by law. I'm not sure if it's the law here or not, but it has gotten me into clubs on the rare occasions that they check IDs. This time it got me on base without hassle. We were given visitor's passes that we had to carry around while we were on base.

We walked around base and first thing our friend brought us to was the "White House". This is the building where all the top military officials in Korea work. Evidently, it's pretty famous. What do I know?

"White House"... really not that exciting looking. There is a parade ground in front for military formations or something...

Then we walked a ways and found ourselves at the food court. My friends, who are all English teachers like me, were amazed to see a Taco Bell, an American style Chinese food restaurant, a Burger King with shakes and menus only in English. We weren't even hungry, but we ran to Taco Bell and each got a taco to eat before the movie.

One of the most annoying parts of going to base is that everything on base is in USD. So, our choice was to find some American cash, use our credit/debit cards from home, or use Won and get a crappy exchange rate. Before I went, I dug up all I had in US dollars, which was something like 20 dollars or so... no, probably less than that... I didn't even think to bring my debit card, since I don't have any reason to carry that around in Seoul, generally speaking. Some of my friends stopped by this ATM, which was run by Bank of America... so weird...
My friend was a slightly amused by our fascination with the ATM machine..

In this same area there was a small mall too:

Then we trekked over to the movie theater.... I didn't realize that it would be so far... I had no idea just how big the base really was.... On the way there, here are some of the sights we saw:
Wow... a Burger King with a playground... crazy...

We finally got to the theater and were just on time for the movie. Those with a military ID get in for free... pretty sweet deal.... for civilians it's $4... still a pretty sweet deal... We watched 'Gran Torino'. It was ok. I really liked the plot, but some of the acting was a little painful to watch...

We then went to the Dragon Hill hotel to get dinner. Prices were pretty reasonable... well, except for the fact that I didn't have enough USD on me to buy in American dollars. I wound up paying in Won and it was SOOO much more expensive. But, whatever. For a real, good, American restaurant, it was worth it. And what did I order? Chicken Parmesan! Who would have guessed I'd take a photo of chicken parmesan... it's so... not exotic at home... but here... it just doesn't exist in any decent form.

Dragon Hill Hotel

Mmmm... Sooo Yummy......

So after dinner we walked back to the exit. There was such a nice view of Namsan. I did my best to get a good photo....

Not bad, considering what I'm working with....

Anyway, I had a fun visit to base. It was one of the things I really wanted to do while in Seoul, so I can scratch one more thing off my list.

Birthday Party Day

The third Friday of the month is a special day at SLP. We hold a giant birthday party for all the preschoolers whose birthday was in the month. So, this means we get to take a break from teaching for 1/2 an hour, bring our kids to the gym. First they sing some of their favorite Kid's Pop songs. Kid's Pop is one of our afternoon activities. They actually learn some decent songs. For example, we've learned 'Hello, Good-Bye' by the Beatles, 'All Together Now' by someone else famous... can't remember his name. We also learned 'Apples and Bananas' and 'It's a Small World'. Anyway, here you can see one of my coworkers leading the kids in song.

Then the MC introduces all the birthday boys and girls.

The kids have to stand on chairs (isn't that dangerous?) and introduce themselves. Most kids were so shy, not to mention that their English skills right now are SO low because they've only been here for 3 weeks, that they might not even understand the question "how old are you?" and "What's your name?". But... I hate to brag, but my kids answered loud and clear and put the other kids to shame. Then again, my class is a much higher level than most of the other classes. Two or three of the kids either went to an English hagwon before coming here, or had private tutors, so, they actually can make basic (though incorrect) sentences... and the other kids learn faster from each other than they do from me. I never taught them "How old are you", but they could all answer!

This is Woo Yong in the pink hat, Ji Yoon in the blue hat and Han Ju in the yellow hat. They are three of my Fornax students, the birthday boys and girls.

After everything is over, we all have to pose for some group photos with our classes. I actually have two classes. Fornax, my favorites, and Jupiter, the loathed ones. The other grown-up in the photo here is Marley Teacher. She is my partner teacher. She teaches one class (Jupiter) and I teach Fornax for the first 80 minutes in the morning. Then we switch for another 80 minutes. They come to my classroom, and my kids go to her classroom. Then after that 80 minutes, we switch back for lunch and play time. Then they have their 40 minute afternoon activity, then they go home. Next month, I will be teaching in Jupiter, and she will be teaching in Fornax. I'll have Jupiter students as my homeroom and I'll eat lunch with them. NOT looking forward to that day... which is quickly approaching! Ahhhhhh.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Yongpyong Ski Resort

Two weekends ago (or was it three now? I can't remember) I went to Yongpyong ski resort to ski for the day. We skied from 11:30 or so, until 4:00. Because it is considered off-season, the full day ticket was only 20,000 won. Definitely a steal.

While the weather in Seoul was in the mid 40's (at least), arriving in the resort area was quite a shock. There was actually snow on the ground. That's why we decided to go here actually. They had just received 40 cm of snow two days earlier (1.3 feet?). The great thing about Yongpyong is it's height. Most ski hills in Korea are pretty small in my humble opinion. Yongpyong has got to be one of the highest ski hills in the country. So, when you're up on top, you can feel the frigid air and ski in great conditions. But you can feel the temperature chance by the time you make it to the bottom and you're skiing in slush and ripping off layers of clothes.

Here is the cable car that takes you from the bottom to the highest peak. It's a nice ride.

The drama "Winter Sonata" partially filmed here, so Yongpyong markets it as much as possible. But, I love ridiculous photo ops....

Me in the gondola... ready to ski!

Anyway, I really like Yongpyong. it's a bit far from Seoul (2 hours or so by car... if there's no traffic and you drive really fast) but, if you get the chance, I'd say it's worth it. Luckily, I was able to drive there since my friend has a car. If not, it might have been a rather long bus ride.

Anyway... I sorry for the lack of blog posts lately. I have so many posts in my head that need to be written, but my present schedule leaves little time for such luxuries... I just keep telling myself that my paycheck at the end of the month will make it worth it......

Oh, and if anyone is curious, I really did ski a double black diamond. :-)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The #1 Reason Why I love this country: Dressing Up

I was walking by Doksugung Palace Saturday, and we happened to go by during the changing of the guard ceremony. I've seen it before, and we were sort of in a rush, so we didn't stop to watch, but as I passed by, I saw a tent set up called "Free Traditional Clothes-Wearing Experience". Now, really, who could turn down something with a name like that???
Here's me, getting tied in.
I think this is the best photo of me....

... But this one is nice too, and it has the palace in the background....

And here's me with some guys dressed up in guard uniforms. They wanted a photo with me too.. HAHA. This is me in a guard uniform at the Korean Folk Village in Suwon in October. Not the most flattering photo of me actually....
Here's me over the summer at the Hi Seoul festival. The ROK military had a tent set up. God only knows why, but they had fun uniforms to try on....

Man, I love this country sometimes..................

Friday, March 20, 2009

An Outbreak of Man Perms and Orange Hair....?

Is it just me, or have you been seeing more man perms around? You know, that unnaturally curly Asian hair? Or what about orange hair? I don't remember seeing much orange hair until recently. My theory on these odd hair styles is the smash hit series Boys Before Flowers.

Everywhere I go now, I see men with ridiculous curly hair. Sometimes it looks similar to Gu Joon Pyo (see the first photo above). Some look like tiny nasty curls that are only on the top layer of their hair. I think that they are missing the point that Gu Joon Pyo is hot, despite of, not because of, his curly hair.

The orange hair was always popular in Asia I think, but I've definitely seen more of it in the past month or two. I suspect this mass outbreak of orange hair is in imitation of Ji Hoo (see second photo above). That longer cut is getting popular too. Most Korean girls seem to think that Ji Hoo is hotter than Gu Jun Pyo. My American friends and I disagree. Just look how cute the actor that plays Gu Jun Pyo is (whatever his name is...). Even better without the man perm, right? Or have I just spent too much time in Asia?

Samsung VLUU WB500

So... does anyone know anything about this camera? It's Korean... Samsung. Probably only sold in Korea, because I can't find any reviews on the typical camera review sites. I did find this one blog entry about it on Naver: http://blog.naver.com/meancoco/130042068988

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Camera buying opportunity

I've got the opportunity to buy a used Powershot s5 IS here in Seoul. The offer is 500,000 for the camera, all the included software and manuals, two memory cards plus a battery charger. The camera is about a year old. Is it worth it? Here are the specs: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canons5is/. I'm going to check out the camera on Saturday.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Male Accessories....

I've been talking about buying a DSLR for a while now... like almost 4 months and I still haven't gotten one. That's not what this blog post is about, but that's where it starts. I was walking down the street in Kongdae (not Hongdae) with my Korean conversation partner. A young man passed by, and I stopped and stared. Not at him, but at the camera he had slung over his shoulder. He had a nice camera, just the sort of thing I've been dying to have. I turned to my conversation partner and said that I was jealous, that I wanted one like that. She laughed and said "Oh, I bet he doesn't even know how to use it. It's just an accessory...". What??? That's a pretty expensive accessory... Maybe they could just give it to me instead....

But men in Korea tend to have some interesting accessories in the eyes of a westerner. There is the ubiquitous "man bag" as we like to call it, though some are really more like "man purses". Leather bags are quite common, and these are fairly masculine, but sometimes you can see some really... pretty... bags. Then there is the mirror. I was told that all guys carry around a little mirror, just like some women do. I never saw this for myself until I went out for drinks with a male Korean friend of mine. We wanted to take some photos, but first he had to whip out his mirror out of his backpack! My American friend and I almost died laughing, but I'm not sure if he figured out what was so funny.

Men here are just as concerned with fashion as women are. It's definitely a cultural difference. Male fashion at home is so casual. Men don't like to let on that they care about their appearance... or maybe it's just that American guys obsess about different things... like their sneaker brands or something. Here, men dress like they are straight out of a fashion magazine. I hear it's 10 times more intense in Japan, but I haven't been there myself to know for certain. It's kind of nice to see well dressed men though. When they don't look like women that is.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

One of the funniest blogs out there...

If you know anything about Korea, you will like this blog. It basically rags on Korean culture, but not in a negative way... just in an awesome way. So.. if you want a good laugh, check out this blog: Dokdo Is Ours. I also have a link to them in my sidebar menu here.

Interesting Sights of Vietnam

I found this post that I was going to post up when I came home from Vietnam, but never did. Here it is, from the vault.

Korean restaruant in Ho Chi Min City!

Snowflakes on a willow tree... it was also about 75 degrees.
Street vendors.
.... These are the telephone wires that run down the streets.... good lord, how does anything get fixed when it's broken? You'd never know which is which....

Propaganda.... can anyone translate for me? Most of them seemed to be about wearing your seat belt, but they were all drawn in the traditional propaganda-style.

everyone seems to have a little temple in thier house. This is a view from our hotel window in Ho Chi Minh City. This was almost close enough to touch... houses were pretty close together here...
Yummy yummy noodles... mmmmmm....
Making rice paper and drying it in the sun.
Mopeds, mopeds everywhere...
Rice paddy!
The making of all those laquered wood and mother of pearl artwork that you see everywhere... can't belive it's all done by hand......

Random Buddhist shrine that you see everywhere....

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Random Street Conversations

Today as I was leaving work, I was approached by a woman asking me, in Korean, how to get to Wangsimni Station. It seemed a little strange to me that a Korean would walk up to a foreigner, and ask directions in Korean. Most Koreans automatically assume that you speak no Korean and know nothing about Seoul. Then when they realize that you know more than they do about directions (even if you can't perfectly articulate it in their language) they are incredibly impressed. As if I know everything about everywhere in Boston, my hometown.

Anyway, I tried my best in my broken Korean to explain to her where it was. She seemed to get the point from my saying straight and left. Then she asked me where I was from. I told her that I was an American. I started to get the feeling that she wasn't Korean either. She then explained to me that she was from Mongolia. Well, I assume that that's what 'mongol saram' would be. She was extremely short, even to me, who is extremely short, even in Korea. I was quite impressed by the fact that a: she was from Mongolia and b: by the fact that she spoke Korean so naturally. I've been trying to think, but I don't think I've ever met a Mongolian before. She explained to me that she lives in Seoul. She told me how long she had been living here, but I couldn't get that detail of our conversation.

Anyway, we walked with her for a little bit, since we were walking in the same direction. I was happy again with my Korean skills, but while I'm good at this sort of conversation (the typical... how long have you been here, where do you live, where do you work, what do you do.. etc) I can't really have much more of a conversation than that. But, hey, it's great for meeting people for the first time...

Anyway, just thought I'd share this little cross-cultural experience of speaking Korean as a common language with another foreigner. :-)

Sunday, March 8, 2009


닭한마리 (dak-han-mari), literally translated means one chicken. It's actually a chicken soup with a whole chicken (don't worry, it's gutted and they took the head off) thrown in. Thursday night my friend took me to a place on one of those back alley labyrinths near Dongdaemun to find this restaurant that serves this. It doesn't seem like the sort of thing you can get at just any old place. On the way there we passed a boshintang restaurant.... I need to try that someday before I leave this country. If you don't know what it is, I'll let you figure it out for yourself, I don't want to cause any gag reflex for any of my readers unnecessarily.

When we went in and sat down the first thing they brought us was a big pot of broth and put it on the burner (lots of restaurants in Korea have a gas burner on the table because there are so many meals that cook right in front of you... think Galbi, Bulgogi, Shabu Shabu...etc). Then they brought over a whole, raw chicken. The waitress took scissors and skillfully cut it long ways and crossways and cut off the the wings and legs and threw everything into the pot. I wish I had a photo of that part, because that was probably the most impressive part of the meal. She also threw in some sort of chicken innard... I'm not sure if it was liver or kidney or what, but I don't think that's that strange... people in the US eat liver sometimes too.

As that boiled, they brought over a huge bowl of chili sauce and another bowl of... greens. I have no idea what this vegetable is, it sort of looks like really nice grass, but it tastes good. My friend made a mix for me with the chili sauce, minced garlic, some mustard and some unidentified oil. Then I threw in my greens and gobbled it up while I waited for our chicken to cook.

When our chicken was ready to eat, I found that it was rather difficult to eat. Since it was coming out of a soup, I wasn't really inclined to eat it with my fingers, but how else do you get chicken off the bone? This was my first attempt:

This turned out to be rather messy and unfruitful. So, i finally switched to scraping the chicken off the bone with my spoon and chopsticks, mixing it in my chili/garlic/ greens mixture and scooping it up in my spoon. Whatever, it tasted awesome anyway.

Then, after we ate all the chicken we could, we then threw some noodles in the pot. This sort of reminded me of Shabu Shabu. Just like in Shabu Shabu, when you finish your meat and veggies, they throw in the noodles. On a side note, I learned this week that not all noodles are the same. The word for noodle is 면 (myon... think ra-myon). But these noodles, while they are 면, they are a special kind of myon (wider) and so they are called 국수 (gooksoo). Anyway When the noodles were done cooking, I threw those into my chili/garlic/ greens mixture and gobbled those up too.

Anyway, I had fun trying a new and different Korean food. I suggest you go and try it!