Sunday, January 31, 2010

Nice Weekend

The weather has been pretty nice this weekend and Ian and I made the most of it by walking around.  We didn't bring the camera, unfortunately.  We've gotten out of the habit since it's been so cold.  I'll be keeping it in my purse from now on.

We got up this morning and I talked to my brother for a little while; I'm glad I got to talk to him, since it's his birthday.  Happy Birthday, Rob!  We wish we could be there and celebrate with you.

We saw Astro Boy at 11:45.  I think it's the earliest I've ever seen a movie.  As it turns out, it was dubbed in Korean.  Strange, because the opening credits listed the original voice actors.  It has a good cast, too bad we didn't get to hear the English dialogue.  The story was easy enough to follow, though, and it was still enjoyable.

We stopped at a place called Han's Deli (which is not actually a deli at all) to eat.  Ben and Amy have had good luck there, so we thought we'd try it out.  We got the sweet potato tortilla pizza and a side of white rice, which was the only vegetarian thing on the menu.  We could possibly get other things without meat, but we decided to take the easy road.  The 'pizzas' were decent, though I thought they were a little fatty and oily for my taste.  The sweet potato salad they put on it would have been better without the cheese, so I scraped and picked for the good stuff.  Then Ian and I walked all the way down to Haso, had coffee at a little place called Cafe a Latte and walked all the way back.  A few things I wish we would have gotten pictures of:  an elk farm (maybe 20 head) near the outskirts of Sinback that we walked past, kids trying to break the ice of the frozen river they were playing on, and a mom helping her young daughter change near the same river.  We're not sure if the mom and daughter were homeless, but they seemed to have a lot of their things with them.  We'll have our camera from now on.

Still no sign of Ian's diploma, but our American Eagle package did come.  It only took about a week. Granted, shipping was fifty bucks.

Woot!  Package!

Ian got two pairs of shoes, boxers and a new thermal.  I got a new thermal, sweatpants and a new pair of jeans that actually fit.

Good night!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Pick Me Up

Ian and I went to see "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" today at TTC.  We decided to walk there, since the temperature was above freezing.  I had forgotten how much I like walking.  I really enjoy the act of getting somewhere.  It's always less hurried when you give yourself time to walk and it gives Ian and I a chance to really enjoy some time together.  So often at home we're glued to our computers or watching downloaded t.v. and movies.

The movie itself wasn't all that great.  But, Ian and I had a fantastic time watching it.  The movie begins in New York, which Ian and I can hardly relate to, but the majority of the film takes place in small town Wyoming.  It's a pretty typical fish out of water story.  A recently separated couple (Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker) are moved to Wyoming after witnessing a murder.  The plot was predictable and pretty boring, but the shots of rural American life were amazing.  Strangely, this movie satiated some of our homesickness more than Twilight did, which is filmed in the PNW.  I suppose there's one easy answer for why that might be.

Sam Elliott.

Sam Elliott is known for deep and charismatic voice, but Ian and I know him as something else.  His usual on screen persona (let's be honest, the man's characters are never too different) is a perfect slight exaggeration of my stepfather, Bruce.

I promise you, we are not making fun.  Bruce is the real life culmination of all the wonderful things about Sam Elliott's characters.  For example, he's really good at putting you to work and convincing you that you like it; he doesn't say much, but what he does have to say can pack a wallup; and he exists mainly in Wranglers and button downs.

Bruce is literally one of the last cowboys in the U.S.  I don't mean that he's one of the last horsemen, there are may of those out there.  But, Bruce is a walking, talking example of the myth that was quintessential manhood:  honest to the point of frankness, bullheaded at times, kind to everyone who deserves it, and calm and trustworthy in a tough situation.

In short, Sam Elliott's Clay Wheeler in "Did You Hear About the Morgans" made the movie completely worthwhile for us because it gave us a little taste of home.

Good night!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Night In

Ian's got a nasty stomach bug, so we're in for the night.  He called in sick today which is a rarity for him.  Terry covered Ian's classes, but Julia made sure to have Gene text him and say "Monday you should work, no replacement."  Nice.

I didn't feel like doing dishes (not that I ever feel like doing the dishes), so I ordered a pizza from Dominos.  Ordering over the phone isn't easy, but it can be done if you're patient.  The girl who answered tonight was really nice, so that helped.

Nothing unusual happened at work today, except that Captain came in to my 'office' (an unused classroom) and started removing all the chairs for some reason.  I never figured out what she needed them for.  Almost none of my students did their homework this week.  There are some students who I expect that from, but this week it was a little more extreme.  I can't really blame them, since I feel for them going to hagwon on winter vacation.  But, it's frustrating to spend time making these homework assignments that you hope will be fun (or at least interesting) just to have it folded into their book.  We don't really have a way to discipline them, either.  They simply get fewer stickers and the kids over twelve don't really care.  Actually, many of the younger kids don't care about stickers either.  Maybe with the new changes there will be more some discipline procedures put in place.

Pizza's here!  Good night!

Thursday, January 28, 2010


At yesterday's meeting Gene confirmed the changes that will be happening at Yoon's in March.  He's been saying that things we're going to change but he didn't know any details at all.  Well, the changes are actually only initially happening for Ian and then my schools will follow in May if it all works out.

First of all, the Janrak campus will be closing and Goam will be expanding.  This makes a lot of sense, since the campuses are so close to each other.  Yoon's recently purchased a daycare down the hall from the Goam campus, so it will be used for the influx.  All of the books will change as well as the scheduling.

Right now, each student comes in individually to listen to their tapes whenever they can.  Then, they simply tell the Korean teacher what they've finished and they sign off on it.  Then once a week some of the Yoon's students see us for class, where we use completely different material than anything else they've been working with.  Recently, Terry and Gene began teaching grammar classes in our classrooms on off days and some of the more advanced students attend those once a week as well.

Starting in March, each student will have a specific time to come in and listen to their tapes depending on their level.  There will be ten students per group.  Then they will have a forty minute class in which the Korean teachers will actually teach.  Once a week, those same ten students will see us for forty minutes to practice speaking the material they've been working with the rest of the week (so the topics and themes will be the same across the board).  So, we'll still only see each class once a week, but they'll be actively using the same material all week, giving them a chance to actually absorb it.  Every student that attends Yoon's will participate in every part of the program.  So, if they're a Yoon's student, we will see them.

Also, a Korean woman who moved to Canada when she married a Canadian man will be coming to help out at the revised Goam campus (that's all we know about her).  The principles are also shifting places.  Jasmine (Janrak's principle) will be coming to work at Sinback and "Captain" (the nameless woman currently in charge of Sinback) will be come a parent consultant, in charge of bringing in more students.  I'll be glad to have Jasmine.  Captain does not exactly put off the best energy, as my mother would say.

These changes are all very exciting.  But, because my schools will be behind, it will mean consistent, but slight differences in Ian and my schedule and we will no longer be able to split the workload on making lesson plans.  Bummer.  Also, Ian gets the new Korean-Canadian teacher, so I'm still left with no one to chat with.  Hopefully, there will be some interesting things in store for me when Sinback and Haso make the shift.

Wow, only four weeks until we've finished our second term.  Good night!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Two Koreas face off, puff chests

North Korea's military fired artillery shells in a disputed part of the west coast this morning.  The South Korean military responded by firing vulcan canon shots into the air as a warning. reports the Yonhap News Agency as saying the retaliation was "a statement that it [South Korea] would not be intimidated by saber-rattling by the communist neighbor."  North Korea claims its actions are part of an annual military drill.  Sohn Jie-ae (CNN's Seoul correspondent) hypothesizes that this may be more political postering from North Korea.  Anytime, they face negotiations with other nations, she says, we tend to see this show of power from them.  They are currently facing peace treaty talks with the U.S. and South Korea has decided to postpone talks of joint tourism.

South Korea also recently put out a warning to North Korea, stating that if there are strong enough indications that North Korea intends to attack, that they will launch a preemptive strike.  This came after North Korea's National Defense Comission threw around words like "holy war."

North Korea's economy is suffering severely, and I have to wonder if this behavior reflects some last ditch effort to save face while taking aid from the South and negotiating (off and on) in the nuclear talks.  South Korea is definitely doing its own share of posturing by keeping a watchful eye on the North and responding to everything the nation does with vigor.

To be honest, my knowledge of politics and foreign policy is only enough to get me into trouble.  But, I find the relationship between these two sibling nations very interesting and I invite you to share your thoughts and opinions or to impart any knowledge about the situation.

Good night!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In the Classroom

When Ian and I first started teaching, things were a bit rough.  We had no training and only a vague idea of what was needed from us.  Though it was hell at the time, I think it taught us some lessons about problem solving and about our own skill sets.  Also, Ian and I now have really concrete ideas about what we need from an employer and a workplace on the whole.  So, hopefully, this all means that we will interview much better and have a better shot at getting a job we'd really enjoy stateside.

Things have changed quite a bit.  We now have Gene to keep us abreast of what's happening on the business level of Yoon's and we've genuinely become better teachers.  I wouldn't say that I'm a good teacher.  I think that it takes a special person with a skill set I don't have to really succeed at this job.  I'm better at working on my own and I don't enjoy being 'on' all day.  I can find work on my own and I don't like have every millisecond of my workday planned out for me.  I like a little leadership and control, even if it is just over my own agenda.

In the beginning Ian and I had no idea what to do for lesson plans.  We simply went through each unit and there weren't many activities in our classrooms.  Occasionally we'd pull a worksheet off the internet, but that was about it.

Now, Ian and I make a worksheet and a homework assignment for every class above Beginner 2.  We've gotten to the point where we have a flexible formula for each class and a set of activities and games that we can fall back on if the class lulls.


Pictionary- Using words from the topic of the week, the students take turns drawing pictures on the bored and the rest of the class guesses.  Whomever guesses correctly gets to draw the next picture.  The catch is that they must guess in full sentences, "Is it (a) ___________ ?" and the drawer answers, "No, it isn't," or "Yes, it is."

Hangman- I let my students run this one.  They choose the words, run the board and guess the letters.  This game is great for testing their vocabulary and spelling.

Taboo- This game only works for advanced classes.  I make cards with the key word and taboo words on them.  The students work in pairs and try to describe the key words without saying any of the taboo words.  It's pretty difficult, but it works to get them talking.

Bingo-  Self explanatory.  The little kids love bingo.  Really, it's just vocabulary practice and a chance to win a lot of stickers.


Word Race- Basic 1 and 3 students usually have a set of vocabulary words for the week.  So, I make little cards and pairs of two students lay out the cards on the tables.  When I say a word, the first student to pick up the correct card (in each pair) wins a point.  The number of points each student gets, anywhere from one to ten, equals the number of stickers they'll get at the end of the game.  The students collect stickers on a sheet in order to get prizes (board games, umbrellas, jump ropes, etc.).

Question Catch- The students throw a ball to each other and ask various questions relating to the topic of the unit.  They have to answer in full sentences, so I'm always correcting their grammar.

Worksheet Interviews- Ian and I make worksheets designed to help the students interview each other.  Sometimes the students put in a lot of effort and do very well, but other times I have to spoon feed them the assignment.

Animal Cards- Any time a class has a topic revolving around animals I make animal cards for them to play go fish or use them in Question Catch.  They love them and they usually beg to keep them.

Ian and I have certainly put in the effort to try to meet Julia's evasive standards.  I hope she's happy with us.  I haven't heard otherwise from Gene.  My students seem happier, and that's good enough for me.

If you had to teach an English class to 8 Korean children tomorrow, what activities or games would you do?

Good night!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Seoul with Ben and Amy

We met Ben and Amy at the train station at 6:40am to make sure we got on our 6:55am train. We chose the train for two reasons. The bus gives Amy motion sickness and it usually gives me a virus. It was really nice, I think we'll be taking it from now on.

We intended to get coffee and go to Namsan Tower first, but ended we got off at a subway station that was so close to the War Memorial that it had a sign showing which exit to take. So, we started there and placed coffee and food on the back burner.

We didn't take any pictures inside the memorial/museum because it looks like any other museum dedicated to Asian studies. It was very interesting, but I don't think museum exhibits fulfill their purpose in photographs. So, here are some photos from the monuments outside the museum.

A water mine with children's faces on it.

There were jets outside on the lot.

The center sculpture is a fusion between the Korean tree of life and a golden sword. Around it are sculptures of Korean people from "all walks of life" participating in or feeling the effects of war.

This is the Statue of Brothers. One is southern, the other northern. This statue, like many things in the plaza and museum itself reveals the nations hope for forgiveness, reconnection and eventually reunification. The division is referred to as "the tragedy."

The Clock Tower of Peace has two clocks. One telling current time. The other stopped at 4 o'clock on June 25th, 1950: the beginning of the Korean War. The two girls are sisters, representing the two nations as separate, but with an eternal familial bond.

It says that this clock will be placed on the tower when the North and the South are reunited. It will capture the time and forever mark the reconciliation.

We failed to take a picture of Memorial Hall. It's a corridor leading to the building that lists the names of all the Korean, American and all other U.N. nation soldiers that lost their lives during the war.

Just inside the lobby. Drums are used as a symbol of Korean culture and pride. The rest of the memorial was very much a museum. Ian and I expected it to solely cover the Korean War (the civil war), but it actually covered every war the country has been involved in since prehistory, with an exhibit discussing the "shameful" time in which Korea was occupied by Japan.

After the memorial, we headed to Starbucks. I tried the seasonal special, a Honey Orange Latte, and it was amazing. I wish we had a coffee place near us with (first) decent coffee and creative flavor specials. I like black coffee and vanilla lattes, but there's something special about drinks that coincide with the weather or seasonal food. On our way to Starbucks, we witnessed a bum fight. You don't see many bums in Korea, even in Seoul. I think they were fighting over sleeping territory and no one stepped in to stop them. A man near us excitedly explained that they get drunk and fight everyday.

This isn't the Starbucks we went to. I think it's the headquarter store because of the sign and the Koreanized building.

We wondered through Namdaemun Market a little and Amy got some wooden chopsticks and little cups at a shop and Ian and I got Korean flag patches (for his rucksack and my rucksack that I'm planning to purchase for our trek home).

Near City Hall at a design exhibition for the future of Seoul, Ian helped power a giant educational wind tunnel (the faux-ice sculpture behind him) that has something to do with Antarctica.

Amy and I got a good look at the changing of the guards ceremony outside the Gyeongbok Palace gate.  Be sure to watch the video.  I'm pretty pleased with what I got.

When the ceremony was over we headed over to Krispy Kreme so that Ben could get his fix (he held out at Starbucks in anticipation). Ian and I split a cheesecake donut that was pretty damn good. Then we wandered around the Lotte Department Store to kill a little time before heading to the pub. Yes, we needed to kill time between gorge fests. Living in a rural area can bring out strange (read: terrible) eating habits when one gets back to an urban setting where choices are available.

The Wolfhound!  The pub was mostly full of foreigners and our waitress spoke perfect English and had no idea where Jecheon is.

Amy with her Kilkenny and Ben with his Coke.

Ian is deliriously happy about his Guinness.

And I about my Kilkenny.  It was amazing.  I had forgotten that I actually like beer.

Ian and I started with curry chips (french fries with curry sauce) and then got their house made veggie burgers with side salads.

Delicious.  I didn't manage to get a photo of the curry chips that didn't make them look disgusting.  The burger patty was soft (black beans and chickpeas) with a crispy breading.  So good, but I wish it were just a little firmer.  I didn't manage to finish it, so Ian was treated to a another quarter of burger.

Ian made a spaceship out of our beer coasters.

After siiting, talking and digesting a little, Amy and I shared an apple crumble.  It was good, but a little over buttered and under salted.  People always forget that baked desserts need salt.

We hopped on the subway and headed to Costco.  We had bought our return tickets in the morning, so we had a time limit.  When we came up from the subway station, we accidentally walked the wrong direction, so we had to hop a cab.  We ran around Costco for forty minutes getting Tillamook cheese, Cheerios, croutons, pretzels, and Whoppers.  We split the pretzels and Whoppers with Ben and Amy.  We came out of Costco a minute or two behind schedule, but we found a cab quickly and directed him (with much effort) to the train station.  Several figure eights later, he finally took us there.  His taking advantage of us caused us to have to run (truly, run) for our train.  We made it, though we were worried for Ian who trailed behind due to his Costco loaded rucksack.

His stuffed bag on the train rack.

Relaxing on the train.

The trip was great fun and exhausting.  It was a good change of pace to share it with friends.

Good night!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

To Tide You Over

Today we went to Seoul with Ben and Amy.  We didn't take as many photos as we usually do (we only took about 70 as opposed to the usual 140).  I think we were pretty wrapped up in conversations most of the time.  It's sounds trite, but we're seriously thankful to have them around.  Their presence definitely helps us stay sane.

It was an excellent, exhausting day.  And I'd like to describe it in detail, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.  I don't feel like I've been keeping up the level of detail in the blog because I've been so tired, and, honestly, it's difficult to post when not much happens during the day.  But, I've got some ideas to get us back up to speed (read: quality).

But, here is a photo of something strange we found at Costco.

Yum.  I actually think it's just a stock, but there was a picture of a glass with a drinking straw on the side.

Good night!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Gym

We took the camera to the gym today. We had to be covert about taking pictures; mainly because we don't want people to think we are stranger than they already do.

This is the main gym floor. The lobby is lofted above it.

The place is heated with mega heat lamps. Ian stood too close yesterday and burnt his shirt a little.

Ian on the upside down hang thing. It's good for relieving pressure on your lower back.

Me on the upside down hangy thing. It feels a lot more upside down than it is.

There is a DDR room. We don't know if you have to pay extra.

Here is a little video of us using a couple of the stranger things at our gym.

Good night!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Wolfhound Pub

I'm so excited.  And for something that would be trivial and maybe even ridiculous in any other setting.  I found an actual pub in Seoul (we're going with Ben and Amy on Sunday).

It's in Itaewon (the neighborhood near the military base) and it has real pub food on it's menu.  Here's a link to their facebook photos of their menu.  They even have a veggie burger (one made with black beans and chickpeas), real salads and imported beer at 'reasonable' prices.  I know it's bizarre, but I'm so excited I can hardly think about anything else.

It's going to be a great trip.  Ben and Amy want to see Namsan Tower, so we're heading up there again.  The base is a lot like the Space Needle, so it's pretty cool.  I think we're also heading to the War Memorial, so that will be great.  I hope the weather/ light cooperate for photos.  We're ending our day at Costco to pick up some much needed comforts.

I'm bringing the camera to the gym tomorrow, so expect to see a video of one of us on a jiggle machine.  Good night!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Conversations and Numbers

Gene came to Ha So yesterday to talk to me.  We're still waiting on Ian's diploma, so Julia is calling him twice a day.  She (Yoon's) is facing a fine because of it.  But, I can't feel bad because she waited three months to tell us that she actually does need it, which is contrary to everything she told us just before she left.

He also wanted to talk to me about an email I had sent him regarding the Korean taxes we're paying.  I recently learned (via a fellow teacher on Facebook) that U.S. citizens get the taxes they pay while in Korea back when they provide proof that they are leaving the country.  The two taxes we pay are listed on the paystubs that Julia gives us each month, so I wanted to know which it was that we got back, figuring it was the small one: 6,900 (about $6) won from each of us each month.  The other tax is much larger, 69,000 (about $60) from each of us each month.  According to Gene, we get both back.  So, 66x2= 132.  132x12=1584.  That's $1,584 on top of the bonus that we'll get upon completion of our contract (approximately $4,050).  We haven't been nearly as successful in saving money as we were hoping.  We've been paying back costs from the wedding (and traveling), so our free income has been eaten up.  This month marks the last of those payments and we've decided to take a local trip for Ian's birthday, so it should get better from here on out.  Starting with our February paycheck we will be saving at least $1,000 a month, which will give us $7,000 in savings before bonuses (which aren't included in our savings plan since they'll pay for our leisurely trip home), tax returns and final paychecks (over $5,500).  We're hoping to have a decent savings foundation when we come home.

Gene asked me whether Ian and I were thinking of renewing our contracts and I was honest with him for the first time.  Up until now, we've been playing the "Oh, we don't know" card.  I told Gene that it's been difficult since we got married so recently and that teaching wasn't my long term career plan, as it is Ian's.  What I didn't tell him was that this part of our lives still feels like we're pretending (almost an adult life, but not quite).  Neither of us feel like we can get anywhere in our current positions and that those feelings combined with near complete alienation and objectification make us feel like shells of who we want to be.  I told him we intended to hire headhunters to help us get jobs back home and I encouraged him to do the same.  Gene really wants to get away from Korea, he just hasn't worked out how, yet.  The process of getting a work visa is standing in his way.

Ian is getting along well with the new Korean English teacher at Goam.  He doesn't know her name, but she actually lives full time in Spain, near Madrid.  She is here teaching English to make money while she cares for her sick mother.  Jecheon seems to be on her top 5 list of places she absolutely does not want to live, so she's not exactly excited to be home.  Her English is pretty good and she's fluent in Spanish.  I haven't met her, yet, but we are thinking of inviting her out with us sometime.  I think she's potentially one of the most interesting people we've met here.

That's about all that's new over here.  I feel like I may have drowned you in numbers.  Good night!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Confucius biopic to replace Avatar in China

I read an LA Times article today that said the Chinese government is pulling Avatar from theaters and replacing it with a new Confucius biopic.  Apparently, Chinese propaganda officials are pushing the China Film Group (state run) to pull the film, citing that it is drawing money away from the Chinese film market and that it is raising questions about the ethics of forced evictions within its viewers. 

Apparently, while many Americans see reflections of everything from the founding of our country, to Vietnam, to Iraq in the film, the Chinese have their own political take on it.  Many Chinese viewers see a connection to their own country's struggle with the pros and cons of GDP growth.  According to Wikipedia, a recent law in China allows for private ownership of land; and it states that the land cannot be removed by the government, unless it is in the public's best interest.  So, essentially, the government simply reworded a law to give their citizens a sense of private ownership without actually giving it to them.  Easy comparisons could be drawn to United States (and other Western nations') Eminent Domain laws, but general consensus leads me to believe that the Chinese law's loophole gets acted upon with much more frequency and greed than the Western laws.

As for Avatar stirring up thoughts of rebellion, Chinese bloggers have been discussing the film as an allegory for those living in "nail houses."  Nail house refers to a privately owned home that the owner refuses to sell (like a nail sticking out that can't be hammered down).  Often, commercial developers invoke the "public interest" piece of the law and have the owner forcibly removed, for the sake of GDP and the government's fiscal bottom line.

So, you can see why the propaganda officials feel they need to have the film removed.  Free thought is often troublesome for profit margins.

You can watch a trailer for the state sponsored Confucius biopic here.  There are English subtitles, but it won't help you put together the plot unless you are already well versed in the life of Confucius.

Good night!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Warming Up and Other Random Tuesday Musings

It's about 40 degrees (F) outside ride now.  It's a welcome change from the single digits.  It's a bit misty outside and Google says it's supposed to rain tomorrow.  I'll take rain over freezing weather or snow any day.  Though, rain will turn the leftover slush and ice in the streets into mud, 80% of which will inevitably end up in my classroom.

Tuesdays are odd for me.  I don't have class until 3:30 (instead of 2:30), so after Ian leaves I still have over an hour to hang out.  The past two weeks, I've had the chance to talk to Mom during this time, so it's nice.  The walk over to the Sinbaek campus takes less than ten minutes, so I tend to procrastinate getting out the door.  It doesn't matter, though.  The only day that we need prep time for is Monday.  Today I finished my copying and such in 7 minutes, which left me with about 35 minutes to sit around.  Our mandatory hour of prep time almost always feels like a waste, but on Tuesdays it's exaggerated.

Ian's Basic 1 students got the ball stuck in the strange space where the lights are inset under the ceiling while they were playing a game.  Only his students could manage that.  He had a tall student in the next class stand on the table to get it.  The student didn't really understand Ian, so he had no idea what he was doing until he got up there and found the ball.  Ian said the kid was astonished.  Later, Ian watched YouTube videos with his Essential 4 class because they didn't feel like doing much else.  I wish one of my classes was competent enough to have a discussion about a video.  He did find one pretty interesting Big Bang (K-Pop) video.  If you thought white Americans had cornered the market on stealing from black culture, think again.

That background hook line isn't even a trumpet.  Nice.

I let my hair be it's crazy, curly self today to see how this cut does with it.

I like it.  Though, I may need a straightener to tame my bangs.

Good night!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The End of an Era

We finished Six Feet Under last night.  The final episode was really heavy and poignant.  We were almost watching it in spite of ourselves toward the end, but it's not because it's not a good show.  It's actually a great show; but a show with themes of mortality and familial angst is not meant to be watched more frequently than it's intended once a week, and we were watching anywhere from two to four episodes a night.

Here's the final ten minutes of the last episode.  If you've never watched the show, it will probably mean nothing to you.  If you're interested in watching the series in full, you might not want to watch the video.  The epilogue is much talked about and for great reason.

Today was a good day.  It's become difficult for me to get going on Mondays.  I don't feel like I'm moving forward here and each new week feels like a rush of stagnation.  But, once I get going Mondays aren't so bad.  The material's fresh, so the classes fly by and I never have to use filler on these early week days.

I forgot an interesting episode in yesterday's post.  While Amy, Ben, Ian and I were getting out of the elevator, a delivery guy was getting in.  He didn't really leave us space or time to get out, so we had to squeeze our way out and in the process Ian dropped his keys down the shaft.  So, Ian hopped back in the elevator with the delivery guy, who made fun of him the whole way.  Ben followed a few minutes later to help, while Amy and I waited.  They got the super/security guy, which I'm thankful for since Ian's plan consisted of sending Ben to the top floor, wedging the doors open and hopping down to get the keys and then climbing out.  The super did just that, except he turned off the elevator first.  A crucial component to the key rescue not ending in death.  So, it ended well, but it was a minor ordeal with the rude delivery guy.

It's time to settle in and watch something a little lighter for a change.  Have a great Monday!  Good night!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haircuts, Pizza and Beer

Ian and I stayed up until about 6am watching Six Feet Under.  While that might sound like we're in love with the show, we're actually trying to finish the series so we can move on to something less dark.  This show gives us weird dreams.

We met Ben and Amy at Emart this afternoon for haircuts.  The salon in Emart is pretty standard and we felt moderately comfortable there.  Once we got in, things happened really fast.  So, we didn't get any real before photos.  All of us were so nervous during our haircuts that we had to remember to breath.  Amy and I brought in pictures and translations of what we wanted, but the boys winged it.  Amy's stylist was obviously uncomfortable cutting her hair and hardly did anything for her at all.  Ian and Ben had to encourage their stylists to take their hair shorter.  My stylist seemed pretty confident, in fact, when I asked him for more angle in my bangs, he assured me that they were the way they should be.  So, I took a deep breath and just sat.  I love the cut, but he had no idea how to style it.  First of all, he blew my hair down and then used a roller brush to give my hair shape and volume.  He could have saved himself a step or two if he had blow dried my hair correctly.  It's pretty strange being an ethnic manority.  Wow, that sounds even stranger.

The dynamic in the salon was very different than in the states.  The men ran the show.  All managers and stylists were men and the women did clipped mens cuts and shampoos.  After my shampooing (which was done after my cut) the woman was beginning to dry my hair.  My (male) stylist waved her away, stuck his hand out for the blowdrier and continued himself.  Pretty funny.

Okay, here are some makeshift before shots:

Ian's shaggy hair on Christmas morning.

This is literally the only photo I have of me with my hair down from the last few months.  It was about down to my collar bones.

Now for the results:

Ian looks unhappy, but he isn't.  His hair is nice, short and fuzzy.

The cut's great, but he overstyled it.  I look like I'm running for office.

They trimmed Amy's hair, but they didn't do much else.  Maybe they'll be more comfortable next time.  I don't have a picture for Ben, but he managed to keep his hair from being Koreanized.  It looks great.

There's a nail salon next to the hair place, so Amy and I decided to go in.  They weren't doing toes tonight, so we just had manicures.  They oiled and trimmed my cuticles for nearly forty minutes.  It was intense.

I chose this "suede" purple that I really like.

Amy went with a really pretty blue.  And she had little flowers done on her pinkies.  The woman painted them by hand.  It was pretty amazing.

We tried for ice cream fondue, but they still don't have it at the Emart Baskin Robbins, so we came back to our place.  We ordered pizzas drank a couple bottles of imported beer and watched The Fantastic Mr. Fox.  It was a great movie.  I really recommend it, especially if you like Wes Anderson.

 Back to work tomorrow.  Good night!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pizza and a Movie, Take 2

Ian had a make up day at school today.  So, I took the opportunity to clean the apartment and try my hand at baking with our tiny convection oven.  The cleaning went well, but the baking didn't.  It was pretty disappointing for me.  I was hoping it would help me feel better.

Our tiny toaster oven doesn't have many settings.  You can only set the time and whether you want heat from the top, bottom, or both.  I tried several combinations (the whole time from both and then variations of alternating the top and bottom), but the result was always the same.  Burnt on the outside and raw dough in the center.

Better luck next time, I suppose.

Ian likes to do little art projects around the house and I forgot to post the latest one.

We save all our Tootsie Pop wrappers, so he covered a tissue box and made a wicked cool stand for our speakers.

Ian stopped by Pizza Hut tonight, so we'll actually have our pizza and a movie.  Tomorrow we're getting haircuts and Amy and I might get manicures.  We'll see. I'm not usually into that, but I've been feeling so crummy, it just might help.

Good night!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pizza and a Movie

Today was pretty rough for me.  I'm in a real funk; I can't focus and I have no energy.

My kids were rude little buggers, too.  And to top it all off, all the Sinbaek teachers excluded me from their dinner/snack break.  They do that everyday, but this time they did it out in the lobby.  I don't care about the snacks.  This is a lonely lifestyle and their attitudes don't help.

Ian's day was entirely average ("Not great, but okay").  I think we're really in a slump with where our lives are right now.  It's difficult to feel like you're moving forward when a great majority of your life consists of waiting until you can affect change in it.

Ian and I are currently trying to order a pizza online, but the security program denied our debit card.  Wee downloaded "Where the Wild Things Are" and we're going to watch that if we can manage to get dinner.  I don't really like downloading movies, but we get desperate.  I intend to put the kabash on it when we're back in the states and we have access to rental places and more theaters.

I don't really want to use this blog as a vehicle for ranting and raving, so I'll cut this post short.

Good night!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Quick Eats of Korea

Today was pretty average for both Ian and I, so I thought I'd take my mom's advice and write a little more about the food here.

But first, a mildly humorous nanosecond from today.  Last week our Basic 3 classes had to fill out a short questionairre about their holidays for homework.  One of the questions was "What presents did you get for Christmas?" and another was "What did you want for Christmas but did not get?"  One boy wrote that he got a top (that's all he listed) for Christmas, but that he didn't get the Nintendo Wii he was hoping for.  The stark differences between his hopes and reality made me chuckle a mean little chuckle.

We've experienced comparatively little "traditional" Korean food because we don't eat meat (including fish).  It's unfortunate because we'd like to experience more of it, but we won't compromise our eating habits and it's difficult to order things without meat here.  It's not a familiar concept.  But, what we haven't eaten, we've seen or heard of, so here's a rundown of popular eats in Korea (or, at least, Jecheon).  I'll leave out gimbap (seaweed and rice rolls), bibimbap (mixed veggies and rice) and pechingeh (Korean veggie pancakes) since we've discussed those before.

Bulgogi is not only a popular dish in itself, but bulgogi burgers and bulgogi pizza are also popular.  Bulgogi translates simply to "fire meat" (bool = fire and mool = water, so mulgogi refers to fish and it's all a little confusing).  It's meat (pork, beef, chicken or squid) marinated in sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, garlic and onions and then cooked on a grill.  I think I've usually seen it served with noodles, but I'm not sure.

Galbi is Korean barbecue.  I've never seen this one, but it's obviously around and the kids talk about it.  According to Wikipedia, the meat is sliced thick and is sometimes served unseasoned.  I'm certain it's usually beef, but I think many BBQ'd goods are referred to as "galbi," even if it's not meat.

Namul or Bachan
Seasoned or pickled vegetables are served with nearly every meal as side dishes.  There are usually at least five and it's expected that you make a major dent in them as well as your main dish.  The spices include vinegar, salt, pepper and gochuchang (red pepper paste).  The usual veggies are cucumbers, bellflower root, potato, sweet potato, 'pumpkin' (Oriental green squash), bean sprouts and a collection of wild leafy roots and stems.

Raw, live octopus chopped up just before eating.  Apparently, it's difficult to eat as it fights you even in pieces.  It's considered a delicacy and Chun wha really likes it.

Guk just means soup.  Koreans often eat soup for breakfast or on special occasions.  Popular soups are ddukguk (ricecake soup), haejangguk (a soup made from pork spine, leafy veggies, ox blood and beef broth, Wikipedia says it's a popular hangover cure and I've hear of foreigners being subjected to it after a night of drinking), kimchi jjigae (kimchi, pork and tofu soup that's served with many, many meals).

Naengmyeon is a cold buckwheat noodle dish served with veggies and beef.  It's very popular, even in winter.  Julia ate it during one of our first lunch meetings several months ago.

We had veggie japchae at Chun wha's house during Chuseok, but it's usually potato noodles, veggies, beef and soy sauce.  What we had was very good, though the texture of the noodles was a little odd.

Ddukbokki is ricecake, fishcake and gochuchang sauce.  It's eaten as a snack and is very popular with our students.  In fact, I'd say it's one of the most common things we see them eating.  There's a ddukbokki place right next door to the Haso campus.  The students also eat several foods on a stick from that place, like steamed chicken or chicken hearts and fried potatoes (cut in a curl down the stick).

Hoteok is a pancake stuffed with syrup or other sweet things.  Some of it is really good, but the peanut kind tastes very strange and like chemicals.  I'm not sure why.

It's the official name for fishy bread (golden grilled, filled cakes shaped like fish).  Apparently, it's originally Japanese (we found sweet potato stuffed ones in Japan).  It's usually filled with vanilla custard or sweetened red bean.

Toast or Toast-uh
It may not seem very Korean, but, trust me, it is.  It's a sandwich made from grilling two slices of white bread with butter on a griddle, then topping them with fried egg (with carrots or corn mixed in), jam, cabbage and a variety of other options like ham, potato, cheese or  even beef.

Dried Squid
I don't know the Korean name for this one, but it's everywhere.  It's a snack for being out and about.  It's sold at parks where vendors take the dried squid and lightly grill for customers (it smells like burning skin) and it's even sold prepackaged at the movies, though popcorn seems more popular there.

Well, that's a pretty good rundown of popular food where we are.  Good night!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Coming Soon: More Snow

Rumor has it that we'll be hit with more snow soon.  It's supposed to be as much as we got on the 4th (our snow day).  As much as I like random days off, I don't like working on Saturday.  So, I'm a little torn in the wishing for snow area.

Today was very long.  I'm still getting used to getting up early again and it's taking it's toll.  I wouldn't change it, though.  I love working out in the morning.  It's really the perfect way to start the day.

I only had one class act up today.  I have a Beginner 2 class at 6:30 on Wednesdays.  It's really too late for kids that age.  They're either too tired or too burnt out by that time.  Two boys (Alejandro and Alexander) just wouldn't be quiet.  Then when I'd discipline them, they'd act offended and blame the other.  I thought my last class might be cancelled, but my students just showed up ten and fifteen minutes late.  I hate that I have to wait around for them.  If they don't show up (close to) on time, it's on them, not me.

Ian's students were terrible today.  His Wednesdays are always bad, but today especially.  One class of his wouldn't listen to him and responded to the "No Korean" signs in the room by speaking in Chinese.

So, we're pretty worn out.

  I've been studying more Korean lately.  'They' say that two of the best things you can do to stay level headed in a foreign country is exercise and study the Native language.  Generally, as long as it's contextual, I can understand what the kids ask me in Korean.  It's part assumption part understanding, but it's something.

Amy, Ian and I are getting haircuts on Sunday.  There's a place in Emart that looks pretty standard, so here's hoping I come out okay.  I'll be sure to document the experience thoroughly.

I haven't had anything specific to post about lately.  If it behooves you, feel free to post a comment about what you'd like to know more about or what you'd like me to write about.

Good night!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Languid Tuesday

Ian and I stayed up too late last night watching Six Feet Under.  We didn't manage to get up until quarter to eight, but we still went to the gym.  My workout was excellent, but really hard.  Day two is always hard and we had two weeks off to make it that way.  While I was heading into the locker room, the owner told me that we shouldn't run, but that we should walk instead because it was better (he seemed concerned about our knees).  I smiled, said okay and continued on my way.  People really don't run here.  They must really believe the bad outweighs the good.

My work day was long, despite it starting later than the rest of the week.  My students are on vacation from regular school and my classroom was just another place to goof around and talk with friends.  It was really tough to keep control of my classes today.  My little kids were aiming for each other's faces with the ball and my older kids would not stop chatting.  It was frustrating, but I understand their deal.  It must put a hitch in vacation to have to go to study school.

Ian's classes had either incessant chatting or complete silence, without much in between.  I don't think our lesson plans are as strong this week as they usually are, so that may be part of the problem.

It's gotten really cold again.  Gene said that we should expect snow sometime soon.  He emailed me last night to tell me that Julia was asking him for a tracking code for Ian's diploma (they never actually registered us, so Mom had to send Ian's to us).  I told him the the US Postal Service is not like Korea's.  They don't track international packages.  As they said to my mom, "Once it's out of the country, they have no idea where it is."  Julia doesn't trust that it's in the mail.  They probably should have registered us in the beginning (when we were sending in all our paperwork, they even had my diploma), since the board is now crawling up their asses about it.  I think they may be facing a hefty fine, but I don't feel bad.  As a business, they are an unorganized mess.

Good night!

Monday, January 11, 2010

7 months and 3 weeks

That's when we're free to go.  Work is fine and Ian and I have a good routine going.  We even joined the gym to get out of the cold.  I'm not any more homesick than usual.  But, I'm finding myself fixating on our time line a lot lately.  Maybe it's because we are approaching the six month mark.  I can't wait for the day when the time we've been here starts being longer than our time to go.

Mom is coming to visit in about 3.5 months.  I'm so excited.  It seems that Justin is thinking of coming at the end of March.  It will be so great to have little pieces of home.  We have a lot to share.

Ian and I got our memberships to the gym, Click Health Zone, this morning.  It was quite nice.  The man who owns the place was so nice to us and he helped us with everything.  They have everything we need there: treadmills, weight machines, free weights, and even jiggle machines.  The Koreans seem to really like those crazy things.  The building doesn't seem to have real heating, so they just have space heaters every 20 feet or so.  It's a little cooler than I'd ideally like, but it beats the freezing wasteland outside.  Not many people run on the treadmills.  People here seem to prefer walking and most of them don't even speed walk.  Ian and I ran and then did some strength training.  It felt really good to not be miserable during a workout.  Our memberships are for three months (it was roughly $40/person a month), so we'll decide in April whether we're going back outside or not.

Today was pretty normal at work.  The classes have been light (about 50-60% of my students show up on average) because the kids are on winter vacation from regular school.  I wish I had the entirety of January off.

We're starting to reconsider our February trip to China.  Three days is probably not long enough to get there, enjoy ourselves and get back for work.  We'll be able to hit China when we're making our way west when our contract is up, so not going next month wouldn't be a total loss.  We might go somewhere more local instead, maybe Jeju Island or Busan.  It'll be near Ian's birthday, so it's ultimately his choice.

Here are some photos from yesteray's adventures with Ben and Amy.

Have some Special K!

Ian's bigger than me.  Just kidding.  His box is normal.

Epic Jenga.  We all look nervous in our own ways.


The boys cheated and used Amy's tower to make theirs taller.

That's about it for today, folks.  Good night!

Day Off

Ian and I didn't wake up until about 11 this morning and we didn't manage to get up and out until about 4pm.  It was a nice way to spend my day off, just relaxing and goofing.

We met Ben and Amy at the theater at 5 because we thought that The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus was still playing. It is, but the only showtimes are 10am and 12:10pm.  Very strange.  So, we went to dinner and then to Emart to wander around and to get ice cream.  Ian and I got a new clock because our flip clock was busted.  The Emart Baskin Robbins didn't have the ice cream fondue we all wanted to try (even though it was on their menu), so we settled for regular old ice cream.  We came back to our apartment to play a game and download the movie.  We played a few epic games of Jenga (there are photos, but they'll have to be posted later), but the downloads didn't work.  So, we watched (500) Days of Summer instead.

It was a great time and I'll probably post the pictures tomorrow.  We are off to bed, since we are getting up at 6.  We have to do our lesson plans and then we are off to the gym to get memberships and workout.  Good night!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Weekend School

I was pretty grumpy about having to go into work today, but once I got there it wasn't so bad.  My classes were pretty empty, so it was laid back and I studied a little Korean between classes.  A lot of my students said they were tired, so I think they were more bummed out about being there than I was.  In one Basic 3 class we were talking about the beach and my students were trying to figure out the word 'buried.'  They drew people half covered in mounds of sand.  When I told them buried and drew a hole on the bored, they got concerned and said, "No, not dead."  I agreed, and told them that it didn't mean that the person was dead.  Then I had to qualify it with, "Well, sometimes people are dead."  It became the quote of the day and my students randomly repeated throughout class.  I like it when my students understand ironic humor.

After work I met Ian downtown for pizza and a movie.  We ran into Julia outside the theater.  She and her family were going to see a movie, too.  There's a pizza and toast place attached to the theater, so we all went in there.  As Ian and I were ordering our pizza, Julia walked up and paid for it, though we protested.  It was very nice for her.  She said it was for working on Saturdays.  After eating, Ian and I watched The Road.  It was very interesting and Ian said it stuck close to the book.  It's sad on a very deep level and the narrative hardly has a beginning, middle or end, so it's a strange audience experience.

Ian cleaned the apartment while I was at work today.  He also picked up a toaster oven for me.  It's tiny (only a little bigger than an Easy Bake Oven), but I'm so excited about it.  Maybe I'll make something tomorrow.

Good night!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Strange Evening

So, as it turns out, Ian and I were invited to the company dinner party.

On Fridays, I normally have a break from 4:30 to 5:20, so they moved my 7:30 class to that spot today so that I could go. Knowing that my day was capped with more work related activities made it stretch on and on. The Sinback teachers, Gene and I headed to the party right after my lass class. It was held in a reception hall and catered. There were a few things Ian and I could eat, so that was nice. Ian and the rest of his school were late, so Gene and I awkwardly waited for him at our table for about fifteen minutes. After people finished eating, things got interesting.

Noribang! They wanted us to sing, but we escaped unscathed.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Korea. The woman in the video is sober, standing before her entire company. They act embarrassed enough to vomit as soon as they leave the stage, but you'd never know it.

The evening was pretty dull otherwise. People were being given awards, so we asked Gene why. He told us that they were being rewarded for selling the most English books. Apparently, the women who work for Yoon's are primarily book salesmen and secondarily English teachers. That explains a lot.

Terry (left) and Gene (right).

We walked home from the party in the freezing cold like the lonely foreigners we are.  As we were approaching our apartment complex, some guys in a van drove by us slowly, and as they did they rolled down their window and said hello.  We replied, but kept walking.  They caught up with us just before we got into our building.  Long story short, they wanted to talk to us about religion.  We didn't see it coming because it was 9:30 at night.  They were very friendly, though it was difficult to disengage and we were freezing.  I don't know if they actually target foreigners, but it sure seems like it.

Well, I've got to call my loan companies and get all my accounts squared away.  Oh, tomorrow I have make up classes for the snow day.  Due to some scheduling snafu with the buses, Ian's make up day is next Saturday.  So, two weekends down the hole.  Gene tried to help us out, but to no avail.  Good night!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Little Christmas Leftover

We pulled ourselves out of bed a little earlier than we would have liked this morning to run to the post office and the bank.  Just as we were about to leave, the deliveryman rang our doorbell and gave us the package we were planning to retrieve.

Thanks Mom!  The comics calendar is great!

Thanks Al and Kat!  The action figure is rescuing Santa on top of our t.v. and Ian's stoked about the Secret Origins book.

My day was great.  It actually felt good to be back in the routine.  I hope that feeling lasts.  Though, my happy day may have something to do with my accidental double dosage of cold medicine this morning.  It wasn't actually double the dose, I just took two doses too close to each other because I miscalculated the time.  But, it put me in a really good mood.

Ian and I are trying to figure out whether we're actually invited to a company dinner tomorrow night.  Gene told us about it, but it's at 7 (we're not finished until 8:30).  They've excluded us from several dinners before, so it wouldn't be new.  Gene seems to think we're invited, but no one else has invited us and when Ian's principle was talking to him about it today, she was uncomfortable and she didn't say much.  So, we'll see.  I can't wait to actually be included in a work environment when we get home.  It's bad to count the days so early, but we do.

When I came home I noticed that our Spidey-Santa isn't fairing so well.

Gruesome!  It's okay.  The adhesive just gave out.  He's being put away this weekend anyway.

Good night!