Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Midweek Anecdotes

I've taken to writing on my hand a lot because I realize that I forget little things that happen during the day.

Last week, while I was sitting at the computer between classes, Leah and Iris (two of my favorite older students) came up to me.  Iris stood in front and translated for Leah, who is a good speaker, but very shy out of class.  She said that the moon is full and Leah would like me to go with her.  At first, I was a little confused, but then Iris clarified by saying that Leah wanted to show me the moon.  So, I followed them to the hallway and we peered out the tiny window at the yellowish full moon.  I told them that a large, yellow full moon is called a harvest moon in English.  Leah thanked me (when she was the one who wanted me to see the lovely moon) and the girls went on their way.  For all the difficult times and as much as we don't fit in to the business culture here, the students always have ways to make it worthwhile.  I never really planned to work with kids (and, to be honest, I don't plan to after this), but my students are one of the reasons I am happy I'm doing this (and will be happier still when it's over).

In my Essential 2 class (12-13 year olds) our current chapter in the book is called "Family Problems."  It's a terrible topic with few spin offs.  Mostly it makes for choreographed dialogue and awkward questions between my students.  One of the questions the books asks is, "What happens when someone in your family doesn't listen?"  It took me about two minutes to explain this question and then I just gave up and had them look up "punishment" in their electronic dictionaries.  All six students agreed that their parents hit them when they misbehave.  Unfortunately, their English skills aren't such that I could get any further detail about that.  One student, Logan, asked me what my parents did when I was a kid and I didn't listen.  I told him that they didn't hit me, but instead took away the t.v., phone and computer.  He was floored.  Twice he asked me to confirm that they didn't hit me.  The other students seemed equally impressed.  I knew that corporal punishment was acceptable in Korean classrooms (ruler to the knuckles being the most common), but I hadn't thought about it outside that realm.  Koreans are so subdued in public (no one argues or even gets excited, save the ladies in the locker room at the gym), it's difficult to imagine them punishing their kids physically.

I had another humorous mispronunciation in one of my Beginner 2 (8-10 year olds) classes today.  The students were working with food and asking each other "Do you like ___?" and throwing the ball.  It's always the same foods in these books: spaghetti, sandwiches, pizza, milk, cake, and cheese.  So, I have the students think of more foods and write them on the board.  While 'bulgogi' and 'kimbap' may not help them with their English, it at least makes the subject more tangible for them.  The comical mispronunciation came from the youngest student in the class, Cameron.  He is bullied, so I brought as little attention to it as possible.

Cameron:  Do you like ass?
Cameron: Do you like ass?
Me:  Do you mean eggs?
Cameron:  Yes!  Ass!

Good night!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Desk Warming

Many foreign English teachers that I've talked to do as much "desk warming" (sitting at a desk and appearing busy) as they do teaching.  Originally, I counted myself lucky, since I had enough classes to fill my days and make them fly by.  But, as the year progresses, Yoon's has fewer and fewer students.  This is true for my campuses, at least.  Ian seems to have a plenitude.  With fewer students comes fewer classes, so I am left to sit at my desk (as I've mentioned, Julia requires me to arrive at 1:30 and leave no later than 8, no matter when my classes are).  In fact, I am desk warming as I write this.  Sometimes, at Sinback, the other teachers will send me students so that I can help them with their pronunciation.  And, I usually have several mini essays to grade, so it's not too bad; but, I'd rather be at home where I also have things that need to be done.

Last week, I gave my students (Basic 1, 9 year olds) a homework assignment that asked them to practice using "What can we do at the ___?" by asking their parents questions and writing the answers in boxes.  I had them ask for the workplace, supermarket and home.  I made this assignment because it is what the book is covering, but also because it would give me a chance to see Korean gender roles from an internal standpoint.  I wondered if critics of the rigid roles were impeded by their outsider status.  I only received one sheet back today, but the answers were pretty cut and dry.

"What can you do at work?
(Mom) She's a housewife.
(Dad) He's a government official.

What can you do at the supermarket?
(Mom) She can buy groceries.
(Dad) He can buy beer.

What can you do at home?
(Mom) She can cook and clean.
(Dad) He can sleep."

The students at Sinback write English diary entries once or twice a week.  I grade them along with the mini essays.  Today, I checked one written by a 7 year old kid.  His first sentence was, "Today I got up at 4 a.m. and studied for the test."  His last sentence was, "Today was a very good day."  There are some things that I will never reconcile between my socialization and Korean culture.  One of those things is the education system and, along with it, the high expectations placed on very young children.

Another one of those things is the sewer system here.  At the corner next to our apartment complex there are three manhole covers.  I'm assuming there must be a large retaining tank (or something) below them.  The sewers are not very deep here, raw sewage can be as few as six inches under the street and there are grates allowing rain to drain into the same system (Korea's is the type that doesn't take toilet paper, so people don't flush it).  That corner always smells like waste.  Some days are worse than others (we have yet to figure out why, as the weather doesn't seem to factor as much as you'd think), but it always smells.  I wonder when Korea's sewer system will catch up with it's industrialization.

On that note, good night!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Weather, Spicy Lunch

The lovely weather we had yesterday continued today, as well.  This sunny, spring weather is a little bittersweet, as we spend most of our daylight hours inside.  In college we were at least walking from building to building, enjoying the sun between classes.  But, with full time employment often comes an indoor lifestyle.  In Korea this is especially true.  Indoor life starts with elementary aged kids.  Did you know that the reason so many Korean children wear glasses is because they don't get enough sunlight?  (source)

We had an excellent bibimbap lunch today at Kimbap Heaven today.  Fresh vegetables are looking better (in restaurants and in shops) every week.  The banchan (side dishes) were a little different today, probably due to the changing seasons.  There were the usual radishes and kimchi, but they also gave us fishcakes (which we obviously didn't touch) and a seaweed stem and cucumber salad (which we devoured).  So good Ian picked up seaweed stems at the store tonight for dinner.  We've started including banchan like side dishes with many of our meals.  They're very healthy, flavorful and they help us keep our meals well rounded.

My run was incredibly difficult today.  Walking for three and a half hours yesterday definitely took it's toll and I was very sore.  I've moved up to running 5k on weekdays (I was running two miles on weekdays and 5k on Saturdays), so that added difficulty, as well.  But, I am pleased to report that I lost two and a half pounds this week (2.42 to be exact).  It's always so reaffirming to have a good weigh-in.  We put an amazing amount of energy into our diet and exercise regime.  Ian, however, had an excellent run and still lost about two and a half pounds.  A good week for our waistlines, indeed.

Dinner!  The "nuggets" are a little weird.

Good night!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hoofing It

Our gym is closed on Sundays, so we use it as our day off.  How do we usually spend our days off from running?  Walking several miles all around town.  Why?  Because we're clinically insane.

Well, not really.  We walk on Sundays to explore our surroundings as we run our errands.  It'd be a shame to live here for a whole year and miss something because we were always in a cab or on a bus.  The weather was amazing today.  Clear blue skies, very little wind and warm temperatures.

It's spring! We saw this pretty moth having a sunbath.  Then we had to run from it because as it flew it kept diving in front of us and we were worried we would step on it.

I think this is a Great Blue Heron.  I can't really tell the difference between a heron and a crane, but after some Googling, I found out that cranes stay in flocks and herons are commonly seen alone in streams foraging.

Ian wanted me to cross this, but I told him my legs were too short.

We spotted this pagoda as we were walking down a side road.

It turned out to be a National Treasure, the Jangrak Seven Story Pagoda built in the Unified Silla period.  It's next to a Buddhist temple, but it was closed up and the English on the plaques was too broken and vague to really let us know what we were seeing.  But, it was a very special random find.

All that remains of the ancient temple buildings (there were three plots like this).

Downtown.  I don't even know if the powerline worker is attached to a safety rope.  They didn't even stop traffic.

After walking all over the city (about 3 and a half hours) we stopped in for a movie at TTC.  We hadn't even heard of it and we weren't even completely sure it'd be in English, but we took a chance.  It was called Solomon Kane.  I wasn't very impressed with it, though that is probably because I demand a lot from an action/adventure film, since it's not my choice genre.  The plot is based on a pulp magazine character from the twenties: a Puritan man who tries to find the right path after learning that his soul is damned.  It's holding steady at 81% on, so if dark and action packed is your bag, you may want to check it out (I believe it opened in the USA back in November).

After the movie, we ran to E-Mart.

My vegetable expertise tells me that this is not, in fact, lettuce.

I saw on the Alien's Day Out blog that she had found some soy-meat products at E-Mart.  So, we took a look and found them!  These are the "High Protein Soy Bean Cutlets," we also got "Sweet and Sour Soybeans."  We're still trying to eat as little processed food as possible, but these will give us a little more variety.

Good night!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pizza with Ben

Ian and I met Ben at Mr. Pizza for lunch today.  Amy has gone home for two months to be with her mom and we promised to make sure he was well fed and contented.

The pizza in Korea is really terrible, actually.  But, Ian and I have forgotten what it should taste like and now crave the flavorless, fake cheese pizza approximation that Korea offers.  If you put in the fridge over night and then throw some salt (and hot sauce for me) on it, it starts tasting a little more like the cheapest pizza one could find in America.  But, we take what we can get.  At least Mr. Pizza has a salad bar.  Granted, the selection is mostly iceberg lettuce, soggy fruit and some strange Korean side dishes (sweet pickles with your potato and corn pizza, anyone?), but it's nice to eat some vegetables with the carb and fat feast.  All of this aside, we will be Mr. Pizza patrons until we leave.

After the pizza, we saw the Matt Damon flick, Green Zone.  It was one of the better films we've seen in Korea.  The editing (short cuts and a lot of sharp tracking and zooming, not quite handy cam, but enough movement to make you feel the tension) was used pretty effectively within the plot (I'll let you look it up if you're curious).  I haven't seen the Bourne films, but many critics are comparing this piece with them.  I don't think it's as scandalized or contraversial as the filmmakers are hoping, however.  It didn't exactly blow my mind open with its conspiracy theory, but it was thought provoking.

Tomorrow we are heading to E-Mart and downtown for errands.  I'll try to find something interesting to photograph.

Good night!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Good and the Bad

I have one of my favorite classes on Fridays.  I also have one my least favorite classes.  Fridays are full of ups and downs.

I got a lot of writing notebooks to grade today.  This is the last stack of the day (two others preceded it).  Each book has 2-4 entries.  I took them home because I don't actually have time on Fridays for all the extra work.  At least I'll have something to do on Tuesday now.

 This is 3/5 of my favorite class.  Gavin showed up late and apparently Kelly missed (or "threw" if you remember last week) the bus again and didn't make it.  From left to right it's Oscar, Asuley (Ashley) and Peggy.  Don't be alarmed, they're all happy, friendly kids.  Most Koreans don't smile in photos.  Actually, each kid is portraying a different Korean photo pose.  Oscar is exhibiting the blank stare, Asuley the V for Victory and Peggy the stoic clenched jaw.  They're not the best English students.  They don't do their homework.  But, they're obviously smart, they have good senses of humor and I adore them.

I didn't take any photos of my least favorite class because I was too busy screaming at them to sit down and listen.

Ian dealt with a bullying problem today.  One of the kids, Robert, in his Essential 1 class is about 4 years younger than all the other students.  Brody, another student in the class, really picks on him.  In fact, Ian was told to watch them because Robert's mom called Yoon's because she was concerned about it.  Today, Brody threw a plastic case of pencil lead at Robert and hit him in the head, which prompted Ian to drag Brody out of class by the shirt collar, plant him in front of David and tell him that Robert and Brody could no longer be in the same class.  David accepted that and later there was some sort of meeting outside of Ian's classroom.  Ian only saw a group of principles and other people with Brody through his window.  Hopefully, Robert can get some peace next week.

We're ready for the weekend.

Good night!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Things are pretty boring around here.  The title says "Mulayo!" or "I don't know/understand" because I truly don't know what to tell you guys today.  Ian's schedule has settled down and we're falling back into routine for term 3.

So, here's a mildly amusing picture of our used toothpaste tube.

Think of this tube as a metaphor for my creativity this evening.

In lieu of an actual post, here's a commercial that's pretty famous among the foreigners here.  It's hilarious, catchy and nonsensical, everything a good Korean commercial should be.  Behold, "Won Cashing."

There are a few versions of this commercial (all with the catchy song).  Mine and Ian's favorite is one where the girl in the yellow dress dances in her kitchen and a creepy man does a dance behind her that resembles Elijah Wood's "Puppet Master" on Yo Gabba Gabba.

Maybe something interesting will happen tomorrow.

Good night!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Weary Wednesdays

Ah, Wednesdays.  The day on which every other class is 8 and 9 year olds.  It's not so bad, really, just very, very exhausting.  Plus, it's difficult to command a classroom with your voice fading in and out.  At least the Zicam did it's job and I'm just about over this thing.  I had a good run today, even.

I did a lot of work with pencil cases today.  My Beginner 2 students (the class I repeat thrice today) are working on singulars and plurals using "It is a(n) ___." and "They are ___."  We also focused on how the questions change when nouns are plural ("What's this?" vs. "What are these?").  When a little girl pulled an exacto knife out of her pencil case to ask her partner "What's this?" I was reminded of a cultural difference I haven't mentioned much.

Children carry so much general responsibility here, it's amazing how naive and immature they remain into adulthood.  It's completely normal for kids to have knives in their pencil cases.  They use them to trim their erasers when they get too dirty.  They're expected not to hurt themselves or anyone else with them.

On a larger scale, most kids are in charge of their own schedules.  Kids as young as 8 (Korean age, which means they could be as young as 6 American depending on when their birthday is) know which hagwon they have to get to at a certain time, how long it takes to walk (run, usually, it seems) there or where they catch the company's van or bus.  Don't get me wrong, I do see parents walking their kids places, but there are just as many, if not more, going it alone down the street.  Korea is a very safe place, indeed.

It seems that at least one of my students (he's about 11) carries his own cold medication.  I know this because he asked me if I had a cold and then offered me half a pill.  Naturally, I rejected it.

Kids are also largely responsible for feeding themselves throughout the day.  Public schools provide lunches (most of the kids say they are terrible, probably like in American schools), but as they run from study session to study session, they have to find time and food to eat until dinner.  You don't see bento lunches or snacks the way I'd imagine in Japan.  Instead, Family Mart is filled with school age kids eating ramen at the window.  Ddeokbokki (rice cake, eggs and fish cake in a spicy sauce) is super popular with my Haso students because there is a stall right downstairs from the hagwon.  There is no shortage of ice cream, candy and fried snacks, either.  Ian and I talk a lot about the health of the next generation of Koreans.  And while it's easy to point to Western food influences (like hamburgers, sandwiches, pizza and bakery goods in Korea's case), the lack of nutritional supervision plays an even bigger part.  Korean food culture focuses more on the homeopathic properties of foods and less on concrete nutrition (fat and calories).  Some of my students are already heavy.  It will be very interesting to watch Korea in the coming years and see what this generation looks like.

Good night!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Travel Books and Sushi

When we got back from the gym this morning, there was a package slip on our door.  So, Ian ran down to get it.

He was greeted with this.  It turns out that our box was simply inside the bag.  It was still perfectly taped closed, so I don't know why the bag was necessary.

Under all the packaging we found our travel books.  They got here a lot faster than we expected.  We're spending about a month in Europe right before we come home, so we wanted to be prepared.  While we're not hitting Spain again on this trip, I wanted a book to brush up on my skills, so that's what the Dummies guide is about.  Germany and France are on the list, so we are hoping to have some simple phrases and vocabulary under our belts so as not to make complete idiots of ourselves.  Then, of course, there are the absolute necessities.  Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door and Lonely Planet's Europe on a Shoestring are famous for a reason.  It feels good to plan ahead for such a big trip.

Of course, we are going to Cambodia and Thailand before that, but since it's a much shorter trip, all research will be done on the internet.  We'll start booking soon, I can't wait to hear what Mom recommends after her adventure there.  She's taking a cooking class that sounds totally rad.

We made sushi rice a couple of nights ago and had it with steamed and raw veggies.  So, we decided that we'd make some sushi rolls with the left overs.  They're pretty simple and the kim (seaweed/ nori) is uncooperative.  We will be purchaing a different kind next time.
 Inari (thin tofu stuffed with rice), kappa (cucumber rolls) and carrot rolls.


The kappa and carrot rolls (I don't remember their name).

Good night!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Today's Post is Brought to You by the Letter 'M'

Mondays:  Meetings.  Micromanaging.  Miscommunication.  Malaise.  Mutiny.

Well, that last one is just wishful thinking.

Apparently, Ian and I really struck a nerve with Julia by asking for the meeting to be pushed back a half hour so that we might get a run in and possibly eat at home.  So, she and David were present at our meeting today.  David just sat there smiling (I think he believes that he is the friendly face of Yoon's) and Julia continued her lecture from last week.  The gist of which is this: we must use word cards in every class.  If we do not use them or somehow use them improperly, our students won't learn enough and their parents will pull them out and thusly Yoon's will go under.  We are solely responsible for the successes and failures (read: FAILURE) of the Jecheon Yoon's academies.

There was a brief repose from her rant when she told me that no matter how many classes I have or when they start or finish, I must always arrive at my campus at 1:30 and I can leave no earlier than 8pm.  This after Ian had six months of leaving at 7:20 on Fridays.  No one ever said anything to him about it.  I am to provide "extra services" at Sinback because they are having trouble keeping students there.  I think the hagwon is too expensive for the neighborhood, but that's just me.  It wouldn't bother me so much if I had actual work to do (or if the whole ordeal was less of an obvious gender double standard).  I help Michelle and Iris' students during my breaks, but they don't have enough students to fill my time.  So, I'll be productively surfing the internet for at least 60% of the hour.

On the plus side, Ian and I discovered a new fabulous vegetarian option.  죽!  It's pronounced 'jook' and spelled 'juk' in English.  It's rice porridge (either made with rice flour or rice itself).  There are plenty of vegetarian varieties including sweet pumpkin juk, pine nut rice, vegetable rice, corn and broccoli and so on.  There are also meat and seafood varieties, but it looked like the veggie varieties were the most popular.  Mine (the sweet pumpkin, of course) had some glutinous rice balls, like tapioca only bigger and softer, at the bottom.  Very delicious, satisfying and healthy.  It's considered a "well-being" food, like stock soups in the U.S., so it's common for people to eat it when they think they might be coming down with something. The servings are huge, however.  If your appetite is only small to average, I'd say you could easily share one bowl.  I didn't get any pictures.  I thought we were just going to duck into Kimbap Heaven for bibimbap (it was closed), so I didn't bring my camera. 

Classes went normally today with only a few students being frightened of my slight illness.  My plugged nose and raspy voice does make it difficult for them to understand me, though.  It's a little counterproductive to my purpose as a pronunciation and conversation teacher.

When my classes ended (7:20), I settled at the computer to spend my obligatory 40 minutes reading the news.  Ten minutes later, Chun wha came out of her office and said (roughly), "Aren't you finished?"  I told her that I was, but that Julia (Pack Eun hee) had said that I must stay until 8pm.  She sucked in air through her teeth and said "Aigo," which is the Korean way of expressing disapproval or sympathy at your misfortune.  It's a pretty contextual little expression, really.  She told me that she had noticed I was sick (so are all the teachers, including her, at Haso) and that I should go home.  Then she added that it would be a secret.  I can only speculate about Chun wha and Julia's relationship.  My guess is that Julia didn't really handle the car accident situation very well; and she was most likely the reason Chun wha came in wearing hospital pj's.  After all, Julia did ask Rahee (Ian's coworker) to come in the afternoon after her grandmother's funeral.

Good night!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Seoul Veggie Club

We hopped a bus yesterday morning to meet up with a group of vegetarians and vegans in Seoul.  There are all sorts of people in the club, teachers, military, students etc.  They have meals together a couple of times a month at places that either have veg options or are completely vegetarian.

Yesterday's place was called Dubai Restaurant.  They served pan-Middle Eastern food.  The only real vegetarian options were on the appetizer menu, so Ian and I were a little disappointed.  Ian and I shared falafel, flat bread and a spread plate that included hummus, baba ganoush and yogurt.  In reality, we could have went downstairs and got a falafel wrap including many of the same components for less money (Itaewon is full of foreign food options), but the company was good, so it didn't really matter.

The falafel was very good.

Mazza.  The spread plate.

The group.  There were about 30 of us and for most people it was either their first meal with the group or their first in a long time.  We spent most of the time talking to Mirika (Ian's right) from New Zealand.  She's here doing research for her Master's (I think) thesis on the DMZ Peace Park (the natural area up there).  There is supposed to be another event next Sunday.  It'll be at a vegan place (the club always does one strictly vegan event a month), so there should be lots of food options.  I think Steve wanted to do it at the Loving Hut buffet.  We've been to Loving Hut before, but never the buffet (which is it's claim to fame).  So, I think we'll be heading up there again.  It's nice to meet new people who have something so fundamental in common with you.  Though, this event did make us realize how different our experience would be if we lived in or near Seoul.  We finished our food around 1:30, but we were there talking until 3 and we weren't the last to leave.

After our unexpectedly small lunch we went to the foreign food market.  We bought chickpeas and couscous, so there should be some photograph worthy dinners to come.  Then we headed to What the Book?.  It's an all English new and used bookstore.  We've ordered online from them once, but we decided to stop in.  I didn't know how much I had missed browsing books.  Ian got a Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan and I got A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time).  A stranger randomly recommended Empire of the Ants to Ian, so we got it.  We'd heard positive things about it.  I'm excited to start my new book.  I'm currently two thirds through Gaiman's American Gods, but I think I'm going to give it up.  I'm simply not into it and I've been pushing through it forever. I'll try a different Gaiman some other time.

After doing our shopping we were already hungry, so we decided on an early dinner.  We chose Kraze Burger, remembering that they had a couple vegetarian burger/ sandwich options.  We shared a side of fries and each got the "Veg and Bean" burger, a tofu patty with mushrooms, lettuce and tomato on a wheat bun.

The pickles were sweet, but homemade and delicious.  The burger was great.  I even ate some of the mushrooms.  The sauce on the plate is bulgogi sauce (a Korean specialty made from soy, vinegar, sugar and other spices).  It was our first time trying this ubiquitous Korean invention.  It's a very good barbecue sauce, actually.  I hope to make some at home.

After dinner we went to Costco to pick up some necessities: Tums, socks, tortillas, Cheerios, JellyBelly's, Reese's Whopper eggs.  Easter is coming up and Costco was full of enough holiday candy to make anyone homesick.  But, the samples were fabulous.

Naturally, we stopped for ice cream before we went home.

Mine is on the left.  I'm trying to be very conscious about portions these days.  Not that Ian doesn't watch his.  His ice cream was simply large and in charge last night.

We had a minor fiasco getting home.  We wanted to take the train, but we accidentally directed the taxi driver to the wrong station.  Then we made the mistake of asking a station worker for help.  He enlisted four others to help him and after ten minutes of waiting for them to figure out what we needed, they called us into the back room where he showed us a map (to tell us where Jecheon is) and gave us all the train times for Seoul to Jecheon.  It was all very nice, and had we actually been lost, his info would have been a life saver (I hope he can help some confused tourist some day).  But, we simply did not need the level help as he wanted to give.  We decided to go back to the bus terminal.  Buses are a little faster and we'd already wasted time at the wrong station.  

It was a very good day.  This afternoon we will be heading to the park to play basketball with the other Jecheon teachers.  A very social weekend, indeed.

Good... afternoon!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yellow Sand

We've had a great weekend so far.  I'll write all about it and post pictures from today when I get up in the morning.

We were up early this morning to catch the bus and the Yellow Sand levels in Seoul were "moderate," so, I'm not feeling so great.  I've taken a Zicam (in case it isn't the sand that's making me feel crummy) and I'm off to bed.

Until tomorrow, then.  Good night!

Friday, March 19, 2010

(Finally) Loving Korean Food

Generally speaking, Ian and I are lovers of international food.  While we love burgers and fries, our true favorites list is as long as my arm:  Italian, Mexican, Thai, Indian, Japanese, Catalonian, and so on.

So, when we moved to Korea and began to have difficulties eating the native food, we were pretty disheartened.  Gochujang has it's good points, but when things are smothered in the (sometimes too) dark, spicy flavor, it can really ruin a meal.  Vegetarianism is it's own problem.  Not only do Korean's consume huge amounts of pork, beef and chicken, but fish is considered a seasoning here.  So, it's difficult to find anything that is truly animal free.

Lately, we've been cooking our own Korean food and we've really started to love it.  When we have control over the details, it's a lot less frustrating.  We're American and therefore our versions are naturally Westernized.  But, I wouldn't say our food is worse for it.  Korean cuisine lacks flavor depth.  Not enough acid, sodium or any sort of brightness to the taste.

There are quite a few resources on the internet for cooking vegetarian Korean food.  One of my favorites is a blog called "Alien's Day Out."  She chronicles her food life as a vegan in Seoul.  It helps me choose restaurants and find out how to cook Korean dishes that are both delicious and meat free.

Here are a few things we've made in the past few days.

Egg white bibimbap (rice, cucumber, fern, carrot, cabbage and lightly fried bellflower root).  In the bowl is a banchan (Korean side dish) courtesy of Alien's Day Out.  It's pretty much kimchi pre-fermentation (cabbage, vinegar, soy sauce and gochujang).  Delicious.

A better look at the bibimbap.

A better look at the faux-kimchi banchan.

Today's lunch was amazing.  Those pancakes are actually pumpkin pachingeh (easy Korean veggie pancakes made with a simple flour batter).  We had steamed veggies and some more faux kimchi with them.  Dip the pachingeh in soy sauce for the most delicious results.

As you can see, we eat very well and very healthy.  All colors represented.  Low on the caloric intake, but very high in nutrients.

We have more recipes to try out before Mom gets here, so stay tuned.

Good night!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thoughts on Teaching Requirements in Korea

One of our fellow teachers here in Korea posted something on Facebook today that got me thinking.  He got in trouble with his director for physically retaliating when a child threw a book at him.  Unfortunately, when he through the book back, it hit the child's lip and busted it.  I'm sure that he was pushed to the brink, as I've spent time with this particular teacher, I don't imagine him as the unnecessarily violent or even aggressive type.  But, I do agree with his director.  The retaliation was not only wrong, but pointless.  The kid learned nothing other than perpetuated violence from the episode.

But, what exactly do we expect from young teachers with no Education training, let alone psychological or developmental knowledge?  Degree specifics need not apply when teaching English in Korea and don't expect to get any training on working with kids when you get here.  It's all on the job with real kids and real problems, no theories and no hypotheticals.

Ian has some pretty difficult students, including some handicapped ones.  He is fantastic with kids and a far better teacher than I am, but without that training and applicable knowledge base, he is still left with a pretty small tool kit in the classroom.  I know that I've handled situations poorly at times, usually by simply not handling them.  If I punish a child, it usually gets me in the hot seat, so I choose to let chaos reign sometimes.

We are glorified camp counselors here.  Except that counselors receive training on not only entertaining children, but also keeping them safe and not scarring them mentally, intellectually or emotionally.  Counselors are also held accountable to someone, as well.  And while we are responsible to Julia, her main concern is whether we are affecting Yoon's bottom line in any way.

I'm trying to find out more about the Korean educational system as a whole.  I don't even know what the Education Programs are like at Korean universities.  I'll be doing more research and writing future posts for sure.  If you anything about this topic, please post it in the comments.  Or if you know a good source, please do the same.

Good night!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patty's Day

Today was completely devoid of green clothing, pinching and cabbage soup.  It was business as usual over here in Korea-ville.  I'm sure if we lived in Seoul there would be bars advertising special drinks and more people willing to party in the middle of the week.

Our St. Patty's Day acknowlegements will happen on Friday night.  Chelsie is having people over for a "sports wear" themed get together for the holiday (I believe it's also her birthday).  We often crap out when it comes to getting together with most of the other teachers, so we figured it was time to say hi to everyone again.  Afterall, a few people will be leaving in the next couple of months.

Today stretched on into eternity for me.  I teach a full 6 classes on Wednesdays and three of them are Beginner 2.  So, every other class is 8-10 year olds.  They're my favorite, but it's pretty exhausting.  Plus, teaching exactly the same lesson plan three times in six hours is enough to make me want to crawl into a hole.  What's worse, I get to teach that Beginner 2 lesson plan at least twice more this week (I taught it twice before today, as well).  Long story short, Yoon's doesn't organize it's schedules very well.  Come to think of it, that sentence sums up my last 200 posts pretty well.  Thank you for bearing with us.

You may have read an interesting episode on Ian's Facebook yesterday.  He had a ten year old student continuously put his hands down his pants, root around, and then pull out his hands to smell them.  The other students didn't even notice.  Or if they did, they ignored him.  Though, when Ian forced him to use hand sanitizer after each episode, they did beg for some of their own.  My aunt replied to his story by telling him about one case in which they managed a kid's similar behavior with coveralls and a private room.  If only behavior management was even a thought in Korea.  Just to give you some perspective, this kid is also the sticker eater.  Koreans write off young kids as "strange" very quickly.  It isn't until middle school that the school system begins to strip them down to just what is necessary for their society.  From that time on they are fed a steady diet of "Study and work hard and you will get everything you need in life.  Nothing else will ever be as important."

That's about it for today.  We're pretty worn out.

Good night!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Korean Soft Drinks

By the way, yesterday's post was my 200th.  Man, time flies.

Ian brought home a couple of canned Korean soft drinks that we've been curious about.

"Birak Shikye" (Nostalgia Drink) and "McCol."  Just to clarify, I mean 'soft drink' as in nonalcoholic.  Most Korean canned beverages aren't carbonated.  Here's another random tidbit for you:  upon Googling the Shikye, I discovered that there's an entire blog dedicated to "drinks with chunks."  Enjoy.

I tried the McCol first.

Making sure it's not too odorous. 

The smell made me nervous to try it.

My instincts were right.

Ian's not too stoked about the scent either.

I think he put it best: "It's like flat Coke ass and burnt rice."

Next up: Nostalgia Drink.

No smell.

Oh my.

"It's hummingbird food."  It's pretty much water sweetened with sugar and rice.  There's rice in the bottom.  No thanks.

Congratulations. You just looked through a dozen photos of us drinking gross stuff.  Happy 201!

Good night.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Of Meetings and Pajamas

Ian and I went to the bank and then to our meeting at Goam this morning.  I'm not completely convinced that my presence is necessary at those meetings anymore.  For the last two meetings (since they moved them to Goam) Gene has reported one note from Julia meant for the both of us and then the meeting turns to Ian's schedule, material and notes.  I didn't even receive my books for the new term until today.  It's going to be an interesting three months, as it seems the staff forgets about Haso and Sinback a little more with every passing day.  It's understandable, since the Goam changes are so dramatic and the new system is their brainchild.  But, it's a little frustrating that there are very few resources and even less energy for the other campuses.

When I got to work today Haso was without a principle and even without a sub.  I asked Eun wha how Chun wha and Chang su were doing and she vaguely told me that they were still at the hospital.  Chun wha showed up around 4 o'clock and waved at me through my classroom window.  She looked very tired.  When I got out of class, I approached her to see how everything was.  It was then that I noticed she was wearing hospital pajamas and flip flops.  The hospital pajamas even had a little bloodstain near the buttons on the shirt.  It was so strange.  She usually dresses very conservatively and professionally.  Her state of dress made me think that maybe she was just stopping by to grab some things, but she was there until I left, taking student interviews and filling out paperwork as if it were any other day.  Chang su is still in the hospital.  Chun wha said not to worry, but Koreans are very uncomfortable with empathetic anxiety; so I'm still completely unsure of his condition.

As for whether it's normal for patients to be discharged with their hospital issued pajamas, I can't even begin to guess.  Ian did see a man walking down the street with a wheeled IV stand the other day.  No one else on the street seemed to give him a second thought, so who knows.

I got to teach one of my classes in two micro sessions today.  One student showed up at 5:30 (the proper time) for class.  Since it was only her and I, we got through the material in about 30 minutes.  Just as I began to explain the homework to her (at about 6pm) another student walked through the door.  I told him that it was too late (I mean, he was 30 minutes late for a 45 minute class).  I finished explaining the homework and dismissed them.  Chun wha asked him when he would like to come back this week to make up the class.  He told her that he was very busy and he'd like the lesson now.  And she sent me back into the classroom with him to give him a one on one of the class he'd missed.  Granted, I did have some time.  But, I had to cram the lesson into 15 minutes and he got a lot less out of it than he might have otherwise.  
On just about every level possible, there are societal expectations in Korea that implore a person (especially of lower standing) to work their schedule around everyone else's.  Compromise does not exist.  Our weekly meetings are a great example of this.  We've begged for them to be moved to a later time so that we can still go to the gym on Mondays, but Julia says no (even though she doesn't take part in our meetings).

On a better note, we had bibimbap and a bit of kimbap for lunch at Kimbap Heaven (the red kimbap place next to the Goam campus).  It was nice and fresh.  Better than the last bibimbap we had there.  They served us meatless kimbap without a fuss, too.  Good eats.

Good night!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More Like, "From Paris with Stilted Dialogue and Incomprehensible Plot"

We went downtown for some brunch (bagels and ye ole Dunkin' Donuts) and a movie today.  We had a good time walking around in the warm air (a few pictures to follow), but our movie choice wasn't nearly as enjoyable.  We saw From Paris With Love with John Travolta.  Warning:  there are some moderate spoilers in my complaints below.

I can't recommend this movie for any reason.  The plot is nonsensical (a Chinese coke ring somehow leads to a Pakistani terrorism ring who brainwash a non-Pakistani French girl into being a suicide bomber).  The two main characters, Wax (Travolta) and James (Rhys Meyers) are static action movie stereotypes.  All of the interesting subplot and character development happens off screen (in the characters' unexplored backstories) leaving the film witless and boring.

Before subjecting ourselves to yet another terrible movie, we made a day of it walking through the alleyways downtown.

Party shot.  It's tradition.

Drinking this shop's smoothies will make you beautiful.

I don't think there's a Korean apartment in existence that's big enough for this.

There's a photo studio across from the Home Mart downtown.  Actually, there are a lot of studios in that area.  Many of them have albums outside for people to flip through to see the photographer's work.  This shop in particular seems to specialize in baby portraits.  We first came across the unbelievably awkward photo within our first couple of months here, but we never had a camera on us.  Today, we did.  Remember, this is out on the street, used as advertisement for the studio.

I added the black bar, obviously.  If it were my kid, I wouldn't want their nudey pictures on the internet.  But, just to clarify, I don't take issue with children being naked.  Kids dig running around with bare butts.  The fact that the photographer and the kid's parents looked at this photo (which easily could have been laughed off and tossed aside) and thought that it was appropriate to display bugs me.  It makes me feel like they purposefully posed him that way.  It's just a bit exploitative.  I mean, could the kid sign off on it?  Obviously not.  The black bar might make it even more awkward, actually.  But, the pose definitely seals the deal.

Well, on that note.  Good night!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Slow News Day

There isn't really anything to report today, except these pictures of me in Ian's sweatshirt.

Good night!