Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Party

The Halloween Party!

I only have a few of the pictures taken from the party, so I will be posting more after the weekend when I get them from work, but here are some that I have right now. 

My favorite! He's so awesome and never has any idea what I'm talking about.

This kid is cries ALL the TIME! But definitely had the best  costume at the party. I wish I had a picture of him in his pirate hat! 

 Hey look, it's Cinderella! Yeah.
(I didn't get to choose my costume. Should I be glad they thought of me and then tons of glitter? ) 

She copied me 
Sooo the animal suits are way cooler then I had imagined. Next Year for sure.  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

it's the chopsticks!

I was talking to a student today and said that I had a lot of work to do after his class was over. He said he had a lot of work to do when he got home. I said,"yes, you have a lot of work in elementary school and then you will go to middle school,  and have lots of work, then you will go to high school and have lots of work, then you you want to go to college?" "Yes." "So then you will go to college and have a lot of work, and then you will have a job for the rest of your life and guess what you will have to do at that job?" "Lots of work?" "Yes, lots and lots and lots of work forever!" "But,  I won't have work when I am a grandfather." "No, I guess not" "Except for sweeping." "Yea, except for sweeping. But you will be old,  Sucka!"  Ok not not really, but I did say everything else up to that last word.

I ate spam, black rice and seaweed today for dinner - by choice. And it was delicious. I am digging the spam scene out here. And the seaweed. It's like a huge salty thin chip! That you use your chopsticks to wrap around rice balls and pop into your mouth. I like using chopsticks. They are really useful for eating salads and making mini seaweed tacos. I also had this 'ah-ha!' moment when I realized that one wouldn't be able to eat rice with chopsticks, unless it was sticky. Oohh so that is why asians have sticky's the chopsticks!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I could be spending a whole year in the winter season

Today I was freezing cold. I became aware of all the tips of my body that I usually never have any reason to pay attention to, like the tip of  my nose. I was acutely aware of the tip of my nose all the way from my stoop at home to the archway of my work. Fingertips got attention too,  as did the fact that I wasn't wearing any socks. Where my shoe ended and my pants began was this little sliver of skin running around my ankle that got a ton of attention as it froze in the air. And its only October! Tonight as I walked home in my ridiculous outfit sans scarf or warm jacket, from work, and I was told that it was 39 degrees outside and it was expected to freeze overnight. Awesome. I remember saying, more then once, how much I liked cold weather, not that long ago. I said that, when I was living in Santa Barbara. And cold weather meant that you no longer woke up in the middle of the night to kick off that sheet causing you to sweat as you slept. Liking 'cold weather' here means liking to live inside when it is way below zero outside. I'm going to have to get some serious winter weather clothing. How do people even care about fashion at this season?! I want to wear a ski mask on my walk to work and its not even really winter here yet. I better get to toughening up to the cold. Doing all my serious living in California has left me ill prepared for any actual winter season. (I am becoming aware that I may not even really know what a 'winter' is.) One of my co-workers just got back from living in Australia and said that she just left winter there only to come back to it in Korea. So it could be worse. I could be spending a whole year in the winter season.

One of my students asked me if she could touch my teeth today. I said No. Seeing as that would require her to stick her hand in my mouth and that would be weird. I told her to touch her own teeth. Then she asked me if she could measure my hair. No, do your work! Then she asked me if she could wear my belt. So I let her wear it for five minutes. Whatever.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sure There Is One

I have fallen up two flights of stairs while I have been here. Not down, going up, and not once, twice. I also cut my middle finger with my really rally sharp knife and its been almost a month and I still can't curl it closed all the way. Im developing a lovely thick scar around my knuckle. The first flight of stairs I fell up was at the subway, obviously, because you can't fall up stairs in private. The second time I fell up bleachers just as I was ending my run and there were all these families around, and I didn't just fall on my knees, I totally ate shit. I think my cheek may have even ever so slightly touched the earth. And then, with the knife,  I wasn't even cutting when I cut myself. I was washing the knife. Seriously? Yeah. You know I used to think that all those time I fell and got hurt randomly in college was because I was drinking, but no. Im totally sober out here and just as clumsy.

OK couples are so down with being cute it is unbelievable. They stand in front of things, like old peanut shells, and take pictures together making a heart shape with their arms. Meaning, the man holds up his left arm in a 'C shape over his head and the woman holds her right arm over her head in a 'C' shape and then they point their hands down and fingers towards each other to make a heart out their bodies. And they do this all the time. Dudes do this with each other too. Two man friends will do this arm heart thing and its totally acceptable. It's the cute factor out here, it is way high.

And, men ALWAYS carry their girlfriends purse. You will see couples where the guy is holding his girlfriends purse, ALL THE TIME. And if she is shopping he will carry her shopping bags also. In fact, if she has anything to hold, ie. baby, baby carriage, stroller, food, clothes, jacket, the man carries it. When it gets warm and the woman takes off her coat, into her man's arms it goes to join her already being held purse. Personally I think its great. I just wonder what the trade off is, because you can be sure there is one.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Monday Mornings are the absolute WORST! Worst time of the week for sure. Finished my last October Monday today. Sweet. Can't wait for next weekend to be over so I can relive my next monday morning. How do people do this their whole lives? Dang. I must be lazy. Anyway, I rode the bus again today and the bus driver asked me if I would be riding his bus every Monday. I said probably, and he said, "Oh, I am the lucky one." Yes, hmmm. Then he asked me if I was a Christian. Like the millionth person to ask me out here! NO. I'm not a Christian. I AM that white heathen teaching your children that you have all been warned about. So he changed the subject to more neutral territory and asked where I am from.  I tell him Santa Barbara. Apparently he's been there and is going to Los Angeles next week to meet up with friends and ... go to Vegas to gamble, obviously. He says he goes to Vegas "every year, for the slot machines! Good Party Vegas!" Yes. Good Party Vegas. Wait, Are you a Christian?

In three of my classes I teach beginner beginner English, so the children that come to those classes are either still in kindergarten or first grade.  This is their first venture into English speaking territory and as such are unequipped to answer some of the most basic English questions such as "What is your name?" and "How old are you?" If they say their name is Sung Cheong, I say, "No. What is your English name?" And if they don't have an English name I have been told by my boss to "Just give them another name in English." Wait, You mean that part of my job is naming little Korean kids anything I want? Yes. Yes, it is. And it is as awesome as you are imagining right now.  I was telling this to a friend of mine and he said, "No wonder those kids are confused. They walk in to the room, don't know anything that is going on and are then expected to respond to a totally new name." like Agatha. (Koreans can't pronounce the TH sound very well. Or Z sound, so you can only imagine what my name sounds like here.) And another thing, Koreans are born age one so Korean ages and American ages differ by a year. So a kid can come to school and say he is 7 years old and named Gweong Han and then will be corrected and told that his name is George and he is 6.

10 bucks to get a Korean kid named after you. thought I'd just throw it out there. Let me know.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Changdeok Palace and the Secret Garden

Last weekend I went to the Changdeok Palace which was the "Queen's Palace". Inside this palace are the Secret Gardens which were just inaugurated into UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This meaning that now instead of being able to wander at ones' convenience through the beautiful landscape you have to be accompanied on a tour that costs extra money and attracts clusters of annoying tourists. (I say that like I have been here longer then two months.) It was an extremely beautiful place besides the awkward group of people I got stuck with (tour groups are awkward in general I think) and some of the sites have only been open to the public for five years. Considering the gardens have been forbidden to anyone not an immediate member of the Korean Royal Family that has been in existence for almost five hundred years, five years is infant hood. Here are some pictures of the garden and the palace. 

Potted Rocks! I loved these! 
The archway said "eternal youth" and it is said that anyone who walks under it will never grow old.  Im currently trying out that theory. 

In the center are two dragons fighting.  We weren't allowed inside this pagoda so I wasn't able to get a better picture unfortunately. 
On the rock face is an inscription about something that I am sure is wonderful but have no idea what wonderful thing is being talked about.  Koreans believe that fountains are adverse to the laws of nature because of the way that water is pushed up into the air fighting gravity, so the only sounds of water you will here in a Korean garden is that of the waterfall. 

Cool Root
Sweet hang out spot

750 year old tree!! Its top got taken off in the last typhoon.  Poor tree, getting disrespected by a storm. Although we haven't found out how to age storms so we don't really know which one was older. Either way I'm sure my 24 years of age is a joke to both the tree and the storm. 

Palace entrance
Korean Romeo and Juliet balcony
 Tiny door! 

Another tiny door! 


One of the boys in my class has started kissing all the girls in his class. Not to be shown up,  one of the other boys in the class started copying him by kissing everyone in the class, including the boy who started the kissing trend. When the kissing trendsetter got kisser by the copycat...He cried.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day Slices

They have this banana flavored cream drink here that is absolutely delicious. Its my favorite thing to get for dessert over here. I like to think that is healthier then some chocolate American sinfulness, but I highly doubt it. They also make these wonderful rice, peanut shaped, pastas that are very chewy and fun and I made spaghetti out of them today for dinner. All the pastas here are totally fresh and refrigerated and take five minuets to cook. Also, the garlic is already shucked and peeled and ready for slicing. In fact, I haven't seen an actual whole garlic at all, but it just might be my tiny local grocery store. Where the woman who works there still asks me questions in Korean to which I still stare blankly at her and smile, then turn around to leave, get bumped into by a seven year old who looks at me and says,"Oh, I am sorry" and smiles. The grocery shopping is well priced if your going for a Korean immersion diet. Cheese,Peanut butter, Butter, Bread, all tend to be expensive so I buy them in shifts. One expensive item per shopping trip. So far I haven't gotten too desperate over here for these lost food items ... so far. Although I do get my fair share of bread, since there is a bakery under the school, and parents buy pastries, etc. for the teachers all the time. One time I came back to the office to find just a loaf of white bread on the snack table. Half eaten. 

Two old women sharing a box of candies stopped me on the street the other day to share their food with me. I ate candy from a stranger. I'm fine and they didn't follow me home. 

I have to ride the bus with some of the students back home on Mondays and today one of the students ran with their  fingers off the edge of the arm of the bus seat and made a crashing sound, looked at me and said, "Cliff." "Oh no, did he die!?" "Yes"  Then she made her hand hang off the edge of the seat in front of her and said, "cliff hanger". "Two, cliff hangers?!" "Yes" And then she made both of them fall off the imaginary cliff. I obviously copied her doing the same thing. One of the boys jumped in and said, "Ten cliffhangers!" and then made them fall in a loud crash. Not to be beaten the girl yelled, "Twenty cliffhangers!" and then killed them all in an explosion. I yelled, "One hundred cliffhangers!" And this went on and on until we were yelling one hundred thousand cliffhangers falling off the mountains dying in a volcano and avalanche with  populations running off cliffs to meet their ends in loud guttural sounds made by seven year olds. It has been our most imaginative yet morbid bus ride so far. 

One of my students asked how many stickers he would get by holding up his pointer and middle finger to mean two stickers and then asked, "Teacher, how many stickers do I get, one or two? One or two?" Except that every time he would say 'one sticker' he would lower his pointer finger finger leaving this middle finger pointed up at me to mean one sticker. One sticker? 
(He is totally clueless as to what that means, huge cultural divide, making it even funnier. One Sticker Teacher!) 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Korean Bath House

 A couple weeks ago, I went to one of these Korean spas that are very popular over here. They are very cheap, you can spend all day there for a set price, and they offer massages, facials, hair and nail care, etc. The one I went to had seven stories. One floor was a gymnasium and work out center that offered yoga, pilates,  kickboxing, and horse back riding. Well, it said so on the sign, but the gym was on the 4th floor, so I don't really know how they could manage to have horse back riding as we would know it, but then again, who knows. They have car elevators.  There was one floor for the spa, one floor for an arcade/cafe area, the rooftop restaurant and bar, and then of course, the Korean baths. Entrance into this spa is about 10 dollars which includes a uniform that they provide for you and everything else minus massage and facial costs, and food, which is an extra expense. When I went, I ended up spending almost seven hours there.  I was shocked that I had just pampered myself through an entire work day.
I went to the gym first, I had been dying to do some exercise, and it felt to good to run myself back into some normalcy. Plus, getting onto the treadmill carried some memories from home and it felt good. Afterwards, I headed down to the Korean baths.
Ok, The Baths. It is a very cultural thing, and well known throughout Asia like Turkish baths are to a larger extent or the mud baths in Calistoga are back home. So, I knew what I was in for, but knowing something and experiencing it are always very different. 
Everyone is totally naked in the baths. No swimsuits. No clothes. No underwear. Naked. 
Which is totally weird and difficult to jive with. Public Nakedness? What? No. 
Except, if you want to experience the tactile paradise that is the Koran bath, you suck it up and you strip down. 
Note: the baths are completely gender separate.  Each had its own floor. That said, its still not easy getting down to just your skin, even knowing that once inside, your body will be, basically, just one among many. I came back to the locker room after my work out, to change out of the uniform I was given, and go to the baths. Standing there in front of my locker, knowing I am going to just take off all my clothes, place them in the locker, close it, and then nudely walk away, is absolutely the hardest part of the whole spa experience. Even when naked people are walking past you, and you know that the sooner you just jump in line and walk to the bath house the better, I still stalled. I think I even took a deep breath and quickly closed my locker door and walked away as if I was preparing to go bungy jumping or skydiving.  Silly Prude Americans.  We don't know what we are missing. Well, You don't know what you are missing, I know exactly what we are missing out on, and that's  Glorious Group Bathing. 
So I finally made it past my own personal awkwardness, because no one else there cared one bit that I wasn't wearing any clothes, and started to check the place out. It was fantastic. The Koreans have set up a system of about ten different baths alternating from hot to cold, escalating in intensity. At the end of the rotation are three different saunas that you can choose from. The baths, which are really large pools, are all set up in this huge tiled bathing hall with water pouring everywhere. Along two walls are the large bathing pools. One wall has the saunas and next to that is an area that you can get a sea salt or mud massage for two dollars. On the other wall and into the walkway are shower heads and basins of water that are being pumped fully to the brim and then allowed to overflow. Everything is a mess of water and people washing their hair and shaving and showering, now that their aquatic relaxation is all over. I even saw this one woman take her two year old daughter over to a drain in the middle of the room and tell her to pee there. And then took one of the many buckets that was laying around the place and clean up. Awesome.
The first bath is about body temperature,  the next one is slightly colder then the first one.  Then the third on is several degrees hotter then the first one and the forth one is several degrees colder then the second one, and so on, until you reach the last two baths that are : very very hot, and very very cold. I spent around 5-10 minuets in each bath working my way through the bathing system, enjoying the water jets each pool had and the unique design each separate bath had been given. One bath had little dog fountains with water pouring out of their mouths.
I read that this bathing system is very good for blood circulation, and I didn't really know what that meant on a physical level, but wow, improving  your blood circulation feels amazing! After getting out of the last bath of ice cold water, my lungs seemed like they could suddenly take in more air. I had this internal tingling feeling in weird organs like my kidney and liver. It felt great! And then I got to go into the saunas. There was a salt sauna, where the walls were made of salt rock and another oak wood sauna. I liked the salt sauna the best. My newly expanded lungs liked the taste and feel of the heavy salty air.
Sitting in the sauna, I felt so languid, that I wasn't even thinking about how good I felt. The contentment had slid deeper into my body and past a surface thought of contentment. I sat there in a total cloud listening to my toes tell me how good they felt.
After repeating this process another couple of times, I went back upstairs to change into my uniform and get my massage and facial. Then I went up to the rooftop bar, grabbed a beer and a snack, and headed home. Where I was incapable of doing anything productive so I decided to complete my day of indulgence and eat ice cream and watch movies. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Cheonggyecheon Stream

Pronounced 'Chongy Chon', the Cheonggyecheon Stream runs through Seoul along with the Han river.  It used to be a very dirty slum and dangerous part of the city.  The stream was extremely polluted and housed many of the homeless. The previous mayor of Seoul spend millions cleaning up this part of the city, environmentally and socially.  It has taken many years to complete, but is largely considered to be a success.  Ironically, the stream runs through a very affluent part of the city, and is close the the center of Seoul so the Chronggyecheon project has brought the city closer together and many restaurants and stores have opened in this area. There was a festival going on the weekend I went, the "Hi, Seoul" festival. Yes, spelled like that. I picked up from the exhibits and shows going on that it was an internationally themed festival. So, I guess knowing that, the festival's name becomes more acceptable. Apparently, there are different festivals held in Seoul every month lasting one to two weekends. Wonderful news for me! I won't have to travel far to do or see something new. Anyhow- here are some photos of the place.
The Cheonggyecheon

Sick Seoul Truck Art


Man in traditional costume telling the story the tiles are telling

(super awesome)

The Museum Under the Bridge
Told the history of the Cheonggyecheon through photos. It was a really amazing exhibit with some seriously historical  photos of what the Japanese did to the place and the city during their occupation of Korea.  I liked this place. A lot. No trolls under this bridge. Well,  I guess that will depend on the crowd and who you talk to. 

I loved all of these, and I especially loved that red one with the eyes. 

I have no idea.

Members of a world famous (Or so we were told by the announcer) Japanese drumming band. 

They were absolutely ....  I don't know the right word for it... captivating. Their performance  demanded all your attention. You couldn't look away. You could feel their drumming vibrate through your chest cavities. I was standing on the busy sidewalk in Seoul, watching them, and wasn't bumped into once during their show. Even the busy passerbys  slowed to feel their music. I don't know what it was, maybe that this music is so foreign to me, or that is was so seemingly simple, or that it is so old, or maybe all three. I was affected by it, and as I looked around I could see that I wasn't the only one.  Maybe it was the sound of pure passion, and no one could resist getting wrapped up in some passion for only a few songs. 

I love this, always the old with the new. Its nice to feel like not everything will completely fade away into history. Or into nothing at all.