Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I finally figured out how to add slideshows to blogger!

This makes me very happy.
(The adver-ons, do not. I must keep searching for the perfect show...)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

cell phones and little monsters

I have conquered the beast: I am now contracted with a Korean cell phone company, QOOK. Or Sky. Cell phone companies seem to overlap here. It is quite bizarre. In one intersection, there are three stores, all with different servers. (Think, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint.) Around the corner from THAT, a store with all three on their sign. Ordering dinner here is difficult, imagine signing a year-long contract with numerous variables and a generous dose of fine print. I must admit, I'm still pretty worried about that first bill. But I love the constant access to long distance voices <3 
The phone itself puts crappy American devices to shame. I got the free model, and it is pretty amazing. Standard: (good) camera, video, Korean-English dictionary, Korean subway map, (with programmable routes,) and thats about as far as I've gotten. Although I'm pretty sure, for additional cost, I could get live streaming TV. Seriously. 
ONLY downside?
It's pink. vom.
Internet, that's a different story. Our building is new, as are the majority of buildings around it, so there aren't any cable lines yet. I had to struggle through a few painful korenglish conversations, (including the three cell phone stores that days prior had dealt with my complete lack of their native language) before I finally got a company that reaches us. Interestingly, after a couple coworkers helped us make an appointment, I got a text from QOOK - my cell phone provider - with a confirmation of my appointment. I just don't get it. But, by Friday night, I will be online. And right now, that is all that matters. 
I love my job. My students, for the most part, are awesome. I've just about built up the courage to bring my camera to class. This is due in part to Jake, a 10- or 11-year old of mine, who came up to me with his fist clenched around his thumb, a small character of a boy drawn on the only visible knuckle. It's head is located just below the bottom knuckle of his pointer finger, on that little fleshy spot. The crease between these two areas was filled in red, so that when he releases his thumb, the little guy gets decapitated in a sea of bright red bic blood. It's no secret that I am not the gory type. But it was funny.
This week, my lower level classes are learning the parts of the body. I had them all draw monsters (the text's idea, not mine) and label the body parts. I collected them, half because I wanted to hang them in the hall, and half because I want to keep them for myself. My favorite is "cute monster," "cate monster," (a misspelling of cute, which makes me like it more,) and carrot monster. Wait, and soccer monster. Oh and Terminator Goblin. 
I need to photograph those. 
Also, I got a plant. Now I need more. ASAP.

This weekend, 
my mission is the beach.

a wider world

"When we are writing, or painting, or composing, we are, during the time of creativity, freed from normal restrictions, and are opened to a wider world, where colors are brighter, sounds clearer, and people more wondrously complex than we normally realize."

-Madeleine L'Engle, (Walking on Water 1980)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

photo opp.

Here's a quick photo recap of the last 4 weeks. 

Dunkin Donuts: all over this city. Overpriced. Bagel? $5. Whatever. Better choice? Kimche Croquette - Kimche is a fermented cabbage that is THE food of Korea. It is pretty strong, but growing on me - especially grilled. The Koreans eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Seriously- that and rice. It is every meal. The coffee on this peninsula is DREADFUL - up until last weekend, I was drinking what most Koreans consider "coffee" - instant crap which includes sugar and powdered creamer. Real, real, REAL bad. Luckily, I was rescued by a French Press. Ground coffee is pretty expensive, but believe me, worth it. 
Bottom left is my apartment building. there are twelve apartments on four floors. I live in the back on the third. Jade is right across the hall. We have one neighbor and one empty room on our floor, although I have never seen the neighbor. I just hear his door (there are no keys, only electronic locks that play a jingle when they lock&unlock.) It is brand new, the whole complex is, which is nice. I live right next to a school-but then again, schools are on every block, it's pretty hard to live FAR from one. Korea<3Schooling.

About 10 minutes from my apartment, in Osan, is a US Air Base. The fact that over 50% of the people there are American is ironically bizarre. But you can get lots of American things, exchange money, and best of all, PEOPLE SPEAK ENGLISH! There are no piracy laws in Korea, so bootlegs are everywhere. I got Avatar (haven't seen it yet), A Simple Man (pretty good), and Gentlemen Broncos (Uhm, hard to put into words - Napoleon Dynamite meets the 90's unicorn fad, on crack) for under $10. Pretty awesome.  There are a bunch of US restaurants, Korean restaurants with English speaking employees/signage is very useful. Boxes of kittens and puppies on the street, however, not awesome. Very, very sad. sigh. But I am beginning to volunteer at a no-kill shelter this weekend, looking forward to animal love <3 <3
(p.s. i miss my cat)
I-Chung, part of Pyeongtaek-Si, is the smallish city where my Hogwon (private English school) is located. There are about 4 square blocks, which have businesses from the first floor to the third, fourth or fifth. It's really nice, clean, and safe, but a bit small - I have to travel to do anything besides eat and work. Which is good in a way, but there are very few English teachers, let alone English SPEAKERS. But people are nice. There are TWO 7-11's .. really?! I travel halfway across the world...gah. No slurpees, though.  The streets are full of vendors on nice days, selling everything from clothes to vegetables to bed rolls. There are 1 or 2 city parks, one of which has a ginormous screen that shows the World Cup (BIG thing here.) In fact, my school closed down tomorrow night in honor of Korea's game against Argentina. 

Korea mega-marts are pretty intense. E-Mart, a Walmart equivalent, is huge, crowded, and anxiety inducing. It is 4 floors and has EVERYTHING - including a full food court complete with a McDonalds. I found a calmer alternative, Home Plus, which seems a little more Targetish. Products are interesting, and alot is lost in translation. Anti-Calculus toothpaste? what? I bought Corn Flight (Corn Flakes,) Men and Women's matching underwear is a big thing, and tampons on foreign - apparently what women want are 42 CENTIMETER!! long diapers i mean maxi pads. Ew. Certain things are ingenious - a fold up spoon with a cup of ice cream?! (Which later, I discovered, was vanilla ice cream with strawberry swirl sitting on a bed of ... apple italian ice? uhm.. ok.) But the best thing - STAIR-LESS ESCALATORS. USA - where have you been? Carts have rubber "feet" which stick to the metal of the escalator, so they stay stationary, as you navigate the many floors of the Korean mega mart. Who says Koreans go to school 6 days a week for nothing?! 

Being foreign, a lot of things come across as just plan ODD. For example, women's clothing on make mannequins. Not drinking from glass bottles. (Things are just BETTER that way, South Korea!) Hat/glove/scarf combinations. Ginormous dogs. Old military bombers turned cafe. (Ok, thats pretty cool.) And the fact that Jade and I are given two forks, one knife, and  zero chopsticks when we go out to eat. 


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Photography in Korea

(So, thanks to my wonderful parents and amazing twin, I have finalllly received my camera cord. <3 )

On the plane, one of the bright lights in an otherwise hellish 14+ hours were the AWESOME trip progression animations that popped up on my mini screen every once in a while. There weren't any geological markers, and knowing that I was somewhere over the earth but not knowing WHERE would have really pissed me off. Thank goodness for little blessings. =) 
(stay tuned.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Week two.

So, here's a thought .. the majority of people reading this blog are on the other side of the world. I'm not completely sure how interweb works. I believe it involves wires, or waves, or possibly something I have no clue even exists. But these words, (and photos, once my cord arrives. yes, my third eye is still disconnected,) don't just disappear and reappear - right? They travel. Really, really far. 
Just a thought.
I've been here two weeks already. It feels longer, but it also feels like I just got here. I've started to master a few simple things. Kamsamnida, thank you, is more or less instinctual. I've also started dropping prepositions, which have become pretty useless. "Subway three o'clock?", accompanied by a few taps to the watch wearing area of the wrist, works a hundred times better than "Does the subway come at three o'clock?" Yesterday I told Jade, "head hurt." Wow. 
Miming is key. 
In the classroom, especially. The more classes I teach the more obvious it becomes that even if they have NO idea what you're saying, Korean students will nod "yes teacher!" So non-verbal communication is a huge part of my day. Occasionally I encounter words that are completely mental and therefore nearly impossible to act out, like chemical, which I accomplished with white board illustrations of Nyquil and Dayquil and a pretty good drunk/manic imitation. 
Last weekend was the first weekend I had free, so Jade and I made our way to Asan City, about an hour north. We went to Spavis, our first Asian spa. It was a waterpark (a pretty weak one) / indoor mega sauna. It was - interesting. 
I saw hundreds of naked Korean women, although I'm sure they had a lot more to say about the stark white American in the neon purple bathing suit. We spent about 15 minutes in the Yellow Sea, searching for the exit, before we finally discovered the "waterpark." Koreans want their skin LIGHT - even makeup has lighteners in it- so most of the park was shaded. Great. A large pool, which we were able to enter only after  finding life jackets and bathing caps, seemed to be the only sunny area. Not long after we got in, a loud (everything is loud here) Korean announcer screeched something over the PA system. People started shifting, some got out, but others acted casual - like nothing was going on. Then, the waves started. Wtf. Gigantic wave pool. Korea does not want me to get a tan. 
Despite the hassles, I left feeling great - pores purged and semi-tan. We had a bit of trouble getting back to the train station, and ended up walking 2 or 3 miles in a semi-rural area. Things look so different on foot, compared to the perspective you get at 40mph. Roses are pretty wild here, and they're everywhere - I love it. Gingko, too. They're the Korean Oak - lining every street and popping up as seedlings throughout the grass.
The food situation is getting better, 7-11's here sell 3inch long triangular rice pattys topped with various meat substances and wrapped in seaweed. They're about 75cents and I crave them. Onion rings are a million times better than the ones at home. Korean bbq, which takes getting used to since you are expected to cook and assemble it on your own, is less exhausting. Korean sushi - kimbop- is not as good as Japanese, but ridiculously cheap (less than 2$) and I like it. 
Hopefully I will have internet and phone this week, I got my ARC card today. Which means lots of Skyping with you staters - so send me your id.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

ichung-dong, pyeongtaek-si, gyeonggi-do, the beginning.

I've been getting settled for almost 2 weeks now, and figured maybe it was time to bloggaboutit. I left my camera cord in the US, god damnit! and I hate to blog without photos, so I'll steal Jades.

This is gonna be a long one, I'll keep it as short as possible:
My plane ride here was my first plane ride, ever (!), and it peaked about 10 minutes in. I've never seen the tri state aerially, loved it!I just wish I could be back there to seep in my newly acquired perspective. I also wish I could post the photo I took .. .
Hopefully my flight back will be clear and I'll get a recap. Somewhere over Connecticut I lost the ground and began 14+ hours of intense discomfort. I was fed pretty terrible food, and my inability to sleep in cars apparently carries over to airplanes. 
When we landed, it was 6am and the airport was empty, I got through customs, got money converted, and found a man holding a sign with my name in under 15. During the hourlong ride to my apartment, the sun was coming up and I got to see Korea for the first time in first light, =)! Also, GPS here has TV on it. 
When I finally arrived in Ichung, a part of Pyeongtaek, about an hour south of Seoul, I woke Jade with my racket and we explored our little city. 
The apartments we live in are a 2 minute walk from the business district, which is only about 4 square blocks. The businesses are piled on top of each other, so each building has 3 or 4 or 5 floors of stores. Mostly restaurants, pool halls, and PC Bangs (huge rooms filled with rows of computers you can use for about 75 cents an hour, generally filled with teenage boys playing video games.) My school, Avalon, is on the second floor of one building, right above coffee cherry, a coffee house which is where I am now.
Yea, no internet, tv, or cell phone yet - withdrawal has been less painful then expected.
My job is pretty awesome. The kids are interesting - well behaved, most of the time, - and the staff is nice. My boss speaks no English but has a warm smile. On Friday, she had one of the secretaries take me and Jade to the supermarket and buy us fruit - not sure why, but I've learned not to question things. Like why there are 3 sliding glass panes on every window or why toilet paper is kept outside the stalls in public bathrooms. Yea that's a great thing to forget. Like, every. time. 
We've made a few friends here - some English teachers, military peoples, and even a local - Bong Song - who gets very excited about CSI, Obama, Hip Hop, and American Gangster. As far as I know those are the only English words he speaks. 
There have been a bunch of interesting adventures, but I'll summarize later. The year has only begun!