Monday, November 28, 2011

And I quote...

"Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to."
-Alan Keightley

And I quote...

Sh*t my students say

I'm wearing earrings I was complimented on just Friday, my fav pair I might add, and I have this conversation....

Student: Teacher! Earrings!!! *giggles*
me: Oh, you like them?
Student: NO........they're big.

Sh*t my students say

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What the...English?!? Fashion?

Time for your next dose of What the...English?!?  Fashion?

"Please check under your car before driving away"...umm...ok, thanks for the tip?  WTF?!?  With the way the drivers are in this country you'd think, please check for pedestrians and other vehicles would send a better message?   

Please check under your car before driving away

And if that doesn't scare you, maybe Mickey's butt crack will, or his wedgie.  I don't know about you, but this is the first shirt I am buying for my potential future dog.  Also, "Pick me up pet baby" seems like good song lyrics, no?  Or maybe it screams I have an "unhealthy" relationship with my pet...again WTF.

Pick me up pet baby!!

Ohmigosh, I got it...this might be what is lurking under the car!

Til next time...
Hugs & Kisses,

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving in Korea

Well, I had my first Thanksgiving in Korea, well technically I had 2.  

The first was hosted at one of the local foreign bars.  I still don't know too many people (it is getting better though), so I decided to show up a bit late, and just sort of join a crowd.  Didn't want to be the first person in the bar.

There was mashed potatoes and turkey (and all for free), however, by the time I arrived they had run out of plastic utensils, so I was forced to use chopsticks.  Let's just say eating mashed potatoes with chopsticks isn't the easiest of tasks.  I met a few people, but I just wasn't really feeling the whole, throw myself into other people's conversations.  I wound up eating with a German guy and a Korean woman, who were playing some sort of dice game called "Chicago".  It was quite interesting  and really was sort of a crash course in how to live as an expat.

The second was at a different local foreigner bar, and they had theirs set up as a sort of celebrity chef situation, where the meal was pre-paid and all profits went to a local charity   The food there was awesome, someone most certainly knows how to cook.  I managed to squeeze in with a nice crowd, and really enjoyed my evening.

(click on picture to enlarge)
delicious noms - second Thanksgiving meal

It is really nice to be able to enjoy that little bit of home while living so far away from family and friends.  Things are getting easier, and I am thankful that I've had such an easy time adjusting to life in this country.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!  I am also thankful to have you in my life, and the love and support you all give me.  I can really feel it here, from the other side of the world.

Hugs & Kisses,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A very dull post about my washing machine

Sadly (actually not sadly at all), I had no "adventure" in figuring out my washer.  I decided to translate the machine before I actually stuck some of my precious non-Korean size (therefore virtually irreplaceable) clothes in it.

There are a lot of buttons and options on my machine.  I don't think I've used a machine like this...well, ever.  

Here is the general layout of the controls:

So. Many. Buttons. 

I decided to make another "how to" post to help others in my same boat, therefore requiring much less translating before some actual laundry can get done.  I have included pictures with and without the English translations, so you can read the Korean/Hangul if necessary.  There are a few translations that I just couldn't figure out, so please feel free to fill me in if you know what they are.  I have 99% of it translated and that should be more than plenty to get your laundry done.

You should also feel assured that I have completed several loads of laundry and have yet to have a major disaster.

(click on pictures to enlarge)

knob with English translation

The knob should control all of your main settings, each portion of the dial has a set time, wash, and spin cycle.  They are pretty much self explanatory.  However, if you wish to modify these even further there are more options (yay! buttons!) that you can set to your exact preference and override the defaults.

Here is the translations for those:

 Options portion 

English translation
(the setting just above the spin dry button is "no spin" forgot to include it on the pic)

I do not know, nor pretend to know what "Bio-launder" is, also the option just below that literally translated to "forest fire" which seems bad anyway...I think I'll avoid that button.  

This is the area that displays the time remaining (38 minutes shown) and the light up boxes above that show which cycles are left.  

The timer button allows for you to set the machine so that it ends when you want it to.  Since there is no dry cycle, and we all know how dry clothes can get by mere spinning, this is a great way to help time your laundry to your daily life.

Also, the child lock (which I never use) keeps you from being able to open the door until the cycle is completely done.  No exceptions.  I believe to activate this you push the two bottom left buttons at the same time.  Again, I would just ignore this feature.

Now for soap...on my machine the drawer to put the soap is in the upper left-hand corner of the unit. (I have seen machines where it was along the bottom.)  The drawer has 3 containers that break down from left to right as; soap, fabric softener, and extra soap you might use for pre-wash.  It is absolutely crucial to use fabric softener here, unless you want your clothes all crispy after drying them on the rack.    I haven't yet found a prefered brand of detergent and fabric softener, so I am just going by smells at the moment.  (Warning:  Make sure to smell anything before you buy it, some scents are quite odd, and not at all pleasant.)

view of drawer: soap, fabric softener, and more soap containers

Additionally, please note that the cycles take forever to just wash.  (Pictured below I have just started a normal cycle with 1:35 left on the time.)  And the machine will beep at you when it is done.  You are now well prepared to use your Korean washing machine.  You're welcome!

Doing its thang!

Hope this helps.  Happy laundry!

Hugs & Kisses,

Monday, November 21, 2011

EPIK training

Last week I attended EPIK training.  EPIK stands for English Program in Korea, and is sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Education.  It is through this program that many of the public school teachers are employed, myself included.  The training was to be 2 days of workshops, lectures, and an introduction to Korean culture, including cooking classes and taekwondo instruction.

The training landed at a perfect time for me to be able to meet some other teachers in the area.  The sessions were held at Kyungnam University in Masan, which is just a few blocks from my apartment.

When my co-teacher was telling me how to get there, she told me to go to the University, and head up the hill and to the library (where the classes were), which was at the top.  Great...University, hill, library, got it!...should only take a few minutes from my apartment.

So day 1 I set out "early" to make sure I got there on time.  I get to the University and am thinking that the hill doesn't look so bad.

(click on pictures to enlarge)
From the bottom of the hill

So I begin walking up the hill, as I am doing so I am looking around for other foreigners on their way to the same training.  The campus is very nice and I stop to take some photos, and start to get nervous that I haven't seen anyone else yet.  I start to think I might be late and begin walking faster up the hill.

pretty fountain on campus

fountain and pond

Of course, as I begin walking faster, the incline on the hill gets greater.  I quickly abandon my quest to walk/jog (or as I like to say "wog") up the hill, and settle for a mere stroll.

the hill steepens, and still no sign of the library

I make it up what I think must surely be the last part of the hill, only to discover more hill.  I begin to wonder where they are sending us.

...and the hill gets steeper...

...and steeper...

FINALLY I see the library, up another 3 flights of stairs upon reaching the uppermost portion of the incline. It is at this point I stop for a breather, and shoot a photo looking back down what I deemed "the hill of death".  (I seriously need to start working out again, because geez, that was no fun.)

looking back down the hill from my rest spot

looking back down from atop the 2 flights of stairs

another view from the 2nd flight of stairs

And finally, up the last flight of stairs, and not a step too soon, I make it to the top.  (I decide at this point that is probably good I did not go to school here, it was hard enough making it to class at my own school.) 

I think to myself, "Welcome to Korea!"

View from the top...Welcome to Korea!

Only mildly sweaty (yes I had my coat on while walking up the hill - it was not needed) and already tired, I headed into training.  There were about 75 teachers there, and they divided the class into 2 groups.  One group did the classes the first day, while the others did taekwondo and cooking.  Obviously, the second day we flipped.  I was in the first group and therefore had classes the first day.

The classes were pretty much about communicating with our co-teachers, teaching strategies, and some cultural differences.  They were not quite as dry as I had thought they might be, and I was thankful for that.  We were all able to eat lunch together, and it was nice to meet everyone else, especially those that fairly close to me.  For lunch they served fusion style food.  The first day that consisted of a meat patty (designed I believe to resemble Salisbury steak), a coleslaw sandwich (yep as gross as it sounds), rice and kimchi.  Thankfully the second day's food was much better, soup and rice, and of course, kimchi, served up another 3 flights of stairs in the cafeteria.

The second day I left my apartment earlier in the morning to allow myself time to meander up the hill, no more walk/jog for me.  Shortly after arriving to the class my group headed to taekwondo.  We were led down a hill and up another (thankfully much smaller) hill to the gym. 

Taekwondo consisted mainly of a bunch of kicks and arm movements, with the instructions given to us in Korean, and no modifications for those of us not yet able to kick above our heads.  I did pretty good for the first 2 hours, but knee started to hurt and I started to fade for the last 2 hours.  Who thought 4 freakin' hours of taekwondo was necessary?  Overall my impression of taekowndo is some kicky things, some punchy things, and lots of unknown Korean.  Although you do say, "Tae", "Kwon" and "Do" a lot, which was fun!

a very horrible pic of me in the taekwondo uniform

some punchy things

some kicky things

some demonstration things

me attempting to get a better picture - I make a horrible "fear me" face

Thankfully after taekwondo was lunch, and then the cooking class.  I was pretty excited about this part.  We made Chapchae (stir fried noodles and veggies) and Haemulpajeon (seafood green onion pancake).  

We started with the Chapchae.  Our lovely Korean instructor showed us step-by-step how to make the recipie before we began cooking, a wise choice if I am involved in any way.

Telling us about the dish (in Korean)

Showing us how to do some stuff

How our Chapchae is supposed to look

The raw ingredients we recieved

Marinating the meat and mushrooms

Waygooks be cooking

More cooking

Cutting the softened noodles the Korean way (with scissors)

My groups finished product.  Pretty awesome I say!

About to be taste-tested

The result:  "very good" from a woman that knows very little English.  
I take that to mean, the best in the class :)

My group devoured our Chapchae, what can I say, it was delish!  (I'll probably never prepare it again as I have zero patience for cooking, especially anything that involves more chopping of things than actual cooking of things, but bonus, I did not burn anything down.)

We were told at this time that we could either leave or stay and cook the second dish, Haemulpajeon.  I was a bit leery as I was already tired and the first step of the recipe pretty much guaranteed I'd never make this at home.  In the end, I decided to stay.

"Step 1.  Prepare the squid by removing the innards and skin" - I did not do this step.

This was how our Haemulpajeon was supposed to look.

This is our start of the dish.

We had to get a little help.  I totally made the dipping sauce all on my own though y'all.

Our Haemulpajeon turned out great as well, and we even had plenty to take home, especially since we were beyond stuffed from the Chapchae.  

Overall, the training was fun to get out of our regular duties and meet some other teachers.  Additionally, I had a great time after the training sessions going out with some new friends.  I survived the hill of death, taekwondo, and actually cooking some Korean dishes.  Go me!

Hugs & Kisses,

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What the...English?!? Drinking edition

Time for another dose of What the...English?!?

(click on pictures to enlarge)
Beer, Whisk, Bodka, Wine

If I could only decide between the whisk and the bodka?  Decisions, decisions.

Cock 3,000 KRW

Or maybe I'll just order some cock, apparently 3,000 KRW is the going rate.

Hugs & Kisses,

Monday, November 14, 2011

What I'm actually here for...

Well, I've been here for a few weeks and I'm teaching.  The whole reason I dropped my life in the States and flew across this huge planet.  Best of all, I am finally starting to get into the swing of my classes.

I teach 22 classes, each 40 minutes in length, of about 25 students in each class, the majority of which are 5th grade students, however I also have 4th and 6th grade classes, as well as a teacher class.

I really like the way my schedule has been laid out.  I teach at 2 different schools, Bonduk Elementary School (my primary school) and Happo Elementary School (my secondary school.)  I spend Monday and Tuesday at Happo, and the rest of the week at Bongduk.

Here are some pictures of my school:

Bongduk Elementary

teacher room & vice-principals office at Bongduk

Yes, Bongduk backs right up into a mountain, and my office is on the backside of the school, so I am pretty much always freezing.  I have 2 very awesome co-teachers at Bongduk, MJ, who teaches 4th & 6th grades, and Hyun, who teaches 5th - at least these are their classes I work with them on.

At Happo, is my only male co-teacher, Kyongsoo.  We work together with 5th and 6th graders here.

Happo Elementary

view to Happo from the closest main intersection

classroom at Happo

My first week, I was being shuffled from here and there, getting my alien registration card, having my health check, getting into my apartment, setting up internet, bank account, and cell phone, figuring out the bus system, etc.  My co-teachers all carried on about their business and it was 3-4 days before I even stepped foot inside a classroom.  

The first class I brought in pictures and told a little bit about myself.  Then the students were allowed to ask me questions to get to know me.

My presentation included that I am originally from Texas, but have been living in Chicago.  Upon showing pictures of the Chicago skyline and lakefront all the students went, "ooooooooh, wow!"  It made me smile. Additionally, I showed some pictures of my family and some pictures of me doing things I like to do, which I always feel like is a horrible representation of me.  "Here is me on a snow mobile, here is me running a race,"...well you get the point...

In EVERY one of my classes the Q&A session was nearly identical...

Teacher, how old are you?
Teacher, do you have a boyfriend?
Teacher, are you married?
Teacher, do you like kimchi?
Teacher, do you like Kpop?
Teacher, how tall are you? 
     (I had to do quick, ok, not so quick, conversion to metric for this one)
Teacher, what is your blood type?

Their response to nearly every question was "ooooooooooooooooooooo", save for the last one, to which I was asked how could I possibly not know my blood type.  (Look, I tried people, apparently no one but blood banks check your blood type, and since most blood donation centers don't like me laying on the floor, and them feeding me Tang and crackers after I've passed out, I just simply do not know it.)

Other comments I got were:

Teacher, your eyes are pretty and...big.  What color is that?
Teacher, your nose is big.
Teacher, your... 
(and that's where I stopped them, I figured this line of comments could go on for quite awhile)

Regardless, my students are adorable.  It is true that Korean kids are the cutest in the world, even if they are sometimes blatantly honest.  

Additionally, pretty much everyone adds an "-uh" to the end of Liz, saying Liz-uh.  I think it is because the Z is a hard letter for Koreans to grasp.  So most of the classes, I had to go over how to say "Liz" several times, and here I thought that'd be simpler than Elizabeth.  (But I do struggle just as much, if not more with all of their names.)

Finally, after all these introductory classes I finally got the layout of my schedule, which is as follows:

Happo Elementary 

Monday - I have 3 classes of 5th graders.  Yes, it is a very short day, but I have a lot to prepare for on Tuesday.  It is nice to have so much office time to work on lesson plans, especially since I don't sit down on Tuesday.

Tuesday - I have 3 classes of 5th graders (these are the only students who get to see me twice a week, lucky them, they are also, shall we say, my most "energetic" students, lucky me), and 3 classes of 6th graders, and I finally cap the day off with the class of teachers.

Bongduk Elementary

Wednesday - I have 4 classes of 4th graders.

Thursday - I have 4 classes of 6th graders.

Friday - I am back to 5th graders with another 4 classes.  These students are ahead of my Monday and Tuesday students at Happo, so if I plan it right, I can recycle lesson plans from these classes to the others.

The times I am not teaching, I am making lesson plans for the next round of classes.  The biggest problem I have come across thus far, is that the students aren't only having English when I am teaching them.  (I believe they attend English classes three times a week?)  Therefore, I have to find out what was covered in the lessons where I was not present.  I'm sure as I have been around for longer, this will become less confusing and seemingly last minute on my having to prepare lessons for the next classes.

I know once I get into the swing of things, my workload will slow some, (or maybe not?)  Jumping in the very end of the year (Korea changes years in the spring semester, unlike the U.S.), is a bit difficult.  But alas, the going is pretty good right now.

Here is a video, my co-teacher and I made featuring some of my Friday 5th graders.  For a larger version of the video, click here.

Video of a phone call lesson with my Bongduk 5th graders.

This week I get to go through training, and while I am excited to learn the ropes and have a crash course in Korea, and teaching here, I am a bit leery of the 2 day schedule, which includes 4 hours of TaeKwonDo.  (I can see getting introduced to it, but 4 hours seems excessive.)  C'est la vie, at least I will get to meet some other teachers in the area, and hopefully will get a better handle on how things run around here.

Hugs & Kisses,