Thursday, October 29, 2009

Golf Class

There's so much to post about this week I've been having trouble deciding what to post first. I'll go with this easy one first.

No, no. I'm not taking a golf lesson. Since I switched back to teaching afternoons, it's been my job to bring the second year preschoolers up to their golf lessons three days / week. Yes, 7 year olds (5 year olds in international age) are already working on their golf swing. Some of them are not so bad. The vast majority of them are absolutely abysmal and only hit the ball about once every 5 swings. Where, pray tell, are they practicing thier golf skills? Well at the driving range on the roof, of course. Since I started "teaching" golf I have forgotten how strange the driving range on the roof sounded to me for my first year in Seoul. I never understood how it worked.

Well, actually it's quite simple. It just involved hitting balls into nets about 10 yards away. The space is quite small, but they manage to have about 20 spaces for golfers.

If you want to learn more about golf, refer to my original post about the sport in Korea.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween Teaching Resources

So I thought I'd share some of the resources I've been using this Halloween.

I found this great site with tons of worksheets for kids

Also, the top favorite of students and teachers last year and this year is: Thriller by Michael Jackson. 13 minutes of greatness.

Though, I suggest going here for the full version ... they won't let me embed the video on the blog though... those jerks...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Going to Tokyo!

This weekend I'm going to Tokyo. I know two days isn't enough time, but I just got frustrated with the fact that I've been in this country for a year and three months and still couldn't take a two hour plane ride to Japan. So, we're gona do one of those crazy weekend trips where you leave at 1:30AM on Saturday monring from Incheon, get in to Haneda (Tokyo) at around maybe 3:00am then come back to Incheon at 3:00AM or so on Monday morning.

I guess we'll catch the first train into the city and our first stop will be the big fish market, since I'm sure it will be the only thing open in the city... and we can get some sushi (I have to eat sushi in Japan). From there, though, I have no idea what I'm doing. I was hoping someone out there could give me some advice on the TOP things to do in Tokyo for a weekend. Is there anything you suggest, or just as useful, DON'T suggest? Also, if anyone has a suggestion for hotels, let me know. I want to stay in a ryokan if possible, just because they look cool, but I also want cheap though too... so... yea.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Time for a hair cut

My hair dresser at home was always confused that I couldn't just stick with one hair style and be done with it. But no, I get bored with the same hair and I always want to change it. I grow it long then cut it short, grow it long, cut it short and every time going for a different style. Well, it was finally time for me to go back. It is only my second time getting a hair cut by a Korean, though I did have a friend's sister cut my hair while she was visiting from the US (she's a hair dresser). The first time I was fairly satisfied with the result.... (I always feel only fairly satisfied when I leave the hair dresser, no matter what country). Last time I got it cut shoulder length, but I figure it's getting cooler now, I can cut it shorter, since I don't need to worry so much about putting it up. I settled on a bob cut with angled bangs. As usual, I'm fairly satisfied with the results... time will tell how I really feel about it. Here's a photo, if you're interested!

Anyway, if you're curious about differences between Korean and American beauty shops, There's not many, but a few that are significant enough to mention. Here in Korea, they have no problem cutting your hair dry. This time I got a shampoo before she cut it, only because of a slight miscommunication (She said "Do you want your hair washed?" and I thought she said "Did you wash your hair?", so of course I said yes. Oh well, some how it didn't cost me any extra for the shampoo this time. Last time I went, they cut my hair completely dry. I had my doubts, but it seemed to work just fine. Now that I think of it, I'm not sure why we wet our hair to cut it anyway, back at home. Other than that, it's the only difference I've found.

I have to mention, though, that for many foreigners, going to your average salon in Korea is not the wisest idea. If you have hair that is very curly, or some sort of texture that is very different from Korean hair, you'd best stick to someone like Green Turtle in Itaewon, that specialize in foreigners. My friend with curly hair went to an average hair salon, and the woman tried to brush her hair, which resulted in an hour and a half of detangling on the poor unsuspecting hair dressers behalf. Also, if you plan on dying your hair, remember that Koreans always need to go lighter because their hair is black, so the chemicals in the dyes are probably different if you're trying to go from light to dark. Make sure you go to a hair dresser that has the right kind of dyes for your hair. I'm no expert on this subject, since I've only ever gotten highlights once, and it was from a box and my mom did it for me (which came out really well by the way, but dried my hair out so bad that I had to cut off 3/4 of my hair just so I could get a comb through it every day... which is why I never did it again... ).

Anyway, I just went to a little place, looks like it could be a chain, though I've never seen another one, called Hair Box in the Kondae area. They didn't speak any English, so I had to practice my Korean skills. It worked out well, except that I didn't know the word for layers (fortunately, the boyfriend wasn't far away, getting his own hair cut and he told me what it was). My cut was only 10,000 won, and for my boyfriend, it was only 8,000 won. Not bad at all, cheaper than supercuts at home, that's for sure.

For those of you learning Korean, here's a few helpful words for you on your adventure.

미용실- Hair Salon
앞머리- Bangs (앞 is front, so literally it means front hair... very easy to remember)
머리(가락)- Hair (you don't need 가락 unless you need to be very specific)
자르다- Cut (자라요 in the conjugated form, sometimes people pronounce it more like 짜라요)
길다- Long (길어요)
짧다- Short (짧아요)
이렇게- Like this (you can use this when pointing to a picture)
그렇게- Like that

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tim McManus: One Man Show

Last weekend one of the guys that comes to the free Korean class on Saturday invited us to his show this Thursday. He described it as a combination of Celtic/Punk/Gypsy/ etc. so of course I wanted to go. I didn't know much more about it, but hey, it's not like I have anything exciting going on on Thursday nights. Something new is always welcome. We found the venue, Earthizen Cafe with no problem, thanks to the boyfriend's GPS in his car. It would have been a bit of a walk from Chungmuro station.

When we arrived I quickly realized that there was no band. This was a one man show and I had a sinking feeling that this was going to be one dull night, but as he started the first song named "Pissin' On My Grave" I thought that maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all. Most of the songs he performed were his own original compositions, most of which were quite entertaining to say the least. Then he also got to some great covers and more traditional music as well.

He performed on various instruments, mainly on the accordion, but he also switched between guitar, toy piano and a xaphoon. He invited some friends up to stage to perform for a few numbers. A guitar/ harmonica player, a British belly dancer, and a violin player.

Overall the evening was quite entertaining. Tim performs all around between Seoul and Incheon, so if you see the name around, I defiantly recommend checking him out. He performs solo and with groups too. I found his myspace, so feel free to check him out.

Here are some video clips I took during the show. There are more on my YouTube account, you can search for me as smileyjkl.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

An Interview!

This morning I had an interview for a job starting in March. Though I'm applying to SMOE (Seoul Public Schools) I realize that nowadays SMOE is getting super competitive, so I started looking for other jobs out there in case SMOE didn't pan out for some reason. While looking through Dave's ESL Cafe, I found one promising job at an immersion program in a publicly funded private mission school. I was a little turned off by the "mission" school thing, since I'm not religious, but after sending an email to the director, he told me that all the religious components were separate from the English immersion curriculum and they welcomed teachers from any background. While I won't disclose the name of the school with you (I don't want you stealing my job...) I'll tell you some things that made me really attracted to the school.

  • Fixed location. I know exactly where the school is, and it's in a great location for me.
  • Higher pay (than SMOE). Starting pay is 2.3 million.
  • Higher housing allowance. SMOE offers 500,000 and this school offers 600,000
  • Huge vacation time. 4-5 weeks in the summer and ANOTHER 4-5 weeks in the winter. Paid. Plus all Korean holidays (plus some days) and no weekend or overtime work.
  • Chance to teach my favorite age range of upper elementary school (though not definite)
On Tuesday, they have invited me to come and visit the school. I hope this means that I sound like a promising candidate. I know I don't have as much experience as some of their other teachers, but I think this school might be a good fit for me. I'll know better when I see the school on Tuesday, I guess.

용문사 Yongmunsa

After visiting Halmoni's house we went over to 용문사 Yongmunsa (does this mean dragon gate temple? I'm just guessing here...) which was about half an hour from Yangsuri. There was a beautiful nature path to hike up to the temple, where we saw some of the fantastic fall foliage.

We finally got up to the temple, it was quite a hike (since I'm severely out of shape). This temple is famous for an ancient, giant ginko tree. This tree actually had a position in the government during the Joseon dynasty (?). It's believed to be over a 1,000 years old, and many of the lower branches are supported with tall sticks.

The rest of the temple was.... well, pretty similar to every other temple in Korea.... But they're still pretty....

Outside the temple, there was some other things to see and do. Here's the boyfriend making duk. I also tried eating the inside of the ginko fruit (yea those putrid smelling fruit that cover the sidewalks around this time of year). I guess they are supposed to be good for breathing. I didn't feel like I could breath any easier after eating them, though...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How do you politely say "NO!"?

I was 20 minutes late for my Korean class on Monday. As I was riding up the elevator to the 6th floor to my Korean class the 40ish year old Korean woman in the elevator started talking to me.
"Oh, you're studying Korean, right?"
"Yes." I replied.
"I will help you. I want to learn English, so you can help me and I will help you. Give me your phone number" and she shoved her phone at me so I could type in my phone number.
"uh.... ok... " I replied, not knowing what to do. Frankly, I don't need a conversation partner with someone this pushy. I put in my phone number. The doors opened for her to get off at the 3rd floor, but she followed me up to the 6th.
"Let's meet on Saturday, at 7:30. I'll help you study."
"Uh.... I have Korean class then. " which isn't completely the truth, but it's not completely a lie either...
"Ok, I'll call you later. My name is ㅇ아ㅣㄹ." (actually I don't remember her name/ don't care) and she jumped back into the elevator and I went to my class that much later because of this annoyance.

Why does this woman feel as though she can so abruptly assume that I need a conversation partner? I have plenty of people that I can practice with and I don't need some stranger shoving a phone in my face to practice with. I guess I shouldn't complain. She was trying to be nice (/ get free English lessons with someone who can speak some Korean) but this is just so rude! If she calls, maybe I'll tell her that I work crazy hours and can't meet or something.... or that I'm leaving the country, since I am in a month anyway. ^^

Sunday, October 18, 2009

할머니의 집- Grandmother's House

Boyfriend and Grandmother

Since I've started dating my boyfriend, I've gone to see his grandmother with him several times. It took him a while to convince me to go. I could just imagine how a 91 year old woman would react to the first born son in the family to be dating a foreigner. It's his duty to get married and bear lots of Korean children, and I didn't think she'd take kindly to my getting in the way of this plan.

The first time I went, back early in the summer, neither my boyfriend, nor his father informed poor halmoni (grandmother in Korean) about the slight detail that I was coming, or the fact that I wasn't exactly Korean. She saw me and the first thing she said was, "She's not Korean, is she?" She spent the rest of my visit throwing me sideways glances, not quite sure what to say or do around me. Apparently while we went outside for a while, she said to my boyfriend's father, ".. but can she be a good Korean housewife??". After that, I refused to go back for a very long time. Finally I got dragged to go again and she was a bit more receptive. We suspect that she realized that my boyfriend came a lot less often when I wasn't willing to go too.

Since then I've been back a few times. Her home is in Yangsuri, which is really only about 40 minutes from my house downtown Seoul, but it could be about as polar opposite as you can get. She has a huge garden, and a lawn. Yes, a real live lawn. With grass. Green grass. She grows all her own vegetables (with the help of an ajumma that stays with her since she's getting older), makes kim chi, has chickens, and even a cute dog that wanders around the yard. My boyfriend and his father have set up a little net to shoot golf balls at too.

Boyfriend playing golf.... ironically aiming away from the golf net....

Usually our visits involve watching TV, eating lunch (always samgyupsal, soup and side dishes) maybe hitting some golf balls, watching more TV and then leaving, usually making some sort of stop on the way home to do something interesting and cultural. Today, on the other hand, it was time to harvest the persimmons, or in Korean 감를 따다.

Getting ready to pick some persimmons...

Boyfriend actually picking the persimmons. I'm below, catching them as they fall/ taking pictures...

Now, persimmon is one of my least favorite fruit actually. I can't think of any fruit less fruity than a persimmon. But, no matter, picking things is always fun, and I have good memories of apple picking at home, so I was excited none the less. Actually, I didn't do much picking, the men folk wouldn't let me on the ladder (which I was ok with because it didn't seem all that sturdy to me). I was below, catching the falling persimmons and pulling them off the branches that fell with them. It was actually a lot of fun, and I got to be out in the beautiful fall air. The boyfriend made me taste the fruits of my labor (literally) but I still don't like persimmons.

These are persimmons, in case you're wondering...

This shot was totally staged....

Practicing his swing

Then we played around in the yard. I practiced my (not so) amazing golf swing. We found an awesome praying mantis and we messed around with the camera a little bit. It was a good day at 할머니의 집 (grandmother's house).

Our amazing bug find...

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Last night I walked down to Namaste by Dongmyo Station from work (about 45 minute walk... so I got my exercise in for the day) through the rain no less, to get dinner. I loveee Indian food in this city as I've said before. I got a mixed vegetable curry, basmati rice and nan. The walk down there was so nice, despite the rain, I realize that I need to walk so much more. I'm feeling a little chubby nowadays... if my jeans get much tighter I'm gonna have some problems... -_- But, of course, what am I doing now? Sitting in front of my computer like a lump as usual. According to my friend's scale, I haven't gained any weight (remarkably) which means that any muscle I once had must have turned to fat. ^^ I really should walk to my Korean class today. It would probably be a good 2 hour walk... but let's face it... I probably won't do that...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Magic Hole" and "Should Students Have Cell Phones"

Today was a very cell phone day, if there could be such a thing. Last Friday one of the Korean teachers in our office came in toting a new phone. It didn't look like anything special to me, but she spent 10 minutes trying to show me how amazing her new phone was. This phone had a strange circle on the front, which seems to do... not much of anything but light up and tell the time, it has an amazing button on the hinge that makes the phone pop open "magically" and, the big selling point, I think, is the fact that you can make video calls to other owners of the phone. I asked her what the phone was called and she replied "Magic Hole". Magic Hole? Really? Can you imagine selling a phone with that name in the US??? The jokes would be endless. Ok, whatever.

So Monday another teacher came in toting the same phone and the two of them were discussing how wonderful their new phones were and how great their blue colored phone was etc. etc. Today one teacher called the other teacher while they were in the office together to test out the video call function. I guess it's cool, but I wouldn't want to be walking down the street with it... it seems reminiscent of when those Nextel phones that were popular a few years ago... when everyone was walking down the street having conversations that everyone could listen in on. I could just imagine...

Then later today, in my Fly High Junior class (the same one we discussed future husbands and wives) we opened up to a new chapter in our writing books. I really like this book because it chooses really relevant topics that kids actually care about and don't mind writing about. Last chapter was "Should Students Have Part Time Jobs". Today's new chapter was "Students Should Have Cell Phones". While we were discussing the various points about cell phones, I brought up this "Magic Hole" phone. The kids explained to me that it really isn't a very good phone at all. It doesn't have TV, it doesn't have Mp3 and it doesn't have a big screen. Obviously those are the most important features in a phone. The kids were shocked to find out that my Korean cell phone doesn't have an Mp3 player, TV, Internet or even any games. I've had past classes tell me my phone is from 1996 (which is an insult coming from them, considering they were born around 2000).

Of the six children in the class, whose ages range from 4th grade -6th grade, only one 4th grader didn't have a phone. He said he survived alright without it, but he really wanted one. The other kids didn't know how one would survive without a cell phone. We talked about some reasons why adults don't think students should have phones. The first reason stated was about the harmful cell phone waves. That was surprising. Then they mentioned the typical things like distractions and cell phone costs. Then, "why should students have phones?", I asked. "Games" "TV" "Calling friends" "Mp3", then later "calling parents" finally came up. None of them mentioned their English-Korean dictionaries that they use all the time in class, nor was calling parents first on their list. One student did mention that if a kid got kidnapped, they could use the phone to call the police.

I'm always interested in how these kids view the world... I never cease to be entertained...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Drama on my street...

Not much interesting happens around my house, but last night I heard a bang at about 10 o'clock. I always hear noises, but it struck me as strange. Then I heard sirens coming and I kind of knew they were coming to my street. One of the buildings behind my apartment had smoke pouring out the windows. The fire department came quickly, along with two ambulances that I didn't see get used. They had the fire out within 5 minutes, it couldn't have been big, but it's more action than my little side street has had since the drum band strolled in one day randomly at noon time on a random weekday last month.

Firefighters bravely putting out the fire

Emergency vehicles swarming...

Random marching band that appeared on my tiny side street at noon time about a month ago for no apparent reason. Korea is never boring

Seoul Forest (서울숲)

Sunday we decided to check out Seoul Forest (서울숲 - pronounciation is complicated, but Seoul Su should work in most cases if you don't feel like getting a lecture about Korean rules of prnounciation) We walked there from our area in Sindang and it took about a little less than an hour. Actually, it wasn't a very interesting park compared to some other parks like Olympic Park or Children's Grand Park. It was a bit smaller than these and quite a bit less to see. The did have some interesting things to see though...

Horseback Riding. Folks riding seemed to be quite experienced. A friend of mine did a little research on it because she was a big rider back at home. I guess it's around 45,000 for 45 minutes. Seems a bit steep, but not really since we're in the middle of one of the most densly populated metropolises in the world.

Here's a typical water fountain around here. In the summer these kinds of fountains are full of kids. Nowadays it's getting cold, so the kids just watch.

I've learned better than to have high expectations for animals in captivity in this country. Zoos are always dissapointing. These deers were pretty cool to see, but we were hoping they would rome free in thier own section of the park, not be locked in.

This was a cool part of the playground. It was a wire sculpture of a human that kids could climb through.

Seoul Forest is near Ttukseom on line 1. Since I walked I can't help you with exit numbers, but there's probably a sign in the subway station. It was a nice walk, but I wouldn't go far out of my way to see it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bringing Salsa to the Asian Masses

Actually, salsa is rather popular here in Seoul among certain circles despite my post title. This past month my boyfriend and I have gone to Club Caliente in Itaewon twice now to dance a bit. Neither one of us are great, but we both have enough experience to have fun even though we can't do it well. Saturday night after going to the Herb Medicine Museum, getting some dinner and a few drinks with a friend from Japan and another Korean teacher from my Free Korean Class, we decided to go to Itaewon again and we invited them along. They were kind of excited about it, even though they had no idea what salsa was.

We got to Club Caliente and satisfied ourselves with getting a drink and watching some of the amazing dancers do their thing on the dance floor. Finally I did my best to try to teach the Korean teacher who came, while my boyfriend tried his best to teach the Japanese guy some moves. Since neither one of us is great, neither one of us was a great teacher, but we did our best. The Korean teacher got some more experience because guys kept asking her to dance. Too bad girls don't ask guys to dance, I feel bad that the Japanese guy only got to dance with me and my boyfriend.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Seoul Yangnyeongsi Herb Medicine Museum

So our Korean class met on Saturday to go to Seoul Yangnyeongsi Herb Medicine Museum in Jegi-dong on Saturday. We had a large group of us, and evidently they had never had a group of foreigners come to the museum before. The museum was fairly interesting, and a nice woman tried her best to give us an English guided tour. She was a bit uncomfortable with speaking English and so she often refereed to my boyfriend to translate. Even still, the tour was nice enough.First task was to learn to wrap our own medicine. The medicine was some nice smelling dried orange peels... speaking of which.. they are still in my purse.. and I'm doubting my wrapping job held up for two days in the bottom of my purse... uhoh..

The next task was learning how to grind the medicine with mortar and pestle or these rolling contraptions that I have no word for in my vocabulary.

Here's our volunteer tour guide and my boyfriend trying their best to translate complicated medical information into English. The books in the glass in front of us are copies of the first Korean herbal medicine guide book, written by a fellow named Ho Jun a few hundred years ago.

We were educated a bit about ginseng. We learned that white ginseng should not be taken by people with high blood pressure, or if you are feverish. Red or black ginseng on the other hand is suggested for everyone. The four plants at the bottom are wild ginseng. Not farmed, but found growing in the mountains. One of these plants is worth about $30,000 USD according to a seemingly knowledgeable man who started to follow our tour around and correct our tour guide on everything she said. If you eat one of these before the age of three, you will lead a very healthy life. Here is the male parts of a seal. It's said that if men eat just a little of this with the rest of their herbal medicine prescription, they will have lots of stamina. Interesting idea...

The museum didn't take long to get through and a group of us downtown to the Jongno area for dinner. That was a fun time too, and maybe I'll post about that later.

Walking to Jegi-dong and around Kyungdong Market

As I said in my last post, I found a way on Google Maps to walk to Jegi-dong by following the Cheonggyechong to another small stream right up to the main street and walking a little more and arriving right where I wanted to be. Well, I followed that path correctly, but as it turns out, that second stream stopped about 100 m down because it was under construction (how can a stream be under construction? Only in Seoul would this be possible). So, we walked down some back streets to come and arrive in Jegi-dong. As I suspected, it was about a half an hour walk.

We arrived in Jegi-dong but we were about 2 hours early for the field trip. I grabbed some lunch at Kimbap Chongguk and then we decided to walk around Kyungdong Market. This was not my first time to Kyungdong Market. Last time was to find some traditional Korean medicine. This time around we had time to just wander freely. This market is a must see in Seoul if you're interested in unusual things, or just need a fresh dose of culture shock.

Kyungdong Market is most famous for it's medicinal market, though they sell fresh seafood, fruit, vegetables and assortments of other random things that you'd expect to find at a market. It's actually a great place to buy vegetables. They have some of the cheapest prices I've seen in this city.
These wriggly little fish are used to make chueotang; a soup made of these fish ground into a paste.

Deer antlers are a rather expensive but popular medicinal item when making hanyak, Korean traditional medicine.

Duck Eggs. I learned a new word yesterday: 오리 (ohri)-duck.

Bees for sale.

Down in the fish market...

10 points to the first person to guess what kind of meat this is correctly... hint, look at the feet.

Love me some dried fish

Chicken is ridiculously cheap at the market. One whole chicken is only 2,000 won ($1.71 USD)

The next adventure after looking through the market was the Seoul Yangnyeongsi: Herb Medicine Museum for our field trip, but I'll write about that in the next post.