Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Extra Passport Pages- Price Increase

In today's edition of the US Embassy's monthly newsletter, they mentioned the price for extra passport pages would be increasing from $0 to $82. It seems a bit of a steep hike to me, but what can you do? So, I highly recommended getting your extra pages now before July 13th, 2010 when this price increase goes into effect!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Food Firsts in Jeonju

There are certain foods that should be on every foreigner's "to try" list during their stay in Korea. While in Jeonju, I was able to try quite several strange foods that I wouldn't try on a normal day. Here's what we had:

홍어회 (hong-aw- fermented sashimi ) on the right and boiled 심겹살 (samgyupsal- fatty pork) on the right. Put them together with kimchi, and you get 홍어삼합 : hong-aw sam hap, or litterally hong-aw sum of three. Actually, I didn't eat this one but, you can see my friend trying it here. He's more adventurous than I.

번데기 (bondaegi) is silkworm larvae. I've always felt as though I should try this, but never could get up the guts. But, as my friend is preparing to leave Korea in the next month or so, he's trying to try as many things as possible, and got me involved too. Usualy on the street they sell this from huge vats of the stuff that you can smell from a mile away. The smell is usually enough to quell any desire in me to try it, but here as it was just served in such a small portion, I wasn't appaled by the smell. There's actually a video of me eating it, but it might discourage people from trying if I showed it publicly. Lets just say my friend thought they tasted like raisins, but a little crunchier. To me, it was edible, but far from enjoyable. Anyway, it's something everyone has to try at some point. I had to get it over eventually.

This one wasn't on my list, but I figured I'd throw it on here anyway. These are small crabs that you eat whole, shell and all. They're not bad, actually, and a lot less effort than trying to fish out meat from a crab shell.

Here's 돼지머리 (dwegi mori- pig's head). The thought of eating pig's head is a little disgusting, but if I hadn't actually seen the pigs head for sale before they process them and make it look like this normal looking meat product it wouldn't have grossed me out so much. When you see the actual pig's head for sale in the market with the snout, nose, mouth etc. all there for the world to see, it makes it a bit less palatable. Anyway, upon trying it I found that it was quite tasty. If I hadn't had the awful image of the pig's heads for sale in the market I would have definitely eaten more. They put some sort of spice that almost tasted like some sort of Italian seasoning in it. It was quite pleasant. This one is highly recommended.
Sorry for the blurry picture here, this is 산낚지 (sannakgi- live octopus). I actually didn't eat it here, but I've had it before. It's called live octopus because, even though it's been cut up, the octopus is still moving around a bit. It's really fun when you try to pick it up and it clings to the plate, seemingly trying to futiley save its life. It's a bit chewy, and they say that if you don't chew it well enough, it can cling to your esophagus as it goes down. I don't really think that's true, but just to be on the safe side, I'd chew well anyway...

Just for future reference, I thought I'd make a list here of all the strange food a foreigner should try while here in Korea. Let me know if I should add anything else to this list. I'll start with what I posted here.
  • 산낙지- live octopus
  • 돼지머리- pig's head
  • 번데기- silkworm larvae
  • 홍어회- fermented sashimi
  • 회- hwei- Korean style raw fish
  • 곱장- gopchang- marinated fried intestines
  • 순대-sundae- intestines, often filled with noodles
  • 보신탕- boshintang- dog meat soup
  • 육회-yukhwei- raw beef
  • 족발- jeokbal- pig feet meat
That's all I can think of at the moment. Any other "must try" foods that you can think of, please mention in the comments! Thanks!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pizza School

Pizza in Korea tends to be overpriced. Recently, I wrote about the fact that one medium Domino's pizza for take out here cost me about 18,000 won. But, if you're craving pizza and short of cash, there is always one reliable option: Pizza School.

Pizza School is actually a pretty new phenomenon here in Seoul. When I first arrived there was only one within walking distance to me, and it was a bit out of the way so I didn't go often. Now, there are at least two more within walking distance to my house, which actually makes it TOO convieneint. I get pizza now more than I should.

So, what's so great about this place? Well, their basic pizzas start at only 5,000 won. Why so cheap? Well, it's take out only. In Korea, they don't charge extra for delivery, nor do they accept tips. So, in order to pay for delivery, motorcycles, gas and delivery boys, they've got to jack up the prices of the pizza. Not so at Pizza School. No delivery means cheap prices.

Pizza school has got all sorts of interesting options for pizzas. I usually get the combination pizza, or just a plain cheese pizza (which always comes standard with corn. If you really hate corn, you can ask them to to make it without it). Yesterday we decided to be adventurous and get some of their stranger pizza options.

This time we ordered Mexican Bite Pizza and Carbone Pizza.

What we didn't realize when we ordered the carbone pizza was that it was actually carbonara pasta on a pizza, complete with noodles and all. Actually, it tasted ok, but it wasn't my favorite.

On the other hand, here is my Mexican bite pizza. Yea, this one is weird, hot chicken, sweet potato around the edge, and cheese bite crust. I didn't actually have high expectations for this one... but it was amazing. When I ordered it, the man behind the counter said, "Are you sure you want to order that pizza? It's very spicy..." probably because he saw me, the weigookin. Anyway, upon trying it, it has nothing on a typical kimchi jjigae which I eat several times a week. Koreans think us westerners are babies or something.

Anyway, Pizza School is an excellent choice when you're craving pizza. Just... don't look at the calorie information on the menu... it might ruin your experience when you realize that one pizza is about what your entire daily caloric intake should be...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Jeonju's Famous Cuisine and Too Much Makkoli

After going to the hanok village that I talked about in my first Jeonju post, we headed over to Makkoli Street (막걸리 골목) to find the famed makkoli restaurants that serve makkoli in kettles and provide an abundance of side dishes (안주) for each round of makkoli you order.

There is one very famous makkoli place around here, and we went there first, but because of the size of our group, we would have had to wait too long, so we decided to try the unknown instead.

Makkoli in Jeonju is a bit different from the Seoul type, we had two options; 맑은 막걸리 clear makkoli, or normal makkoli. Here on Makkoli Street, it's served three bottles at a time in kettles for about 12,000 won. Sound steep? Well, wait til you see all the side dishes that come along with the single order of Makkoli. I wouldn't suggest eating before you go (unless you really hate traditional Korean food, and I'm not talking kimbap cheonguk style, in which case fill up before you go because you might be disappointed with your options for food).

Our first makkoli joint turned out pretty good, but after two kettles, we decided to head out and check out another place. A sudden downpour made us pick a restaurant quick, but again, no disappointments. Their menu was similar but they sent out some of those strange Korean dishes that should be on every foreigner's checklist to try before leaving: silkworm larvae, live octopus and fermented sashimi among others. I'll post about that later..

We had an early start, so we had a pretty early finish heading out around 11:30 to find a hotel to stay the night. Now, in Jeonju, if you want to stay at a nice place, like a hanok, you need to make reservations far in advance, BUT, if you want to stay in the cheapest possible place, then the (not so) little love motel area right behind the bus terminal is the place for you. We couldn't get a room at the first place we stopped at, but the second one was just perfect. 40,000 for the night with a jacuzzi. Despite bad connotations with love motels in other countries, love motels are not (very) sketchy and are generally fairly clean considering the price. Definitely an option for budget travelers here.

In the morning, we awoke with pretty bad hangovers and decided to find a restaurant to try the famous Jeonju 콩나물국밥 (beansprout soup and rice) which is, well, soup with beansprouts, rice and topped with an egg. Despite sounding bland and a little unappetizing, with a little red pepper powder added it was quite enjoyable.

Dinner on Sunday was the famous Jeonju Bibimbap. Now, I don't know if I went to the wrong restaurant or what, but... this looks like regular old bibimbap to me. Delicious, but perfectly normal and unexotic. Does anyone know what's supposed to be special about Jeonju Bibimbap?

Anyway, Jeonju is well known for it's cuisine and if you ask any Korean they'll be able to list of things like bibimbap, bean sprout soup and makkoli as famous menu items here. While Jeonju may not be the most interesting place in Korea, it's cheap and interesting for a weekend getaway. Expect one more post from the trip soon!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"My Dream House"

This month we're studying houses in my Reach Out 4 class. I had some extra time on the review day, so I asked my boys to draw a picture of their dream house and describe it. Here's what I got:

Attack Bug House

"Under the Beach" House

I tried to tell him about 6 times that his house was under the water, not the beach, but he insisted that it was not under the water, that it was under the beach.

Kitchen Robot House?

Pay attention to the last two sentences or so here. I'm not entirely sure what he was trying to say, but whatever it is, it sounds awesome. Don't worry, I made more corrections after I took this picture.

A-Team and an A-Game

Tonight I went to see The A-Team at Wangsimni CGV. The A-Team was always a favorite TV show as a kid but I didn't have very high expectations going into the movie, since these sort of films are generally of terrible quality. But, they pulled the movie together fabulosly. I felt like I was back in middle school watching re-runs on cable again. It was action-packed and hilarious, in just the combination the show always provided. The new members of the A-Team meshed so well I thought I was watching the original cast at times. Though, it's a shame Mr. T couldn't have played B.A. I guess he's getting old now though. I highly recomend seeing this movie, especially if you were a fan of the show when you were younger.

Now, tomorrow night is the big game: Korea vs. Uruguay. South Korea made it through to the round of 16 in the World Cup. Game is on at 11, and you better believe I'll be wearing my red shirt I finally bought in the subway on Wednesday (a little late, I know) watching the game out somewhere, probably at a bar for my friend's going away party.

And you know what else? If Korea can beat Uruguay and if the USA can pull through to the next match, guess who will face each other? Yup, that's right, USA vs Korea. Now, who to cheer for is the question. One friend suggested wearing no shirt, but If I could somehow get two flags onto one shirt I think that would be ideal. Or, carry two flags, so I could wave either at the appropriate moments. Well, we'll face that problem if and when we get there. :-)

New Look

Ok, so I finally played around with blogger's new template and got the balls to change it. I'm still not sure how I feel about it, but I'm glad I figured out how to enlarge my banner. I had to remove the "shrink to fit" option that I had been overlooking. Tell me what you think of the new color scheme. I'm not sure if I'm a fan of the purple. I am a fan of the separated posts and the wider posting area though!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

금산사: Geumsan Temple in Jeonju

Our last stop in Jeonju was 금산사 Geumsan Temple. It was quite a trek to get here, first a 1/2 an hour bus ride, then a bit of a walk to the temple.

Yes, I've been to a lot of temples. And yes, they all start to look the same... but they're still pretty!

Temples usually have somewhere where you can scoop up some water to drink from publicly used drinking ladles.
Here is the inside of one of the many small temples within the temple grounds. This is a spot where a monk would come in to pray (or is meditate the better word?). You can see the mokt'ak, or wooden instrument that monks use in most ceremonies. You can also see some fruit as an offering in front of Buddha as well.

This guy was something we found on the way up to the temple. He was in a tiny little shrine on the side of the road. It doesn't look like Buddha to me, but I'm not really sure what he looks like, so who knows. It was quite cool though.

By the way, if anyone is interested in learning more about Korean temples, I highly recommend this website. I looked all around for what that wooden instrument was called, but this was the first website I could find that mentioned it. I still want to know what the fountain is called and the significance behind that, but I've yet to find it. I'm sure it's something to do with cleansing, but I'd like to read a more authoritative source.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Jeonju Hanok Village: 한옥마을

This weekend a few friends and I headed down to Jeonju for the weekend. Jeonju (전주) is a city about 2 1/2 hours south of Seoul by express bus and is the capital of Jeolabukdo. It's not to be confused with 충주 (Chungju) or 청주 (Cheongju) which sound similar but are very different places. The boyfriend has been talking about going to Jeonju for about a month now. It all started when he found a blog all about drinking makkoli in Jeonju, and what an amazing experience it was. Since then, it's a constant question of when are we going to Jeonju? When are we going to Jeonju? So, finally we decided to go this past weekend as soon as he got out of work on Saturday. We took the bus from Nambu Bus Terminal (Nambu Bus Terminal Station Metro Line #3) which leaves twice and hour. It was only 10,500 for a one way ticket. The ride down is pleasant, and you can really see how agricultural Korea really is once you get outside of Seoul.

We got to Jeonju around 4 o'clock and headed for the town's proudest attraction, the Hanok Village, or Hanongmaul (한옥마을). This is an area where many hanok (traditional Korean style houses) have been preserved and/ or restored.

In this area, you can find many stores that sell (very expensive) hand crafted items. Paper products are famous in the area and there were so many beautiful paper lamps and paper fans to see. It really reminded me of Insadong, but on a more spread out scale, since the "village" goes for several blocks.
There are also many guesthouses in the area where you can stay in a "real" hanok. They seemed a little expencive for probably being extremely basic like the one I stayed in in Gyeongju, but I guess everyone should experience it once.

Also among the hanok, there were some museums and cultural experiences as well.

The boyfriend trying out a Korean game 굴렁쇠(Rolling Iron)

Traditional Korean music performers

A Korean version of horseshoes where you have to toss an iron ring onto a post... none of use could do it...

Pots used for Korean food like kimchi, gojujang (hot pepper paste), dwingchang (bean paste) etc..
These traditional Korean shoes are made from rice stalks.

This cathedral is actual outside of the village, but it's quite close. We wanted to go inside, but there was mass going on....

After this we headed out to have our "makkoli experience", but I'll leave that for the next post. Enjoy for now, and pray for the poor North Korean players who may now be sentenced to prison camp for their embarrassing 7:0 loss to Portugal..

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Blogger help?

So, I really like the new blog design features on blogger, but the one thing preventing me from using it is the fact that my banner is totally off center and I can't figure out any way to center it, or change the size so that it is bigger. Any suggestions??

Friday, June 18, 2010

Korea vs Argentina at Olympic Park

When Thursday rolled around, it was time for Korea to face it's second opponent in Group B, Argentina. For those who know nothing about soccer, like me, Argentina is one of the top teams in the world, #7 in the world to be exact according to FIFA's website. With Korea ranking #47 we all knew it was going to be a rough game. But, you know, after watching Korea crush Greece 2:0, and watching Nigeria hold up remarkably well against Argentina (though still loosing 1:0), everyone though Korea might come out... well, not as winners, but at least respectably well considering the circumstances.

I went straight to Olympic Park after finishing work, as it was the closest venue to watch the game. I didn't get there until 20 minutes into the game, and the first thing we realized that we missed in those 20 minutes was that Park Chu-young accidentally deflected the ball into Korea's own net, scoring the first point for Argentina.

Just before the first half ended, Korea scored it's first and only goal of the night. The crowd went wild, but I must say that Olympic Park was much tamer than City Hall. Everyone was sitting until this goal was scored and the strobe lights flew on. Much more family orientated here.

The rest of the game didn't go too well for Korea. In the end, Korea lost 4:1, a defeat much worse than anyone could have expected. There were no crazy celebrations after the game like the last one, everyone picked up their things and got out as quickly as they could. Now we place our bets for the game with Nigeria next week. Nigeria has lost two games, so I expect they will be fighting hard to get one win out of the tournament.

Viewing at Olympic Park was much calmer than City hall. Because we showed up so late, we were unable to get into the main viewing area, but we were able to watch on the big soccer ball screen set up in front of the Olympic Peace Gate. There were many families with small children, and folks more or less settled down on mats on the ground with snacks and drinks to watch the game. The next game is a 3:30 am match in Korea, so I expect I will watch the final match at home.... if I can manage to stay up that late on a weekday...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

the "Best" post

I have to say, Wednesday was a pretty good day at school. First thing when we came in, we were called to the gym for a surprise meeting where myself and 3 other teachers (2 elementary, 2 kindergarten) were given the "Best Teacher" award for the first quarter of the year. 50,000 won richer, I went back to my office to prepare for my classes.

Not only did they announce "Best Teacher" on Wednesday, but the "Best Class" for each class level was also announced and given a pizza party. This was a new incentive introduced a few months ago to encourage students to study hard for their tests. It seems to be working, at least for some classes. Test scores have gone up considerably for quite a few classes. Though, one of my worst classes asked me... "Teacher, we want a pizza party!" I told them, "You can have a pizza party... when you study hard and get the best score on your test.", to which they replied, "No, thanks."
The class pictured above is one of my favorites. They drive me nuts sometimes, but they are really great. They are an advanced 2nd grade class which studies from an American curriculum. They all attended English preschool for at least one year, most of them probably two years. They were so excited to get the pizza party. It was their first time.. they've brought up their scores a lot since I started teaching them. I don't know if it's the pizza party incentive or not, but they're doing something right.
This is another one of my classes, the second of two of my 7 classes to receive a pizza party this month. They are another advanced class that follows an American curriculum, most of them probably attended 1 year of English preschool. This is their second pizza party in 3 months. They all work pretty hard and love learning. These kids are great too. Very well behaved and really want to learn. Every class should be like them!

Finally, the "Most Improved Student" award was also given to one of my students. It seems like a terrible award to give, and most kids hate gettting it... since it means you were terrible, but now you're good. Anyway, this kid came in quite behind, but it was the lowest level for his grade we could put him in. We weren't sure if he was going to make it, he had a lot of trouble reading and his speaking and listening comprehension skills were far below the other kids. But, he's worked hard, and taken some extra classes, and he got a 90% on his last test! Good job Vincent!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cheering for Korea

I'm really impressed by the amount of cheers that the Koreans have at any given sporting game and how well organized they are about it. I decided to take some video during the Korea vs. Greece game on Saturday and explain some of the chanting, since I know some of my friends weren't sure what they were shouting and there were also a few I was curious about too. I put them together to make this YouTube video with a quick translation of the cheers.

In addition, I've put together a list of some Korean words you might like to know while watching with Koreans shouting unknown things in your ear.....

  • 남아공 (Namakong)- Republic of South Africa

  • 대한민국 (Taehanminkuk)- Republic of Korea

  • 한국 (Hanguk)- Korea (common word)

  • 이기다 (ee-ki-da)- to win (uncongugated) - 이겼어요 (ee-gyeoss-eo-yo)- won (past tense) 이겼다 (ee-gyot-ta)- won (past tense in exclamation or speaking to oneself)

  • 지다 (ji-da)- to loose (uncongugated) - 졌어요 (jyoss-eo-yo)- lost

  • 승/승리 (sung/ sungri)- victory

  • 안돼! (an-dwei)- No way! Can't be possible!

  • 아프겠다 (ah-pu-get-ta)- That looks like it hurt!

  • 야! 병신아! (Ya! Pyeongshin-ah!)- Hey, you handicapped person! (common insult)

Incidentally, most of the cheers are pretty easy to figure out. This one had me stumped for a bit. I guess it's a new one. I'm sure you'll hear it around. You can listen to it here, along with lots of other cheering songs.

승리를 위하여
그대와 함께가리라~ (I will go together with you)
오오~오오오오~오오오오~오오 (Oh~Oh~)
승리를 위하여 (For victory)
그대와 함께가리
승리를 위하여
그대와 함께가리라

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Korea vs. Greece at City Hall Plaza

Saturday evening was the first match for South Korea in the World Cup. Competing in group B, their first opponent was Greece. Excitement over this match over the past week or so has been mounting and by Friday it was the sole topic of conversation among most people, Korean or otherwise. "Where are you watching the game?" was the main question everyone was asking. Several large venues around town held viewing areas to watch the game. The main area was at City Hall Plaza, but there were also large gatherings in Olympic Park and World Cup stadium. Many bars around the city offered free drinks or prizes for guests whenever Korea scored a goal, so finding a good bar also sounded like a good choice.

When Saturday morning came around, the skies opened and the rain poured like I haven't seen it rain in a long time. I was starting to feel as though watching outside wasn't going to be such a good idea, but by the time I'd finished dinner the rain had more or less slowed down and we figured, why not, let's go to City Hall... what fun is it if you're not in the middle of the action, right?The picture above is basically what it looked like when we got to city hall. We made our way in a little ways and watched a little of the preshow before the game started.

Watching soccer, or any sport in Korea is always interesting. There are lots of cheers and people basically spend the entire length of the game shouting cheers. You wouldn't believe what the crowd sounds like when there's actually a goal. Jumping, screaming, clapping, horns blaring, fireworks popping overhead, it's a wild scene. Despite the rain, which came down for most of the game to varying degrees couldn't deter this crowd, the crowd had expanded out into the street when we finally made our way out.

In the end, Korea won, 2:0 to Greece, the first win of the World Cup. The victory dances were everywhere.
Congo lines on the green at City Hall Plaza.

Chanting and cheering around a guy wearing a Greece shirt in the middle of this circle. If he actually was a Greek, or Greek fan, he was taking his loss quite well.

Victory rally in front of Doksugung across the street.

The next Korea game is against Argentina on Thursday at 8:30. I don't finish work until 9:00, so I'll have to figure out how I'm going to watch. But, anyway, as fun as this was, I don't think I can take those crowds again for a while. I'll be content to sit in a bar or my own home and watch the next one.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

World Cup Opening Ceremony and Mexico vs. South Africa

Last night was the opening game of the World Cup. We had wanted to go to a fun bar to watch the game. What actually ended up happening was going to a chicken HOF near Hanyangdae (where my friends ate nearly all the chicken before I showed up .... grrr... jk) and watched some of the opening ceremony. They had plenty of artists from all over, including the Black Eyed Peas, Juanes and Alicia Keys performing, not to mention plenty of other folks I didn't recognize. After a while, or maybe after I complained about not getting any food, we decided to go to the ddukbokki place downstairs to get some yummy food. But, much to our surprise, they were shutting down.. at 10:30. I guess they wanted to go to a bar and watch the game too... So after walking around the Hanyangdae area for a while without finding anyplace with decent food, we just decided to go home.

Fortunately, some friends of ours who thought they would be unable to hang out with us last night had a change of plans and decided to come by our place with a big plate of 회 or Korean style raw fish. So, 회 + 만두+ homemade beer + Mexico vs. South Africa wound up being a good time even at home. Not to mention the rain that started to fall cooled down my apartment immensely... I didn't have to turn on my air conditioner, which was also a nice surprise.

Now tonight, we'll see what happens with the weather, but I'd like to go to Gwanghwamun/ City Hall to be in the middle of the action for the big game: Korea vs. Greece. If I do something interesting, expect a blog soon!

Friday, June 11, 2010

View of North Korea Shows How a Policy Spread Misery

Here's a great article in the New York Times discussing everyday life in North Korea. If you're interested in this topic, I highly recommend you read a book I reviewed a few months ago called Nothing to Envy.

View of North korea Shows How a Policy Spread Misery

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

FC Seoul vs Jejudo

Sunday I ventured out to World Cup Stadium to see FC Seoul vs. Jejudo. It was actually my second soccer match in Korea, but I forgot my camera when I went to my first game last year, so I never blogged about it.

Last time we sat on the sides, but this time we sat behind the goal in the FC Seoul fan's area. Here there's not much of a chance to sit down. There are some song leaders that keep everyone on their feet singing, chanting, clapping and basically going wild.

Before the game, everyone was asked to hold their fans up and show the Korean flag. I wish I knew where they got those fan thingies though...

Anyway, the game was great... at least for FC Seoul. 5-1 win against Jejudo. They never really had much of a chance, FC Seoul simply dominated the field most of the game. I was actually impressed that they scored at all.

This was great game for me to prepare for the World cup, which starts on Friday! For all you people who are clueless about the World Cup, it's a soccer tournament held every 4 years. This year it's being held in Johannesburg, South Africa and it's looking like it's going to be a great few weeks of soccer watching. All the teams I care about (aka all the countries I have some emotion for... I know nothing about soccer skills) are all playing; South Korea, USA and Chile. In an interesting note, North Korea is also playing and I'm excited to watch their games... mostly because it's North Korea... but unfortunately, they're grouped with Brazil and Portugal and they don't stand a chance to make it to the second round.

Korea's first game is Saturday night, so be prepared for craziness around the city. I may be going to Gwanghwamun where the biggest gathering of fans should be. I don't really expect to see much of the game around there, but it should be a fun time just being with a bunch of crazy fans! Evidently, at World Cup stadium, they're offering camping supplies to anyone who wants to camp out there for the night. Personally, I'm not sure how I feel about camping out on concrete for the heck of it, but who knows, I find out that something really exciting is going on there, maybe I'll go there instead!