Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lamb Galbi

Today was a relaxing day. I got BK to stay the night with me last night, which was good for relationship patchwork.

After we went to Emart, and settled down to watch TV I immediately lamented that I miss that Lamb Galbi I had when I first moved to Sanbon. BK expressed the same desire and so we made our dinner plans.

The weather here is getting colder and colder. The sun might be out but the temperature isn't warm. I didn't really grow up in a cold environment amongst the palm trees of Florida. But I think a part of this adventure is adapting.

Anyways, the cool air made for a pretty sunset as we waited for the train at the Sanbon station. This station is above ground, which means you don't feel like you are in some cave waiting for your train. But also means during the winter you get to freeze your ass off.Since the train is above ground you get treated to a view.


(BK was teasing me the whole time about taking the video...hehe you get to hear us talk.)


How to Get to the Lamb Galbi:
  • Get on the #4 line. If you are heading from Seoul...make sure you pointed in the Southern direction. Anyways, get off at Indeogwon. Take exit 4 and walk straight. Stop as you approach a bridge that goes over a creek. To the right of this bridge, around the corner of the building is where this place exists. It is on the 4th floor. Here is what the front area looks like:

When you turn around and face the other direction you see an industrial scene such as this:
Enough of the scenery, let's eat!! At least that is what BK was thinking...

Galbi, I feel, is a cuisine of Korea that for most foreigners is one of the very first foods they experience when they get here. I know, because when I came my bosses at the hagwon took me to pork galbi (typical kind). Anyways, this should apply to most foreigners except those who are vegan, vegetarian or otherwise meat-phobic.

But anyone could read this post and so I will explain how Galbi works.

You sit at a table that is low to the floor. Before you entered the dining room area you take off your shoes. This is a sit-on-the-floor eating experience. At this place they have sitting chairs, so thankfully your back won't feel like hell.

On the table is a steel pit, where below the grate is charcoal lit up by propane gas. Take a look:

As the meat cooks it is broken up into smaller pieces and eventually the heat is turned down and the meat is moved to the side of the pit. The meal is served with various side dishes and optional Bop (rice). This particular place gives you a dipping tray, one of peppered-salt and another of honey mustard. (My fav is the pepper - salt).
An Galbi experience wouldn't be complete without the leaves. In this basket are the Galbi leaves. What you do is take a piece of meat, place it on the leaf, put in some fixins and then fold it all up and stuff it into your mouth.
It is a delightful experience as the cool texture of the leaf melts away as the hot moist meat in the middle fills your mouth.

On this particular Sunday, we were the only customers at 5:30pm, that was fine with me...made it nice and peaceful. A shot of the interior...with BK returning from the bathroom.

Oh Lamb Galbi~ you melt in my mouth. I am not really a meat lover and was raised on tofu and bean tacos. But Korean cuisine such as this is allowing me to appreciate meat. I never thought I would find myself enjoying lamb, an animal often portrayed to me as soft, warm and cuddly. Oh well~ they are also delicious! And make my sweaters nice and warm.

Of course I have to give thanks to ZenKimchi guy Joe for taking us here the night of my first move in. I think we would have never found this gem. Thanks!

Funny History

I thought I would distract all of you with this video:


It is a twist on the Pilgrim story way long ago.

Sorry my last post and most recent posts haven't been thematic and rather just me expressing the changes and feelings I have here.

I admit I haven't taken the time to thoroughly brief myself on every side of every topic that I see or experience here. My main companion who helps me understand and see more of Korea, was for the last 3 months stressed from looking for a job here. He didn't succeed, though. Anyways, I wanted to say that for these last few months we have been having our own problems.

...ok well just hope some of you still have interest in the Foreign/er.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Reached a Point

Well, I think it has settled in now. What am I talking about? That would have to be homesickness. I think it is going beyond just missing my family and friends. I am starting to really be homesick for that which is familiar.

Things I try to search for:
  • English
  • Something cheesy done in the right way with the right cheese.
  • English TV programming on my TV.
  • Some corner of my neighborhood that feels cozy and like home.
Sometimes I am walking and know I want to find familiarity, but I immediately look around me and know I am far far away. At least the traffic signal with the sign of the walking-man on it is a universal image I can relate to.

Don't get me wrong here I am not trying to complain. Korea is still a wonderful and amazing place to be. But no matter what I have to accept the fact that I put myself in a place that feels like another universe.

It has been nearly 7 months since I first arrived here. Looking through that time I have been through so much.

At the hagwon I felt alienated despite the fact I was amongst 4 other foreigners and lived in Seoul. Back then my daily life was up and down, some days were stressful and full of angst, while other days were just fine. I was trying to understand Korea and its people but struggled to get down the basic relationship fundamentals with my Korean co teachers.

But I was strong and also brave enough to break my contract and resign. During this time I felt like I was heading towards salvation, but at the same time living a fragile life. I didn't know exactly my future and finances were growing thin.

However, I think because I kept confident and took chances that I was able to come out of that yucky situation and into a more defined and organized job.

Working and living in Sanbon has been pleasant. I work from 8:30 to 4:30 pm, and to me this feels like a regular schedule. We all know that I had a bit of an issue with at first living without a window but that got resolved.

So things have settled down here in Sanbon. But life keeps on chugging, and in my spare time I think of America and my family. I think about so many things and ask myself so many questions, that my thoughts seem to build up into a mountain.

The main questions I ask myself is what is my purpose here? Why did I come?

Actually, I know why I came here.

On New Year's Eve 2008 I made the new year resolution that I would go live and teach in Korea. It came to me clearly and didn't have any second thoughts. Through January to May I worked, planned and packed my way to Korea.

I came with so many ambitions:
  • Explore Korea and Asia.
  • Get to know the contemporary art scene.
  • Understand my Korean boyfriend's culture, family and language.
  • Grow into an adult.
Maybe it is too ambitious of me to think that I would conquer all these things just within my first 7 months here. Yet, I am positive that I have actually experienced some of these goals.

Coming back to my main point (homesickness) I am reminded of what keeps me from opening my heart and mind to Korea.

Lately I have become apprehensive to do my usual blog reading. I feel that what I see on other's blogs are not helping me love my surroundings. In some of the blogs I see out there people are constantly pointing out what Korean people are doing that is negative and alarming. Examples include crime, severe punishment, poor publicity...etc. It is as if I am getting a picture of Korea I didn't really want to see.

So in some cases I am kind of denial right now. I don't want to see or hear that Korea is this place of corruption and folly. Through my rose-colored glasses I want to see the cultural and artistic sides of Korea. I want to see that which is beautiful juxtaposed next to a society still coming out of its shell.

I guess what has me bothered the most, is that I don't really understand why us foreigners tend to pluck out certain aspects of Korean society and put a spotlight on it. As if the Korean people were subjects in some grand lab experiment.

... Okay...starting to get a little ranty...sorry.

Anyways...

Homesickness + Alienation + Expensive Cheese = loony bin.

I think what I need to do is wake up out of what I believe is the "perfect" experience to have while abroad.

In my dreams I sometimes find myself back in America, doing something with my family. And while I am there I look around and become very confused. I ask myself why am I not in Korea? How long have I been away? When will I go back? I wake up perplexed, wondering just which world I am in,

All in all I have to say that I feel like I have reached a point in my stay here, one that has me baffled and enraptured. My wish is that it all climbs upward and wanders into a place where I see more than what meets the eye.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oh God!

Found this while I was searching around for something to do during my vacation period in January... but this even is for this week.

Tempting!!!

Thanksgiving Buffet at Toque Restaurant, 27 Nov., Itaewon


image


Toque's Annual Thanksgiving All-U-Can-Eat Turkey Buffet includes:
Juicy Turkey w/ Gravy, Stuffing, Mashed Potato, Creamed String Beans w/ Fried Onion, Cranberry Sauce, Salad, Pumpkin Pie and MORE!!

Cost:
Adults: \35,000 per person plus 10% VAT
Children under 10: \20,000 plus 10% VAT

Two seatings: - 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
When making your reservation, please tell uswhich time you prefer.

Seating is limited so call ASAP and give the exact number of people in your party.
NOTE: We will be calling you a few days in advance in order to confirm your reservation and after confirmation, WE WILL HAVE TO CHARGE FOR THE NUMBER OF people for whom you have reserved even if you end up being a smaller group. Please confirm with all the members of your party so that everyone will be able to make it on time and you will not have to pay for a no-show.

TAKE OUT TURKEY is also available this year so that you can enjoy a Thanksgivng meal at home:
You can order either half a turkey(serves about 4) or whole turkey(serves about 8) with gravy, mashed potato, stuffing, cranberry sauce, creamed string beans and pumpkin pie. Orders must be placed by 20 November.

We will only be selling a limited number of turkeys, so please make your plans in advance and we will try to accommodate you as much as we can.
Half a turkey will cost W150,000 plus 10% VAT
A whole turkey will cost W270,000 plus 10% VAT

For more information on Toque Restaurant (a K4E.com supporter) go to: http://www.korea4expats.com/service-Toque-Diner-for-North-American-Cuisine-in-Itaewon-781.html


I would go and pay the Won, but on a work night!! I guess if I planned this I could just go and get the take out dinner version and heat it up later on. Anyways, it is good to know someplace out there is doing this. Perhaps around Christmas they do a similar thing. hehe

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Workplace

It comes as a quick reminder to me that I haven't shown you all my new workplace. I took a few pictures during my first week. Well let's take a tour:


View of the front of the classroom and the chalkboard. Using a chalkboard feels like I am in the 1st grade. I am not that skilled at my chalkboard writing either, so it comes out a little ugly. Anyways, to the left is the big screen TV used for lessons and to the right is my coateacher's desk.

Scene of the desks, windows and back of the room. What I have noticed is that they seat the girls in the back and the boys in the front. I want to ask Why...but keep on forgetting. Anyways, the window view is lovely! Sometimes I stare out of it for long moments, because it has the view of the side of a mountain. I can see birds and the wind blowing through the trees. :)

Let's enter my office!

That is my desk with the chunky old Monitor. Behind it is the gigantic window which let's in sunshine. This is also the supply room, as you can see. And we have a lot of supplies, but it seems we don't really know what to do with it all.


View out of my office window:

It is fun to watch the children play on the field. Sometimes you can see who are the outsiders who are left out of the group. On the snow day they were out there gleefully running around without their hats on, I felt like a Mom and wanted to yell at them to put their winter gear on.

Anyways, I hope to take more pics of other parts of the school and possibly the people there. For now this gives you a look into what my daily surroundings are like.

Delay

Just wanted to let everyone know that the free wireless internet I have been using at home is not reliable. So there may be periods this week when I don't blog or respond.

I have internet at work...but kind of busy with Winter Camp planning for next month.

Anyways, I am doing well.

;)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Apgujeong / Taste of Home

Last weekend I met up with BK in Apgujeong, which is an area of Seoul known for its rich people and snazzy neighborhoods. It is an area of Seoul located in the Gangnam area. BK and I weren't there to stare at all the Lexus' driving by or count the number of Louis Vuitton bags, for our mission was to find the infamous Butterfinger Pancake restaurant.
Stepping into Butterfinger Pancakes was like walking straight into a diner in America. The smell of sizzling bacon and pancake mix was an everlasting experience. It was as if I had stepped out of the streets of Seoul and into my Berkeley neighborhood restaurant joint. But of course this only lasted a little while as everyone around me was mostly Korean. There were some foreigners there and actually quite a few groups of them. So I could tell this place was certainly a favorite amongst us foreigners.You may ask: "Joy, couldn't you just make pancakes and bacon at home? Why travel all the way out to Gangnam for them?" The answer simply put is...atmosphere. You gotta have that diner feeling and the aroma in the air. Plus I think the place gives a foreigner a moral booster, if only temporary.

Above all else, though, the true reason one should come out here is for the food! The menu is quite extensive and even resembles a typical breakfast / lunch diner back in America. For there are combo specials where you can get waffles + eggs + sausage + bacon + potatoes. I think that is a classic American menu item. But if eating half the world doesn't seem appetizing to you, other parts of the menu list sandwiches and desserts.

BK ordered a Waffle sandwich, and of course I was a little curious and apprehensive just how it would turn out.

That is a real sour pickle in there folks! Not the sweet kind, too. (Most pickles you find in Korea are sweet.) On top of the waffle sandwich is a dollop of sour cream, and inside you would find melted cheese and ham. As strange as it looks, the taste was fulfilling.


I ordered a waffle combo, and boy was it worth the 11,000 Won. You can get the eggs done any way you like, and my choice was scrambled. The waffles had a great light texture and were easy to break apart and eat. Yes, there was a jar of maple syrup to accompany the dish. The potatoes were seasoned and cooked perfectly, actually rivaling some breakfast potatoes I have had back in America. The eggs were all right, not too runny, but they could have used more seasoning. All in all, it was an excellent taste of home!

Some satisfied customers!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

S-N-O-W

SNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!

Sorry.... couldn't help myself.

I am at work and the flakes are big and fat and coming down in the numbers. The kids are outside playing in it...wish I had brought the camera.

Anyways I have a coat, hat, scarf, and gloves...but I think I need more!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Harmony

Without further ado, I bring you the interior of Office-tell 628:


What you see when you enter my room:


Turn to the Right and you have a Toilet/Shower (Everything works as it should)


To the left of the entrance is the frig (for now just breakfast items are in it, don't cook dinner....you will see why)

Kitchen Unit (Two gas ranges, one "oven" thing ... the dial next to it has images of fish... I guess it is a fish cooker...since the kitchen is so close to everything else I don't feel like doing heavy cooking...pasta is okay, but stir frying...eh..no) (Otherwise, it functions well.)

Dining Table (colors make you want to crawl and hide)

TV / Dresser (Still organizing, oOo big TV)

The Bed (There is a shelving nook built in above it. Also this is a kind of hideaway bed, where one could lift it up and tuck it in where those shelves are.)

Newly Installed Heater: The owner installed this today and although small it packs a punch! Actually the Ondol system started to kick in...(Mom, that is the floor heating system here.) I figured out that the floor heaters are along the perimeter of the room. With all of these devices I am really cozy and warm.

View from Outside Looking left: It isn't much, but noise is low and I miraculously heard some birds this morning.View looking Right:

There you have it folks, my new diggs and I am enjoying getting cozy. So far I have one plant, and already it makes the room feel like a home. I really need to control myself from going over to Emart and buying all sorts of home decorating things.

Anyways, yesterday after my coteacher and 2 other teachers helped me move my stuff I took them out to dinner and paid for it all. They seemed very impressed that I did that, so I hope that is one thank-you gift out of the way.

Tomorrow I am going to dinner with all the 5th grade teachers to an Outback Steakhouse. I like all this shmoozing because my coteachers are mature and adult like. At the hagwon it felt like I was with too young of a crowd.

Allright well thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yep!

It is more spacious and yes the window is big and beautiful.

A few hitches:
  • Can't figure out if it has heat, if not I will go buy a heater fan. So far the room isn't freezing, and I have a blanket to keep me warm.
  • Window is of course wonderful, but doesn't keep the room warm. Need to install a curtain. For now it has blinds.
  • Plants are needed and maybe another lamp hehe..
A few good suprises:
  • Lots of storage space.
  • Free Big TV!
  • Shower is better
  • Owner left me two trash cans and a swiffer
  • There is lovely wallpaper.

Pictures to come!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

628

My last hours in my windowless cave are getting close, because I am moving to a window room tomorrow!

After talking about it with my coteacher she called up the office-tell owner and made an agreement. I am to move into room 628, which is straight across the hallway.

Although, I was hoping to move to a whole other building due to this one is kind of dingy, the new place will still be a lot better because of the window. I have already seen what the room looks like and it isn't any different, except the bed has above it shelves.

Anyways, I will move in after work tomorrow and I look forward to finally settling in to my new home here in Sanbon. I can get some plants and maybe a pet fish.

Goodbye, fake window!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Tease

Putting aside the political mumbo-jumbo...let's get back to the real drama at hand.

Today Bo Kwan took the train ride over to my place to visit me. When entering my home he nodded in agreement that it is no longer any good, mostly due to the air quality. I showed him how with the air conditioner on it somehow makes it more bearable.

Anyways, after lounging around for a bit we headed out. But on our way we saw the Officetell's owner standing around with his key chain of keys. He was coming out of one of the apartments that looked empty and had a window. I hinted to Bo Kwan that he was the owner, and so he struck up a conversation with the guy. Next thing I know we are being shown the room and Bo Kwan was breaking a deal with the guy.

But he wanted a swift decision and I felt I needed more time, so we gave the guy an hour and went for lunch.

Over lunch I contacted my coteacher to tell her of this new prospect. It turned out that the owner was willing to move me but not charge a fee, also the rent for the window room wasn't much higher. So I handed the phone over to BK to explain to her this situation.

However, as wonderful as it sounded I could not change rooms like this and so swiftly. It turns out that she has to go through Gunpo City Hall first to get them notified of a change. This is because the contract is through them. So she told BK that on Monday she will work on this.

I hope that she doesn't take the phone call as something annoying, because I was just checking with her first about this situation. On Monday, I will wait till she breaks the conversation about the house change. I know she takes it seriously and probably wants to get it all over with, so it is my goal to just work with her and not be so pushy.

Anyways!! Seeing the room with a window was like being teased. Oh here you are...fresh air..sunlight...doesn't that sound good?

After we came back from lunch we stopped at the realtor office near the elevator. It turns out there was also an available window room on the 7th floor (I live on the 6th). The 7th floor officetells are bigger and cleaner. We were shown the room, and again it was like I was being teased!

Yet it turns out that there are even more complications to this whole thing. It may be that in order to move out of my current place there will need to be someone else willing to take it over. I don't know for sure because I am not in contact with the realtor my coteacher used to get the contract.

One last interesting note is that BK tells me that for Koreans, having a room without a window isn't such a big deal. In fact he said some people think it is strange to pay more for a room with a window. I said that is great for Koreans, but I need my window.

I am sure this will all get sorted out and I will end up in some place with a window.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Seoulpodcast and Conservativsm

Out here in Korea you tend to lean towards an expat community. Whether this is your fellow coworkers or other expat bloggers, it seems there is a need to keep in touch with people from the same background.

The Seoulpodcast, created by Joe McPhereson, is a production that has given me the ability to feel like I am still in touch with what is going on around the world and the expat community here. Sometimes the show can go far off base, but when it is on target it offers well rounded opinion and analysis.

There is one recent show that I find particularly noteworthy titled: SeoulPodcast #28: Super Party Blowout

Because it centers itself on whether or not expat bloggers are mostly Conservative.

Background:
Most of the panelists on the show have been here in Korea over 2 years. With this kind of perspective they know about the blogging history here and follow closely what is verbally exchanged throughout the net.

I have yet gotten myself into every expat blog, especially the popular ones.

The Issue:
One word: Conservatism

The panelists on the show tried to grapple with the question of whether or not some of the expat blogs out there are conservative. Whether or not there are too many conservative blogs to begin with?

Is there a disproportionate conservative bias in Korea ex-pats and bloggers compared to other places?


Hmm? Compared to other places?

Ah ha!!

The link is between people and place.

Let me explain:

Korean society is conservative. Yes they walk around wearing designer handbags, designer cell phones that broadcast live TV, there are flat screen TV's blaring in the doctor's office and the youth wear miniskirts. But this is just a mirage. These modern aspects are merely a shell projected outward. Inward, Korean people are instinctively conservative.

Remember I am getting this all from observation.

How is Korea conservative?

Wikipedia's take on South Korea's Conservativism

South Korea

The liberal conservative Grand National Party is the most popular party in South Korea. Left-wing parties are unpopular among South Koreans, the largest left-wing party receiving only some 3% of votes. After decades of free market policies, free trade, and low taxation, South Korea is a major economic power and one of the wealthiest countries in Asia. It had one of the world's fastest growing economies since the 1960s, now highly developed[21] and the fourth largest[22] in Asia and 13th largest[23] in the world.

Ok, so they are liberal conservative, but what does that mean?

Libertarian conservatism

Freedom & Virtue: The Conservative Libertarian Debate, edited by George W. Carey, includes a number of essays which describe "the tension between liberty and morality" as "the main fault line dividing the two philosophies."[7] Conservatives hold that shared values, morals, standards, and traditions are necessary for social order while libertarians consider individual liberty as the highest value.


Some key words here:
  • Shared values, morals ... traditions
  • Social order
Observed examples of these conservative traits:

I. Respect your elders and those in higher power:
  • At lunch time at my school the Vice President accompanies the teachers for lunch. After we are about done eating, this guy uses his time to talk to the other teachers about classroom management.
  • He is the only man in the room, the rest are the woman teachers.
  • Everyone nods or looks down. Only a few make comments and when this is done the comments are light and not questioning.
  • The man talked for the whole lunch hour, no one was allowed to clean up and leave.
  • What I saw was one man talking in a stern way, while the woman below him nodded and went along. No thought of the "group" input was shown.
II. Woman cook and clean / Men work and drink:
  • It isn't necessary to be living with a Korean family to see this. News items and other television programming project this patriarchal concept.
  • TV dramas show a woman staying at home, while the father and son come home from work or school. Both demanding to be fed.
  • Woman have a tougher time getting a high paying / quality job at a big company. My boyfriend had interviews at some of the top companies in Seoul and whilst he was there he only saw 1 or 2 females. Yet things have changed from the past.
  • This aspect is probably not completely typical across the board, but the overall social thought that woman end up at home, while the husband is out working permeates deeply here.
Those are the two major conservative concepts I can think of that are most often observed here.

All of which brings me to the point of convergence and what the Seoulpodcast was touching on.

Expats in a Conservative world:

Logically it would go like this:

If you are deeply conservative and move to South Korea than living here may be your political and social paradise.

If you are deeply or somewhat moderately liberal / democratic than living here may your political or social nightmare.

Therefore the expat will likely end up in one of those two places. Either way, I actually think that the social issues and functions that are observed here are so conservative that no matter what area of the chopping block you come from, it all can be shocking.

I think with liberalism comes warmth and open-mindedness. Hell, I came from San Francisco! The capital of liberalism. The bums on the street would even say hello. If you stood in line at the pharmacy usually you could strike up a friendly conversation. Putting aside the fact that I don't speak Korean, in general I don't get the sense of warm friendliness here. I blame it on the conservative social framework.

Put a good 'ol American in to the mix of all this and you end up feeling alienated upon alienation. When I see other foreigners, I want to say hello and strike up a conversation. But I feel it would shatter the social code, of "keep quiet."

People like to talk, analyze and express themselves, and so they blog about it. If they like the conservative atmosphere than there is praise. If it is all too shocking than there is expression of disgust and ignorance.

Let's Conclude this Long Post:

My answer Joe for you Podcast is that I don't think the expat blogs are conservative. I think it is just that our surroundings are deeply conservative, and it affects the nature of our thought and the mechanics by which we came to Korea with.

But there are miracles within this society, as if one finds a small flower pop up out of the cement sidewalk. Because when you get to know some Korean people, you start to see that although they live by a conservative code, they are not zombies.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Let's Eat

As the last 10 minutes of work rolled around my coteacher announced to me that we should go eat dinner with some other teachers at the school. I knew I couldn't refuse, so I said I would love to go.

*A little side tracking here to do a Bio of my coteacher* She is older than me, but I don't know her exact age. She is about my height and kind of thin. She doesn't really wear a lot of makeup or fancy clothes, more business casual. Her personality is warm, but also she can be frank. I have noticed that she gets to the point on things right away. She has enjoyed the gifts I have brought her. Also sometimes we have conversations to get to know each other. All in all, she is much better to work with than my last coteachers. Also she is very curious about America and America's teaching system. *

I am a shy person when meeting a group of people for the first time, so as we walked out of the school I smiled to everyone but kept a bit quiet.

Our group consisted of all females, and we were all teachers. We got into my coteachers car and everyone was figuring out where to go. They asked me, but I said I don't know.

We didn't go very far, just into Sanbon downtown and parked in a parking garage. There is a building across from the Emart that houses an Outback Steakhouse among other restaurants. We went to Ashley's, a kind of buffet American style restaurant. You order the Salad Bar or the menu has steaks and other meaty items.

We all got the salad bar.

The choices were pretty good and I picked up a selection of potato wedges, mashed sweet potatoes, dim sum, and a noodle salad.

As we ate, the gals chatted to one another in Korean.

After we stuffed ourselves with 2 plate servings, things started to warm up a bit and I was asked questions in English.

My coworkers questions towards me included:
  • What was the most culture shocking thing you saw when you first came here? Answer was, the squid and other sea creatures that restaurants store in tank in front of their shop. Also mentioned everything is generally a culture shock.
  • Do you like our school's children? Yes, they are funny and cute.
  • Do you like Korea? Yes I like Korea. It is a very interesting culture. But I think socially it needs a lot of work. And I elaborated on some social issues. Thanks Roboseyo for gearing my head with all these issues. hehe
And then we sat around and talked a bit about Korea and America. I popped out my iPod and showed them some family photos and a pic of my boyfriend.

It was a good bonding experience and I felt everyone around me was warm and friendly. They let me in an interesting secret, too.

This being that the Vice President is a person they don't really like. Also they warned that at parties, he tends to drink a lot and "touch" woman. I asked "On the shoulder?" Everyone looked at each other and grinned. Apparently the touching goes beyond the shoulders. Hopefully the old guy will keep his paws off the Mi-guk (foreigner)....hopefully.

Ah well it was good and I made sure to be friendly and also a little outgoing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bye Bye

Let's get in the mood~


BYE BYE my little home of plastic furniture, fake window and cigarette aromas.
I think the secret to my survival so far in this place has been the use of a good lamp. Perhaps it could even be said that the secret to life is having a great and reliable lamp. Back in America I had a wonderful little lamp that I bought with my father at Kmart when I was in high school.

This lamp does more than it looks like it could do! For there is a button attached to the cord where you can adjust the light. So when I wake up at 7am and don't know for sure if it is morning, I just slowly turn the light on, allowing me to think it is dawn.
Sigh it is great to know that I will be on the hunt for something else. Whether it is going to be of the same quality is unknown, but at least it will have a window!!

Now that I have this issue working out for the best, I only wish other aspects of life were functioning. My poor boyfriend is struggling with getting hired. This constant rejection has him on a downward spiral, not to mention he has been dealing with the flu. Hopefully life will be a bit brighter for him some day soon.

Hope

Bingo!

Principal said yes!! I could tell he was sympathetic and really knew that it wasn't going to last long.

So now the plan of action is that my coteacher and I will start to look for a new place next week.

Still there is a fuzzy area of whether I am going to receive the free rent or if it is changing to that I get the housing allowance. Sigh

For now at least I know things are moving towards a window. And I don't care if all I see is the facade of another building!

Update***

  • I pay the realitor fee which is not cheap, but not millions of Won.
  • If rent is higher than 400,000 Won (about 350 US dollar) I pay the difference.
Whatever let's just get a window!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Judgment Day

Okay melodrama aside, this housing change is starting to move along.

My recruiter pushed that I become more talkative with my coteacher and get the ball rolling with her. So I did, today.

My coteacher said to me how difficult it is for everyone involved, but that she feels it should be done. However, she said that she doesn't have the power to decide so we have to go to the principals tomorrow!

Eeeek! This has me in a nervous tizzy, but also elated because it is a step forward. In the meeting I feel like I will need to be strong but also not too bold.

In the meantime, I am using my planning time here at work to figure out a fun Thanksgiving lesson for the advanced class. But I don't want it to be the usual storyline and turkey thing. I think it would be better to tell them what Americans ACTUALLY do on the holiday.

Hmm, but now all I can think about is tomorrow's meeting.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Music as Life

For some having a soundtrack through life is essential. For instance, my generation saw the end of the 80's and grew up in the mix that was the 90's. Rap, Rock, Grunge, Pop, and boy-bands. Depending on where you came from the soundtrack for your life reflected a certain taste.

Growing up in my Mom's house I was accustomed to hearing a jazz show at 6pm on Sunday nights. Usually it started with a jazzy train locomotive sound. I am sure if I were to hear that song at some point in my life, now, I would instantly get a nostalgic feeling for my Mom's pinto bean tacos. (Delicious!!)

To put us in the jazzy mood:


But as we grow and move around in this world, so does the music we listen to. Moving to California I went away from my grunge tendencies and leaned towards folk and indie music.

I am certain that everyone can recall a time in their life where a particular band or song, was the center of their life.

That is why I am going to plug in this book that was recently showcased on the NPR podcast All Songs Considered.

The book is titled: 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die: A Listener's Life List

And I haven't really read the book, but I can tell it possesses a lot of information. Music has been around for a long time, whether it has been a folk song in a village or a piano concert in a hall somewhere.

As an expat I painfully feel like I am disconnected from the music scene I left behind in San Francisco. Although I didn't really participate much in going to gigs, I did listen and follow up on it through radio or from my brother. In general, living out here I mostly hear pop songs beating their way out of the shops. And it is usually the same songs over and over. I think I may buy a radio so to have more of a Korean selection.

Also, I think it would be great to get into the indie bands out here... I am sure it is there... I just haven't found it yet. In the meantime, I am doing a lot of downloading of music from this book's selection.

Whisperings

More insight from my recruiter:

I understand what you feel when you are at home.

I explained fully to your co-teacher that without a window, a person gets sick and get a mental problem easily because of no ventilation and sunshine.

I believe that she talked about that with the administration office to report the status to Gunpo City hall so they can change your place to another apt soon.

I tried to call her but couldnt reach her. Please you also ask her about the status. You can of course ask her because I already noticed about that and it would be so much easier to know what the situation is like..

I will try to phone her again but please ask her to get information about moving housing status.. OK?

When I hear some thing from her, I will let you know..

I am going to give my coteacher a few days into this week before I feel like questioning the status. Last Friday was a full day for her so I know she didn't have time. But it is great to hear that these people are thinking sort of the same way as me.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Falling Leaves

Today was a day spent putting away my things and unpacking, so that my room looked more like a home. After I had finished with my squaring away of things, I felt it was necessary to get out of my room. Because having no window during the day makes things a little confusing. Indeed, I would look out my door to see the sunshine coming through the hallway window.

I didn't really know what I was going to do but I felt it was a good idea to do a little exploring.

This is a shot of the building in which I reside. Still nothing too pretty to look at, but it beats being homeless.
My area is jam packed with eateries, sock shops, PC bangs, other bangs and stores. There is this waffle joint, that draws a large crowd. There is usually a line backed up waiting to get their waffles. I have considered joining them but haven't gotten around to it. Anyways, it is great to see how one waffle shop is more popular than the other. Certainly the smell coming from the place was enticing enough!
So I sat down for a little bit and did some people watching. But mostly I wondered where I was going to go. BK was home sick today, got the flu, and so I was on my own. I knew there was a park nearby as indicated in the green space on my map. Next thing I know I was walking away from the crowded shops and further into the apartment areas.

But on the way I caught site of one of the restaurants I had dinner at a few nights ago. It is a tofu place, and I thought the food was quite delicious. You get a tofu soup, rice and the usual side dishes. It was actually a lot of food! Eating for one here is not a usual occurrence.
Just a few blocks around the corner and I spotted something I thought I would never see again. Strawberries!!!!!!
I was going to buy them but I didn't know if you buy the whole case or just half the case. They were going for 10,000 Won or about 12 US dollars (?). I am hoping the place is open tomorrow because now I want to buy them and share the rest with my co teachers at the school.

Across from the strawberries was a park, that featured a race track and other sporty spaces. For your viewing pleasure I comprised this video:


In case you need to see it up close:
As I sat down on the stairs to reflect on my surroundings, I saw next to me a little buddy.It has been a long time since I have seen such colorful fall colors. I believe the last time was when I was in Boston, which was when I must have been 14 years old. Yet, I know that within weeks it means the trees will become nothing but sticks. Winter is a season, I believe, meant for contemplation and reservation.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Schedule

One of the great things lately about my job change has been the schedule. I am to teach up to 24 hrs each week. I am at school from 8:30 to 4:30, and this kind of schedule makes me feel like a normal working class citizen. So far I haven't adjusted enough to coming home after work and doing something fun or creative. This is because I have been recovering from my sinus infection, which is getting better...slowly.

Anyways, as adults we work a lot of our waking life. You spend a good chunk of your time at your workplace and with those people you work with. In my case it is one coteacher and lots of children. This is a different contrast from working at the hagwon, because I worked with 5 Korean coteachers, who all had their own personalities. As we all know, it didn't go all too well.

And so the really most enjoyable aspect is the schedule.

Let's take a look:
  • Mon: 9am - 12pm = 4 classes, free till 3pm with one class.
  • Tues: 9am-12pm = 4 classes, free till 4:30 pm when I go home.
  • Wed: 9am- 11:30 = 3 classes, free till 3 pm with one class.
  • Thurs: 9am - 12pm = 4 classes, free till 4:30pm when I go home.
  • Fri: 9am - 12pm = 4 classes, 1pm - 4:30pm = 3 classes (the busiest day)
It is like a donut, with the busiest days being Mon and Fri. But it is a strong difference compared to the 7 classes I taught each day at the hagwon, not to mention I won't have an intensive period.

Since my surroundings and schedule are all pretty much wonderful, not having a window is something I can live with, till they work out getting me a new home.

Winter vacation is coming for the school which will last through Dec.26 to Jan. 26...something like that. I have to tell them when I want my 2 weeks vacation and when I want to teach 1 week of winter camp. For that remaining week I don't know if I still work or what.

This weekend looks a little busy, for I am going to go into Gangnam to do my um "English giving". ;)

And I still need to kind of unpack so my little space isn't so crowded.

Well back to work!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Verdict

From my recruiter:

I spoke with your co-teacher, finally.. I called her around 1:30pm and talked about your housing situation..
She is going to discuss about the matter with administration office first.. and speak with Gunpo City hall.
Because as long as housing is changed, all paper works must be confirmed from government first.. Its not easy thing moving.. Anyway, she is discussing about moving housing and get you back as soon as possible when it can be..
Please be patient..
Since I work with this woman everyday I don't want to get on her nerves about it. But as Mom says, I can push my recruiter to make sure this gets moved along. For now , I will accept that there is recognition that change is needed, and some actions are to be taken.

Anyways, I can forsee though that this is going to take a while...let us just hope not too long.

In the meantime, I gotta get over my resperatory infection.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Proud

I am proud today of America and that so many people came to the voting booth and used their power.

I hope Obama does what he says and so much more. In general the feeling he gives us is a great way to turn a new leaf for America!!

Woooo!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Window found in Office

So I am writing you from my office at my public school, which has a nice big window. It looks out onto the play yard. It kind of makes the room cold, but it is a window and I am greatful for it.

Today there were only 4 classes so the rest of the day I am going to absorb the material and write a few lesson plans for the Advanced class. But my energy is dwindling because my sickness is kind of not going away. I think it is making its way to my lungs. After work I am going to go to the hospital and try to get medical attention.

I asked my coteacher about the windowless home and the response I got was kind of not promising. She said that there were 3 choices and out of the 3 this was the best one. I told her I want to change it but she said they have no money now. I think she didn't understand that I would be willing to move in 1 or 2 months and give them time. Also I would pay for any fees. So my recruiter will get on to it today or tomorrow. Whether I will get a house change is unknown right now. The only real issue I have with no window, is that in the morning it is hard to wake up to a dark room.

But since it is winter, I feel like it is my winter cave.

Really though if worse comes to worse, I don't want the windowless-ness to bring me down all the time. I know it isn't ideal place to live, but there are other aspects of life I want to think about.

Anyways, teaching at a public school has a HUGE amount of differences compared with a hagwon. Here they are briefly:
  • You teach the same material over and over.
  • The book is super easy and doesn't require huge amounts of planning.
  • Children are more behaved (elementary school)
  • I get a free Korean lunch. Not the best but it is free.
  • My own office.
  • Not stuck in a small office with a lot of teachers being all chatty.
  • Students bow and say hello to you when you walk through the hallway.
Yep, that is what I am gathering so far. Of course I want to wright a more consice blog about this experience and the differences but I need to work.

:)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Windowless

Part I: Shock
I like to listen to a podcast called Zencast. If you have ever done any study on Buddhism, especially the Zen kind than you come across koans. These are like little poems that offer mind bending powers.
For example:
What is the sound of one hand clapping?
When a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?

I have a new one for the pantheon of koans:
What can you see through a windowless window?

This is the question I face in a my new home, because I have no window!!

Where a window should be is this:
As Roboseyo would put it, when he looked at it, that it is a thing that is mocking you. It looks like a window but does not function as one. And the light inside adds to the illusion.

When you open the "shade" you get this:

A fluorescent bulb glowing in all its glory.

When I realized that this window wasn't real and that my new home had no window at all, my heart completely sank. Claustrophobia sunk in as well.

Roboseyo and Gomushin Girl were there trying to cheer me up and keep me on the bright side. But my mind was in shock.

That was yesterday. Since then I have taken action and emailed my recruiter demanding the school work on finding me a new home with a window.

I noticed that across the hallway are other rooms that are on the window side. So all they really need to do is move me into an open room on the other side of the hallway. How this develops I will let you know.

Keep in mind that my school only had a week to find their new teacher a new home. They probably did it in a hurry and without getting all the details. So I do appreciate that they got me a home, but a window inside the home would have completed the job.

But having a room with a fake window, does open one up to either going insane, or experiencing a philisophical breakthrough. (perhaps both)

Part II: Exploration

We all felt it was time to get away from the depressing sight of a windowless room with a mocking window.

So it was time to head out and explore the area and meet up with ZenKimchi in Beomgyeo.

First we walked a little bit around Sanbon and the streets near my home.Do you see that building in the far background? The one with the circle shape? That is the subway station, which doubles as a shopping center for outlet clothing. Next to this building is the building I live in. Sorry didn't get a picture but will for you in time.

There was some kind of cultural festival going on with a stage and people gathered around it. This was very welcoming to see, because it felt like a real community thing.

Anyways, it was time to move on and meet up with ZenKimchi.

Part III: Rehabilitation

We got on the subway and made our way to Beomgye.
Flea Market:


Central Park:
This park was pretty central, for it was situated between many buildings. In it there was a water fountain, dung-beetle sculpture and open space.
After wandering around the area we settled upon going to a cafe. BK was coming to meet us so we thought to chill in a cafe. But on the way I was told that we were going to do a "Dr. Fish". First thought of mine was some kind of food, then as things transpired more I realized it had something to do with health and beauty.

Dr. Fish is a foot cleansing process where you put your feet into a tank of fish, which then proceed to nibble at your feet. They take little sucking like actions on your feet in all the nooks and crannies.
Gomushin Girl there in red going through laughing fits. Me next to her. Opposite me is ZenKimchi, with Roboseyo next to him.

Gomushin Girl going through her experience:


I thought of the experience in a way that these little fish are my workers and their task is to nibble my feet. I have to say they were good little workers.

I really found it pleasing, except for when a lot of them would gather in one spot and have a party. But to ease this I just shook my foot and they regrouped elsewhere.

After Dr. Fish we gathered ourselves and made our way to Lamb Galbi place, which was super delicious!!! Sorry again no pics, at this point my mind was getting tired.

Part IV: Hope

Today (Sunday) was spent shopping and resting. BK and I were tired. Plus, I am still getting over my flu from last week. It is now in the form of congestion and occasional coughing. I am beginning to think I may have a sinus infection, but haven't had any fevers. Anyways, I am managing through the day with Sudafed from America and some Korean medicine BK helped me buy.

But I think the point of today was to get myself mentally prepared for starting my new job tomorrow. BK gave me some pointers on how to make good relationships with my Korean colleagues. This is important because I will be the only foreigner there.

His pointers were:
  • Don't be cold. When saying yes or no, do so without just saying frankly "YES" or "NO".
  • Don't deny food. If I am being offered to try something, don't deny it. Instead try just a little and politely say you don't like it.
  • Be Warm and kind. He made the point that I have this as part of my personality and I should try to use it as my dominant way of expressing myself.
Maybe it is the congestion or tiredness but I don't feel nervous about tomorrow. I am hopeful that I can use this fresh start to live here in Korea in peace.

So that brings me to show you my surroundings. On my walk to the school this is what I see:


The school is hidden behind the trees, we didn't walk up to it.

I will post more pictures of the rest of my new house when I get the next chance. Know, that besides not having a window, I feel cozy here. But I do feel far from BK...sigh. My move here was welcoming mostly because my blogging pals and BK helped me settle in.

Thank you guys!!!!!
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