Monday, March 30, 2009

Not On The List

So I made my way to Bundang and got on the shuttle bus to the Orientation Center. On the way meeting some new people and mingling.

Got in a long line for registration. They looked and looked over the list and my name was not on it.

"Please stand over here while we figure this out."

But things were busy for them so they told me to wait at the office. No one was there and I wondered why my name was not on the list.

But as I thought I realized what may be the problem.

Last week I pleaded with my coteacher that I don't have time to go to the Orientation. That I am swamped with planning the advanced class and the addition of the teacher's English class.

So she called the coordinator's office to plead for me to not go. But Friday passed and we never got an answer from them. So we assumed that I should go anyways, and that is what I did.

I finally found the coordinator and she checked again but of course my name wasn't there. I told her about what had happened last week with the no phone-call business and we went to another office to speak with another coordinator.

This other gal, as soon as she heard my name, told me she was the one who crossed me off the list last week. So I told her we never got a response and I assumed to come to the Orientation.

There wasn't room for me at the Orientation since they were packed with the teacher's who didn't screw it up. Therefore, I was told to go home.

Getting home was a little tricky as I had to make my way down the mountain and to a rural area with a few city like buildings. But a few nice men were at the bottom of the hill and helped me flag down a taxi.

Ah but did I get to go home and relax?! Nope Principal called in and said I should head to work. So here I am frazzled and tired from all the bus riding. But there are only 2 hrs left of work. I guess though I should do some of that planning I was so worried about.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Seoul Folk Flea Market

Let's go down memory lane. Do you remember those days when your Mom or Dad took you to a flea market?

The booths lined up next to each other selling different items, some of which worth something others just filled with plastic toys from China.

I have such fond memories of when I grew up in Florida. There was a flea market type mall that I was taken to often. I remember the moldy and dank smells that filled the low-lit space of the flea market. I was charmed by the pewter figurines and crystal necklaces.

In general I have always been fascinated by the atmosphere of flea markets. They are spaces where junk and treasures come together. Inside a flea market you have to put your skeptical spectacles on because you never know if you are getting the right bargain.

And so I was excited to learn that there is a Flea Market in Seoul. Actually walking down a street in Seoul where there are cart sellers is close enough to a Flea Market anyways, but this flea market has something more special, foreign sellers.

The event, which provides a chance for local and overseas people to mingle together in a friendly and cooperative atmosphere, is scheduled for Saturday, March 28 from 12 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Sinseol-dong, Seoul.
It's called the Seoul Folk Flea Market and I was very pleased to have visited there. So how about you come with me as I show this unique space in Seoul and it's hidden treasures.

Getting There:
The way I got there was by taking the subway. By taking Line #2 the Green line I got off at Sinseol-dong station. After looking at the map to locate the flea market I made my way to Exit 9.

Coming out of Exit 9 onto street level you could see on the ground taped a handy sign pointing in the direction of the flea market.
But if you keep your nose pointed towards the sky then you can just follow the international flags strung about.

And you are there! This is the entrance to the indoors part of the flea market. Inside are stalls with Ahjumma's and Ahjusshi's selling their goods such as shoes, table wares, trot music and the list could go on.

But to get to the "Foreign" section you have to walk through the indoor part and come out the other side.

Flea Market for Foreigners Section: Running into a familiar face
I was tipped off about this event by reading it off of Lunalil's blog, where she mentioned that she will be there selling off her excess stuff (She is going back to America soon). So I thought it might be great if I found her, if not well at least I tried.

But it wasn't too hard to see her, she had the first booth in the line up of sellers.

Actually she spotted me and said "I know you! You're Foreigner!" Haha notoriety! And I said to her that she must be Funk Seoul Sister, and we hit it off from there.

I had a great time running into her and bought a few things from her Umbrella Stand. I got there about 1.5 hours after it started and she had sold most of the good stuff.

She invited me to sit down at her stand and we had a good time chatting about the place and the experience.

It was fun to watch people come up to her booth and check out her stuff. She is better versed in Korean and would greet the onlookers in Korean, surprising them at times.

There were kids there too, and we tried to frazzle their English skills while they checked out the stuff.

After resting for a while I got back up and checked out the other foreigner booths nearby. It seemed there were some Europeans selling off sweaters and short skirts, but I think most of their good stuff was sold already.

The amazing thing was that there was a reasonable crowd of people looking for a bargain.

At the end of the booths there were some food stands. Here I believe nationals from Turkey were serving couscous and chicken, I tried some and it was rather good.
I went back to my friend Lunalil's booth and rested some more and took in the vibe of the place.

Flea Market Characters:
What flea market wouldn't be complete without a few sketchy and strange characters? As time passed there was one man who came by often. He was an Ahjusshi (older man in his 50's) and he liked to inspect the stuff on her table. After inspection he would point out that most of her stuff was made in China and that this was no good. It was funny watching him give a close inspection, carefully looking for the "Made in China" label.

Another character was this one guy who walked around with a megaphone shouting something over and over. He was dressed with a vest that had the venues name on it, and uncannily was wearing those goofy plastic glasses with the little mustache underneath it.

He certainly was a spectacle.

I think these guys made the experience authentic and memorable.

Antiques for Sale:
I got up again, this time curious what was for sell nearby. There was an antique booth near the entrance to the flea market hall that had many items. I found a really nice old Korean style mirror and asked how much it was, only to find out it was 50,000 Won! Hmm not in my budget.

So I had to take home some free pictures...

There is something phallic in this picture:


After looking at the antiques I went inside and had a look around. It seemed there was mostly stuff I wasn't really interested in, like old man shoes or glasses. There was an upstairs section and if you followed the ramp you could find some eateries. Also the upstairs area had childrens toys.

Treasure:

But the real treat was found when I went to use the bathroom and on the way saw something sparkling on one of the booths.

It was a box full of crystal balls. On the way back from the bathroom I stopped at the booth and asked how much in Korean. From what I gathered it sounded like one was only 1,500 Won, which I found to be amazingly cheap. So I plucked out two and started to hand the woman 3,000 Won. But then her and her friend mumbled something and soon one of the women was pulling out more crystal balls into my pile. Then she said "Okay?" and I nodded and she took my money. She then wrapped them up in newspaper and put them in a bag. I can't believe I got 7 of these for just 3,000 Won (one of which went to Lunalil). In America these guys can fetch for around $15 each! haha~

I am going to hang a few from my window at home, and maybe some at the office.
A Stop in Hongdae:

After the market was over we were hungry and decided to head over to
Hongdae, considering that I thought I had never been there. Although I am still unsure whether I have or not.

Anyways, we didn't do much walking around due to that it was kind of windy and we were tired. But we did catch a bite to eat at Dos Tacos. On the way I spotted what looks like an Apple Store getting ready to open some time soon.


Dinner was amazing!!!!
It was so great to run into Lunalil and spend my Saturday hanging out with her. Otherwise I was going to be at home thinking too much about life and stuff. hehe

I am considering gathering some things and putting up my own booth there next month or sometime in the summer. Looks like it would be a lot of fun. By the way if you don't speak Korean there are volunteers there who will help you translate. ;)

**BTW I have to attend GEPIK Orientation next week for 4 days, so blogging will probably be slim. But I hope to report back on this event.**

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Sneak Peek of Spring

Well looks like it will probably be time all us bloggers put up something about the changing of winter into spring.

I kind of wanted to wait until there was more sunlight out to capture the scenery, but what the heck...on with it!
Flower shop displaying more than just greenery.

Spring buds~
The grass is greener on the ....
You know life seems to always be about changes. Winter turns into spring and then into fall and so on. In 2 months it will be my one year anniversary here in Korea, and I can't believe time has flown by so fast.

I wish, like anyone with a full time job, that time could just slow down for a while so that I could take in all that is happening.

Yet in the moments I am able to cherish what I have I remind myself that I am still here and there that there is still so much I want to see and do.

Well, I will keep looking for more spring moments as time passes on.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bowl Cut

An interestingly musing story here from the SF Chronicle. They are running a contest on the best picture of a bowl cut. You know the kind of hairdo that looks like your mother put a bowl on your head and cut away.
(One of the submitters picture:)

I don't know if my Mom did the same thing, but I do recall her cutting our fingernails as a child. Usually after we went to the beach.

Interestingly, I have a feeling that mothers out here in Korea give their kids haircuts. As probably all peoples of the world could be found doing. Whether or not it is a bowl type cut, sometimes you can tell the kid's hairdos were done by a non-professional. But I think parents take their kids to the public baths here, where a lady cuts the kids hair.

Certainly funny when you come across the boy or girl who has a perm or died hair do, unknown whether they requested this look themselves.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tax Time Follow Up

Quick follow up here to my tax time post. I am still figuring it all out but thankfully was sent on the right track.

I am going to start with a look at "IRS Publication 54". Which is actually a guide to paying your taxes when getting foreign income.

So for the rest of you out there I would say take a look and get it started, unless you already have.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hagwon Hauntings

As most of you know I use to work at a hagwon when I first arrived here in Korea. After 5 months I quit and switched to a public school.

Lately, I have been finding that I still can't escape the hagwon system. Certain aspects of my work at a hagwon has crept into my current life.

I teach an advanced class three times a week. This is an after school program for selected students. Last semester I didn't hear many complaints from the Mom's. Either because there weren't any or my old coteacher didn't bother telling me.

Since last week I have already received two parent complaints. It isn't anything as severe as it was in the hagwon. Meaning I won't get fired over it. But one student was pulled from the class from her Mom.

What's the big deal?
The class is a mix of 6th grade down to 4th grade, so that means the English levels differ. I have to talk slower for the lower grades but provide higher level material for the advanced kids.

So some kid's parents might think the class is too easy, while others will think it is too hard.

Competition with hagwons:
The main grief I am experiencing I feel is because there is the option to send their kids to a hagwon. Of course it would be a lot more expensive, but certainly more thorough.

At hagwons kids are tested on many levels, given progress reports, butt-loads of homework and a lovely ride in a hagwon van.

At the Advanced Class in an public school the activities and work is determined by the Foreign teacher, myself.

So the parents see all the work other kids are doing at hagwons and think "Why can't my kid be doing that at the advanced class?" And so they examine my class and call up to make some comments.

At first I was a little take aback by the comments, because I thought I had left that kind of thing when I quit the hagwon. But I can see now that the parents are just concerned for their child's education.

This semester I already have planned more homework, activities and tests that are more extensive than last semester. Already the mention of these things have not pleased the students, who just want to play during their time in my class. But I hope it gives the parents something to agree with, and at the same time help my students learn English.

But I am going to follow my own style and methods, not what a Mom thinks should be done because she saw it at a hagwon.

World Baseball

I am a baseball fan. Grew up with it in South Florida, when my Mom would take us to the Marlins games. Also my brother played baseball all the way up through high school.

So I have been having a good time keeping up with the World Baseball games going on.

The best part is watching Japan vs. Korea because they are rivals on so many levels. Plus it is even more fun to watch BK get all hot and bothered over what happens when they play together.

But some think it's kind of boring due to that Korea has been playing against Japan too much lately.

Still it will be fun to watch. Kicks off Tuesday (Monday time in USA).

Japan is now headed to the World Baseball Classic championship game to defend its title against Korea in the fifth meeting between the two countries in this tournament. The teams split two games in Pool A at the Tokyo Dome and split two games at PETCO Park in the second round.

Overall, Korea holds a 4-3 advantage in two Classics, although Japan defeated Korea in a single-elimination semifinal game three years ago on its way to the inaugural championship. Korea defeated Venezuela, 10-2, in the other semifinal game on Saturday.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Local Eats

When it comes to dinner time, after work, I usually eat out. It's not like I don't like to cook or don't know how to cook. In college I cooked dinner for myself every night and nearly every meal, which saved me a lot of money.

But I have a tiny kitchen with little room to prep food. However, I have been making myself a few meals now and then. Such as pasta, mandoo (dumplings) and ramen (I know bad).

So since I am mostly not cooking my dinner I eat out in my neighborhood. I live in a well sized area that there are several options for dining. But I do end up going to the same places and if you live anywhere and do that it can get a little stale. However, you have to take what you got and I don't really mind the options here. Koreans seem to cater to a wide array of taste buds. For instance, there is even an Indian place in my area, which is really good.

Well, I have been meaning to write up the places I eat at regularly but haven't gotten around to it. BK even makes a little joke at me, asking me which one is in rotation. I do see the same people often, and when you eat by yourself you tend to get the curious eye.

I can't bring myself to take pictures of the food or the restaurant by myself because it would just cause more anxiety and embarrassment. But I ate at one of the places with BK on Sunday so I took it as an opportunity to take some pictures.

The name of the place Hoa Binh and it is a Vietnamese noodle restaurant. The restaurant in the picture is the one with the green lettered sign next to the orange lettered sign 2F (2nd floor).
I ordered a stir fried noodle dish, on the mild side. I have tried their "hot" version it is really hot! I love how their dishes come with a little side of pineapple.
BK ordered a Pho dish (noodle soup) with beef. Here he is mixing it up.
I try my best to still eat healthily while eating out, but you know it can be hard when you don't want to eat the same stuff all the time. Oh well, I am grateful anyways for my choices! Hopefully I can figure out more meals to cook for myself and save some money.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tax Time

One Question!!??

How do you file your taxes abroad?

I am doing my research online and I am getting mixed messages. I guess I could do it by hand but that is so old fashioned!

What have you done before?

Keep in mind I am a US citizen.

Thanks :)

Can I have A Cheezburger?

Yesterday I was tired from all the fun time I had spent with my peers the following night, and so didn't feel like trekking it to Seoul. BK was busy with family matters and so I had the day to myself. I spent the first half doing laundry and cleaning my square feet. I also cleaned out my large suitcase. I took out the warmer weather clothing and packed in some sweaters and other clothing I felt I didn't need anymore for this season.

But now I have two full bags of clothes I want to donate, but don't know where to donate. If anyone knows of a service where I could drop off some clothes, let me know. I am going to ask my coteacher if there is a service in this area.

After all that cleaning and sorting out I was hungry, and a good meaty cheeseburger was calling my name. So I thought of going to Kraze Burger. Checking out the many store locations I spotted one in Sadang, which is just about a 20 minute train ride from my area. I called up Kristen to see if she wanted to join me and she did.
Let me first give you a pronunciation lesson on how to properly pronounce the word "Kraze" in Kraze Burger.

First of all it isn't pronounced CRAZY Burger. So how do you say it?

Start with the sound that is made when you say: crawl but take out the 'l' sound. You have a craw kind of sound.

Next say the word "say" but with more of a "Zay" to it.

Put craw and zay together you have Craw-Zay burger. That's how the Koreans say it! Now you can too!


Food! Moving on, let's see what all the hoopla is about. Why it would be a lovely cheeseburger and fries. These goodies come at a shiny price, but they are very delicious. There are many other items on the menu but we went for the classic cheeseburger and fries.

Before:

After:
Kristen saying hello...

After enjoying our meal we left the place and wandered around the area. This place had a few cafes and donut shops. One of the cafes had these lovely cakes perched out front in a window display. We got excited over the strawberry tarts and considered going inside. But when we came to the front door there were two employees standing there and it felt really too posh for us. We walked away.
We found the rest of the area not that exciting and so decided to get some Krispy Kreme donuts and head home. You can tell spring is starting to affect businesses by that more patrons are enjoying outdoor seating.
On the way to the subway entrance we caught sight of one of those prize machines. But this time something odd was inside, a boot! We wondered how you win the boot and who would really want to win it. But it was funny to see.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing at Kristen's house with her two cats and one dog. I enjoyed petting the felines and watching X-Men on TV. It was a good restful Saturday.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Peers

Yesterday I had a meeting with the other teachers from my city's district. The purpose was to discuss and sign up for the English Cafe and Summer Camp.

In my contract it stipulates that I must do a session of English Cafe for the city. Basically this is where I will go to a youth center location in the city and teach an evening program of English to Elementary youngins. I only have to go once a week for 6 weeks. Actually I don't really know how long I have to do this, which brings me to the highlight of this meeting.

The meeting served a great purpose to see who my peers are in my region. I got to see the other public Elementary school teachers. But when it came down to all of us working together things fell apart, in my opinion.

English Cafe Selection Process:

First we were to be assigned which place and date we would work at for English Cafe. There were two locations, one close to my home and another a bus ride away. But I didn't find this out till after the fact. When they started discussing the English Cafe I was confused how it all worked but didn't a get a chance to chime in. This is because the more experienced teachers starting barking what days they want and location.

The selection process was by drawing a number out of a small black-box, which is ridiculous if you ask me. But no one asked me. I ended up with a number for the English Cafe that is a bus ride away and I was pissed. They gave us the opportunity to switch with each other, but by the time I figured out what my number meant everyone had finalized their switches and was stubborn to change with me. Needless to say I felt, as a new teacher, duped.

Summer Camp Selection Process:
But then came the Summer Camp week selection. In the summer the kids will have 38 days off for vacation. As a teacher I have to teach 1 week at school and 1 week up in the mountains just like I did for winter camp. I understood what all this was about and didn't have any questions.

So once again the little black box came floating around. Luckily it started at my end of the table. To my delighted surprise I received the first week of camp duty. This was a big relief. For I am trying to plan to visit America in the summer for two weeks. All I need now is to secure the 2nd week of summer vacation as the school's version of camp, and I will be set!

Oh but then it came time to meet the other people who will be at the camp with you. So the first week group got together and immediately everyone starting writing down what activity they will teach. Before I was able to open my mouth most of the spots were being taken. First I wanted Arts & Crafts, taken! Next, Movies...taken! Next....Cooking...taken! The option left was Drama and I am not a drama person. So after some negotiation I ended up with Geography, which I was pleased with.

But what was unpleasant was how disrespectful everyone one was. Instead of as a group deciding what we want to do, everyone individually jumped in and claimed a spot. Although, the members in my group appear to be nice people I feel that due to this one hiccup on the first day of meeting that I will not look forward to working with them. But I have 3.5 months to get over it so we will see.

My Peers:
But let me get back to the subject of meeting my peers. Looking around the room I saw a wide selection of teachers. Mostly men but there was a good sized group of women as well. Also there was some diversity in the crowd, not only in racial background but also experience.

After the meeting everyone migrated out the door and I walked up to a group of women. They said hello and asked if I was going to the bar. I said no and that I didn't know we were going there. So they invited me. We introduced ourselves on the walk over. I felt kind of nervous because I knew I would not want to drink but others will.

The bar we went to was on a rooftop and so had a patio. We sat outside and enjoyed the warm air and cool breeze. I ordered a kiwi juice drink while others ordered beer. I didn't get teased, thankfully and so felt at ease.

More teachers showed up and soon everyone was chatting, laughing and having a good time. I got to know some new people and hopefully made some new pals. Facebook will be the magic wand for now...haha

But what I enjoyed most was getting a glimpse of other teacher's experiences here in Korea. It seemed everyone enjoyed their jobs and being in Korea.

However, I got the distinct sense that my overall experience here has been contrastingly different from most teachers. For one I never spent any nights going crazy and drinking it up in Itaewon. It seemed everyone had a story of some great drinking adventure they went on. I didn't feel jealous, but kind of like an outcast. Wondering if I am the only one.

Ah well it was stilll good to get to know my peers and speak English in full on sentences.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thirst

Park Chan Wook the director of Old Boy has a new movie coming out called Thirst.

Have you seen Old Boy? Well I would hope so and also wish you saw his other films.

But maybe here is your chance to catch up.

His new movie is a vampire themed movie, so that means blood and violence of course. But I think it will be a thrill to watch considering his unique cinematographic style.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Light

It's a sign of hope when you notice a full beam of direct sunlight shining into your office-hell.
That is what I noticed while I was boiling my pot of water for spaghetti tonight. Despite the yellow dust lately, having the prospect of full on sunshine in my tiny home is promising. I realize now that I spent the whole winter without direct sunlight. But thanks to the miracle of science the Earth has rotated in my favor. (Or however it works).

If you notice I have a real-like curtain over my window now. That was installed this last weekend, with the good help of BK. It is a kind of sheer curtain so that when it is down there is a nice glowing light about the room.

Time moves so fast and I just want to enjoy the way light glows about my room.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

White Irish Day

What do you get when you have "White Day" (Love day in Korea where boys give to girls) and an Irish Festival? White Irish Day!!!

First let's look at the White Day part of this adventure.

Before I went into Seoul to see BK I walked around my town and took snapshots of the White Day sales going on outside the Marts. Out front they were selling gift sets of chocolate and other candies.



After catching a glimpse of the White Day sales I went to Seoul. My destination was Hyewha station which is in the northern part of Seoul. Another hip area of Seoul where there were many couples out on the streets.
We were headed towards the St. Patrick's Day Festivities at Marronnier Park, Daehangno nearby exit 2. On the way, little did I know, that this was the location of the poop sculptures I have seen notoriously posted on other people's blogs. Hey did you know this part of town is known for its theatres??
Oops~ Sunshine was in my eyes.

St. Patrick's Day Festivities: Outsider / Insider
We arrived at the park and could tell we were there due to seeing people walking around with green balloons. Stepping further into the park you couldn't help but feel like you were stepping out of Seoul.

There were so many Westerners that it felt like I wasn't in Korea anymore. This felt very strange and was very difficult to shake off. BK too was a bit taken back by being inside this ring of westerners.

Also, I immediately felt shorter! There were so many tall people around.
People were having a jolly good time in the park. But how could they not with the beer floating around, and English being exchanged freely.

Some individuals found comfort up in a tree. BK was very alarmed at this site and wished they would get down. BK's reaction was that he felt like he was back in America. He was surprised that Westerners just like to drink while standing around and talking.
As for me I just found myself estranged by the fact that I felt out of place amongst my peers. But it kind of makes sense if you think about it. This is because I never really felt comfortable being around drinking people. I only lived that kind of life during my junior year of high school.

Slowly we made our way towards the exit. On the way we saw the stage where there were performers. And near the stage was a tent giving away free cups of Guinness beer. BK picked up a cup, but found the taste dissatisfying.

Byby Irish Festival~
We went to my neighborhood and relaxed and rested for the rest of the weekend. While we were walking around my neighborhood we caught site of these trucks loaded with chairs. It was certainly a photographic moment. We couldn't figure out if someone was moving in or moving out.

Then we headed to Indeogwan for that lamb galbi dinner that we love. To our surprise the restaurant was set up differently when we walked in, now the tables are not the sit-on-the-ground kind. Also the side dishes were more plentiful and delicious! Overall, it was still a great meal as always.Well that ends my White Irish Day! Till next year~
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