Friday, November 14, 2014

Strange Korean snacks

A friend posted a video on facebook titled "Americans try Korean snacks for the first time." I assumed it would be pretty entertaining so I clicked on it, and it did not disappoint. And guess what? I've eaten everything they've eaten, minus the fish sausage, because why would you ever do that to yourself? Watch!

Wanna know what I think about all these foods? Good.

Milkis - Really good carbonated milk flavored drink. I avoided it for a long time because it sounds like something that will make you throw up, but it's not. If there's no Coke Zero around I'll drink it.

Squid chips - I'm not a seafood fan so I've only had these once intentionally and a couple times accidentally. It looks like a brown cheese ball but it doesn't taste like one.

Fish sausage - No. Just no. Sausage should not be made from fish, it should not look like string cheese, and it should never have chunks in it. For some mysterious reason my students love these. They buy them at the market before class and just watching them eat it takes away my appetite.

Rice cake - Yum! When I worked in public school they would serve these for lunch on special days. They're really chewy and they have lots of different fillings. Red bean is not the best, but I admit it's grown on me.

Fish shaped ice cream sandwich - Anything shaped like a fish is fun in my book! And there's that red bean again. My first year here my friends and I called red bean "sneaky bean" because you find it EVERYWHERE, particularly places where red bean does not normally belong, like pastries, donuts, and ice cream. And because it's dark and in dessert food it can easily be mistaken for chocolate. Until you take a bite. Red bean used to taste like disappointment, but now when I see dessert I assume it's not chocolate and just don't get my hopes up.

And there you have it. Now do you understand why I miss American grocery stores?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Earlier this year I started teaching babies and it has had its ups and downs. I prefer teaching older kids because I can reason with them and joke with them and give them some responsibility, and that is just not this age group. But, I am happy to say that after a few long hard months the little ones have learned almost all their abcs, all their colors and shapes, they can write their names most days, and they're starting to learn how to read words. I'm proud of them and even more proud of me! They've also colored quite a few pictures during the last 10 minutes of class when they've reached their learning capacity for the day and I've reached my teaching capacity.

Last week one of them came in with a stick-on tattoo of an angry bird on her hand, and the others were jealous. One girl stuck out her had and said "bird" and I drew her one, and she LOVED it. Ever since then it's become a fun game we play. They come running over to my desk and say all the English words they know, and I give them beautiful tattoos, and then we can start class.

I am obviously a talented artist. 

There's something so endearing about these moments. Our communication is very limited - they babble to me in Korean and I actually understand a lot of what they say, but I can't converse with them the way I do with my other classes. This is one small way that we can have fun together and I get to enjoy being with them without any kind of struggle. 

Until the day they ask for a drawing more complex than a shape - then it's game over kiddos. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A blast from the past

Friday was a holiday and we had no school, so I took a day trip with some friends to my Korean hometown of Ulsan. I haven't been there since I moved away almost 2 years ago. While I lived there I didn't particularly love it because there wasn't that much to do, but I was really excited to go back for a visit. It felt the way it feels when I go home to America - some stores were gone and new things had taken their places, but overall everything was exactly the same. It was really familiar and comfortable. I pretty much remembered where everything was, how to get there, what things were called (which is a big deal for me...I'm not so great with directions). I still don't really have that in Busan - this city is massive and spread out and I've got friends who have lived here much longer than I have so I just end up following them around when we go out. It was refreshing to be back in a place I knew so well.

 I completely forgot about this ferris wheel, but it was my landmark in the beginning when I was trying to find my way around. If I could see it I knew I wasn't lost.

We stopped for coffee at a cute little cafe decorated like a living room.

The people I was closest to in Ulsan have all moved away and scattered, and it was fun to look at places and remember who I was there with and what we did, and think about where we all are now. We had some really good and fun and stupid and hard times trying to figure out Korea together, and as cheesy as it sounds almost every street and restaurant brought back some kind of memory. I probably wouldn't have made it without that initial group of friends.

Ulsan was a great first city for me to live in. It eased me into living in this country and gave me a good taste of Korea without being so overwhelmingly big and busy. I had great schools and coteachers, and I made some dear friend during my 2 years there. It may not be the most exciting city in the world but it has a special place in my heart.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Spying on my neighbors

Summer is winding down in Busan- the humidity has died down so you don't sweat walking everywhere, most days I'm wearing jeans instead of shorts, and I can turn off the air conditioning and leave my windows open. So can all my neighbors, and guess what? I'm learning quite a bit about them all! I must live in a building full of night owls because I don't hear anything in the morning/early afternoon before I go to work, and even when I get home it's pretty quiet. But around 11 the party gets started.

There's a family lives below me that sounds like a grandma, mom, dad, and pretty young baby - I'd guess around 1 or 2 years old. The baby cries a lot, probably because grandma and mom yell at the poor little one. I'm glad I don't understand what they're saying because it sounds very harsh and I think I would cry too. It makes me crazy listening to them because they're just making it worse. No child will be calmed by an adult yelling at them. I thought that was common sense? Dad, on the other hand, is very soothing. I hear him singing and the baby giggling a lot, and it's so cute. I hope mom and grandma catch on soon.

Another guy gets home around midnight and he always brings a group of friends with him. There are usually 3 or 4 voices and lots of laughing and glasses clinking. The other night there was a pretty big crash and it sounded like he broke all his dishes. Bear started barking and growling when he heard it, it was pretty funny. The guys upstairs were't too pleased either. This one has the potential to be very annoying, but usually I can tell they're having a good time and it makes me smile.

By far the weirdest is hearing my fellow English speaker. I've met him in the elevator a few times so he's not a stranger, but I wouldn't call him a friend either. With everybody else it's pretty much white noise - I hear but I don't comprehend so I can just keep doing what I'm doing. But the English speaker I can't tune out. Sometimes I feel so uncomfortable I get up and close the window. He doesn't say anything bad, but it's like I'm eavesdropping from within my own home. It freaks Bear out too. Unless there's a loud noise he just sleeps or plays with his toys, but when he hears this guy his ears perk up and he'll go over by the window to try to find where the sound is coming from. I think it's funny that he can distinguish English from Korean. Good job Bear!

And of course I have to assume that if I can hear them, they can hear me. They've probably heard me laughing during my shows, and they might have listened in on a skype call or two. They've definitely heard a lot of conversations with Bear. I don't really speak out loud in my apartment unless I'm talking to him, so if they can understand at all they must think I'm crazy.

In a few more weeks fall will arrive and we'll all close our windows, but until then I'll just keep spying on my neighbors.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy Korean thanksgiving

This past week was Chuseok - Korean thanksgiving. It's really pretty similar to ours - everybody goes to their grandma's house and they eat fried fish and rice cakes, and we don't have school! It was so so so nice having a 4 day weekend. It's always refreshing to have a break in routine and a few days off from the kiddos. Saturday I didn't leave the house (minus waking Bear) until I met a friend for dinner and then we met more friends for a movie. Snowpiercer, have you seen it? It was good but we watched some of it from behind pillows and were very bloody. There were hatchets :/

My stay-at-home buddy

Sunday was the usual church activities, group dinner, and cafe. It was so nice knowing there was no work Monday. Everybody stayed and chatted because no one had anywhere else to be. We sat on the balcony of a cafe overlooking the beach and a full was beautiful, and a little chilly but the view made up for the temperature. 

Monday was my favorite - beach day! Hands down the best thing about living in Busan is having 3 really nice, close beaches to choose from. We got ourselves some Starbucks and snacks and spent the day laying in the sand. There were other people there but it definitely wasn't crowded, the sun was out, and there was a little breeze so we weren't sweaty all day. Perfection.

Tuesday I met a friend for lunch, watched Friends at her house all afternoon, then got pizza for dinner. To sum up, Chuseok for me = eating, laziness, friends, and sun. Not bad :)

Wednesday I had to go to work, and I was pretty much the only one. Public school and universities had the day off, but us hagwons didn't. I knew it was coming and I wasn't bothered until I woke up that morning knowing everybody else was sleeping in. It turned out pretty good though, we had less than half of our kids and therefore watched movies and ate ice cream that my boss bought because she felt bad for us. I only has to teach one class, and nobody showed up for my last class of the day so I got to go home early! I basically had a 2 1/2 day work week. Happy thanksgiving to me! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rain, rain, go away

I've been meaning to write about my trip home, and I still will, but first I need to tell you about the crazy storm we had yesterday. I've never seen anything like it. We have monsoon season in Korea that is technically "over," and yet we got 9 inches of rain in an hour. It poured all morning and most of the afternoon. I had my rain boots and umbrella for my walk to school, but by the time I got there my pants were so wet that they looked dry. Water was actually shooting out of the drains like little fountains. Cars driving past sent up huge sprays of water, and none of them bothered to slow to keep us poor, already miserable pedestrians from getting wetter. The kids all came in soggy and scared too - rain is common but thunder and lightning are not - and they jumped at every loud noise. While the kiddos were busy with a worksheet and I looked out the window and saw this:

That is supposed to be a road. Our school is on the middle of a hill, and at the top of the hill is a mountain. Dirt and branches and water were running down the mountain and turned our street into a river. A few minutes later I looked out again and there were huge chunks of road floating down the river. Not good. About that same time my boss came in and said the van (most of our students get picked up and dropped off in the school van) couldn't get through because the roads around of our school were closed. She quickly called the parents and told them to keep their kids home, and then we had to figure out what to do with the ones that were already there...they obviously weren't going home on the van. Some of the moms parked a few blocks away and walked over in ponchos. One of our teachers walked some kids home who live close by, but he said he ended up piggy-backing them because he was afraid they were going to get swept away.

By the time the last kid was gone the rain had stopped and the teachers got out of there before it started again. On my way to the subway all the shop owners were out with their brooms and shovels and buckets trying to clean up. Everybody was working hard and working together to try to fix what they could. Across the street they're building new apartments, and all the construction workers stopped what they were doing pitched in too. It was actually very sweet.

I have a feeling they'll be busy filling in potholes for a while - or who knows, maybe they'll just leave the craters as a souvenir of this fun day.

Friday, July 11, 2014

This is what Friday morning looks like

All week it's been rainy and windy and gray, but today the sun came out to play! I basically live for the beach in the summer and I haven't been in a few weeks because of weather and busy-ness, so today Bear and I made our long-awaited return. 

Bear learned how to swim this morning! He really hates baths so I assumed he wouldn't be a big fan of the ocean, and I was right. I dropped him in and he paddled straight for shore and then ran out and started digging holes, like he could tunnel his way to safety. I tried again a while later and he did the same thing. He's afraid of almost everything in the beginning and then after a while he realizes it isn't so bad, so I hope after a few more times he'll think swimming is fun. Either that or he'll grow to hate me. We'll see. 

Look at that cute face full of sand

While we were drying off this man walked over and started throwing seaweed towards my umbrella. At first I wasn't sure if he was aiming for me or the dog, but then I realized he wanted Bear to eat it. No thank you, we'll stick to treats. I saw him wander over to a group of kids and try to share with them next. When their teacher said no he tied it around his head like a crown and headed off. I thought we were done with him but he showed up later with a huge pile of rocks that he dumped very near my towel. Summer always brings out the crazies. 

All in all it was a great morning, and as always, I can't wait to go back!