Friday, October 28, 2005

The Good Life

Kitty Class- Shelby, Deborah and Liam

The longer I live here the more I love it. What other job could I have found right out of university where I make millions (of Won, that is), work less than 30 hours a week, have my apartment paid for, be able to live in and fully experience a different country and culture and on the weekends be able to travel to islands? Another big bonus for me is that I don't have to drive and the public transportation here is fast and cheap! As many of you know, a car with me behind the wheel suddenly becomes a magnet for car crashes (drivers without insurance, drunk drivers, Alzheimer's drivers... you name it). Plus, I get plenty of reading done while making the subway trip to and from Seoul.

Anyways, it's Friday afternoon and I'm on my hour break before starting my afternoon classes. I've always loved Halloween, but as a teacher it is just the greatest holiday. Yesterday with Kitty Class (the kindergartners) we made spiders out of construction paper and then hung them from the ceiling and today we made bats and monsters. I love my kindergartners now...they're just so cute! Even when they have straws hanging out of their noses and are making a disaster of the classroom. Halloween should be fun on Monday with everyone at school dressed up. I think we're going on a parade around the block in our costumes... it reminds me of my grade school years of Earhart.

The weekend is almost here...I hope everyone gets dressed up and has a happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security
is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature."


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Spitting in Korea

I have now been living in Korea for 2 months...I can't believe how fast the time is flying by. Many things that were once shocking when I first arrived I have now grown accustomed to and sometimes don't even notice them. The one thing though that still does bother me and I don't know if I'll ever get used to is how the men here spit on the sidewalk. I had read about this habit before I moved here but had no idea just how obscene it really was until I experienced it firsthand. I don't think "spitting" is the right word-- I would say LOUDLY and offensively coughing up at least one lung and leaving it on the sidewalk for all to see would sum it up more appropriately. I try not to listen but damn it, it's unavoidable!

KFC target of PETA Protest

The majority of foriegners I have met here are teachers, but I did meet someone a couple weeks ago that works for the Korea Herald and this is his latest article and photograph. Click on the link to check it out and think about it next time you're biting into that crispy chicken sandwich from KFC.

Monday, October 24, 2005

What I'm Reading

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2)
by J.K. Rowling

Time and the Art of Living
by Robert Grudin

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Insadong, Temple & Shinchon

Hwa Gye Sah Temple

I am so exhausted after this weekend; I was running all over the place yesterday and today. Friday night I actually stayed at home and went to bed early-- what a surprise! But Saturday I woke up, gathered my backpack full of all the necessary supplies for a weekend away from home and headed to Insadong with Amanda. We got off the subway at Dongdaemun and decided to walk to Insadong in the nice weather. While we were walking around Dondaemun Market we randomly stumbled right into materials to make Halloween costumes and then went on our way.
It was my first time to Insadong and I really liked the unique change of atmosphere there. On the weekends the streets are closed off and there are many street stands selling everything from food, tea and incense to traditional Korean items and art. Insadong is also especially famous for having many traditional tea shops and after walking around for awhile we stopped in a particularly cute one for a cup. I love ginger so I ordered the ginger tea and it was the GREATEST drink I've ever had! I make ginger tea everyday with fresh ginger but mine doesn't even compare to what I had... I'm on a mission to learn how to make "real" ginger tea now. I'll post a recipe when I perfect it. There were also a lot of Korean students in Insadong that kept coming up to us and asking us questions in English for homework, they were cute!
Friday night we went to Hongdae and Shinchon and I went to my second home relatively early so I wouldn't sleep in for breakfast in Itaewon Sunday morning.

I woke up and started making my way to Itaewon from Shinchon around 9:30am. I was meeting some friends for a good western breakfast at Suji's. It should have taken around 30 minutes on the bus...if I would have actually got reliable directions. Instead, an hour an a half later I was near Korea University which is completely the wrong direction and I was already 15 minutes late. I finally ended up taking a taxi so I could at least show up in time to eat before we went to Hwa Gye Sah. The breakfast was really good though: breakfast burrito with homemade salsa and homefries. Five of us went to the temple after breakfast and walked around outside before meditation started. The weather is perfect here during the day right now, I love it! The meditation was relaxing (except for the part when I thought my foot was going to fall off from sitting in the lotus position too long...) and the Dharma talk was good, as usual.
Afterwards we squeezed six people (we picked up one more at the temple) into a cab and went to Shinchon for the Politics Documentary group.
The leader of the group ordered soup and brought wine for everyone since last week the movie didn't end up working but unfortunately this week there was some other technical problem and it didn't happen again... oh well, at least I was in Shinchon. I walked around for awhile and then came home around 10:30pm. I have lesson plans due tomorrow and have to get up early for that...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Dried squid...this is everywhere.

Dried squid

Sundubu- tofu stew with side dishes. Very good!

Chamchi Kimbap

I'd like to acknowledge FatMan Seoul for these pictures. He has a great blog about Korean food and I haven't put my digital pictures onto a CD yet!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Teaching about Food

I really enjoyed teaching today; I don't know if the lack of sleep is making me unknowingly delusional and not bothered by the consistent, loud roar of kindergarten children or I'm actually getting so used to it that it fails to bother me. Either way, it was fun today and I hope my enthusiasm for teaching continues.
In my afternoon class my students freaked out when I wrote their names on the board with a red board marker...apparently in Korea your name is only written in red if your dead... my mistake. But they forgave me quickly when I took them to get ice cream for Emily's birthday. Emily is the youngest kid in my afternoon classes and is also the best English speaker out of all the younger kids (not to mention the cutest kid I've ever seen!)
My last class of the day (with six 11 year olds) is my favorite because we can all joke around together and they all seem to have a real desire to learn (which makes my job much easier!). Today we were in a unit on "International Foods" and the class was writing two sentences: A new food that you would try and one that you wouldn't try. These are Sky's sentences:

I would try cheese cake.
I wouldn't try poo.

Really? Me either. I was also asking the kids about if they eat "boshintang" (dog stew) which you can find easily here in Seoul.

Joseph: Aly Teacher, boshintang is good!
Me: eat puppies! That's not very nice.
Joseph: No puppies Teacher!
Me: Oh okay, good!
Joseph: I eat BIG dogs, not puppies!

Dog eating has become less common since the 1988 Olympics in Seoul when the government banned it out of concern for the country's image. Even so, today it is still a traditional Korean dish that is easy to find if you know where to look. It's supposed to provide relief from the hottest days in summer and is also well known for the virility-enhancing qualities it is supposed to provide. I think I'll be staying away from the poshintang during my stay...


I've never been one to have trouble sleeping (actually I've had quite the opposite problem in the past, being able to fall asleep in mid-conversation) but for some reason for the past couple weeks I haven't been able to fall asleep. I only got 2 hours last night (actually from 7am-9am) and 4 hours the night before. The strange part is that I never really feel tired, even teaching kids all day long. I think at some point I'm going to have to crash, but until then I'll just take advantage of the extra hours I have in the day. If I can't fall asleep on Friday I was thinking about hiking up a mountain nearby in time to make it to the top for the sunrise.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Blame Canada!

I saw this in Kscene, which is a print and online magazine that caters to foreigners living in Seoul. There's a section for joining a club and spotted this one... I couldn't stop laughing for 5 minutes.!

World Class is an organization in Seoul that brings together all nationalities to discuss world issues and break down cultural barriers and prejudices. We meet once a week. No Canadians please. Contact

What I'm Reading

Into the Wild (Paperback)
by Jon Krakauer

This is a true story about a young man from a well-to-do family that gave his entire savings account of $25,000 to charity, abandoned his car and possessions, burned all the money in his wallet and hitchhiked to Alaska to walk alone into the wilderness. Four months later his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.

The best book I've read in a long time, I recommend it to everyone. Amazing story.

"...So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take
the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future."

-Alex McCandless as quoted in "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer

Good times

I got off work at 7:20 and caught the subway to Apkujeoung for a night out with my Korean friends, Jamie and TKoo. I met them and some of their friends at a kalbi restaurant and one of them actually went to University of Canberra a couple year before me! I've never met anyone on my travels who's even been from Canberra and we both even knew all the same bars and restaurants. She lived in Australia for 10 years and it was really unusual to hear a Korean with an Australian accent. Afterwards we all headed to some posh bar (of course, it's Apkujeoung) called Water or Pool or ??? and went to a noraebang inside it. It was definitely the nicest one I've been to; the waiter brought a silver tray full of fruit and dried squid. I think dried squid smells like burnt hair but I tried it Friday and it's actually not bad, kind of similar to beef jerky. Koreans eat the stuff like potato chips. Anyways, by the time I was belting out November Rain with TKoo my voice was almost gone and we left shortly after around 3:30am.

I woke up at 9:00am and by 11:00 I was on the subway to meet a friend for lunch. We had really good chamchi kimchi jiggae and then walked to the Han river to an "island" that resembles an abandoned landing strip in the middle of a huge city. We got a good view of the 63 Building (the tallest building in Korea) and touched the murky brown waters of the Han with our feet. Afterwards we went to the Yongsan electronics market and had coffee. After coffee I got on the subway to Apkujeoung and met Jamie in order to get a new phone. The cell phone my school gave me is a Zach Morris phone in Korean and I think it's been floating around foreign teachers since around 1992. Jamie and TKoo are always making fun of it and decided they would get me a new phone (my "walkie talkie" doesn't quite fit in with the Apkujeoung crowd). All I really wanted was a phone in English that had text messaging. What I got was a phone that is more like a mini computer that can take pictures, video, watch downloaded TV or movies, radio, MP3 player, internet access and probably heaps of other features that I will never even learn (the 300 page manual is in Korean). Wow, that was so nice but I kind of wish he hadn't bought it or at least let me pay some. If I lose it I will feel so guilty... I kept asking the cell phone lady if she had any used phones but it was no use, she spoke no English.
One sweet cell phone later I was once again on the subway to a vegetarian buffet restaurant for a birthday dinner for Elizabeth, a girl I met at the politics discussion/documentary group. The restaurant was the greatest, I would have sworn I was eating meat if I wouldn't have known better. As usual I took full advantage of the "all you can eat" and left extremely full. We went to a bar near the restaurant and then we went to Gangnam and went to Woodstock Bar. Like many Korean bars, it's really rustic with wood tables, floors and walls filled with years of carvings in English and Korean. (I also love the music selection at most bars and you can request songs all night long!) To my surprise, on the table in right in front of me I saw my Grandpa's name carved in the wood. Very interested, I leaned over for a closer look and right at that moment a Korean hippie came over and poured me a shot of Jack Daniels. Unfortunately, it all ended up right on "Jim Young" and proceeded to drip off the table to my jeans. Damn, I hate the smell of Jack!!! He poured another shot, we took it and I cleaned the Jack off of Jim.
It's relatively early (for Korea) at this point and I decide to meet up with Amanda and live it up in case she has to do a "midnight run" before next weekend. We meet in Itaewon but decide (as usual) that the Shinchon nightlife is far better. From Scrooge Bar in Itaewan we went to our favorite Nori Bar (similar to Woodstock but much better) in Shinchon and danced until around 4:00am. Finally ended up in Valerie's boyfriends extra room near Shinchon (where I also found Harry Potter book 2!).

I woke up at 10:30am and Amanda and I walked to the subway, her on the way to Dongdaemun market and me to Hwa Gye Sah temple. Afterwards I met a 17 year old Korean girl named Julie who thought I was in middle school. She was in shock when I told her I was a teacher... "Teacher, no! Middle school student?" She was a really sweet girl, we might do a language exchange together, she called herself my Korean "yo dong sang" or "little sister".
After the temple I went to Shinchon and met back up with Amanda for the Politics discussion/documentary group. To everyone's disappointment, they couldn't get the dvd player to work so we all left. Instead of politics we decided on Mexican at a place called "Chois". I have a slight addiction to Mexican food and I haven't had it since I got here and wasn't planning on it because I figured it would all suck. I was wrong. Chois is the GREATEST! I actually had guacamole, REAL cheese and jalapenos... yum. I will soon return for the Chois.
Amanda and I then went to a bar called "Watts on Tap" with another friend and sat on the rooftop patio. This is the first bar in Seoul to be opened solely by a foreigner and it has good Belgium beer on tap. One beer later we were walking by Nori bar and decided to wander in. Before we did though, we realized we had the exact same clothes on as the night before (who cares really? Better than a 45 minute commute just to change clothes!) In a moment of insanity we both switch shirts somehow thinking that no one will notice. Only one table inside Nori but it's 2 Germans, a Japanese girl and an Australian I met on Thursday night. Only had one beer and caught a cab to home sweet home...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

What I'm Reading

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1) (Paperback)
J. K. Rowling

Pencils... banned in school?

No this is not an episode of the Twilight Zone, you have just entered into... the hagwan school system in Korea. There was some drama this week in Amanda's classroom (from Colorado) involving a boy with overly-protective parents and a pencil. He was trying to steal a pencil from a girl when the girl let go and the pencil went into his nose (similar to the time my brother and I were fighting over a xylophone, I let go and he went flying down a flight of wooden stairs and had to get stitches). The kid had a small mark on his nose, the Korean teacher put a band aid on it and he was back in class 2 minutes later and laughing. The next day, the Korean teachers went up to Amanda and asked her very seriously what had happened with "The Pencil Incident". Apparently, the boy had to have emergency surgery on his nose and his parents are changing schools. Keep in mind that we're living in a country where you go to the hospital for a slight cold but this seems like a load of BS. How many surgeries would I have had as a child growing up in Korea?
For those of you unfamiliar with the private school system in Korea, a huge motivating factor behind everything at the school is money. Hence, we were told not to discipline our kids because disciplining leads to upset kids, kids complain to parents, parents ACTUALLY listen to their 6 year old complaining about being disciplined, parents take the kid out of school and move to a new one and the school loses out on the tuition. It's a brutal cycle because the kids are the ones who actually ends up losing out in the long run.
On with the story... So, yesterday in our staff meeting we had a ridiculous announcement--No more pencils in class! What the hell?! The parents of the nose-job boy are now suing the school and dramatic measures must be taken so that no more kids get hurt and change schools. So now they're safe but at what sacrifice?
Amanda is now worried she's getting fired and is living it up like it's her last weekend. As much as it is completely not her fault there is the real possibility that she could actually get fired for this. I'm trying to keep an open mind when dealing with the cultural differences in the workplace but now I'm wondering- What's next?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Korean Spa
After work today I met up with some friends for sushi in Gangnam and then for the third time since I've been here in Korea, I came again to the Gangnam Spa to relax and enjoy a "real shower". I've actually grown quite accustomed to the "shower" in my room which is only a drain in the middle of my bathroom a hand-held shower nozzle over the sink, but it is really relaxing and wonderful to go to a spa every couple weeks. It was a bit strange at first being completely naked in front of a bunch of Korean's but you get used to it quick and besides the few stares and kids pointing no one really pays you much attention. This spa costs 8,000W($8) and it's open 24 hours. It has several different spas (hot, cold, mud, ginseng?, kryptonite green???) I really don't know what they all are because I can never remember the Korean once I have pen and paper handy! There's also several different sauna rooms including a jimjilbang which is a traditional Korean sauna room. You can see women enjoying (or enduring) massages from the spa room and at some times it looks more like I'm witnessing some crazy Korean sadomasochism... seriously, I'm surprised these women don't come out with huge bruises beginning to form. There is also a movie room, a cafe, tanning beds and a PC Bang (where I am now) and then the sleeping room downstairs. The sleeping room is a large room with several long, low cubicles where you lay out a sleeping mat, a blanket and a pillow. Now I just need to find a nice spa closer to where I live...
Tomorrow's Wednesday, which means 'Ladies night' in Hongdae. I haven't gone since I've been here and a lot of my co-workers are going tomorrow so I thought I'd check it out. Luckily, we have a field trip Thursday so it should be an easy day in case it ends up being a late one tomorrow.

Korean Jimjilbang

Hostel where we stayed in Gyeongju

Maria and Aly at Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju

Headless Buddha on Mt. Namsan in Gyeongju

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I've recently discovered yet another Google tool that I have become slightly obsessed with. It's free and so much fun to go look at places you've been or want to go to. I went to my parents house in Wichita and saw my dad's truck which I thought was really fun but slightly disturbing if you really think about it! I also went into Pyongyang, which may be the closest I will ever get to actually seeing North Korea. Check it out.

Another Weekend in Seoul

I love Fridays! It's my longest day teaching but then the weekends are here and I get to wander around Seoul and without fail come back Sunday night with many crazy stories and new experiences. This weekend I took my backpack with me and stayed with two different friends in Ewha and Sinchon on Friday and Saturday. It's easier that way, I don't have to waste time on the subway and I can get out earlier and do more.
Friday night I met a friend in Shinchon and we went to the creatively named, 'The Bar'. The owner is a very friendly woman named Song Min who draws portraits of customers and has customers draw portraits of her and hangs them all over the walls. I loved it! I just bought oil pastels the other day and this bar helped inspire me to use them. I'll have to go back and do another drawing soon. I surprisingly made it to sleep by 1:00am and was grateful for it Saturday morning when I woke up well rested and feeling great. In the morning the weather was perfect and Micah and I drank tea on the roof with a good view of Seoul. The landlord has a garden on the roof and had a bunch of red chili's and hazelnuts spread out.
After tea I walked to Ewha and looked around the shops and met a shopkeeper from India. We started talking about Indian food and I got a craving so I started to head towards New Delhi, an Indian buffet in Itaewon. I met up with Amanda once I got there and after lunch we started looking for our Halloween costumes. No luck, but at least we still have a couple weeks. It was about 3:00pm and we walked by a bar with an outdoor patio and decided to enjoy the beautiful fall weather outside over a cold, watery glass of Cass. Valerie met up with us and we ended up staying for a couple hours. We made our way to Sinchon and before we went into the bar ate some fried pieces of vegetables from a food vendor on the street. The lady who sold it to us kept saying something to me (which I later found out was "pig") because I wasn't sharing with Amanda. She came around and grabbed my food, tore it in half and gave half to Amanda. How nice. We ended up staying at Nori Bar in Shinchon until the sun came up and then going to Valerie's boyfriends house where we slept in way too late. This morning I was really wishing I had gone home early like Friday...
Today I went to the Hwa Gye Sah temple again in time for the Dharma talk. Afterwards I met a girl from Canada who is an actress here and works for a Russian owned Korean comedy show. Her boyfriend is researching using hypnosis as an aid for Koreans to learn English. Many Koreans that are learning English don't ever practice in real situations for fear of not being understood or making mistakes and he is trying to help his students overcome this problem. She said he looking for guinea pigs for it and I volunteered, I think at the very least it will be interesting.
After the temple I was going to go to Val's for Canadian Thanksgiving dinner but wasn't feeling up to it after such little sleep so headed back to Beomgye. On the way I stopped at a park and layed down to read for awhile (I finally found the first Harry Potter book yesterday and thought it was time to see what the hype is all about). I had barely got comfortable when a drunk old man came up to me, knelt down and started blabbing some crap in Korean. I kept saying "Miguk, hanguk anio!", which is something like-I'm American and I don't freakin know what the hell you're saying! He didn't care and kept talking and finally grabbed my hands and pulled me up off the ground. I guess I was sitting underneath his tree or something...who know?
Now I'm back home in Anyang sitting at a PC Bang surrounded by teenagers playing computer games. It sounds like I'm in the middle of a war with all the shooting and yelling going on. Now, tomorrow begins my 7th week as a teacher.

Friday, October 07, 2005


Every month we have a birthday party at our school where the kids have cake, doughnuts, fruit and fried chicken (what a combination!). This month, to our surprise all the foreigner teachers were the entertainment for the party. Our director pushed us all in front of the kids and taped a balloon to each of us and we had to dance until it fell off. Then the Korean teachers made all of us hug someone else with a balloon in between us until it popped. Not exactly my idea of a good time but whatever...
Today for the last 20 minutes of class with my 11 and 12 year olds we played a game where they split into two teams and then draw something and the rest of the class would guess what it was. I told Gary and Joseph to draw Michael Jackson. They were drawing an American flag, a man with gloves and a hat and a microphone and the class guessed "American singer" but didn't know who it was. Gary started drawing people and I asked him if it was the audience and he said, "No, it's a jury" and the kids finally guessed Michael Jackson. We had to pause the game for a couple minutes at this point because I was laughing so hard. Funny kids.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


This weekend I went to Gyeongju, the former capital of the Silla dynasty. It was a 5 hour bus trip south of Seoul and we left early Saturday morning. We unpacked at the hostel (which was the most beautiful hostel I've ever stayed at...I'll post pictures from the trip soon) and then went out to see Seokgulam Gratto and then to Bulguksa Temple. It looked very mystical with the clouds hanging so low in the mountains where the temples were. That night after dinner we played a Korean drinking game called "kong kong chil (007 ) Bang" which was lots of fun... I'll have to bring that one back to Kansas next time I'm there.
On Saturday we went to Namsan mountain for a 3 hour hike. Koreans are very enthusiastic about hiking and go crazy with their hiking gear; they all have high tech hiking poles, shoes, backpacks, gloves and many of them tuck their pants into these horrid Christmas-patterned leg warmers...? It does go both ways though-- I was going down by myself and a group of Koreans were passing by me going up, one of them said something and they all turned around, looked at my feet and started laughing hysterically. I'm not fluent yet, but my guess is they said something like, "Look at that stupid foriegner girl wearing sandals on a mountain! What an amatuer. Now everyone point and laugh!". They are hiking sandals and they worked just fine.
Anyways, that night we went to some festival which ended up being 10 minutes of fireworks and a bunch of very young kids driving motorized child-size cars and bikes around. We had a group of 10 that went to dinner at a Korean restaurant for bibimbap and then we found a huge dance club with only about 5 Koreans in it. We danced with them for awhile--it was fun, we were dancing on tables and had a train of us going all over the empty club (shockingly, everyone in our group was still sober at this point).
The next day we hiked up Mt. Juwangsan which is a couple hours from Gyeongju. It was a pretty easy hike with lots of great scenery, 3 waterfalls, temples and at the bottom many Koreans selling fresh vegetables. After that hike we ate bibimbap at a restaurant at the bottom of the mountain. It was really good with lots of fresh vegetables and a spicy tofu soup.
On the bus ride home we watched 2 Korean movies. Tae Guk Gi is a very famous Korean movie about two brothers who were forced to fight in the Korean war. If you want to read more about it on Amazon click here:

Monday, October 03, 2005

Dokdo island from the ferry

Dokdo island closeup

Ulluengdo island from viewpoint