Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Puppy Soup

[WARNING]  The following post is about the consumption of man's best friend.  Man's best friend meaning dog.  If you continue to read please keep any negative comments to yourself.  I have already heard every joke and rant about people who eat dog and am just trying to document my time here in Korea by writing on here.  If you don't like this post wait for the next one.  I'll talk about something more uplifting than eating dog. I promise.

#45.  Eating dog is popular with older gentlemen for its supposed power to enhance stamina and virility.  Dog  is apparantly the Korean viagra.

In Korea some people eat dog.  I live in Korea.  I ate dog. It's part of the culture that I now live in so I bit the bullet and did it.  When in Korea do as Koreans do.  I went with 5 other teachers to a hole in the wall restaurant called "Sunni's Dog House." Really?!  They couldn't think up anything more original than "dog house?"  Clearly I only eat dog at the classy places.

We brought our Korean friend Allan to do the ordering.  He ordered  5 bowls of dog soup, 1 bowl of chicken soup for himself (he is part of the Korean community who refuses to eat dog), 6 bowls of rice, dozens of little side dishes and all kinds of pastes and sauces that i'm sure made the dog more..cough..delicious..and plenty of beer to wash it all down.   All for less than $10 per person. What we didn't know when we ordered it is that we had two courses of dog with the soup.  Freaking fantastic.  Now I have to feel even more guilty.  Not only am I eating dog but i'm eating two courses of dog. 

Out comes a platter of dog skin.  Yup.  It was just as disgusting as it sounds.  Now it didn't have any hair on it and didn't straight up look like dog but it was definitely unique looking.  I tried one little piece and barely got it down.  I won't gross you out with the specific details but let's just say that it tasted a bit like roast beef that had been siting out for a few days in a warm kitchen.

The next course was the actual soup.  Now as dog goes this actually wasn't bad.  It was the dog meat mixed up with vegetables, itty bitty bones and huge pieces of fat.  Once you got around the bones and fat it just tasted like overcooked, gamy roast beef soup.  Or that's how I thought of it at least.  While you're eating dog you can't think of yourself eating dog.  Just trust me on that one. 

It's safe to say that the dog eating adventure was a once in a lifetime thing.  It's not a tasty meat and made me feel ridiculously guilty.  One thing that this little adventure did do was to start a new tradition for the rest of our Tuesdays here in Pohang.  Every Tuesday we are trying something new. 

On the agenda for next week?  Live octopus.  You read that correctly.  Live octopus.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pohang Soccer League and Me

#42. Koreans think that anti-bacterial spray fixes everything when someone gets injured.  You get smashed in the knee during a game and it starts to swell up.  Spray it.  That'll fix it all and you can magically go back to the field to play.  Nope.  We're not at Hogwards.  Not how it works.

#43.  Koreans love the name Laura.  My co-teacher (the other Jen) has played in leagues here before and is called Laura by the other Koreans.  She corrects them but it doesn't matter.  They think Laura is a beautiful name.  She learned to accept it.  So any of you out there who is named Laura and hate your name?  Come to Korea and Get ready to be worshipped. 

#44.  When Koreans are being competitive they laugh.  They laugh loudly.  It seems like whoever laughs the loudest is the most competitive.  They probably get a better workout from their laughing than the actual sport itself.  A guy runs into you hard during a critical moment in the game when you could have gotten your team the winning goal?  Americans would be pretty angry.  Koreans just start giggling like school girls and run away. 

Monday night was my first soccer game in Korea.  I haven't played soccer since I was 8 years old.  There is a picture of me out there somewhere in yellow jersey and shin guards smiling in front of a soccer goal.  I had no idea how to play.  I liked the ball, liked the jersey, playing with my friends and the orange slices at halftime.  Running wasn't my thing (and still isn't) so I didn't excel in the sport.  Needless to say that was my one and only season.  Now look at me. I'm a member of a Korean soccer league and play every Monday and Thursday. Who would have thought?    Sure as hell not me.

So I play on a team of foreigners against a bunch of Korean men.  Our team consists of 4 guys and 2 girls.  We also got to have a Korean be our goalie.  The team we played against  had 6 players including the goalie.  Now anyone out there who knows basic addition understands we were up one player.  Well there's a reason.  According to Koreans 2 girls are equivilant to 1 man. Yea.  That actually happened.  Didn't like that very much. What I did like was wiping the field with them at the end of the game.  Try telling me again that i'm worth half of a man.  Ok well to be fair (I) didn't do much butt kicking.  I did my best to block shots, play defense (which consisted of me running around like a chicken with its head cut off) and to get the ball to my teammates.   For my first time in 15 years I think I did a damn fine job.  I can proudly say that WE kicked their tiny little Korean butts.

The field we played on is probably about half the size of a regular field.  This made the running part easier but made it really congested and confusing.  Add to it the fact that the opposing teams don't speak the same language and you've got quite the interesting game.  Lots of those favorite hand gestures.  Koreans have amazing footwork but not the best speed.  Our team was about average on both so we did quite well.  My goal was to not make a total fool of myself and to not get injured.  I epicly failed in both areas.  I ended up with a bloody nose and a killer cleat imprint on my knee.  When I went down after getting smashed in the knee (which happened WHILE saving a goal) I wasn't even remotely mad.  I looked at my knee with pride and just KNEW that it was going to look awesome the next day.  Boy was I right.  I look totally bad ass.

Lets just say that now I understand why soccer players wear shin guards.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sleeping, Softball and Sunday Traditions

#40. Koreans sleep any chance they get. In small restaurants without alot of foot traffic it's not uncommon to see the owners asleep on cots by the door.  On the buses it's common to see Koreans sleep from the moment they sit down to their stop.  It's like somehow they instinctivly know when their stop is.

#41.  The bus system is amazing (as I know #29 already said) but the comment of the day is how Koreans get ON and OFF the bus.  Sounds simple.  You get on the bus and you get off.  Remember how I have said repeatedly that Koreans run everywhere and are constantly in a hurry?  Getting on and off the bus is no exception.  You make it to the door and get halfway out but the door shuts?  Too bad.  You're too slow.  People literally run as fast as they can to get off the bus.  They jump. Sprint.  Skip.  Anything to get them away from the slamming doors.  Not being quick is how people get hurt.  Koreans know this.  Americans don't. 

This weekend was crazy.  Crazy in the best way. 

We had our 2nd softball game of the year and it was even better than the first.  The combination of aluminum bats, softballs and alcohol always creates an interesting outcome.  Once again we had no major injuries.  My team ended up WINNING this time so that was huge success.  My hit actually brought in the winning run.  I'm a firm believer that it was the glove that gave us luck.  *Thanks Mom and Dad for sending it!* 

After the epic softball game we made our way to TILT (foreign bar) for food, drinks and dancing.  Every popular American song was played and we sang/danced into the night.  Songs I will never think of the same way again include 500 miles, piano man, amerian pie and tiny dancer.  Just try to imagine the smallest bar you have at home and pack it full of tipsy college-aged people from all over the world singing as loud as humanly possible and dancing like they actually have rhythm.  It's a pity I didn't think to do more video.

I have started a Sunday afternoon tradition with a friend of mine named Tim.  We are two of the newest Pohang additions so we feel that we need to learn more about where we live so...Sunday is our exploration day.  Today we went to Jukdo market, downtown and to Homeplus.  It started off to be a GORGEOUS day and here is a picturefor those of you wanting to know a bit more what Pohang looks like.

This week looks like it has the potential to be an amazing week.  First soccer game Monday (say a prayer), group outing on Wednesday, big theme birthday party on Saturday.  Stay tuned for more shananigans.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bars and Bedays

Hello again.  I took a little break from writing this week.  It was definitely a trying week that tested my ability to survive away from the people I love.  It was touch and go for a minute but I passed that test.

I've come to learn while living so far away who the people are that will stick with you.  Will keep in touch.  Will take time out of what I know is a busy life to see how i'm doing.  Every so often leave a little note on my facebook wall or pop something in the mail just because they are thinking about me.  It's not that I want or need people to check on me every single minute of every day but once in a while would sure be nice.  I came here knowing full well that some people who promised to keep in touch wouldn't...and some who did would.  It's part of life and part of growing up to just accept what is and not look back.

Ok. Enough of the sad Jenn.  Back to the quirky-living in Korea-can't speak the language-gets lost everywhere-Jenn.

#38.  Koreans go out of their way to make foreigners feel comfortable.  Let me give a few examples. 

Example #1.  I went with a group of friends to a bar around our apartments one night after work.  One friend ordered Jack and Coke.  It was THAT kind of a day.  A few minutes later our drinks arrive and they apologize for the wait.  We find out that they had run out of Coke earlier in the night and one of the employees ran (literally ran) to a corner store to buy some.  Pretty sure that shit would never fly in the States.

Exmaple #2.  We went to a different bar later that night for a few drinks and to just relax.  We walked in and the big screen was on a Korean soap opera.  As soon as we sat down it was turned to a Guns and Roses concert in English.  The music that was playing was also changed to Norah Jones.  All for the English speaking foreigners.  The Korean culture caters to the customer. Pretty sure if a group of Koreans walked into a bar in Indiana the music and television would NOT change.

#39.  Koreans have Bedays (aka fancy toilets) in the majority of restaurants and bars.  There are knobs, buttons, levers...on the toilet.  It's a toilet.  There should be a lever to flush. That's it.  Nope.  In Korea  you sit down never quite knowing what to expect.  The person before you could have left the heat on.  Or the water spray.  Or both.  Surprise!

This week was interesting to say the least.  It dragged on and on and was probably the hardest since i've been here.  It was also the one where I learned the most about myself. 

Today is Saturday and in about an hour I will be going to the second Pohang Softball game of the year.  The names of our teams are still being worked out but today should prove to be quite interesting if it is ANYTHING like our last game.  I finally got my glove from my parents so hopefully that will give me a bit of luck on the field. 

After softball who knows.  It's Korea.  Anything goes. Well pretty much anything goes.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

During the day there is so much hustle and bustle...running to and from different classes..making lesson plans...going downtown to meet up with friends...that sometimes I forget where I am.  I forget how far away I am  from the people in my life that matter most.  I forget that I can't just pick up a phone and tell someone how much i've missed them.  It has to be carefully calculated as to what time zone they are in and if it's 10:08am here it's 9:08pm there or maybe it's really something different entirely.

Somehow tonight it all set in.  At night it's quiet.  It's so quiet.  It's dark and calming and most of the time soothing but tonight it just reminded me how far away from home I am.  How far away from my Mom I am.  My Dad I am.  How i've never been further than 1 1/2 hours away from home for a long period of time.  Now i'm 30 hours+ by plane/bus/taxi.  That realization set in tonight.  Somehow it made it all real.

I've been here for 1 month and somehow tonight of all nights it became real.

I know that i chose to be here.  I know that this is something I want.  I know that 99% of the time I love my choice.  I love it here in Korea.  I love my friends, my job, the culture and experiences.

I love it but sometimes that 1% paralizes me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Restaurant etiquette and Maekju

#33. Here in Korea all of the foreign people know eachother. If we happen to find one that we don't know we make fast friends. We stick out like a whore in church so we figure we may as well stick out together. Plus we can understand eachother without pantomiming every other word. Definite bonus.

#34. When I go out with my Korean employer it is considered rude to refuse more alochol or food. If my glass is filled with beer aka maekju (pronounced Mik*Ju) I drink it until it's gone with a smile on my face and be ready for it to be filled again. and again. and again. If your boss wants to go to another bar after finishing suck it up and you go. The Korean culture is all about politeness and making sure that the elders at your paticular table are happy. If making my boss happy means going to another bar and drinking free drinks...i'll go. Twist my arm.

#35. It is also considered rude to fill up your own glass. At dinner if your glass is empty it is the responsibility of the people sitting around you to fill it up. You are NEVER to fill up your own glass.

#36. It is common in many Korean restaurants to sit on the floor for dinner. You sit on a tiny mat but you are on the floor. Trying to look graceful while using chopsticks, drinking maekju and sitting Indian style? Good luck buddy.

#37. Continuing on the theme for is considered rude to shift your weight while eating dinner and making conversation. If you shift your weight it means you don't have interest in what the other person is saying. Right on. Let's add another inconvenience to me while i'm already sitting on the floor feeling ridiculously uncomfortable. Only in Korea.

So as you can see I had quite the rant about restaurants and proper etiquette. There is a reason. Last night was my first work dinner. The Koreans that I work with all know a little bit of English so it was easy enough to communicate but there were still PLENTY of hand gestures (my favorite and yours). My director and supervisor know the most English so the majority of our conversation was with them. Interesting dinner to say the least!

After we were stuffed (and by stuffed I mean our director ordered two courses of food, another course of fried rice amazingness, and round after round of maekju) we were told that it was time to go to another bar. Another bar? On a Monday night? Koreans love to party.

We get to the new bar called MuBar and walk in to find a confederate flag with an Indian on it hanging from the ceiling. Next to it is the American flag with a clown riding a motorcycle. Interesting place. Out comes more maekju. Because of those flags we had to explain to the Koreans what racism and slavery were. More maekju. That conversation changed into how Koreans feel about people who are homosexual. They said and I quote "I don't have a problem with gay people but I don't want to have any friends and family who are gay." I would say that is a teeny problem. Somehow THAT conversation turned into talks about gangs and gang signs. We then decided it would be a fantastic idea to take a picture of ourselves doing a newly learned gang sign. I blame the maekju. Out comes even more maekju and it is close to midnight before its decided that we have had enough and it is time to go order to be back at work at 9am.

Tis' the life of an English teacher living in Korea.

P.S. I got my very first package yesterday! (Monday) It was from my Mom and included all kinds of goodies! I am now the proud owner of sheets (isn't it sad how excited I get about sheets?!), a backpack, bobby pins, pudding mix, brita water pitcher and so much more. Thanks Mom! I'm pretty sure my Mom rocks out more than your Mom. Does yours send you a huge care package when you live in a foreign country? Yea i didn't think so. My Mom wins.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Korean apartments

#31. Korean apartments do not have central heating. Their heating comes from their floors. A little button on the wall controls the heat for water, floor and washing machine. Weird but kind of nice. Best part? My feet are always warm.

#32. Some Korean apartments use keys. Some use keypads. Luckily my apartment uses a keypad. To get into the building you have to know a code. To get into your individual apartment you have to know another code. No more keys for me. Anyone who knows me understands how often I lose keys. This rocks.

Not much to say today. Spent the day lounging around the apartment getting things as organized as I can. As soon as I get my first paycheck I will be able to get the rest of the stuff I need. Things like cups, silverware, plates, bookcase, pillows, bedding, etc. Ya know...the basics. For now i'm dealing with what I have and becomming increasingly amazing with chopsticks due to my lack of forks. Like able to pick up single grains of rice amazing.

It's okay to be jealous.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Korean Kodak Moments

Quick shout out: In Montana there is a brand name of shoe called KEEN. It is for the outdoorsy type. Imagine my surprise to find that exact same kind of shoe here in South Korea of all places. There is an entire store that is devoted to KEEN. It just made me smile seeing KEEN while taking my afternoon jaunt around the city. Reminded me of a certain person.

Ok. Back to the Korea-ness.

#29. The bus system in Korean is phenomenal. For 1,000 won (less than $1) I can take a bus pretty much anywhere. It may take some time to get there but the $1 is well worth my time. The downside to the bus system are the smelly passengers. As I have said before...Koreans wear their clothes more than once so an entire bus filled to the brim with slightly dirty Koreans tends to be a bit on the smelly side.

#30. Koreans do not practice good dental care with their children. Kids have yellow, rotting teeth because Koreans feel that it is not important to take care of their teeth because baby teeth fall out. While on some level that does make sense ( I said SOME level) it's just gross.

So today was spent losing myself in downtown Pohang. The majority of my friends went to Seoul for the weekend but due to the fact I will not get paid for a few more weeks and the money is dwindling I decided to stay in town. I took in the sights and went to little shops, homeplus and finally Jukdo Market. The market has everything. Live and dead fish, fabric, vegetables, purses, clothing, hats, kitchen gadgets...everything. It's loud and the smell is overwhelming but it's awesome. I didn't end up buying anything at the market but now that I know where it is i'm sure it will only be a matter of time before I have my first Jukdo purcahse under myh belt.

I did however buy my first Korean t-shirt! Koreans love weird tshirts that make no sense. They also love tshirts with American colleges, states or sayings or on them. I saw one today that said "Indiana." One that said "Montana" on the front and "State" on the back. I even saw a "New Jersey." They love anything and everything to do with America. Mine says "Freak Love" with a girl wearing huge sunglasses. It rocks. trust me.

As soon as I get my charger from my mom get ready for pictures of everything I keep describing.

During my excursion around the city I stopped in at homeplus to get a few things for the apt and some food. My homeplus-ing takes quite a bit of time since i'm not used to where everyhthing is and Koreans think it's funny to move the produce. Often. I can just hear them laughing at eachother "hahaha...those Americans think honey mustard is in aisle 5. Let's fuck with them and move it to 4. Hehehe." Well if I spoke Korean i'm sure that would be what they're saying.

So i'm looking for honey mustard and as soon as I find it the song "We are the Champions" starts blaring over the loud speakers. Perfect timing. The Korean shoppers around me don't seem all that thrilled by it but I couldn't stop smiling. Not only do I have my honey mustart but this song is the first English song I have heard since I have been in Korea. I started to sing along under my breath when a little girl heard me and started to sing with me...complete with the use of an imaginary microphone.

It was such a Kodak Korean moment.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Don't Kiss Me...I'm Not Irish

# 27. Koreans run everywhere. They are two blocks away from their apartment and they have 3 heavy bags from Homeplus. They run. They are on their way to the bus stop with no bus in sight? They run. Koreans are always in a hurry and always running. They constantly look frantic. Definitely a bit stressful to watch.

# 28. Koreans add an "uh" to most words. It's something to do with the translation of words and the fact that alot of Korean words have a double letter either at the beginning or at the end. For example. Tonight on the cab ride home from downtown we told our cab driver that he was the "best driver!" He pointed at himself and said "bestuh driveruh?!" Imagine that coming from a tiny Korean in a high pitched voice and you have our cabbie. The "uh" comes after everything and it must be said that it's entertaining as hell.

Wednesday was St. Patty's. We went to the grand opening of a revamped foreign bar named Whistlers. It was a kick ass opening and had a ton of people there that i've met in the past few weeks. Green beer, pool and friends? Can't go wrong. Towards the end of the night we were drinking our beer and having a few laughs when "that guy" comes over to join in our conversation. Now in Korea it's not just "that guy" but "that Korean guy." Completely different. Trust me. He attempts to join our conversation and just keeps pointing at me and my coworker whose name is Jenn (no the irony wasn't lost on either of us) and keeps smiling and giving the thumbs up. We ignore him the best we can without being rude until he comes to me, puts his arms around me and kisses me repeatedly on the cheek while saying "Beautiful. Beautiful." What the hell. Don't Kiss me. I'm not Irish. Thankfully our friend Nick is watching from a nearby table and gets between me and the creepy Korean. The Korean then thinks that Nick and me are together and tells him how lucky he is.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ahn Nyeong Ha Se Yo

#25. The people that work at the Korean Post Office speak English. Well..they speak enough English for me to send a package to America anyways. I've been told that when all else fails, find a post office and they will be able to understand me. It is a requirement to speak at least SOME English. Bonus.

#26. Koreans use the same saying for hello and goodbye. Think like Hawaii. To say hello or goodybe I say "ahn nyeong ha se yo." It is pronounced "ahn-yan-ha-say-yo." Stick with me and you'll maybe be able to understand 1/20 of a conversation before I leave Korea. That's thinking optimistically.

So I decorate my apartment with the arts and crafts projects I make in class. I know i'm classy but it's so hard to find decorations for the walls so my kids art is good enough. Right now I have a lamb hand and a piece of paper with paint shapes. Not exactly Picasso but it does the job. My apartment is just so unbelievably boring that I have to do what I can to spice it up. Any cheap suggestions from anyone out there?

Now I can add another thing to my abilities here in Korea. I can now get to the post office. Bad news is that it takes freaking 2 weeks to get my shit to the states. If I want to pay about $5 per letter for express it will get there in less than one. Regular mail is about $.75 per letter. I'm a broke English teacher in Korea. Today I sent about 20 letters and 2 packages. Doesn't take a genius to figure out which one I picked. 2 weeks it is everyone.

So i've realized that on every single Tuesday and Thursday I will lose my voice. My last class of the day is a 6 Kinder class. What that basically means is in America they are 5 years old learning what a 7 year old should be learning. Think 1st/2nd grade. And not only are they 5 years old but I have 8 boys and 2 girls. Understandably I spend my afternoons trying to keep their attention and usually spend the majority of it yelling for them to stop picking their noses, quit coloring the table or leave Kevin or Princess alone. Ironically I have 3 Kevins and 2 Princesses in the same class. Yay for Korean origionality when picking out names. They are sweet kids but have absolutely zero attention span. At the end of the day I can barely talk. The only good thing about this is that it gets me out of doing SOME prep for the next day. I think i'd rather take the prep.

Highlight of my day? One of my Princesses told me my first "i love you." Another first I am not looking to is my first "fuck you." I've been told it will happen at one point or another. Oh goody. Something to look forward to. Oh to teach English in Korea.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Noraebangs and Korean Movie Theaters

#22. Koreans love their Noraebangs (Korean Karaoke). There is one literally on every street and arcade. It is also a worst nightmare for a claustrophobic. The ones in arcades are a small room (think telephone booth) with a few seats, microphones, television screen and big book filled with the latest songs. The ones in streets are just like a Karaoke bar at home except they are 1/2 the size and play a random ass music video in the background. And playing the actual video for the song doesn't really work for them. For example we did "Dancing Queen" the other night and the video behind us playing was Brittany Spears' doing "Toxic." Totally the same right?!

#23. Korean movie theaters usually have assigned seating. You want to sit at the top to get a better view? Too bad. You have the spot right at the bottom where you break your neck looking up at the screen. If a movie isn't packed it's not a big deal to get up and switch but if it is a sold out show (like Alice in Wonderland 3D was) then you suck it up and deal with it.

#24: The majority of Korean phones are pay as you go. There aren't plans. You don't have to sign a big contract. You can pick any phone you want. It's pretty much the shit. I know they have this in America but it's just not as popular as it is here. I have yet to meet someone who has a cell phone plan with a company. It's just not how Koreans do it. Shocking. Yet another difference from America.

Right now i'm sitting in the office of my school listening to my Korean substitute (basically the baby sitter while the English teachers are eating lunch or doing prep work) try to corral our kids. For the foreign teachers the kids listen and do (basically) what they are told because they know we won't take their shit. They do not listen to other Koreans at all. Let me say that again. They do not listen to other Koreans at all. Somehow the foreign teachers have a way of giving a look or saying something that sounds threatening enough to make them sit down and quit running around. The hand signs I wrote about in an earlier post makes the biggest appearance during this part of my day.

I reached another milestone today. I once again made it downtown and back by my lonesome. I managed to pick up some pretty sweet gifts for a few special kiddos back at home (i am sorry to Shannon and Amy in advance) and managed to put more minutes on my phone. Putting more minutes on my phone is what I am most proud of. I walked into a cell phone store where they promptly pushed me down the street to a different store where not a single soul spoke any English. My hand signs came out in full force until I figured out that all she needed was my phone number and money. Duh Jenn. I am a brand new resident of Pohang and I feel like now I can finally survive (almost) on my own. I can cook food (not a large variety but food), get around downtown, put minutes on my phone, call family and friends AND do laundry. I know i've still got a ways to go before I am am truley one with Pohang but I think i'm on my way.

Quick shoutout to a few people who have recently commented:

* Aunt Natalie--I am so glad you are reading my blog! I hope everything is going amazing for you and I hope you tell the family I say hello. I miss you and love you!

*Shannon--I am so glad you are enjoying my blog so far :) I love reading your comments! You should tell Adam that the Certain family is definately gaining on the Hoovers (which should make his day) and as for what I would like in a package...honestly ask my mom. She is putting together a big package for me now and i'm not sure what she included/didn't include but it's the small things I miss like gum, bobby pins, anything in English...that kind of stuff. haha. I miss you guys and love you. Watch the mail this should be getting a lil' surprise sometime soon :)

*Dan Hay--Thanks so much for the comment. I love that you guys are keeping up with me. I hope to hear from you soon! Give my love to the family!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weekends in Korea

#20: Koreans use their hands when they talk so much more than Americans. In Korea if you tap your index finger on top of the other index finger it means no. If you make your arms into an X that means no. I make those motions probably 20x a day. The kids understand that it means no and to really send your message home you repeat the motion over and over again. It has become such a way of teaching that the foreign teachers find themselves doing it even when we are not teaching.

#21: When Koreans speak to other Koreans they sound pissed. Really pissed. Like someone just had sex with their wife pissed. They talk really fast and the combination of hand motions and loud voices makes the foreigners take notice. I have seen a few who can talk calmly but the majority of them just can't do it.

Saturday was our very first Pohang Beerball League (AKA PBL) game. Yes we call it PBL. We're really cool like that and it's ok to be jealous. After more than an hour in a taxi trying to find an open field which included our driver yelling out the window at random passerbys, cabs, cars and teenagers on bikes for directions. Cabbies here love to yell and use their horns. alot. Ours was definately no exception. 1 hour later we finally found a field that was perfect. After splitting up the teams the game was on but we had a little problem. Part of the team was from South Africa or England so therefore did not know the rules and part of the team was sloshed. Definately made for an interesting game. We rounded out our first game with zero injuries so I would consider it a smashing success. We are still in the process of finding appropriate names for each team and until that happens our current name will not be found here. Let's just say it's a little vulgar for certain readers. It's definately "Colorful" as my mom would say.

This weekend was exactly what I needed. It was relaxed and let me really unwind for my first time here. I did my first load of laundry (yes I can do my own laundry Mom), tried a new kind of rice (ended up being purple) and spent time around Pohang with new friends.

Tonight we are going to see Alice in Wonderland (again) and hit up the town for some of Korean's finest food. Ok maybe not finest but better than what I can do in my shoebox of an apartment. Not a bad Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Soccer Goalie...Me?!

#18: Korean schools are nothing like American schools. Specifically private schools. At times private schools run more like a business than a school. If ONE student isn't having fun and threatens to quit...the entire cirriculum is changed so that that ONE student has a good time and stays. Entire lessons are changed around ONE student. That shit would never fly in the States. You don't want to learn your ABCs today? Go home. Not here. You dont want to learn your ABCs today? Let's have a party and play games instead.

#19: Koreans are attracted to other Koreans for very different reasons than Americans. In America people are thought to be attractive because of the overall appearance, personality, etc. In Korea it is the small things they look the shape of their eyes. A Korean friend of mine told me that he likes girls with big eyes. More specifically he likes Koreans girls with big eyes. Not so easy to find in Korea.

Good news! Mom found my charger to my camera and is sending it to me in a package this week along with everything else I forgot. HOPEFULLY I will have it by St.Pattys day but definately by next weekend. Ironically enough there are all kinds of foreigner sports leagues here. As many of you know I have played softball since I was in elementary school so that was a no brainer on signing up for that league. The league that I have been peer pressured into that is NOT my forte is soccer. Soccer requires skills like coordination and agility...skills I do NOT possess. My friends are convinced that I would be a "kick ass" goalie. They don't really have any specifics on WHY I would be a good goalie but who knows. Maybe I will shock and stun everyone with my raw talent of being able to block all of the shots and make a professional career out of it. Ha. Don't bet on it. My goal for the season is to block as many shots as I can without getting seriously injured and ending up in the hospital. Stay tuned.

It is FINALLY the weekend. No tiny Koreans for 2 whole days. Plans include my first trip to the big open market downtown, first softball game for the league, Alice in Wonderland (yes i'm watching it again) and who knows what else. It should be a weekend full of fun. Fingers crossed!

Oh and thank you all for the amazing comments. It has helped so much by letting me know that what I write actually is being read by my family and friends at home. It helps me feel more connected somehow. Love you guys :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Korean Shoes and Homesickness

#16: Koreans take their shoes off everywhere. Before I came to Korea I bought new shoes for my classrooms just like I would if I was teaching in America. Did you figure out the mistake I made? I shopped like I would have shopped if I was still living in AMERICA. Basically I was a dumbass by spending good money on shoes I will never wear. They are cute shoes and go with everything BUT in Korea you take off your shoes at the door and put on slippers. Yup. I wear slippers everyday. My current slippers are boring blue and red slippers. Nothing special. The supervisor (aka principal) wears slippers that look like they belong on the bottom of footsie pajamas. They are made to look like a dog. Complete with the dog head/paws AND tongue. Think of the slippers you wore when you were 4 or 5. I'm jealous mine don't quite match up to his. Looks like I know my next Korean purchase: bad ass slippers.

#17: Continuing on the rant of things I bought before I came to Korea that I don't casual clothes for classroom teaching. All of the teachers (Korean and American alike) wear jeans and tshirts. Some wear sweats/yoga pants and a sweatshirt. It is completely acceptable. Right now i'm still in the mode of trying to impress so i'm not quite so casual yet but apparantly it's what you do. Casual is in. Rock on. I'm game.

Today was a stressful day. I realized that I left my charger to my camera in the States. Good job Jenn. Leave the charger to the thing that takes the pictures somewhere you can't use it. Great idea. Soo I spent my breaks in between classes trying to see how much one would cost to ship to me and how long it would take. Lets just say...I could buy a new camera for cheaper. Way cheaper. Right now I am in a pickle of sorts on what to do. Suggestions would be welcome!

I talked to Mom and while it made me feel better about my shitty made my homesickness come back in full force. I got off the phone and promptly cried like a small freaking child. Think small child that just fell off the swingset and scraped her knee. That kind.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow being a better day. Fridays are supposed to be the best day of the week right? I sure as hell hope so.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Becoming Domesticated

So I have a little favor from anyone that reads this thing. If you find something amusing that i've written give me a lil' comment. I'm a little cut off from the people from home and a comment every once in awhile would sure brighten up my day. Just a wee suggestion.

Ok..back to those Koreans we've all grown to love.

#14: Koreans hate snow. Today in Pohang we got about 2 inches of snow. In the Midwest 2 inches isn't enough to stop a football game or cause delays in travel of any kind. In Pohang its enough to cancel school, cause delays in all forms of transportation and be basically a pain in the ass. The city does not have any kind of snow removal vehicles so what do they use? Construction bulldozers. Yup. Bulldozers. The things that tear down buildings also have the dual purpose of acting like a snow plow. Koreans are ingenious.

#15: Koreans will wear the same outit multiple days in a row. In Korea there are washing machines..but not dryers. The lack of dryers forces people to reuse clothing more than once because to wash and dry it takes time. Lots of it. In America a kid wouldn't be caught dead wearing the same outfit to school multiple days in a row. In Korea it's kind of unusual to NOT see a kid wear the same outfit over and over again.

Today was a big day for me. I went on my first solo outing to Home Plus and didn't get lost. This coming from the girl who gets lost in Indianapolis (her home of 15+ years) and who ends up in Michigan when trying to get home from South Bend (and yes that actually happened). It took me the better part of an evening to get to the store, do my shopping and then find the bus to get back home...but I did it. All by myself. And I bought Sushi for dinner and made rice.

I'm becoming all domesticated and shit and I love it.

Instant coffee and Korean Showers

#12. Other than the coffee at 7 Monkeys or Starbucks...Koreans do coffee out of packets. It is in a packet that looks like a giant crystal light packet and has diferent flavors. You mix it in with hot water and that's all there is to it. Whenever I wanted coffee in America I had to get out my coffee maker, add the coffee grounds, add the water, wait for it to brew, pour my cup, clean up the coffee maker, etc. This way takes all of 2 seconds and actually tastes pretty awesome depending on the flavor. I'm sure there are coffee makers and all that jazz but I think Koreans like the instant gratification of instant coffee. I know I do :)

#13. I'm not sure how I never talked about Korean showers but I haven't. Korean showers are NOT like American. Everything about them is handheld. You have to take the shower by switching hands while the water goes all over the floor. There is a drain under the sink so eventually all of the water goes there. Eventually. It's definately an aquired skill to not get water all over the damn bathroom. So far i've gone through 3 toilet paper rolls because i've soaked them all. Yup. I'm coordinated.

I'm not sure i'll ever run out of the crazy freaking unusual things Koreans do. If I do that means i've been here far too long.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Finicky Koreans

#11: Koreans like it cold. When I say cold I mean freaking freezing. They keep all of the windows open in the school and then act surprised when it's cold. The American teachers in the school spend the majority of each morning running around and shutting each one. We plan our lessons with sweatshirts and jackets on. I've been told to stock up on cold medicine during the winter because of this ridiculousness. Yay. The odd thing about their passion about cold? In their homes they have heated floors and many sleep with a heated mattress pad. They work freezing. They sleep in a sauna. Finicky Koreans.

My second week at my school totally sucks. I spend each day from 9:30am until 6:10pm teaching class and then usually another hour or so getting next month's lessons ready or preparing for the next days class. People say that i'll get used to it and that I won't even notice the time...but right now all I want to do is pass out the minute I walk through my door. Looks like i'm going to have to stock up on my old standby: coffee. I was trying to limit the coffee intake but i'm just not sure that's an option anymore. Hello coffee.

Oh and here's my address for anyone who wants to send me some snail mail. It took me awhile to post it because of my living situation. I lived in a coteacher's apartment while she was in Seoul during my first weekend. I lived with my supervisor the first week. Now I FINALLY have my own place and FINALLY my own address. Use it. I love me some snail mail :)

Good Morning Heights III 306
Jangsang-Dong, Buk-Gu
Pohang-Si, Gyeongsangbukdu
791-260, South Korea

Well that's probably the biggest debbie downer post so far during the big adventure in Korea. I love my new life here and the reward I get when I see one of my students finally have that light bulb go off when they finally's worth all of it. So far I love Korea but it's still damn hard. I try to talk to at least one member of my family per day. I try to write in this blog once a day. I try and communicate with friends and family over facebook, skype and everything else I can get my hands on. All of those things help...but it's no substitute for the real thing.

It's hit me hard this week that I am actually in Korea and that I am here for at minimum ONE YEAR. I can either make the best of it or be a miserable, whiny baby that makes everyone else around her miserable and want to punch her in the face. Yup. I'm choosing to have a kick ass time, meet friends that will last a lifetime and make memories i'll never forget. It's just a year after all. It'll be over before I know it. Right?

Making Rice

#10: There are no gender colors. Boys wear pink. Girls wear blue. It doesn't matter. It is very common to see men walking around in bright "female" colors. Men are very fashionable and wear pants that are tighter than their girlfriends, necklaces, earrings and coordinating MURSES (male purses) just to name a few. It's an entirely different fashion culture here. This would never fly in America!

Soo...sidenote...back in America I am known as the girl who can't cook. I try but somehow I just end up ruining things or setting apartments on fire. Yup. I once caught my apartment on fire when trying to make macaroni and cheese. It can be done. Trust me. I've done it. Last night I decided to make rice. Thats right. Me. Make rice. Drum roll please....I did it! I know it doesn't seem like that big of a feat...okay so she made rice. For me this is huge. I can now make one of the Korean staples. Go me.

First step: Rice. Next step: Fried Rice.

Maybe I should buy a fire extinguisher just in case.

First Full Weekend in Korea

#7: Koreans do not believe in trash cans. At all. When I take out my trash from my apartment I literally walk down my steps, out my front door and place my trash on the side of the road next to the other bags. That is their version of trash cans. No joke.

#8: Koreans have zero personal space. If you are an American be ready to be jostled, pushed,'s not considered impolite in their culture. They are the kind of people that they know where they are going and if you are in their way then too bad for you.

#9: Koreans clean up after you. At home when you eat lunch you are expected to clean up your mess...put away your dishes...wipe down the sink. Not in Korea. At least not in my school. After we have lunch all we do is put our dishes by the sink. They wash and clean it for us. They take out our trash. They make you tea if you are staying late working. They have so much hospitality that it makes America look positively awful. Take notes Americans.

It's hard to believe it's been 4 days since my last post. There has been so much that has happened that it's hard to start. I'll give the cliffs note version so as not to bore you all too terribly much. Get some coffee or your drink of choice. This could take a hot minute.

Friday I went out for my first foreign bar weekend experience. I got pleasantly buzzed and decided it would be a good idea to try and get home myself. At 5am. Bad life choice. I got into the cab, said where to go, paid the driver and promptly began my walk to my apartment. Or to where I thought my apartment was. I'm pretty sure I took a wrong turn somewhere because I got lost. Really really lost. I made a few phone calls but as soon as I connected with someone my phone died. Awesome. I tried to go into a GS Mart (kind of equivilant to a baby CVS) and they didn't speak any English and couldn't help. I get into ANOTHER cab and he takes me to the wrong address and tells me to get out. 3 cabs later (yes that's took 3 more cabs to get me home) I am finally at home. Never again will I try to get home by myself again...or at least I will wait until i've been here for more than a week. Lesson learned.

Saturday we went and saw Alice in Wonderland in 3D. Holy shit it's amazing. It was my first 3D movie...yes I know I was the one person in the entire world who never saw Avatar in 3D but guess what? I've survived. The movie had amazing graphics and twists that I would have never thought possible. If you have the time go and see the movie. Let's just say that i'm pretty positive I have my Halloween cosutme picked out already for this year. It's going to be epic.

Sunday I was taken on my first real outing of Home Plus. It is sort of equivilant to an American Walmart of sorts but imagine it being 5 stories high and jam packed with everything from fruits and vegetables of all kinds to pillows and linens. It was overwhleming to say the least. I will be frequenting Home Plus often for the bits and pieces to finish up my apartment. It is bare to say the least. I got a bed, tv and that's it. No bookcases or tables or tv unit...nada. I've got some purchasing to do. I also cleaned it from top to bottom. It needed it in the worst way. Pictures will be posted as soon as it's finished.

All in all my first weekend in Korea was a smashing success...a little jarring and overwhelming at times...but a success to say the least. Be on the lookout for more updates. I've got a feeling i'll be writing much more very soon.

P.S. I joined a gym today and it feels awesome to be working out again. PLUS it's cheap and no one there talks to you/hit on you because they can't speak English. Definite bonus.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pimp, Dinosaur and Robot

Korean First: I ate my first squid today. It was grilled but cold and I actually liked it. Shocking.

#6: In Korea foreigners are a little like celebrities. If we travel in groups we need to be prepared to stop at any point while herds of koreans walk around us for pictures. They actual take our picture to show their other friends what Americans look like. They are obsessed with our white skin, our eye shape/color, how we sound, etc. When I got off the plane in Seoul I couldn't understand why all of the teenage Koreans were snapping pictures of me...why every single person on my bus waved at me when they got i know. Oh and the biggest thing about America they like is Barack Obama. They're obsessed. Who knew?

Many of you who know me are aware of the fact that I was afraid I was going to have to name my kids in my head so I could keep them straight. Thankfully in schools like mine each kid is given an English name. Right on. In some cases the kids are allowed to pick, sometimes the parents, sometimes the all varies. Usually the parents pick a general name like David, Daniel, Elizabeth...something common. When the kid picks the name you know immediately. I have one girl who named herself Princess. Freaking cute. A friend of mine from another school had kids who named themselves no so cute names. One named himself "Pimp." Yup. That's right. PIMP. I've heard "Dinosaur" , "Robot" and many more. The best part of that is that whoever their teacher may be, they are forced to call them by their English name. "Ok Pimp...pass your homework in." "Dinosaur...DINOSAUR I told you to sit down!" Can't you just imagine. It's amusing as me.

In Korea..anything goes!

Stop Signs are Optional

Song of the Moment: "Sinners like Me" - Eric Church

#4: In America there are rules for driving. Americans have to obey posted speed limit signs, stop at stop signs, wear their seatbelts, obey traffic lights, etc. In Korea all of those things are considered just a suggestion. Cab drivers consider stop signs optional, do not use turn signals and honk at every vehicle coming or going in either direction. Koreans drive however they want to and strangely there are VERY few accidents.

#5: Speaking of driving...Koreans also do not obey any kind of child safety laws while driving. Americans put kids in car seats or booster seats and belt them in the back seat. Koreans have the kids in their lap while driving. Yup. WHILE DRIVING. Safety is just a suggestion.

Yesterday was my first FULL day of teaching by myself. 7 classes of preschool aged kids sure is demanding. It does however remind me alot of home. At home my mother runs a daycare out of our house. During the day the kids are taught basic preschool skills such as colors, shapes, abcs, pledge of allegiance, etc. My kids are taught basically the same thing just in a different way. Repetition is what gets through to these kids. Saying the same thing in a book over and over and over again and having them repeat it eventually sinks in. Is it a little annoying? yes. Does it get the job done and help them learn? Absofreakinglutely. I've got a feeling i'm definatly going to earn my paychecks!

Last night was also my first night at a foreign bar named Beetoven. I walked in and felt like I was in a time warp at Cheers. It really is a place where everybody knows your name. The atmosphere kind of reminds me of a mix between the Chug and Herot back home in Muncie. Busy and smokey but homey. Totally love it.

The big news of today is that I finally FINALLY get to move into my own apartment. I have been moving around to different apartments since I arrived on Sunday and I am so beyond done with that shit. I want to go somewhere to unpack my suitcases, hang up my clothes and do what I want without worrying i'll offend someone because...shock of all shocks...i'm not Korean!!! This time tomorrow I will be (hopefully) settled in with a list of things to get to make it more like home. far so good. I'm 5 days in and so far no breakdowns or crying. They say if you last 2 weeks without doing that then you're golden. Looks like we'll just have to see.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Day of Firsts

Song of the Moment: "Jolene" - Ray LaMontagne

#3: Koreans are all 2 years older than Americans. Koreans believe that your life starts in the womb. Once you are born you turn 2. Just one of the MANY quirky things that surround the Korean culture.

Yesterday was my first day as a Hagwon teacher. My first official class was a group of 10 students around the Korean age of 7 or 8. They did not speak any English and my first task was to teach them the ABCs. That's like trying to teach me the Korean alphabet. It sounds so much simpler than it really is. I had Elle (my supervisor and translator) in the room with me so that helped a smidge but it sure showed me what those kids go through everyday trying to learn a language that I take forgranted. I never realized how difficult it would be to teach a child the meaning of the word "school" or the english word for colors... something that I naively thought would be simple. It will definatly be a process and one that I will hopefully get better at as time progresses. Hopefully is the key word here.

My introduction to my first Korean resturant and bar in happened last night with my newfound group of teachers. An amazing dinner of the foreigner staple of "Cheesy Rice" followed by an evening at the local foreign bar named Whistler rounded out of my first official day. I even met a teacher who grdadutaed from Ball State and even knows a few of my friends from home! Can you say small freaking world?! I can. Small freaking world. The ironic thing is he used to play in a band at Docs that I have seen before. How two Ball State grads ended up on the other side of the world in the same city is beyond me.

There are so many foreign teachers within close proximity to me that it is amazing. It makes me feel so much more at ease knowing that there are other people around me that are going through the exact same thing. They understand the culture shock and the little things Koreans do that we don't understand. They get it that using chopsticks is a skill that evolves over time... kimchi is an aquired taste...squid is something that new teachers will probably have a problem with...using a squatting toilet will take time to use properly...and so many more. Oh the crazy life we lead in Korea :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mini Brandon Harrisons

Song of the Moment: "We Rode in Trucks" - Luke Bryan

#2: Koreans do not use sheets. They use a fitted sheet and a comforter. That's it. They don't even sell regular top sheets or other sheets to go in between. Looks like that will be something mom sends me...*cough please mom cough*.

Today is my first day at my school. I go in at 930am and am done around 7pm. Long ass day. I have my first kindergarten class and am so excited! The one thing I am not excited about is that apparantly the teacher is the disciplinarian to the kids. We are told to yell at them and smack them if necessary. When I was told that it reminded me of working at Chilis in Muncie and having to discipline one of our servers Brandon Harrison. He was forever doing things he shouldn't like tripping people, knocking water out of hands because he could, sticking his fingers in light sockets...i can't tell you how many times his hands got smacked. I just have to think of my new kids as mini Brandon Harrisons. Should be interesting :)

oh and I found a place downtown to indulge my coffee habit. 7 Monkeys. Super cute place with banana pillows and tons of room. It's one of the foreigner hangouts. There is also a Starbucks. With free wi-fi. Hell yes. Anyone who knows me knows how much i love me some good Starbucks.

Well not much elser to say right now. Keep watching for more...this should be an interesting week to say the least. Fingers crossed everyone!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Firsts in Korea

Song of the Moment: "Forever My Friend" - Ray LaMontagne

I've decided that I will dedicate part of each post to something Koreans do that is unusual and unheard of in America.

#1 The first is that couples dress alike. When I say alike I don't just mean they wear the same color or style. I mean they dress identical from head to toe. There are entire stores that are dedicated to this unusual trend. This would never happen in America.

My first day in Korea was definately an experience I won't soon forget. One of my supervisors took me to the corner mart where all I wanted was water. Their water comes in 2 liter form. Solid. In America that 2 liter bottle of water would cost $3 or more. In Pohang it cost less than $1. I can live with that. After the mart experience she took me back to my apartment where she made me my first Korean meal. Kimchi. I didn't hate it...but i sure didn't love it. It's rice, cabbage, a sort of red paste and tons of spice. Apparantly that is one of the staples in my school's lunch menu. Looks like i'm going to have to make my peace with Kimchi. mmmm Kimchi.

After she left I had every intent of crawling under the covers and going back to sleep. My new friend Frances from my school had other ideas. We met up with 6 of her friends and took a bus to Gyeongju to go off roading on ATVs. Yup. I drove an ATV around. Who would have thought?! We had a blast and it is something I will definately do again soon! I am so glad that I have met other foreigners here already and am building connections. Before I came here I was worried that I wouldn't meet anyone or experience anything..but here in Pohang the teaching community is very tight knit and hang out throughout the week and every weekend. They say that Pohang has the big city look but the small town feel. So far it's true and i'm loving every second of it.