Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chi Chis Are Boobs

So the highlight of today was when Steven made a grabbing motion and said to me, "Amber Teacher, chi chis fat". Kelly and I almost died laughing. Then Kelly informed me that Steven's mother once told Kathy Teacher (the secretary) that both of her sons like big boobs because she doesn't have any. Oh the comedy these children supply me. Like when my other class was practicing reading and the word was 'ditch'. Yeah, so they get ds and bs mixed up alot here and this student was an especially loud and confident reader. Sort of like my other student who yelled out 'clap' but used the r sound accidently. They all probably think I am insane when I am laughing my butt off but can't tell them why.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


This week went by really quickly because we were so busy. On Thursday I taught Jon's classes since he flew to Osaka and it went better than last time I had to cover Lamb/Tiger class. I think it might be since I know the kids better now or maybe they are more used to me. Who knows. Friday was the Halloween party, and yes, we are aware that Halloween isn't until Tuesday but they really don't celebrate it here and doing things on a Friday is alot easier than in the middle of the week. Plus all of the classes are scheduled to come on Fridays and only about half of them come on Tuesdays.

So on Thursday night I was at school much later because I taught an extra elementary class and then had to help decorate the school for Halloween the next day. Jon has some pretty awesome elementary classes if the one I taught was any indication. They spoke English so well and I was shocked at how much easier it was to teach when you're not spending half the class communicating what the instructions mean. I could just talk to them and they understood me almost 100% the first time around. No wonder I am always so exhausted after teaching my elementary phonics class. It just takes so much energy to get your point across when your class has a combined English vocabulary of 100 words maximum.

Friday was a fun day but so much work and so tiring. I felt like I'd ran a marathon by the end of the day even though technically our day was shorter than usual. Kindergarten came through from 9:30-12:30 and then elementary came from 3pm-6pm. They ordered pizza for lunch and somehow Kelly managed to hide almost an entire pizza without anyone noticing it was gone. Then when everyone was totally stuffed and we thought there wasn't much pizza left, she pulls out all of this pizza and keeps on eating! She must have the metabolism of a hummingbird with ADD with the way she eats and never exercises.

The kindergarten kids were all really adorable in their costumes and I got to meet some of their parents who came to take pictures and join in the fun. It was a bit like the paparazzi though with all of the giant cameras. These are definitely well off families judging by the size and quantity of their video equipment. I swear, this one camera looked like it'd been swiped from CNN or something. One set of parents sought me out to tell me how much their daughter likes me and I was really surprised because I don't even teach this little girl. It was really nice and I wish I'd had more time to talk to them. I think all the kids had fun playing games and eating themselves silly with the candy, cotton candy and caramel apples. I tried to dress up as a monster but the most popular guess was that I was an angel. I don't know what kind of angels have furry blue feet but oh well. Here's a sampling of the cuteness, but for the full meal deal, go here.

Lion class really enjoyed the Mummy wrapping game.

Matt's graveyard was a hit!

We had to alter bobbing for apples slightly but it was still pretty popular. Sam gets one!

This is Joi's class and as you can see most girls dressed up as a princess/fairy/angel combination and most boys were a power ranger/superhero of some kind. Tres cute!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Places we've been recently...

This month has been pretty crazy with Halloween preparations and just general work stuff. Last weekend Elly was kind enough to take Matt, Jon and I to Insadong (Korean traditional area) and we bought some neat stuff for gifts. We also stopped at this massive bookstore and were able to look at *English* books. Oh the novelty! And I cried a little as I saw a bunch of Psychology textbooks (similar to those I bought in university) for so cheap. Like books I would have paid over $100 for being sold for $40. While in Insadong we had some delicious tea at a traditional tea house. I had cold pomegrante tea and it was really yummy.

Yesterday Matt and I ventured to Yongsan Electronics Market. It was a neat place to go but I don't know if I would go back unless there was something specific I was looking for and I had a Korean person with me to haggle. It literally was 7 massive floors filled with every kind of electronic you can imagine. Way too much shiney for me to handle. Then we carried on to Namdaemun, which is an area similar to Dongdaemun. I bought a neat skirt that actually fit me (I can't believe I found some kind of clothing here) and Matt bought jeans which turned out to be too small. We bought some other stuff and then I got a raging case of homesickness. At this point we ducked into Outback Steakhouse and I pretended I wasn't in Korea but was back in Canada. It was nice having an all English menu and I got over my mini crisis. Then we were sucked into this glasses place and I ended up buying a new pair of prescription glasses. Yes, you read that correctly. My glasses from Canada cost about $450 and these glasses cost me about $100 and they made them in 10 minutes. It's the most amazing thing and I may get another pair sometime before I leave. I like having options and with them being that price you can actually afford to change your look every so often. These are similar to the ones I have but a nice chocolate brown with cool silver chrome on the sides. Don't mind the picture, I took it myself and had just rolled out of bed.

Yongsan Electronics Market


Lots of Ginseng.
More pictures here.

New Glasses!!!

Oh and when we were at Yongsan Market we happened upon this basketball trick/streetball demonstration. They called themselves "HipHoop" and it was quite entertaining, not only watching the cool tricks but also seeing the old ladies in the audience bob their heads along to some pretty explicit rap music. Of course, they probably had no idea what the music was about. It was also really funny when the basketball players screamed out random English phrases (usually filled with garbled swear words) and a few "yeah yeahs" for good measure. Good times were had by all.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Forever Blowing Bubbles...

Friday we had a bubble blowing activity. Technically we were supposed to teach the kids about directions (north, etc) and show them how to use a compass but that part didn't really happen. We did talk about the wind and that kind of stuff but come on, I don't even know how to use a compass, let alone teach some 4 year olds how to use one. It was a lot of fun though and the kids were really cute. Only Brian drank his bubble mixture so really it was all pretty successful.

Kelly and Paige and lots of kiddies.

Jun (our boss' son) and my little Steven.

Brian; Michelle teacher with her and Matt's classes.

More bubble mania here.

Later that day I took a couple other pictures of some of the kindergarten students. I told Albert (who is in one of Matt's classes) to make a really silly face and boy did he deliver.

And then Andy (Lamb class) showed me the cool airplane he made.

Meet Michael teacher!

This is Michael teacher. The 'old Matt' left him behind with naught but a phone number for some guy in Itaewon who may or may not come and pick up the little bastard. When the old Matt adopted Michael teacher (what a stupid name for a lizard btw) he was burnt and emaciated. That was a year ago. Matt himself has never cleaned the cage and considering how well the previous owners took care of him we can logically conclude that the aquarium has not been properly cleaned...
let me see...
carry the two...

Personally, I like Michael teacher. Joi hates him though and wants 'it' out of the house stat (her hate is based purely on fear and lizard ignorance, so try not to judge her too hard for her lizard prejudices). John and Amber, I think, couldn't care less as long as they don't have to deal with him. Amber may have let me keep him if I changed the name. But pets should be a unanimous decision and so I'll do my best to get rid of him. I'm in no hurry however.

Isn't he cute??? Aww!

He eats lettuce and drinks water. I tried giving him a mushroom and some spinach but he wasn't interested. As you can see the top of his aquarium, or 'terrianium', is loaded with heavy, heavy objects to keep Michael teacher from escaping. Weights. A puzzle. 'The Godfather'. A larger inflatable iguana. You know, heavy stuff. Apparently he used to get out all the time and Joi would come home and sure enough there would be this iguana being all iguana-like, hanging on the screen door, puffin' a cigarette, saying things like "Yo Queiro Sexo" and stuff. Can you blame Michael Teacher? All teachers want to escape!

The Belated Chosuk Entry

Chosuk, for the uneducated, is basically Korean Thanksgiving and is a time where Koreans gather at their home town and pay their respects to their ancestors while visiting with family. They also eat a lot of food (just like us). Chosuk fell on October 3-6th so it meant that we had nearly a whole week off from work. Unfortunately with Matt's gimpyness and with us being recent arrivals, we weren't able to plan a cool trip to Thailand or something, like a lot of people do. I guess not everyone goes back to their hometowns since flights to pretty much everywhere and hotels were booked like crazy. My students Ben and Max travelled with their families to Thailand and Canada (Lion students), for example.

So no Thailand for us, but we did make a couple of day trips into Seoul. On the Wednesday we went to the City Hall subway stop because we found out that there is an Air Canada office in Seoul. Yes, this is another thing that the stupid bint in Edmonton was wrong about. With the help of Michelle teacher's directions we found the office without a hitch and dealt with some knowledgeable and helpful Air Canada employees (figures you'd have to travel to Asia to find them). We got our tickets refunded and for awhile we were concerned that the interest charges on Matt's credit card had gone through (18% of $4500 isn't cool) but they didn't and so everything is thankfully cleared up. It was such a relief to get all of that crap behind us and figured out. For the rest of the day we explored this part of Seoul a bit.

We decided to go to Deoksu Palace which was pretty neat. Inside of this palace there was also an art museum, which we also checked out. Right now the exhibit is featuring the art of Rops and Munch. All I can say is that Rops did not like women very much and that I was a bit surprised at some of the extremely graphic drawings that he did. Phalluses (phallusi?) and devils aplenty! After we looked around the museum we wandered around the palace some more and then caught the changing of the guards ceremony.

This little girl was also touring the palace and is wearing a traditional Korean hanbok. I asked her parents if I could take her picture. Isn't she cute?

More pictures can be found here.

Then on Friday we ventured out to Dongdaemun, which is a shopping mecca. Since Friday was a holiday alot of stuff was closed but we did manage to buy some cool stuff. In Korea they sell tons of stuff on the street for way cheaper than you can get in the store. We buy all of our fruit, for example, off the street. Five apples in the supermarket would set you back about $35, where as on the street you can get that many for about $5. I bought a really cool pair of sneakers while we were at Dongdaemun for about $15. It was cute because the shopkeeper was telling us (or so we gathered since he was speaking Korean) that the shoes I bought are good quality because they are made in Korea; apparently much better than shoes from China. I found some cute Engrish shirts (for $5 a piece) but I won't divulge what they say or what they look like since they will probably end up as gifts. I didn't take a lot of pictures this day but we did see this gem of a store:

There was also this really neat aquaduct/fountain in the middle of the streets.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Apparently no one is happy...

with their physical appearance. So last night I went downtown to do a bit of shopping and one of the places I went was the Face Shop (kind of like the Body Shop). I bought some really awesome and delicious smelling hand lotion (peach and pomegrante scent) to have at work and when I paid for it they slipped some free samples of other products into my bag. When I got home I looked at the samples and as it turns out they were for mosturizing and whitening your face. Yep, this lotion contained some kind of bleaching agent (perhaps this is the stuff Michael Jackson uses?). I asked Kelly teacher about this today (since she is a wealth of information) and she confirmed that these lotions exist but that they don't really work and often contain sunscreen, not bleach. She explained that Korean women really want to have a "clean, white face". I'm not sure what's worse- bleaching your skin or tanning it, but it seems like no one is content with what they've got.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

North Korea

Due to the recent news coverage of alleged nuclear testing in North Korea, I've had some people express concern about our well being. I wanted to just make a quick statement in regards to this issue. I would have to say that if I didn't watch the world news in the morning or look at online news webpages I would have no idea that anything was going on. People here look at you like you grew another head if you ask them if they are worried about North Korea. Either they are totally oblivious, completely resigned or there isn't anything to worry about. I figure that if the people that live in North Korea's backyard aren't afraid then we should be just fine. Apparently there isn't even that much news coverage (in Korean) about it and they are more concerned about the fact that the USA are getting themselves involved. I was talking to Kelly teacher the other day about North Korea and her attitude was, "Well, I thought about what I would do if a war started in N. Korea and then I realized I wouldn't have to come to work so it would be okay. I'd just watch TV.". Yep, she is losing a lot of sleep as you can see. So don't worry about us, we're probably safer over here than you are.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I don't think this was doctor recommended...

Just to let everyone know, a broken foot does not make him a better bowler. This is too bad since he was a crappy bowler beforehand. And yes, I did dominate (however the other Matt had an outstanding score for the first game and I applaud him). I have mad bowling skills on any side of the world. I dare you to challenge me; in Korea losers pay.

Elly teacher was on my team. We were awesome! It was an Amber/Elly vs. Matt/Paige battle royale!

My Matt was on his own special handicapable team. He only dropped the ball once.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Garbage day

Today is Saturday.
Tomorrow is Sunday.
Sunday is Garbage day.
The garbage works a little different here in Gimpo, Korea than it does back home in Canada. First off, we recycle everything. Everything! Tin, plastic, glass, paper, organics. Everything has to be rinsed out and separated. The security guard (who performs a variety of functions, few of which involve keeping the apartment secure since there is no crime in S. Korea...) helps/orders you to sort properly. Even little things like the foil seal on the mouth of a new container can be recycled. Should you so choose you my simply throw something away, but you have to pay an exorbitant amount of money for the special plastic bags that said garbage will go in.
Organic waste is collected in a sealed bucket we keep in our laundry room/weird back hallway that goes nowhere. This can be very disgusting as it often includes meats and fruits. We also dump bits and chunks from the food trap (a small filter in the kitchen sink drain) in the bucket. Then I, because neither Joi nor Amber will touch the stuff, dump the waste into here where it stews and waxes poetic.

Rewind to last Sunday when Amber, Joi, and I cleaned out a good portion of the apartment. Matt had just left us and left piles and piles of unwanted shit behind, as is the trend around here. We paid something close to 12000 Won to dispose of the larger objects and brought out tons of recycling. I think the security guard must have figured that these crazy waygooks just buy things to throw them away again.

So there you have it. Clearly more efficient and better for our planet, but not nearly as convienent as our "throw things out without thinking about it or considering the consequences system" that we employ at home.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The best part about being a teacher...

is possibly getting random presents. I've only been teaching one month and already I've gotten many delicious foodstuff gifts (like cookies, although once a student gave me a Vitamin C tablet- see, random!). I got my best gift, so far, yesterday from Daniel's mother. I wish I'd taken a picture of it all wrapped up first but I was too impatient to see what it was.
Yes, it's scrumptious and unusual handmade chocolates. Kelly teacher also got a box and we got this other huge box filled with sort of doughnut bon bon type things (filled with different kinds of sweet beans). We shared those with the other staff but the chocolates we kept to ourselves. I haven't had any yet but will keep everyone updated on how yummy they are. Unless they are all filled with beans. Which aren't that bad but they sure aren't caramel or nougget.

Apparently I have tons of presents to look forward to, being a teacher in Korea. I will get them sporadically for no reason but I will also get Christmas and birthday presents. And for Teacher's Day and November 11th here is Pepero Day (Korean equivalent of Pocky) so I will be given Pepero by every one of my students. Canadian teachers are totally screwed in the present department- I only gave teachers that I liked presents at the end of the year, maybe. This is a much better system (for me).

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Clean, Efficient Transportation

I wish that the public transportation in Edmonton was this awesome! The bus system is a bit tricky since everything is in Korean but the subway system is really cool and pretty easy to use. Fares are based on how far you travel, which is way better than just a blanket fare if you ask me. Also, they give you CHANGE here on the buses (Joi thought I was insane when I wasn't willing to put my 1000 Won bill into the bus slot when the fare was only 700 Won until she learned this important detail). Also you can get a card that you put money on and can scan on any bus or subway around here and I think you get a reduced fare as a result. Matt (who left early Saturday morning for Taiwan) gave me his on Friday and yesterday I put money on it so now I don't have to worry about hunting for change when I want to go somewhere.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the subway:

Note how clean and space aged they are. Joi decided to show me her "bedroom eyes" in this picture to express how much she appreciates me taking a picture of everything.

These stations were all over the place in every subway station. Remember, terrorism can strike anytime, anywhere and then you will want to be able to quickly suffocate yourself with a plastic bag and end it all as soon as possible.

Birthday Cake Nazi

So the other week we were celebrating September birthdays at Little Brown. Here's a cute picture of Matt's kindergarten classes in the midst of birthday jubilation. They don't screw around here though. If your class doesn't have a kid in it with a birthday that month there is no cake for you! Yep, every class had a birthday except for my four year olds (well there is only 5 of them, you do the math). Try explaining to four year olds in any country why every other student in the school gets delicious cake while you only get a yogurt drink, but that next month we get cake since it will be Daniel's birthday. That was a tough day in Lion class and I had a lot of crying little boys on my hands. Poor Steven was inconsolable for a good 10 minutes. Eventually Kathy teacher (who is actually the school secretary and speaks no English) scrounged up a single piece of cake from who knows where and Kelly and I used chopsticks (yes, even for cake) to pop pieces in thier tiny, quivering mouths. Thank goodness for Kathy teacher overruling the Birthday Cake Nazi (similar to the Soup Nazi, but more Korean) and saving the day. No wonder the kids all love Kathy teacher.

Viva Osaka!

This past week has been pretty crazy and busy for Matt and I. We worked Monday, as per usual, but had less (basically no) time to prep for our elementary classes since we were kidnapped and taken to create bank accounts. A good thing since it meant that on Tuesday we were paid. Then Tuesday and Wednesday we went on an Osaka adventure to secure necessary documentation for ourselves.

I'd never been to Japan before and like many people from the West I'd always sort of lumped Asian countries into the same little box. So when we landed and started getting around Osaka it was quite surprising how different things were from Korea. I can truly understand why people would get upset when you confused one for the other. Physically Japanese and Korean people are distinctly different looking and from what I saw, they generally act a lot differently too. Their cities (well the ones I've seen) aren't much alike either, except in the fact that they are huge and filled with lots of people. Japanese people seemed to be more concerned about "fashion" and as a result we saw a lot of bizarre clothing, haircuts, make up, etc. Osaka also had a lot less neon and their buildings were tall but generally only had one, or maybe a couple, store in it. In Korea the buildings are covered in signs and each building houses numerous stores, etc in one building. Osaka also seemed more spread out than a lot of Seoul I've seen and it did seem easier to get around because the streets seemed to be organized on something resembling a grid. Here there seems to be a lot of random side streets and alleys and it can make it confusing to try and find a place. And the creepiest thing about Japan that I noticed was that *no one talks in public*. I've heard about this phenomenon but I had forgotten about it and sort of thought that it was one of those old traditions that nowadays have faded out. According to my Korean coworkers, in the majority of Asia no one talks in public but somehow Koreans missed that memo and people talk all the time here. There is few things creepier than being surrounded by tons of people but having almost complete silence (except for traffic noises and advertisements).

There was another Canadian on our flight who was in Osaka for the same purpose. His name was Jeff from Guelph, Ontario. So we hooked up on our quest to brave the Osaka subway system and find the correct exit so that we could find the consulate. Finding the subway and getting on the correct train wasn't too difficult but once we got to the station it was a bit of a gong show trying to find the correct exit in the subway labyrinth. I felt really bad for Matt since he was crutching like a banshee and getting really tired and sore. I think he developed blisters in places where no one is meant to have blisters. We found what we thought was the correct exit and then it turned out we were totally wrong (they had more than one exit 25, just to make things easier for tourists, I think) and so I put my foot down and hailed a cab. Luckily Matt and I had decided to withdraw Yen of our own (Mr. Lee had given us money to cover costs but just enough) so that we could do stuff and get souveniers. So 5 minutes later we'd found the consulate and a major portion of my anxiety had subsided.

The application was a bit intimidating and we had no idea if we were filling out some questions correctly or not but as it turned out none of that seemed to matter since the next day things were processed. It was sort of scary wandering around Japan for an evening without our passports (especially when our hotel wanted to see them- but they settled on our driver's licences). After we finished at the consulate we ate some McDonald's in celebration (also because it was close, familiar and allowed Matt to sit down) and then decided to ride this giant random ferris wheel that was across the street. There were no other carnival ride sightings while we were in Osaka, for the record.

We took a cab and checked into our hotel (which was pretty nice) and then had naps and showers and set out to explore Osaka nightlife a bit. Another difference was that in Osaka sex seemed to be everywhere and there were also lots of places to gamble all over the place. Maybe we were in a sketchy area, I have no idea, or maybe we just haven't been in Seoul enough. There were "sexy" massage parlours and lingerie shops all over the place and in our hotel there was an extensive (complete with pictures) menu of porn stars. We had a good time wandering around and everything seemed to be open really late or 24 hours.

The next morning we found our way back to the consulate, picked up our passports and wandered around some more. We had sushi (in Japan!!!) and then meandered back to Kansai International Airport. We found the Air Canada desk and then found out that they couldn't refund the tickets. Since then Matt has contacted some people that have a clue at Air Canada and found out that the mechabitch at Edmonton was totally wrong in making us buy those tickets. We're pretty choked since we're paying interest on Matt's credit card on these charges and now we need to go into Seoul on Wednesday and find the Air Canada place (yes! there is one, stupid Edmonton worker) and get the refunds before everything shuts down for Chosuk. I hope karma catches up with the lady and we're going to formally complain and request that they give us the money for our credit card interest charges. Probably nothing will come out of it but atleast we'll know we tried.

Anyway, Japan was fun but we're glad to be back in Korea! Here are some select pictures and the rest can be found here!

The ferris wheel; the boys in the ferris wheel; view from the ferris wheel.

Our hotel room.

Toilets in Japan are more complicated and dangerous than I ever imagined.

Me rocking the hotel slippers.

So TV in Japan seems to be even more bizarre than in Korea. We did watch Full House dubbed in Japanese (Bob Saget's voice has never been more deep or manly) but this little gem was by far my favorite. It was called "Super Piano Lesson" and consisted of two concert pianists (one better than the other) going over a very complicated piece by Liszt. This was one of the only programs in English that we found.

We saw 3 of these crab restaurants on the same street. Yes, it's animatronic.

Amazing what you can get at the 100 Yen store ($1 store). Back home Scurvy busting drinks and Amputated Arm Nubbin covers would be way more expensive.

All food consumed was very delicious.

The Fashion Leg Shop was devoted to all things sock-like. We learned some sweet dance moves from this instruction video that was playing in a random storefront. Some tips (taken from English subtitles)- be sexy, sexier, sexiest and then serious. Box step like no tomorrow and then shake it alot amongst video animated sparkles.