Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Strange Trigger...

I had a bout of homesickness this week and it was triggered by the strangest thing. Remember how I was actually able to buy capris and use a dressing room? Well that did it. I was elated by the discovery but it made me long for the easy shopping I experience back in North America where everyone isn't "free size" and as an extension it made me miss all other North American things and people.

I'm over it now but it was a tough week. I'm still frustrated with not being able to do/find certain things here but overall I love Seoul and I have never expected it to be exactly like North America, nor did I want it to be. That was the whole point of moving somewhere and trying something new. Anyway, maybe it was silly homesick trigger karma since now my new pants have been stained at work by the dreaded, deadly board markers we use. It's just a tiny spot on the back but since it's light pink/white on black pants you can see it. (T T) This isn't the first piece of clothing that has been sacrificed either. Matt lost a pair of dress pants and his beautiful (expensive!) pink shirt last week. Feck. I'm not throwing the pants out but I think I will just wear these to work and try to go back to Uniqlo and find some more. They were only $10 after all and maybe I can get some more colors... Cross your fingers for me!

Otherwise, this week has been busy but interesting. Matt has been working late a lot on account of having so many students (and therefore so many assignments, tests, report cards, etc). So I've had to fend for myself a bit. Look at the super ghetto dinner I picked up for myself the other night. Ramen noodles, triangle kimbap and a lemon popsicle for dessert. Haha! I'm glad he's switching levels and getting more free time.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Work Post

So we're almost 5 months into our contract. What this means is that now I've gone through a whole rotation for the Tuesday Thursday classes and so more of my students will be leveling up and next month I'll receive some new ones. It also means that now I know what kind of work I have to do to fix my program and make them the best I can with what I have. So I have to fix a lot of the Big Tests in the next little while. I could have just said nothing I suppose but I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Anyway in other work news, Matt is getting switched to a different level which is relieving to him since he's had a lot of grief with one of his levels and he also has the most students so he is constantly marking essays, trying to squeeze in phone tests, presentations, etc. There are also murmurs that he will receive a small raise as compensation for his troubles but I'll believe it when I see it.
I took some general pictures the past couple days. Here you can see Vicky, who actually recently transferred from our Seocho branch. And you can also see her classmates, Betty (pink) and Julie. I have a lot of fun with my "Ee" class (say their names and you'll understand why I call them this). It's nice having all girls. Betty's actually going to Vancouver for about a month and a half on an exchange this summer. Julie is the student that swapped erasers with me so I have the awesome popsicle eraser.

Next you can see why I like teaching the lower level kids. I actually can define some stuff with my pathetic Korean vocabulary. Hahah!

One of my students gave me this cute sticker to put on my attendance folder. The top part means "smile" and the bottom part means "I'm happy". Cute! I don't know why the first picture is turned the wrong way since it's not like that in my picture folder. Stupid Blogger.

You can tell it's humid when my hair is left curly/wavy. Yeah it's going to be a long summer, I predict. Also you can kind of see my new shirt in this picture.

Work is going okay and we are basically just counting the days to summer vacation like everyone else. Heheh.

General Goings On...

The last couple of weekends have been fun but more on the mellow side. The weekend before last we were supposed to go to Gumi with our book club but I was a lousy cripple so we did a lot of resting and then spent some time with Dana and Curtis playing board games. I even snuck in a little Guitar Hero. Last weekend started off a bit late. It's the end of the month here, which is by far the busiest and most hectic part of our job. We have to get our syllabus finished, give tests and then mark all the tests, do our report cards, etc, etc... You get the idea. So even though I was really looking forward to the weekend I was busting my butt at work until almost 10:30pm on a Friday night. Then I waited around a little for Matt and we went off and finally ate supper. Yeah, I know. Crappy.
We got home at a half decent time after having some chicken galbi. We mooned over the cute puppies at the pet shop (they all wanted to go home with us) and wondered just how "happy" the happy happy hour could be at a bakery.

Saturday we headed over to Gangnam to browse around and then hang out with Margot Teacher. We arrived a little earlier than she did so we had time to do a little bit of shopping. I saw this cute t-shirt that made me think of Stephie but I didn't buy it.
We had some delicious smoothies from Smoothie King (summer is definitely coming- it has been so humid-ugh!) and ended up in Uniqlo. I have to admit, I've never really been in this store but Carter says it's her favorite. I have basically resigned myself to the fact that I can't find clothing (at least not reliably enough to count on it) when I am in Korea so I always bring what I think I will need for the year. Last year I lost weight so I had to get rid of a lot of clothes and then when I was in Canada it was fall/winter so I wasn't able to really replace a lot of my cooler weather clothes. As a result, I have no capris and basically my summer wardrobe consists of a bunch of cotton skirts I found here in the subway last year. At Uniqlo I felt like I was back in North America. They had sizes!! Not a huge selection of sizes (it's pretty obvious they overstock the XS and S) but actual sizes! And best of all, fitting rooms! I ended up finding casual capri pants on sale for $10 and a cute top for $5. Ahssa!!! Matt also got a shirt but his was regular price ($30) but still. So exciting!!
At this point we'd found Margot and were chatting it up when I noticed that we were in the same area as the English speaking fortune teller that I'd gone to months ago. Matt decided to give it a shot. Highlights included the guy telling Matt that now that he's 30 (Korean age) he's considered to be in the ajoshi category (old man), that in 7 years he'll start making a lot of money so I need to watch him because he might cheat on me and that a good time for us to make a baby is this month or next month! To which Matt replied, "That won't work- when does the next baby bus arrive?". I thought Margot was going to die from choking on her laughter. It also confirmed what we have all long suspected, Matt is a woman inside. That works out since apparently I am a man inside.

We had dinner at Big Rock (yum burgers!) and then watched Indiana Jones 4. I have to say I really liked it but I know it's not because it's an awesome movie. Really I could go on at length at what I didn't like but because I have such love for the original three it was great seeing Indiana back in action. I have to say though, I want to slap George Lucas. He should be banned from using CG. We did not need CG animals, really, we didn't. I'm sure he had CG everything and Steven [Speilberg] was only able to reign him in so much and settled for some gophers and monkeys. Hell, I don't even like Star Wars but I mourn for what George did to the last 3 of them with his overproduction. I like Ebert's review of the movie. I think he's right about his sausage analogy.

Anyway, Sunday I had lunch at a delicious Thai restaurant with my sisterfriend Rachel. She's so adorable and like a little sister to me. She just starting dating for the first time so we had lots of girl talk. Good times. We'll have to get together again for a double date or maybe some more norae, even though she blows everyone out of the water.

So there you have it, we haven't been up to a lot. It's getting really sticky and humid. Matt's mystery black lung seems to be going away but he still has yet to find a decent doctor around here. We're busy with work and need to plan our summer vacation trip to Beijing/Shaghai. We've got the plane tickets and that's about it. What are you up to?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Most Shocking T-Shirt EVER!

Man, I really wish I'd taken a picture of it but I was seriously so outdone. Plus at that moment I'd done something stupid to my camera (which I figured out how to fix luckily). I ran to work and immediately told Garrett about it because I had to tell someone. Our conversation:

A: Dude, I just saw the MOST RACIST shirt in the whole world.
G: Really?! Racist against whom?

What did the shirt say? Well it was in giant capital letters, "I F*CKING HATE..." and then went on to list every racial/ethnic slur I'd ever heard of and possibly some new ones. And at the end it said, "AND ESPECIALLY (the N word)!!!". Ohmigod! I did a quadruple take. I don't think you could create a more offensive shirt if you tried! So who was wearing this extreme fashion statement? An adorable lady cheerfully riding a bicycle. I wonder what she would say if she only knew...

Keep an eye on these boys...

Meet Sean (white shirt) and Joey. Take a good look because these boys will be the ones running the world in 15 years. I'm sure of it. Not only are they adorable but they are brilliant, funny and incredibly polite too. I really can't say enough good things about them. Currently they are both in my A1 class but could easily be in the next level but their parents (equally as smart) are letting them progress through the program naturally. This is something that you don't often encounter here where parents are constantly pressuring and pushing their kids and where certain parents would rather have their kid in the highest level class even if they have no idea what's going on. It doesn't seem to matter if they are really learning anything as long as they have bragging rights with the other mommies. So it's really refreshing that these boys aren't being exposed to that right now. As a result they have really shown amazing progress and improvement in the past couple of months and I have to say, their penmanship, grammar and speaking is often much better than any of my A3 students. They level up next month and I am really going to miss them. I'm sure I will see them in 5 months in my A3 class though.


Check out what I noticed on my walk to work. I wonder what bad ass wrote that? Brown on brown too- how ballsy! Hahah! I wonder if they tried to plug in the Korean equivalent of the "f" word into a translator and ended up with that?

Has South Korea Started Recruiting Child Soldiers?

Nope, just a regular day in my neighbourhood. We sure don't have pellet guns like that back home!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Humorous Finds

We saw this t-shirt when we went to pick up the air mattress and had lunch with Dana, Curtis and Curtis' parents in Bundang. Either it makes no sense OR it's talking about Korean pop sensation Rain. He's so in now that Stephen Colbert is talking about him.

The next one is more a tragically named product than actual Konglish. A tip to the manufacturers, "Acnes" isn't the best name for a face cleanser. I certainly wouldn't want to smear Acnes all over my face.

Happy Teacher's Day!

We've had a pretty busy week since Ali and Byrun left on Tuesday. I must have been having sympathy pains (or else our bed just sucks) since my back has been bothering me all week. I even got acupuncture for the first time ever (and since I have health insurance I paid half the rate- $7) but it didn't help much. I'm starting to feel better but it meant that we had to cancel our big weekend plans to go with our book club to Gumi. (T T) Another time, maybe.
Thursday was Teacher's Day and I didn't really have high hopes since we don't know our students as well as we knew the ones last year and last year was pretty outstanding. I did get some thoughtful little presents though. A lot of carnations, some small snacks, a couple of face washes- one made from green tea and another peach scented, some green tea vitamins, a large basket of flowers that I'm keeping on my desk, some awesome magnets I put on my fridge already. And then my favorite gift, and most surprising since it came from a student that just changed classes and therefore I no longer teach him. I got some Anna Sui cosmetics! I'm not much of a cosmetics or a designer type of girl but this was pretty cool. I have a gorgeous compact and a lip gloss that doubles as a phone charm. It's on my phone now and is a flattering color, unlike the infamous tangerine lip gloss I received last Teacher's Day. I hope everyone had a great Teacher's Day!

Claw Machine Goodies

We mentioned claw machine wins in the past (this is where we got our sacred Jesus lighter). Well we tried our luck again at a different machine while Ali and Byrun were there and with a couple small Korean boys watching. Matt was on fire and managed to win twice spending only a dollar. The little boys were thoroughly impressed and we weren't sure exactly what we won. It turned out to be car air freshener fan things and a couple of "Love Letters". We didn't know what this meant so I opened one (to make sure it wasn't inappropriate to give to the kids) and it turned out to be the hugest eraser ever! I wanted to keep an eraser but we'd already given them to the kids so we went back later to try to get one for me.
There were some Koreans out with their adorable baby and they watched as Matt failed to win anything. Then one of the guys in the group tried his luck and was a winner. They gave the prize to us (aww claw machine karma!) and exclaimed "Friend!". It was really sweet. The prize totally cracked me up though. Look at that watch!! The pictures really don't do it justice. It's fuzzy leopard print with brassy/gold and rhinestones. Hot. I also got a large eraser but it's not as giant as the ones we gave away. Such is life. We decided to be funny and the next morning we told Ali we bought her the watch as a present. Bwahaha! She was totally gracious and didn't bat an eye. Then we confessed it was a claw machine watch and she was so relieved. Hahah!


We managed to only be a little late picking Ali and Byrun up at the airport (they got through customs much faster than anyone could have anticipated). We were able to find them despite Matt's great communication skills- you know, not asking them where they were in the giant airport and then mishearing and thinking they were on the 4th floor. Oh yeah, and then getting the stellar "they're by the Paris Baguette" as directions. Anyone that's ever been to Korea knows that Paris Baguette is NOT a landmark. There's one of these suckers every other store or so. It's a bit like saying, "Oh we're just waiting here by the Korean man."

They stored the bulk of their luggage at the airport and then we bought tickets and piled on the airport bus. It seemed to take forever and about a quarter of the trip in Matt somehow developed the black lung and was coughing like crazy for over an hour. We all made it off the bus alive and then walked to our apartment. We were all hungry at this point but since it was getting late (and Ali and Byrun were pretty tired) we didn't want to take them anywhere too heavy or fancy. We ended up showing them how real Koreans eat at a tiny little restaurant (they are called shik dangs). We ordered a variety of classic dishes: chamchi gimbap, gogi mandu, bibimbap and gimchi chigae. Of course they came with the regular side dishes- all the gimchi, small fish, Korean radish and greens you can eat! I have to say they are much more adventurous than me since they were popping things in their mouth pretty casually. After we were stuffed to the gills we headed back to the apartment and called it a night. Ali and Byrun took our room and Matt and I set up the sweet (and by sweet I mean free) air mattress that Dana and Curtis found for us (on the street).

It was a successful night since our air mattress lost air but not ALL of its air and so I slept really well. Matt complained bitterly, which I found bizarre considering his hobo powers (he can nestle in a glass shard filled gutter and go to sleep) and also that we have slept on the floor before and this was much better. We used the mattress for the whole visit and it served its purpose. Now I think we'll look for a new one so we can have friends over.

Sunday everyone was up bright and early. Since Koreans don't really do breakfast but they do have lots of Western fast food places we ended up going to Dunkin Donuts. It wasn't totally Western though since the menu consists of green tea everything and glutinous rice sticks (which we tried and were actually pretty good). We wandered around the neighbourhood a bit and actually ran into one of my students!! Ali has that picture though. I was really proud of Annie since usually when I see kids outside of school they say hello and then totally clam up and refuse to say anything in English. However, Annie was unfazed and even answered questions.

Next we introduced them to the glorious Seoul subway. We decided to take them to Insadong and to Jogyesa Temple. We'd been there recently since that's where the Lotus Festival was held last weekend but we knew they would enjoy seeing it.
We had a lunch at a little place in Insadong and shared some traditional chicken soup- the kind where they stuff the chicken with rice and ginseng and add elderberries. Yum! Then we headed back to our apartment where everyone took a nap. Hahah!

Later on we got ourselves together and headed out again. On the way we stopped at a glasses place and both Ali and Byrun got eye exams (free) and chose some new glasses. Matt and I got Ali hers as a Mother's Day present and I can't stress enough how much cheaper glasses are here. I think I might get a couple more pairs while I'm out here. I saw the really cheap frame section and they had some frames for $7-15 and lens cost about $35-40 so yeah, you do the math. Super cheap.
We had dinner at another of our favorite restaurants and then wandered around in the neon nightlife area before finding a DVD bang (room) that didn't look too seedy (aka walls filled with porn) and would allow the 4 of us in one room to see a movie. We chose The Invasion and it was pretty decent.

Monday was Buddha's Birthday which meant that a lot of stuff was closed. We toyed with the idea of going to see a palace but basically all of them listed that they were closed on Monday or holidays or both. So we settled on taking them downtown to Namdaemun so they could see how people really shop. We didn't buy anything (other than snacks) but we still had a good time. On the way back to the apartment we stopped and picked up Ali and Byrun's new glasses!!!

Looking good!

Ali and Byrun took a nap and Matt and I did some serious marking. I also managed to finish reading my awesome book, Middlesex. Then Dana and Curtis came over and we all went out for their last dinner in Korea. Of course we had to have galbi (Korean BBQ). We hadn't found a great galbi place in our area yet so we tried somewhere new and it was pretty good. From looking at my pictures it appears that all we did on the visit was eat! Hahah!

After dinner we dragged them to the main event- Norae bang! When we'd asked them what they wanted to do and see in Korea they had told us they just wanted to see how we live. Well, then obviously that includes norae.

I was disappointed that Ali didn't sing but Byrun got right in there. They left about halfway through since it was too loud and I think jetlag was still bothering them. So we equipped them with our cell phone and address in English and Korean and they went off on their own. The four of us finished the rest of the session. The highlight? Curtis singing a Rage Against the Machine song and getting in his year's quota of swear words.

Our friends are hardcore. Those are their sexy faces.

We called it an early night though and managed to get home by 10:30pm. Ali and Byrun were already fast asleep.

All too soon Tuesday was here. Ali got some acupuncture because she'd hurt her back in Canada (and I learned the Korean word for acupuncture and realized that they are EVERYWHERE) and it cost her a whopping $15. Plus it was twice as much as the regular cost since it was a first time consultation. Wow! Then we had sushi at another favorite restaurant and wandered around Lotte World for awhile before saying goodbye and putting them on the airport bus. The weekend went by so fast! Now they are in Thailand and we miss them already but we'll have to get out there so they can show us around! If you want to see all of my pictures you can look here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Catching Up- Seoul Friendship Festival

It's been a busy week. Last time I blogged I mentioned we were on our way to the Friendship Fair and then off to pick up Ali and Byrun from the airport. I guess I'll talk about the Friendship Fair first.
It was a lovely day and if you've been reading my blog in the long term you would remember that I went to this fair/festival last year (alone).
The layout was a bit different than last year but it was still really good. The new layout meant that the food/shopping area was further away so I wasn't crazy about that. The food selection seemed better than last year but the shopping didn't thrill me. In fact, I bought nothing which is pretty amazing. It was a beautiful day though and I bought some pirogies. Unfortunately they were filled with sauerkraut and not potato and cheeses. Damn!

We had some good food, lounged in the sun and watched some interesting cultural performances. There were fantastic dancers (just like last year) but probably the highlight was the bizarre Polish showcase. It involved high school students singing the Beatles and doing interpretive dance routines. Not sure what this says about Polish culture but Koreans love the Beatles so it was a big hit. It would have been horrific if the kids hadn't actually been singing (and they were great singers so it was okay). Strange.
Oh and I have to throw this hilarious picture in. I was able to capture it a moment before the kid ran off somewhere. He was quite the "styling trend setter of metro sexual" though.

After spending time at the Friendship Fair we hopped on the subway and headed towards Incheon International Airport!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Adventures in Listening Success

I've figured out how to upload music files on the internet. Well, this isn't a music file, but it is pretty damn funny. This is an excerpt from my B1 "Listening Success" book that I use in school. For this assignment the children are supposed to write a summary, divided into "beginning, middle, and end" phases along with the "main idea". Typically these assignments are divided into A and B passages where either A or B has some moral deficiency and the other is a wonderful Christian being of light. You should totally click on the link below and download this wma file. It's really easy and well worth it. See if you can guess which is the positive and which is the negative on this CD track!

I should help Amber. Don't you think?

Dear Readers,
and I mean all of you... friends, family, government spies...
As most of you know Amber is the dominant blogger here. She has, with very little encouragement from me, faithfully kept the Little Brown Blog afloat for a year and a half now. In some cases I may actually impeded her blogging progress, actually. Recently, you may remember, she made a comment which some people might find amusing, alluding to my own inactivity on this site. Specifically that I would never post again.
I'm posting now!
And I'd like to take the opportunity to praise Amber. She does a FABULOUS job on this website and keeps everyone we care about in touch with what is going on in our lives. So "thank you" Amber. What you do here is important to me and so many other people.
You may not know this about Amber, but she loves praise. LOVES it! Really. I know, incredible, but true. However, the rules of etiquette prohibit her from soliciting it herself. So, I'm asking everyone who reads this little brown blog of ours to leave a comment on this post to thank and encourage her efforts. I know there are a lot of you out there and a simple little comment from each of you would really brighten her millennium.
Also, I'll try and contribute more, but I honestly don't think I could ever do what she has done here.
Alright, so - GET PRAISING!

Another Long Weekend!

Thought I would make a quick "real time" update about what's happening over here. We're off to the Friendship Fair today and then onto Incheon International Airport to pick up Ali and Byrun (Matt's mom and stepdad). So exciting!!! They are only here until Tuesday but we love showing people around Seoul. Plus it's pretty sweet that Matt gets to spend Mother's Day (Sunday) with his mom. Here's a cute picture of the three of them when we stayed with them in BC last fall. It's bound to be another fantastic long weekend!