Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Degradation of Spiderman

Look what Korea has done to Spiderman! If it wasn't enough to accessorize him in jade beads (I suppose red and green are complimentary colors) they had to also put him in a diaper!?! I took this picture in Gangnam when we were with Eddie and Gisela. It was challenging because this is a very crowded part of Seoul. I also thought the woman running the booth might yell at me for taking pictures. However she helpfully held Spidey up so I could get a better shot. ^^

By Demand

People have been asking for an update. The thing is, what we've been up to is so ordinary that blogging about it feels a bit silly. Last weekend was spent relaxing and having fun with good friends. On Saturday I managed to finish all my marking and discovered a new Korean band that I really like (later in the day I bought one of their CDs). They're called "My Aunt Mary" and even though their songs are in Korean (so I don't understand the lyrics) I really like them and enjoy their sound. How did I discover them? We went to the coffee shop right beside our house and they were playing it in the coffee shop. I asked the worker who it was (in terrible broken Korean and gestures) and she showed me the CD.

Later we met up with Dana and Curtis and wandered around CO-EX. We had dinner, spent a long time in the CD store and then watched Get Smart at the theatre. I loved this movie. I don't have any other way to put it. I love Steve Carell in pretty much everything (including his recent interview on the Daily Show where Jon revealed that Steve got where he is today because of his willingness to f*ck anything). I have extremely fond memories of watching Get Smart on TV when I was young. It used to come on after school and I loved Max and Agent 99. The whole movie was fun and nostalgic but updated well. I smell a sequel.

Sunday I spent most of the day reading The Kite Runner. Our book club read this before we joined and Mitzi was going to sell her copy but then graciously gave it to us (keep in mind, this was the first time she even met us!). I had a goal to do more reading this year and I have been really successful with that and I have read a lot of interesting and excellent books in 2008. I have to say this one is by far the best I've read this year. It jumped into my top 5 favorite books of all time effortlessly. If you haven't read this book I recommend it strongly. It took me 3 days to read this book and on one of the days I only read a couple chapters so really I read it in about 2 days. I couldn't put it down. How good is this book? Well, my best friend Cindy has finished approximately 4 books in her lifetime (the last being another favorite of mine that I recommended to her: She's Come Undone) and I am confident she could read this in under 2 weeks.
After finishing The Kite Runner I cleaned myself up and we went to Gangnam to meet Eddie and Gisela and have dinner. Gisela found a cute restaurant where we ate outside. The fish and chips were decent but probably the most interesting meal was Matt's salad.
The ingredients included salmon, roe, mandarin oranges, capers , some kind of creamy dressing and a cherry on
top! He said it was pretty good.

After dinner we wandered around looking for a bar/pub that was playing the World Cup qualifying game that was happening that night. I don't usually follow soccer but I thought watching North Korea and South Korea battle it out could be interesting. It was fun watching the game even though it ended up being scoreless. We parted ways with Eddie and Gisela and then went back to our place to watch So You Think You Can Dance which we downloaded. Yeah, I don't watch much TV but I like that show. So there you have it... pretty boring, eh?

Friday, June 20, 2008

New Air Mattress!

You might recall that Dana and Curtis found us a ghetto fabulous air mattress on the side of the road. It served it's purpose but did have a slow leak. Since we anticipate hosting more couch surfers/friends at our place in the next 6 months we decided to invest in a new mattress. The trouble being- where the heck do you buy one in Korea? If I was in Canada I would just head to Superstore or Wal-mart or a million other places and pick one up. We searched high and low and then finally asked Seon, our lovely coworker, who is an internet shopping expert. She found us exactly what we wanted at an amazing price and had it shipped to our apartment within 2 days. Gah! I think I will make her shop for everything I need from now on.
Something about the box made us do a double take though... Let's take a closer look. Are those people reorganizing their tackle box and putting hooks on their fishing rod while sitting on their air mattress?!? Either they are extremely foolish or this the first indestructible air mattress.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Last Weekend in Review

Last weekend was fun but nothing earth shattering happened. Friday night I arrived home and was greeted by a classic Korean movie blasting from the park across from our apartment. Some sort of festival had been going on all week (still not sure what it was about) and apparently this was the grand finale. I tried to take a picture of the giant screen but since it was dusk none of the pictures turned out very good. Once Matt finished work we went out for some chicken galbi and then had a round of norae bang.

Saturday I got a haircut (which basically looks just like my last one but I did get a service deep conditioning treatment!) and then we decided to bum around Myeongdong and window shop a bit. We stopped and watched these two guys making something that looked a bit like moth cocoons. They put on a hilarious bilingual show (English and Korean) about how to make this dessert from honey and different nutty fillings. We couldn't help but buy a box and I have to say, it's pretty delicious. It's called Kkultarae and is a traditional court cake. So I guess it was a snack for Korean royalty back in the day. That link is actually to a Youtube video someone made in Myeongdong possibly of the same guys that made our kkultarae. It's intereseting, you should watch it.
Don't be afraid! It may look like a cross between a cotton ball and a cocoon but it's actually sweet and tasty. We bought the kind with almond filling.

After picking up the kkultarae we wandered around some more before bumping into our friends Jessica and Jon at the Gap. Small world! Strange to run into people you know in a city as massive as Seoul (especially since they don't actually live in Seoul and neither of us live near Myeongdong). We met some of their friends and had dinner together at Outback Steakhouse.

Then we made a huge mistake. Well, I made a huge mistake. I let Matt talk me into watching "The Happening". Oh my word- crappiest movie EVER! Please don't watch this. Please. I beg of you. Maybe the preview makes it look okay but trust me, it's really horrible. Possibly the worst movie I've ever seen. Stupid plot, atrocious acting (so wooden I thought I was watching Pinocchio), all the actors were miscast, crappy directing and a preachy underlying message. You don't believe me? Well Matt's started a movie blog and even he gave it a scathing review and he's the one who chose the movie (he did later apologize profusely). If you want to read more of Matt's reviews I've added his blog to my links section on the left side of the page.

Sunday we met for a book club meeting at the Dr. Fish cafe since last time Susan wasn't able to make it. I hadn't noticed before that there was art inspired by The Little Prince on the wall at the cafe, complete with model airplanes. This was especially appropriate since we were discussing The Little Prince this time (and catching up on other books we'd read but hadn't discussed in depth). If you want to see all the pictures (and Susan's hilarious reaction to trying Dr. Fish) you can go here. We didn't do sticker pictures this time but we used the wigs to make a funny group picture of our own. Heheh!

Oh and I have to say I recommend Susan's blog about our meeting and also her review of The Little Prince. If you thought Matt's review of "The Happening" was harsh this will probably make your toes curl. It's no holds bar!


Look what I did last night! Yeah, I know, I cheated and used a mix but I am working on getting the ingredients to make actual cookies. Plus it was the first time using the toaster oven to bake something and I wasn't sure how well it would work. They turned out really great! I am so excited that today when we went grocery shopping I bought a muffin pan and muffin papers. Maybe I can make banana chocolate chip muffins or something. Ahssa!!

Our New Motto

Apparently our school has a new motto created by the powers that be. No one was consulted about this but now we have these signs plastered everywhere (thankfully the bathrooms were spared). The sentiment is good but it took about 4 seconds for my students to start making fun of the signs and I can't really blame them. I must say, they have shown me that my students are capable of creating grammatically correct negative sentences. Also, how can everyone be the best all at the same time? I suppose that's the real magic of KNC.

A Tragic Love Story

Occasionally my students will finish their monthly test early and while they are waiting for class to end/the other kids to finish I will often let them draw pictures on the back of the test paper. Most of the time I get an assortment of princesses, dogs, dragons and rockets. However, a little girl named Kelly in my A1 class drew a touching comic that I just had to share. I present to you, the timeless and tragic love story of Tom and Ann. I hope you have some tissues handy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

More School Snippets

Meet my student James. Can you guess what he brought to school with him for no apparent reason? Water balloons? Nah, that's been done before. The Dead Sea Scrolls? Wrong again.

Take a look for yourself.
Don't refresh the page or get your glasses. Yes, that is a hamster in a shopping bag. What the eff?!? I was totally speechless. It would be an understatement to say that many people here don't view/treat animals the same way as we do in North America (just visit a zoo or pass by someone selling chicks stuffed in a box in the subway if you don't believe me). But really, what were his parents thinking letting him bring this hamster with him to school in a plastic bag? James hung the bag on the hook under the desk where you're supposed to hang your backpack and the hamster did make it through my class (not sure if it picked up any English). Just speechless though.

On a less disturbing front, look at this cute drawing one of my favorite students did. This girl has incredible speaking skills and is always drawing. She's in my favorite class, actually and I am going to be so sad when they level up next month and leave me forever. Waaah!

The rest of the long weekend...

We had toyed with the idea of going somewhere since long weekends are a very special and unusual thing here. But I'd had such a hard week I just couldn't bring myself to do anything. Friday Matt and I just hung out and then on Saturday we went to Bundang to hang out with Dana and Curtis.
They took us to the most amazing restaurant called Butter Fingers which does an amazing Western style breakfast. Matt and I couldn't decide what to get so we ordered the giant plate and shared it. Look at this majesty!!! It was so delicious my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Then we window shopped a bit and went back to Dana and Curtis' apartment.

The rest of the weekend was so much fun but not really that interesting for other people to hear about. They made the mistake of letting me create a file on their Wii and allowing me to play Mario Galaxy. If I told you how long I played that game everyone would lose all respect for me so I'm just going to say that I played it a long time. We also played board games, watch lots of the Office, Dana read her book, Matt and Curtis played Magic, we napped, Curtis played WOW. We went to see Kung Fu Panda too (cute movie). It was amazing and just what I needed. The only downside? Oh do I ever want a Wii now. So badly. But it's good I don't have one because then I would die of vitamin D deficiency from lack of sunlight. I am thinking about buying a DS Lite though. We'll see since I already waste enough time on electronics.

Debauchery with Gisela

Last weekend was a long weekend (Friday was a holiday). It was a good thing that it was a short week too because it was a brutal one. Which was why I was more than happy to accept Gisela's invitation to meet after I finished work on Thursday night to watch a mindless movie in Gangnam. It was just what I needed to switch off my brain and hold my rage at bay. As it turned out I was a little late meeting her because of work related tasks. Argh! And then I went the wrong direction on the subway (I realized just as the train doors closed) so that wasted some more time. I made it though and I'm so glad I did because we had so much fun!

We watched What Happens in Vegas and I have to admit I had bottom of the barrel expectations for this movie. In fact, in different circumstances I probably would never have watched this movie. I have to say, it is completely predictable but I laughed my ass off anyway. Maybe I was in the perfect frame of mind (aka my brain was mush from a terrible, stressful week) or maybe watching it with a Korean audience did it (I thought the guy next to me was actually going to pee his pants. Try to keep a straight face when you're sitting next to Kim Jong Giggles, I dare you!). Plus Rob Corddry is in it and I love him from the days of yore when the Daily Show began.

The movie ended and it was after midnight, which meant that the subway was closed. Gisela had a bus she could take basically any time of the night so it was no problem for her. I probably could have found a bus or just taken a cab (Gangnam isn't too far from where I live which is why we met there) but at 12:30 am it was gridlock, bumper to bumper traffic!!! What the heck?!? I thought of Matt sitting at home (he works until 10pm so it would have been too late to wait for him to get off work to include him in our plans and Eddie was in the USA) and then I looked at the traffic again and suggested we get a drink and wait it out a bit.

That sparked us searching for an appropriate bar/pub that carries mixed drinks and not just skunky beer and greasy chicken. The night was filled with places containing inappropriate holiday themed venues. First we went into this place because of the Halloween theme. Really I just wanted to take some pictures of it and didn't really have high hopes for the menu. I was right and it was filled with skunky beer and overpriced side dishes. So we took some pictures and casually slipped out of the bar before ordering.

Not only did that place have the best witches and paper jack-o-lanterns all over the place, it also had two random nutcrackers. It makes sense I suppose since nutcrackers are pretty creepy. Eddie will probably be jealous since Gisela got pretty cosy with one of the nutcrackers. I think she gave him her number, actually.

So we continued our quest and ended up in this place we thought might be closing soon since it had a bar and a restaurant. When we walked in everyone looked at us with great interest which was a little unusual since Gangnam is pretty full of foreigners. They asked us nervously if we wanted to sit in the bar and we assumed they were asking if we wanted to order a meal, which we didn't, so we said we did want to sit in the bar area. Well, they literally meant, "Do you want to sit at the bar?" cuz that's where we ended up sitting. This place had a really high number of staff and the only patrons were Korean. Everyone was really friendly towards us and they had cocktails!! They were super pricey but we weren't planning on staying long so whatever. We each got a cocktail and picked a sidedish (nachoes). The waitress was really interesting in talking to us and was really excited at my incredibly pathetic and limited Korean. Some of the random words I have been picking up lately (like the Korean word for vacation) actually came in handy.

Next thing we know she is asking us if we like something. Gisela is pretty mystified and thinks she wants to know if we like mint but I was pretty certain she was asking if we like meat. I was right and we ended up with service beef jerky. Ahssa! Then the waitress brought over another staff member, this adorable 22 year old guy named Ji Hoon. It's probably no mistake that he shares the same Korean name as heartthrob and Colbert rival, Rain. Anyway, what Ji Hoon lacked in English skills he certainly made up for with enthusiasm. This guy was hilarious and adorable. Turns out he lives near Dana and Curtis and upon discovering this there were a lot of jubilant high fives and fist pounds. You can see the service beef jerky in this picture and also the random mini Christmas tree that they had at the bar. Inappropriate holiday decorations strike again!!

One thing lead to another and before we knew it, it was 4 am! Matt had already called to make sure I wasn't dead (at about 2 am). What can I say? We hadn't hung out in a long time and had plenty to talk about. Plus we got a service gold medallion drink (which Gisela convinced our poor little Ji Hoon to add rum too) which I couldn't drink more than a sip of since it contained bananas. The bar was open until 5 am and that's the same time as the subway is supposed to start so I figured we had gone past the point of no return. We powered through (Ji Hoon took a break and was napping when we left- the other employees woke him up to say good bye to us) and as it turns out the subway doesn't start until 5:30am so I was stuck waiting for about 30 minutes. Oh well. What a crazy night! Usually I am pretty lame but now I can say that I stayed out all night until the subway started again.
Cutie pie Ji Hoon didn't want us to take his picture but we managed to get one anyway. He kept shouting "No zoom!!". Hahah. It was a great way to start our relaxing long weekend.

I love presents.

How adorable is my latest present? Now officially all of my current umbrellas have been gifts. My student Elly gave this to me the other day and with the rainy season fast approaching it is both lovely and practical. Considering I am always such a hard ass with her class (there are 11 students which is a big class here- the school caps classes at 12 students for a reason) I am surprised they don't all hate me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sometimes a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

There's a new beer in town. Korean beer isn't known for being especially delicious and it's also extremely weak. Here's what happened when Matt curiously sampled the new Cass Lemon.

This One's For Carter!

Look what I found on the weekend!! Dana showed me this great store not far from her place called "I Love Cookie". Not only was it full of handy Western goods (at premium price of course) but it also had a lot of Japanese and other foreign products. When I saw these I immediately thought of Carter and knew I had to risk life and limb (and possible eviction from the store before I could buy cookie mix) to photograph them. It's highly possible that she already owns both though.

The first is a toaster that toasts Hello Kitty's face onto the bread and the second is something to imprint her face on pancakes. Neat! A short digression- I was just thinking about how hilarious it would be to have a toaster that put the Virgin Mary's face on the toast. Considering how often I'm stopped by people wanting to join their church here I think those would be a great distraction to hand them while I ran the other way.

Even Matt got in on the Hello Kitty love when we saw her at 7-11 in Jamsil Station. I think Hello Kitty is cute but I have a confession to make...

My heart will always belong to Miffy.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Bidding Farewell and More Dr. Fish

Last Sunday was our friend Catherine's last book club meeting before she finished off her contract and left for a huge trip around SE Asia (so jealous!). We met up at the notorious Dr. Fish cafe that I went to a few months ago and discussed my favorite book club choice to date, Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides. It was sad to say goodbye to Catherine, especially considering our book club had recently suffered the loss of Aaron, another fantastic and dedicated member. (T T)

There were a number of comical reactions to Dr. Fish but I'd have to nominate Matt and Mitzi for the best of the best. What do you think?

We also had fun taking sticker pictures together to commemorate the occasion. I don't have a scanner though so I can't share that masterpiece.

Not that anyone could replace Aaron or Catherine but if there are some people out there who live in Seoul and area that are interested in joining our book club we are always looking for new members. If you're on Facebook you can find us here.

Our First Couch Surfers!

A little while ago I joined the Couch Surfing site. I think it's a brilliant idea and since we're planning to go to China at the end of July I thought it could possibly come in handy (even if we don't stay with anyone maybe some locals would give us some tips) and I love meeting new, interesting people. With anything like this there is a certain amount of apprehension (Will the couch surfer be an eyeball licking freak that steals my panties and puts their socks in my toaster oven?) but the site is really based on people's reviews and has a number of safeguards in place.

We had a nice time with our first couch surfers, Chris and Amelie from Germany. They were polite, funny and lovely people and we showed them around a bit during the three nights they crashed at our place. They didn't even complain about our tight quarters or our ghetto-slow leaking-found on the side of the street air mattress. They just spent 9 months in New Zealand working and traveling (they also made it to Australia and Fiji) and had an extended layover in Seoul on their way back to Frankfurt. It was neat having them with us and I kept having a bit of deja vu since half of Matt's family is German. Hehe.

They seemed to have a good time and probably the highlight was when we took them out for a drink at the local watering hole. We knew the place had a decent beer selection and they were excited to find some German beer they liked (even though it was horrifically overpriced). We had fantastic conversation and got a ton of 'service' (this is what they call free things in Korea). We had service corn, service nacho chips with cheese and salsa and due to an error in the bill, we even got service hand lotion (for the girls) and Heineken ball caps (for the boys) as apology service. A truly memorable experience! I recommend that everyone join couch surfing even if you're not able to host someone since there is an option where you can be contacted for advice/to meet for coffee. It's really cool and who couldn't use a little extra good karma?

The Day Matt Broke Everything

Last Saturday we gave our apartment a thorough cleaning in anticipation for some guests that were to arrive in the evening. Matt was in charge of the bathroom.

A short back story, the glass on the right side of our medicine cabinet has been a bit loose for sometime. We've meant to try and glue it in better but hadn't found the time. I'm sure you can predict where this is going.
Not only did Matt knock the glass out of the cabinet door but when it fell it managed to crack the toilet tank lid in half! Look at the carnage! Also, look at how evil Matt looks in this picture. I took a more flattering one but I thought this one was most appropriate considering he evilly broke everything (all that was missing was maniacal laughter). He somehow managed to find a replacement for the toilet lid on the same day but we still have easy access to the cabinet. Damn!

Weirdest Class Gift

As a teacher I've received a lot of presents in Korea. The vast majority have been lovely and thoughtful and usually the gift is at least interesting. The other day one of my students came to class and presented me with a water balloon! Actually, he brought one for everyone to be fair. What the hell!?! I asked him where he got them and he said he bought them at the corner store for 100 won a piece (about 10 cents per balloon). I basically dissolved into giggles and was at a complete loss for words. Anyone that knows me knows that I never turn down free stuff. Even if it's ridiculous and I have no use for it. This I had to regretfully decline since I had nowhere to put it safely and honestly wasn't sure what to do with it if I'd kept it. It's the thought that counts right? The hilarious, unusual thought.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Promised Land!

My lovely friend, Andy, who speaks amazing Korean was really kind and found me a map to our nearest Home Plus. We've been shopping at Lotte Mart this year but honestly it's more expensive and doesn't have a great selection for a lot of things. I was really missing Home Plus, which was the store we used last year when we lived in Gimpo. As it turns out Home Plus isn't too far away and it is giant and GLORIOUS. Way more awesome than our Gimpo store. We were just casually browsing (honestly Andy told me his Home Plus had Cadbury chocolate and I was hoping to find a Caramilk. Haha!) but it was so amazing. We didn't find Cadbury but we did buy these weird cherry M & Ms. Not the most delicious thing ever but interesting.
Oh and while we were combing the aisles (seriously we went down every aisle, I insisted) we stopped for a free drink sample and the lemonade girl told me that I look like Drew Barrymore! Bwahaha!! Actually at first I couldn't understand what she was saying which is unusual since I'm really good at deciphering messed up English. I blame cognitive dissonance for my comprehension difficulty. Pretty much the last celebrity I look like is Drew Barrymore.

There's also a Kraze Burger attached so we split a burger and some chili fries for supper. Note that we only ordered one drink and they gave us two straws without even blinking and were totally on the ball about refilling it. I love that about Korea. Back home if we tried to get away with sharing one refillable drink there would have been death glares and atrocious service. They also had a gelato place with interesting flavors like cheese and white wine (not together, two separate flavors). We'll have to try that next time!

After we get paid I predict a huge Home Plus grocery run. I am so excited!! Yes, my life is that sad sometimes. ^^

Is that Shredder?

Matt's been suffering from a dry cough for a very, very long time. We're not exactly sure what's wrong but it's incredibly annoying and uncomfortable. He's been to the doctor about it a few times with no success. They prescribed a number of mystery pills (aka antibiotics and vitamins) and a cough syrup but they didn't work. He demanded a chest x-ray after I read an article about someone with a persistent cough who finally got an x-ray and they discovered cancer. Apparently all is well and healthy in the x-ray and the doctor is stumped and speaks little English. We suggested it might be hwangsa (yellow dust) causing issues and irritating his respiratory system considering Matt has an allergy to certain metals. The doctor claimed that hwangsa is mild this year and doesn't contain the metals Matt is allergic to. Possibly allergies to something else? Anyway I convinced him to get a face mask and here he's trying it on for the first time. He hasn't really worn it out yet (like we're not stared at enough) and he is still probably going to try to find a doctor that speaks decent English. Bah. Stupid dry cough. He reminds me of Shredder though, don't you think?

Soup in a Bag

We frequent a small 'shik dang' which is kind of like a Korean diner. It sells cheap, quick Korean food and pretty much all the foreign teachers at our school go there because of the prices and because they offer a lot of side dishes with the cheap, yummy food. If we're really lazy/in a hurry we'll grab something take out from there (like gimbap). Matt did that the other night and the ladies went above and beyond expectations. Not only did we get our gimbap and the free radishes they include but we also got a big bag of soup. Oh the quirky things I love about this country!