Friday, September 29, 2006

nothing to do at work so...going back a few weeks.

With the grand openning of the new library at school, and only 16 hrs of class this week. I have absolutely nothing to do while I'm here. I did volunteer to help out one of my teachers during her class and play an activity with the kids. Anyways I figured I'd blog about things that have happened to me since my arrival here in Korea.
We arrived on the night of Sat Sept 2nd. Anne had gotten sick on the flight. I felt really bad for her. I've felt sick on rides but have never felt bad enough to throw up. Also I feel that had it happened to me and I almost wished it did because I feel that I could've taken it better. Enough about upchuck, the thing that amazed me about the flight was the time change. It was so fascinating for me that even tho we had boarded the plane at 3 and it was only 4 hrs into the flight it was getting still bright outside and then when it was 8pm in toronto the pilot and stewardess told us to close the blinds bc ppl were starting to sleep. I couldn't sleep for the most part because it was still light outside. I could see the light seeping in thru the cracks. In any case, after we landed we were taken to Paradise Hotel and Anne missed out on this delicious meal bc she was still feeling sick.

I felt that the orientation was boring for the most part. Simply cuz we had to sit thru lectures from various organizations including the city council members about the constuction of the new Incheon and honestly a lot of it was useless though sometimes funny and the other parts were all in the book they gave us. That being said I'm glad we went to it because that's when we befriended Lindsay and Natasha.

Last day of orientation: This was the day we met up with our coteachers. It turned out my coteacher and the head teacher came to meet me and the first thing we did was rush to the immigration office to get my alien registration card. i thought that experience was hilarious. it felt like we were in the amazing race bc the three of us were rushing so we split up the jobs line up for this stamp, mimi go and get ur photo taken, haekyong go get us a number, mr. kwan find out what sheet we need. AND... BREAK!!! it was hilarious but we managed to do it in record time. and then headed back the school. When we got there I had to do an impromptu speech to the kids who were practicing for Oon Dong-hey (sports day or something like track and field day but with traditional dances). I made it as short as possible and then realized that no one understood... that is until HaeKyong translated it for me. hehe... then i received the applause i was waiting for. boy it was then that i knew, i had my work cut out for me. jk. I had only time to meet my principal give him his present, my vp his present, my head teacher his present and my co teacher her present and boy were they a big hit. I basically bought hart house maple syrup for them and then got my principal a UofT t-shirt and my vp tim hortons coffee.

We then headed off to Carrefour where we bought everything in sight, at least it seemed to me that they kept saying u're going to need this, pick which one u like, u're going to need this and on and on. It still felt like we were in the amazing race. After about 2 hrs later my headteacher tells me that we're going to have to come back because his car is small and may not be able to take all this. so we lug this home to the 4th floor and then they told me the bed won't arrive until the next day and that I get to choose which bed i wanted. finally in my empty apt i sat down on my chair and started to clean. it was mostly clean, which is apparently unusual bc the way it works in korea is that when tenants move out, they don't clean and then new tenants have to clean it when they move into the apt. but my teacher, and landlord had came earlier that day and cleaned the entire place for me. that was incredibly sweet but of course theres always some things they overlook. So i ran downstairs to my grocer bought some cleaning products brought it upstairs and cleaned as much as i could. after that i started to unload what we had bought that day.

By the end of that week, My room was starting to look very cozy. after about 4 more trips to carrefour my room is now very very cozy and homey.
Let me just say that in the process of me decorating and filling my home, I've learned how to change the toilet seat, and build a lot of furniture without instructions (since i didnt understand them) and a number of other things.

So other things since my arrive include:
- hiking in Incheon grand park.
- Winning a race during On-dong hey that made me a superstar to my kids, the neighborhood and my school. I have a vid but i'm not sure how to put it up... so... let's just take a moment and imagine it. hahaha (i may have a separate blog about this event

- attending a korean wedding (will post about this event later next free time)
- hiking up kyesan which was tiring.

That's all I can write for today. I gotta go see the new library.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

bath house adventure

Ok so I've had my first experience in a public bath house in Korea. It was....interesting. For those who are germaphobes, stop here and don't read any further because you need to keep an open mind. It sounds a lot worse than it really was. Basically two teachers at my school, Miyeon and EunKyong asked me to join in on this experience with them. They go about 2x a month and 2 other teachers usually accompany them. The reason they didn't this time had nothing to do with me if that's what u're thinking. One of them just got married and is on her honeymoon (I went to her wedding!!!) and the other one is busy preparing for her wedding. So when we meet up we first head to eat something. I love hanging out with these two cuz they love food and they're always eating even though they're always talking about dieting and exercising. After our dinner we head off to the bathhouse which is called Spasis. When you enter u're basically given a bracelt with a number. This number is ur locker number and you basically pay for everything with this bracelet. U put ur wallet into the locker so u scan the bracelet and then pay at the end. You can bring ur own stuff but you can also purchase things there and it's pretty cheap. Since it was my first time and I was told not to bring ne thing I basically paid 2000 won for shirt and short rental. But next time I think i'm going to bring my own t-shirt and shorts. It's not about saving money so much as I don't like the looks of the shirt and shorts. the shorts go really high and it looks like prison clothing. So i'm going to start a revolution of booty shorts here in the bath house of south korea. The sauna part of the bath house was our first stop. Here it's co-ed. and since we're not naked it was fine. the only problem was this. I would've totally enjoyed my stay there the entire time except that I was soo worried that I was going to get my period while I was in the bath house. Don't ask me why but i kept thinking that the heat was going to make my period come earlier. So I was worried the entire time about possible leakage. I don't even know if that was appropriate to blog about. but i've just bathed naked with other females present. I can kinda do anything now. Anyway, back to the story. So we basically went to one sauna room to another, with each room increasing in temperature. We only went to 3 and the temperature never went above 60 degrees but I did see one for 98 degrees and i thought of the band 98 degrees and then i thought holy heck water boils at 100 degrees who the heck can withstand that. The 98 degree sauna was outside on this rooftop patio. I thought that was pretty cool and since we had our refreshing drinks with us we sat down and Miyeon and EunKyong introduced me to some hardboiled eggs. Actually they were sauna boiled eggs. And they were disgusting. They ate it with me and they asked me what I thought of it and i tried to lie and told them they were ok.. but as everyone knows I can't lie to save my life and they called me on it. I sheepishly told them I thought it tasted like rubber and they laughed and told me they agreed. They actually never order this but since it was the typical snack at the place they felt I should experience this. We had a good laugh over that but agreed to never have this snack again. I feel I should describe this egg. It looks innocent enough with the shell on, but inside the egg white is now a tanned color and basically the texture is like rubber and it tasted like rubber. so all in all I think i had rubber at the sauna. In any case we decided to head in and finish our refreshing drinks in one of the saunas. After hitting the 58 degree sauna we head towards the ice room which was actually great after the saunas for 5 seconds. and proceeded downstairs back to the locker room. We get back to the locker room and i was told to remove my prison wear. They had come prepared for me with everything. we had purchased the scrub cloth at the towel counter and so we headed towards the bath. basically first we used the soap provided to wash down the mini stools and the basins provided. Basically the shower area is short walls with about 4 showerheads in each row. u're supposed to sit down on the stools provided and then shower. We basically rinse and shower for a bit and then head off towards one of the hot tubs. We then head back to the shower area and proceeded to scrub ourselves. although I had gotten used to seeing my coworkers naked by this time, it struck me as odd that I had to keep an eye on her just to see how things were done. and obviously she did the same to make sure I was doing this right. it really was weird how fast u get used to it and weird that i even went thru with it. So after lathering and rinsing off the lather I thought we were pretty much done. but NO.. we were supposed to lather again and scrub. We did this about 5 times and basically we do it until we start to see dead skin come off. it's so weird. cause at first I didn't get any and so they decided to try it for me. WEIRD WEIRD WEIRD and slightly gross. They scrubbed my back.. which is fine.. BUT WITH THEIR OWN SCRUB CLOTHS that they had used on their body. I had to block that thought from my head. and eventually it didn't bother me. so eventually we managed to get dead skin to come off my body and i was told to scrub harder on myself which left my skin feeling rather tingly. afterwards we washed our hairs and I was done earlier than them because I could not bring myself to scrub any harder and any more on my body. And basically that was the end of the bathing experience but it does have the effect of making ur friends closer. There are other really cool things about this bathhouse I should mention.
first it's cheap the three of us spent about 14,700 won. so its about $5 each. Second it's open all night so if you want to live cheap when u visit korea, you can basically just stay in these bathhouses and sleep there. they have tvs, massage chairs, pillows, some kind of weird dome things where u go and lie down while under a red light. 3+, you can get a manicure while u're there, you can get a massage from a person instead of the chair massage, you can eat at the restaurant, you can sleep there and even participate in a yoga class there. I thought that was pretty cool. Any ways i'm getting really tired now since my body is so relaxed now. I'm going to head to bed. but finishing thought. will I head back? YES, HAHAH I got a free membership that will allow me one free visit after 2 paid visit. WOO HOO!!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

So judging from some of the responses I got, I realized I need to clarify a few things. I'm actually really liking Korea. I love a lot of things, I actually don't mind most of the food and there are a lot of things to see and do. There are a few things I don't quite like. For instance, I have a hard time with cold soup. But becuz I'm well acquainted with chinese food it's not that big of an adjustment for me. Funny story about food. During orientation they take us out to a chinese restaurant. They order about 3 courses. NONE OF WHICH I HAVE EVER EATEN BEFORE. They have this thing called jajamien, which is brown colored noodles with things in it. looks gross, tasted even worse. In any case I had that for lunch at school today, it was a better version of it but yet everybody asked me how I like the chinese food. I didn't realized it was jajamien cuz it was actually just the same sauce but over rice, so the first person that asked me that, my response was.... what chinese food? eventually i explained to them that I have never had this type of chinese food. So now they think I'm some sort of white-washed chinese deprived of her asian culture. When really I'm the fob amongst my friends. My co-teacher HaeKyong was the only person to understand that what we were eating was not real Chinese food cause she's been to sydney and had REAL chinese food. She mentioned something during lunch today that got me drooling. DIM SUM!! there is dim sum here somewhere. Just don't know where.
In any case I had finished classes at 12 and after lunch had a break until 2:30 when we were supposed to head over to this other school. Ok... HaeKyong asked me before what it was called when you go outside to do work, the image I conjured was archeology so I said field work. I didn't realized that it was when we have to go to another school to attend some meeting or some other work-related thing. I actually don't know what it's called when u have to leave ur actual school to go to another school. In any case, I've never heard the term field work so many times in my life. I've had to go for 4 so far and HaeKyong happens to love the word field work, so now I hear it endlessly. It was actually funny at first, now it's driving me crazy. The good thing about these 'field work' is that I get paid 5,000 won to cover transportation but it rarely costs more than 800 won for the bus. CHA-CHING!! hahah chump change, but it all adds up.
Today's field work was killer. I was tired enough as it was even with my 15 min nap during lunch. It was basically a meeting with Elementary English teachers in the district. Native English teachers (that's what we're called) were required to come as well. Basically we were 'introduced' to the idea of incorporating drama into classroom by a woman who spoke terrible english ENTHUSIASTICALLY. it was really funny. but her enthusiasm really started to annoy me because she thought she was being infectiously energetic when really she was sapping every ounce of my energy in my effort to understand her. In any case she tried, she really did and all the native teachers looked incredibly bored but participated just so she wouldn't feel embarrassed. By the end of the meeting I managed to get out of the dinner (actually it was funny how all the native speakers bailed), but got conned into doing an English Plaza (no idea what that means) on Oct 21 for 3 hrs. I wouldn't have done it except they offered me money... hahah Can't really turn down cash. basically about 35,000won/hr. CHA-CHING.
That money will come in handy especially after Chuseok holiday Oct 3-8 where 10 of us native teachers are heading over to Busan to hit the beaches and to party it up there for 4 days 3 nights.

O last news of the day... I'm going to a sauna/bathhouse with a few of my coworkers tomorrow. hehe naked.... shit shit shit. I actuallly asked for the experience a while back. I didn't realized they would ask me to go TOMORROW. well.. its an experience right? must try at least once. basically we go into a sauna, then into something like a turkish bath. and if ur friends are close enough they're supposed to help u clean ur back while u clean theirs.. hmm maybe i could pass on that? or at least wear my bikini?

o another thing... First time Anne made me dinner here. I rode my newly fixed bike to her place and let's say that it was nice. Spaghetti was not bad. ADVICE: NEVER BUY CHEAP TOMATO SAUCE!! it's not worth it. but other than that I'd say it was a success. She made lipton chicken noodle soup, which i'd been craving. *sigh... they don't have chicken noodle soup here. it satisfied my cravings.
Well that's all.
P.S. ANYBODY HAVE ANY GREAT BUT SIMPLE RECIPES PLEASE EMAIL THEM TO ME!!! I'm not good at thinking up things to make

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Never a dull day in Korea

Sept 26 2006

My day started off like usual, I had my cereal with my 200ml carton of free milk. I get free milk because the children get cartons of milk for free and whatever is left, one of my coworker saves it for me cause she knows how much I like to drink milk. I went to school and as usual I was there earlier than the regular english teacher. I had 4 classes in a row, lunch and then I was pretty much free up until 3:00 when I have my two teacher classes. Class went well enough although I realized that my explanations weren't thorough enough. I keep forgetting to picture what I'm doing thru the eyes of someone that DOESN'T SPEAK ENGLISH!! duh
Because it takes twice the amount of effort to get a simple thought across all the time, by the time the day was done, my energy level was nil. I trek home UPHILL with thoughts of my comfy bed motivating me to move one step in front of another. When I go thru my front door I looked up at my mailbox, a habit that usually disappoints me, and was pleased to find something sticking out of my mailbox! YES!!! I'VE GOT MAIL! haha that sounds like the AOL greeting from the movie you've got mail. I received Nem's postcard for me sent about 2 weeks ago. I was soo sure that I had given him the wrong address. BUT... It arrived, the edges a bit tattered but nevertheless HERE!!!
That was the first pleasant surprise. My second was coming back from dinner with Anne, I was approached by some guy who said a whole slur of korean before I could explain to him that I don't speak Korean. He then pointed to towards the stage set up behind him and gestured for me to sit down. I managed to get out from him that it was a magic show and free. I sat down and watched for a bit. It was nice I liked the idea that there was something like that in the community where people could just walk in from the streets and sit down and enjoy the local talents. I was a bit annoyed at how people just talked really loudly on their cellphones. They would walk a bit from their seats, cover their mouths THEN TALK REALLY LOUDLY. I thought it was rude but I'm not sure anyone else did. Maybe its not rude to talk on the phone if you at least give the impression that u're trying avoid disruption even if u fail miserably at it. At one point the MC of the night decided to sing a song... Simon would've torn her apart. It wasn't that she didn't have right kind of voice. It's the fact that while singing she decided to also be shy and girly which made it worse cuz she didn't sing loud first of all so we would hear bits and pieces. overall, Karaoke material but no Korean Idol. Finally at around 9 I decided to walk home and I figured I'd try to fix my bike. While assembling it I had gone around tightening every screw I saw not realizing that there were in fact some screws not meant to be tightened. So I ended up with a very noisy bike. That's what happens when u try to assemble a bike with a manual u can't understand.
In any case so I unlock my bike take it outside and try to fix it with Nem's instructions in my head. The problem was, sure Nem did draw a picture but... He's no artist and so the image I had in my mind of what he was talking about.. was completely off. So here I am with a screw in my hand and my bike upside down and just staring at the bike. I knew which screws I needed to reset for the gears but had no idea how to go about fixing the bike. Suddenly I realized there was a shadow over me I look up and see this middle aged man smiling at me like an angel sent from above. He spoke to me in Korean and even seemed to recognize me. He crouched down and rolled up him sleeves and took over. Half hour later he fixed my bike and I gestured to him that I wanted to buy him something to drink at the very least. He laughed and gestured no and patted me on the head. He held the door open for me and helped me bring my bike in and even locked the bike for me. We started to walk up the stairs and I thought O he must live in the same apartment as me. It turns out.. HE'S MY LANDLORD! but thus far, EVERY Korean I've encountered has been extremely warm and kind.

At the end of the day, I might not like the smog, or the smells and sometimes the work, but I love the people here.