Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Most Beautiful Food I've Ever Seen

This is the gelato-covered waffle I referred to in the earlier post. So, yes, it does have tomatoes underneath that whipped cream, but it is still delicious.

Video from Keumsan Temple

Here's a video of a monk in Keumsan Temple. Unfortunately, it is sideways due to the way I held my camera, and I don't know how to rotate it. I'll do better next time.

If you are interested in seeing more videos from our trip so far (they're all really short and a few are also sideways), you can go here.
For the past 4 years I have had the same Nokia, block-phone. All it did was text and call. It couldn't even take pictures or show anything in color on the screen. Now I am in Korea, the land of the morning calm and technology. I just got my Korean Cell phone, which was the simplest model available. It has a built in camera and mp3 player. It is also called "Fashionable Music Phone" which makes me feel very, well, fashionable. The picture below is almost true to life. It fits in the palm of my hand.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Some observations

I haven't gone through "culture shock" yet, but I have observed some interesting cultural differences about which I think westerners will enjoy learning:
1. Tomatoes as dessert.
I know, Tomatoes are a fruit. They probably aren't much more sour than a lot of fruits I enjoy eating with sweets, but Jon and I were still shocked, and frankly a little disgusted to find tomatoes in the center of a dessert waffle we ordered yesterday. This waffle was topped with gelato, whipped cream, kiwi, and bananas. We'd been eyeing this waffle for days in the window of a restaurant across the street. I have to admit I felt a little betrayed when, upon reaching the center of the waffle, buried under a heap of gelato, there were slices of tomato. What's that about Korea?
2. Overly-accomodating restrooms
People love to complain about the public restrooms in Korea, because a lot of times the toilets are built into the ground and you have to squat over them, or there isn't any toilet paper, and if there is toilet paper you have to get it from a dispenser outside of the stall. However bare-bones this may seem, there are aspects of public toilets that are quite luxurious. First there is the "courtesy button." This is to the side of the toilet with a big red button and a speaker. When I first saw the courtesy button, I was afraid to push it because I assumed it was a way of summoning someone to come to your assistance. I was later told that this is actually a way for shy people to cover up the noise of going to the bathroom. Pushing the button triggers a toilet-flushing sound.
The other "luxurious" aspects of the toilet I can't really explain because I haven't used them and they are written in Korean. Along the arm of some of the toilets, there are 10-15 buttons, I think one transforms the toilet into a bidet, but I have no idea what the rest of them do.
Here's an example from

3. Giving Gifts
We were advised before we arrived to bring gifts for our bosses, but when we got here found out we brought way too few gifts. Not that anyone expects gifts from westerners, but they do give them out very often. I left my purse in one of the lecture buildings the other day, and after I informed the security guard, he went back into his office and came out with drinks for me and Jon. We only needed to be in the building for about 5 minutes, but he wanted to make sure that we were comfortable.
We have 4 lectures a day and every day between the first and second and third and fourth lectures we are given a snack and drink. We were also told to expect to never have to pay for a meal when we go out with our bosses, since they will think it is their job to take care of us and will therefore always buy our food.
4. Cutesy Stuff
If you looked at any of my pictures from walking around in Jeonju, you may have noticed that all the store signs are adorned with cartoons. Most of the adds here have cartoon characters. It seems that they use cute-appeal instead of sex-appeal. The cutest thing I've seen so far are "Flip Flops." They are solar-powered figurines that I have seen in literally every car. The most common are little flowers that dance when they are in the sun. Here's an example from

Note: I am certainly not trying to establish or confirm any stereotypes, just observing the things that are different from my culture. Of course, according to the experts, I'm currently in the "Honeymoon Phase" of adjusting to a new culture, so I think all of this stuff is wonderful, funny, and cute. When I get to the next phase it might all make me furious or depressed.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Trip to Keumsan Temple and the Jeonju Hanok Village.

On Sunday we went on a class field trip (which is a pretty big undertaking since our orientation class has 600 people) to a local temple and Hanok Village.
We first went to Keumsan Temple, which was a beautiful area. We were able to see monks chanting inside some of the temples and even invaded their privacy by taking pictures. I also have a neat video but am having trouble uploading it at the moment.

This is the beautiful view on the way to the temple.

Jon drinking from a fountain outside of the temple. Is it sacred? We don't know.

This is the view inside of the temple.

A Hanok Village is basically an area of preserved historical houses. Parts of it are actually historical, like the Hyanggyo which was a Confucian school now designated as a national treasure. We also visited Gyeonggijeon Shrine which was built in 1410 and holds a portrait of King Tae-jo Lee, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty.

This photo was taken inside the walls of the Hyanggyo.

Walking through the Hanok Village, a lot of the houses were very small with low roofs, apparently they make their bulldozers to match.

In the Hyanggyo, we were fed a giant Bi Bim Bob, mixed together in one pot.

Hanji is a traditional Korean paper art which Jeonju is famous for producing, at the Traditional Hanji Crafts Center, we all decorated our own fans using hanji.

That's all from our trip around Jeonju, for more pictures you can go here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We made it!

After a very long plane ride, a very long wait in the airport, and a very long bus ride, Jon and I arrived at Jeonju University in Jeonju, the provincial capital of Jeollabuk-do to begin our EPIK (English Program in Korea) orientation. We arrived at 1AM on August 20th (12PM August 19th in Georgia). We will be in Jeonju until Friday, August 28th at which time we will head off to the province we will be living in for the next year: Gangwon. I haven't been able to use my computer until today, so I'm going to break the events of the past few days into several posts. First I'll talk about orientation.
EPIK orientation is preparing us to teach in the classroom. We attend lectures on topics such as Korean Curriculum, Co-teaching in the Classroom, and Classroom Management. The classes have been extremely helpful with regards to ideas for games in the classroom, lesson plans, and discipline, especially for less experienced teachers. Today we had an especially fun lecture on using magic in the classroom.

We are also learning about important cultural differences so that we can get along better with our co-teachers and other peers.
Some interesting social rules that seem strange to westerners include:
-You should not beckon people with your index finger. This is what Koreans would use to beckon an animal, you should always beckon with a palm facing down gesture.
-When you receive a gift or drink from an elder, you must use 2 hands.
-Koreans do not talk in as direct a manner as Westerners, it is very important to read between the lines when a Korean talks to you, because they may be telling you something important and you won't even know. An example is one of our lecturers whose principal kept telling him his haircut was "interesting" and asked him if he thought his haircut was "good for the happiness of the children." He was trying to say: "I want you to change your haircut."
-It is more unusual here to challenge someone's opinions, and may make others uncomfortable.
-They love group activities and it will seem very strange and possibly disrespectful if you decline an invitation to go out.
So, now that the boring stuff's out of the way, here are some pictures:

This was our first breakfast at orientation. Yes, that is Kimchee and yes those are French Fries.

I took this one for my dad. It says "Exciting place Tomato PC Zone." It's an internet cafe. A lot of the businesses' English translations don't shy away from bragging. Some other stores we ran into were "Best of Best" and "Best All."

This is outside of the Arts Center at Jeonju University.

This was taken in the first restaurant we went to in Korea. The menu was written completely in Hangul so we had to get our bilingual friend to order for us. Jon is cutting his noodles with a scissors because they come uncut.

This is the bathroom in our dorm room. It's sort of like the entire bathroom is the shower. Instead of having a shower curtain, there are drains in the floor, and you have sandals to wear around the bathroom until the floor dries.

For more pictures, go here. I have videos too, which I will post soon.