Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Some more pictures from COEX Aquarium

Yeong Eon was kind enough to send me more pictures from the aquarium (I forgot to mention that all photos in the previous post were TM Yeong Eon), and I thought I'd share them to show you the truly weird nature of this place.
There were fish in a traffic light...

...a telephone booth

...a vending machine

...a wine glass (or is it a champagne glass?)

...a dripping sink

...a washing machine

...and a refrigerator.

There were also crabs in a very tiny space shared with jazz musicians,

and bats lit to have some sort of Gotham City effect.

Also, here's a cute picture of our school's staff (some of them, anyway).
L to R (Back Row): Mrs. Kim (head of the English Center), The 6th grade teacher, the 5th grade teacher, the 4th grade teacher, the head of administration, the school handyman, the tennis coach, Jon, and the Vice Principal.
Front Row: Yeong Eon and I.


*You can click on any of the pictures to enlarge.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pictures from the school trip to Seoul

You can scroll down to the next post for a full description of our adventures in Seoul.

Getting eaten by a shark at the COEX aqaurium:


Headboard filled with fish:

Playing with the fun house mirrors in the aquarium:

Sitting through a long presentation that was entirely in Korean:

Teddy bear at the education expo in COEX mall:

Pretending to be interested in English materials at the education expo (we are posed for a lot of pictures so the school can show them to people and pretend like we do things we don't really do)

You can find more pictures from our trip toward the end of this album.

A trip to remember (unfortunately)

Last week, Jon and I accompanied our school on a two day trip to Seoul. We spent most of the trip stuck on a bus in traffic. The rest of the time we went to elementary schools, a musical, an aquarium, and an education expo. A lot of interesting things happened on this trip, so you'll have to bear with me. I think a list will be the best way to give an accurate picture:

1. The Food. We had a tiny grain of hope, a slight sparkle in our eyes, that perhaps since we were venturing into the big city, the principal would choose to mix up the restaurant selection a little bit. Gangwon-do is not exactly an international province, and Ingu certainly doesn't have any non-Korean choices. Alas, when we arrived in Seoul we were greeted with the regular meal of soup and rice with salty/pickled sides. Not that we don't like to eat these things, just that we already eat them everyday, except the few times we visit Seoul.
2. The sleeping arrangements. We were told that the school was going on this trip because we had a lot of money left over in our budget that we needed to spend (the exorbitant amount of money our school has and the amount it wastes is a whole other topic that I won't get into right now) so I sort of assumed we would be put up in some fancy digs. Not exactly the case. The school arranged for two rooms: one for the women, and one for the men. They were arranged in a typical Korean fashion with hardwood floors and pallets for everyone.
Although Jon and I obviously would prefer to have our own room, you know, together, the main issue with this sleeping arrangement was our anticipation for what the men with which Jon was forced to sleep would be doing: staying up all night getting extremely drunk. It turned out to not be that bad for Jon, since the hotel room was divided into two parts, and the men who decided to stay up were separated from the men who wanted to go to sleep. However, I ended up only getting about 4 hours of sleep because the women I was sleeping with decided to stay up and whisper to each other until 3 in the morning with the TV on. Add to this the fact that I'm not used to sleeping on the floor, and you get the picture.
The funniest thing to come out of our separate sleeping arrangements were the Principal's drunken comments to Jon that night:
Principal: Do you want to sleep with Sarah?
Jon: No. I'm OK.
Principal (a few minutes later): Do you want to sleep with Sarah?
Jon: No. I'm OK.
Principal (a few minutes later): Do you want to sleep with Sarah?
Jon: Yes.
Principal: Oh, but there's no room.
Which transitions nicely into my third point:
3. Alcohol. We were anticipating a lot of drinking on this trip, just as we anticipate it when we go out to dinner with our school. Our co-teacher (who, perhaps wisely, decided to pass on the trip) warned us that often on these types of trips they'll break out the soju and karaoke machine a few minutes into the trip and keep it going until they arrive at their destination (keep in mind this is a three to four hour trip). Well, luckily, there was no drinking on the way to Seoul. It's not that I care that much if people are drinking, it's just that they tend to be loud and disruptive and I wanted to read, practice Korean with Yeong Eon, and relax since we had to be on the bus at 8:30 in the morning.
When we ate dinner, the drinking began. I think I've written a little about the drinking practices in Korea before, but just as a refresher I'll explain a little bit about it. It's a sign of respect to offer someone a drink. If you're elder offers you a drink, you can try very politely to turn it down, but they will probably pressure you several times to accept it, and then you will probably give in. You must accept a drink from an elder with two hands, and drink with your face turned away. Once you empty your cup (shot glass), you refill it and offer it back to the person. These are the rules for Koreans, when Jon and I say "no thank you" they say "ok" and offer us Cider instead. We occasionally accept a drink or two. I'll usually accept one per dinner, and two if I'm feeling friendly. I'm very glad that everyone knows better than to pressure us into drinking, but I still get upset when I see teachers who genuinely don't want to have anything eventually give in because the person who's offering them the drink is being, for lack of a better word, rude.
Jon and I sat at a table with the female teachers, which put us in a place of safety as far as the offering of drinks went, and we were able to sit back and watch as the men began to act more and more foolish.
By the time we reached the musical, the principal was very drunk, which meant he became way more friendly with Jon and I. He sat with us, spoke in broken English about his heart being big with love (Something he tells us every time he's drunk) about how much he loves America (another standard) and about how much of a gentleman Jon's dad is (a new one, since he just recently visited). He told me Jon is very handsome so I should be very happy. He also pulled his patented drunk move, which involves bulging his eyes out, putting on a very serious expression, and moving his face very close to yours for several seconds. I can never tell whether or not he is trying to be funny. I can tell, though, that he is crazy.
On the way home from Seoul, the fifth grade teacher opened up the secret stash of soju. As the trip progressed, his face got more and more red and his actions more erratic. At one point (after she tried to refuse a drink from him) he tore Yeong Eon's book from her hand and warned her that reading on the bus "makes you sick. It is very dangerous." I'm glad he warned us, because before I thought that eating dried squid and drinking massive amounts of alcohol on the bus could make you sick; now I know that this can only be brought about by a good long read. By the time we reached home, and our final dinner together, he was so drunk that he lay on the floor in the restaurant, until it was time to leave and he emerged with a paper cup of coffee between his teeth and a cigarette in his hand.
4. The Musical We went to see the Principal's favorite musical entitled "chincha chincha ju hwa yo" which was translated to us as "very very I like you" but probably means something more like "I really really like you." The musical was pretty fun. It was easy to follow (even though it was all in Korean) and the music was catchy. A lot people in the audience were very excited because a famous Korean comedian, Kim Jin Su, was starring in the musical.
I was fortunate enough (this is sarcasm) to be the Principal's chosen friend during the musical. Have you ever been somewhere with a drunken friend/acquaintance who ended up embarrassing you? Me too, that person was my boss. The Principal warned all of us before the musical began that we needed to be quiet. Once it started, he decided that being quiet could encompass singing along (with the incorrect words) to all of the songs, and clapping in very inappropriate places. Needless to say, he got a lot of dirty looks, not that that in any way deterred him. He also was kind enough to be my translator for the night, which was interesting since he doesn't speak much English. He told me things like "1970s, this musical, it is true."
During the finale, Kim Jin Su ventured out into the audience to shake people's hands. He was moving down the line when he saw something strange: foreigners (can you guess who they were?). He stopped, gave us a shocked look, and then hugged me and gave Jon a high five. When he came back on stage, he stopped singing and announced to everyone that there were "Waguks" in the audience. Then greeted us with "Hi. Nice to meet you. I'm movie star." We're kind of used to this type of attention by now, but it's definitely not as common in Seoul, since there are a lot more foreigners there than in Ingu. It made me feel sort of guilty, since some of our co-workers were very excited about getting to shake his hand, and we didn't even know who he was, but that's just the way it works here. We are special solely because of where we were born and what we look like. It's hard work being famous.
5. The Aquarium When we heard we were going to an aquarium in Seoul, we assumed it would be pretty nice, and I even thought about doing some research to see if it had any endangered animals or anything particularly interesting. I'm glad I didn't look anything up because I would have spoiled the magnificent underwhelmingness/weirdness of the COEX aquarium.
First of all, the aquarium is inside a mall.
Second of all, if any of the animals in the aquarium are endangered, it's because the aquarium is endangering their lives. I'm pretty sure that none of the living conditions for the animals were humane. The bats were kept in a well-lit area. I could reach my hand into all of the tanks. I saw one crab that was put in a space so small he could only shuffle back and forth within a 5 inch margin.
It seems that since the aquarium lacked any interesting species, they decided to make up for it by interesting displays. Such displays included: fish in a vending machine, fish in a headboard, fish in a toilet bowl, and fish in a refrigerator.

Sorry this was such a long post, but hopefully you found it interesting. There were more stories I left out like the Principal giving what seemed to be a very serious speech for twenty minutes, and then when we asked Yeong Eon what he was talking about, it turned out to be a story about an altercation he got into on the highway.

My next post will be less wordy and more photo-y, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Winter Camp: Week 2

We are now in our second week of winter camp, which is exactly the same as the first week, but with new students. Last week we taught the students from our "home school" (Ingu) and this week we are teaching all of our other students from the four other schools we visit every week. I thought I'd share some more pictures of how funny/creative/cute our kids are.
We did role plays again, and again there were some great masks. These two won the "Best Mask" prize:


We also played an icebreaker game where each student had to paint a picture of their partner as their favorite animal (stolen from my days of radio station retreats).

(this kid's partner was the one pictured above with the crazy bird mask, so he decided to draw him as his favorite animal, a tiger, wearing the bird mask)




Today we went on a treasure hunt to find the items necessary to make a dinosaur pencil (you'll see what exactly a dinosaur pencil is in a moment). Before the hunt we made pirate hats (of course)!
Everyone thought Jonathan's hat was really cool and scary:

Mine was slightly less menacing:


This boy thought Jon's hat was so cool, that he stood next to him and drew everything exactly the same.



This girl is really quiet and sweet, so we were more than a little surprised by her extremely violent hat (apparently she'd been, shot, stabbed, and hit with an arrow):

Lastly, this is what the dinosaur pencils looked like when they were finished:



Oh, and, one more thing. One of our students was wearing this awesome hat today:

I moved all of the student artwork from this week into one album. You can find it all here. Also, a few pictures from the past week were added to This Album.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Winter Camp Day 2: Role Plays

Today we spent Winter Camp practicing, preparing materials, and performing role plays. I decided to pull out some art supplies in case any of the students needed any props or masks that we didn't already have, and was so impressed when every one of them made their own masks and props.
This team asked if they could have a banana from the food props, and then used it to trace and make their own bananas:

This was one of my favorite masks. There wasn't a speaking part written in the script for this students, so he decided to be the announcer and made up a character for himself. (You might recognize him as Gwang Pyo from the previous post).

This kid did horribly in his role play, probably because he spent most of the allotted practice time to create various props and disguises. At one point he made himself a mustache (wholly unrelated to his role play).

Some other really creative masks:





And now for the performances! Click "Read More" Below to watch the videos. Click here for more pictures.

Winter Camp

This week we have Winter English Camp, and since there are 8CM of snow on the ground, it definitely is living up to its name. Of course, since I'm used to Georgia, I assumed that all this snow would mean a cancellation in school, but no such luck. The buses, somehow, can still run, and therefore there is still school. I shouldn't be complaining, because Winter Camp is actually really low-key and fun, plus we get official camp t-shirts!
Yesterday, we taught our students about the most popular food for Americans their age: Peanut Butter and Jelly. Peanut Butter is an imported food, so a lot of Koreans don't really eat it, and none of our students had ever tried Peanut Butter and Jelly before. Most of them really enjoyed their sandwiches, while our co-teacher wasn't too fond of hers and our office assistant refused to try one. We understand, since later they offered us their favorite snack, a pastry filled with red bean paste, and we politely declined.
Here are some of the students enjoying their meal:

..and Man Su being silly:

As I mentioned before, we've had a lot of snow in the past few days. This was the view from our front door last night:

Here's a truck we passed on our way to work:

When we arrived at school, we found Gwang Pyo sweeping the steps with his umbrella:

Yesterday I received a care package from my grandparents with more coffee, socks, a scarf and a hat. It was pretty much perfect timing. I'll admit it: I'm wearing two scarves and two pairs of socks today.

More pictures here.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Korean Cooking

On New Year's Eve, we learned how to cook Jon's least favorite Korean food: Kimchi. This week, we attended a workshop for all of the EPIK teachers in our area and on the final day we took a Korean cooking class. Besides the dreaded Kimchi, we made bulgogi (fried beef) and Doenjang Jjigae (soybean paste soup). Although we do a good bit of Korean cooking at home, it was nice to learn from experts and to cook with our friends.
Here's the cabbage waiting to be smothered in sauce:


Our friends Will and Theresa were so ready to make Kimchi, because their personal supply was getting low.

Even though Jon doesn't like to eat Kimchi, he did enjoy making it, so much so that he used our table's entire supply of chili paste in 5 seconds.

I think Lunar New Year is a much bigger deal than regular New Year here, plus it was extremely cold outside, so we had a pretty uneventful New Year's Eve. We stayed in Yang Yang with William and Theresa, went out for pizza, and I fell asleep before midnight. In the morning, Koreans in our area traditionally go to the beach to watch the sunrise. I think I mentioned before that it was extremely cold, so getting up to watch the sunrise at 6 AM sounded less than romantic.
We headed home on Saturday morning to a cold apartment and frozen pipes. Man, this living in a cold climate thing sure is difficult. It's snowing today, though, so I think all the cold might be worth it.
Happy New Year! You can find more pictures here.

Christmas in Korea

Hey everyone! Sorry for the long wait between posts. We've been pretty busy lately, as you'll see in the next few posts.
School ended on December 18th. That is, school ended for most of the students and some of the teachers. The English department was, and still is, expected to come to school every day except on our official vacation days.
Luckily, Christmas is an official Korean holiday. Since there's really not anything remotely Christmas-related, or really anything to do, in Ingu we decided to head to Seoul. The first item on our agenda was to eat as much western food as possible. Thanks to some internet research, I found a legitimate Mexican restaurant called Dos Tacos. I've never been so happy to eat a burrito in my life! For any readers in Korea, you can go here to find directions to Dos Tacos.



I'm not in any way trying to imply that we dislike Korean food. We actually love it, but sometimes it's nice to have a change, especially since most Korean food uses the same ingredients over and over again. Some of the other non-Korean food we enjoyed in Seoul included Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, KFC (I know, embarrassing), and Thai Food. I didn't realize until I wrote it down that we mostly ate American fast food. Oh, well.

Besides gorging ourselves, a benefit of being in Seoul was actually being able to enjoy Christmas festivities. Apart from the occasional mini tree in a shop window, the Ingu area is sorely lacking in Christmas cheer. On Christmas Eve, we headed to Gwanghwamun Plaza where there were lights, ice skating, Christmas music, and a lot of Christmas trees.
We really wanted to ice skate, but so did everyone else, and all the time slots were sold out. Fortunately, though, we were able to witness the bizarre children's rink where all the kids scooted around on planks instead of skating.

I hung out with a penguin.

and we learned that this year's Christmas was brought to us by Ford Taurus.


While exploring the area outside of City Hall, we came across an outdoor Christian Concert. The performances included an interpretive dance performed by Mary and an angel, a rock and roll group, a hip hop group, and dancers. At one point, we watched as Jesus came out carrying the cross and healed a blind man. The blind man then began to break dance. Afterwards, someone removed Jesus's crown of thorns, replaced it with a Yankees cap, and the crowd broke into a chant of "Go Jesus!" as Jesus showed off his moves. We walked by the area again an hour later and Jesus was still dancing, this time wearing a Santa Clause hat.

On Christmas Day we ventured out with our friend Chung to a huge Andy Warhol exhibit at the Seoul Museum of Art,

and we saw snow! Here I am proving that I (kind of) had a white Christmas.



Even though we missed our family and friends a lot over the Christmas Holidays, we had fun exploring Seoul and seeing what Christmas is like in another country. Did I mention that we enjoyed the burritos?
I hope that you all had a Merry Christmas as well. You can see more pictures from our adventures here.