Friday, February 26, 2010

The Night Before the Ladies LP

'Twas the night before the ladies long program when I was still awake
It was almost two in the morning and I could really go for a steak
Each competitors skates were hung by the door with care
In hopes for an Olympic medal and everyone to stare

Skating fans were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of loops and axels spun around in their heads
Every coach was praying and hoping for the best
But after the long program only the judges could decide the rest

In Korea Yu-Na Kim is considered a queen
She can do triple after triple and never look green
Her short program was flawless and couldn't have been better
I think I might send this poem to her in a fan letter

From Lipinski and Hughes to Kerrigan and Kwan
They may be retired, but they still make lots of won (Korean currency)
They are names to remember, but are old news now
There are new names to know like Nagasu and Mao

The competition isn't over, in fact it has just begun
The Olympics are stressful, but look like lots of fun
From glitter to rhinestones and hairspray galore
I love to watch skating, I always want more

Kim could bring home the first figure skating gold
I wish her good luck and hope she doesn't have a cold
Tomorrow Yu-Na Kim may make and break history
But until then, her fate still remains a mystery

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

All Hail Queen Yu-Na

If you haven't heard about Yu-Na Kim, you must be living under a rock and not reading my blog (caught you- I've mentioned her before!). She is the leader after the short program and is the overwhelming favorite to win the gold. It has been pretty exciting living in a country where a figure skater is considered royalty. Not only is she featured in a million advertisements, but Home Plus (Target type store) has a huge Christmas tree where you can attach good luck messages for her on the tree. The night before the short program aired, literally every channel had some sort of special on her. From showing her past performances and interviews, to behind the scenes Olympic coverage, they had it all.

All of my students were talking about her short program today. There were even some guys who imitated her James Bond poses and one student told me that she skipped school this morning to watch her perform! She trains in Canada so I'm not sure the next time she'll make it to Korea, but when she does her arrival will probably be equivalent to a Twilight premiere, maybe even bigger. Of course I want the US ladies to medal, but someone in the top three will have to make a drastic mistake during the long program in order for that to happen. I can't wait to see what happens!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Outw(H)it, Outlast, Outplay

Whitney made it into the top ten finalists for a Survivor online casting call!

The next step is for her to receive as many votes as possible so please vote, vote, vote!

Just copy and paste the link below into your browser and click the "Vote Now For This Finalist", button!§ion=videos

Tell everyone you know!

Monday, February 22, 2010

And the Academy Award Goes to...

I haven't had another umbrella incident, but I did have another crier. My students are obsessed with being first in line (I vaguely remember those days) so when it comes to lining up at the end of class, it's a big deal.

I try to switch it up with different games, calling on good students, etc. On this particular day, I was in a great mood and played a game with them. Of course it was an educational game so I ask students questions from the book and whoever gets the most questions right gets to line up first. Sounds fair right? Here's the catch. I only call on students who raise their hand, are quiet, and are sitting still. Well, one student, who always yells out and can't sit still put his head on his desk and started crying. Oy. I dismissed the rest of the class and tried to calm this one student down. Now this wasn't just a tear drop-here's a tissue-wipe it away-type cry, this was a hyperventilating-can't breathe-what have I done-type cry. He stayed after class for a good five minutes while I tried to fix the situation. He pointed to his hand and made an X with the other one, which meant I didn't call on him enough. First, I told him to breathe, then I explained the rules that he had to be quiet and raise his hand, and finally I turned the situation into a positive one and pointed out that he did answer one (ha) question right. I don't think that helped though. He is famous for his monkey dance so I asked him if I could see it hoping that would help cheer him up. I got denied. What was supposed to be a fun game, turned into another sob story. Tear.

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

A few weeks ago was a weekend full of reasons to celebrate:

-February Birthdays
-Lunar New Year
-Welcoming J to Korea
-Valentine's Day
-The Olympics

Lunar New Year is one of the biggest holidays in Korea so I had a day off and headed to Seoul for the long weekend. My KTX experiences have definitely improved which makes traveling to Seoul super easy and I've even learned how to pack light. I arrived in Seoul early Saturday morning which was S's birthday. We met up with a good group of people and headed to the Bau House. S had been ranting and raving about this "dog cafe" that she wanted to go to on her birthday. I was hesitant at first because I refuse to eat dog so I had no idea what I was getting myself into agreeing to go to this mysterious place. Well, it happened to literally be a dog cafe, but no dogs were harmed in the process. It was basically a room full of dogs roaming around. There were about 15 permanent dogs and then people can also board their dogs there. Pretty cool concept minus the wet dog smell. All of the dogs were really well behaved and got along great. There were paint roller sized lint brushes and the employees were stocked with a variety of cleaning supplies. There's also a cat cafe that I'll have to check out next time too. Oh, and among all of these dogs there was ONE cat. Now some cats get along great with dogs and even consider themselves dogs, but this poor cat in the DOG cafe was not one of them. Poor thing.

Next on the agenda was swing dancing! I may be a Maple Motion alum, but swing dancing was a whole new thing for me. One of S's friends is a great swing dancer and surprisingly a lot of people we were with took ballroom and swing dancing classes in college. I felt like I was on Dancing with the Stars and I learned a few key steps such as the Charleston and the Virginia (I think I just made that one up). But it was something new and super fun.

One of my older posts was about six degrees of separation and how I can't get over how many people I keep running into... in Korea of all places. Well, this one definitely tops the list.

J had just arrived in Korea from Switzerland so I wanted to show her a good time in Seoul. We were walking around Hongdae when all of a sudden I heard my name being called. I looked around and didn't see anyone familiar. Then I heard my name again. Still nothing. We stopped in front of this group of foreigners and this guy looked at me and said you don't remember do you? I was going through everyone I knew in my brain and I just couldn't think of who this guy was. He definitely knew me, but I still couldn't put a name to a face or a face to a name. Awkward. Finally, something clicked and I realized it was this guy I was in youth group with waaay back in the day. I probably haven't seen him since middle school, but we ended up going out together the rest of the night. It was great catching up with him and reminiscing about our past together. He arrived in Korea a few days after me and is teaching English in a city near Busan. I still can't believe he recognized me among all of the Koreans on the streets of Hongdae. Small world.

As usual, the weekend went by way too fast and I didn't even go shopping in Seoul, but I'll be back!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Just Another Hallmark Holiday

I hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day! In Korean culture there are a handful of romantic holidays throughout the year. When I say a handful, I mean the 14th of every month. The 14th of every month marks a love-related day including: Candle Day, Valentine's Day, White Day, Black Day, Rose Day, Kiss Day, Silver Day, Green Day, Music Day, Wine Day, Movie Day, and Hug Day.

The most recent one on Feb. 14th (Valentine's Day) women give chocolate to men and then on March 14th (White Day) men give non-chocolate candy to women. On April 14th (Black Day), people who didn't receive anything on the 14th of Feb. or March go to a Chinese restaurant to eat black noodles and "mourn" their single life. Talk about depressing.

Koreans also celebrate Pepero Day on November 11th, when young couples give each other Pepero cookies. The date '11/11' is intended to resemble the long shape of the cookie.

Fortunately, I don't have to worry about eating black noodles on April 14th because I DID receive chocolates from students and coworkers. One student, Julie, wrote me this note and attached it to some candy... so cute:

It's a little hard to read, but it says:

To: Teacher From: Julie (with a heart over the "i"... I've taught her well, just kidding, I don't do that.)

You tired with me and student?
I'm prepare one of the small confectionary. (smiley face)
Good New Year's Day
Always Thank You

[My] Translation:

To: Teacher From: Julie

You've helped me [become a better] student.
Here's some candy for you.
Happy New Year!
Thank You

How cute is that?! Oh and to top it off, she has the cutest Hello Kitty bag.

What do you think she's trying to say?


Korean fashion inspires me to expand my fashion horizon (or lack there of) beyond cardigans, tanks and leggings.

Here's an article from The Korean Herald about Korean fashion designers making their debut at NY Fashion Week:

One of my favorite past times is people watching. I would say the best place to people watch is Cedar Point, but a close second is Seoul. Everyone is so stylish. I’ve caught myself staring at oversized bags and five-inch heels numerous times on the subway. It might help that Korean women are so tiny, but I feel like they could wear anything and make it look good. I would say their style is conservative and polished, yet fashion forward and innovative. Even in the dead of winter the majority of women wear skirts or shorts with tights. I’ve tried to buy cute skirts here, but they are literally the size of washcloths. I will have to keep looking. I find it interesting that women are very conscious about not showing cleavage, but they show as much leg as they want to. They also love accessories, especially hair accessories. From headbands, bows, barrettes, and hats… they're all fabulous; however, the scrunchies, bun covers, and extra large banana clips circa 1994 have to go. I especially love when my students come to class wearing a headband, barrette, bow, annnd scrunchie. I don't know how they pull it off. Men are also very fashionable. I love their murses- male purses, everyone has one.

Project Runway: Korea is on TV all the time! I love it. The second season just started and it’s just as good as the American version. Even though I can’t understand Korean, I’ve watched PR enough times to know the structure of the show. The clothes the designers make are incredible and (American) season 1 finalist, Austin Scarlett, is a judge! He’s in a promo for the show and speaks Korean. I feel like if I don’t learn any Korean (which I will!) at least I will know the Project Runway promo!

Always remember to “KIP: Keep It Pretty!” –Gary, contestant on MTV’s Styl’d

Friday, February 12, 2010

I Love Lists

Here’s a list of things I want to do in Korea in no particular order:

Festivals- It all started with my love for NachoFest and interning at The Old Town Commercial Association. I love themes and festivals are like one big, themed celebration. Korea has a variety of festivals happening year-round, but a few that sparked my interest include: Boryeong Mud Festival, Chuncheon International Mime Festival, Hampyeong Butterfly Festival, Pusan International Film Festival, and the Gwangju Kimchi Festival.

Busan Beaches- I’m not a big beach person because I hate sand, but all I hear about Busan is how amazing their beaches are. I figure I can’t live in Korea and not visit a beach. Plus I can go swimming in the sea!

Jeju-do Island- A definite must see. There are waterfalls, volcanic craters, and one of the world’s largest lava tubes on the island. Jeju was one of the finalists for the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

Busan Aquarium- Last year my dream came true when I swam with dolphins in Mexico. It’s time to up the ante though and take on SHARKS. In my Lonely Planet book, one of the things you can only do in Korea is dive with sharks at the Busan Aquarium. Bring it on, Bruce (shark leader from Finding Nemo).

Hot Springs- One of the most popular hot springs in Korea is in Daejeon. I see the stop for Yuseong Spa every time I’m on the subway.

Temples, Palaces, and Fortresses- I’m always up for some Korean history.

Lotte World/Everland- Theme parks equivalent to Disney World!

Olympic Park- The 1988 Summer Olympics were held in Seoul and there is an Olympic Museum, a fortress, parks, gardens, and a variety of stadiums. I’ve stood on two Olympic podiums (Lake Placid, NY and Sydney, AUS) so perhaps I can make it three!

Rock Climbing/Bungee Jumping- My friend’s sister is a certified rock-climbing instructor and is visiting in July. She has already been researching places to go. My other friend’s brother teaches in Daegu and I saw that he went bungee jumping. I could check both off of my bucket list.

DMZ- I went here when I studied abroad, but I don’t think I appreciated it at the time so I wouldn’t mind visiting it again.

Vampire Weather

I named this entry Vampire Weather for a few reasons:
1.) It has been rainy and cloudy all week.
2.) Birthday shout out to Taylor Lautner. Team Jacob all the way.
3.) I don’t have much else to talk about.

I was actually dreading the weather this week. Not because of the lack of vitamin D I would be receiving, but because I knew my students would bring ridiculously, big umbrellas to class and I didn’t want another infamous umbrella incident. Well, so far, so good, but I have one day left in the workweek so I don’t want to jinx myself. I have had to tell a few students to stop swinging their umbrellas around above their head and to stop “sword fighting” with each other, but so far there hasn’t been any sign of blood or tears… yet.

Actually, this morning I had an umbrella incident myself. Due to the Korean New Year this weekend, I went to Daejeon Station this morning and purchased my KTX tickets to and from Seoul before they sold out. As I was riding the escalator, my umbrella got stuck in the railing. So as I was moving up the escalator, my poor, travel sized (key word here) umbrella was not moving up it with me. Usually I wouldn’t care (ie: Chicago ahem… KAS), but I knew travel sized umbrellas are a rarity in Korea so I didn’t want to lose my luxury item. I couldn’t run back down the escalator because there was a man standing right behind me, the umbrella handle was now extended all the way and my arm couldn’t stretch any further. So I did the unthinkable and let go. Luckily when I let go, my umbrella got unstuck and a nice man picked it up for me. Thank you, umbrella gods.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Every Rose has its Thorn

Now I don’t have much to complain about in Korea, but the following definitely top the list:

Traffic, Traffic, Traffic- Luckily I live in Daejeon, which is the fifth largest city in Korea, so it’s not too bad here, but the traffic in Seoul is out of control. I remember being at the top of Seoul Tower and looking out and being able to see a line of lights from all of the traffic. Korea is about as big as Indiana and there are 10 million people in Seoul alone which is about half of Korea’s population. To put it in prospective, there are more people in Seoul in a smaller area compared to New York City. Oh well, bad traffic comes with any big city.

Crosswalks- Or lack there of. Pedestrians definitely do not have the right away. Watch out.

Traffic Lights- Two things: they’re optional and they last forever. If a crosswalk light is counting down and hits one you better make a run for it or else you’ll be standing on that side of the street for a long time. Traffic lights are just a suggestion. If the light is red, oh well. I’ve been in numerous cabs that go right through them. It’s funny because I’ve had to explain “laws” to my students and I always use traffic laws as an example. Then I think to myself, oh wait, that’s a bad example because traffic laws don’t really exist in Korea.

Spitting- Yuck. It doesn’t matter if it’s inside or outside, Koreans spit.

Dryers- They don’t exist. I have a dish dryer system, but no clothes dryer. I shouldn’t complain because I do have a washing machine, and plus without a dryer, I don’t have to worry about shrinking my clothes, just wrinkling them. Which brings me to my next complaint… ironing. I actually don’t own an iron yet (thank goodness for Downy Wrinkle Releaser), but I hate ironing and wrinkly clothes.

Sales Employees- They follow you when you shop. If you’ve ever shopped with me before, I’m a looker. I like to look at all of my options before I buy something. So it drives me crazy to have someone hovering over my shoulder when I’m just browsing. Talk about stage five clingers.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Another KTX Fail

So this is an old story, but I think it's worth posting. To ring in the New Year I went down to Busan and celebrated with a few friends. I still hadn't started work so I was still in vacation mode and enjoyed myself very much. It was Sunday and I was ready to head back to Daejeon to prepare myself for my first day of work the following day. Well, I got to the train station assuming I could just take the KTX back. There are automated machines that are in English so I went to buy my ticket. Every time slot for the KTX was sold out. A million thoughts were going through my head. I thought I was going to be stuck in Busan and would have to call my boss with the phone I didn't have and explain that I couldn't make it to my first day of work. That's anyones worst nightmare. Next, I went to the actual ticket counter thinking maybe there were more times or seats available (reminds me of the movie scenario), well there weren't. The lady did give me another ticket though to take the slow train home. The first leg of the trip I didn't have an assigned seat so I had to stand, but halfway through I was assigned a seat. This kind of confused me because I didn't know if I was supposed to switch trains halfway through to get a seat or stay on the same one.

During the first part of my journey home I literally felt like I was on the Titanic. There were so many people standing and pushing and pulling and I was fortunate enough to be standing by the door so every time the door opened I got knocked over by it. Luckily there were two Korean women crotched behind some seats sitting on their suitcases. They were so nice and saved their "seat" for me when they got off the train. So the remainder of my time without a seat wasn't too bad because I had a cozy spot away from all of the pushy people.

When it was time for me to get an actual seat, I was still confused whether to stay on the train or get off and onto another one, so I took a chance and stayed on the same one. I left my prime spot and went to find my seat only to find someone else was already sitting there. Being the nice person that I am (and lack of Korean) I let the person stay in MY seat and went to find another place to stand. Passing through all of the cars, I found the entertainment car. It had computers, karaoke, games, picture machines, and of course a snack bar. I hadn't eaten so I ordered something to eat. Of course the thing I ordered came with a bunch of side dishes so I thought it was going to be near impossible to find a place to sit and eat. I started walking away and the cashier came out from behind the counter and started yelling at people (I'm assuming) telling them to move so I could sit and eat. It was so nice! Someone got up and others smushed together and made room for me and my million side dishes. So the remainder of the train ride home I finally got a seat!

Note to self: If on a train without an assigned seat, buy something to eat and you'll get a seat.

So after about 3.5 hours on the train I made it back to Daejeon and to work the next day.

Western Broncos

Here's a picture of Tandoori Bar in Gimhae and the owner went to WMU!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pencils and Pouches and Pens, Oh My!

My favorite part about school was always back to school shopping. Not necessarily for clothes because that stopped after like 5th grade (thanks Mom), but school supply shopping. There was always something special about a brand new box of crayons and deciding what pattern to have on your folders and notebooks for the year. Well the office supply selection here is like a rush of back to school shopping every time I step into a stationary store. These stores aren’t your average Staples or Office Depots; these stores are five stories tall, there are rows and rows of different paper, pencils, pens, you name it, they have 1,000 different kinds of it.

Remember the SpaceMaker pencil box that we used to decorate with whiteout and those neon colored, netted pencil pouches we used to write notes on? Well those are things of the past because my students have the most amazing pencil pouches that I’m always checking out. Both girls and boys have them. There are different patterned ones, mini caboodle type ones, I’m telling you they’re amazing. I’ve also noticed that their pencils rarely have erasers on the tops of them, so students have separate erasers. They are so much better than the average big, pink eraser and I have a nice collection of the ones left behind.

You know how you always play a sport better with better equipment? Well, I swear I write better with the pens here! Not only is my handwriting clearer, but I find myself making up excuses to jot down a note just so I can write something ie: the whole Olympic schedule in my planner. Since teaching though, I have had to change my "signature" handwriting, that I've been perfecting since the sixth grade, just a bit. In training I asked a silly question if students would get confused by the way I write my "g's". Everyone thought I was crazy for asking such a ridiculous question, but sure enough, on my first day of teaching, one student asked me why I made my "g's" the way I did! I am beginning to make regular "g's", but I hope that one day I can patent my signature "g" and write them again.

So not only am I going to come home with a million headbands and accessories, but also a large variety of office supplies.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Thursday's lessons were on:

Champagne and Brie- Who doesn't love a little bubbly and cheese?!
Foods with German Names- It wasn't necessarily about schnitzel and sauerkraut, but everyone knows that German food is my favorite! *note it's my second time mentioning sauerkraut
Albert Einstein's Science Papers- I was clearly thinking of my bestie, JLE, the entire time!

It's as if these lessons were made for me.

Countdown to the Olympics

The opening ceremony is less than a week away.

Here's an article from The Korea Herald about the representation of South Korea at the Olympics!

Korea to send 45 players to Vancouver Olympics

Korea will field 45 players in four events at the Vancouver Winter Olympics scheduled to take place in the Canadian city on Feb. 12-28, the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) said Tuesday, according to Yonhap News.
The KOC said the Korean players -- 26 men and 19 women -- will compete in skating, skiing, the biathlon and bobsleigh-skeleton.

There will be 28 players in the skating events, including reigning world champion Kim Yu-na, who is expected to bring home the nation's first figure skating gold.

Including 18 coaches and 19 support officials, the Korean squad will number 82 people, it noted.

I finally watched the US skating nationals on YouTube and there will definitely be some great competition. Don't judge, but I already wrote every figure skating event in my planner and even calculated it to Korean time. I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I've got Seoul, but I'm not a Soldier

You know how when people meet and then they all go their separate ways, the group always says, "ohhh, we'll keep in touch, we'll definitely get together", but lets be honest it never really happens. Well that's not the case with the people from my training group and I. We've been really good about keeping in touch via email, making plans, and sticking to them. So a few weeks ago we planned a trip to Seoul.

I got to the train station and bought a KTX ticket. It costs a little bit more than a regular train or bus ticket because it takes less than an hour to get to Seoul. I found the platform and even asked an employee if I was at the right place. He reassured me that I was so I got on the train. About 20 minutes into the ride, we stopped. I thought it was weird we were already stopping because the KTX was supposed to be really fast. Well, I finally realized that I had somehow gotten on the slow train. So I paid for a KTX ticket, but was on the slow train, without a seat.

After standing on the train for an extra hour, I finally met everyone in Itaweon. There's an army base in Itaweon so it's a huge tourist trap. There's great shopping, good food, and lots of "western" things. I didn't even feel like I was in Korea walking around because there were so many foreigners. We stopped at an international grocery store and an English bookstore. I bought The Devil Wears Prada (classic haha) and Citizen Girl, a book by the authors of The Nanny Diaries. I want to go back and pick up the Twilight series! For lunch, we opted against Korean food and I stuffed my face with the best chicken shwarma sandwich I've ever had.

Around 5 p.m. we headed to Seoul Tower. It's known for it's gorgeous, panoramic views of the city. We had to walk up a huge hill and then took a cable car up to the tower. We went right around sunset, so the timing was perfect. (I've been trying to post pictures, but it hasn't been working) On one of the observation decks there were "locks of love". Couples bring a lock and lock it onto the railing, throw the key away and attach a love note to it. There was also a random teddy bear museum and a few restaurants at the top of tower. Seoul Tower is something everyone who visits Korea should see.

Next, we had a Korean BBQ and noribang (karaoke).
Top 5 songs of the night:
-Barbie Girl
-Poker Face
-Summer Nights
-I Kissed a Girl

In the morning S showed me around Mok-dong and we went back to Myeong-dong for some shopping. The Hyundai Department Store is in Mok-dong and it had the most amazing office supply store and CHEESE store. Cheese is very rare in Korea so it was a relief to see names like feta, smoked gouda, and brie readily available at my fingertips. And there were samples which made it even better.

Good times with good people, and I took the KTX back to Daejeon for the first time!

Level Up Tests

Every term my students have to take level up exams. Depending on how they do on these exams, weekly tests, participation, and homework they either move up or stay at the level they're at. After two times being at one level they have to move up. Anyways, test taking days are supposed to be the easiest days of the year because you just sit there and make sure students don't cheat. There are test booklets and scantron sheets that have to be filled out with marker. The scantron sheets are double sided so the answer side should be in marker and the other side should be in pencil with only their Korean name, English name, and home telephone number. If they make a mistake bubbling in answers, I told them to raise their hand and I would come around and white it out to fix it. Well here's how my directions got translated to some students:

-I had one student who didn't know the last few questions X out every single a,b,c,d answer instead of guessing and circling an answer in.
-A handfull of students wrote marker on both sides of their papers so it leaked through and ruined their tests.
-Keep in mind they only needed to fill out three things on the backside (in pencil), but they filled out the whole thing in marker.
-Instead of bubbling in the answers, one student literally circled each letter.
-Many students (mainly boys, sorry) aren't the neatest, and there were sqiggly lines in marker all over their tests.
-Students felt the urge to say "I'm done" and announce it to the class loudly.

The first four scenarios were the worst and I learned from class to class the process did get easier. I was never a good test taker and I hated scantrons. My first time proctoring level up tests made me hate them even more.