Saturday, March 27, 2010

...but wait there's more!

The +'s of Home Plus:

-Freebies: After I realized the only things I had in my refrigerator were a large jar of pickles and some butter, I decided it was time for a much needed trip to HP. As I was browsing the aisles, an employee came up and offered me a sample of fried tofu. I'm such a sucker for good sales people so I bought the tofu she was promoting. Not only did I get one package of tofu, but attached to it was another one and a bag of bean sprouts! What a deal. I've noticed that it's common for brands to attach promotional items to their products. I'm always receiving free drinks with my random purchases at the convenient store. It's like getting a good prize from cereal box, but ten times better.

-Spotted: On my walk home from HP I saw a husband, wife and their baby driving in their SUV. Sounds pretty normal right? Well, the baby was wedged in between the man driving and the steering wheel. Not normal nor is it safe.

-Uniforms: Grocery store outfits usually aren't runway material, but HP is different. The girls wear these white pleated skits with these furry leg warmers that go over their shoes. I want a pair.

-Entertainment: I've only seen it happen once, but on occasion the HP employees sing and dance in the aisles! Have you ever seen the YouTube video of a typical day at the grocery store, but then everyone breaks out in a musical? If you haven't, search it. My dream world is to live in a pink, sparkly, musical world and HP (almost) makes it come true. And plus you're bound to be in a better mood after hearing a little song and seeing a little dance at the grocery store.

-Samples: No need to explain the perks of samples.

-Employees: The employee to customer ratio is probably 1:1. Ok, that's an exaggeration, but there are probably at least two assigned to every aisle. It would be nice if I could ask them where :::insert most random food item here:::, especially since HP is so big, but I don't speak Korean.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Even though Friday is my shortest work day of the week (1:30 p.m.-8 p.m.) it always feels like the longest.

Summary of my day:

-Crying Situation #1: Today I took points away from a girl who didn't do her homework. She was sobbing/gasping for breathe the whole 45 minute class period. I obviously felt bad, but it's standard procedure. I can't take points away from some students and not others when they don't do their homework. I pulled her aside after class to make sure she was ok and told her I'd give her the points back on Monday if she completed it. I also snuck her a little treat- a meat stick. It reminds me of string cheese and looks disgusting. Students are very generous when it comes to snack time. They are always giving me bits and pieces of their snacks... sometimes it's good, other times it's not so good (ie: red, bean paste filled buns). I have yet to try this mystery "meat stick." They freak me out. The past two days students have gifted me with them. I always say thank you with a big smile on my face, politely put it in my desk and tell them I'll save it for later. I know it's not very courteous of me, but I confess I re-gifted a meat stick today.

-Crying Situation #2: A lot can happen during the five minute break time between classes. I'm always warning my students not to slam the door because someone will get hurt. I even show them by pretending to shut the door on my fingers. I bet you see where this story is going. I didn't actually see anything because I was in the lobby, but rumor has it Harry slammed the door on SM7's (side note: SM7 is the name of a car and insists on me calling me that) arm. Tragedy. I wouldn't be surprised if SM7 comes in with a cast up to his elbow on Monday.

-Story time: Today we had a discussion about chores. I was surprised to find out that most students helped do the dishes, laundry, clean the floors, etc. As a joke (joke #1) I drew a picture of a toilet and asked them if they ever cleaned it. After the "ewww's" and "my dad does that!" one boy confessed that one time he did indeed clean the toilet. He also told the class that the one time he cleaned it, his toothbrush fell in the bowl and... he continued using it. SICK. He said that it started to smell funny so he finally got a new one. I mean who knows if he was telling the truth or not, but I went on and on saying that when you drop a toothbrush in the toilet, you THROW IT OUT! I hope my overreaction taught him a lesson. I was on a roll in this class because (joke #2) I told them that they should come to my apartment and clean it for me. They said they'd do it if A.) I'd buy them food B.) Give them money C.) Give them an A+ D.) Any combination of A, B, or C and E.) All of the above. Then the conversation turned into... "Teacher, where do you live?" and "Teacher, what's your cell phone number?". I quickly changed the subject and moved on.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

One of my favorite lines from a student last term was, "Teachuhh, I'm Pinocchio!" At the beginning of every class I check their homework. I expect their "chunk books" to be out on their desks so when I come around I don't have to ask every student for their book. One student, Luke, never had his book out. Sometimes it was because he didn't do his homework and other times he would pretend like he didn't have it and then right as I would walk away he would say, "Teacchuhh, I'm Pinocchio!" and would whip his book out for me to check. It made me laugh every time.

Well, earlier this week I found out that one of my students was telling major lies. His name should be Pinocchio and his nose would be as long as the bridge to Key West. He hadn't been doing his homework all week because "his grandfather passed away and he was busy with family stuff." Ok, I let it slide because that's a pretty good excuse for not completing your homework.

Well, later I found out that his mom called the Korean staff and was upset that we (the teachers) hadn't said anything about JW not doing his homework. My co-teacher explained to the mother that she didn't want to bother her because of "what happened." The mother obviously had no idea what she was talking about and so my co-teacher told her what JW said. The mother blew up and said that he died 13 years ago... keep in mind that the little boy is probably eight years old. Another teacher made a joke that the boy didn't really lie because his grandfather did die... only a long time ago. The end result, JW came to class today with the past eight lessons of homework done and I'm sure he hasn't heard the end of it at home.

The Holy Grail

No, I did not pose for a picture in front of Caribou at Maple and Telegraph. I'm in Seoul! There's actually a CARIBOU COFFEE in SEOUL. Pure amazingness. The same day I ate at On the Boarder and had the greatest Mexican food ever (not true, but it will do). Yum.

AK Continued

After I was on flat ground again, bought some dry socks and realized I hadn't broken any bones (or nails), the group headed to our hotel. One of the best things about Korea are the heated floors which was perfect to lay out our clothes to dry. Before dinner, I went to my first jjimjilbang which is Korean for bathhouse. It's basically a large room with showers, hot tubs, and saunas so it was nice to relax after a tough day.

For dinner we had traditional Korean BBQ and I had my first taste of "mountain wine." It was delicious and reminded me of communion grape juice. We ended the night singing our hearts out at noraebang (karaoke). Usually, you get a private room, but this time we had a huge banquet hall to ourselves. There was a big projector screen, stage, and dance floor. I literally felt like I was on a cruise ship, but overall it was a good time.

Surprisingly, I wasn't too sore the next day. Another hike was planned so we were up and ready to go pretty early. On the second day the sun was out and there were blue skies and thankfully my clothes had dried from the day before. Hiking the second day was a whole lot easier than the first. The trail curved around a natural spring water stream and I even got to taste it. The water tasted like Perrier with a hint of iron in it. The views were beautiful and it was refreshing to be outside away from the city.

Not Photoshopped... I Swear

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Adventure Korea definitely lived up to their name. It's a company that organizes mini excursions throughout Korea such as DMZ visits, white water rafting trips, temple stays and bungee jumping. Believe it or not, I used to go on hardcore camping trips when I went to Camp Miniwanca. When I say hardcore, I mean packing two weeks worth of gear in one backpack, not showering for days at a time, and even making food over a fire. I figured if I could bike up the coast of Michigan, I could for sure handle a two day hiking trip. So a few friends and I took a chance and went hiking in the Seoraksan National Park.

My journey began at 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning. I'm pretty spoiled with my work schedule so waking up anytime before 11 a.m. is considered torture. We met the bus and drove about 3.5 hours to Sokcho, a city in the northeastern part of Korea. Unfortunately, the weather that day wasn't very nice. It was overcast with a high percentage of rain and there was a ton of snow on the ground. I was not prepared for the weather, to say the least. I packed a few pairs of leggings, my tennis shoes, and luckily I threw in a pair of sweatpants right at the last minute. Before we got off the bus to start hiking, our guide warned us (take note of what he said) that if the weather got bad, we would have to turn around and head back down the mountain because the rocks would be slippery and dangerous. He also said (another mental note) that it would be a difficult hike, but we wouldn't have to propel down the mountain or anything (ha).

The first part of the hike was very enjoyable. We were mainly on flat ground that wasn't covered in snow. We passed a huge Buddha statue, heard Monks chanting, saw some temples, and took a group picture in front of the Heundeulbawi- rumor has it you can move it.

Well, that enjoyment didn't last very long. First of all, it started raining, second of all, the hike became 100 times harder. The trail (or lack there of) was covered in snow, it was a lot steeper, the pace the guide set was really fast (last time they were really late, so I guess he wanted to make sure we made it to the top in record time), and there were a ton of steep, slippery, stairs.

Whenever there were stairs I wanted to kick myself because before the trip I attempted to "train." I told myself that I would climb the stairs, all 17 flights of them, to my apartment instead of taking the elevator. Well, that clearly never happened, but in the end I don't think that would've helped much with what I was faced with. Also, whenever there weren't stairs, there was a rope, yes, a rope, to pull yourself up. I am a very determined person so I kept sending positive vibes to my limbs telling them to keep moving. Every step I made I knew I was one inch closer to the top.

Once I hit the peak of the mountain, I felt very accomplished. It was so windy and wet that we had a brief photo opportunity and then headed back down. The decent was the fun part. While most people propelled down the mountain, I didn't want to risk slipping on the rocks, so I took the easy way out. I sat on the wet, snow covered ground and slid down. Snow pants would've made my trip down a whole lot better, but it was still pretty entertaining.

-800+ stairs
-5,603 ft. high
-conquered the 3rd highest mountain in Korea
-a backpack full of wet clothes
-no broken nails

Mission accomplished.


Every Monday I ask my students what they did over the weekend. Some typical responses usually include: played (computer) games, went to school, went to Home Plus, saw [fill in the blank] movie, studied (I always give A+'s to students who say that), etc. Well, today one student said she went to... Hawaii.

Hawaii. As in the tropical islands. I couldn't believe my ears. She explained that she flew to Hawaii on Saturday morning and returned Sunday night so that she could attend school on Monday. This just proves how important education is in Korean society.

She went on this micro-mini-vaca with her parents and when I asked what she did there she said, "I ate some ramen and slept." That statement almost killed me. Hawaii must have some pretty delicious ramen and luxurious sleeping arrangements in order for her family to fly 10 hours, eat (ramen of all things) and sleep for 24 hours, and then travel another 10 hours back to Korea. It still didn't make sense, so I thought maybe her geography was a little (or a lot) off.

I pulled up a world map and pointed to Korea and said "We are here." I moved my finger across the Pacific Ocean and said, "You went allll the way over here to Hawaii for the weekend?" Sure enough, she did.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010


If you know me at all, you know that I'm obsessed with making lists. I make lists reminding myself to make lists and I always get a rush crossing things off even if it is just to "wake up". Anyways, here's a list of things I've learned over the past few days:

1.) My new HI (head instructor) is obsessed with The Twilight Saga. Friday we had a work dinner party and somehow Twilight came up. She just finished New Moon and is hesitant to start the next book because she knows she won't be social until she's done with it. Not that I can relate or anything... but we immediately bonded over our love for Twilight. I know it's sad, but oh, so true. I already recruited her to see Eclipse with me. Even though she's on Team Edward and I'm on Team Jacob (gotta love TL) whatever the case, it's Twilight.

2.) One word to describe Joy (student featured in the post below) would be d-i-v-o, divo. Twenty bucks says that he's the next Korean pop star. Recently he won't sit down because he's perfecting his dance moves. Today I ended class a little early and let him dance and sing in front of the blue screen. He's actually very good and I wish you all could see it. He knows every (no exaggeration) pop song with choreography and it may be the cutest thing I've ever seen.

3.) I enjoy grading papers and writing on the board in Expo markers. Oh, the perks of being a teacher. When I get into the right groove, I can grade papers in no time and I actually like it. Grades reflect how well I'm doing as a teacher and I want my students to exceed so I like seeing positive results. I also recently got new dry erase markers and they make all the difference. Have I mentioned how good of a stick figure drawer I am?!

4.) St. Patrick's Day is not common in Korea. Today I played hangman with my students and Happy St. Patrick's Day was the word(s). After every letter was filled in, they were still sounding out each word and had no idea what they meant. I explained the holiday by talking about the Irish, the color green, lucky clovers, pots of gold and leprechauns. You learn something new every day.

5.) White Day was on Sunday. I mentioned White Day in a previous post, but in case you missed it, White Day is similar to Valentine's Day. It's a time for guys to treat the ladies on this special day. I received a nicely wrapped, jar of candy from a student. How sweet.

6.) Mark your calendars because the continuation of season 1 of GLEE is April 13th and it's going to bigger than ever featuring the return of Kristin Chenoweth, welcoming Idina Menzel (Wicked/Rent/my ultimate idol) and Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening), and music by Madonna and Lady Gaga!

7.) Korea is obsessed with online gaming. Before I had the internet in my apartment I went to PC bangs and was surrounded by (mainly) men using the computers to play games. Warning: sad story ahead... I read about this Korean couple whose baby died due to malnutrition because the couple was taking care of their virtual baby. How awful.

I suppose that's enough randomness for today.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Joys of Teaching

Long story short, today my students had an additional piece of paper to put in their books. Using glue with any elementary aged student is risky, that's why I chose to use tape. Keep in mind that this is my youngest class so I wanted to keep it safe. I handed each student a piece of tape with the paper and hovered over them to make sure they attached it correctly. Everyone did it perfectly, except for one student. His name is Joy (hence the title) and he's quite the fire cracker. I actually put the paper in his book for him, but he of course took it right off and put the tape over his mouth. At first I didn't mind because it kept him quiet for awhile, but then it was all downhill from there.

I turned my back for literally two seconds and heard, "teachaaa, teachaaa, Joy!" I turned around and saw a glue stick appear out of thin air straight into his hands. Surprisingly, he handled the glue very well. He spread it onto the back of his paper and placed the paper back into his book. Ok, that wasn't too bad. Until I saw him put the cap back on and noticed he didn't roll down the glue stick so it went all over the cap, desk, hands, etc. Staying calm, I handed him some tissue and directed him straight to the bathroom to wash up.

After a few minutes, he frolicked back into class, I double checked that his hands were clean, and I continued on with the lesson. The reason why I'm writing this post is because of the part coming up... Joy used his glue stick like chapstick! It's true. Before I could stop him he took the glue stick out of his bag and spread it all over his lips. That's not exactly what I would use to cure chapped lips and last I checked, glue isn't part of a nutritious diet.

Oh, Joy, it was quite a sticky situation.*

*I blame four years of forensics sales speeches on my cheesy puns. I know you love them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

You Just got Punk'd

This morning I woke up to two (bad) surprises:

1.) There was a light dusting of snow on the ground
2.) The Style Channel was down

Common Mother Nature, get your act together. People in Michigan expect snow in March. It's perfectly normal to wear flip flops one day and Uggs the next. However, the words snow, March and Daejeon just don't go together. I quickly got over the weather and began my morning routine. I always turn on the Style channel in hopes of an episode of SATC or a cheesy chick flick to listen to while I get ready.

Well, I didn't get SATC or a movie. I got a blue TV screen. I tried the "turn the TV off, turn it back on" procedure (because that works every time), but it didn't work. It was still blue and there was still no sign of the Style channel. Sigh. Some people drink coffee to get their morning boost, I need TV. I settled on listening to music this morning, thank goodness for Glee, and headed to work... in the snow and deprived of the Style channel.

My day did get better and my morning really wasn't as bad as it may sound. I found out that I get to go into work later two days a week and leave early on Fridays all because I teach eight classes on Tuesdays. Not a bad deal.

P.S. After 48 hours of no Style channel, it's finally up and running again. Phew.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No Big Deal

News Flash:

:10 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse trailer!

Sorry, I had to post it and I'm procrastinating writing monthly reviews on all of my students.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Funday

Today was a perfect girls day out.

-Went window shopping at Lotte department store: The Korean economy is definitely not down. The high end department store was packed with people buying things. It's about six floors and I loved seeing the pastel colors of the spring collections on display. I didn't bring any (well not very many) spring or summer clothes so I can't wait to stalk up on cute sundresses.

-Had lunch at TGI Fridays: Typically this wouldn't be a big deal, but it was delicious and it was the first American restaurant I've been to in a while. I stared at the menu for quite some time debating between all of my options, but in the end I decided on a burger (even though the kimchi pilaf was quite tempting).

-Costco run: Yes, there is Costco in Korea and it's just a short cab ride away. The closest Costco on the west side of Michigan is 45 minutes away, so I feel quite lucky. It's all the same too. They have the Kirkland brand, plenty of samples, and the same food court menu with the enormous pizza for only $10.99. What a deal. Today, I got a lot of random items like a large jar of pickles, cheese (obviously), and some sausage. My diet is like it was back in college: lots of yogurt, eggs, and now pickles. Thank goodness I have wonderful friends who are a little more domestic than me and can cook. I'm their best customer.

-Sat at a coffee shop for two hours and reminisced about old school favorite movies including: Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, Mean Girls, She's the Man, etc. Reciting lines from those movies just never gets old. We planned the ultimate movie marathon for the end of March.

-Saw Alice in Wonderland: It just came out this weekend and I was dying to see it so I'm glad I did! I didn't see it in 3-D, but I'm willing to go see it again in 3-D. I loved it! Obviously Alice in Wonderland is a classic tale and with the help of modern technology it really added a lot to the movie. The art direction was amazing and Johnny Depp was perfect for the Mad Hatter.

P.S. Happy Oscar Day!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Oops... I Did It Again

That's right. I did it again. I made another student cry. The majority of the crying incidents weren't because of me, but this one was. Today was the first day of spring term and in one of my Sprout 2 classes a boy started crying. I saw his lips quivering and the tears coming so I got down on my knees, handed him a tissue, and asked him what was wrong. You'll never guess his response.

"Teacher, you're too scary!"

ME?! Scary? He must have been joking.

I had had a few students in the class last term so they helped explain to him that I wasn't scary and was actually quite nice (I could tell they were hysterically laughing on the inside that this poor boy thought I was scary).

Anyways, we cleared things up and quickly got over the situation. To top it off, his name is Edgar.

Crying Total: Somewhere around 9

Pretty, Pretty Princess

This past Sunday I went to a Korean wedding. My old boss got married and unfortunately has to move to Japan now, but I'm glad I had the chance to know her and work with her long enough to be invited to her wedding. She was the one who picked me up from the bus station when I first arrived in Daejeon and was so welcoming and helpful that I'm sad to see her go.

The wedding festivities began around 10 a.m. on Sunday morning. A charter bus picked us up in Daejeon and took us to Seoul which is about a two hour bus ride (two and a half hours including the rest stop). We were treated like VIP on the bus. The whole trip people were offering us beverages, food- including fried squid which smelt up the whole bus, and the Olympic figure skating gala was even on!

We arrived at a huge banquet facility in Seoul and the first thing we did was take pictures with the bride. In a typical American wedding, the bride is kept hidden from everyone until she walks down the aisle, but here everyone was welcome to take pictures with her. Her dress was gorgeous. It reminded me of a princess and she was even wearing a tiara. There was a lace bodice and it was cinched in the back. The vail and train were huge and had rhinestones all over them. After a few work pictures, we headed inside the banquet hall. The room had a string quartet, neutral colored floral arrangements, gold bows around the chairs, and my favorite part, the aisle. The aisle was a raised clear platform that had flowers underneath and rhinestones in the middle of each flower so when she walked down it, it looked like she was walking on water. It was so pretty!

Most American weddings have a bridal party, but there wasn't one here. There was a lady, I'm assuming some kind of wedding planner, that was strictly in charge of fluffing her vail and train since there wasn't a maid of honor. Both of the mothers and fathers were dressed in traditional Korean hanbok dresses. They were first down the aisle, followed by the groom, and finally the bride. I thought it was interesting that the same western "wedding songs" were played at the beginning and end of the ceremony.

Instead of a priest or judge to marry them, it's common for an important professor or teacher to do the honor. One of the brides professors conducted the ceremony. I felt like the service was very short and rushed. They said a few words, cut the cake, poured some champaign and that was it. Overall, it was very casual. I saw people in jeans and people were talking the whole time. Also in the middle of the service the groom had to yell out how much he loved her and had to do push ups in front of everyone to express the strength of their love. It was a little odd and later I found out that that's not common to do at Korean weddings. The service I went to was for family and friends which tends to be more laid back than the later one. Later in the day they have a traditional service where everyone wears a hanbok and is for family only. At that service they exchange the rings and say their vows.

After the ceremony there were more pictures with family and friends and then a buffet luncheon. The food was delicious and ranged from traditional Korean dishes to a variety of sushi and mini desserts. After I was in sushi-coma we headed straight back to Daejeon and stopped at a rest area along the way (is that really necessary?). I'm glad I had the opportunity to attend a Korean wedding and I promise to post pictures later!

Home Sweet Home

After three months of living in Korea I finally have the internet and drum roll please... furniture!

This past weekend a few people moved out and had going away sales. I had first dibs on a bunch of stuff and came away with some great deals.

-table for my TV
-yoga mat and weights
-some dishes
-huge coffee/craft/computer table- it's the perfect height to kneel under, like traditional Korean tables
-two other side tables
-full length mirror (not the easiest thing to carry four blocks)
-a bunch of cushions to sit on
-futon that folds out into a bed (well, the guys still need to carry it to my place, but it will be mine soon)

So my apartment finally looks a little nicer than a shelter on Survivor (don't forget to vote for Whit:§ion=videos)!

My microwave is still broken and will probably stay that way. I figure I haven't had one the past three months so why would I need one now? Korea doesn't have Lean Cuisines or else I would've had it fixed stat. I need to find some things to spruce up my walls, but other than that it's perfect! My episode of Daejeon Cribs is coming up so stay tuned.

An Unsolved Mystery

For some reason my students are always asking me about my age. A day doesn't go by without hearing the phase, "Teachaaa, how old?!", and my response is always the same, "How old do you think I am?" Their responses are always a little different ranging from extremely young (16 to 18) to really old (35 to 42*). Last week was the end of winter term so with a little extra time in class we started playing the "guess the teacher's age" game. I made the mistake and said if they guessed it, I would tell them. English may be their second language, but they are definitely smart. They started at one and named every number until the time class ended. I, of course, denied every number. Then I confessed and said "Ok, I'll tell you"... their faces lit up until I said my answer... "I'm 101." I excused them for the day hoping the next day they would forget about the unsolved mystery of how old I am.

The next day rolled around and of course they didn't forget. During class they were filling out these packets so I said I'd give them a clue to my age for every page they completed.
Clue #1- It's between 1 and 100
Clue #2- I gave them this HUGE math equation (which I actually figured out) to find out my age. Like I said, they're pretty smart so they all wrote down the equation and told me they'd have their parents figure it out (uh, oh) I haven't had any guesses yet...
Clue #3- The sum of my age is an odd number

After a few clues, I said, "Ok, ok, I'll tell you for real this time. I'm... seven."
Xavier said, "You're not seven! I'm seven! and you're tall and have big feet!"
I was actually quite flattered he called me tall and I suppose my size six feet are considered big in Korea.
Then another student, Lily, stood up at her desk, stomped her feet to the front of the class, stood next to me and said, "You're not seven, you have thoooseee...!" You can assume what she was pointing to while she said that and I had a permanent stomachache the rest of the day from laughing so hard.

My age is still an unsolved mystery and it will remain that way.

*I'm not saying that's really old (ha)