We are off on another adventure... so we won't be blogging for a bit. We leave tonight for Seoul and then tomorrow (Friday) we depart from Seoul to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam!
What do we have planned? Some beach sitting, some train travel, a boat tour, some kayaking, some perusing of cities and the sights and most importantly... some adventure! Or maybe more importantly, some rest (hopefully!)
We will be seeing the country from top to bottom (pretty much) and then 12 days later we will return to our life in Korea... the one we are hoping to escape for 12 days!
Not the normal Christmas/New Years activities of friends and family. We'll certainly miss that but hopefully we'll be too busy enjoying ourselves to miss it too much.
Merry Christmas to all you out there and a very Happy New Year! See you in 2007.
The last two evenings have been great. When we came home from work yesterday evening, our neighbor, next door was out in the wall with her friend starting the process of making kimchi. There had been approx 40 heads of cabbage stacked out in the hall in bags for the last couple days. So last night, the ladies were out there with massive buckets of hot salt water, chopping the cabbage in halves and rinsing it in the salt water. I kept poking my head out the door to watch them and they rambled away things to me in Korean and I in English, with no understanding of each other, except the word "kimchi". I got a picture of them at work (bottom left). Then a while later, as Eric was going out the door for groceries, she handed him a head of cabbage, chopped in half. He tried to say no but she insisted. So he brought in the cabbage to me. Then as he went to leave again, she made her way into our apartment with a bucket of red stuff. She went rummaging throught my kitchen, trying to find things and I blindly pulled possible things she might want out of the cupboards. She managed to find a bowl and large knife. She scooped me a bowl of the red paste and then proceeded to chopped the cabbage and wash it. Then when she was finished, she took a piece of the cabbage curled up, dipped it in the red paste, and stuck it in my mouth. So that is what I was supposed to do with it. So the picture on the bottom right is of our cabbage, red paste (which is a spicy, salty dip), and some rice. It is common here in Korea to take a piece of lettuce or cabbage stick a little bit of rice and the red paste and roll it up and eat it in one big bite. So we ate that last night and tonight.
When I had my unexpected visitor last night, I was in the middle of trying to make Christmas Sugar Coookies. Now this is no ordinary baking experience. I have not baked in 6 months. Why? Becuase, it is very, very rare to have an oven in Korea. So last night I made sugar cookies. I had to improvise a bit. I used my little blender and alot of arm muscle to beat the marg, egg, and sugar cause I have no beaters. I have no rolling pin so my trusty Nalgene did the trick. I also have no coookie cutter, so I used my tin from my Silk Road loose tea (perfect size). They also don't have liquid vanilla so I used vanilla powder ( I didn't know there was such a thing). Then the iffy part, would the cookies bake and not burn in the toaster oven? Lucky for me the toaster oven came with a baking stone which helped and my cookies baked perfectly, evey single one. They were delicious! So I brought a plate of warm cookies over to by friendly neighbor and her friend.
This morning, my door bell rang and there was my neighbor with her curlers in her hair, giving me my plate back with oyster kimchi (regular cabbage kimchi with oyster in it). There is a picture below, of our kimchi gift, it is half a head of cabbage. It is good and very spicy.
Last night was so enjoyable, baking cookies, that I baked another batch tonight to take to school with me tomorrow to share some of my Christmas cheer!
Tomorrow night we head off on our trip to Vietnam so we will be off the blog til the new year so,
Merry Christmas + Happy New Year's to everyone!
Not like back home, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. It felt like Christmas to me, walking down the path with trees all lit up on either side, coat pulled up snug to cut down the chill and people happily walking around taking pictures. Here are some of the pictures we took...
So we decided to have a little Christmas cheer to remind us of back home. I decided to try and make some egg nog because there is nothing that reminds me of Christmas more than a glass of nog. Seriously, that stuff is amazing! And I suprised myself, I make some decent egg nog.
Some nutmeg (which shockingly I found in one of the stores here), some cinnamon, some eggs, some milk (no cream, Koreans don't use that stuff) and voila, you have egg nog. It was pretty darn tasty and reminded of the goodness of egg nog back home. Definately doing that again. And then we settled in to watch the 1947 version of A Miracle on 34th Street. My family was never really into watching TV at Christmas so I had never seen it. Kinda fun to drink egg nog and watch old black and white Christmas movies. It's starting to feel a bit like Christmas....
All the prep led up to the one night of... well, gong show-ness. So, let me show you how a proper Korean English festival goes down, and how to make one a guaranteed hit.
The kids get all dressed up in garish costumes. This is the key to any successful festival.
Some of these costumes must be so indecent that no North American, English speaking parent would ever consent for their child to wear them. So indecent that any North American male watching must feel slightly uncomfortable and think to themselves, "There are sick men out there who pay to watch videos in which children start in such costumes as these...."These costumes, coupled with gyrating, hip shaking dance moves to North American love/dance songs are enough to make any Korean parent proud of their child and wonder to themselves, "What high position could my child get with these kinds of English skills?"
Oh yes, and bare midriffs. These are key too.
Then you must find a white foreigner who is silly enough to appear on stage for all the parents to take pictures of their children with the foreigner.The finale of the evening must be a musical/play in English. The mass forgotten lines and bad music further illustrates to the parents that you are a serious English school.After all of this has happened, the parents will be so impressed with their children that they will buy many many flowers to bestow upon their children, their children's teachers and anyone within proximity.As you can see by the boys in the right foreground, some of this lavishness is wasted on some of the kids.
In all seriousness, the actual performance wasn't that bad minus some questionable costume choices. The only major "bit of work" was when our manager went all karaoke on the mic during a "sing along" song, drowning out all the kids with her screeching. A bunch of teachers had to repress the snickering and many a parent glanced over as if to say, "I came here to hear my child not you!" Oh my, we are still in constant realization of just how crazy she is. And the pictures... not of the kids, but of US! Caught a mom taking a picture of me when I was just sitting there. She just smiled.
But the kids had fun, so really, I guess that's all that matters. Oh, and the cake that one of my student's mothers dropped off for me... that's pretty cool too.
Nolana and I have come to many a self-realization over our 5 months of teaching children. Being around children reveals your type of personality and sheds an amazing amount of light upon what we will be like as parents. Some of this is good, some of it scary.
Nolana said she realized this week what it truly meant when parents said they don't want to punish their children. She had to punish this little monkey and he was quite repentant and begging her not to put him out in the hall. It really is hard to punish good kids... bad kids a little easier :)
I have realized that if I have a little girl I will be the biggest pushover in the world. There is one little girl in my one class who is 6 Korean age (4-5 real age) and she is quite attached to me and I to her. She loves to come sit on my lap. Today something happened and she was balling. I picked her up and she instantly clung to my neck and would not let me go. I tried to put her down after a bit and she would have none of that. When I did succeed, I kneeled beside her and she promptly wrapped her arm around my neck. Seriously, I would take her home. I hope my kids are as attached to their daddy.
We have also realized where we are going to be stern parents. We each have our areas where we have expectations and demands, some that we never even really realized until now. I think it is good we see this now as sometimes we don't want to be that strict. It's tough with these kids sometimes. They are so young (4-6) but they are students in a society that demands they study by that age. Not block playing, ABC studying but often serious studying by 7, etc... 2-4 schools with their own demands. Easy to expect too much of them and demand too much.
And I have decided parenting isn't all that easy. Kudos to all you parents and secretly, on the real low down, don't tell my wife... I am pretty jealous of all you parents too. All in its due time.
Mmmm, nothing is more yummy and more representative of Thanksgiving to me than pumpkin pie. So on Saturday afternoon we went to Daegu to Costco to see if they had pumpkin pie. They did. And it was delicious! Oh sweet pumpkin delight! And we decided to have some friends over to share in our delights.It was good, we haven't had people over to our place yet. It's not common in Korea to do social events at ones house, probably because most people live in apartments. Eating out is common, going somewhere, etc... And especially with foreign teachers, most have small small places (with many a horror story of closet sized digs). But we were blessed with a large apartment so we had people over for games and pie. It was nice, we like having people over. And the pie was so big we have leftovers!Oh man, I am going to ENJOY having that again. Amazing what being away from home can make you appreciate.
Also at Costco I became the brand new owner of a 30g iPod. I am mobile again! I have been wanting one for so long and now I can take my beloved tunes with me wherever I go. Long train ride in Vietnam, studying, etc... Thanks wifey for letting me get it!
We also found out that Korea is one of the cheapest places in the world to get glasses. So at Costco Nolana got a new prescription and new lenses for $20. With frame it's like 50-80$ for top of the line ones, less for not name brand ones. So I am contemplating vanity glasses.... might make me look smart. What do you think?
School this week was... long. Just crappy stuff between the Korean teachers and us with them not really communicating and changing stuff on us and overriding us in front of the kids. And we're still preparing for this festival which is a total gong show. This is me playing guitar for a song... except I'm not playing. The guitar can't keep a tune but they want me to pretend to play it so they can have their white teacher up there for all the parents to see. I'm contemplating making a shirt that says "Please don't feed or touch the foreigner" or "I bite". Sometimes feel like a trained monkey at school.But we are just hanging with the kids as we practice which is kinda fun.
My wife-extroadinaire has attempted more Korean fare and it turned out wonderful! A pumpkin pancake type dish.... this is her making it with our Korean friend Bora.I just sat there and they made me dinner. THAT is great! Although it made me feel kinda lazy. Which is not great. Ah well, I am sure that will pass.
Welcome to MY NHL!!!!
At school we are busy preparing for a "festival" which includes singing and dancing in ridiculous costumes that parents wouldn't let their kid get caught dead in. Serious gong show but it's like the most important thing to our head teacher.
We finally figured out how to get money home. Wooo Hooooo! (Or I think we did....)
We've been watching past episodes of Grey's Anatomy and Prison Break. A show for me, a show for her. (But on the low down, she likes Prison Break)... (And I guess I don't mind Grey's Anatomy)
This is me opening a care package from my mom... It's like Christmas!
On the topic of Christmas, this will be my first Christmas with no family and we'll be somewhere in Vietnam doing, probably, nothing holiday-ish. Weird.
I cut Nolana's hair today. Whoah, that was.... not as easy as it looks.
But she was smiling throughout it and was even happy afterwards.
(And yes I purposefully picked a picture that didn't show her hair!)
A Korean co-teacher has been bugging me to try ordering my own food over the phone. That's scary! But I want to try before I leave. It would be a useful tool to have (knowing how to order food) so maybe I will get on that sooner than later. And I feel slightly proud that she thinks I can do it. My Korean is slowly coming along...
I am in the midst of doing some reading so I feel ready to apply for my Masters. And I have decided where I am going to apply. And I am prepping stuff I need. I'm actually gonna do this. Who would have thought this likely a couple years ago. Not me.
Songs that I am currently loving: Bob Dylan "Gotta Serve Somebody", Guster "Two Points For Honesty", Sufjan Stevens "John Wayne Gacy, Jr."
Lots going on here. Just not much that seems blog worthy, I'll try and be better about posting.
We got there and a bunch of us collected wood for a later campfire. No firewood here so we went and ripped dead trees down and dragged them into a pile for a later fire. Nolana went off hiking with some people and I stayed back and played some basketball. She got to see some great fall colors courtesy of the Korean mountains..
But after seeing how sore she has been the past couple days I am pretty sure my option was the better of the two! We had BBQ for dinner and as the temperatures dropped we all congregated inside to chill and do some get to know each other type of things. Here's some of our group (there were about 30-35 of us or so.)This me and my homes/ghetto superstar who is about as ghetto as, well, about as ghetto as I am. Which is pretty 'burbs. Great guy. Later in the evening we got the fire roaring and pretty much sat there and laughed at the Koreans who were with us. They don't do campfires here so it was quite a novelty. We also did a marshmallow roast which was also quite the novelty. They tried roasting them on a huge blaze, only to have them burst into flame... to which their solution was to drag the marshmallow in the dirt to stop the burning. Needless to say, not many marshmallows were eaten. One bright lad even dreamed up this contraption:Which consists of a plastic coated paper cup on a stick, with a marshmallow inside. His little contraption ended up looking like this:It was good laughs. Us marshmallow pros waited until the embers could roast our 'mallows to perfection and we made s'mores! Oh man, they were good. It was good to just chill around a fire even though it was not like back home.
We even had some Korean-style action when this unlucky ride crashed into this unlucky pole just down the road. Some liquer was involved, as was alot of screaming and taking off before the police arrived. Oh, Korea....
We played some Uno, munched on some late night chicken and then crashed on the floor (not so comfortable). We awoke bright and early (and exhausted), ate some breaky, chilled in the sun and then headed back to the city.
Not much like Canadian camping but it was a great escape and a decent attempt at recreating a Canadian institution. We're really enjoying hanging with some of the people here and now with winter fast approaching are glad for the company during the frigid months. Good times in Ulsan!
In Canada and the U.S. Novemeber 11th is a sombre holiday where we remember the men and women who gave their lives in global conflicts. We remember the price that was paid for our peace.
In Korea, Novemeber 11th has a slightly different celebration. Novemeber 11th is Pepero Day! Some say that is is the equivalent of Valentine's Day back home but I must say that it is far more ingenious. Valentine's Day back home is a consumer holiday shrouded by the pretense of love. Buy your sweetheart candy because this will show her you love her. Candy makers wanted to sell more candy so they gave us a reason to buy mass quantities once a year. Same thing for Halloween.
Koreans are further along in their understanding of consumerism. Why bother making some pretense about love to sell your product? In Korea they have realized that people will buy your product for no other reason than because you tell them to. So on November 11th people buy these Pepero sticks and give them to each other. Why Novemeber 11th? Because the date, 11/11 resembles four Pepero sticks. For no other reason. Ingenious I say. The power of consumerism is truly astounding.
So at school today, because it is Pepero Day tomorrow we were bombarded with chocolate covered sticks... and I am pretty sure it was quite muted because today wasn't actually Pepero Day. Not that I'm complaining, kids giving adults candy is quite the novelty to me! So we now have snacks for a couple months... including a monster Pepero stick that I got from one of my students. Here are Nolana and I with our stash.
So on this fine holiday I wish you all a happy.... Pepero Day! May all your dreams come true as you buy candy and support mega corporations! Oh yeah, and remember those who died.