12.21.2006

Off on an Adventure!



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.

12.20.2006

Guest post from the Mrs: Cabbage, Kimchi, + Sugar Cookies

Well, this is the first time I have had the privilege of posting on Eric's blog (so hopefully I do well enough so that I get invited to do it again).

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!

12.18.2006

Christmas Cheer Pt. 2

On our way to somewhere the other night we happened by the park and saw they someone had put some effort into making the park seem a little festive. So tonight, with a distinct winter chill in the air, with bellies full of kimchi mandu guk, we headed off to see the Christmas lights.

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...

12.14.2006

Christmas Cheer in Korea

Here in Korea it doesn't really feel like Christmas. Back home people are running around shopping, singing carols, decorating trees, sitting by fires, drinking egg nog and bundling up to go see Christmas light displays. Here, not so much. You see the odd display and some buildings put lights up but no where near the feel of Christmas back home. I guess no family here makes a difference too.

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....

12.08.2006

Welcome to the Gong Show

The past two months of our lives at school (at least) have been consumed with one thing: the English festival. To the school it is the one chance to show parents that all their money is not being wasted. So they dress up the kids, take months to teach them a few songs and a speech and that's it. And the great thing, is the parents buy it all. Their kids look cute singing English songs and that makes them happier than if their kid is actually learning English.

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.

12.05.2006

Snorkelling

So this may seem like old news but in October we went to Boracay, Phillipines. While we were there we went snorkelling a couple times. We bought an underwater camera and just got it developed so we thought we would share some pics with you... they're kinda cool.

12.01.2006

Parenting


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.