Friday, December 31, 2010

If you're tired of tea, then you're tired of life!

After our visit to the reed field, the teachers of Neungdong Middle School went to a famous green tea field.

It's a very pretty place, and it's been the setting of many commercials and films.

I didn't know tea looked like this! I thought it was more grass-like, but it's a shrub with woody stems.


Afterwards we went to dinner, and I think I've only posted one other picture of a traditional Korean meal. There are lots of plates.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Come on, get happy!

To celebrate the end of the school year, the teachers at Neungdong Middle School went on a field trip to Jeollanam province. We all got on buses and drove three hours to the province's most popular attractions. The first was a field of reeds.

Reeds! So many reeds! A whole field of them. The reeds were at Suncheon bay, the hometown of hooded cranes!


It was a beautiful day, but I did not see any hooded cranes. There was a big black bird flying, but I didn't get a good picture of it.


The sun was kind of blinding, but it was very cold. I was wearing leggings and longjohns under my jeans and a tee shirt and long underwear under my sweater (thanks, Grandparents!) and an awesome green scarf (thanks, Nate!) and a hideous leather jacket (thanks...Mother.) I was still cold.

See? The creek was frozen.
There was a small bridge suspended over the creek, and every teacher, regardless of age or gender, got some joy from jumping on it.

I asked my panting co-teacher which road we should take, and she said "let's follow them" up the hard road. And so it was.

And this was the view from the hard road:

And here's me on the observation deck.

I took the road of meditation back down, so that I could meditate on the difficulties I had overcome on the hard road. I didn't. I thought about how I should have worn tennies.

Also there was a windmill.

Monday, December 27, 2010

zombie eh eh eh

Second semester is winding down and there is only one more day of classes before winter break. During winter break, I'll teach introduction-to-the-next-book and a week-long English day camp. The students will come back for one week in February for graduation (this strikes me as very weird) and then get two more weeks off for "spring break" before the new school year starts in March.

But exams are over, kids are restless, and they don't even seem concerned that there are zombies hanging out outside the school.


For the last week, I've had my students create zombie survival kits and plans of action.

One of the groups in a 7th grade girls class included this list, which made me happy:
"bomb, gun, tank, sweater, noodle, bullet proof full-body suit."

One of the groups in an 8th grade boys classes had a list of heroes:
Optimus Prime, Bear Grylls, Spiderman, the Best Sniper in the World, Iron man and Lee Myung-bak (the president.) I said, "won't you need food?" and one of the students said, "eat Lee Myung-bak!" Okay. These are desperate times.

Friday, December 24, 2010

it's a gas gas gas

If you are on the subway system during an emergency, please wait patiently for someone to come with a key so that you can get one of the dozen masks available at some, but not all subway stations.


Also happy Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

the eagle in the sky

This one time, Autumn and I took a taxi to Kyungsung University, where there are lots of bars and restaurants that are popular with foreigners. Instead, we ended up *at* the university, where there were two huge cages with giant birds of prey.

This sea eagle looks like it's wearing bronze scales of armor.

And there were three vultures, who liked to fight over the meat slabs in a way that's very amusing to mimic. I need a picture of Autumn and I playing vultures.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


There is a restaurant across the street from Autumn's apartment called "Berry Yam Story." This is totally adorable, but we are creatures of habit, and have a habit of going down the road to Breeze Burns for their brunch on Sunday mornings.

I wish I had a picture of brunch at Breeze Burns. It's fantastic. (I stole this picture from a review. It was important. You can read reviews of Breeze Burns by clicking on the picture.)

At first you might be impressed by the sheer volume of food on that plate. You get eggs, hash browns, green beans, toast, bacon, sausage (or in our case, double bacon,) tomato slices and...a quarter of a waffle.

The best thing on this plate is the waffle, and unfortunately Breeze Burns does not sell whole waffles for breakfast. Which is weird (in fact, they sometimes don't allow double bacon and instead insist on two different breakfast meats.)

Well. One morning, on the way to Breeze Burns, there was a sandwich board with photographs of delicious-looking foods. On one side, the bacon yakisoba and curry shrimp fried rice beckoned, but on the other...there were waffles.

Upstairs, I was grateful that it wasn't sometimes.

This is the cutest restaurant in the world. It has little plants, books, and pictures on window sills and in a tree. There are crayons at the table.

And then...there was this.


Oh, yes. That is breakfast. A whole waffle, smeared with cream cheese, with strawberries, blueberries, almost slices, powdered sugar, a big scoop of ice cream and chocolate AND caramel syrup.

I tried to explain "sweet tooth" to my co-teacher a few weeks ago. She asked if there was a different tooth for different days. I said no, there is only a sweet tooth.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

you can get anything you want

I didn't celebrate Thanksgiving a month late; I just wrote about it a month late!

Some rad people (from BELLINGHAM) hosted a Thanksgiving party on the Saturday after the holiday. There was turkey. And pie. (They have Costco in Korea, so it was a lot like home.)

Here we are, fat and sleepy:

Thanksgiving festivities included some party games (which went from charades to more "we don't have to stand up to play this!" question and answer games as the day went on) and American tv shows! We made a list of things for which we are thankful, and took a picture, and it was good. Happy really late Thanksgiving, all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Great balls of fire

Oh, it's been awhile. Sorry about that.

Back in November, there was a charity dodgeball tournament in Busan.

Normally I avoid things like competition, teamwork and sports but this is to send an orphan to college--so I signed up for a!


Our rockin' team played five games--and only lost four of them!

Look: teamwork!

My fabulous team.

(These pictures were taken by Ahnna. Thanks, Ahnna!)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

'bout as high as a building oughta grow

I stopped on my walk home and took pictures in four directions.


Back toward my school

Up the hill next to me

And across the street

This is how Jangyu manages to be such a small town with so many people!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fire in the Sky!

Friday and Saturday evenings I climbed onto Autumn's roof to watch the Busan International Fireworks Festival. It's the biggest fireworks show I've ever seen.


This is the beach early in the afternoon. It is roped off at the tide line; otherwise it would be completely full. There was a huge crowd, and I was glad to be on the roof.

That's one of the barges used for the fireworks.

The view was only obscured a little bit by buildings.





And here's a half-minute video of part of the finale.

Friday, October 22, 2010

chop it down with the edge of my hand

Autumn and I went hiking a couple of weeks ago.


Geumjeong Mountain is a mountain in Busan. It has an old fortress at the top, and a cable car (um...aerial tramway?) to the top. We did not take the cable car and instead hiked to the top. I did not die. We took the cable car down and did not have time to explore the fortress (which is really a big stone wall... we will hike it another day!)


I didn't realize how far we had come until we hopped in the cable car to go back down. That bridge in the upper right is at Gwangalli beach, where I stay every weekend. And see the train track just to the right of the red cable-holder-thingy? We walked FROM THERE. There was no mid-mountain trailhead to which we took a taxi. Oh, no. We did the whole thing.

And then celebrated with milkshakes, like you do.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

telephonin' me

I know I haven't written in awhile, and I do have pictures of a beautiful hike I did with Autumn, and I'm still meaning to post pictures of both of my schools and all that, but today's entry is brought to you by my students.

I love my students.

I work at two large middle schools in Jangyu (small town of 100,000 people.) Each of my middle schools has a little over 1000 students, so my superior math skills tell me that just over 2% of the population of Jangyu are my students. The people on the street around my house after school are probably 60% my students. And it's great. Twice this week middle schoolers have taken time out of their day to help me with every day tasks.

First, on my way home Monday, in order to put some figurative soft, ruffly sunshine on my shoulders I stopped to finally buy the golden yellow ruffly scarf I've been fondling briefly on my way home each day. I asked the lady how much it cost ...and she didn't do the helpful "this many thousands" with her fingers and our misunderstanding grew and then one of my students said, "Hi, Emily" and I said "I want to buy this scarf. Can you tell me how much it costs?" just like any EFL dialogue I would use in my class. And then I bought a ruffly yellow scarf for 10,000 won and then the student gave me part of her donut, unsolicited!

Then, just now I got home to a "sorry we missed you!" sticker on my door from a courier. I'm expecting a package from my mom, and it looked like they were going to try and deliver the package again tomorrow. I went back outside where a few of my students were hanging out in front of a restaurant and showed them the slip. One of them called the courier for me and told them to deliver the package to my school tomorrow instead of my house!

Additionally, my students are funny.

Today in a lesson on giving advice, one pair of students submitted:
Problem: my pet dog is getting fat.
Advice: I think you should eat your pet.

Last week my students made telephone conversations. I told my classes to be creative, have fun, and stop threatening people with box cutters! Some gems:

Australopithecus called Homo Erectus asking if
he can make him a fire.

2MB called Obama to tell him that North Korea is
attacking and ask for help. And money after the
war is over.

(2MB is Lee Myung-Bak, the president of South Korea--2 sounds like Lee.)

God called the Undertaker and asks to wrestle.

God called a bee and asks it to the God-bugs
dance party that evening.

Spiderman called Obama and asks him to a

I hope my students brightened your day at least a fraction of the amount they brightened mine!

Monday, October 4, 2010

silver trays

I took a picture of each of my lunches last week, in the hope that I could show you a typical week of lunches. Last week was kind of atypical.

Monday at Neungdong Middle School:
(Clockwise from top left) Beef with peanuts in a sweet sauce, tempura-battered french fries with chili sauce, KIMCHI, spincach soup, rice with the occasional red bean (for flavor and texture.)

Tuesday at Neungdong Middle School:
(Clockwise from top left) Sweet rice dumpling filled with red bean paste, KIMCHI, Korean grapes (suck out the innards--don't eat the skin!) giant bowl of noodle soup with vegetables and egg, fried prawns.

Wednesday was the first day of exams, so I went out to lunch with the homeroom teachers after school closed early.
(Clockwise from top left) (Actually I don't know what a lot of this was) Onion and greens with chili sauce, garlic greens, fish cakes with chili sauce, garlic cloves and sliced pepper, (partially visible) steamed cabbage, whole fish with chili sauce, greens with sesame seeds, KIMCHI, more greens...with onions, salad, fish with a radish, and in the center, soup with tofu and mushrooms.
The piece of wood in the lower right is the lid to my personal stone bowl of rice. After scooping the rice into a bowl to eat with the side dishes, you pour hot broth into the bowl and put the lid back on. When dinner is finished you have soup from the rice that was stuck to the stone. It's good for digestion.

Thursday, at Naedeok Middle School:
(Clockwise from top left) Fish in sesame soy sauce, KIMCHI (cabbage and cucumber!) garlic greens and ground beef, soup (potato, carrot, big mushy white things,) rice with beans and corn.

Friday at Naedeok Middle School:
(Clockwise from top left) vegetable pancakes, KIMCHI (cabbage and...radish maybe?) potato and beef stew (spicy and sweet,) spinach soup, rice with barley bits.

Korean school lunches are about as representative of Korean food as American school lunches are of American food. Still, one big difference between the Korean lunch and an American lunch is the prominence of rice. Korean food is rice plus side dishes, while American food tends to be meat plus side dishes.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dancing in the streets

Dancing at the bus stop in Changwon
Originally uploaded by omgmuffin

On Wednesday, I went to Changwon (the capital of my province) after work with some of my co-teachers. We tried fancy perfumes and had delicious food, and then there was a dance troupe at the bus stop being awesome. At the end of the video, I started to say "Aw. My bus just got here."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's getting near dawn

Saturday was the last night of my extended Chuseok holiday. Autumn and I took a walk on the beach (as usual… I was so spoiled by this whole thing.)
It was like the last day of summer. When I got back to work on Monday the students had all switched to their Fall uniforms, adding sweater vests and switching from gray to black. But Autumn and I made the most of this, and she showed me this great Indian restaurant with little curtained-off tables surrounded by pillows on the floor.

They offered these appetizery things that resemble cheetos, but with caramel instead of cheese. They’re fantastic.

Autumn thought so too.

It was a great Saturday, with dancing and live music and pool and more dancing. When Autumn and I got back to her apartment, I gasped at the sky “is that the DAWN?” Yes, Emily. That’s the dawn.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

we'll be singing when we're winning

One of the best things in Korea is the noraebang. A noraebang is a karaoke place with small private karaoke rooms for you and your friends to wail into a microphone without disturbing strangers. Autumn and I visited one and paid our 10,000 won for one session. The timer in the room said an hour, but as it got near 20 minutes, the time started going up. This may have been because of our mad karaoke skills. Or maybe it always does that. After two not-really-an-hour sessions, we emerged from our room and realized that FIVE HOURS had passed. No wonder I sounded like Bob Dylan near the end.

And the next day… we did it again.

This was an experiment to help the people around us, as we tried out lots and lots of songs in order to determine what to sing when it wasn’t just us.

Also a reason to rock a lilac wig.

What do you eat after hours of singing? A balanced meal of circle cheese, square brownie and triangle kimbap!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Autumn moon lights my way.

Chuseok is the Korean Thanksgiving. I got four days off of school and spent the week with Autumn in Busan.

I worked just the Monday of Chuseok week, and the principal and head teacher gave me presents for the holiday. This was my Chuseok haul:


That’s six cans of tuna packed in oil, two bottles of canola oil, some hand cream and body wash. Most people spent Chuseok visiting family in rural parts of Korea, but I left on Tuesday to go make sandcastles on the beach.

Sometimes there’s a pirate ship.

The moon was full and Le Pot was magnificent.

Autumn and I took an evening walk to the fitness area at the end of the beach. Two of the giant hula hoops had mated, forming the biggest hula hoop ever seen ‘round these parts.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

splish splash

Autumn took me to the biggest jimjilbang in Busan at the end of August. It has a feel much like this picture.
The women's area also had frolicking children and it was a very happy place.

Last weekend we visited what might be the *fanciest* jimjilbang in Busan. The inside of the pajama area looks eerily like this:
(This is actually the set of Dollhouse. They zap your brain upstairs.)

It's located inside this:
The world's largest department store (with a Cartier department and a Bvlgari department) also has the fanciest food court I've ever seen. When your meal is ready, the number comes up on the screen.
My $7 soup was FANTASTIC and yeah, that's a little abalone in there. There were FIVE abalones, and I kinda kept the shells.
Best food court food ever.

After eating, we went to the jimjilbang and enjoyed the many casino-themed sauna rooms (there's a Roman room and a Pyramid room and a vibrating room and a "liquid dreams" room with a greenish light shining through a pool of water, making interesting designs on the walls and ceiling. Jimjilbangs are kind of amazing.

Korea seems to love rainbow lights, so this happened also.