Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Schedule for the Next Month

Starting tomorrow, I am going to be so busy for the next month. I'll have ten classes a day because the kids have a month off from Korean school and so we offer extra classes for them. Our Tuesday/Thursday classes will move to mornings on Monday/Wednesday/Friday and then we will have only Winter Instensive courses on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have to be at work at 9:00 am at the latest and then classes start at 9:30 and last until 12:35. Then, our afternoon classes start at 2:30 and run until 7:10. It's going to be busy, busy, busy. I've never taught more than eight classes in a day and so by the time I get everything done, I'll be dead tired.

Answer to the Previous Poll Question

What Public Holiday falls on October 3?

  • National Foundation Day-0 (0%)
  • Constitution Day-0 (0%)
  • Liberation Day-2 (100%)
  • Independence Movement Day-0 (0%)
  • Memorial Day-0 (0%)

The answer is National Foundation Day. Constitution Day is July 17, which is the day that the ROK was founded in 1948. Liberation Day is August 15, which was the day that the Japanese surrendered to the Allies during World War II. Independence Movement Day is on March 1. This was the day in 1919 that the Koreans started protesting Japanese occupation. Memorial Day, June 6, is for the people who died serving their country.

Pogs: How Stupid!

When I was in elementary school, pogs were the popular toy. If you don't know what pogs are, look at the image on the right. They are little pieces of cardboard with pictures on either side. Kids would bring them to school and play with them during recess. I never played much because I did not have very many. They would put them out on the floor and play with a heavier one, usually metal, which was called the slammer. I remember that you could get them in Snyder's bread sacks. I had a cousin with a five-foot licorice tube full of them. Eventually the stupid things went out of style and some other toy became popular. Pogs have become the toy of Korean children right now. The kids bring them to English academy and play them before class and during the breaks. A couple of times, the kids came to me and wanted me to solve their disputes over the pogs. I told them that if they were going to fight over them then I was going to take them away. They then stopped fighting over them. I had a student who would bring a metal lunchbox to class. I thought it had his lunch in it but I saw what was in it and it was full of pogs. Another boys brings a bag full of pogs to class everyday. I have had to take them away from students because they were playing with them during class. Other teachers take them and then throw them away after class. In one class, I took away a couple and cut them up so they would not be a problem again. In that same class, a student gave me a couple becasue he wanted me to see them cut up. The stupid things are so annoying.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Boys Don't Cry

That might be true in America, but it is definitely not try here in Korea. In my classes, I have had several more boys cry than girls. In several classes there are more boys than girls, but if boys did not cry, then it wouldn't matter how many boys and how few girls there were, there would still be more girls who cry than boys. I once asked somebody if Koreans thought it was okay for men to cry. He said that if a man were crying, then people would ask him what is wrong; they would not think he is a sissy or anything like that. As far as there being more boys than girls, it is because there are more males than females in Korea. Most people prefer sons over daughters because sons carry on the family name and the oldest son takes care of the parents when they are aged. Koreans do not have big families because educating children is very expensive here. People who have a son the first time around might stop having kids but people who have a daughter first do not stop at one. Every only child that I know of is male.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I heard that from people in places that I went today. After work, I went to the subway station and people from the nearby church were passing out flyers and pieces of candy to people in the station. One of them told me Merry Christmas and I thought that she said it in English because I was a foreigner. Later, I went to Outback Steakhouse (no other foreigners were eating there) and while I was waiting, I heard Koreans saying it to other Koreans so I figured out that they were speaking Konglish, which is Korean that is borrowed from English and pronounced with Korean pronunciation and written in Hangeul. That is what I typed two posts ago. There were so many people on the subways that several people had to stand out of necessity, not by preference. Home Plus was pretty crowded as well with holiday shoppers.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What a Political Class!

Sometimes, the kids come up with strange things they want to go by. In one of my classes, a student decided he wants to go by Human, instead of his previous English name, Kevin. Today, one of the boys told me he wanted to go by Obama. Another boy wanted to go by Hillary. Another student in the class is Michelle, but she was not there today. As far as the US elections, I really only heard about them from the kids. They knew that Obama was going to be the new president. Shortly after the elections, one of the boys told me that Obama's father was from Kenya. Then, he told me that people in Kenya do not go to school and then he did some gesture that told me that he thought that Kenyans were primitive. This boy is a third grader and I don't think he had seen many Africans in person. Since I came here six months ago, I have seen probably fewer than a dozen people of African descent.

메리 크리스마스

I had to work today on Christmas, but instead of working in the afternoon, I worked in the morning. Many of the kids were not there because they were either sick or were traveling. Yesterday and today we had a party for each group of kids in their last class of the day. The party was only 10-15 minutes and the kids had to bring their own snacks. The school provided Coca-Cola and one small Crown brand choco pie for each child. Last week when the kids found out about the party, they complained that the party was going to be so short. One student told me that 10 minutes wasn't enough time to eat one snack. The parties were just in each classroom and so it was up to the teacher to decide what to do with the kids. At first, I was just going to play Christmas songs and as I was looking for some on YouTube, I decided to show Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, narrated by Burl Ives. As it was playing during the first class, I realized that the language was very advanced and they speak quickly. However, the kids seemed to be entertained by it and paid more attention to the movie than they do during class. Today, I decided to play the cartoon version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. During one of the classes, I was standing in front of the class so I could pour the drinks and one of the boys told me to move so he could see the screen. I wonder how much of the movies the kids could understand, but they got some entertainment value out of them.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I can type in 한글

I bought a new computer today. I just got the Internet hooked up in my apartment. My other computer had to be formatted for it to work so before I took it to the place, I took all of the work that I did in college and put it all on a flash drive (or a little cigar, as Dad calls them). Nothing that I had on it before was on it anymore. In addition, the mouse was not working the way that it was before. I could live with that, but then, for some reason, I decided to put a password on the computer. I don't know why I did it because I'm the only person who uses it. Well, when I got the computer back, the default setting for the language bar was Portugues. I got annoyed with it switching from English, so I deleted Portugues from the language bar, but before I did that, I put the password on the computer. I'm sure that it was on Portugues when I did it, because later, when I tried to turn on my computer, I typed the password, and it would not work. I decided to cut my losses on that computer, which was 40,000 won to have it formatted, and just buy a new one. The computer is four years old, which is old for a computer. Luckily, I live in South Korea, which is home to LG and 삼성 (Samsung), so finding one would not be a problem. The ones in the stores seemed a bit expensive though. The cheapest ones that they had were very small, but there was no way to put CDs or DVDs in them. I bought a computer at the third place I went. I did not want to buy one at the first place I went because I wanted to look somewhere else. At the second place I went I felt very uncomfortable because the salesman was following me around everywhere I went. It was pretty obvious that he was working on commission. The third place I went, Hi-Mart, was where I bought my new computer. I was free to look at the computers without somebody breathing down my neck. I found one that I wanted. It cost 970,000 won. I told the salesman that I wanted that one and he asked me why and that it was a bad model. In addition, I would have to pay with cash. He talked me into buying a different one that cost about the same. The only thing that was better about that first computer was that it had Windows Vista Premium and this one has Windows Vista Basic. Everything else on the one that I bought was either the same or better. The salesman told me that the computer had the Korean version of Windows. I told him that was fine. I figured that it would; the computer that I use at work is the Korean version and everythink is in Korean. The computer was set up for use at the store and I was able to have the language on this computer put in English instead of Korean. I got a Samsung bag and Samsung mouse as free gifts for buying the computer. The language bar is normally set for United States English, so the keyboard is just like any keyboard from the United States. If I want to type in 한글 (Hangeul), I can just change the language bar to Korean and start typing the way that Koreans type (actually, I have to do the hunt-and-peck method of typing when I type in Korean). When the language bar is set to Korean, there is a button that I can push to go back and forth between Korean letters and Roman letters. There were probably things that I could delete on that other computer, but did not because I might have wanted it later. Now that everything was deleted for me, I really do not miss it much. Sometimes, that's the only way that you can get rid of something.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas!

Christmas is not as big a holiday here as it is in the United States, but one cannot come here to escape it completely. About 25% of Koreans are Christian and so there are Christmas lights here. There are also a few Christmas trees. I see Christmas trees in several of the subway stations. Tonight I went to Home Plus and all the women (few men work at the check-out stands and at E-Mart, the men do not take people's money) at the check-out stands were wearing Santa hats. E-Mart sells a few Christmas trees and other decorations and there are toys in the Christmas section. I will have to work on Christmas, unlike most workers in the United States. Normally, our Thursday classes are from 3 to 7:45, but on that day, we are going to work early so that we can finish earlier in the day. We did that one other time, and it was nice to be done early. Other than that, Christmas will probably feel like just another day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Everybody Wears Panties!

A few weeks ago, in one of my classes, I had to ask the students what free things people get when they are beautiful. The theme for that week was about inner and outer beauty and the story was about a beautifu girl who gets free things because she was beautiful. A fourth-grade boy told me they get fanties. I did not understand what he said and so I told him to tell me again. One more time he said they get fanties. I did not know what fanties were and so I asked and a first grader stood up and touched his hip and said everybody wears fanties. Then, I realized they were talking about panties. Korean does not have an 'f' sound and so they get confused as to when to say 'f' and 'p.' Even the adults who have spent time studying English abroad get them mixed up. I explained to the kids that boys don't wear panties. They told me that everybody wears panties. I explained to them that boys wear undershorts and girls wear panties. They did not believe me and said that everybody wears panties. Later, I was talking about it with my co-teacher and she had not heard that panties are for women only. I explained to her that if some man were talking about his panties then people would think that he wears women's underwear.

Today, in another class, a student mentioned something about panties. I had to explain to them that boys wear undershorts and girls wear panties. They believed me more than the other class did. I also told them that the general term is underwear. I guess in Korea they are not taught that their are differences in names for men's and women's undergarments. Either that, or they do not make underwear designed for men.

Brrrrrr!!!!!

Today, when I wanted to take a shower, there was no water. I wondered what I was going to do because I feel so disgusting if I do not take a shower everyday. I had to use the bottled water from the fridge. I buy two-liter bottles of water for drinking and cooking because the water here is not safe to consume. I had about three liters and it was so cold. I was worried that I would not have enough and I did not use as much water as I normally do. The water was back on when I came home from work. It was pretty brown for a bit. I was glad because I did not want to have to use bottled water for a shower again.

Veteran's Day

Nobody got a three-day weekend for Veteran's Day, for obvious reasons. Korea does not have a Veteran's Day; it has a Memorial Day to honor those who fought for their country. It had been on my mind recently as to how Koreans feel about people in the military and people who have served. Last night, I asked someone at school who had served in the Korean Navy for three years. I got the answer that I kind of expected. He told me that they don't think it is a big deal because everybody has to. All Korean men have to serve in the military for at least two years. Around Korea, I have seen military men dressed in uniform. People just treat them like they are regular people. One time in the United States, I was walking to baggage claim at an airport and somebody thanked some active military members for their service. Once in Dear Abby, a man wrote in about somebody paying for his son's meal at a restaurant because the other man had wanted to buy a soldier a meal. I have not seen anything like that. I just suspect that they do not have assemblies in schools to honor those who have served the country and invite those that they know to come in and talk about their military experience.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Musical Classrooms

Tuesday I was not in my regular classroom. The air conditioner was broken and I am in the one classroom without any windows. It went on the fritz on Monday and for a couple of classes I told the kids that we could have the door open if they were quiet. This has happened one other time and so fans were brought in, but they just circulated the hot air and did not cool the room down. The students complained to me that they were hot and I was hot too. The problem was fixed and we were able to use my classroom on Wednesday and Thursday. Then yesterday, a man came in to fix the air conditioning. He did more than what was done before. He took it apart and drained the water from it. He had to rewire it. So for my first two classes we were in a different room because he wasn't finished 10 minutes before class started. I did not know how much longer he would be and so in order for us to be out of his way and for him to be out of our way, we went to another classroom. My Korean co-teacher has not been in her regular classroom all week because the LCD projector in her room is not working. Tuesday's kids and our first two classes on Friday went from one different classroom to another different classroom.

Scavenger Hunt

Last weekend I decided that I wanted to make an apple pie. Before I could do anything, I had to make sure that I could get everything that I would need. I went to Home Plus because I knew that I would not be able to buy a pie plate at E-Mart. I had a hard time finding one at Home Plus. It is owned by TESCO, a British company, so it has more in the way of Western cook and bake ware. I found a pie plate when I was about to give up looking. It was bigger than the ones that I have used before. This one had an 11-inch diameter. I also had to look for vanilla. I could not find anything like what I normally use. I had not seen any at Home Plus before nor at E-Mart. So I went to Lotte, a high-end department store with a grocery floor. There was nothing there. I saw an apple that was 5,000 won. I had not priced apples at other stores so I was not sure how much they cost here. It made me not want to make any pie if I was going to have to pay 5,000 won per apple. I went to Home Plus to look again and I found vanilla powder. I also found active dry yeast there as well so I can make bread. I made the pie Sunday night with Grandma's recipe. I took it to work Monday and people liked it. If one wants to make the kinds of things that one would make in the United States, it requires a little bit of planning ahead and improvisation. Until a few weeks ago, I could make things only on the stove top because I did not have an oven. Then, I bought a mini oven. It is a convection oven. It came with a cook booklet, but I cannot make anything in it because it is all in Korean. I won't be able to use it when I return to the United States because it runs on a different voltage. When I bake, I have to convert the oven temperatures because the temperatures in my cookbook are in Fahrenheit and the oven runs on Centigrade.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is a big holiday for English academies in Korea. The kids dress up for their class at the hagwons to which they go. We had a party during one of the class periods that the kids come in for. The Tuesday/Thursday kids are with us for three classes a day and the Monday/Wednesday/Friday kids are with us for two classes. There was a costume contest and a short movie for them. Then they went around to different classes for activities. Each teacher gave the kids candy, but it was not the kind of candy that kids would usually get at Halloween. In the US, you can buy Snickers, Twix, Milky Way, Crunch, KitKat, etc. at prices cheaper than what they usually sell for and there is lots of candy in the stores. That is not true here. Of the candy that I just mentioned, I have seen only Snickers and Twix. Any kind of chocolate candy is expensive here because it has to be imported. A 3.5 ounce Hershey's bar costs 2,000 won. Recently, one could buy an eight ounce bar for a little less than 2,000 won. The candy that the kids got was all hard candy. There was quite a bit of mint candy. I don't remember ever getting mint candy for Halloween. When some of the kids came around and said Trick or Treat, I gave them an eraser and told them that it was a trick. Then they told me that they wanted a treat instead. The stores sold a little bit of Halloween items, but not like stores in the US. All of the costumes were kids' costumes.

For this Halloween, I even got in on some pumpkin carving. There was a pumpkin sitting on the counter and our (now) former branch manager asked me if I knew how to carve pumpkins. I told him I did and he said he didn't so I had to help carve the pumpkin. The pumpkins was not like the ones that people normally carve in America. This one was very flat. It was a light orange and it did not have much of a stem to it. This pumpkin was one of the pumpkins that one can buy at the store throughout the year. It was a very thick pumpkin; there was no danger of scraping it so much that a hole would be scraped through. It was so flat, that after we carved a nose and two eyes in it, there was not enough room for a mouth. We had a candle that was about 3 inches tall, but it was too tall for this pumpkin. After we put it in the pumpkin, it was sticking out through the hole in the top. So then our office manager had to cut the candle in half so that it would be short enough to glow inside the pumpkin. Some of the kids thought that the carved pumpkin was pretty neat.

Mystery Solved!

A while ago, I wrote a blog about how I saw four people in pajamas outside of E-Mart. I now know why people here sometimes walk around in their pajamas; they are sick. Last week I was walking to the subway station with a couple of my Korean coworkers. We passed by a couple of people wearing pajamas and I said that it was weird to see people in their pajamas. They told me that those people are sick and are in the hospital. They were probably going to the store to get a snack. Tonight, I was in a restaurant and a man and a woman came in and the man was wearing pajamas. I saw that he had a cast on his arm. Later, there was a man and a woman at the bus stop. The man was wearing pajamas. He was also hooked up to an IV and had the IV bag and rack there with him! I couldn't believe that somebody on a IV would be allowed to roam the streets like that. They wear pajamas here so they are covered, not like the hospital gowns that one has to wear two of to be covered.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's ALIVE! Or Not

Today we had a meeting with another campus to talk about a certain program that we are doing. We all had to go around the room and introduce ourselves along with our campuses. It felt like an AA meeting, from what I have seen on TV, since I have never been to one. I'm Josephine and I'm from Centum. I'm . . . and I'm from Centum. I'm . . . and I'm from Centum.

After the meeting was over, we had lunch together. It was seafood. All of the other times when I have eaten with a big group like that we had beef or pork so this was quite a treat. It was communal eating, which is the manner in Korea. There were three stations that had a boiling pot of bean sprouts, mussels, shrimp, oysters, and a large crab. Then, as we were sitting down, somebody came and put a live animal in the pot. In one of the pots, the critter crawled out before it was dead! Eventually it died and we were able to cut it up with scissors, which is how all meat is cut when it is cooked at the table like that. After I had a piece of a leg I asked if it was octopus or squid. I was told that it was neither but it was a creature similar to an octopus or squid. I can't remember the Korean name for this beast.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It said WHAT?!

The other night I went to E-Mart. I was looking around on the second floor. I went over to where they keep the cleaning supplies. The toilet seats are there too. I saw the labeling on something that was rather shocking. It said, "Sense fabric a piss pot Sheet cover." I could not believe this bad translation was on something available in a store like that. I think what was supposed to say was scented fabric toilet seat cover. I guess whoever put that on there was not taught proper English.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What's in a Name

Today there was a new student in one of my classes. She did not have an English name and did not have one in mind, so I gave her a list of possible names that I wrote as the students were listening to today's story. She chose Susan. I did not give her the possibility of some weird name that nobody has ever heard of and doesn't know if it's a boy's name or a girl's name. Most of the students have pretty normal names. As far as the ones who go by their Korean name, I don't know if they have a boy's name or a girl's name or some name that isn't a name. Kevin and Jack are pretty common for boys and Sally and Jenny are common for girls. Right now, I have three students named Chris, 2 Sams, 2 James, 2 Lauras, and 2 Amys. One student has had three different English names so far. He started out as Sonic, then Megatron, and now he is Pedro. I once had a student who went by Belly until she chose to go by Cindy. One student went by his Korean name and now he is Brocky. On the first day of class, I tried to get the students in my lowest level class to get an English name. I asked one of the students if he wanted to go by John and he adamantly informed me that his name was Joonho. I think the students in that class did not know what I was asking. I gave up trying to get them to use English names. I don't mind calling the students by their Korean names, but on that day, the names were not Romanized and so I had to write the Hangul for each student who did not have an English name. Then, I had to point to each name and ask the students what their names were. I can read some Hangul, but I read it really slowly and I make mistakes, usually with the vowels. Sometimes the students decide all of a sudden that they want to change their names. It gets confusing then. There is one student whom I have taught for three months and recently he decided he wanted to change his name from Jack to Harry because another student in the class is named Herald. More than once I've called him Jack since his name change. It's an instinct. "Jack! Get in your seat right now!" It's about like Grandma yelling "Rachel" when she was calling Sparkle.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

No Overheated Pets Here

Yesterday, I went to E-Mart and paid on the second floor so I had to go up to the third floor to leave. As I walked over the the elevators, I saw something that I hadn't noticed before and have never seen in the United States. They have pet cages so that you don't have to leave your pet locked in your car as you shop. Many department stores here have parking above or below the shopping floors because the parking would take up too much space that could be used for apartments and office space. The third floor is the lowest level of parking at E-Mart and this is where I saw the cages. I don't know if they have them on the other parking levels or not. All the people have to do is leave the pet in the cage and take the key while they shop downstairs. If they had this kind of thing, people would not have to write to Dear Abby complaining that people leave pets in the car without opening the windows.

Parent-Teacher Conferences

I listened to a lot of Korean speaking on Wednesday and Thursday. Both of those days I had to come in early for conferences. Tuesday was also a day for conferences, but my co-teacher and I do not have any students at that language level and so we did not have to come. On each conference day, one pair of teachers would give a presentation to the parents about the procedure for the class. Since most of the parents do not speak English, the branch manager had to translate what the foreign teachers said during the presentation. The Korean teachers had to translate during the meetings. I had to give a presentation on Thursday. I talked to only two parents directly. Friday, we all had to come in early for classes because it was a national holiday. All the other hagwons were closed that day, but not the one where I work. Instead of holding our regular hours, we changed the times for four of our classes so that we could leave early. I left at 5:00. It was a bit different to be able to leave work when it was still light outside. The classes went a bit smoother too because several students were absent due to the holiday.

Answer to the Question of the Week

What is the main international airport in Korea?

  • Narita International Airport-0 (0%)
  • Gimhae International Airport-1 (33%)
  • Incheon International Airport-2 (66%)
  • Gimpo International Airport-0 (0%)

The correct answer is Incheon International Airport. It is 52 km west of Seoul and is located on a little island. It was officially opened in March 2001. Gimpo International Airport, in Seoul, used to be the main international airport, but it could not keep up with the increasing number of international passengers after the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Gimhae International Airport is in Busan. Narita International Airport is in Tokyo.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Slap Bracelets


They were popular when I was in elementary school and now they are popular here. I have seen several students wearing them. Today, I had to confiscate seven of them (one girl had five), because it is basically just a toy. The students just keep taking them off and slapping themselves with them to put them back on. The picture is an example of what slap bracelets look like and how they are worn.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Josey in Disguise Without Glasses

If anybody wants to see a picture of me with my ophthalmologist, go to this link http://www.hellolasik.com/eng_site/op_result/04_foreigner.asp?page_id=05. When you get there, hover over my name and you'll be able to see the picture. I couldn't get it off the site to be able to put it on here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Teacher, Where Are Glasses?

Several students asked me that the first couple of days of the week. All the students had only ever seen me with glasses and so it was a change for them. I had to explain to them I no longer need them. I said to a few of them that I had surgery, but they really do not know what surgery means and so I told that my eyes are fixed. A student in my lowest level class saw me and was pointing at me and and tapping on another student. I'm guessing that he noticed my lack of glasses and was telling the other student. It's a strange feeling to not need the glasses anymore. I don't have to worry about finding where I put them the night before just so that I can see. I tried them on tonight and my vision was pretty blurry while I was wearing them. Before the surgery, I was -3.25 diopters in the right eye and -2.75 in the left eye. With the surgery and the glasses, it was way overcorrected. My vision has made a full circle in 15 years.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hey, Four Eyes!

It has been several years since anybody has called me that, but nobody will be able to now. Friday afternoon I had LASIK. I wasn't planning on having the surgery until my last vacation time, which would be in February. I was going to go to Japan for this break, but on Friday the 12th, I decided that I was not going to go this time. I did not do much planning for it, and I really did not decide where I was going to go. I decided that instead, I would stay in Korea and take care of business, like getting the ball rolling on LASIK, looking into Korean lessons, and possibly traveling around other places in Korea. I did only one of those because on the 12th, I made an appointment with an eye clinic in Seoul.

I had been looking into different places in Korea for LASIK. Only one place in Korea had its website in English. I could have gone to a place in Pusan, but I would have had to take along a Korean speaker to translate for me, which I did not want to ask anybody to do. I even saw on thw website that one of the doctors had studied LASIK at Stanford and UCLA, so I knew for sure that he spoke English. I decided to spend my vacation time in Seoul so that if I did have the surgery, then it would not put a crimp in my plans. If I did not have the surgery, then I could sight see in Seoul.

I had an appointment for a consultation on Wednesday at 2:00. I had a little trouble getting there from the subway station but I called them and they told me how to get there. There were 24 tests that I had to go through. Some were to see if I was a good candidate and some were to see how much correction was necessary. After about an hour and a half to two hours, it was determined that I was a good candidate. I was given a choice between the Wavefront laser or the conventional laser. I chose the Wavefront laser because it is more precise. It would cost an additional 300,000 won. All in all, the surgery was going to cost 2, 300,000 won. They gave me a discount of 200,000 won and then would give me an additional discount of 100,000 won if I paid in cash. The day that that was quoted, the exchange rate was 1116 won to the dollar.

Since I was not going to have the surgery until Friday, I spent part of Thursday, looking for a Nonghyup Bank so that I could withdraw 2,000,000 won. I asked somebody at the front desk where there was one and he told me. I either did not follow his directions correctly or he told me wrong (or both). I did not find it. I remembered though that he told me Insadong street, so I went there and walked down the street. Eventually, I found one. I took a number and when it was my turn, I gave my passbook to the teller and wrote 2,000,000 on the back of my number. There was a slip that I had to fill out. I wrote down my account number and then he had some other customer who was leaving write something in Korean and then 2,000,000 won. After a few minutes of processing and him having another teller help him, he gave me the money in cash. Carrying that much money in cash is like carrying $2,000 in ten-dollar bills. I had to figure out how to get two bundles of money into my purse. I immediately went back to the hostel and put the money in a bag and put it in the freezer, since there was no safe for my jewels.

The next day, I had the surgery. I was a bit nervous. They had to redo some of the tests, but it was just the ones that determined the amount of correction. I had to put a gown on over my clothes and put on a hair net. They put several drops of anesthetic drops in my eyes. The surgery before mine had not started yet so I was able to watch one eye for that person done. Then I was taken into another room where somebody washed my face and put in more drops. Finally, it was my turn. I lay down on the operating table and then they covered my face. They did the right eye first and so they covered my left eye with gel so that it would not dry out. They taped my eyelashes down and then held my eye open. Then came the microkeratome, which is used to cut a flap in the cornea. Then the doctor lifted the flap and ablated the cornea with and laser. He then cleaned the cornea and put the flap down. He did the same with the left eye. Then "Congratulations" by Cliff Richard started playing. It was over. I rested a while in the recovery room. The doctor examined my eye with a slit lamp microscope again. I went back to the guesthouse where I stayed just for that night. My eyes were pretty sore so I just lay there with my eyes closed because they hurt less closed. Later, I went outside and was amazed by how well I could see. There were halos around lights, but that is normal while my eye is healing. I have three different kinds of drops that I have to use. My vision will improve for 1-4 days after the surgery and then will stabilize in 1-4 months. It's weird to be able to see.

The website for the clinic where I went is http://www.hellolasik.com/eng_site/index.asp.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thank Goodness!

Thank goodness I live in Pusan and use the Pusan Subway System. I went to Seoul for a few days this week and used the subway there. It was a mob scene. Pusan has only three lines, but Seoul has 10. In Pusan, there are usually seats, and if not, then there are not too many people standing. In Seoul, there were times when there were more people standing than there were sitting. The people standing were packed in like sardines. If you want a seat, you have to be aggressive when one becomes available, or else somebody else will take it. People push and shove in the subway and nobody thinks anything of it because they do not know each other and so they do not have to be polite. If only that were the norm in American culture; many times in public I've wanted to shove people out of the way but did not. One time, in Dear Abby, somebody wrote in complaining that in New York, men do not give up their seats for women and some even run ahead to get a seat before the women do. Here, people give up their seats for old people usually. Men will stand so that their wife or girlfriend can sit if there is only one available seat. It doesn't seem like women expect men to give up their seats, going back to the fact that they are strangers and there is no obligation to be polite. In Pusan, people get on as other people are getting off. In Seoul, it really is impossible because there are so many people getting off, and it is necessary to empty some space before other people can get on. There are so many people on the subways. Friday night, I was waiting for the subway and there were two old men fighting. They were a little far away, but I could hear them yelling at each other, pushing, and one even kicked the other! They got on the subway, and they came to the car where I was and sat across from me. During the ride, they were talking and holding hands and even hugged each other goodbye! (More often than not, two same-sex people holding hands are friends and nothing more.)

Answer to the Question of the Week

What are non-disposable chopsticks made of in Korea?

  • stainless steel-0 (0%)
  • plastic-1 (25%)
  • wood-1 (25%)
  • clay-2 (50%)

The answer is stainless steel. This tradition was started during the Joseon dynasty. The upper class people believed that using silver would warn of evil because silver would tarnish in the presence of evils. The lower classes practiced this belief as well, but they could not afford the silver and so they would use cheaper metals. Spoons are also stainless steel as well. Many restaurants use metal cups and bowls.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Get Out of My Way; I'm Coming Through!

That is what it felt like tonight at E-Mart (Korean Wal-Mart). Sunday is Chuseok Day, but people the celebration starts on Saturday. Monday is the final day. There were so many people shopping. E-Mart has three floors for shopping. The basement is the grocery floor. The first floor is the clothing and cosmetic floor, and the second floor has books, electronics, appliances, toys, and household goods. I went to the basement so that I'd have something to eat because I'm not sure if the stores will be open during Chuseok. It was so hard to get around because there were so many people. There was a long line of people waiting a get a cart. I've never seen that before. According to Lonely Planet, Koreans believe that there is no obligation to be polite to somebody whom one has never met. Therefore, people are unlikely to say "excuse me" and likely to shove others out of the way. On the basement floor, there was a bottleneck at the escalator. I had to weave in around the people with carts to go back up. I decided to go up to the second floor to pay because it is usually not as busy; it was not tonight either. It usually does not take very long to get through the lines at the checkout. They have most of the lines open and people get through faster. All the clerks do it ring up the stuff and take the money. They do not do any bagging or load any carts. Once it has passed through their hands, it's your responsibility. The same goes for Home Plus. At E-Mart, many people do not bag their items because they charge 50 won (about five cents) per bag. After I paid on the second floor, I had to go to the third floor because that is the only place to go when you pay on the second floor. It took a little longer than normal to get an elevator down to the first floor. There was one that came, but it was packed and it was going up. When I finally got down to the first floor, there was a big crowd of people waiting to get in the elevator. In the United States people crawl out of the woodworks the day after Thanksgiving; here, they do it the day before.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Answer to the Question of the Week

Seoul is the largest city in South Korea. Pusan is the second largest. What is the third largest?

  • Jeju-si-0 (0%)
  • Masan-0 (0%)
  • Incheon-1 (33%)
  • Daegu-2 (66%)

The correct answer is Daegu.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bottle of Wine, Any Old Time

Today I received two bottles of Chilean wine in a gift box and it helped me to understand something that has been going on recently at stores like E-Mart and Home Plus. A couple of weeks ago, the grocery floor was rearranged. In addition, there was a line of gift boxes on the way to the down escalator. Some of the women working at E-Mart have been wearing traditional Korean outfits. Chuseok is September 14. It is Korean Thanksgiving. The wine was a Chuseok gift. The department stores have various gift box sets that are like what one can buy at a retail department store around Christmas. These ones are bigger though (and more expensive). I wondered why all of a sudden I started seeing E-Mart employees wearing Korean attire. Now I know.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Sandwich Maker

I got to make sandwiches today. At our school, the kids get point cards for good behavior or good performance. Today, was market day so that the kids could cash in their points. We had a book store, food court, toy store, a movie, and a cooking class. I was in charge of the cooking class, which basically consisted of making sandwiches and letting the kids watch. I also had to cut ham and tomatoes, as well as peel and cut cucumbers. I think that I made more sandwiches for adults than I did for the kids. I made sandwiches for the Korean staff and for some of the parents. We went through two loaves of bread and ran out before the day was over. I guess I could work at a sandwich shop someday. A couple of the students were not able to finish their sandwiches. They were twins. I gave his uneaten half to a Korean staff member who will never have to worry about getting fat. One student ate half and gave the other half to his mother. I took pictures of some of the students with their sandwiches. One student had a hard time eating it; the sandwich fell apart. They're such cute kids.

Friday, September 5, 2008

My Students Taught Me Korean

I learned a couple of Korean words yesterday. Changmin means rose and pea means blood. For the lesson I asked the students what their favorite flowers were. A student told me changmin. Another student said that that means rose. In another class, we mentioned vegetables. A student told me that he did not like vegetables. I have a poster in the back that has pictures of fruits and vegetables. The names are in Korean and English and the English name is in the Roman alphabet and in Hangul. This student said something about how pea is blood. I did not know just what he was talking about until after class when he asked a couple of the Korean teachers. The Hangul for pea is the same as the Korean word for blood.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

New Schedule, Yippee!

This week we started a new term, so I got new classes. Before, my co-teacher and I had mostly lower level classes. At our school, we have ten levels and each has its own name, but for the purposes here, I'll give a number for each level. Last term, we had one Level 1, one Level 2, two Level 3, three Level four, and one Level six class. This term we have one Level 1, one Level 4, four Level 5, one Level 6, two Level 7, and one Level 9 class. Most of the students that I have I have not had in class before. Most of the students are well-behaved because they are older than the ones that I had before and they understand more English. Last term, I had some students with some behavior problems. My last class was one that had several troublemakers. It was difficult at first. Most of the students that I have again are ones that I liked.

Answer to the Question of the Week and more on Hangul

How many characters are there in the Korean alphabet?

  • 52-2 (25%)
  • 30-2 (25%)
  • thousands-3 (37%)
  • 24-1 (12%)

The correct answer is 24. Of course, when some of them are combined, they create new sounds, like when a and u or p and h are put together. There are 24 basic characters, 14 consonents and 10 vowels. The Korean alphabet is called hangul and it was invented by King Sejong. Prior to its invention and for many years after, people used Chinese characters for writing. King Sejong felt that since Korean was another language, it should have its own writing system. In addition, people could not get the proper meaning across when writing with Chinese characters. He invented the alphabet in such a way that illiterate people could read. The characters give you directions on how to pronouce the word. For example, some of them are shown the way that the tongue is suppose to move. When you see Korean, there are several characters that make up one syllable. All syllables have to have a consonent and a vowel. When the vowel is lying down, the consonent is over it and when the vowel is standing, the consonent is standing beside it. When there is a consonent at the end of the syllable, it goes under the other letters.

The letters must be written a particular way. There is a right way and there is a wrong way. You can't just go about writing the lines in any way that you want. There is a particular order that you have to follow. You have to draw from left to right and from up to down. I see this translated into the way that the kids write. Whearas most of us dot our 'i's and cross our 't's last, they do the dotting and the crossing first. On Friday, I was informed that I write my capital Hs wrong. I had the middle section sticking out on either side. A student showed me the proper way to write an H.

Monday, September 1, 2008

How to Get a Cell Phone in Korea

Today I finally got my own cell phone. Before, I had just a rental cell phone and it was a bit expensive just to have, not to mention talk on. All foreigners have to show their Alien Registration Cards to get a cell phone. It took a while to get mine, and then after I got it, the address had to be changed. I got it back for good last week. Since we were still on the summer intensive schedule, I did not have time to go and get a cell phone. I went to an SK Telecom store Friday night after work, but they were closing. I went three doors down to another SK Telecom store and the man there did not speak English. I felt like an idiot. The place was closing at that time too. Later, I looked at some places near the next subway stop in the other direction from my apartment. On one block, there were four SK Telecom stores! Saturday morning, I went to the first one on the block and told them what I wanted. A man in there told me to go to the one with T World on it. There was one employee working in there and he did not speak much English, probably only what was taught in Korean schools, which isn't much. He went next door to get somebody who spoke English and I told him what I wanted. After the first man figured out what I wanted, he said to come back on Monday. What I wanted was not available on weekends. I went back today and he remembered me. There was another man working there and he did speak English. It took a little while because it was Monday he said. I got a used handset for a prepaid phone. Here, you have to go to a dealer even if you want just a prepaid phone. You cannot buy a phone at a retail store and then set it up over a landline phone. SK Telecom stores are everywhere, and KT and LG also provide cell phone service. Virtually everybody here has a cell phone. I have confiscated cell phones from kids in class because they were playing with them. One day, about six kids who were not more than 8 (Western age) were taking pictures of me on their cell phones.

Friday, August 29, 2008

How to Pay a Bill in Korea

Today, I paid my gas bill. I did not do it in person at an office of the gas company, nor did I pay it online or over the phone. Instead, I went to the bank to pay it. There is no checking system in Korea, so unless you pay with cash or credit card, you have to pay by bank transfer. The bill from the gas company came with a stub that had some numbers and bar code on it. The bank has a special machine for paying bills. You put your ATM card in the machine. Then, you put the stub in the machine. It will ask you to verify by putting in your code. The bill is paid. I knew that there was a machine for it. One of the tellers came over and helped me do it.

Later, I wanted to have the transactions printed in my passbook. They still use passbooks for accounts here instead of people writing the transactions in a check register. You put the book in a machine, but not the same one used to pay bills. The machine then prints all the transactions that have not been printed yet. I could not figure out how to use the machine because it was in only Korean. I was able to use this machine to get money out with my ATM card because it could be used in English. I went up to one of the tellers and pointed to the page in the passbook. It took her a second to figure out what I wanted. I felt retarded not saying anything and just pointing. In the end, I did get the transactions printed.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What is This?

I've seen some gadgets here that I have never seen before. Some of them, I cannot figure out what they are. There was one appliance at E-Mart that I could not figure out. When I opened it, I realized that it was a countertop dishwasher. Tonight, I saw some contraption that I figured out from the picture that it is used to grind fish, chicken, etc. bones. I've seen one appliance that had I not been to a restaurant here, I would not have known what it is. I saw it at the store and it looked like an electric box. One day, I went to the food court at Home Plus Department Store with the other teachers. We had to get our spoons and chopsticks from a box that looked just like that other box. It turns out that it is an ultraviolet light sterilizer. You put the silverware in there and the ultraviolet lights sterilize them. Sunday, I decided to go to Hyundai Department Store and I saw a mechanism. Before I came here, I read an article about the best electronics that were not yet available in the United States. One of them, which was exclusive to South Korea, was a small laptop. I wondered if that device that I saw at Hyundai was a small laptop or if it was a translator. If it was a computer, it was very cheap, about $250. If it is just a translator, then it was a bit expensive, I think. Perhaps it was neither. I did not get a very good look at it because I did not want to seem too interested. All these apparatuses make me feel like the Clampetts living in Beverly Hills.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Home Stretch

This is the last week that I will have to teach summer intensive courses. The first month that I taught, I had six classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, two classes on Tuesdays, and four classes on Thursdays. When the summer intensive courses started at the beginning of the month, two classes were added to my Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. I also had to teach five more classes on Tuesdays and four more classes on Thursdays. This month, it was summer break for Korean school and so we offered additional classes for some students so that they could go to English school everyday.

Next week, I'll have a different schedule from what I have now. I'll be teaching six classes everyday and will have ten groups of students. Right now, I have eight groups of students. This term I taught the lower levels, which can be harder to teach because the students are younger and they don't understand as much English as the other kids. It's also easy to sound like a broken record. Next term, I'll have more upper-level classes.

The one lower-level class that I will teach next term, if all goes according to plan, is one that I'm teaching right now. It's our lowest level course, but there is more freedom with the methodology because the class is unique to Pusan. Sometimes, it can be hard to keep the kids' attention. Today, we played hangman at the end of class and the kids seemed to like it. The kids did not know how to play so at first it was a bit hard getting them to guess letters. After they got the hang (no pun intended) of it, they were all yelling out letters and wanted to play hangman with another word.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Answer to the Question of the Week

How old would people with birthdates of March 10, 2001, and October 31, 1978, be in Korea on August 31st?

  • 8, 32-0 (0%)
  • 7,30-1 (33%)
  • 8, 31-0 (0%)
  • 7, 31-0 (0%)
  • 7, 29-2 (66%)

The correct answer is 8, 31. In Korea, everybody gets a year older at the start of a new year, not on the birthday. The only way that a person's Korean age matches his/her Western age is when he/she was born on January 1. Here in Korea, I am 23, even though I am 22 in the United States. When I ask the students their ages, they tell me their Korean ages. So, if a student tells me he is 10, then I have to remember that he is nine if his birthday has passed and eight if his birthday has not passed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What Beautiful Eyelids You Have!

Yesterday during lunch with fellow teachers, I mentioned that I plan to get eye surgery while I am in Korea. I was talking about LASIK eye surgery, but one of the teachers thought I was talking about eyelid surgery. He wondered why I, a Westerner, would want to have eyelid surgery. He told me that some Korean women have plastic surgery on their eyelids to make them look more Western. Since learning that, I have looked at people's eyes here and have noticed that the eyelids are different. I've also heard that some women also have rhinoplasty to make the bridges more pronounced. Somebody once told me that the Japanese travel to Korea to have plastic surgery because it is cheaper to come here and have it done than it is to just have it done in Japan. There is a plastic surgery clinic at the mall!

Answer to the Question and Korean Names

What are the three most common family names in Korea?

The results are as follows:
  • Kim, Park, Chow 0 (0%)
  • Park, Honda, Lee 0 (0%)
  • Kim, Lee, Park 3 (60%)
  • Lee, Park, Chen 0 (0%)
  • Kim, Park, Cho 2 (40%)
  • Shin, Lee, Kim 0 (0%)

The correct answer is Kim, Lee, Park. Chow and Chen are Chinese and Honda is Japanese. This information comes from Tongku Lee in his book Yes, You Can Learn Korean Language Structure in 40 Minutes! Kim is the most common family name in Korea. In fact, in one of my classes, there are 12 students and six of them are Kim. In Korean, the family name comes first. A person's name can be two, three, or four syllables, but most are three. The first syllable is the family name and the last two are the given name. It is impolite to call a person by just his/her given name unless that person is younger than you or is a child. You call a person by his/her full name or by his/her title and family name. Women do not change their names when they get married. The children have their father's family name.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Reminder to All Patients: OTC means OTC!

Yesterday, I went to E-Mart to the pharmacy to get some Epsom salt and peroxide. In this country, you have to ask for any kind of pharmaceutical product, not just the stuff of which they want to control the sale, or reduce the theft, such as Sudafed or Plan B. Once, I needed some aspirin. I had to go to the counter and ask for it. I did not know if the pharmacist would know what I was talking about when I said aspirin, but he understood just fine. I later learned that Koreans do say aspirin. Yesterday, when I went to the pharmacy, I took the cell phone that I rented because it has a dictionary on it. I showed the pharmacist the word for Epsom salt and he was looking at it for quite a while. I don't know if they had it there or not. He was saying something to me in Korean. I don't know if he was asking if I was going to ingest it or if he thought I wanted regular salt, but I did not get any Epsom salt. I was able to get the peroxide though. I showed him the word for peroxide on the phone and he got it for me. Having to ask for everything at the pharmacy has made me hope that I do not need medications much here. It's not because I get things that I'm embarrassed to be buying; it's the language barrier and the fear that they are going to tell me that I need a prescription for something that I could buy over-the-counter in the United States.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

New Question

There is a new question of the week. This one is about family names and which ones are the most common in Korea. I'll provide more information on Korean names when the poll is closed.

Question of the Week and More on the DMZ

The question of the week was "What city, whose location is now the site of the Joint Security Area, was destroyed during the Korean War?"

The results are as follows:
  • Daeseong 1 (33%)
  • Panmunjom 2 (66%)
  • Gijeong 0 (0%)
  • Chuncheon 0 (0%)

The correct answer is Panmunjom. Daeseong and Gijeong are both villages within the DMZ. Chuncheon is just a city in South Korea. Thank you to everybody who voted.

Daeseong is located in South Korea. It is known as Freedom Village. The people who live there are from families who lived there before the Korean Conflict. Its residents do not have to pay taxes and men living there are except from the two-year military obligation. Farmers in Daeseong have about 17 acres of farmland, whereas farmers in the south have about 4 acres. Women can marry into the village but men cannot because it would exempt them from the military service. Farmers in Daeseong make about $82,000 tax-free. The residents have an 11:00 curfew.

Gijeong is in North Korea and is known as Propaganda Village. There are no residents there, only maintenance staff. It is Propaganda Village because for six to twelve hours a day, propaganda about Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il is played to anybody around, with the hopes that they will defect to North Korea.

There is a lot of competition between the two Koreas. South Korea built a flagpole near the Military Demarcation Line. That flagpole is 100 meters tall. North Korea decided to build a bigger one. That flagpole is 160 meters tall and is the biggest and tallest flagpole in the world. The South Korean flagpole looks puny by that North Korean flagpole. When Seoul hosted the 1988 Olympics, the Olympics Committee gave South Korea an Olympic flag. The Republic of Korea gave it to Daeseong to show off to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea since they decided not to participate in the Olympics that year.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I Stepped into North Korea on Wednesday!

I decided that for my first vacation in Korea that I would stay within the country. I decided that I would go to the DMZ. My copy of Lonely Planet said that the USO had tours to the DMZ that included the Joint Security Area and the Third Tunnel. I made a reservation but I was afraid that I might not be able to go because I had to submit my passport to immigration so that I could get an Alien Registration Card, which is a permit to live in South Korea. Without it, I would not be able to open a bank account and then I could not get paid because there is no checking system in Korea--all payments are made through bank transfer. I thought that I could not go, but then my branch manager told me that I could with a copy of my passport and my driver's license. I was so happy then.

Wednesday, I had to get up early and go to Camp Kim in Seoul because the bus was leaving at 7:30 a.m. I had to follow a dress code and anybody who did not follow the dress code was not allowed on the tour. On the way to Camp Bonifas, our tour guide told us about the fence that was along the river. This river started in North Korea and it had a fence along it in South Korea because North Koreans would use their marine skills to get into the South. There were also white stones in the fence. The stones would fall if anybody tampered with the fence. There were also watchtowers along the river with soldiers in them.

As we got closer, there was a bridge that we had to get military clearance to pass. There were blocks set up every few meters on alternating sides of the road. We had to weave around these blocks. We we got to Camp Bonifas, a US Army soldier had to check everybody's ID. We later had to switch buses and get onto an ROK Army secured bus. We went to Ballinger Hall where we were given a briefing about the Korean War, the history of the DMZ since the war, what we must not do, and the requirements to be a soldier stationed at the DMZ. Right now, there are about 600 soldiers there. About 40 are American soldiers and the rest are ROK. All South Korean men have to serve in the military for at least two years. Most South Korean men there are fulfilling their military obligation.

ROK and US soldiers at the DMZ have to have spotless civilian and military records. US soldiers have to have above average height, size, and aptitude. ROK soldiers have to be taller and bigger than the average ROK soldier. They must also have basic fluency in written and spoken English and they must have a black belt in Taekwondo or Judo.

We went to Reunion Hall, which is right on Conference Row. The building was built so that families separted by the DMZ could reunite; however, because the DPRK will not allow its people to go there, the hall has not been used for that purpose. There are six buildings on Conference Row, each side has three and the buildings are divided in half by the Military Demarcation Line. We went into one of these buildings and I stepped onto the side that is in North Korea. There is a door there and the door is guarded by an ROK soldier and anybody who tries to go past him will be stopped.

I'll tell more about the JSA and the two villages within the DMZ after I reveal the answer to this week's question. To do so beforehand would give away the answer.

Our last stop of the day was to the Third Infiltration Tunnel. This tunnel was discovered in 1973 after a North Korean defector who had worked on it had tipped off the ROK. The entrance into the tunnel is very steep. Before going in, the tour guide told us not to go if we had asthma, heart problems, claustrophobia, arthritis, etc. The tunnel was very short. We all had to wear hard hats. There were a few places where there was some metal-pipe canopies. I hit my head a couple of times. They said that the tunnel was two meters deep, but I do not think that it was that much. The tunnel is big enough that 30,000 North Korean soldiers could march into South Korea within an hour.

The tour guide on my bus said that the PAK soldiers were the short, skinny, brown-skinned soldiers. The other tour guide said that the tunnel is so small because it was made for North Koreans. His two kids are taller than he, just like all of us. The South Koreans have better nutrition than the North Koreans and this is why. I have seen several South Korean men who are over six feet tall. Their nutrition while they were growing helped them to get that tall. I have seen adults in other countries who did not grow to their full potential because of poor diet.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Question of the Week

There is a new question for the poll. Please take a moment to answer it. It is about the city that was located where the Joint Security Area is now. This question is in honor of my recent trip to the DMZ.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pajama Party Time

Earlier tonight I went to E-Mart (Korean Wal-Mart). When I was walking in, I saw the strangest thing. There were two couples dressed in identical pajamas. This was not the first time that I saw somebody where pajamas like this in public. I saw a woman wearing a pair just like them once when I was walking home from work. The first time that I saw these pajamas was at the hospital when I went for the exam that foreigners have to have. So maybe these four escaped from the hospital?

My Weekend

Usually for the weekends, I stay in Haeundae or go to Centum City. Saturday, I went with my co-teacher, Sophie, to a Buddhist temple. It was in a completely different part of the city. We had to ride a bus for about twenty minutes. It was the first time that I had ridden a city bus in Korea. Every other time that I have needed to get somewhere I have gone by subway, walked, or took a taxi. We had to walk a little bit to get to it. It is along the sea so it has a nice view of the water. There were a lot of people there and the entire time that we were there, I saw about five other Westerners and it was not until we were leaving. Obviously, it is not a big tourist attraction. Later, we went to dinner. Sophie had been a a restaurant around there about three years ago, but she had a hard time finding it. We were going to eat at another restaurant but she did not think that it was very good because there were not many people there. We found the restaurant where she ate. It was a traditional Korean restaurant. We sat on mats on the floor. Each person got individual portions of pumpkin soup, rice, and seaweed soup. The waitress then brought over 20 dishes to share. The best way to eat it is for everybody to taste a little bit of everything. We could not eat everything.

Sunday, I decided to take a walk. I hiked up Dalmaji Hill. I live at the bottom of it. I heard that there was a good view from it. When I got to the top, I could not see much of the city because there were trees in the way. About halfway up (and down) I got a really good view of the bay. I could see all of Haeundae Beach, and the bridge by another beach. It was bit dark so maybe I'll take another walk up it when it is light.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What a Hunk of Junk!

I have not been able to say that about any of the cars that I have seen around here in Pusan. In the past couple of days, I have noticed that most of the cars here are white, some shade of grey, or black. There are a few red cars, a few green, and a few blue, but they stand out. Most of the cars that people drive here are Hyundai, Daewoo, or Kia, since all three of those makes are South Korean. Most of the cars that I have seen here have been passenger cars--very few vans or SUVs. The cars that I see are all fairly new cars as well. Most of them have been made not more than ten years ago. I'd say that many cars out there were made in the last five years. I have not seen any cars with a lot of dents, dings, or mismatched doors, bumpers, etc. There are not many bikes here like there were in China. (Thank goodness! If you don't know why, just ask.) Most of the motorcycles that I have seen have been delivery men for restaurants. Unfortunately, they are allowed to drive on the sidewalk.

Can I get the Piggy Bag?

Once on an episode of Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld said the following, "Whenever you ask for a doggie bag at a restaurant, there’s a certain sense of failure there, isn’t there? People always whisper it to the waiter, “Uh, excuse me. Can I get the doggie bag? I, uh, I-I couldn’t make it” It’s embarrassing, because the doggie bag means either you’re out at a restaurant when you’re not hungry, or you’ve chosen the stupidest possible way there is to get dog food."

I mention this because the staff at our school went out to a restaurant tonight. It was a buffet. It was like any other buffet that you could have gone to, except in this one, we were able to barbecue meat at the table. Each table had a barbecue station and we were able to cook pork and beef at the table. Nine of the ten employees at the school were there and we had our one little room. Since it was a buffet, we obviously did not get doggie bags, but people here do not usually get doggie bags anyway--they just leave the food at the restaurant. One may think that is very wasteful, but not really if you know what they then do with the food.

In my first week here I was told this and I confirmed it tonight. The leftover restaurant food goes to the pigs. That is why pork is so cheap here. In the McDonald's here, there are two trash receptacles, one for the wrappers and one for the food. Perhaps if there were something like that, not necessarily pigs, in the United States, then maybe they would not have been complaints about people wasting food because people bought the Happy Meal just for the Teenie Beenie Baby and then threw away the food. Restaurants here do not have take-out containers. If you order out some food, then it comes in the restaurant's dishes and then when you are done eating, you just put the dishes outside the door, uneaten food included.

Instead of choosing the stupidest possible way to get dog food, the South Koreans have found a way to feed the pigs and use the food that would have gone in the garbage anyway. I wonder if they feed pork to the pigs as well.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

United States vs. South Korea

According to Geert Hofstede, the cultural dimensions of the United States and South Korea are very different. There are five different dimensions: Power Distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance, and Long-Term Orientation.

South Korea
Power Distance-60
Individualism-18
Masculinity-39
Uncertainty Avoidance-85
Long-Term Orientation-75

United States
Power Distance-40
Individualism-91
Masculinity-62
Uncertainty Avoidance-46
Long-Term Orientation-29

What do all these numbers mean?

  1. Power Distance is the extent to which members in a group who are not in a powerful position to expect the power to be distributed inequally. In South Korea, less powerful people are less likely to expect equal power.
  2. Individualism is the opposite of collectivism. People in individualistic cultures are more likely to believe in every man for himself; whereas people from collectivistic cultures are more likely to think about the groups' welfare. The United States is very individualistic, but South Korea is very collectivistic.
  3. Masculinity of a culture does not refer to whether everybody is very masculine or feminine. The masculine pole means assertive, but the feminine pole means modesty. What this means is that the women in South Korea are not nearly as assertive and competitive as the the women in the United States.
  4. The Uncertainty Avoidance Index measures a culture's tolerance for ambiguity. The South Koreans have a much lower tolerance for uncertainty than Americans have.
  5. Long-term orientation is the opposite of short term orientation. Values associated with Long-term orientation are thrift and perserverance, but values that go with Short-term orientation are respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and protecting 'face.' Both poles of this dimension are from Confucius.

If reading this post has not bored you to death, you can go to http://www.geert-hofstede.com/ for more information about the five cultural dimensions. I first heard about these dimensions in a Spanish class in college.

Poll

I've decided that for the poll, after this one is over, that I will instead have trivia questions about South Korea. When the poll is over, I'll put the results in a post as well as the answer and a little bit about it. For example, if the question were "Where is South Korea?," I'd give a few choices, only one of which would be the correct answer. The post about the poll would look like this:

Results

  • Europe-3
  • Asia-15
  • Africa-1
  • South America-0

Answer

South Korea is located in Asia, on the Korea Penisula. It is south of North Korea, east of China, and west of Japan.

My Apartment

My apartment is very small. It is not much bigger than my room at home, but it is enough for me. It has a bed, two large wardrobes, a desk, a couple of shelves, a full-size fridge, a water closet, and a washing machine. The washing machine also has a dryer on it--I can just throw the clothes in and they come out clean and dry. It's as simple as that! There is no oven, but there is a two-burner gas stove. Before now, I had never cooked with gas, but it is nice to not have to wait for the element to heat. I met my Faculty Manager during the training week and he told me that I should expect a dirty apartment because the Koreans do not believe in leaving a clean apartment for the next person. They are not like Golde on The Fiddler on the Roof, who swept the floor before they left because she did not want to leave a dirty house. It was not as dirty as I had expected. The worst was the smell of the place. It smelled strongly of nicotine. The room got aired out well though because the first week or so that I was here, the air conditioner did not work and so I had to have the window open to let a breeze in.

I live in the 10th floor. Luckily there is an elevator. My building is two blocks from the nearest subway station. It's the second stop on the line and so when I get on the subway there are always seats. If I open the window and stick my head against the screen and look a certain way, I can see part of Haeundae Beach, the most famous beach in South Korea. It is about a 15-minute walk from my apartment. I live down the street from the beach. The best time to go there right now is at night. I went there on a Saturday afternoon and there were so many people there. It is a swimming beach. Even at high tide, there are not many waves so surfing is not feasible. They have life guards going back and forth on jet skis and motorized life rafts. During the day, there are so many umbrellas set up that one can rent for 5,000 won (about $5).

You have to step up to get into the apartment after you come in past the door. The living space is hardwood floor, but there is linoleum by the door. In South Korea, when you go into somebody's home, you take off your shoes. That area is there so that you can leave your shoes at the door. Whereas most doors to homes and apartments open in in American homes and apartments, the doors apartments here open out. The bathroom is also a step down. My bathroom is bigger than what I expected. There is actually a separate space for the shower, but it drains into a hole by the sink. You have to get the floor wet to take a shower here. During training, some of the people who had already been in South Korea, and saw their apartment said that there was not a separate space for the shower. If you were lazy, you could sit on the toilet while you take a shower.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Month Already!

I have been here in South Korea for a month now; I have been teaching for three weeks. It was a bit difficult the first day since I did not know any of the kids and it was my first time teaching ever. I now know all of the kids' names (most of them go by an English name for class) so that has helped to make things easier. There are two other foreign teachers and three Korean teachers at the school. In the program, the kids have a class with me for 40 minutes and a class with a Korean teacher for 40 minutes. In the seedbed level, there is no difference in what the Korean teacher and the foreign teachers teach, but in the seed, sprout, and sapling levels, the foreign teachers teach speaking and the Korean teachers teach reading and writing. In teaching the lessons, I have learned too. I had never heard of Heston Blumenthal or Admiral Yi-Sun Shin before I taught the lessons that mentioned those people.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Traffic in Korea

The traffic here is just horrid. The people here drive about like the people in China and Bangkok. You just have to be assertive if you want to change lanes. The people drive on the same side of the road as the people in the United States. Since I am doing an easier program, I do not have training for as long during the day as most of the other instructors. Our bus driver picked us up just after one and we did not get back to our hotel. Usually, the ride is about a half hour at the most. People run red lights frequently. Today, on our afternoon ride, there was a bus that was very close to us--we could have shaken hands with the people in the other bus. I saw a corvette that had its entire front end smashed in and the police were directing traffic around it. The front bumper looked like it flew a ways, or that was somebody else's back bumper; I could not really tell. I'm just so glad that I do not have to drive in this mess.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Arrival in Korea

I arrived in Korea safely on Sunday night. The flight from Taipei to Incheon was about two hours. The man sitting next to me told me that on all Korean flights, the meal was included in the price of the ticket. He once flew from Chicago to San Juan, Puerto Rico and all that he got was a glass of water and a piece of bread for the four-hour flight. I learned a few things about Korea from talking to him. He was very friendly and I think that part of the reason that he talked to me so much was that he wanted to practice his English. I was a bit afraid that I would get lost somewhere at the airport, but I just followed the instructions from the school and arrived at the hotel in good shape. The hotel is very nice. It has a kitchenette with dishes and a washing machine. Basically, it is a small studio apartment. This week I am doing training at the training center. Since I am doing the elementary program instead of the regular program, I do not have to do as much training as some of the other teachers. I just hope that I pass the training so that I can start working next week.