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.