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.


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.