Thursday, October 8, 2009

They're Crawling Out of the Woodworks!

Yesterday after work I decided to go to E-Mart, which is located at the same subway stop as where I live except I normally take exit 5, but E-Mart is exit 7 (across the street). As soon as I was at the top of the stairs, a woman asked me if I spoke English and if I would fill out a survey. I didn't want to be rude, so I filled out the survey, even though it was a bit deep for me. She stood over me watching me answer the questions and I felt like I had to give certain answers even though the survey was about my personal religious beliefs. Then the lady asked me to listen to her talk about the bible and I hadn't thought of a story to tell her so I listened to her talk. I listened to her talk about how God is not the father, but instead the mother. Her church, the Church of God, sounded awfully feminist from the way this woman was talking. She wanted me to walk with her to her church and watch a video but I told her that I was very busy and she said that she would call me later. Luckily, I did not give her my new phone number, but rather my old phone number. That was the fourth time in two weeks that I had been approached by religious zealots.

A week before, a lady inside the subway station near where I work was handing out a newsletter in Korean and packages of tissues from her church, which was located at that subway station. The package of tissues had directions as to how to get to the church and the times for their services. After work, I was solicited by a group of Jehovah's Witnesses standing outside of E-Mart. They were handing out booklets about problems within families.

The Thursday before I was solicited by these other groups, I was walking home from other store and a young man who was Jehovah's Witness started talking to me. I kept walking, but since I did not ignore him when he was talking to me, he was walking with me and gave me one of the pamphlets that they give when they are looking for new members.

These were not the only times that I have been solicited to join a church here, but the other times were spread out. Because I live in a big city here, I've had more experience with religious zealots here than I had in America. All these people who have given me information or had a conversation with me about their religion were Koreans. Most of them assume that I speak English, but a couple of them have asked. Sometimes I feel tempted to pretend that I don't speak English. I once told my South African friend that he should pretend that he does not understand English and then start speaking Afrikaans.

One time, I was waiting for the subway to come and when it did, there was a Mormon missionary sitting in the train and he saw me and waved. Since I didn't want to appear rude, I waved back. Then, when I got on the train, I went to the other end of the train car to sit because I didn't want to sit by him. That is the most communication that I have had with any foreign missionaries. The other times that I have seen Mormons, either they chose to not talk to me or I made sure that they did not see me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Not So Happy Meal

Today, one of the Korean teachers came to my class and said that they were ordering McDonald's for lunch and asked if I had wanted to order as well. McDonald's has a service called McDelivery and, like all other take-out food, it is delivered on a motorcycle. I did not want to eat a lot and so I decided to order a Happy Meal, the first one since I was a child. The other teacher was not sure if they had Happy Meals because there was not a big picture on the take-out menu. She asked one of the kids if they had Happy Meals. When the food came, the Happy Meal sandwich was mixed with the other sandwiches and the fries were mixed with the other fries, instead of coming in its own box with the arches handles and cartoons. In addition, there was no toy, which is included in the cost of the Happy Meal. (I did not order the Happy Meal just for the toy, but I paid for the toy.) The meal ending up costing 4300 won, more than the price of a large cheeseburger set, which costs 4200 won. The regular cheeseburger set is 3600 won. Here, the size of the fries and drink to the large set is the same size as the fries and drink to the regular set in America. The size of the fries and drink to the Happy Meal were about the the same size as American Happy Meals, but I don't remember getting a cheeseburger that was the same size as the regular cheeseburger. McDonald's here has some sandwiches that are not available in America, such as a Bulgogi (broiled beef) burger, Shanghai Spice Burger, and Shrimp Burger and the Quarter Pounder is not an option here. I've never tried any of the other sandwiches though. Next time that I order from McDonald's I'll skip the Happy Meal and get just a regular cheeseburger sandwich.

Death of a President

Today, Kim Dae-jung (pronounced joong), 김대중, died at 85. He was president of the Republic of Korea from 1995 to 2000. He is the second South Korean president to die in the past three months. Roh Moo-hyun, 노무현, died in May after jumping from a mountain. Roh was president for the five years after Kim.

I first heard about the news of Kim's death from one of the Korean teachers who told me about his passing. Around 4:50, she told me during one of the breaks that Kim Dae-jung* had died and that he had had pneumonia. Later, when I went home, I took the subway and at the exit near my house, there was a stack of eight-page newspapers that was a special edition published after his death. On the front page, there was a large picture that took up over 3/4 of the page. The rest of it had some ads and quite a bit of information about his life. I picked up a similar paper after Roh Moo-hyun had died as well. It was interesting to me that people would be informed that way because although I never lived in a big city to know, I don't think that the death of a president would be announced by special newspaper anymore. Perhaps it is a holdover from the days when South Korea was not as technologically advanced as it is now, as most Koreans have access to the Internet (high-speed no less) and virtually everybody has a cell phone.

*Until today, I was did not know how to pronounce the second syllable to his name. I thought it was jung with a short u sound, but instead it is an oo sound. Jung is a possible spelling for the family name 정, which can be pronounced with a short u sound, a short o sound, or like 'jong' as in Kim Jong-Il (김정일). When Roh Moo-hyun died, I was not familiar with the family name 'Roh,' but when I saw his name in Hangeul (노무현), I knew the family name Noh. I find that although I read slower in Korean than in English, it easier to read Korean in Hangeul than it is with Roman letters due to different romanization methods and the lack of clear syllables.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Update on my Life

Nothing has really happened in the past couple of months. The last week of July, I had a week vacation, but I did not go anywhere or do anything. If I had planned a trip, then I would have had to stay in Korea or else be in quarantine for nine days, which would have been unpaid leave. This month, the students do not go to regular Korean school and so we have more classes to teach. In addition, we also start earlier in the day. It takes some getting used to because before I did not have to be at work until about 1, but now I have to be there around 9.


In my spare time I have been studying some Korean a little bit, climbing the hill by my house, listening to Korean music. In addition, I have seen a couple of Koren movies. One movie I watched on YouTube (with English subtitles). It is called 200 Pounds Beauty or in Korean 미녀는 괴로워 (Mi-nyeo-neun Goe-ro-wo), which means Being Beautiful is Agonizing. It's about an ugly, obese woman who has plastic surgery from head to toe and then becomes a pop star. The URL for the first part of the movie is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lZ0gU3j20k. The other movie that I saw was Haeundae or in Korean 해운대. I was the only foreigner in the theater watching it there. I went to the box office and said that I wanted to see that movie and the man at the counter told me that it was a Korean movie. I told him that I knew. Many Koreans are surprised when I say a word in Korean or see me read something because most foreigners do not even learn how to read, much less any Korean vocabulary or grammar. I decided to see that movie because it takes place mostly in Haeundae-gu, which is the district of Pusan in which I live. It is about a tsunami coming onto the beach and destroying much of the area. It was a different feeling to watch a movie in a theater located down the street from where filming took place. Apparently, it is South Korea's first disaster movie. Some of it was completed digitally, since it is obvious that all the buildings along the beach were not destroyed and a ship did not lean up against Gwangan Bridge, the longest bridge in Korea, and break it. (See the image above.) It is still in place and I can see it everyday from the hill that I walk up and down.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jjimjilbang and Public Bath

Last night, I went to Spaland inside Shinsegae. It was the first time that I had ever been to a spa. I knew that there were public baths, but I did not know what else to expect. I had not planned to go there until I got to work. One of the Korean teachers asked me if I wanted to go to the spa with her and one of the Korean staff members. Since I did not have any other plans, I decided to go.

The first thing one does is check-in and get a locker number. Then, one goes upstairs to where the shoe lockers are and puts the shoes inside and takes the key. Then, one goes through the entrance and gets a uniform and towels. The women's uniforms are faded olive green shorts and a maroon t-shirt and the men's uniforms are very burnt orange shorts and a tan t-shirt. Then, one goes into the locker rooms and gets changed. After that, one goes out to where the rooms and outdoor foot baths are. The water was around 40 degrees Celsius. Some of the rooms are very hot, around 60 degrees Celsius. These hot rooms are called jjimjilbang (찜질방). There is a relaxation room and on the third floor, there is a room full of recliners and televisions. The speakers were in the head rests and it was impossible to hear the televisions of anybody else. The spa also has a restaurant, business center, nail salon, hair salon, and massage room. When one if ready to leave, it is time to take a bath. The public baths are entered from the locker rooms. One has to wash before getting into the public baths. The baths are not too different from a hot tub, except that everybody is naked. There is also an outdoor hotsprings. After one gets dressed, one checks out and gets one's shoes.

I was a bit nervous about going into the public baths for the first time because I'm not an exhibitionist, but then everything was okay. I was the only Westerner in the locker rooms. Unlike in many locker rooms in the Western world, nobody went out of her way to cover up in front of everybody, and there weren't really any private showers. The public baths is an experience that is not so bad after experiencing it; however, I would not want to go to a public bath in America.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

IT'S OFFICIAL!!

Tonight I signed another contract for one year so the next time that I will be back in America will be July of next year at the earliest. I'll be at the same campus and after August I will be the teacher who has been at the branch the longest and at that time, there will be only one employee who will have been at the campus longer. This time, the visa process is a lot less complicated since the only documentation for my visa renewal is the signed contract. The E-2 visa is complicated to get because one has to send an original college diploma, two sealed transcripts, and a criminal background check with Apostille, among other documents. Luckily, I did not have to go through that again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Let Me Out!

Last night, I decided to go to the ATM to get 30,000 won. It was late, but I did not think anything of it. I went into the ATM vestibule to use the machines like I always do. The thing that I didn't know was that the vestibule closes at 11:00. I was in the middle of the transaction when it happened. Everything went dark and I thought I lost 30,000 won. There was a man in the vestibule as well and he tried calling SECOM security from the phone located inside, but it was to no avail. Luckily, he figured out how to get the door to open manually, or else we might have been stuck. If I had been in there by myselft then I would have been stuck until the ATMs were available again at 7:00. This morning, I wanted to see if the machine ate my money or if it cancelled the transaction so I went back before it opened and waited outside until it was time. I withdrew 30,000 won then and it appeared that the previous night's transaction did not occur. I updated my passbook and it did not show that I was at the machine the night before. I deposited the money back and it was the first time that I had ever deposited money into the machine. Here, since nobody writes checks, one can deposit only cash and then the machine counts it right there.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What a Day!

Today when I woke up, I had to take my temperature and send it off so that the company knows that I do not have a fever. When I flushed the toilet, I realized that there was no water in the apartment because it sounded different. Therefore, I was unable to take a shower in the morning. This had happened before and I had to use bottled water from the fridge to get clean. Needless to say, that was a very cold shower. I did not have enough water this time and I did not have to go to work so I decided to wait until the water came back on. Throughout the day I kept checking to see if the water had come back on but it hadn't. Finally, I decided to go to Family Mart, which is a convenience store that is on practically every block her in Korea. I had to go out dirty and with a mask on which probably made people think I'm sick but I don't know them so what do I care. I told the man downstairs that there was no water and he told me that it would be back on at 6:00. It came back on before then but the water was a bit brown when I first turned it on. The shower water and the kitchen sink water quickly went clear, but the bathroom sink water took quite a while to go clear. I even gave up and turned it off but then later when I turned it on it was clear. Throughout the day I have been typing letters to my students. The company decided that since we were getting paid for this week but not teaching, that we had to type letters to all the students and their parents. It has been taking quite a while. The letters to the students are meant to be personal letters. I end up saying about the same thing in every one. The letters to the parents are basically progress reports. I've been typing quite a bit today. I've been shut-in because I don't like to go outside right now. I don't like to wear the mask when I go outside. This is going to be a boring week.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

LG Twins vs. Lotte Giants

April 26, I went to a baseball game here in Pusan. It was my first time going to one here and only the second time that I had ever been to a baseball game. I went more for the experience than out of interest in baseball. The game was supposed to start at 5:00, but then it got changed to 2:00 so that it could be broadcast on TV. We did not know until late that morning and so I got there about a half an hour late. At the baseball game, there were no hotdogs that I can remember, but they sold dried squid. In addition, there was a man in a chicken head selling chicken. Towards the end of the game, some people were passing out orange plastic bags, like grocery bags, that said Lotte Giants on them. The bags were for garbage, but before using them for that purpose, people put them on their heads. It does not sound as bad as it seems. To do what they did, one fills the bag with air and then ties it once so that the air cannot escape and then pulls the handles down until they fit over the ears. It looks a bit silly, but not as much when everybody does it.

There were a few events that were attention-getting. One of the batters got hit hard in the arm. Another player broke the bat and the part that he was not holding flew to first base. The biggest excitement was that #10 Lee Dae Ho (이대호) hit a home run and one of the students from the academy where I teach caught that ball. I did not see it, but apparently he brought it into the school. It was not one of my students; I taught this student for only a month last summer.

We Interrupt This Class. . .

Yesterday started out as a normal Monday; however, it quickly changed. In the middle of the first class, the branch manager came in and told me that we were going to have a week vacation because of swine flu in Seoul and the possibility of spreading it to the children. She then, in Korean, told the kids that we had the week off and their faces lit up. Later, another teacher asked me if I had heard the news. Within the last five minutes of class, my co-teacher came to my class to tell me and to tell the kids because she did not know that we already knew. The first group of kids were supposed to be there until 4:00 p.m. but they left at 3:15. After that, the phones were ringing off the hook and the Korean staff and Korean teachers had to inform parents about the cancellation of classes. There were some students who did not know and came to the hagwon but then were told there were no classes.

Because of the fear of swine flu, I have to take some precautions. I am prohibited from going into work. I have to take my temperature at 10:00 a.m. and 5 p.m. and then send the readings to the manager so she can send them to the headquarters in Pusan and then onto Seoul. I'm supposed to stay at home and if I do go out in public, then I have to wear a mask. There is a fear that foreigners will pass it around and in addition, it is believed that foreigners do not have as good an immune system as the Koreans because a lot of new teachers get sick when they first come to Korea. I cannot leave Pusan.

As a result of this, I have to write letters to all the students and parents. It will take a while because I have so many students. Luckily, this is a paid mandatory vacation. At first it looked like nobody was getting anything for this week off, but I will. I don't want to stay at home all this time, but the advantage to that is that I don't have to wear a mask.

Friday, April 3, 2009

What Did You Say?

After being here for a while, I've come to the realization that when people learn a language with a different alphabet that they transcribe the words into their own language, regardless of their abilities in the other language. When the phonics of the two languages don't match, then confusion happens. The Korean language uses the same character for r and l as well as p and f. Sometimes, the kids forget their books and so I tell them to go ask for a copy. Then, they ask me if they are to go ask for coffee. Sometimes the kids say grandfa or farents instead of grandpa or parents. One time one of my students said lobot and I could not figure out what a lobot was until I realized that he was saying robot. One time, the teachers went to dinner and one of the Korean teachers said that a certain kind of meat was duck, but the way he said it it sounded like dog. The reason is that a short u and a short o are both 어. He was saying an unaspirated k, which sounds like a g, instead of an aspirated k. Both words could be written as 덕.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Where are the Asian dolls?

Yesterday and Today, I went to Shinsegae Centum City. I walked around the store and I went to the toy section in the basement. I saw something that I could not believe--all the dolls had blond or medium brown hair. In America, it is not politically correct to have only blond-haired dolls. Mattel even came out with dolls of different colors of Barbie. There was one Barbie doll and a few Barbie look-alikes and most of them had varying shades of blond hair. The boxes said that they were made in Korea or China. The baby dolls also had blond hair. The boxes had pictures of Asian girls holding these dolls. It was a bit of a shock to me. In America, there would a public outcry over the lack of dolls of different colors. I was surprised that in Korea, a place where most kids have very dark hair and have two parents with black hair, the darkest color on the dolls' hair is medium brown.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

신세계 (Shinsegae): The Mecca of Department Store Shopping

Last week, Shinsegae Centum City (left) opened its doors and it is massive. It is now East Asia's largest multifunctional shopping center. I went on its second day open and I could not believe how big it is. According to Shinsegae's brochure, the store is on a 75,719 sq. meter plot of land (18.2 acres), and has a floor area of 509,810 sq. meters (5,487,594.84 sq. ft.). It cost 1.025 trillion won (USD 1.09 billion) to build. There are 14 floors above ground and four basement floors. The store has a golf course, movie theater with seating for 2,700 people, an IMAX theater, a spa, an ice skating rink, a food street, grocery store, bookstore, and everything a typical high-end department store would have. The floors are all marble and there are crystal chandeliers in the middle of the store as one goes up or down the escalators. The first time I went there, I walked around on the floor that sold the kitchen accessories and bedding and I could not believe the number of people working on just that floor. It was as if they had a worker for each rack or shelf. It was a bit intimidating. The bottom floor has the grocery items. Since Shinsegae owns E-Mart, the store-brand food was E-Mart brand, the same items that I could buy at the E-Mart two blocks away from home.

Shinsegae Centum City is not the only fancy thing in Centum City. It is next to a small Lotte Department store and BEXCO (Busan Exhibition and Convention Center). Centum City is an urban development project in Pusan. (Pusan is the old Romanization of 부산 and Busan is the new Romanization.) There are many fancy apartment buildings there. There is a Trump Towers and Centum Park is a very fancy apartment complex. Centum City is located in the Haeundae district of Pusan. Haeundae New Town is a beachfront community.

Shinsegae Centum City is very close to where I live and work. Above is a map of the Busan Subway. My subway stop is Jung-dong on the green line. Three subways stops away, Busan Museum of Modern Art, is where I work and one stop from that, Centum City, is where the store is located. All three stops are located in Haeundae. Before Shinsegae opened, I would have to ride the subway for a half an hour or longer if I wanted to go to a nice department store. The closest one that I know of is the main Lotte store in Pusan, which is located at Seomyeon station, which is on the green and orange lines. That store has only 10 floors above ground and two or three basement floors. Before Shinsegae, I thought Lotte was big as it had a grocery store, movie theater, travel agency, wedding coordinator, ophthalmologist's office and the typical department store items. Shinsegae puts Lotte to shame.

The department stores are popular places in South Korea because people have more money than what they did in years past and they want to spend it on nice things. Women typically wear nice dresses, skirts, or pants with high-heels. Many of them carry designer purses such as Louis Vuitton or Prada. Men who work in an office typically wear at the very least dress pants, shoes, and a dress shirt; however, most wear a suit. They also carry a bag, unlike American men, who will not because it is too similar to carrying a purse.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Korean Music

After being here for a while, I've acquired a liking for Korean music. My favorite song is Haru Haru (Day by Day) by Big Bang. It is also a favorite song of the kids. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays a couple of the kids in my first class want to hear it before class. They say, "Teacher, Big Bang, Haru Haru." Today, there were about 14 kids huddled around the computer listening and singing along to the song. One time, in another one of my classes, one of the questions in the book was about a favorite band. Most of the kids in the class picked Big Bang. Most of the ones who didn't picked The Wonder Girls, a Korean girl group.

Big Bang is a popular boy band in Korea. Their song Haru Haru is about a boy and a girl. The girl has cancer but does not want to tell the boy and so she pretends to be in a relationship with his friend so that he'll hate her so that it won't be so hard on him when she dies. The boy's friends are all in on this lie. When the girl goes in for surgery, one of his friends calls from the hospital to tell him and then the boy finds out that she really did love him, but she is already dead when she is wheeled out of the operating room. The girl is Min Young. The pretend boyfriend is T.O.P. and the real boyfriend is G-Dragon. The music video for Haru Haru is below.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Answer to the Poll Question

Before Korean had its own alphabet, it used Chinese characters, which are still used today. What is the name for these characters?
  • Sanskrit-0
  • Hangeul-3
  • Hanja-2
  • Hieroglyphics-1

The answer is Hanja (한자). Sanskrit is Indian and Hieroglyphics are Egyptian. Hangeul (한글) is the Korean script. Hanja is not used much anymore. Many people in the younger generation cannot read Hanja. Middle-aged people can read it because it was used so much during their younger days. Older people can read it well and can speak Japanese as well, due to the Japanese colonization of Korea. Hangeul was not used much until after World War II, and then only in North Korea. This was because the elitists did not want the general public to be able to read, which was the intention behind the invention of the alphabet. During the 1990s, Hangeul came into widespread use in South Korea. Here in Pusan, the subway signs are written in Hangeul, Hanja, and English (for most stops the Romanization of Hangeul). Many of the road signs have all three written forms. Perhaps, the next generation will not be able to read it because children typically do not learn hanja in school until middle school. The newspapers used to be written in Hanja, but now people do not have to know Hanja to be able to know what is going on in the world.

Korean computers have a toggle on them so that one can type in Hanja. One has to type each syllable in Hangeul, then press the Hanja button. Then, there are a few choices for that syllable. Each Hanja character is one syllable. One has to know Korean to first to know what to put for each syllable because there is a definition by each Hanja character. 大 (대) is the first syllable in Daegu, Daeyeon, and Daejeon. It is seen on the signs at the bus station and in the subway stations. My subway station is 中洞 in Hanja, 중동 in Hangeul, and Jung-dong (joong-doang) in English.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rice For Sale

I don't eat much rice at home. I have a bag in the freezer that has hardly been used, but in case I wanted more rice and were too lazy to go to a big grocery store, I know of a few places that sell rice, even though I have never been in them and neither has anybody that I know. This is all thanks to my ability to read in Korean. The places that sell bags of rice have signs that say <쌀> on them. 쌀 (ssal) is the Korean word for rice in a bag. There are convenience stores that have that on them. Until recently, I would see that word, but I did not know what it meant. Now I know. I have been studying Korean a little bit. There is more than one word for rice. While bagged rice is 쌀, rice that is ready to eat is 밥 (bap). It is on the end of some dishes that contain rice, such as 김밥 (gimbap) and 비빔밥 (bibimbap). It's amazing how much you can learn when you know how to read and write.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No School This Week!

This week I get a break. The break was scheduled for this week because Monday was Lunar New Year's, which is the same day as the Chinese New Year. Korea has the same Zodiac animals as China as well. I decided that since I spent 2,000,000 won during the last vacation (for LASIK) that I would not take any major trips during this vacation. So, I'm spending this vacation at home resting, as well as doing activities around Pusan and one or two day trips in Korea.

Today, I went to the Busan Aquarium, home to 50,000 critters. It is about a 15-minute walk from where I live. It is located at Haeundae Beach, the most famous beach in South Korea. I did not take any pictures but I some neat things. There are penguins and an otter family. There were lots of different fish there as well. I chose not to, but there was the option to go in a boat in the tank where they keep the sharks. There were a lot of young families at the aquarium today.

It will be interesting to see how things will be at work after we get back from the vacation. One of the Korean teachers quit after a month because she is moving to Dubai to become a flight attendant for Emirates Airlines. In addition, we will have a new manager because our old manager no longer works for our academy. This next one will be the third manager that I will have worked under since starting June 30. It will be exciting to meet the new manager.

My New Favorite Food cont'd.

I discovered on Friday that there is a difference between Japanese donkkas and Korean donkkas. I like the Japanese-style donkkas much better than I like the Korean donkkas. One of the other teachers and I ordered from a different restaurant and this one had Korean style donkkas. The Japanese ones are already cut when one gets them. The Korean ones are not. The Japanese ones are much crispier than the Korean ones. The meat was not as good a quality as the Japanese ones that I had had before. The Korean one that I had was more like a breaded sausage patty soaked in sauce. The Japanese ones are more like a fried pork chop with no bones and the fat trimmed from it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's Like Christmas Shopping

This afternoon, I went to Home Plus, which was a mistake since today is Sunday. There were so many people there shopping. These were mostly families. In Korea, many people have to work on Saturday, so Sunday is the day that they can spend time together as a family. Most weddings in Korea are on Sunday for that reason. I imagine that part of the reason that there were so many shoppers is that Solar (Lunar New Year's) is next weekend. This holiday and Chuseok are the big gift-giving holidays. Christmas gifts are given just to children and they do not receive nearly the number of presents that American children get. In Home Plus and E-Mart, some of the workers wear traditional Korean dress at work because they are the consultants for the Solar gifts. The traditional gifts given for these two holidays are practical gifts, not like some of the worthless, dust-collecting junk that people in America give. Fruit boxes are common as well as packages of SPAM or assorted sized of anchovies. Other gifts that people give include boxes that have toothpaste, shampoo, soap, lotion in one package. In one part of E-Mart, there are lots of socks in boxes. When you see the ones that you want to buy for somebody, just pick up the box that is already wrapped and ready to go. Rolls of wrapping paper are not very common here because any wrapped gift that somebody would give is already wrapped prior to purchase. The gifts that people give here are not ones that will just end up in a storage unit somewhere. People can wear or eat their gifts and if they are not wearable or edible, then they can use it to stay clean.

Answer to the latest poll question

What is Hello in Korean?

  • annyeong haseyo (안녕 하세요)-3
  • annyeong-hi gaseyo (안녕히 가세요)-0
  • gamsa hamnida (감사 합니다)-0
  • annyeong-hi gyeseyo (안녕히 계세요)-0

The correct answer is annyeong haseyo (아녕 하세요). Annyeong-hi gaseyo (안녕히 가세요) is a goodbye spoken to the person who is leaving. Gamsa hamnida (감사 합니다) means thank you. Annyeong-hi gyeseyo (안녕히 계세요) is a goodbye spoken to the person who is staying.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Are You Taller Than a 5th Grader?

Many people think that all Asians are short, but here in Korea, that is not the case. There are some short people, but there are also some tall people. As a whole, the Koreans are taller than the Ecuadorians. Here, it is not uncommon to see a man who is over six feet tall. The women are not short either. Some of the fifth graders are not much shorter than me. Some of them are only four or five inches shorter. While in Ecuador, we went to a school a few times and the students that we were working with were fifth graders. Those fifth graders were smaller than the fifth graders that I have in my classes now. It is the difference in the nutrition that they are getting. Many of the older people here a quite short. Middle-aged people are about an average height. People who are over six feet are mostly in their 20s or early 30s. In Ecuador, almost nobody was more than six feet tall. The people who were my height or shorter were quite numerous. South Korea is a developed country and Ecuador is not.

Hair

One thing I've noticed since I arrived, is the lack of body hair that Koreans have. In the summer, I would see men wearing shorts and they did not have much hair on their legs. I have not seen much hair on people's arms either. Very few men have a beard or mustache. Only once have I seen a Korean man with more than a couple day's worth of stubble. Most of them don't even have that much. Recently, I decided to remove the hair on my arms because one of the kids said that I had a lot of hair on my arms and asked if I was a man. That's one thing I do not want anybody to think about me. The stores do not sell much in the way of hair removal products. There are no women's shaving cream or gel. There is not much to choose from for men's shaving cream either. Koreans do not have much in the way of eyelashes either.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My New Favorite Food


Since I came to Korea, I have eaten donkkas (돈까스), which is fried pork cutlets. The picture on the right shows what they are. They are boneless pieces of pork that are covered in breading and then deep-fat fried. They are served with pork cutlet sauce, rice, and soup. I eat them at least once at week at a Japanese noodle restaurant around the corner from my apartment. I was never a big fan of meat, but this dish is delicious. Tuesday, at work, we ordered this take-out dish. When ordering food in Korea, the food does not come on disposable dishes. Instead, the delivery man comes back later to pick up the dishes. Only when ordering pizza or fried chicken does the food come on disposable plates. Monday, we ordered Korean food, and I learned that sometimes Korean restaurants recycle the side dishes. This is so the restauarants can make a profit. It is not very common for people to sue other people. This is evidenced in the Korean barbecue restaurants. There are grills in the middle of each table and the waiters bring out the meat and you cook it yourself. The last time we went there for a company dinner I thought that a place like that would not survive in America because people would sue because they got burned and/or they got sick because they did not cook the meat well enough. In Korea, (and China), people use the same chopsticks for eating and getting food off the plates that everybody gets food from.

What A Waste!

That is exactly what I am not thinking about my communication degree. There have been some changes in the procedures at the school. In thinking about these changes, I have been able to go back to my communication degree to explain to myself why the communication culture of the branch has changed. The theories that I learned in Human Communication Theory are proving to be invaluable in this time of transition. I can think of a few theories that apply to this situation. For example, I can think of Dramatism of Kenneth Burke to explain scapegoating to myself. (Kenneth Burke was the maternal grandfather of singer Harry Chapin, whose most famous song is "Cat's in the Cradle." Here's a video that I took off of YouTube that has the song on it.)

The most important theory for this series of events is Critical Theory of Commnication in Organizations. The change of one person and that person's style has completely changed the working environment. My communication classes have also helped me to know about Asian society, since Asian and Western cultures have different communication styles.

Happy New Year!

It is now 2009 here in Korea. It has been for nearly two hours. I do not have to work today, but instead, I have to work on Saturday. I do not have any big plans for the day other than relaxing and trying to go to bed at a good time. I've been working a lot this week, but my Tuesday/Thursday schedule is much easier than my Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule because I don't have as many classes and the classes are smaller.