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 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.