Monday, December 28, 2009

A dime for 2S2

I did some blog hopping tonight and ended up on someone's who was an expat here in Korea but moved over to Japan.

He wrote about "Community" and I thought his words to be inspiring.

The term “community” as it relates to the internet, is a marketing term. I doubt it started out that way, but these days it’s designed to create a false sense of closeness to people you will likely never meet in your actual community. And with that sense of false closeness, comes a willingness to financially support the hosts / focal point of that community.

Most of this financial support is done passively. Every click you make on someone’s blog/ message board/ web comic/ etc… is upping the amount of revenue brought in by ad views. It’s so ubiquitous that we ever consider how, each time we go back to argue about the Obama presidency, the owner of the site gets a few coins in their pocket.
 I think that I and others have talked about "community" and it's relationship to K-bloggers. We even are trying to form a conglomerate of sorts to get a better picture. This guy is trying to point out that commenting on people's blogs and following what people type is not really community. Yet he does say:
I’m of the opinion that a community is a function of location, not shared interests.

Instead it is when you talk to the people around you day-to-day, which I agree with. But to distill his words I would also say that to form a community would mean to talk to people outside the typing land. However, I guess he feels it is more about communicating with the everyday person around you, which is fine. But I think community can also mean to reach out to those of familiar backgrounds and create a network of support.

So it reminded me of 2S2 and how the idea of community plays into it. To get people familiar with each other in a certain area, build a network and create a neighborhood that is, well, physical and not virtual.

Anyways just some pennies for thought, which I believe are going "plunk."


Finally I am going to show you the proximity of where I live here in Suji. In my humble opinion both the structure of my building and surrounding area are a lot better.

The place I lived in last year:

To me it wasn't a building meant for people to live in, and in fact I finally figured out from the owner that my room was a renovated love hotel. I don't want to rehash the horrors of living in my last place since I know I made it very clear how much I hated it. In fact I hated it so much I must have erased this place from my head since I never think about it.

Let's move on and look around my new building.

We are going to start the tour with a view of when I leave my house. The building is shaped like a triangle with a space in the center. This is where the door faces. 

At the bottom and in the center is a gazebo, which I noticed seemed mostly used by smokers.

Leaving the front area of the building (where inside are the post-boxes and security guard) you are greeted by a gas station. More convenient is the little mart next to the gas station where I have often bought milk and trash bags.

Turn right and walk along the main road you can head towards Lotte Mart on the right or the "downtown" area on the left.

Above is the Lotte Mart where I do most of my shopping. I am close to an Emart and Homeplus, which JH gives me a ride to sometimes.
Below is a view of my building from this main intersection.

I didn't take pictures of the "downtown" area, since I just walked a few blocks and went to the bank. But there are some restaurants, DVD rental place, and a Daiso store. Basically I am trying to point out that although the building looks isolated it is near many conveniences, one of which is the post office and a library / gym.

However, the nearest subway station is a good walk away which can be easily accessed by bus. Yet, the busses that run around here go to many local subway stations so it is matter of choice. Also one Red bus goes directly from my area to Seoul, which I have ridden a few times.

On my outing I spotted this snow formation in the bushes.

Here we have a final view looking from the perspective where the gas station is. If we were to turn around you would see the path I walk to work everyday. When I go back to work, after my vacation, I will take pictures along my way to better illustrate this. Since I am a slow walker, especially if it is uphill, it takes me 40 min to get to work. Strangely it takes me less time to walk home.

Now that I finally have a good home in a nice location you will likely never hear me complain about it.

All I have to say is that if you are a teacher in Korea and living in a crap hole like my last place. Just wait it out till you can decide where to teach next. You will end up appreciating the smallest of things like a built in washing machine or a space big enough to fit a couch.


Soon JH and I will be heading South on a little adventure around Korea. He was hesitant about leaving tomorrow since the weather looks bad, but I reassured him that likely as we head away from Seoul the weather will be ok. hehe

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Boyfriend Wears BB Cream

My boyfriend (Korean) wears this stuff called "BB Cream." To understand why this is blog worthy note that I myself do not wear make up. Not even eye liner or masquera or lip gloss even. I never got into it and because of this I don't really have a clue how to wear makeup except lip stick since that is a no-brainer.

Sure in the summer I put on some sunscreen to protect myself from getting burned but I wouldn't call that make-up.

Really if you are a gal and wear make-up I have no problem with that. Just don't obsess about it in front of me or go on about some product.

But what about guys wearing make-up? It is a trend out here in Asia and the most commonly used product, I feel, is BB Cream.

What is BB Cream?
B.B Cream , also known as Blemish Balm, started off as a soothing treatment balm dermatologists + surgeons used on patients who underwent laser skin treatment. It helps to shield\protect and regenerate delicate skin. Korean actresses and stars soon started using this cream and it sparked off a huge craze in Korea due to its excellent results.

Beauty brands in Korea have since developed BB cream and made it more suitable for Asian skin.

It's a cream used to hide blemishes and practically make your skin look all one color. In my opinion, is this not also called "concealer"? Again I don't have much experience with makeup.

Supposedly using this stuff will improve your skin quality over time, which is better than it destroying your skin cells, I guess.

Therefore it is a product that can make the skin tone more even and improve skin texture as read here.

Guys wearing BB Cream: Weird or Who cares?
I don't mind that my boyfriend wears this stuff. It is not like he looks terrible without it on but since there is really no harm in it then I see no problem.

Collectively, however, it is certainly a little bit of a culture shock to see a man put on make-up or cream. There is a growing market of make-up products for men, more so in Japan, and so it seems some men care about their appearance enough to use products.

In my western culture (America) it is considered too lady-like to wear make-up by men (generally). However, men will wear cologne. But I bet there are some savvy enough to use products like BB Cream since it helps with blemishes and oily skin. Really I don't mind, wear whatever you want guys.

However, I have found myself listening to or reading from expat men how they find themselves at odds with the way Korean men approach fashion and their appearance.

Korean Male Fashion at odds with Western Men:
Let me first just say I love the way men dress here in Korea. There are many styles that I enjoy that young 20 somethings wear to that of the older 30ish crowd.

Take for example that I have seen Korean adult and young men wear pink. Male + pink clothing = not typical in Western Culture.

I found a post on the web that discusses this phenomenon:

I think that this is the most important angle to this topic. The issue isn’t that Korean men wear pink shirts, but that many Western foreigners insist on making a big deal of it. I consider this to be one instance of a cultural divide, however minor it may be.

Why is it that foreigners aren’t willing to adopt this particular piece of Korean culture, when they often adopt other practices like removing their shoes inside, pouring alcohol with two hands for others, and participating in holiday events?

One explanation may be that this particular piece of culture, the fear of being labeled gay, is so deeply embedded in the identity of the average Western male, and they are unwilling to compromise their sexual identity even within a foreign society that doesn’t subscribe to the same views. How powerful the color pink must be to affect the male identity even across oceans!
 Ok I don't expect foreigners to adopt to their Korean surroundings and wear pink or other styles. I merely want to point out that Korean men generally have a different fashion sense than Western men and perhaps is true for women. But this is about men.

Maybe the general complaint is that Western men find it hard to get their size here in Korea. Certainly I can have the same problem here as a woman.

I just wonder what it is like for the Western man to shop in Korea. Do they have a particular favorite brand, shop or area they like to frequent? Do some just hold off till they can shop when they get back home?

If they shop in Korea what styles do they choose or adopt? Is it really such a big deal?

Probably the most important fashion choice is work clothes, since it can help or hinder your reputation depending on where you work.

I for one don't worry about what I wear to work since my coteacher doesn't say anything about it. But for guys I think if you don't wear a tie or slacks then it is considered too casual. Also it depends on your workplace's dress code, of course. For us teachers some might be working at a school that expect you to dress like a "Professional".

Therefore, I find that the Korean Male "Professional" look isn't all that bad.

That is pretty much what my boyfriend wheres to work. Looks comfortable and warm for this season.

Yet another complaint in the male shopping world I tend to hear out here is that jeans end up looking too styled. White-washed with stripes...etc. I suppose the Western Guy just wants some plane "normal" jeans. But when he goes to the store he is faced with this:

I don't mind seeing this style on men. But I can see why some guys would not want to choose this considering they may not care for this genre. White-washed jeans I think were popular during the Backstreet Boys days.

Looking around Gmarket you can see what is out there and yes there are jeans that aren't white washed.

Shopping is always a task and with enough patience you can find what you are looking for even here in Korea.

To sum up I would just say that BB Cream, pink shirts and white-washed jeans are probably not on the top of a Western guy's shopping list. So it is that I find myself intrigued by the fashion choices of my boyfriend.

What kind of fashion differences do you find yourself facing here in South Korea? (Man or Woman) ;) Let us know.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Karate Kid Remake

First take a look at the trailer:

I got note of this from noise I heard around the net and then finally saw the trailer via Angry Asian Man.

He says:
Moving the action from Southern California to China completely changes what's happening here. The trailer is overflowing with stereotypes -- yes, another narrative about a Westerner in the strange, exotic Orient -- not to mention capitalizing on America's current anxieties over a rapidly growing China.
I have to say that it will likely throw in some stereotypes but of what nature? I would like to point out that typically from my experience that the general perception of black people coming from Asian people in Asia (China, Japan, Korea) is that of difference. When I was dating my Chinese boyfriend back in college he would tell me how his people have a word for black people and that is "ghost".  Yes that is wrong and as I dated that guy I got to see him learn how to shrug off his cultural past and accept everyone as equal.

The stereotypes you might find in this movie may come from when the young black character is being harassed because he is black or in general just is the "other". But it is this issue that strikes me as a reason to watch this movie when it comes out. However, I am not really sure the character is being harassed because of his who knows. I am just intrigued that the storyline is of this nature of the kid coming to a very foreign country, which is obviously not his choice, and having to deal with it. When you think about it that kind of relates to many expats experience here in Korea (although we made the choice) and so that is why I might watch this movie.

Sure it is going to be a very cliche movie. In my opinion, the original Karate Kid movies weren't exactly far from being cliche themselves. But nowadays they are nostalgic reminders of my youth.

Looking at the preview it actually looks like a worthy remake. As I said for one reason being the racial tension that may or may not be displayed in the movie. But also because I think the actor selection is good.

I am not sure but I think I met Will Smith's son. I worked at a famous summer camp in the mountains in New York. Many celebrities children attended that camp and it was rumored Will Smith's son was there. One day we were having a free day and a little boy (looked just like him) was running past me and fell down. I went up to him and asked if he was all right. He just looked me in the eye and smiled then ran off. That was 9 years ago, so that kid must have been around 6 or 7 years old. Looked just like him I swear..

haha well I bet this new Karate Kid movie will make its way to Korea. So I guess look out for it. But if the thought of a Karate Kid remake makes you twinge then let's just hope they never remake Goonies or Adventure in Babysitting. And if they ever touch The Neverending Story then I am going to crawl into a cave and hide.

Dan & Rob's Christmas Party

That (the dog JH is holding) is Hubble who was a great friend during Daniel Grey's and Roboseyo's Christmas eve party.

It was a cheerful event with people I did and didn't know. We shared tales of donuts and alligators, basically relating stories from our countries.

But I guess you could say the fantastic part was the dinner, served up by Daniel Grey and thanks to the Yongsan garrison.

A real oven backed Turkey to carve!

There was stuffing, mashed potatoes and many more.

Yes...that's cherry and pumpkin pie folks. Yum!
I bought a Christmas Paris Baguette Cheesecake which I thought was suiting after hearing about Paul's run in with their Christmas CD.
Some reviews I got were that it didn't taste like cheesecake and was too dry. Well what can you expect when you are in Korea? I think it was some different kind of cheesecake than what we were all familiar with.

The cake came with a free hat, which I am sporting above.

We stayed late into the night (12:45AM) playing Scrabble where Dan beat us with his wits. All in all, it was a great time and reminded me of the lovely friends I have made and stuck with during my time here.

Well next up New Years!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snowy Pancakes

Last Sunday I was in the mood for my favorite gingerbread and walnut pancakes that Butter Finger Pancakes specialize in. I have been to the spots in Seoul but heard of one in Bundang. So with a little internet searching I figured out where the Bundang one is located.

You head to the Jeongja area or to the Jeongja station and head out towards the cafe street. This is the same area I blogged about before in November. Head all the way down till it looks like the cafes are fading away and there is a gas station on the right. Opposite the gas station is the restaurant.

When we got there it was snowing.

Ah yes snow, the reminder that winter is real. I don't mind the snow really because it does make everything pretty. Oh I am sporting my new winter coat there that I bought and had shipped from America. I'm loving it!! Keeps me cozy even when the cold wind is blowing. Worth every penny!

Enough chilling outside let's go in and wait to be seated.

The set up of the restaurant was familiar with the other ones I have been too.

We were seated and our food came shortly, due to that we ordered it while waiting.
JH had the chicken and noodle soup, which tasted very authentic. However, I really don't know how one can mess up chicken soup.

I had my happy gingerbread pancakes.

Poor guy being made to eat Western food. Ah well...I've lost count the many times I have eaten kimchi.

There are more places to discover in my area as I get accustomed to it all. I think JH likes exploring with me, although the winter season seems to make him hibernate. haha

Finish the School Year Right

Today at work we had no classes so I spent time preparing for next semester. But I also had a useful conversation with my coteacher. I listened to her and what she had to say without reacting. The advice you guys gave me helped me see that this isn't an "Us" vs "Them" game, but rather, I guess, just culture shock.

I thought I let you guys know and to say that I do enjoy my new school and job. I want to be a great teacher but also a reasonable coworker at the same time.

They say it might snow on Christmas Day so I wish you all a wonderful holiday season.

It's time I get back into blogging about non-school things I suppose. Still need to show you guys what my building looks like and the area.

For now I need to make dinner.  ;)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Really What Do I Do?

I had another argumentative talk with my coteacher today. I tried to tell her that the kids tell me they are bored in class (which is true) and that they want to learn from games and fun things. Not to listen and repeat and memorize something.

But she just went on and on about how she perceives English should be taught. She says she loves the children. I asked "Do you think I don't love them?"

Things got cut off without a resolution. The only conclusion I made was to give up and stop fighting it. Stop trying to defend the "foreigner" teacher diposition. Do what she says...

I don't know if she will be the same teacher next semester. I want to quit having these arguments so I guess I should try to understand her and the Korean way of doing and thinking harder.

It makes me want to give up teaching English. All I really want is for my point of view to be heard, and comprehended. Not shut down and then lectured on the "right" way. I get it...the kids levels are low so we need to make the materials for that. But what about my experience and the different teaching methods I saw at my old school? (We went around to other schools and had lesson demos). I took the TEFL course and understand the lessons should be planned according to their level and cultural make up. But that they also should include diverse materials to break up things.

All in all, we just end up arguing with each other because I refuse to agree with her. I refuse to follow her like a robot and instead try to explain to her my ideas and reasons behind the materials I planned out. But no... it's useless.

I feel so dumb. :(

Monday, December 21, 2009

Conversation about Lovesticks

Often times I like to challenge JH about certain cultural aspects of South Korea to see what he has to say. What is fun is how I learn more about him and his values.

Last weekend we were in the car getting through a traffic jam in Gangnam. I was talking to him about how at my new school my new coteacher can be very strict. I related how I found it humorous that when she found a stick in the classroom she held it like it were a long lost friend. I talked about how in America children are not allowed to be hit or touched in any way when being disciplined.

From what I know the school system in Korea has favored the hitting a child system as their classroom behavior management for some time. Just recently the Korean government passed a law that ends this form of punishment. Nowadays you can see how some teacher’s are stumbling over what to do with out being able to use their stick or other object to discipline a child. Indeed, in some of the classrooms I pass by or frequent the teacher has a short stick in their hands. They don’t hit anyone, from what I have seen, but rather use it to make a loud noise on the desk or threaten with.

To American eyes this is strange and somewhat shocking. I talked about this with JH and finally asked him what he thought. Whether “lovesticks,” as they are nicknamed out here, should be used in the classroom.

He said very clearly and bluntly, “Yes.” With wide-eyes I asked him, “Really?!” And he confirmed his answer.

What ensued was a lengthy and hot argument over why violence or hitting children should not be a means of discipline. I said I could kind of understand why someone would want to discipline teenagers in this way, but young elementary children I couldn’t wrap my mind around.

It was how he was brought up in public school and so he really has nothing to compare it to. Just as I can’t relate to being threatened by a stick when I was in school, so you can see we both were ending up being very stubborn in our views.

But this speaks to a greater dilemma in public schools here in Korea, which I also talked about with JH. With the new law not permitting discipline by “lovesticks” or hitting there seems to be nothing to replace it. So kids are gaining more power. Teacher’s are losing their “face” I guess you could say because a well developed and tested classroom management system seems to be invisible.

I notice this when I walk into a class that is unruly and when the children are talking and not listening to me or my coteacher. Parents even encourage their kids to not care about what their teacher’s say. I know this because at my old school my coteacher reminded me of it and how it was causing her to be annoyed.

So I asked JH what is going to happen with children and the school system since the embedded form of classroom management has been eradicated. He didn’t really have an answer except that he sees children becoming more unruly.

I tried to tell him how children should want to learn not out of fear but because they are interested. And it is the teacher’s duty to make a lesson interesting, fun and basically desirable. Not to force them to learn. I think he understood this concept but kept on going back to that when a child misbehaves they need to be taught a lesson, and that lesson is “Stop being bad or else I will get hit.”

I knew I couldn’t change his mind, but told him that I grew up without having to fear being hit in school and I learned right from wrong just fine.

The conversation died out as he became frustrated with the traffic jam ahead of him. We concluded that we both were stubborn. Later on I teased him that if I ever saw him hit a kid with a lovestick that I would come up behind him and hit him. He didn’t get it at first but then realized what I was saying. Ha!

I think if I plan to live a long time here in Korea I best get use to these cultural differences that seem very difficult to swallow. Maybe just try to understand them more.
Also as I learn more about JH and that he has traits within him that I find repulsing I am going to have to understand him more. And please don't think of him as some kind of aggressive person. He is really a sweet guy just brought up in the Korean way which I talked about here. 

I am idealist and feel that my western influence may some how have an impact on him, and so I hope he starts to see things from a different perspective.

All in all, it makes me wonder about what other differences there are between my upbringing and a Koreans upbringing. ;)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Looks Like Christmas Spirit

Feeling jolly this Christmas season but also homesick not just for my family but the festive things that typically go on back there.

Caught side of several Christmas light videos on youtube where folks coordinate it all to a tune. Quite amazing I think and makes me wish I could hop in a car and go Christmas light touring like I use to do.

Anyways, here are a selection of those videos:

Merry Holidays!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Materials from One Year of Teaching

One of the boxes I took with me was full of stuff from teaching at my last school. I had accumulated what probably most teachers pile up. Such as lesson plans, pencils, pens, flashcards, notebooks, toys you want to give as prizes, and so on.

Going through the stuff I felt some regret at how things turned out at my last school and wish I could be there. The kids I taught are going to graduate and I wish I could see them off as they change from children to adolescents. But I learned so much from that position and can now teach with experience.

I know I have been writing a lot lately about the job. It seems to have consumed my life these days. I want to say I do a lot of planning at work and don't waste my time on the interwebs, even though I painted that picture.

But next week I only teach for two days before vacation hits. Then it's two weeks of vacation then two weeks of winter English camp at the school. February comes and it is time to prepare for the new semester, which is the beginning of a new school year. I may get different coteachers so the whole game might change. Also the age level I teach might change too. I am not nervous about those changes as I know there will be time to ease into it all.

In my last post I received some great comments about the situation I am adjusting too so thank you. ;)

The holidays are coming and I am behind in family gifts and cards. Poor JH doesn't even have a gift yet, but I hope to fix that tomorrow.

Stay warm everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Public schools are not free of stress or frustrations. In comparison to hagwons I think the job itself is a whole lot different. Sure you are teaching English to kids but the goals of your superiors are different.

What I am talking about really here is how one's idea of how and what to teach often times is very different from the opinions of your coteacher. This is a good example of eastern thought clashing with western thought.

At my last school the mix was like water and oil, meaning we didn't get along. I gave up really and focused on the advanced class, which I was left to my own design. Now at my new school when I try to explain my opinion of why I want to teach selected materials I seem to get a lot of criticism.

Recruiters like to tell you that every public school is the same, and I think they are making this assumption based on the fact that at every elementary school the curriculum is the same. But not every public school is equal.

It comes down to their interpretation of how English should be taught, and there is no changing it. I guess that I still haven't adjusted well to the Korean education system since I find myself up against a wall this time.

Here's the situation:
Winter camp is next month and so all the preparations need to be squared away. I have experience teaching 4 camp sessions, so I know what it is like.  Or I think I know...

I will teach 4th and 6th graders while the other foreign teacher will teach 3rd and 5th grades. We will both teach the same subjects such as "World Culture" and "Sports Day."

The situation I walked into was that the previous teachers made a plan for winter camp but it was very lean and needed more. So I added more to it using stuff from last year.

The problem came today when my coteacher checked it and made the remark that my materials were too difficult for 3rd and 4th grades. There were a few worksheets with sentences and maps on it. I didn't make the material but was borrowing it.

Immediately I tried to explain to her that it doesn't matter what material you use as long as the teacher adjusts the way they teach. Meaning I was handed these same materials last year and said "Go~". So I learned to adjust myself to the students and not adjust the materials. This is a teaching method and philosophy I picked up from experience. Last year at mountain winter camp I used the same materials for the lower grades and it came out fine. They spoke, had fun and learned a thing or two.

But she frowned and said "No." At that point I did the thing that I should not be doing anymore, which is I got upset and took it personally. You would think I have learned by now.

Needless to say I tried to defend my understanding of how to be a teacher. Yet she stood her ground with what she thinks how English should be taught.

In the end, you have to yield to what they want. You are in Korea and it is their court. Logically you would think that they would try to understand where you are coming from but it is more that they want you to adjust to their ways.

So as you can see I need to readjust myself and create an image that they will be pleased with.

How to make this a positive experience:
It is my opinion that I need to stop thinking that they will someday understand it all from my perspective.

I have the choice of just giving up and becoming a non-creative and robotic teacher who doesn't care anymore. Or I could adjust to their ideals, yet find a way to be creative and still teach the "Joy" way.

In other words I understand where my coteacher is coming from. She demands that English be taught to the children with the goal that they speak. So speaking is a priority of theirs. That means my lessons should cater towards speaking as an objective.

They want to teach by talking slowly and clearly, as she put it "This is the most important thing." At first it was a little insulting to hear her ask this of me since I already do this. But I guess she wants to make sure.

An Example of Teaching Differences:
I made the mistake this week of giving out to my 2nd graders "The Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" song lyrics with Korean next to it. My coteacher and the Korean 2nd grade teachers complained it was too hard for their students.

From my point of view I wanted to teach them the festive holiday song that was accompanied by a fun video. At my old school a similar method was used to learn a song. First you read the words and get use to them. Then you sing the song over and over till you know it.

My coteacher told me that it was too hard for them and suggested instead to focus on teaching them only a few sentences. And to repeat it over and over again. Not from the song, cut that out, but teach them a sentence like "The reindeer is brown" and make a lesson out of that. (You can do it like this: The____ is _____)

Initially, after hearing this I felt as if she wanted me to just be some kind of English Robot babysitter. Then I have thought about it some more and realized that her method is valid.

They are English Foreign Language students and should learn in a simple and easy format. This doesn't mean that my lessons have to be boring or that I as the teacher will end up looking like an English robot. It means I can make fun games and activities to help them reinforce those one sentences they are learning.

Readjustment Realization:
What I am trying to point out here is that I need to change and not them. As a westerner and independent woman this is something that is very hard.

But I know what happens when you don't adjust to what they want, and I don't want that to happen again. I want my coteacher to see me as useful, smart and a darn good teacher.

And so I started to think some more and realized that teaching is not only about relating content and how to say English words, but it involves catering to Multiple Intelligences.

I know they want me to plan for their level, but what about their intelligence? For example, some students may respond well to listen and repeat. While other students need more hands on activities like a craft or role play game.

What I wish I could do is talk to my coteacher about this teaching method and have a lovely conversation. But I am learning now that my coteacher is an older stubborn woman set in her ways. I respect that and so understand there is no point trying to shake up her roots.

Instead I will just plan my classes to teach them to speak a certain phrase or words but use materials and methods that will cater to different intelligences, without her really knowing that is what I am doing.

I feel like I am the only teacher out here who takes their job too seriously (but who knows). Wish I could be the teacher who just goes through it all without really caring and then hitting the bars in the evening. But unfortunately my nature won't let me do that. Yet I am sure I could try to take it a little less seriously~

Well I feel good for getting that out. My other foreign coworker talked to me on the way home about how she is dealing with the same things. I have to say I was skeptical about our relationship at first but now I am seeing that we have a lot in common. I hope we help each other out more ;)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rice Crispy Chicken and Restrictions

You are looking at my dinner tonight. On the right we have some Rice Crispy Chicken with a salad on the left. And some baked beans up top. All made with ingredients found here in Korea at my local stores such as Lotte Mart and Homeplus.

What you do is slice some chicken breasts so that they are more thin. Then you stir up an egg in one bowl, and in the other make a flour mixture. This consists of flour, crushed up rice crispies and seasonings (salt, basil, Italian season mix and pepper).  You drench the chicken in the egg bowl then coat it in the flour mix bowl. Add it to a frying pan with oil warmed up in it and cook on both sides for about 30 minutes. Or until it is not pink inside.

Make sure to place the cooked peices on some paper towels to let the oil soak up.

Work has been busy, mostly because of planning and new job stuff. I went yesterday with my coteacher to the immigration office to apply for my new alien card. It took a long time because she got lost on the way, but the actual time spent at the office was very short. Then today we attended an English Festival at a school nearby that was huge and basically every floor had an English themed room, it was mind blowing.

Some issues I have been facing lately is the government restrictions that the school's server has. For example many frequented websites I use are blocked. I asked about unblocking it but they gave me the "There is nothing we can do" speech. This makes me a bit sad because I really wanted to be able to blog from work, but their server blocks blogger's maintenance page.

I worry that if I don't blog enough you guys will go away. :( But at the same time I know quality is better than quantity. Sigh~

I am trying to figure out how to get a VPN to work on my computer at work to get around this.

I hope to get back into the swing of things and show and tell more of my life here. But if I don't blog as much as before is that okay with you guys??

It's interesting, the blogger community that is, for it seems some really try to update regularly and make themselves become popular. I don't mind becoming popular or well known in the process but it isn't a goal of mine. I would rather have a strong audience of 50 a day than try to maximize traffic to up to 2,000 visits a day. Anyways, this stuff makes my head spin.

As you can see I had a good dinner and now feel full and satisfied. The weather is bitterly cold these days as Christmas approaches. JH and I have the same vacation so we are going to spend it seeing some sights in Korea. I hope it won't be too cold during that time and that we end up having an unpleasant experience. But to be able to rest and be with JH will be very welcomed. All right let me know what you guys think about that blogging stuff...thanks.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chion-in: Little Discoveries

On the last full day in Japan, despite feeling tired, I traveled back over to Kyoto to see a temple site. I chose to go to the Chion-in Temple site area since it wasn't too far from the Kyoto station where I would start off at and it offered both an historical sight plus some shopping.

This picture was taken on the bus as I rode around making my way to the area. I enjoyed the bus rides a lot in Kyoto, making observations of how some things looked familiar and others not. Also it was fun to experience being driven around on the opposite side of the road.

I got off near Gion street and walked across to where there was the entrance. I was making my way towards the San-mon gate which was really big.

On the way I spotted some interesting textures inside a water pot.

There was a construction site which had a large wall around it, similar to what you see out here. I liked the iris decoration...
Then I came to the gate and noticed how enormous it was.

A lamp~
A sign at the entrance, which seemed to captivate this older gentleman. I can only imagine he was reading it and taking in the information. I merely liked the juxtaposition of him and the sign.

Going up the stairs of the temple was a bit of a task for my weary body. But I figured it was part of the whole giving up lifestyle and embracing suffering that Buddhism often talks about.

From above the steps you can see a good view of Kyoto. Looking around the gate I noticed there were some decorations. I think this is likely to be a lamp which is lit up at night.

A view through the walkway~

It was very bright this day, in fact the next day it was rainy and gray outside. I was fortunate, I feel, to get such great weather on my time there.

After passing through the gate I had several options. There was a small garden I could have paid an entrance fee and walked around in or you can make your way up the steps to the main attraction. I knew Japanese gardens are spectacular but also took in account that my body was only up for so much that day. So I made my up the many steps to the main hall of the area.

On the way I spotted this structure so quaint and quietly sitting in a garden.
It was bordered off so I couldn't get closer...that's ok.
Getting closer to the top~

In sight was the Meido Hall with it's large swooping roof.

Since this building houses the miei (sacred image) of the founder, Hōnen, this building is called the Mieidō (hall that houses the image of Hōnen). This hall serves as the center of the Chion-in temple complex.
There was a faint scent of incense in the air and I could hear the chiming of a gong along with the deep sound of a monk chanting. I knew I wanted to get in and take a closer look but first I was a little hungry. On the opposite side of the temple hall was a gift and snack shop. I stepped inside and ate a few rice balls I bought earlier just for this kind of situation.

After eating I was ready to visit inside the Buddhist hall.

Before going in I looked around the area in front. There was a prayer incense holder area.

Before entering the temple it was mandatory to take off one's shoes. They had bags for you so that you could carry your shoes with you. I suppose this is safer than leaving them in front of the temple, which I think was the traditional way of doing things. Also this temple sees a lot of local visitors for yearly rituals.
I cooperated and took off my shoes and carried them in a complimentary plastic bag. Here is a view looking from the temple steps.

I was not allowed to take any pictures inside and respected their wishes. Instead I took mental pictures by sitting out of the way and watching the rituals going on.

The foremost religious practice in the Pure Land Schools of Buddhism. Nembutsu literally means ‘Mindfulness of the Buddha’. It was thus originally a meditative practice with the Buddha and his innumerable merits ‘kept in mind’, i.e. as an object of contemplation.
Maybe you know what there is to know about Buddhism but I want to make sure my readers understand that it is a religion that has many different sects. Also understand that as it left India and traveled on the Silk Road to many regions across Asia that it blended with local traditions as well.

In America I encountered Buddhism through learning about it in my Asian Art History classes, but also through entertainment. I feel now that the Buddhism I have seen abroad and the kind I have seen back home in America are entirely separate from each other. It is advertised as this non-chalant, easy going, "zen" thing that offers you piece of mind.  Yes some practices strive for this but all in all most Buddhist monks live very routine and structured lives.

While sitting in the hall I couldn't help but feel how ritualistic and ancient this religion is. When the monk chanted the sutras and struck the gong in a timely fashion I took in what I could from this ambiance. It made me want to dive deeper into the religion and truly understand it more. Also I wished that I had the language to know what was going on.

After going through all these thoughts and emotions I felt less tense from my travels. Finally I felt satisfied and made my out of the temple to look around the rest of the area.

On my way out I saw these patterns in the shadows.

The corridors which connect the Mieidō (hall which houses the image of Hōnen) to the Shūedō (Assembly Hall), Ōhōjō (Large Guest House) and Kohōjō (Small Guest House) total 550 meters in length. When you walk through these corridors, they make a sound similar to that of a nightingale. The less noise you try to make, the more the floorboards creak, so the floorboards served the function of a burglar alarm.

Making my way around the main hall I saw this fountain dripping water.


Up these flights of stairs are the Haido and Gobyo, more sacred sights and national treasures. I think that not many visitors go beyond this point since the task of getting there is to climb many stairs. You can see one visitor going up. Before she left I noticed that she took in the sight of so many stairs to climb and made a praying gesture and went up.
This is also the point where I took that video in my montage I made a few days ago.

I turned around and went back to look at the other features of this area.

Rooftop view of the Kyozo or sutra repository.

Nearby were some other structures encapsulated by the fall colors.

A stone bridge~
Path from the bridge that leads to a shrine.

It seemed like it was spring and fall at the same time.

Water purification area~

Unfortunately I don't know what this structure is all about.

These were the benches out front near the snack/gift shop. I liked the contrast of the Japanese letters against the blue. I think it is has been noted how Japanese characters are within themselves a great design, and perhaps this is why they are so catching to the eye.

This is where I am going to have to leave you. I finished off this trip by buying a few things inside the gift shop. Later I meandered into Gion and had a fabulous lunch along with more gift shopping. I will write on that at a different time. For now, I hope this post shows you the fun I had in Kyoto and how you can find small wonders in this world.

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