Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bulgolgi and Kimchi on The Simpsons

A recent episode of The Simpsons was a take on Foodies and food blogging. It was quite hilarious as most of it was a great satire of the real thing. At one point they played a song in the tune of, "Empire State of Mind" but talking about foodies.

"Rolling into K-town...bibimbop and bulgolgi..."

Watch the video for the whole thing and feel great that Korea was mentioned. :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm Grateful To Have My Job

Today I read an article from The Grand Narrative, "Advice to Women Looking for Work: "Say you like to sing and dance." It reiterates the story of one young lady who has gone through so much in her life just to find herself not getting a job. This story highlights how students these days are filled with ambition and the desire to get a quality job, but come out to a world that doesn't match.

I want to talk about this aspect of Korean society because I think it might help those living here or who are considering it. As for me, I got a dose of this part of Korean life when dating two Korean men. So I also think it is important for the ladies to hear about how dating Korean men will likely mean you come to know this aspect of Korean society very closely. More importantly it can end up shaping your relationship and future with said person.

My first encounter with how the hiring process goes in Korea, came with my first Korean boyfriend. After I moved to Korea for the first time he followed suit from America after he finished his English studies. This was the summer time and we enjoyed a fruitful time together. But then came the Fall season and he prepared himself for interviews, by getting the typical Photoshopped resume picture and then trying on suits. Throughout it all I was supportive, but I didn't know just what he was really in for. After he got his job at a corporation (not a major one but was large enough) he went on field trips with the company which were meant for bonding and also seeing their offsite locations. During this time I didn't see him much, and communication was starting to run dry.

As he began his work at his new office things seemed to go downhill from there. He had to work late and attend after-work dinners. Our lifestyles began to clash. I got off work and was home by 5, had dinner and enjoyed my evening. The weekends were my time to get out and explore. Yet he worked late and started to view the weekend as his time to rest.

At one point the phone calls stopped coming and eventually we broke up. It wasn't a good break up because he found someone who he said, "...could have drinks with after work." It was at this time I realized how separate I was from this aspect of Korean society. Yet I moved on and found my second boyfriend.

Before I continue, I want to comment here a little on that experience. Definitely, for sure he changed after getting a real job and one that was quite typical of Korean work-life society. But our relationship had other issues and that is likely why we broke up. However, the point is that a Korean person doesn't simply just a get a job here and goes to work on a set schedule and la-di-da. They become a part of a team, tooth and nail, and it seems if you start to look like someone on the outside then things can go differently.

My next Korean boyfriend already had a job for some time and so was use to the work life. Plus his job was different. He worked for a small company selling and importing tiles. So he wasn't a slave at some office downtown.

Yet by the end of our time together he was certainly a tired man. Because he is the only employer for his company he handles everything. Clients call and treat him like an unintelligent slave and if they beckon his presence he usually goes there right away. The man lived a daily life of stress from client demands and also having to drive around the country. I was always supportive of him and let him have his time to rest. But in the scheme of things it started to eat away at our relationship.

The thing is, though, people like him work so hard because they know they need to for their future. I know this because we would have reoccurring conversations about our future together and the topic of "work" came up. His vision of the future included us sending our children to hagwons so they can be on a competitive edge with everyone. This would lead me to (in that foreigner arrogant way) talk about how I wish my children would grow up without cram schools so they can learn to be themselves, and that is what is most important in life...not test scores.

Even though he knew what I was talking about he put me back on point by telling me that this was Korea and in the end our children would have to fall in line with everyone else. I would always sit silently after these conversations and contemplate a sad future as he had envisioned.

Again, my break up with him was for personal reasons and thus shouldn't be blamed on Korean society. But I can't help but be honest and say that the troubles of Korean society were weaved into our relationship. It certainly depends on how strong people are attached to what is "right" and "wrong." But you can't escape it.

Thinking about it all I can't help but feel sorry for young Korean people who want to have beautiful rich lives for themselves in the future. But at the end of the day have to make due with what they can get and give over their bleeding heart just to not fall between the cracks. In that same sense I get a bit annoyed that, from the appearance of things, I can't see anyone or persons taking the pitchfork and rebelling. This brings me to something I'm No Picasso said:

When young Koreans start turning their noses up at jobs with bigger salaries, weightier company names and longer working hours, and turning instead to more average jobs that allow them more free time to focus on their own lives and their families, then that's when the ship will start to turn around. In his mind (and mine as well), realistically, you can't have both.

She continues to point out how some Korean people wonder why they need to work so hard in the first place. Korea is doing well economically these days, so it seems slowing things down might not hurt. I would mention this to my ex during one of our conversations, that Korea is up to speed with the rest of the world. He merely laughed and said it was impossible.

I don't really expect Korean people to suddenly change and mimic other nations in their happier work life. Yet I do sense that slowly, the structures that be today, will eventually melt and mold itself into something that functions in a way that serves Korean society for the better.

Personally, what it comes down to is this question. Do I want to marry a Korean man and live with him here forever? Possibly molding me into this troubling aspect of Korean society. That is where I agree with INP and her point of having a big weight on her shoulders. Definitely, as I became close to marrying my ex that weight became heavier and heavier. So it is for future Korean residents and current ones if you plan to stay here longer or involve yourself with a K-man...eventually all this will be yours to really deeply think about.

Finally, I want to say that after reading both those articles I couldn't help but feel grateful for my work status here in Korea. I have a good salary, a free house, pension, severance and health insurance. All was simply obtained because I'm a native speaker and have a few degrees. I suddenly became grateful for what I have, compared to what so many young Korean people are starving themselves to find. I truly do wish Korea transformed itself and let people have a break more often.

Ink is on the Paper

Just finished signing my new contract. There were a few changes in there, one including I have to give a deposit for my house (wasn't done last year).

As for the raise, I'll just say it wasn't what I was shooting for but it is in a good range. He thanked me for returning next year, and I sincerely said I look forward to it. Also I'll be in the same grade and subject, so I'm happy with that too.

Now to kick back I guess and relax...hey Christmas is coming.

No More School on Saturdays Means Changes

Just got word, right before I sign my new contract, that due to the "no-more school on Saturdays" thing that there will be changes next year. Basically they are going to start the Fall semester (in August) 2 weeks earlier. This means my summer vacation won't be a full two weeks, and instead is going to end up split between camp. They might consider changing the camp dates to give us a full two weeks, but as things are likely in cement already...I doubt it.

I asked about winter vacation (for next year) and got this response, "One week off for Christmas, then camp, then 2 weeks off for vacation." Whether that means our vacation extends into a third week, I don't know. At my school you can opt out of doing camp, but the only hitch is you don't get paid for those weeks. They did say they are dropping camp from 3 weeks to just 2 weeks. Now this makes me wonder what they will cut out of the camp programs, as we just spent this semester redesigning a lot of the camp. Obviously there are going to be some major differences next year due to this "no-more-Saturday" stuff.

I kind of like that camp will be just 2 weeks, as 3 weeks with the same group of kids does get old very fast.

I've inquired whether these changes mean there will be more class time altogether with the students. After thinking about it, I guess it means we have 2 extra weeks...right? Well I suppose I'll have enough work for next year if we extend everything, seeing as I am already a month behind in my book due to the recent drama festival.

I'm just bummed that they are going to split my summer vacation, as that is really a headache.Also they are mentioning now with no time to think about not resigning and looking for a school with better vacation. But I think this is a Seoul-wide problem and likely other schools are dealing with it too. I am signing the new contract today and really hope to get a raise, if not I want to hear a decent reason why.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Meal at O'ngo

American holidays seem to come and go without much notice here in Korea. For example, the Fourth of July just swept on by, along with Memorial day. But, Thanksgiving seems to have a special place here in the land of kimchi and dumplings. You can choose to either order all the fixings yourself and have a party locally or choose from restaurants and hotels serving up the infamous meal.

The last time I went for a Thanksgiving dinner, here in Korea, was with my ex at a fancy restaurant in Hannam (near Itaewon). It was good and I enjoyed sharing that experience with him. Last year I lived down in Suji (South of Seoul) and didn't really feel like trekking far to get a turkey dinner. So a friend and I went to a fancy-pants Indian restaurant in Bundang.

This year I think the "must-eat-turkey" bug caught me as I decided to go to O'ngo's celebration. Usually this place is used for learning how to cook delicious Korean meals. But on this occasion they managed to get a hold of some yummy turkey and accompany it with stuffing, mashed potatoes, salad and veggies.

Compared to other venues I found this one more casual and it had that home-like feel to it. It didn't take the event so seriously and people came with friends to share in the experience. Things were set up buffet style, and no one was there to stop you from getting 2nd's or 3rd's.

Plus the food provided wasn't some fusion concoction or a transformed version of the real thing. Instead, everything was authentic and true. The only minus I would say is that there was a lack of other dishes like a sweet potato one or a green bean casserole. But when you are far from your mom's kitchen, you take what you can get.

Dessert included a foray of three different pies; pumpkin, cherry and chocolate cream. Below is the pumpkin.
Immediately the question was, "Where is the whipped cream?" And the answer was, "Haha, whipped cream." I think it wouldn't have been too difficult to provide it since I have seen both white and chocolate versions at my local Lotte Mart. This adds to my point that things were a bit too minimal. However, in the end all of it was very delicious, served in a nice friendly environment and at a good cost (35,000 Won).

Maybe they will do something similar for Christmas, otherwise I would look forward to this event next year.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Korean Product Review: 꼬꼬면 or Chicken Ramen

Several months ago I was watching the Korean news on my TV and they were talking about some kind of ramen. It turned out to be a kind made with chicken broth, instead of the usual spicy mix. Ever since then I have been trying to find it at my local marts. I finally gave up, and then last weekend spotted it.

As I started to cook it, I wondered if it would taste like the Chicken Ramen cups I like to have at home. The packaging called for you to add a few extra ingredients, but I only had the egg.

As far as Korean ramens go I usually like the kind that are boasted as "natural" and "well being." Meaning they have a lot of vegetable ingredients and the noodles are not as fried as other kinds. However, I find that most all Korean ramens I try taste the same. Granted, I haven't tried them all, but the spicy sauce seems to not vary much from package to package.

This was my first time cooking ramen with an egg and I'm not sure if I did it right or not. However what you see above is my final result. The overall taste wasn't spicy and did have a strong chicken broth flavor. It was salty, of course, but not too overwhelming. The noodles were nice and chewy.

I think this product makes for a good rotation in one's ramen eating schedule, as it is definitely different from the rest. Plus if you put your imagination to it I'm sure you can come up with extra fixings to throw in.

Yea! Ramen! haha

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sign, Sign, Sign

Got the word I will sign my new contract next Tuesday. They are giving the resigning teachers 20 minutes each to get it done and ask any questions. I hope they give me the raise I asked for, but we will see. I'm excited as this will be my first time resigning. :)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks Giving

Whatever the holiday means to us Americans, it should be a day celebrated around the world for being grateful. From the last Thanksgiving and to this one, a lot has transpired in my life. I have a stable job here in Korea, but lost my relationship with someone I had been with for two years.

Yet, I am still grateful for all I have. My warm Tom to cuddle with at night, and the blessings of a family that live far away.

As the holidays approach, being far from family lets you remember that you are out here alone. Therefore, I am grateful for the friends I have here whether we keep in constant contact or just pass each other by on the land of Facebook. In addition, I am thankful for you, my readers who still come and read the blabberings that I post...thank you.

What are you grateful for this year?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November Field Trip: Lotte World

You might go into shock when you hear this, but I've never been to Lotte World. It's been three years here in Korea and not once did I step inside the infamous amusement park located in Jamsil. I've been past it zillions of times, and often wondered what the hype was all about. Well I got my chance this month when the kiddos were taken to the park.

However, I only ended up riding one ride and mostly just followed these youngins around.

For 7 or 8 year olds they loved the rides they went on and didn't really cry much or get sick. Also I found it interesting how little concern for safety the other adults were around me.

 We got there pretty early and the park was just starting to fill up, but there were other school groups inside. Yet, as time went on you got to see the place full of screaming children and couples. The bigger people rides were outside, and so the kiddos got the play of the land.

I must remark at how teenagers react when they see a group of first graders. They wave and say hello, often times taking pictures. Sometimes they can be well...teenagers and rude. For the most part though not a single child got lost and no one seemed to have a bad time.

The inside of Lotte World is this big dome of a place with rides, shops and restaurants laid out in a doughnut shape. In the center, and at a sub-level, is an ice-skating rink. The whole place certainly has a charm to it and I think would look interesting during the night.

I can't tell you the warmth in my heart when I look at these pictures. These kids have infected me with their love, and every time I give them a scolding in class I feel like an idiot. However, they really should speak less Korean during English time.

After the fun and games we were directed into an outer hallway separated from the public area. Here were set up mats for schools to eat lunch on. I didn't get any photos of this, as I was tired and hungry. I guess next year!

The kids were pretty excited for their Lotte World trip and at the end seemed tired, but still wanting to do more. We headed back to school and thought back fondly on our trip to Lotte World.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How a Recent Saturday Went By

For some reason the cold weather pushed me to do some baking. So it is that I let three bananas go ripe and collected all the necessary ingredients to bake some banana muffins.

As I did this I also worked on lesson plans for next year, yes I know I work too much. Although, I am seeing that it will be really easy to put together next year's lessons as it is all patched together from this year. Duh!

The muffins came out yummy and full of warm sweetness. The crispy brown sugar on top took me back to my childhood.

As I just spent a chunk of money on plane tickets for my February vacation I can't really go out so much. I thought I was going to save money this year, but it looks like that it isn't happening. Oh well! I guess will shoot for next year, haha!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our Neighborhoods

A recent video, by the Qiranger, goes into the neighborhood of Itaewon, which has been Paul Ajosshi's home for quite sometime. I like this video because it shows you how you can go from one interesting alley to the next and end up at some oddball places, with just a little exploration. I wrote recently about a new back alley in Itaewon that is already taking shape and getting popular, check out the post here.

It makes me wonder if my neighborhood, Nowon, has anything interesting beyond it's bar and chicken hoff street. I do know of the little parks here and there between apartment complexes, but a street with galleries and coffee shops...hmmm? Guess I should get out there and find out.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Where it's at

You might think that I am overjoyed with the news that I get to stay at the same school for another year. Definitely considering this will be the first school that accepted me for another year, in my four years living here. But the rush of life has been keeping me distracted. Report cards, test making and teaching the kids has got my mind busy.

Yet, today as I walked home and left the gates of the school I felt a small pinch of realization. I don't have to move or hunt for another job, I will be here again next year. Finally, I felt some form of relief and looked at the pale gray sky with appreciation.

But then I remembered that I signed up for First grade again next year, and started to worry if this will be a mistake. They aren't the easiest bunch to teach; however, I am hoping with one year behind me it will get better. Yet, when I look at my students pictures on the homeroom wall I feel a pinch in my heart. I have grown attached to these little kids, even the "bad" ones and feel like I have learned a lot about myself as a teacher. I hope to share some of these things as they become clearer to me in my mind.

Altogether, the past three years of my life here in Korea feel like I was a different person. Now to move on to the next year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's a Yes!

Today I messaged my boss asking if I could know when we will talk about my contract. He said not till next week. So I asked if I could at least know a "yes" or "no" and we can talk about contract details later.

I got a "yes for you" response! Finally, the mystery is over and I can move on. What that means is now I hope to plan better for next year, however I'm not entirely sure they will keep in first gotta wait for that.

Anyways, I'm glad the wait is over. Thanks for all of your support. :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bush Wore a Hanbok

As I was taking my look at the front page of The New York Times, I browsed through a set of photos. Ones of nation leaders wearing the traditional costume of Asian nations. And then I stumbled upon seeing Bush wearing a hanbok in 2005.

The article commented on the costume by saying, "...pastel “hanboks” in South Korea with bow-like trim that resembled (female) wedding wear; and silk tunics in Vietnam."

Good one!

It's something to think about. Should nation leaders where the costume of the country they are visiting? Or is this just silly?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Comics and Grub

Amongst the many changes that occur in Seoul, often times a subway station can transform itself. Attached to Line 2's Hongik Station is a transfer route to the AREX (Airport) line. I know this because I was making my way to Exit 5, and had to go through this very clean and polished tunnel.

Even the turnstiles have become things of diversity. The "beep" is more of a pleasant chime than the usually high pitched one heard at regular stations. Also when passing through, a plexiglass gate with pictures of Kpop stars opens for you. It certainly had a futuristic feel to it.

Exit 5, from Hongik station, takes you out into a quiet neighborhood. Once outside you will notice a cafe across the street called, "Cafe Sand Park".

For those folks who cringe at hearing "Sand" in a restaurant name, well this one was not disappointing. The interior was low-lit and light piano music was playing overhead. It had a real home-town feel to its interior.

Although I am not a coffee drinker, the ground beans smelled fresh. Instead of a coffee drink I had the "fruit tea", which was all right although a bit overpriced. Even though tea drinks at cafes in Korea are mostly a tea-bag in hot water, they tend to be pricey. Usually in the 6,000 to 8,000 range. But, one makes due and pushes on.

I wasn't overly hungry and so just had a light snack of a cream-cheese bagel. Surprisingly, this came out very scrumptious. The bagel wasn't too hard, like they are at Starbucks, and the cream cheese was fluffy and smooth.

The place even had some baked goods on sale near the register, which looked homemade and delicious.

I would highly recommend coming over to this place and getting away from the Hongdae crowds. Definitely a good place to bring a book or some work.

After my tea-and-bagel I headed to a comic book store to see what it was all about. On the way I spotted this wall-drawing, which from closer inspection was either made with charcoal or ink and brush.

The comic book store is located nearby Exit 8 of Hongdae station and is at the basement level. Inside are wall to wall bookshelves stocked with comics, mostly Japanese ones. All of which were in Korean, though. But it was fun to see a place like this in Seoul.

They even had one section dedicated to art-books and "how-to" books on digital drawing.

After the comic book store I went to Homi Art Supplies and looked around, then headed for dinner at a beef-galbi type place. Sorry, I meant to pick up their business card but it didn't work out. I got distracted on the phone. Anyways, it is a place that you have to climb a set of stairs to get to, and is outside exit 9... going up the street with the Dunkin Donuts.

Very delicious and not as heavy as regular galbi, which I think is a lot better. Altogether, another fun time spent in Hongdae exploring what is out there.

Friday, November 11, 2011

On This Here 11/11/11 I Decree:

That it is a lot more special in Korea, since people here celebrate chocolate sticks known as "Pepero" and they are shaped like ones.

I also recognize that this kind of date will never happen again, but life seems to just swift on by like a breeze. Yesterday, I saw the movie, "The Help." If you think it is a chick-flick well it has more deepness to it. I enjoyed the scenery and food being presented here and there. I didn't enjoy how some parts were too gushy between the protagonist and her prospective lover. I loved how they touched on civil rights issues in a personal way, but thought they could have dug deeper. However, compared to what else is out here (in Korea) it is a good choice to make. I would also recommend checking out, "The Tree of Life", which is also playing. Both can be seen at the theater outside of Chungmuro station exit 1.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No News Yet

Still waiting to hear about my contract. But randomly one of the homeroom teachers (the one I have been talking to) enlightened me of something good. She said she asked the other homeroom teachers about my staying here, and told me that they are all okay with me staying.

So unless the Principal or some oddball person doesn't want me to be here, then it is a "No." So everything sounds good I guess...just hoping so.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What Happens When Public School isn't the Dream Job

I have been reading the blogger, "What Would Eve Do?" and noticing that she has been having a hard time at her Public School. It reminded me how when I was working at a hagwon (my first job here) I thought that Public Schools were a lot better. I quit that school after 5 months and moved to a Public School. Indeed, many improvements were felt and life was somewhat less stressful. But the fact that I was working in a Korean work environment never transformed.

Today I am addressing the allusion some people might have that Public School jobs are somewhat more magically better than hagwons. However, at PS jobs you definitely get paid on time and have solid vacation.

But the real difference, I feel, is that you are very close to a close-knit part of Korean society. What I mean is that PS's have a lot of bureaucracy within them, and they function in a way that is practically different from how one would imagine a school should be run. More often than not the Principals reign as Kings (sometimes Queens) and the people working below them do everything they can to please. Because of this your experience at a Public School highly depends on the quality and generosity of your Principals.

Take Eve's experience, for example. Her Principal apparently disapproved of her and would spend at length yelling at her in Korean. Now this was not helped by a coteacher who didn't like her as well and so would boast this to make her image look bad. (Same thing happened to me last year.)

Now not everyone's experience at a PS are bad, and for the most part are very good. A school that is good would be one that nurtures the foreign teacher, accepts differences and shows a lot of concern for their well being. Sometimes there are Principals who speak good enough English to have conversations with, and some who care extensively about the English program.

So in the end, I want to say is that no matter what job you take in Korea be sure you know that it's not going to be perfect. It will depend on the people you work with and most importantly your attitude towards strong cultural differences. Unfortunately for Eve she is making her way out of the job and country. But her struggles show us how not all PS jobs are perfect and there are still a lot of obstacles from both the Korean and Native Teacher side that need to be overcome.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Yoplait Original Yogurt: Yuja Flavor

The most shopping I do in life seems to be at the grocery store. In college I only had about 25 dollars a week to live off of for groceries. Gosh! Can you imagine! I remember going to the cheap-o supermarket and getting a loaf of bread for 2.50, and thinking "Sheesh so expensive!"

In those days, a new flavor of jam was my excitement for the week. Actually, that fact is still true to this day. However, most yummy jams in Korea are really expensive.

I suppose my exciting flavor change of the week is finding Yuja flavored yogurt on sale at Lotte Mart.
Yuja or 유자 is a tangy form of a lemon. Out here they like to turn it into tea and other things. I especially like Yuja Cha, but wonder about the sugar content.

Anyways, this Yuja yogurt tasted quite good. It had the punch of the lemony flavor but also a nice sweetness too. There were even bits of Yuja fruit inside, which I enjoyed discovering.

Tom didn't have much interest in this yogurt, I guess he prefers the plain flavors. So no "paws up" for this one, haha.
Have you discovered a yogurt you like in Korea? Do share...

Sunday, November 6, 2011


For some reason, I never bothered to ask, I have Monday off tomorrow. Yesterday,  I went to Noksapyeong with the goal of going to an art and music event. When I got there I was very hungry and took the photo above.

I thought I would eat at the place called, Fat Panda, but couldn't find it. I ran into someone familiar and they told me it had closed down. So instead I ate at Buddha's Belly Take Out. A smaller version of the real thing over in Itaewon. It was good, but a bit too salty.

My goal was to go to the Laughing Tree Lab's musical and art event. I got to the door and was told I should give 10,000 won to get in. I didn't have any cash on me, and said I gotta go to the bank. But I wasn't really feeling it. I'm a shy gal and going to a gig with loud music, lots of people and drinks makes me really feel like a geek. Who knows, maybe if I were having a super confident day I would have gone in. My goal was to blog about it, so sorry folks!

Instead I went into Itaewon and got the new Haruki Murakami book, "IQ84." Which, by the way, is very heavy!

I headed home and cracked open my new book.

Recently I made a painting reflecting upon the wonder of Fall. I gave it away to a friend so all that remains is this photo...
 Maybe I'll make another one.... I kind of enjoyed using that color palette.
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