Sunday, December 28, 2008

I Got Seoul..

Annyong! We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. We were thinking of you and wishing we could share a few Christmas drinks and a lot of Christmas turkey with our friends and family!

We've returned from a lovely few days in Seoul. We purposely booked a hotel with internet access so that we could keep in touch....but alas..."no, wiresy broken, maybe internet wiresy next week" we were told when we checked in. Four days without internet feels weird! And now we have much to blog about!

On Christmas day we took the KTX train to Seoul and checked into the Rainbow Hotel. After pondering the chances of actually escaping our seventh floor hotel room during an emergency using the "emergency rope" elegantly packaged and hug beside the window, we decided it was best to just not think about it and instead, spend our time out of the hotel.

It didn't take long for us to decide that we love Seoul. The outdoor ice rink at City Hall made me very very happy.....although after a closer look at the thousands of people trying to wobble their way around it, we decided to watch instead of participate. I made Brett promise that we would be joining the fun next time (now I think he just said that to make me be quiet about it).

Our first night in Seoul was freezing. I mean really freezing (yes I do remember that I am Canadian). So we wandered around, enjoyed the sights, and frequently warmed up with good food and warm drinks. I have a slight addiction to bibimpap (rice and veggies). When we found a shop dedicated to only bibimpap, I knew we had to eat there! The food was so hot that Brett's glasses kept fogging up. It wasn't turkey, but it was a great Christmas dinner. Then we hit up some night markets that are open from 10:30 pm to 5 am. I was amazed by how many people are out looking for bargains in the middle of the night.

The next day we went to see a temple and one of the Palaces. The tour of the palace took an hour and a half. About 40 minutes into it I decided that it was far too cold for anyone to be learning about a palace by looking at the outside of it. Brett assured me we would survive. I assured him that I would not. As you can tell, he was right. We are still alive. And the good news is that we will now be alive for a good long time, because we passed under an archway that grants you the magic of a long life. We then got to practise our bargaining skills in the tourist area of Seoul. Clearly we need work in this area. We are not good at negotiating....but Brett did manage to save us 1000 won (about 90 cents) on one of our purchases. It's a good start.

On Saturday we experienced a whole other kind of market. This was the pushy push push shovey shove shove kind of market. The pictures cannot even begin to do it justice. Good thing we walked under that archway the day before, because clearly we would have been trampled to death otherwise. This market was more of a blackmarket. It had anything at all you wanted to find. There was even a whole area underground packed with imported items. We enjoyed the sights and had many laughs....but bought nothing. We had arrived a bit early, so we did get to experience the market minus the crowd. It seemed like everyone else arrived all at the same time. It was like some sort of signal had gone off and everyone ran to the market. Poof...all of Korea was in the same spot.

One of the weirdest things about Korea in the wintertime is their obsession with cute hats. Children and adults all wear hats that look like animal heads. I have seen this a few times on children in Canada.....and even a few quirky adults (like myself) but never ever would I have expected this to be a popular look with teens and adults. Here, it is common to see groups of teens going by, all wearing these animal hats.

Saturday night we went to a few bars. We watched a "Korean" Hendrix tribute band at the first bar, told an American GI that a dingo is not a cross between a kangaroo and a dog at the second bar, and watched a drag queen show at the third bar. I think all of the people from the market followed us to the drag queen show, because it was beyond packed. Everyone wanted to see the beautiful lip sync to "I Will Survive" and other famous drag queen songs.

Sunday afternoon we hit the electronics market and some shops before getting back on the KTX. We arrived back home to a freezing cold apartment and an empty fridge. Ahh reality. Too bad not every day can be a holiday!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Busy Weekend

Hello! Cindy here.
We had a marathon weekend! First up was our "graduation" from Korean class. At a very strange celebration party, we saw the other classes perform some interesting acts such as Salsa dancing, martial arts, impromptu conversations, oh- and our class was called up to sing a song we had practiced for maybe two minutes. We received certificates, and the YMCA provided some delicious treats. It was a good way to start our Saturday.

Next, we had to rush to work, where my class of 15 year olds all wrote stories about a teacher named Cindy (not my idea, they were allowed to write a story about anything) . In one story "Cindy Teacher" ate children, and in most stories she died....sometimes a painful and tragic death.

We then went to the Yale Christmas party at a branch closer to downtown. Lots of good food, and fun games. We participated in a present game. Brett was happy to open a 4 pack of beer, but it was quickly stolen by the next person to join the game. Sigh.

We had to make up for the stolen beer by heading to some bars downtown. We had some drinks and talked with friends. The boys also attempted karaoke at one bar by shouting into the microphone. It didn't go over that well I think. We were soon told that we could only sing one more song. I think they just wanted the boys to quit. It wasn't pretty.

On Sunday we went to the electronics market where Brett bought me my Christmas present- A CAMERA. I love love love my new Nikon. I can't wait to get out there and use it. The users manual is in Korean we have to track down the English version. OR I will have to keep on with the Korean lessons until I am fluent (NOT).

We then joined some friends for skating. The skate rink people were not so happy to see us. They quickly informed us that they were closing in 45 minute. Duh......we didn't think to check their hours before making the adventurous trek all the way out there. Oh well. They were kind enough to let us in for free. We got around the rink a few times before they brought out the Zamboni and pushed us off the rink. We will definitely have to go back. I love it!

Shortly after our 20 minute taxi ride home, we were both asleep on the couch. Whew. We were exhausted, but can't wait to do it again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Waygoogin Dinner

An important part of experiencing a new country is the people you meet along the way. A short time ago, we decided to organize a dinner for all the people sent to Daegu by our recruiter, Dan Henrickson. Dan even offered to pay for this first meeting of his English teachers!!! We sent out emails, counted the RSVPs, picked a yummy restaurant and got a Korean friend to call and reserve a table for 14 for us. On Sunday, we headed out to meet everyone for dinner. We had a great time. Lots of laughter and good food. The restaurant even organized for an English speaker to work for them that night because we had warned them that there were 14 way-goog-ins (foreigners) coming. The dinner for 14 cost 99000 won, which is about $90 Canadian. Can you believe that!?? All of us waygoogins agreed that this should surely be a monthly event. We look forward to January's dinner!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Could Rudd or Harper take these guys?

G'day, Brett here.

As the gentlemen at my gym were discussing politics yesterday, I said to my friend whom I call Sir, "Sometimes in Korean parliament the politicians get into a fight."

To which he replied, "NO! Not sometimes.... Often!"

Friday, December 5, 2008

Our Week in Fast Forward

Sunday Movies and Barbecue. Only Koreans could manage to spell "Australia" with 7 syllables and 12 letters.
Translation: O-sa-ta-ra-il-li-a

Monday Moved our office from the 2nd floor to the 7th floor for no apparent reason.

Tuesday Just another day.

Wednesday Cindy got a $6.00 haircut.

Thursday According to 11 year old Min Kyung, Cindy's $6.00 haircut makes her look "even more strange-ey".

Friday SNOW!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

When Push Comes to Shove

Annyong! Cindy here.

During our travels over the last few days, we've come across some unique Korean behaviour.

We ventured to Costco on Sunday. We knew we would see some odd behaviour there. We had plenty of warnings....there are even websites dedicated to it. But nothing could prepare us for the war that was Costco free tasting day. As soon as we stepped onto the floor, we regretted it. We thought about running for our lives, but it took way too much effort to get there to be defeated at the start. So, we took a deep breath and in we went.

Free samples means something different to Koreans. To Canadians it means that you may have a taste of something, thank the employee for the sample, politely dispose of your garbage, consider buying the produnct, and be on your way. For Koreans, free sample day means FIGHT for your dinner. I am not exaggerating here. Around every sample stand was a crowd of loud pushy people, all waiting for the brave employee to put out the next tray of food. When the food went out, the people closest would grab as much as possible. I watched one man grab three truffles, shove one in his mouth, pocket two, and then push some children out of the way so he would be first to get to the next tray when it came out. I considered jumping in there. I am sure you are all aware of my huge chocolate addiction. Oh I just wanted one truffle so badly! But the chaos that errupted when the next tray came out just left me standing there with my mouth hanging open. Clearly I would have to have better martial arts skills to win that fight. The wide array of samples available was mighty impressive. There was soup, noodles, cereal, candy, meat, and wine....all of which we could not even get close to. It took us hours to get around the big crowds and the even bigger attitudes. We made sure to buy a large bottle of whisky while we were there.

Another odd Korean behaviour came to light in Costco's foodcourt. Costco has a dispensing machine for the onion that customers may put on the hotdogs they buy. However, this machine is viewed differently by Koreans. To be fair, we don't really know what it says in Korean on the front of the machine. Perhaps it says "free dinner" because Koreans will load a plate with the free onion, top it with the free mustard and ketchup, and think of if it as a meal. Free bad breath too.

Today we went to a tourist bureau. These are extremely difficult to find here. We were hoping to find postcards...but no luck. So any of you still waiting to get a postcard from us may have to give up...they simply do not make them here. Anyway, I did manage to find a couple of things I wanted to buy. The cashier was already helping a couple with their purchases, so I lined up behind them. will not believe this.....a Korean man came over to the line and simply stood infront of me. I laughed right out loud, said "NO WAY!", and looked at Brett to see his reaction. He was standing over to the side, his eyes wide with surprise. This man had butted me in line and there was not a thing I could do about it. We just laughed and shook our heads.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Today's Homework

I couldn't resist posting this homework submission. It is from one of my best 11 year old students, Jenny. Brett

November 15, 2008

Dear Diary
I went to the “Yale” at 3=40. There was 5 people come to class.
First, I gave to teacher my home work notes.
“great Jenny.” said teacher. I’m happy.
Then, I went to the second floor and put the homework note on Brett teacher’s desk.
“thank you Jenny” he said to me.
Today, I hear praise two times!
I was full of joy.
At 4=10, the bell rang the hours. Very tall Brett teacher came. And we started the class. In his class, I like read to Geronimo Stilton. I like read.
After finished Brett teacher’s classes, I thought.
“Today’s lessons are great!”

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Gym in the Forest on the Mountain

Hello Everyone, Brett Here.

One of our most pleasing finds here in Siji has been the discovery of an outdoor gym located on the mountain behind our apartment. Within 10 minutes of leaving home, I can be on the mountain and making my way towards this quaint little gym discretely nestled into the forest above the bank of a small creek.

As I am the only non-Korean that frequents this gym I get the usual intrigued faces looking at me. Fortunately, I have made friends with a very nice gentlemen in his late 6o's who speaks quite good English and has taken it upon himself to tutor me in Korean language, history, politics and culture.

There are a number of other retired gents who have now become familiar with me. We will generally exchange the standard hellos, annyongs and the like, but I think my acceptance among these men drastically increased when I produced a packet of Tim Tams and offered them around.

This gym, apart from being free, really appeals to my love of the outdoors. I enjoy the hike up the mountain and the fresh air while working out. The squirrels, chipmunks and woodpeckers also add a certain amount of charm.