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.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Caught in the Crossfire

G'day, Brett here!

In my time as a teacher I have confiscated a multitude of items; toy cars, Tamagotchies, food, rulers, Pokemon cards, mobile phones, compasses and the like, but today I hit the jackpot!

I had finished my final class and was heading for the door when I noticed a fairly suspicious looking contraption in a young boy's hand. Upon closer inspection I identified this item as being a homemade crossbow made from a rubber band and an assortment of office stationary.

It was quite an impressive piece of machinery. Much more sophisticated than the ones we used to make as kids out of a Bic pen, a rubber band and some sticky tape. This one had a handle, a barrel and had been glued together to give it extra strength.

I asked the boy to put it in his bag and told him that I did not want to see it again, to which he replied “Break, break” implying that there was nothing I could do because it was break time! At that very moment he accidentally released the rubber band and the projectile flew across the table and embedded itself in another boy's book. He hesitantly forfeited the weapon and I told him that he would be paying a visit to the Korean manager.

As I entered the office a few of the other male teachers were standing around and their attention immediately shifted to the item in my hand. “Oh wow! Where did you get that?”. They were all a little intrigued but mostly impressed (it's a boy thing). After I had told the story to the Korean manager, one of the American guys even went to her desk to get a second look (I guess it's just in their blood).

My only regret is that I didn't have my camera with me so I could not get a picture of this advancement in modern classroom weaponry. I will go on a reconnaissance mission tomorrow to see if I can locate and take possession of the subject long enough to snap a picture. Over and out.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Pepero Day!

Peperos are cookie sticks dipped in chocolate. November 11th is Pepero Day because 11/11 most resembles the cookie sticks. On Pepero Day, children and couples exchange boxes of Peperos. Did Lotte, the company that makes Peperos start this special day? Hmmmmmm, they deny it, but it is highly suspicious. Anyway, we decided that any day that celebrates a cookie dipped in chocolate is a good day!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday is a Day of Rest

I had been looking forward to Sunday all week. Since we decided to work Saturdays, Sundays have become the most beautiful, wonderful, precious day of the week! We headed out at about noon to wander around Daegu. Now that we have gotten over the initial shock of the major weird things (old women pulling large carts of cardboard, everyone making huge horking sounds and spitting, public burping, farting, sneezing, coughing, strange food being sold in any tiny squishy spot) we are now able to focus a bit more on the smaller weird things. Everytime we wander the city we see new things. I love it.

Yesterday we didn't find anything strange that invovled public expelling of bodily fluids or gases. We did however find some very bizarre stores. In Korea, many stores (especially the 4 million cell phone stores) have employees that stand outside and try to get you to come in. The cell phone people are the worst. They will even go so far as to tell you how beautiful or handsome you are, or simply grab you by the arm and pull you towards the store. They don't often bother us, since foreigners are not allowed to buy their own cell phone plans here. But they are annoying!

After visiting the hello Kitty store, some stores with "couples clothing" (yes couples dress the same here), and a loud loud store (we now refer to as the "Rude Store") where a girl wearing an employee badge that said "captain" told me that people could only try on pants (as if I can ever buy pants here) not sweaters, we decided to hit up a coffee shop...something that involves no trying on or dealings with captains.

We were very happy to find a Starbucks. Please do not hate us, all you anti-starbucksers. The signs were in ENGLISH! The coffee smelled DELICIOUS! And the decor was...CHRISTMAS. We just had to go in. Mmmmmm. Two tall, fancy, expensive coffees later, we were high on caffein and ready for the next task....finding a place for dinner. This is a big job. It involves finding somewhere with people in it (my rule), pictures or signs we can somehow decifer, and food that we know is not dog (and now octopus as well..Brett's rule).

Under a popular bar, we found a groovy little restaurant that served stangely American food made by two girls that looked to be about 17. It was weird...but in a good way. With bellies full and caffein addictions satisfied, we were then off to the next part of our day. We had signed up with our Korean Class to attend a performance of some kind. We did not know what we were going to really. That happens a lot in Korea. You have no idea what you are attending, but you are going anyway.

The theatre employees must have been thrilled to see a large bunch of foreigners walk in with tickets that they cannot read and wander around lost trying to find their assigned seat. A small amount of chaos later, we were all ready for the show nobody knew anything about. After hearing that the last show had involved men dressed as sperm dancing around a woman dressed as an egg, we were sure we were in for something interesting!

Although we are still discussing the exact storyline of the play we saw, we both agree that it was fantastic! There were "B-boys" who performed amazing dance moves while dressed as superheroes, warriors, puppets, and even Transformers. A young beat-box guy wowed us, and the narrator threw in his own little funny comments like "I like hamburgers" when he saw foreigners in the front row. We were pleasantly surprised!! It was supposed to be about a marionette, but we think they deviated from the script a great deal. It is kind of hard to fit Transformers into a play about a puppet in France, but somehow they did it!

Friday, November 7, 2008

GREASE - Korean Style

When it come to Pop groups in Korea, they don't get any bigger or better than "Big Bang" and "Wondergirls". Put them together and this is what you get! Enjoy...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Only a matter of time...

Hey Gang! Brett here,

I guess we always knew it was going to happen sooner or later. We have been frequenting a local restaurant that the foreigners here simply call "The Orange Store". We were on our way home form our Korean lesson and were feeling pretty good about the progress of our reading skills. We noticed a new item on the menu and sounded out the words nak-ji dup bop. We know that dup bop means rice and the picture looked like a fairly delicious chicken and rice dish so we thought we would give it a whirl.

After we had placed our order I started thinking a little more about this nak-ji and took out our trusty dictionary. Sure enough, we had ordered stir fried octopus and rice. It didn't taste too bad but it sure was chewy. I'm not certain if it was all in my head but my insides weren't feeling fantastic for the next few hours (bait will do that to you).

Moral of the story.... Consult Korean dictionary before ordering food you don't know the name of!