Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pupa anyone?

For the past few weeks we have noticed street vendors selling brownish things that look like a fat little worm squished flat. When I asked my grade 6 students what they were, the only boy in the class happily told me they were pupae...and then waited for my reaction. I was not surprised. Afterall, we have seen many crazy things here, so this was fairly low on the crazy list. After class I did my own research and discovered that Koreans eat silkworm pupae. They must have silkworm farms because there are millions of pupae being sold on the streets here in Daegu.

In case you are a bit fuzzy on your silkworm stages of development, I will quickly fill you in. Silkworms go through four stages- embryo, larva, pupa, imago. It starts as a little egg, turns into a silkworm, then becomes a pupa (which is when it uses it's body like a sleeping bag) and then a moth comes out. The silkworm pupa (sometimes called a chrysalis) is protected by a silk cocoon. Koreans gather the cocoons, unravel the silk, take out the pupa, boil it and eat it. You can even buy it in cans.

Last night we were at a bar that served the pupa like bars in Canada serve peanuts. They smell very bad, have squishy white liquid inside (the creamy guts of the wormy larva), and can sometimes pop in your mouth. I didn't eat one but Brett did. As with everything strange here, the Koreans assure us it is very nutritious and good for our health. I think I'll just take a vitamin, thank you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Boys Over Flowers


Last week a ten year old girl had a picture in her pencil case. In this particular class, I often steal their pencil cases and announce to everyone what is inside. This causes them to scream with excitement and laughter as I walk around showing all their notes and balancing their pencils on my head. But on that day, 10 year old Jenny was not impressed. She was worried.

"Teeeeeeaachaaaa, picture noooo. Picture nooo rip. Special teeeeeaaaaacher"

I had seen many pictures of boys in their pencil cases. Both boys and girls often carry a picture of their favourite singer in their bag, pencil case, or pocket at all times. But this picture I did not recognize. When I asked who the picture was of, I got the impression that I had said something forbidden. I heard screams, giggles, and frantic Korean words from both the boys and the girls as they discussed how I should surely be kicked out of Korea because of my stupidity. They began yelling something at me in Korean. Then they stopped to think of how it translated into English.

"Teacha- Boys Over Flowers"

When I asked them to explain Boys Over Flowers, again I got the screams, giggles, and Korean words. Clearly this was something I had to get to the bottom of. So that day I asked all of my classes to explain it to me. Not only did I get the answer, but I also got a clear picture of how big of a deal this was/is. Every class errupted into hoots, hollers and giggles when I asked them about it.

So what is Boys Over Flowers?

Well, fellow moronic foreigner, it is the best tv show ever made! It started as a comic book and then was made into a tv show in Japan. The title in Japanese actually translates to boys before flowers. The Japanese have a saying, "dumplings before flowers" which makes fun of all the people who claim to be out enjoying the beauty of the cherry blossoms, but instead spend their time at the food vendors. Anyway, somehow when Korea decided to make their own show, they retranslated it and it ended up becoming boys over flowers.

The show is about a "cute girl" named Jan Di, whose family owns a dry cleaning shop. She is too poor to attend the rich private school near her house. However, one day she saves one of the private school students from committing suicide, and in return gets admitted into the school. There, she meets a group of popular boys who call themselves F4. She goes through some tough times with this group of boys, but ....BUT....then the leader of the group falls in love with her. HOWEVER, so does one of the other boys in the group.

"Teacha.....difficult.....two boys is love cutie girl."

Keep up now......THEN Jan Di and the lead F4 boy, Joon Pyo become a couple. HOWEVER, his mother does not approve of him dating a poor girl and insists they break up, and then finds a fiance for him! Jan Di cries and cries and cries, and the other member of F4, Ji Hoo who also loves Jan Di then takes this opportunity to show her how he can be a great guy. BUT Jan Di is still in love with Joon Pyo.

The show is on every Monday and Tuesday. We decided we had to give it a chance, so last week we tuned in. It is in Korean, which makes it a bit hard to follow. Brett fell asleep in the first ten minutes. I watched it right to the end. Just mentioning the name of the lead male actor makes the girls in my class hold hands and squeal (his blood type is A, just incase that is as important to you as it is to the squealing girls in my classes). And although I can't say I was squealing over any of the actors on the show, I will watch it again....and that will give Brett another chance to have a good nap.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Think, Cindy Teacher, Think.

Some days Cindy Teacher forgets where she is. Here is today's example.

Cindy Teacher is teaching a lovely group of grade 5 students. They are all waiting patiently with their books open and ready. Cindy checks their comprehension of the story.

Cindy Teacher: Why did the lady buy four more doggy treats?

Jessica: Because her dog liked the first one. Can people eat doggy treats too?

Cindy Teacher: Well I guess so, but it probably wouldn't taste very good, and there might be some strange things in them.

David: Strange? Like what?

Cindy Teacher: Ummm, like chicken feet or pig's ears and things people don't usually eat.

Silence goes over the classroom. The students stare at Cindy Teacher with an odd look on their faces.

Jamie: I ate chicken feet this morning.

Jack: My grandma eats them a lot!

Kevin: People don't eat chicken feet? Why? My family eats chicken feet. Is it bad?

Jessica: We use pig's ears in soup.

Cindy Teacher puts her head down on her desk to hide her laughter. She reminds herself to think before she speaks next time.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hello, my name is Sam.


Well folks, we've now been in Korea for five months. And we certainly have adjusted to our life here. Being stared at, pointed at, and talked about now feels normal. We no longer notice that we don't understand any of the conversations going on around us. We are used to the odd sights and smells. We know what to expect when boarding a crowded train, and we are getting better at standing our ground in the shoving match of any Korean crown. We have favourite meals, restaurants and hang outs. And we are getting very brave with using the small amount of Korean we know, least we don't mind having to use our charades skills to get our message across.

However, every week we still discover new things that surprise us. Some discoveries delight us, and others don't. This week I discovered something that really makes me giggle. The confusing thing is how I have not discovered this before.

As I was walking down the hall with one of my students, she passed one of her Korean teachers and said "Sam, bye!". When I asked why she called her Sam, my student told me that Sam is the short form for teacher. I knew that all teachers are called "teacher" here. Sometimes our names are put in front. I am Cindy Teacher, but most often I am just called Teacher.

The Korean teachers are also called Teacher as well, but in Korean, which is songsangnim. However, that "Sam" revelation somehow tweaked my brain. I started hearing it all over the place. And the part that made me giggle, is that I discovered that the korean teachers themselves all call each other Sam. Yesterday I heard a conversation that thrilled me. I am going to put numbers after the word Sam just to make things more clear about which Sam is speaking:

Sam1: Sam(2), do you know where my book went?
Sam2: No Sam I don't. Sam(3) have you seen Sam(1)'s book?
Sam3: Oh yes. Sam(4) where did we put that book? Sam(1) is looking for it.
Sam4: Um, I gave it to Sam(5).
Sam3: Hey sam(5)! Can Sam(1) have the book that Sam(4) gave to you yesterday?

This was all in Korean, but I am pretty sure I understood most of it. Sam1 never did get his book, by the way. Sam5 had lent it to Sam6 who was using it to teach a class that day. I am so glad that we simply call them by their real names!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dr. Fish

Today we were eaten alive. And we payed to be eaten alive.

Daegu has a very interesting place called Dr. Fish, where you first enjoy a small buffet of bread, butter, jam and coffee....and then you stick your stinky feet in a tub of little fish and let them nibble off your dead skin. Sound gross? It took some getting used to, but then we all agreed that we enjoyed having the hungry fish nibble away at us. It felt a little tickly and a little prickly, but we had many laughs and the fish had a good meal. Everyone was happy and full.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Four Billy Goats Gruff


On Sunday we set out on a hike with our friends, Matt and Melissa. It was a gorgeous day, and Brett, our fearless leader, assured us he knew the best mountain to climb. So off we went. We happily chatted as we wandered the busy street on the way to the mountain. It seemed as though the good weather had brought everyone out that day. Koreans use this hobby as a chance to make a statement about their wealth. So only the best hiking gear will do. We ignored the fashion parade of pristine hiking clothes, clean (unused?) boots, large backpacks full to the top (we still don't know what they have in there) and the best hiking poles....and remained confident that we too could hike even though we were wearing jeans, sweatshirts, and dirty shoes. Surely the mountain accepts everyone.

Upon arrival at the base of the mountain Brett had chosen for us our mouths dropped open. "Dude!" I exclaimed. "Are you serious?" This mountain went straight up. It was scary. Everyone who knows me knows I love fitness. I take it very seriously. I exercise almost daily. And as I stood at the bottom looking up at this looming mass of land I had some serious doubts. AND there was practically nobody on it. The rest of the mountains were packed with Koreans....yet this one was bare....a sign for sure. But Brett simply replied "YEP" and started his way up. And us three remaining billy goats had no choice but to follow.

We wound our way slowly up through rocks, dirt and grass and reached a landing where we caught our breath and enjoyed the view. Looking up we could see that there was still a way to go...and it too looked straight up. Melissa said something about how the view from the top had better be significantly better than the view from where we were. Brett said "YEP", and we were off. We passed the typical Korean graves on our way up. We are still not sure what the rules are for burying relatives in Korea. Can you simply carry your deceased loved one up your favourite mountain and bury them wherever you wish? Seems like it. We are mighty impressed that anyone could carry someone up that mountain. We joked that maybe nobody got carried up the mountain. Maybe that is where they lost the fight with the mountain and it was simply easier to leave them where they fell.

Well, as you can see, we made it. We made it all the way to the tippy-top. And then we slid our way back down using sticks to help us keep our footing and not have any high speed falling collisions with trees. I guess that is why the Koreans carry those fancy hiking poles.

We looked back up from the bottom and felt like we had really accomplished something. We hiked a mighty big climb, and we even did it without the high fashion gear.

On the way back home we passed a man who had pulled his car over and was having a dance by himself. I wonder if he too had just survived a day as a billy goat.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

From the mouths of babes II

Brett Teacher: "What do you know about Australia?"

Shane: "Many kangaroo and patient of skin pain."

From the mouths of babes....

A quote from 11 year old Annie:

"My life is just one big piece of homework. One long difficult piece of homework. I am tired."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action!


We meant to write earlier.....that was the plan...but we were too busy swimming in the loveliness of something called "late schedule". Oh the late schedule. We love it sooooo much. During the month of January, we actually had to work during the day! Imagine that! But now that February has started, our school has gone back to the late schedule, which means that the earliest we start work is 4:00. We have the whole day to enjoy. The weather had been warmer the past two days as well.....adding to our extreme bliss. So we have been running, playing, frolicking, dancing, climbing up mountains, and singing in the sunshine. Oh late much we love you!

Anyway, back to the story.

On Sunday (sorry sorry...I know this is now an OLD story...Sunday was ages ago) we got up at bloomin' 5am, made our sleepy way to downtown, where we boarded a bus with many other foreigners and some Koreans and began the 3.5 hour ride to a stadium just outside of Gwangju. We had all signed up to be extras in a Korean movie. The people organizing the trip had arranged for two cramped buses, and provided us with food and beer (really!) for the trip there.

We were greeted with a Korean style buffet lunch. Thank goodness most of us were foreigners. I cannot imagine a buffet lunch with Koreans would go very well.....we would never make it to the table because our pushing and fighting skills are so not up to theirs. Anyway, we happily ate our kimchi, rice, and unidentifiable pasta dish. And then it was time for us to show our excellent acting skills.

We were fiiming a summer scene in a movie about the 2008 Olymipcs, and then another summer scene from the 1988 Olympics. We were thankful that our scenes were in a stadium, and not in the very cold weather outside.....well, we were thankful while changing into summer clothes outside, and walking to the stadium....and entering the stadium....and then we were no longer thankful. The bloomin' stadium was freakin' colder than it flippin' was outside!!!!!!! Ahhhhhh. So there we all sat in our summer clothes, freezing for many many hours.

Brett was picked to have a special roll as a coach. This involved him wearing a red track suit and standing beside the fake stage for an hour. I was jealous...not because he had a bigger roll, but because he got to wear a track suit, which was warmer than my t-shirt. He then joined the rest of us for many hours of pretending to cheer for fake athletes, and a fake soccer game. I wish we had more photos, but they didn't allow our cameras into the stadium for the first while...until they realized that tourists at the olympics would actually have cameras.

Being the experts we are, we toughed it out through the cold while many others gave up and ran back to the warm bus at the first opportunity. Sissies. Ok, so maybe we also spent 20 minutes on the bus, but I was hungry, and I cannot cheer for invisible athletes when I am hungry.

Six hours later, when the filming ended, we were given shirts and hats as a thank you and then enjoyed another buffet of kimchi, rice, octopus and unidentifiable things.

Our group then got back on the buses and headed to a light festival going on in the green tea fields about 15 minutes away. This is what made the whole day worth while. It was amazing. There were tiny little lights everywhere. We could not get over how beautiful it was. It must have taken ages to put all those lights on the trees and the rows of green tea plants.

40 minutes later we were all back on the bus. We had been promised a karaoke party in the bus for the ride home, but everyone opted for sleep instead of singing. Well, somebody's bottom did plenty of singing....I guess we aren't the only ones who don't like octopus.