Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cell Dancers

Yesterday's frustrations brings today's excitement!  It took me sooo long trying to find a flight to Japan during Lunar New Year and with some very serious persistence...I found one!!  I will be flying into Hiroshima on Wednesday, then moving to Kyoto on Thursday, and then finishing my trip in Osaka on Sunday.  I'm so excited!!  There is a lot of planning to do in such a short time.  This trip will take quite a bit of patience and planning as I will be going to several cities in a short amount of time and my Japanese consists of "Konichiwa."

This is also the 100th post.  At the time of writing this post, 1,371 people (many are repeated visitors) have checked out my blog and there has been 3,021 pageviews (times people have clicked to see a new page).  There have been visitors from 6 continents and more countries than I could have ever imagined.  Much more popular than I had anticipated.

For today's post, here are two silly videos.  Cell phone stores are EVERYWHERE in Korea, I mean everywhere.  They stand outside the stores and try to get people to come in.  I went to dinner at a Vietnamese Restaurant with some neighbors on the second floor.  We looked down on the street and this woman was dancing along...all by herself...without really anyone on the street.  Cell phone companies pay people to do this.  lol...
Then, I noticed the store owners and/or employees just seem to be inside enjoying a nice dinner while the girls are outside rocking it on the microphone and dancing...with hardly anyone in site.  hee hee.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Brazilian BBQ and a DVD 방

Last Thursday and Friday I went with a couple of fun Suwon Meetup Groups.  Meetup is a website where groups post different activities where you can meet new people.  It's a great way to meet people from your neighborhood.

On Thursday, we went to Songtan for Brazilian Barbeque.  Songtan is at the Osan U.S. Air Base.  Because there are so many foreigners in that area, there are so many foreign restaurants...a little slice of Heaven minus the fact that you have to deal with U.S. soldiers in that area.

I was having a little bit of trouble with my camera at the Brazilian Restaurant called, Fogo Grill.  So...I didn't really get any good photos.  How it works is, they have a list of different meats that they bring to your table one-by-one.  It's all-you-can-eat quality meats.  They have a salad bar with beef stew which is also very good.  They start with a sirloin steak and bring several cuts as well along with some pork sausage and chicken.  They bring them on a really long skewer, straight from the grill.  Meat in Korea, especially beef, can be a little expensive.  So...all you can eat meat for less than $25 is a great deal.  I woke up the next morning still feeling full.  I finally got my camera working at the end of the dinner...this is all the meat that was left:)
They brought us warm pineapple with cinnamon and sugar on it for dessert.  It was so delicous.  I would have never thought pineapple would be so great warm.  As you can see, much like the meat, they bring it on a long skewer and cut it right at the table.
On Friday we headed to a DVD 방 Bang (pronounced b-ah-ng).  Bang simply means "room" in Korean.  You go in and chose which movie(s) you'd like to see and the price is based on which movie you are seeing.  We chose one Korean Movie and Red with Bruce Willis.  It is a tiny room with comfortable couches to watch the movie.  We each split the cost and it was $6 for each of us to see the two movies. 

A little DVD 방 background:  Most people who use DVD bangs are not going for the movie like we did.  In most cases, Koreans live with their families until they are married....soooo....DVD bangs can be used as a "date" room...as you can see..there is a need for easy-to-clean leather couches...ewwww!  When I told my co-teachers I was going to a DVD 방, they all asked me if I was going with a boy.

But some come to watch a movie...like us!  I guess if you still lived with your parents, and you legitimatly wanted to watch a movie, you wouldn't want to gather your friends around your parents t.v. anyways.
 The screen is basically the size of the room with a pretty good surround sound system.
Well...I guess my posts haven't been as adventurous as they have been in the past.  I am just trying to write some "everyday Korea" posts...which sometimes get more responses than trips.

Hope you are staying warm wherever you are.

Winter in Korea

So...I'm a bit frustrated right now and decided to take a break from planning my Lunar New Year vacation and blog.  A vacation should be fun to plan...but unless you are 6 months early in your planning...it can be very frustrating in Korea!!  There are so many people trying to fly, take a train, bus, etc... all at the same time.  Koreans tend to be last minute planners and we tend to find out what days our vacation days will be very last minute.  Our Lunar New Year vacation goes from Wednesday, Feb 2 until Sunday, Feb 6.  My plans were to go to Osaka/Kyoto/Hiroshima, Japan...but it looks as though that is not going to happen.  Although online sites say there are tickets, they wait to tell you until you have filled out all your contact and credit card information to tell you...woops, sorry...no more flights available.  I have played this song and dance game for weeks for hours a day...blah!

Anyways, let's take it from one frustration to another.  Now, if I never complained on this blog...I think we all know I wouldn't be sharing my true feelings.  When living abroad, we all find frustrations in the fact that we think it's done so much better at home or this would never happen at home!

Winter in Korea is one of them!!  I think any Minnesotan would have a tough time moving anywhere that has no common sense when it comes to winter.  Granted, Korea is not used to very much snow.  Korea has always had cold, windy winters...but global warming the last two years has brought a lot of snow to Korea and they clearly don't know what to do with it!

In my neighborhood, all the landlords shovel the snow in front of the apartments and pile the snow in the middle of the road.  Because there are no snowplows that go through, cars have to swerve around these piles.  Eventually the snow packs down into 6 inch thick, super slippery ice.  I think you'd get a ticket at home for doing this.

You can also find people SWEEPING the snow with a BROOM off the sidewalks.
And the worst part...slippery, marble surfaces.  Korea is full of stairways and flooring that is purely slippery marble.  Sure, it looks nice but is not practical for just about any season because of rain and snow.  It makes it incredibly slippery.  Solution?  Occasionally you will find cardboard.  If there is no cardboard in our elevator at school, you can hardly stand up.  I can't take the steps one flight down because it is so unsafe, I have to wait for the elevator every time.  Everyone at school can't seem to figure out why I think this is so terrible...especially in a kindergarten...but it's like this everywhere in Korea...  This is when I say...OHHHH KOREAAAA!!!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Boys with Perms

It's quite common for boys in Korea to get a perm...especially younger boys.  Personally, I'm not a fan.  I think it looks like they just got out of bed.  It brings more 'body' to their hair than curl.  Here are a few photos of my kids with perms--these guys are 6 years old.

 Thomas' perm is cute:)
 The boy on the right's hair was about 6 inches taller right after he got his perm.  He was so proud of his perm!
Boys/men in Korea are nothing like guys at home!  Do you know any men who got a perm to add 'body' to their hair?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Coex Aquarium

Last weekend I finally convinced a friend to head to the aquarium at Coex Mall in Seoul to see the penguins my students had been telling me about.  It wasn't all that exciting...but it was still a very crowded, yet enjoyable Sunday afternoon.

A two-headed turtle!!  H wouldn't turn around...I think he felt ashamed:(
It's hard to take photos through glass...
I thought this guy was really cool!! 
They saved the best for last!  I had to go through the whole aquarium wondering where the penguins were and they were the last exhibit.
Look...the penguin is watching cartoons!  Even penguins can't resist Korea's Samsung and LG top quality picture.
The ones with spots are younger than the ones with stripes.

These were 'almost' identical to the ones I saw in Chile.  The penguins I saw in Chile were near Punta Arenas and were Magellan Penguins.  These are Humboldt Penguins that have a colony near Chiloe...a city I always wanted to visit but never got the chance.  The Magellan Penguins are slightly larger.

Next stop will be the 63 Building where I read online that you can PET THE PENGUINS!  I hope this is still true!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Dong!

haha...okay, I couldn't resist.  You must recognize dong from all those letters you are sending me (wink, wink)...Cheon-Cheon Dong.  Dong is Korean means neighborhood...but you must be careful not to exaggerate the "d" because ddong (똥) means dookey! 

I actually live right in the middle of two neighborhoods but this is technically my neighborhood according to my address.

천천동
Cheon-Cheon Dong (pronounced Chun Chun d-oh-ng)
 EVERY neighborhood has a....

Paris Baguette...

 a Baskin Robbins... 
a Dunkin' Donuts...
 
 ...and waaay too many phone stores!
When I first got here this was tough to navigate.  Around my house most of the bus schedules are only in hangul (Korean) but after some practice...no problem!
 It's too cold to clean the buses...usually they aren't dirty.


 These are like store fronts...at night everything is lit up.  I heard a "newbie" comment on the neon lights a few weeks ago...I forgot that wasn't normal.
 Korea is full of these tall, almost identical apartment buildings.  The first time I went inside one, I was amazed by how nice the apartments are inside.
 Outside a seafood restaurant on my walk home.
 uhhhh...  Korea isn't really used to snow...the cold, yes...snow, no.  There isn't really any such thing as salting and sanding.  So...whereas in Minnesota we can drive/walk through anything...doesn't work that way in Korea...A) Because they're not used to it and B) Because they don't salt or sand ANYTHING!  This is a typical sidewalk I get to skate through everyday.  Smaller sidestreets look just like this too.
 Moving or having a large appliance delivered?  This is how it's done.  I've seen this done on the really tall apartment buildings...a little scary...imagine a washing machine doesn't get strapped down properly...ahhh!
Well...I guess that summarizes my dong.  I will take some pictures of my other dong...Sungkyunkwan University (성균관대) soon...that neighborhood is a little more exciting.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Apartment, finally...

My apartment isn't really something to brag about and I've never really one to enjoy cleaning...so I've been postponing this post for about 10 months now.  I was waiting to take pics until I thoroughly cleaned the apartment...haha...today I realized that's never gonna get done...so here are some pics!
My front door #304.  To the right is my annoying doorbell/intercom...it plays Yankee Doodle :p
Outside my building.  Most Korean apartments are in huge high-rises...those are the nice apartments where families live.  I live in a studio apartment...where all of us foreign teachers get put.
Mailboxes.  Nice thing about Korea is that stealing isn't really an issue...no need to lock up your mail.
To the left is the bathroom, to the right is the kitchen...in the middle is my messy bookshelf.
Travel Books are my favorite:)
Thankfully I have a decent closet. 
Mom wouldn't believe this was my house if I would have made the bed for the picture.

I decorate my apartment with pictures I get from my students.  Melissa made this for me when I was at home.
The air conditioner is above the t.v.  It has a remote which is nice.  In the summer I'd keep the remote on my nightstand and I wouldn't have to get up to adjust the air.
Uninspiring kitchen + very few kitchen utensils + food I'm not used to at the grocery store =  I don't use this room very much.
Kitchen and entryway.
Bathroom.  Recently Koreans use bathtubs but they are only in new, modern apartments.  For the rest of us, we get traditional Korean bathrooms with shower-sinks.  It's really not as bad as it seems.  You just turn the knob on your sink to shower mode and take a shower in the middle of your bathroom.  That means everything gets wet so you can't keep certain things in the bathroom.  The most important thing is to remember to switch the knob back to sink mode when you are finished otherwise the next time you go to wash your hands, you'll get a shower...I've done that waaay too many times.
The drain is under the sink.  Cleaning your bathroom is easy because you can just hose it down...except for the occasional soap scum on your toilet...
My laundry room.  Koreans don't use dryers...really, ever...  I miss my dryer and oven most!
Well...I guess that's about it.  It's small and without a few luxuries like a couch, oven, dryer, bathtub, etc... but it's really not so bad.  To me, it's home.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Home Again...

I am back in Korea and my body is slowly detoxing from all the food I ate in Minnesota.  My time at home was waaay two short.  Two weeks went too fast and I didn't get a chance to see everyone that I wanted to...and there were so many people I did see that I wanted to see much longer than I had time for. 

Some of my highlights from my trip home included (but not limited to):
  • Seeing my neices and nephews.  Wow...they have all grown up so much in the past year...seeing them, more than anything, makes me realize how much I'm missing from being so far away!!
  • Seeing the rest of my family falls into number 2...sorry!!  You're just not as cute anymore!  Ok, this ISN'T in any particular order (seriously).
  • Seeing old friends...including...Ambrocio...yep, I caved and I'm so glad I did...not even gonna lie.
  • Visiting with kids from the Boys and Girls Club.  Wow, I had NO IDEA I missed those kids that much.  Everyone seemed to be doing so good and matured so much.  I'm so proud of those kids!!
  • Seeing my goddaughter and her family.  HI ALEXIS!  I didn't realize I missed that community of friends and I didn't realize how terrible my Spanish has gotten (yikes!).  I only got to spend 2 hours with her...and that was not enough!
  • Food!!!  No white rice or fermented vegetables for two whole weeks!!!
Here are some highlights from my trip home.
A view of Korea from the plane.
Little Glen was waiting for me at the airport...holding his "Who is Katie?" sign:)
Mike, Glen, Karlee, and Monique picked me up at the airport.  We stopped at Ruby Tuesdays for lunch.  Glen was more than excited about the "all-you-can-eat" fries!  He ate them at least 5 at a time.
 As many as he could fit in the ketchup at one time.
 Leaning back to squeeze in some more...
I came home on my birthday so everyone came over to spend the night with me.  I was so exhausted by the flight that I fell asleep at my own party.

 Cousins.
I had to take a picture of my truck for my kids at school.  We don't have trucks like these in Korea.
 And there aren't a lot of cattle in Korea either.  Home sweet home:)
 We celebrated Christmas on New Years Day at mom's.  Heaven is so hilarious.  She'll talk your ear off.  On the phone one time I kept saying, "ok Heaven, I gotta go...I'll talk to you later..."  And she kept saying, "But I'm not done talking to you yet..."
 The flash on my camera is toooo bright for Glen...every pic turned out like this!
 Heaven said, "Kaaaaatie, don't take a picture of me...my hair IS NOT BEAUTIFUL!"
 Me and Mo.  Wow...I look tired!
 Me and Karlee.
 haha....mom really got into the Wii!!  She's gonna kill me for posting this!  Love you mom!
 Heaven's fix to her "not beautiful" hair.
 Some samples of all the food I ate at home.  Chipotle.
 Canadian Honker's hot roast beef sandwich.
 Olive Garden salad and breadsticks!
More Olive Garden.
 Wong's...in which Amy and I had TWICE!  We've had the same waitress since I was a kid and she hardly has said much to us. When I said, xie xie, it opened up a new relationship.  Xie xie (shay shay) means, "thank you" in Mandarin Chinese.  She told me about her son in Hong Kong and was wondering how I knew Chinese (just a few words for my trip), etc... 
 Panera.  My first job.  Greek salad and brocolli cheddar soup!
 Chicken Bruchetta Salad at Granite City in Saint Cloud.  I had a nice dinner with old friends and coworkers and all I took a picture of was the food...woops!
I also ate:  BLTs, Arby's Market Fresh Sandwich, frozen pizza, Red Lobster, cheese curds, fondue, chili, juicy hamburgers, lots of Mexican food, etc etc etc...

Driving in Minnesota.


 Chicken tastes better when you load it in your truck first.

 poor little guy!!  Corbin reached up and the highchair tray fell on him:(  He healed quickly, though.
 Seeing my grandpa was a huge highlight of the trip:)  Severals aunts and uncles came along for dinner with Grandpa.  It was so nice to see everyone!!
 typical Minnesota.

 Ok...so I've been staring at my unopened, unpacked suitcases all afternoon...I guess I better get to work.  It was so nice to see everyone from home and somehow I'll find a way to spend more time at home next time I take that ridiculously long flight...