Sunday, December 23, 2007

I saw Mama kissing Santa Claus

In the spirit of Christmas, my friend Emily and I shared some green tea spaghetti and regular spaghetti today (a lovely pairing of green and red sauces). Unfortunately I did not think to photograph until the dishes were mostly consumed. What, might you ask, is green tea spaghetti?
Honestly, I'm not exactly sure... tasted mostly like clam chowder to me. All I know is that it was green, smelled like fish, and there were crab legs coming out of my dish. Welcome to an "italian" resteraunt in Daejeon. Now, some Christmas joy in the O-Jung Dong area (I leave for Seoul in the morning)...

Christmas present to myself: a massive kimchee tub to be used as a bathtub. I took my first bath tonight. Awesome :)

A group of us at the Nutcracker ballet:

(Em and I at the nutcracker)

Cookie party:

Nothing says Christmas like some fake igloos outside our local mall (Kira and I):

I'm sure I'll post again in Seoul before I leave for Bali. But wanted to wish everyone a very merry christmas! Missing yall lots in this holiday season. Much love!

the final word.

I survived my first semester here (including narrative comments for every single student after I graded all their finals!). I thought a few more pictures from finals time would be appropriate...

My writing 2 students did cultural research projects for the second part of the quarter and presented their findings through a series of penpal letters and creative museum pieces. Here are some pics of them showing off their projects during our final exam/museum:

Friday, December 14, 2007

Something's fishy around here...

So Korea's latest fad... fish that eat all the dead skin cells off your feet. Basically you pay to put your feet in pools with carniverous fish. WHy would anyone pay to do that? I'm not sure. But I did.

Immediately the little fishies attack your toes and your heels. Wierdest feeling ever.

Annette was not so sure about this experience...

I on the other hand at least pretended to enjoy it :)

Oh, Korea. How strange you are sometimes.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Welcome to my winter wonderland of an apartment :) White lights everywhere did the trick :)

I got a beautiful fake tree from a coworker:

Lights all around the bedroom:

Happy ornaments mailed from Mom:

No winter wonderland is complete without a wonderfully cheesy fake deer. Haha

And the highlight of it all... my lights making a huge star in my living room:

And now, just because it is funny...
I have no drier. So when my clothes are washed, I simply sweep my floors well and let my clothes dry on the heated floors (I crank the heat up real high and open the windows). Here's what my apartment looks like when this happens :)

Merry Christmas everyone. Back to giving/grading finals.

Friday, December 7, 2007


I can't help but laugh when I think about my afternoon. I believe I have talked about jimjilbangs before... basically massive spas/saunas that are a craze here in Korea. For 6,000 won (about $6) you have free access to a full sauna, hot/cold rooms, these things that are sort of like giant kilns, smooth stones, etc. The hot/cold rooms, stone parts, kilns, etc are all coed (you put on these pajama things) and the saunas are single sex and naked. If you want to, you can spend the night on the floor of the coed area. Well, welcome to a Friday afternoon in Daejeon...

This was an insanely long week (finals are starting next week) and it has been cold (today we got our first snow), so I looked forward to a nice day at the sauna. Almost immediately after school, I met with 7 of my coworkers and headed to a jimbilbang. Note that some of these coworkers were good friends and others were people I rarely spend time outside of work with. I should also note that two of the women who went along were also parents of my students. And we all spent hours naked together. Awesome.

Well first we put on our bright orange pajama-like outfits and hung out in the hot/cold rooms. We basically got ourselves as sweaty as possible. We stayed in these rooms for hours (literally) before we took a break and got Korean rice drinks. We also took about 30 minutes for a norebang break (there was a karaoke area inside the sauna... these places have everything!). After belting some oldies, we spent some time in these charcoal heated kiln things. I think the best description I heard was a reverse igloo (they were shaped the same way but were insanely warm instead of cold). Then finally about 7 pm we made it down to the saunas.

There we spent over an hour of naked time: we moved between different temperature pools, scrubbed each other's backs, waded in cool water steam rooms, and relaxed in showers. The brave people (I was not included in this category) paid a little extra and got full body scrub downs by some aggressive workers. These scrubber ladies were also naked and attacked people's dead skin cells on tables in the main room. Older woman laid in heat caves clad only in face masks. Small children floated in the pools beside their moms or grandmas. It was quite a scene.

After I finished my sauna time I had about a half hour to wait until everyone else was done. I waited in the locker room which was a scene in itself. Most women hung out naked after they finished and watched TV or lotioned themselves. Some were partially dressed. For some reason there were many children around tonight. The scene that captured my attention the most was a naked grandmother and her toddler-aged pajama-clad grandson. It was so fascinating to see the two of them interact. She seemed to have no qualms jumping around the room with her grandson on her back. She literally bounced around in circles with him on her back and her stomach flapping for about 20 minutes trying to get him to fall asleep. She was completely unfazed when he batted her nipples. She had no problem letting him fall asleep on her bare lap. It was so strange. And yet there was something so freeing and natural about the scene. The grandma had no shame and seemed secure in her own body.

Finally we left the jimjilbang about 9 pm to go get dinner... 9 pm!!! Almost 5 hours after we arrived!!! The longest I had ever been before was about an hour and a half. So, moral of my evening: 5 hours naked with all the people I work with= hysterical adventures! Haha. What a great night.

Oh how far away from home I am.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

All about the kids

At TCIS, we work a lot. I put in ridiculously long hours and devote huge parts of my time and energy to these kids. So here they are--my beloved students in photo form :)

First, just a few of my freshmen girls:

Some group shots of my sophomores:

These sophomore girls are in my class AND live right next door to me:

The place where it all happens: (notice the awesome couches and the 6 foot tree that was constructed by a student for a project... unbelievable)

I really like color and my kids make pretty (yet thoughtful) projects...

My soccer kiddos (this is an older pic but I don't think I posted it on my blog...)

And just for fun, here are a few other REALLY random pics:
I got a haircut (only about $30 for a cut, color, two shampoos, and a blowdry):

We like to call these the "Nore-closets" aka- tiny closet-like spaces where 2-4 people can norebong (or kariyoke). THey = fun times on a Thursday night.

Look, there was a whole chicken in my soup! (mini-chicken)Annette likes to tell me this soup is very healthy and what Koreans eat to stay well. There were ginger roots, dates, and other random vegetables stuffed into the chicken.

In public rest stops there is some educational reading in the bathroom stalls. On my trip back from women's retreat in Gyeungju I got to learn what to do if my car catches on fire. What this image didn't catch was the first step... first I am to set up a huge ring of cones around my blazing car. Aparently I will have a whole pile of cones readily available.

And last, but not least. Here's a rose from pepero day, AKA a day that a candy company (pepero) has coined as a holiday where people give pepero sticks to friends or loved ones. People went crazy with the giant pepero sticks (pepero are basically cookie sticks that are half-way sipped in chocolate). I got this rose from a friend with some nice peperos and put it in my pretty Korean vase :)

Anyhow, enough randomness. I must go to bed. Love and miss all of you. It's hard to be so far away for the holidays. Stay in touch!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore...

Peter called on Sat. and about half way through our conversation he asked me if I realized how strange my life sounded. I hadn't really thought about it until he said it (I guess I am adjusting), but he's right:

I was out in a random mountain area hiking with 10 or so friends and literally hundreds of middle aged hikers. Aparently all the young people migrate to the cities for the weekends. But we wehguukins (foreigners)stood strong among the throngs of older intoxicated hickers and admired the changing leaves. I have come to realize that it is not uncommon for mobs of old men to be visibly drunk off soju at 4 pm. As Pete called I was trying to make my way back from a massive (maybe 200 ft tall) Buddha statue. The sound of native Koreans and my western friends attempting Korean flooded our conversation in the background. As I hit the base of the mountain I discovered that a group of maybe 100 people had spontaneously broken out into a traditional dance. Drums were sounding and crowds were forming. I quickly hurried past so I could here Peter. As I exited the park and walked down the street, I passed a man with a monkey on one side of him and a dog on the other. My Korean-American friend translated the man's cries for me: he wanted me to pay to watch his monkey and dog box each other. Each animal sat, sedated, on either side of his owner. I kept walking and looked for a leash on the monkey. As I continued to walk people tried to get me to buy a variety of things: chestnuts, persimons, roots, seeds, merinated fish, soups, baskets,... Finally I had to hang up with Peter so my friends and I could try to bargain for our lunch: these omelette type pancakes filled with green onions and squid. We had 5 minutes to down our lunch before jumping on to a bus back to Taejeon. This time we got seats (the ride over we had tickets but were two seats short). I fell asleep as one of my new friends evangelized to a stranger. When we got back to Taejeon I stepped into a usual Sat night routine: we ate a Korean BBQ beef dish and went Norybonging (ie- karioke).

My how my life has changed.

FYI: I've added more pictures. I don't have time right now to add subtitles, but pics are of Daejeon, Songnisan (the park), and 2 separate weekends to Seoul (1 for a conference and one to visit Sarah).

Another random tidbit: I'm not coming back to the states for the holidays so I am living it up in Asia. I'll be with Sarah in Seoul for Christmas. Then I'm off to Bali with 5 friends (3 from work, Sarah, and one of my coworker's friends who lives in Japan). We'll be in Bali about two weeks then we stopover in Singapore for 3 days on our way back to Seoul. I'm stoked.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Poking around...

I learned Korean poker tonight. I am terrible at it. No way am I going to quit teaching and become a professional poker player. Just thought I'd share.

I have parent teacher conferences the next two days. Wish me luck! Round 1 of Korean parents.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hot Air Balloon Festival

There was a hot air balloon festival in Daejeon this weekend and I went with some TCIS friends, a new friend from CA (I'm stoked to have a fellow Californian!), and some German guys we met in Cheju-do. We had all imagined that we were going to see a ton of hot air balloons and a neat airshow. Instead, we got there and the man at the info booth informed us that there was too much wind (seriously there was not even a mild breeze... it was just plain hot and still). There were a ton of people, but the sky shows were scarce.

Here was the sole balloon in the sky:

Don't blink, this was the 3 pm airshow.

I have to say that the aviary highlight would be these men in gliders who flew over us and threw handfuls of ginseng candies. Old men shoved to grab the falling candies. I managed to get one myself. Unfortunately, I missed all my picture opportunties. I was too busy chasing flying ginseng.

While there were not many adventures in the sky, we found plenty of fun on the ground. There were a ton of booths and we entertained ourselves trying (or scoffing at) random Korean foods. First some of the ones I refused to eat:
Boiled silk worm larvae:

Chicken feet:

Either "butt holes" or "gizzards"... we got two different translations:

And my adventurous moment, conchs:

Anyhow, blogger is having uploading issues so I can't upload any new pics. I should go to bed soon anyhow. Who wants to eat after these images?

Miss you!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


My brain is dead. This probably won't be coherant. I'm sorry in advance.

I'm done! I have graded a million essays in the last two and a half days (grades were due today) on the randomest topics and my brain is fried. I have read about everything from color psychology, to the unique qualities of Halo, to the history of Broadway, to the effects of second-hand smoking, to the laws of attraction...
Since essays have been my life outside of school, I feel like I should share some of the funniest moments:
-One student proposed the following thesis statement in his first draft: "Without alcohol, 50% of the world would commit suicide." (a. not so objective for an expository essay, b. what!?!)
-Another student wrote on the reasons that teens are attracted to particular clothing lines and was writing about how teens had body image issues. I told the kids that they could conduct informal research as well and so this student did that-- she interviewed a few classmates. So in the middle of her paper she starts listing (by name) her peers who think they are too fat. I get where she was going, but not exactly the way I would have illustrated the point. How would you like to be the person quoted as the fat example?

One last school thought and then I'm done... students here are crazy dedicated. I had a big short story project due for my English 10 classes and was blown away by the assignments I got. Students had to make creative components for a number of aspects of the story to go along with oral and written pieces. Many came in with numerous highly creative items: multiple oil pantings with sculptures, symbolic items, music, mobiles, shadow boxes, etc. This was the major assignment for the quarter so expected a lot, but I couldn't believe how much time and effort my students put into the projects! Only in Korea...

On a different topic: this week is Spiritual Emphasis Week at TCIS. What does that mean, you might ask? It is basically a 3-day high school vacation Bible school. There are no classes, students are in random groups, the school flies in a band and speakers, we have Bible studies, play games... the whole deal. I am a small group leader and am getting to know 15 students as we move through activities together. It is very interesting because about half of the students at TCIS are not Christians. In my group, almost 75% are not. It makes conversations about faith (specifically focused on Christian ideas) very interesting. It is neat to be a part of.

Last weekend I went to visit Sarah in Seoul. It was the first time I had been up since I started school. It was really good to get away and also to see someone familiar. A nice break from grading and school-ness. We spent most of the weekend shopping and finding ethnic food that doesn't exist in Daejeon. It was nice to feel comfortable in Seoul. It also reminded me how much I appreciate that Daejeon is a little smaller than Seoul. There were people EVERYWHERE in Seoul... this is great sometimes but it is never quiet even for a moment. I like that Daejeon has some space (well, a little bit at least...)

One final really random thought. Today I was coaching elementary soccer. There are 4 teams at TCIS with 4 different coaches. Each team has a small handful of girls on it. The other coaches are mostly male. Well, in the middle of practice today, one of the male coaches pulls me aside. Before long I am surrounded by a group of 3rd through 5th grade girls who were scared to death of chest traps. I had to show them how to do it properly so they wouldn't get hurt... the 5th graders in particular were very nervous that if they trapped wrong it might hurt "it" (they would not call their breasts anything except "it"... not even "them"). The innocent ackwardness of these girls was so cute-- none of them even have developed chests yet! But they were so concerned and nervous to talk about it... who would have though soccer coaching would turn into sex ed?

Enough of my ramblings. I need to get sleep. I think I'm calling it an early night. Miss yall lots!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Long overdue...

Hello, friends. I am trying to play catch up cause as you may have noticed I have been MIA for a bit. As part of my quest to reconnect to the world I have added captioned pictures to both my facebook and my shutterfly accounts (the shutterfly account is more thorough). However, more exciting than the day to day work life is my vacation: I just got back from my Chusok break trip to Jeju-do island. Jeju is a tropical island located off the southern tip of Korea. I went with a huge group of my coworkers (some of whom I knew well, others I barely knew). I'll share the "short" version of our itinerary below:

Our flight was not until mid-afternoon. But because Monday was the first day of Chusok break and people had been warning us that everything was going to be shut (and that tickets would be sold out) we left hours before we normally would to take the bus to the airport. In reality, there was no extra traffic. The result: us at the airport 5 1/2 hours early. That's a new record for me. See us bored below:

We finally made it do the island which was beautiful and took a long walk to a good dinner. After dinner we went to this, for lack of better word-- reserve, and saw a pretty waterfall. A nice way to end day 1.

Monday night we stayed at Nikole's married friends' apartment while the boys crashed with her friend Tim. I lucked out and got the couch that others were too tall for. Being short pays off sometimes.

Tuesday was Chusok (Korea's thanksgivinng equivalent). Most people visit their relatives and eat together. We on the other hand, played on the beach and walked around town. We saw these kids on the street and asked their parents if we could photograph their traditional clothes:

The majority of Tuesday was a beach day (made me SOO happy). We had perfect weather for beach football and swimming. We went on a sand beach by the fancy resorts (if only we had enough money to stay at the Hyatt!). Check out the view from the Hyatt:

In the afternoon we went banana boating. It was so much fun...reminded me of houseboat trips. Some of our people went parasailing too. Tuesday night four of us decided to skip the apartment life and sleep on the beach. We had a bonfire with a bunch of strangers from all around the world. Then we slept on the sand listening to the waves crash. It was all lovely minus the million and two bug bites I acquired. I am just too sweet tasting I guess. The beach we slept on:

We woke up Monday morning smelling like bonfire, sweat, bugspray, and beach. A shower was in high order. So we went to the Jimjilbang for a scrub down. For those unfamiliar with the term, jimjilbangs are basically saunas/spas where you soak/scrub/etc naked (single sex). At first it was really odd to hang out naked with all my coworkers. But everyone else is doing it and I got comfortable with it pretty fast. It's a little weird hanging out with a ton of old naked Korean ladies, but if they can flaunt their stuff, so can I.

The rest of Wednesday was filled with travelling to O-do island (a small island off the northeastern coast of Cheju-do). We took taxis to buses to a ferry... missed a ferry... finally made was worth the hassle. We basically hung out in a sweet pension right on the water and relaxed, played pool, played spoons, learned some Korean slapping game, and got to sleep in real beds.
Here's some of us waiting for the ferry:

Here is the pension we stayed in:

We hiked to the east side of the island to watch the sunrise. It was gorgeous!

Then I took a nap to recover from my 5:30 AM hike. Once we were all up and ready we rented scooters to check out the whole island. Let me tell you, I was one quality biker chick. I was not the smoothest starter or stopper (and by not smooth I mean incredibly jerky) but I had a lot of fun riding around. We checked out some cliffs that were impressive and had a blast. Then we took a ferry and bused it back down to Seogwipo (where we were staying the first two nights).

one of the views:

Once we got back, we did another group jimjilbang trip. My skin has never been smoother! Then Thursday night we went to a nice Italian place for dinner and enjoyed the views and company. That night we slept in a Korean hostel. It had private rooms and I got to sleep in a bed. Not the highest quality, but for 10,000 won a night I was completely satisfied.
Almost the entire group (missing Tim, Emily, and Nikole)

Friday (today):
We woke up this morning and spent a good three quarters of an hour at Dunkin' Donuts waiting for 3 coffees and 3 toasted bagels (who knew it took so long here!). Then we booked it over to a large Budhist temple. Well, first we took a detour in a cab to a tiny allyway with a mini budhist sanctuary upstairs in a building... we had a slight miscommunication with our driver. Alas, we eventually found the correct Budhist building. It was beautiful (sooo tropical!). The place had a waterfall and tropical plants everywhere. Not what I pictured a temple looking like. On a different note--I have never seen so many Buddhas in one place. The main temple had an upstairs with thousands of mini statues. There was also another building that housed hundreds of larger statues depicting the many human emotions. A view of the temple:

After numerous adventures and mishaps we got our stuff and made it back to the airport side of the island. We were determined to find a specific Indian restraunt before we left and wandered tiny roads until we found it. We must have looked like so ridiculous--- a dozen white people dragging luggage back and forth with maps and confused looks. Awesome. We were finally successful and made it back to the airport just in time.

All in all-- a good and incredibly random trip. Now, back to reality. SAD.