Sunday, March 29, 2009
Apparently a backpack.
So I spent the weekend in the central South Korean city of Daejong. It was amazingly simple...I just jumped on the bus I normally take to get to the subway...and got off at the last stop. There I was at the bus station. I bought a ticket within half an hour I was southern bound on a bus.
After a 2 hour bus ride and the joys of which included the joys of traffic... I arrived at Daejong...I was waiting for my friend...I walked around a park in the heart of the city. Two things of interest happened. First, a random, old Korean man...turned to me and stared curiously into my eyes. Apparently, in the land of black eyes...blue eyes are something of a novelty. The second is that I was surrounded by a swarm of 10 Korean elementary kids that wanted to practice their English.
I spent the afternoon at the dam...and if I had never seen a dam before in my life I would have been very impressed. But sadly, I grew up watching tv powered by Grand Coulee Dam. So while my British friend was very impressed...too me...the dam seemed...quiant...maybe some it'll be a grow up. After all it is a third as long and half as high !!!
The next morning, we took in some art galleries. One of the artists wasn't so much a painter or a scuptor...but a man that used television as video art. It felt a little like Terry Giliham/surrealesk.
I will attempt unsuccessfully to relate what I saw. It was a video of an older television. The kind with 2 knobs...the one for the normal stations and one for the UHF...it you can stretch you mind back before the days of remote controls...you may be able to just barely remember what I'm talking about. So a hand would come out from beside the screen and turn a knob...and the channel would change. Fair enough...that's what's supposed to happen...but then the hand would turn the knob again and the upside down feet on the screen began to turn upright.
The hand came out and smacked the tv again and turned the channel...nothing happened. So the hand pick up the tv and the image on the tv panned up to reveal a pair of legs...the hand dropped the tv and picked it up again...this time the tv showed only the feet.
So I am still kicking myself for not bringing my camera on my vacation...so instead I get to show off the view from my room. I'm on the 8th floor of a 15 floor studio complex. The bottom 2 floors are restaurants and minimarts (this is a no vending machine country!!!! but there is a mini mart every 10 meters...)
PS On doing a little more research for this blog (30 extra seconds on an online dictionary) I found out the Grand Coulee is the biggest concrete structure is North America...and the 5th largest dam in the world. Maybe I should get a little less perspective...like when I I see a big building, I shouldn't compare it to the Boeing plant up in Everett (which just happens to be the largest building in the world...ok ok...maybe I spent 45 seconds looking around the dictionary)
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
So the World Baseball Classic Championship Game was this week. I've experienced something similar before in America back in 1995. Every tv was on and turned to channel 7. Every mini-mart, every restaurant, every business had the game on. After the Koreans decided to pitch to Ichiro with runners in scoring position...well the game was pretty much over (he promptly hit in not one but 2 runs...) I mourn the loss for my country of residence and denounce the dirty sliding of the evil Japanese base runners...this is a bit than your standard rivalry. These countries HATE each other. (which is very strange in that they share more in common with each other than any other countries/races around them)
So I spent the weekend exploring the heart of Seoul. I took a tour of the Imperial Palace. For a few dollars more (so thousands of won) I got a little audio tour guide. This was irrelevant other than the fact that every couple of stops on the tour, the tour guide would suddenly go off on a rant against the Japanese occupation. Then back to the amazing artwork and scenery...then more denouncing of the evil Japanese...anyways. After they closed the Imperial Grounds (which are many acres and you can spend hours walking around, exploring, and taking pictures.
I had one of the dishes I keep hearing about. Sam Kip Sal...or as I call it bacon. I guess I need to explain how a lot of Korean restaurants work... So first...no shoes...I now understand why Koreans are so fond of decorative socks. If you take your shoes off every time you go out to a Korean restaurant...then you might pay attention to what you put on your feet. After you remove your shoes...everyone sits crosss-legged around a square table with a natural gas burner and the server brings a plate of raw meat. In this case a couple wide, thick, juicy slices of bacon.
You throw a couple of those bad boys onto a tray which is placed on top of the burner...and indulge in some of the side dishes (pickled radishes and spicy sauerkraut). They give your tongs and scissors so that you can cut up the meat into bite sized pieces. The pieces are then pulled off the cooking tray, dipped in sauses, and wrapped in lettuce. You have to be careful not too put too many slices of bacon in the wrap though. The entire lettuce/bacon wrap into your mouth. Taking bites is NOT allowed. This is oddly one of the times you are allowed to use your hands in a Korean restaurant...most of the time its spoon/chopsticks only.
But what do they do with all the grease coming off the bacon? Throw it in a can and then into the trash? NO!!! WHAT A WASTE. Instead the pan is tilted to one side and you put a pile of the spicy cabbage to mop up all the drippings. This makes the cabbage MUCH tastier (go figure) And the bacon itself is excellent!!!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Did you watch the news? Korea beat Japan (and therefore Ichiro) in the World Baseball Classic. Anyways... I can't get it into my head that 1400 = 1. One of the hardest things to wrap my head around in this country is the currency....or more specifically the exchange rate. There are no cents here. Just the won. The penny is 10 won. The smallest bill is 1000 won. Well, that does make a little bit of sense (pun intentional) as 100 pennies go into a dollar. But the largest bill they have is the 10,000 won....so basically the 10 dollar bill...but they have no larger paper currency. Try paying for everything in $10 bills everywhere you go...that $150 (suddenly 150,000) grocery bill at Costco?...that $400 (400,000) lap top....just try it back in the states...yeah...you might just get a dirty look or two. Those extra zeros keep distracting me. If suddenly I was asked to pay 500,000 for anything...my first instinct would be to call a banker about a mortgage. But no I took 500,000 out of the bank yesterday from the ATM..I get paid millions every month (sadly its not millions of dollars)..and if that's not enough. I can't wrap my head around the fact that one dollar doesn't mean 1000 won (as it did a year ago) So 1000 won is actually around 68 cents. or conversely a dollar is 1400 won. But like America (or everywhere) there seems to mental barrier of a 1000 (the smallest bill) So everything in the convience store...everything is 1000 priced. That bag of chips...1000? That candy...1000...and that ceramic panda? 1000 won. Which brings me to the major side affect of paying for everything in cash....spare change and lots of it. So my panda bear/piggy bank is coming in very handy.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
In the back is Joyel (on the left) and Kate (on the right) In the front is Alesha. These are my partners in crime. Joyel moved up to Seoul from Busan last year with her sister....she has 6 sisters totel (they call themselves the army) Kate and Alesha went to elementary school together. But one was in the second grade class 12/30 and the other was on the second grade class 13/30 ...With 40 kids to a room and 30 classes per grade...(doing the math...four times three...carry the one...) thats 1200 students PER GRADE. THATS NUTS each grade is larger than the TOTAL population of my AAAA high school and even then....with 40 kids in an elementary school class the teachers somehow maintain order...I can barely control 8 kids at a time...I have no idea how they can handle 40!!!!
Monday, March 2, 2009
So many Americans like bacon...but do they ever truly celebrate it? Like set aside a whole day called bacon day? No....well 3-3 was Bacon Day in Korea and it was wonderful...
So I spent the weekend in Seoul on a training camp. It took about a little over an hour to get from my place on the eastern outskirts of Seoul to the conference on the western edge using both the bus and the subway...did I mention 1 HOUR....GO PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION!!!!...anyways....the conference was divided into 2 sections. One for the Korean natives and one for the English speakers. There were about 15 of us... from all of the world. We had hosers and honkeys, Kiwis and Kenyans, Brits and even born in a Korean (but raised in the states). By day, we learned about lesson plans, managed to get thru classroom management, and went over ways to keep the kids engaged. By night, we explored the city that is Seoul and the city that is Korea (Korea is to Seoul what New York City is to New York state)...did homework, hung out, listened to music and ate street vendor food. All in all in felt a bit like university (and yes...I know last month I would have said college....but the the world has this funny way of rubbing off on you)