March 5, 2012

Host Moms Everywhere

I literally feel like Korea is filled with host moms everywhere I go there is a middle aged Korean woman looking out for me. At school, at home and now at Caffe Bene the coffee shop I often visit.

You should know that it's pretty much the craziest thing in the world to see a Korean woman out in the rain without an umbrella. Maybe they're all witches and will melt in the rain, who knows. All I know is that it doesn't happen. I've assimilated to this aspect of their culture but since I "lost" my umbrella in Seoul (I was tired of carrying it around so I left it at my favorite Mexican restaurant) I have been either borrowing one from my host family or adventuring out without it. My host mom has gone so far as to instruct me to call her if I'm at school and it's raining and I don't have an umbrella. I would obviously never do that but I want to stress the umbrella thing.

So I was super bored in school today and decided to actually adhere to the only have to stay in school for 6 hours a day rule. Unfortunately for me it was raining, but no big deal, I put my hood up and walked to Caffe Bene. Upon entering the coffee shop owner who recognizes me (not hard, I go there like three times a week and I'm the only white girl there, ever.) starts scolding me for not having an umbrella, goes back and gets me her umbrella and then gets a handful of napkins and wiping me down. not giving me the napkins but like rubbing all over my coat. Was it out of fear of getting her restaurant wet? Probably not since it was only drizzling. What is most heartwarming is that she is letting me borrow her umbrella, I only hope it stops raining before I head home so I don't have to actually take it with me!!!

Thanks to the ajummas everywhere lookin' out for me.

PS read this story: The K-Pop wave is leaving the East and heading West! Watch out America!

March 3, 2012

Back in Cheongju

Well, it's been an eventful few hours back in Cheongju. Let's start with what's going on in my school.

Jihyea and Mina are no longer English teachers at Namsung :( Jihyea's school was switched at the last second and Mina has become a homeroom teacher for 3rd grade (which is ironic because she hated teaching third grade but... we'll see). Her pregnancy is coming along nicely and she looks beautiful! I'm glad she's staying at Namsung so I can see her around. It was really sad coming back and seeing Jihyea's desk empty though *sob sob*

Don't worry preggers still works here.

Mirim and I met the new English teachers. My new official co-teacher's name is KyeongAh and the other teacher is Sunhi. KyeongAh seems really great, she's 36 and I only met Sunhi very briefly so we'll see how that turns out. We also have a new principal who is the head of a teacher's rights organization so that should be good for the teachers at Namsung. We have a lot of new faces actually, about ten new teachers. I don't usually hang out with them so that probably won't change anything.

Host mom and Sol have been in China for the last week which is sort of scary for me because host mom definitely doesn't know English and she doesn't know Chinese either. I think they went on some sort of tour or with a group of friends. It's just been me, brohan and host dad around so I've been going to coffee shops. Also, someone broke into the three houses across the street last night at 10pm... which host dad laughed at... he's number one on my suspects list. But I guess the robber broke through a window and stole clothes and shoes. I seriously don't understand how it went down because it was only 10 so I'm sure people were still awake and they don't have guns in korea so... yeah.

I spent today with two ETAs in Cheongju. Izumi and my old roommate Ekatarina. Ekat spent the break in Russia with her grandparents (her grandpa is on new blood medication or something?) and Izumi was in Seoul too so I saw him a couple times there. We went and saw "This Means War" and then to a coffee shop then to dinner. It was nice to see them and hopefully I'll hang out more with the Cheongju ETAs this semester.

I don't know my new schedule but I was told I will be teaching 3rd and 6th grade. I'll let you know later!

February 22, 2012

Bali, Indonesia

Bali was a little more rough than KL. We were staying in an obviously touristy place (Kuta) and we hadn't really made any plans except for the tour that would take one day. Everywhere you walked people were very pushy about you looking/buying their things. If you sat on the beach women would come up and try to sell you bracelets or massages. Men asked if you needed taxis every 100ft. The good thing about this was a lot of interaction with the locals, for instance one of the bracelets I was wearing looked exactly like some of the bracelets women sold so when they saw me wearing it they would stop pushing me to buy things and sit down and introduce themselves, ask where I'm from and talk to me about whatever was on their mind/ answer my questions about why the beach was so dirty. In Bali I got to spend a lot of down time and time alone. This was when headphones came in handy because I was able to just put them in and tune out the vendors while still being able to look around. There was a lot to see but the area was definitely overwhelming at times.

Something else they sold on the side of the street was petroleum, which they kept in used Absolute bottles in these stands on the side of the street. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of them!

Every morning local Hindus would wake up and put offerings outside their shops, on the curbs or in front of statues that were all over the island. We were around before one of the main holidays. People were making these long poles and decorating them with colored palms. On the end of the palms would be a person looking object. A lot of the hotels and shops had these in front of them as an offering to the mountain God.
Here is Esther and Anne standing on the beach
Here we are trying the world's most Expensive Coffee (Luwak Coffee made from the poop of a Luwak. No Joke.)
Paddy's Memorial

Ok, so now let’s talk about the tour we took. Gutti was our tour guide and he met us at the hotel then took us around the island to places that he thought we would like (places he got compensation from if we bought things) such as a place where we watched people make silver jewelry, a wood shop, a weaving shop, a traditional Indonesian dance, a water temple and a place where they make the world’s most expensive coffee (Luwak Coffee). We also saw the layered rice paddy and an active volcano!

Me at the rice paddy
Me at the Volcano
The water temple, there are more offerings on each spout
The tiger in the play

On this trip we spent most of the time wandering the streets around our hostel and the beach. The beach was either clean and full of people pushing things on you or filthy and fully of locals playing soccer. Can you tell which beach is in front of the Hard Rock Café?

offerings that people put in front of their shops

The shops had a lot of cool things and a lot of weird things. Here are some wire chicken egg holders. (Host fam needed it.) There were lots of shirts that had the beer label for Bintang on it. Bintang was pretty good, a lot better than Tiger which was what they served in Malaysia. Other things that were sold were wood products, paintings and jewelry. Below is Esther walking along the road of shops and the chickens