December 12, 2011


"My name is Mary"

December 11, 2011

Full of food on Thursday

Last Thursday was one of the more glorious Thursdays that I've had this year. Usually I teach four 3rd grade classes, three in a row before lunch then one after class closely followed by the 6th grade club class. By some miracle (I'm guessing it was the first snow that we watched fall in between classes) the third graders were behaving well and making strides in their lessons!

After third grade classes were over the sixth grade club class came in to start making their food. Their lesson today was to make some food then write out the recipe in English to end their food unit. I got a lot of free food out of it... even if the quality wasn't very good. It said a lot that the girls made tteopoki and the boys microwaved bacon and put it between two slices of bread. NOT only did they make me food but the other English teachers had a meeting in the next room and they ordered pizza and had cola that they snuck me in for. That was delicioussss.

School ended then the 5 of us English teachers went downtown to check out the cake place that Mirim was talking about earlier this week. When she went in the summer you paid 5,000 won for all you can eat cake. She said that the pieces were small but you could have as much as you wanted. I think we justified the trip by saying we were celebrating Mina's pregnancy but I'm pretty sure that's what we celebrated the last time that we went out to dinner. Actually, I don't know why we thought we had to justify eating large amounts of cake in the first place. So the place was called Gateau Juni and since Juni doesn't mean anything in French I'm guessing it's the name of the woman who owns the cafe/bakery.

We got there and they didn't have the all you can eat option so Mirim ended up getting a "set" which most restaurants offer for groups of 3 or more where they have different popular options from their menu. We usually get a set at Uncle Tomato that has pizza, fries, pasta and other stuff. While Mirim was ordering the set JiHyea and I looked at some of the things you can buy to decorate a cake. We found out that if you paid 18,000 won you get a white iced cake and 7 free decorations to use and you can decorate your own cake! Then eat it there or bring it home.

In the photo of us all together Jungwon is to the far left (she was the one I visited in the hospital really early into the year and was out of school for a couple months), then JiHyea (my official on paper co-teacher even though I don't teach with her she just does all the paperwork), Mina (who we just found out is pregnant congratulations again!!) and Mirim.

You MAY be wondering, "what is that they are doing in their photo with their fists?" WELL it's pose that is associated with aegyo also known as cute&play. Korean girls grow up learning it from their mom, aunts and sisters. Every movement Korean girls between 16-marraige is made with aegyo in the back of their head. The firsts are supposed to make their heads look smaller which apparently makes you more beautiful? That's what I'm told. It's kind of like in America girls become slutty but in Korea girls become cute. In our rendition of Gee during the ambassador's dance it's essentially all aegyo. Leslie is a pro at aegyo.

Most of the people at the cafe were decorating a cake so we were just taking pictures and talking. While we were waiting for the cakes the waitress came
to give us some jasmine teach which I was told by Mirim "gets rid of fat" which I guess is nice if we're about to indulge in cake. Then our food came which was TWO cakes the one with white and brown is the chocolate and cherries with whip cream one then on the bottom is the fruit/walnut cake? It was surprisingly amazing. Also with our cakes came a strawberry cupcake with strawberry cream cheese frosting. In case that didn't fill us up they also gave us a basket and a plate full of cookies and muffins. I didn't think we could do it but I was shocked to see that they could not only eat all the cake but also some of the muffins and cookies.

The cakes were reallllyyyyy good and we stayed there for like four hours. They gave free refills on all the coffee which I don't think helped me later that night but it was totally worth it. Pizza and cake has just made me even more excited about coming home for Christmas!

Puppies on the Subway

on the way to the express bus terminal on the subway I was joined by a furry friend!

December 7, 2011

My New Favorite Song

Be My Baby- Wonder Girls

Proctoring's a Pain

December 4th was one of the more painful days I’ve had in Korea. And that’s because it was spent proctoring the CFA exam.

My weekend started off with a great dinner with my co-teachers. We found out that Mina just found out she was pregnant so we were mostly making jokes about that and enjoying some really good Italian food at Uncle Tomato our go-to restaurant for teacher dinners. I got home and packed to spend the weekend and Monday in Seoul training to proctor, proctoring and eating dinner with Rick.

Saturday morning started early so I could get to the Fulbright building at 11am to start my proctoring training with Mrs. Shim and no one wants to be late for a training session with Mrs. Shim. So I got there signed in and met with some 45 other ETAs to start a lovely 2 hour session of learning about the perils of proctoring a CFA exam in Seoul. First of all, it’s not like the SAT where there is one person reading in a room behind a desk while a bunch of high school students try to get the best score they can. It’s a huge WAREHOUSE that is blocked off and has a kajillion tables in it with 30 different sections of 60ish late 20 year olds trying to pass a test to move on to the next level of testing. They have to pay $1000 just to take it and apparently the stakes are high enough that they will try anything to cheat. Especially because of the high stress test taking culture of Korea. Anyway we were told that we have to stay on our feet for 2 three hour sessions which, come on, shouldn’t really be a problem right? WRONG. Walking around for three hours is a pain in the legs.

So after the training session we went to Hongik University to go to the MEXICAN RESTAURANT one of the like, 5 in Korea. Yummm the avocado burrito was so good. Then we went to myeongdong where I took about 10 people to A Land my favorite store there. After that we pretty much just split off and I didn’t buy anything J proud. Well, I did buy coffee. Then some of us went to Ilsan where the test would be to have dinner and find a place to stay near the testing area so we wouldn’t have to wake up at 4:30am. Anyway, the hotels cost 80,000 won per room which was a lot more than we were used to! So that was depressing but we DID have some really good food at a Korean BBQ restaurant (I was with Hogan who was the president of the Student government at UNC and one of the stars in their a cappella group, Charlie who used to row and has a girlfriend in TALK one of the other programs that brings over Americans to teach English, Paddy, and Emma who lives in Busan and is a very tiny girls but is mostly infamous for eating A LOT.) We went to bed around 11pm and got up at like 6pm to get ready for the long day ahead of us in which we had to arrive at the testing site by 6:50.

We signed in with Mrs. Shim who was keeping a close watch on who arrived on time and got to put on these super cool neon vests that we had to wear all day then went to our various stations. My station was front row center to the entrance. We had to get there two hours before the test starts because, well, no one knows why because everything was already set up. Ok, normally I wouldn’t be doing this but that means we spent those other hours standing because we weren’t allowed to sit in the chairs the test takers would sit in in case we were going to write down some formula that they could use on the test. So after an hour or so of standing around the test takers, a bunch of zombie stressed out thirty year olds, walked in and were stressed about where they were supposed to sit so mostly I had to direct them to where their station was since I was basically the first person that they saw. For the people that WERE in my section I had to ask if they had a cell phone and make sure that they didn’t bring in anything that they weren’t supposed to which didn’t even matter because out of the 5 people proctoring the station we had a lead proctor and 4 other proctors who actually did the walking around thing. One of them was an old man who was checking to make sure their calculators were ones that were allowed and made them empty their pockets which was a little awkward. One of the proctors didn’t show up (it was a Korean not an eta) and so a floating proctor joined our group. Floating proctors are people that make sure the station is filled at all times.

Anyway, then when everyone was finally settled in we started the 3 hours of walking around making sure no one cheated. It was kind of funny to listen to the other ETAs talk about their take on proctoring because some were super crazy/hilarious about making sure no one was cheating and others (like me) formed invisible/non existant bonds with some of the test takers and mentally cheered for them. Basically, we all went a little stir crazy being in a warehouse with nothing but florescent lights, test takers and steel beams to entertain us. The sections were connected on the sides so while we were walking we could kind of make eye contact with each other which started games such as, find the hottest Koreans taking the test, make fractions of the people wearing abercrombing and fitch sweatshirts (they cost like $200 here so that means they’re rich, yo) and guessing who would fail or wig out half way through the exam. My section had two Canadians which was somewhat interesting but it wasn’t like I could talk to them anyway.

After the first section we got to have lunch which was actually amazing. It was teriyaki chicken cooked in a western fashion and soooooo good.

Then came the second session. Ahhh kill me my legs hurt and it was so boring. The only thing I looked forward to was when they flipped the signs saying how much time was left.

Anyway, it was a long day but when everything was collected and I was allowed to sit down (yes!) it was time to go get dinner with Rick! (my dad’s cousin in Seoul on business).

It was an hour and a half subway ride to get to the Park Hyatt hotel where Rick was staying and after briefly getting lost I made it to the lobby to meet him. The hotel was really nice and the lady at the desk called a taxi for us then there was someone downstairs to direct the taxi to the restaurant where we were going. It was a great bbq restaurant where we didn’t have to do any of the cooking and it was great to see Rick. We had some Cass (Korean beer) and caught up. We had both had a long day though so we went back to his hotel and I took the subway to the Fulbright building where I would be staying.

I picked up a bottle of soju and some beer as a birthday present/thank you for letting me stay at your house present for Jim whose apartment I would be staying at. When I walked in Anthony (the boy I did the dance with) Emma (who I stayed with before the test) Hyesung (a Fulbright researcher who just graduated from Wisconsin) and Jim were all sitting in his apartment celebrating Jims birthday. Jim had forgotten I was staying there because he had been studying for the LSAT that he took that morning. It didn’t matter though because Jim regularly has 5 ETAs in his apartment for their trips up to Seoul, it was probably the 4th time that I’ve stayed there.

It was nice though we went up to the roof of the building (surrounded by a tall fence no worries) and continued celebrating in a picnic style party. We then went back to Jim’s and fell asleep. I woke up the next morning and sat around with Anthony and Emma because Jim had to go to work then I got the bus home to Cheongju for my club class at 2pm. Overall, it was a good visit to Seoul even with the day of walking foreverrrr.

Cheonan with mah gurlz

The weekend after the real Thanksgiving Leslie, Lucy and I completed the triangle of host family visits in Cheonan with Leslie’s homestay family. You might remember them from the time that I went with Leslie to go watch her hike a mountain, ended up climbing it with mostly Papa bear (Leslie’s host dad) and earning some major jung (Korean version of brownie points) with him, then sitting with him and the adults at the grown up table (sorry for kicking you out leslie) and eating LOTS of meat and having to drink beer after a major hike and before a two hour car ride. Doesn’t matter now because the point is they love me and I will always have a free space to stay in Cheonan.

This trip was the first time that Leslie’s host brothers sort of opened up though. Her youngest host brother is in 5th grade and he has been learning a few steps from Leslie who minored in dance (she choreographed our whole dance and pretty much stole the stage with none of us were bothered by). He wants to grow up to be a B Boy (boi?) and did some moves for us.

For dinner we had some really good sphagetti, ever since I said that my family doesn’t feed me that much meat they’ve been obsessed with making sure that I love everything they make. It was really nice and afterward Leslie, Lucy and I went downtown to window shop (in preparation for tomorrow) and check out a new bar that had opened where you go and get your own beer (THEY HAD SAM ADAMS!!!!!!! Yes it was $7 but that’s ok). They were super excited to see foreigners and gave us free food which I always feel a little weird about but I decided that them starring at us was the price of free food.

The next morning we got up early to go shopping (Lucy had to catch a train back because she had a wedding to go to the next day) and we hit up H&M where I used my self control and only got a cardigan and then we browsed the socks on the street vendors and bought some really thick tights which I LOVE because they are soooo warm and warmth is something that I need in my life.

We also took some really awesome STICKER PICTURES which everyone who visits me is going to do because yes, they are really lame but they are completely necessary, and only for true friends. In fact, I need to find where they do them in the US. After sticker pictures we went to lunch at my favorite Korean chain restaurant that serves dakboogi which is like fried rice chicken with rice cakes filled with mozzarella cheese and it’s so so so so so sooooooo good. SO good. After lunch we went to the Princess CafĂ© which was really a terrible experience the coffee tasted SO BAD (maybe because I ordered Princess coffee). Anyway, we tried to watch a movie after that but the ones that were available weren’t ones we were interested in seeing. Sorry Moneyball.

After downtown we went to go buy Lucy’s train ticket and go to an Indian restaurant that is famous in the world of foreigners living in Cheonan called Mountain Fishtail or something and it’s right across from the train station and it was AMAZING AND CHEAP AND I’M MAD I DON’T LIVE IN CHEONAN. Oh it was glorrriioousss and the family that owns it just had a baby and they were showing it around and it was so cute! Anyway, the meal was amazing. Basically, we ate a lot in Cheonan.

We said goodbye to Lucy then Leslie and I went back to her apartment to settle down and watch a movie. She had just downloaded Taken so we were watching that in her empty apartment (her host family was in Seoul for the night visiting relatives) when we heard someone COME INTO HER APARTMENT. Which was scary. The person took the time to take off their shoes in the foyer (do Korean burglars take off their shoes before breaking into a house??).

Turned out her dad couldn’t take the in laws anymore and came home early. He then offered me a drink. I sacrificed some jung and said no to that and went to bed early.

The next morning Leslie and I slept in then went to the bus station to send me to Cheongju. It had been a very fulfilling weekend.

Real Thanksgiving (November 24th)

On the real day of Thanksgiving (November 24th) I came to school trying not to think about how it was a holiday that I was supposed to be eating a lot of turkey and stuffing (the turkey they served to the Fulbright ETAs was very small and the stuffing was definitely no where near being as good as my dad’s) but when I came to my desk I saw that my thoughtful co-teacher Mirim had gone to a bakery and tried to pick out some baked goods that would simulate a thanksgiving feast for me (like sweet potato pastries). It came equipped with a card written in cursive which I have been teaching her on our downtime. School was really busy and then I ended it with the 6th grade club class where we compared Korean Thanksgiving (Chosuk) and American Thanksgiving.

I’m going to take this time to explain to those who don’t know the differences a little bit about the culture of each Thanksgiving. While our Thanksgiving celebrates a successful harvest where we give thanks to God for giving it to us Chosuk celebrates the beginning of Harvest praying for a good year. Chosuk is always on the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar and our Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday of November. BOTH holidays involve coming together and sharing a feast with friends and family in the fall.

After the 6th grade advanced club class Mirim and Mina (two of my co-teachers) took me out to dinner where I got the closest thing to an American Thanksgiving-oven roasted herb chicken pizza. After the lovely dinner Mina knew of a traditional Korean music concert going on so we had prime seating for that, not because we got there early or had good tickets but because we got there super late so we had to basically sit on the stage. We sat cross legged on the stage for twoooo houurrsss. Don’t worry with my stone bed I’d had plenty of practice with staying still on a hard surface for extended periods of time.

The performance was really good though, I have seen the traditional drums and the cool hats that swing around (I want to find one so that the Hubbard clan can win the HAT PARTY fo sho) but the performers were really good. There was one lady among all the guys and she was realllyyy short but she had a great stage presence. Mirim also fell in love with one of the performers which we won’t tell her husband.

Also, I want to take this time to thank Mrs. Kennedy for sending those three amazing books to me! I really appreciate the thoughtfulness!!!!

December 6, 2011

Thanksgiving with the Ambassador

Ok, I am sorry that this has taken so long. No excuses.

It's time to talk about the big thanksgiving with ambassador Sung Kim.

So, we've been practicing our dance for awhile but we hadn't really perfected it. On the Friday before our Thanksgiving Anthony and I had a quick practice, Leslie was too sick to move and Esther still hadn't come to Seoul from Gwangju. We also met with a few other ETAs that were in the Fulbright building where we practiced.

The next morning we wake up and Lucy, Leslie and I got coffee in Insadong and did some Christmas shopping. We were then a little late to the dance practice but Esther, Anthony, Leslie and I managed to get together for another hour and a half of practicing. It still wasn't perfectly ironed out but we looked presentable.

We met up with Jake, Gem and Paddy who came from Gwangju and we all got in taxis to go to the Cultural Museum (the same place I went with KU for orientation). In the rush to get there on time Jake lost his phone in the cab.

Then, we get to the site and they are having most people take the tour but myself and a few other ETAs helped set up for the dinner (the museum was sort of interesting the first time but there was no way I wanted to go through that again). We finished setting up for the dinner and were sitting on some benches outside when an important American couple walked into the museum so the ten of us stood up and were unsure of what to do but ended up just introducing ourselves. Turns out the couple was on the committee to write our applications for Fulbright crazzzyy. That was the time when we decided that we should move in case the ambassador comes and we don't know what he looks like or how to welcome him and whatever so we went to the main room again.

At the same time that the ETAs were finishing their tour the ambassador comes in and we greet him and Mrs. Shim (our Fulbright Director) with the traditional welcome (bowing and saying hello in Korean). It was then time for the Thanksgiving formal dinner. We were supposed to find places at some of the many tables. There were different name cards on them for people that work in the embassy. As I was walking around Anthony pulled me toward a table and sits me down saying "we're doing this" before I know what is going on the table fills with my friends Anne (I'm taking Korean with her this fall), Paddy (he came to my school to help me teach) Anskar (he holds the camera for our dance) and others. I look at the place cards and not only is MRS SHIM sitting with us but also AMBASSADOR SUNG KIM. Within minutes everyone was sitting down. Not only was I nervous about the KPop Dance that Mrs Shim didn't even KNOW WE WERE DOING but I now had the AMBASSADOR sitting at my table for Thanksgiving.

The entertainment for the night went in the order of traditional Korean music, dinner and the talent show. I was in the front row (as you will see later) for the talent show with the ambassador pretty much staring at the back of my head for the whole time. Then the people who were in the talent show were supposed to eat dinner before everyone else and because Anthony and I were the only ones in the talent show we went up to get dinner first with the ambassador and Mrs Kim. By the time we sat down with them no one else was at our table because they were in line for food.

Anthony is probably going to be a diplomat at some point in his life but I was just still nervous about the dance. We had some small conversation then the Ambassador asked me "How my stay has been going so far" what I THOUGHT he said was "how is your dinner so far?" Don't ask me whyyyyy because I don't know. He was far away and he had a different accent because he lived in Korea until he was 12 then moved to the U.S. so my answer was "the turkey is great" and because no one talked for a while after that I said "I like the stuffing too." That's when the ambassador and mrs shim started talking to each other so Anthony turned to me and said "you know he was asking about your year right" and then I smacked myself on the head which probably just made it worse. DOESN'T MATTER. it's cool.

After dinner we decided that it was time to change and practice our dance one more time. Needless to say we were really worried, we were afraid that we'd forget the parts (don't worry it happened), we were afraid that the dance would offend Mrs. Shim or the Ambassador, and I was afraid that I had too much to eat at dinner and I would be so nervous that I would throw up.

The first part of the talent show were three ETAs who were essentially placed in NK doing a glow stick dance to Party Rock. After they went on and Mrs. Shim didn't lose it we felt a lot better. Then one of the ETAs played his violin in a very classy way. While he was practicing his violin Anthony took the time to record our feelings in a video. mom.

Well, the stage was set so it was time for us to go on. Anthony did a little introduction talk to say how this dance made us more approachable to our students etc. The empty chair that you can see is MINE and the boy filming was sitting next to Mrs. Shim who was sitting next to the Ambassador which just shows you how close they were sitting. And now, the moment you've been waiting for. The Dance.

As you can see, we did an OK job and I definitely messed up a bunch of times but it was all worth it when we went back to change into our clothes and bumped into the ambassador who left right after the show and said to us "that was GREAT." Even Mrs. Shim loved it. And THAT is how awesome my Thanksgiving with the ambassador was.

To see the original music videos of the songs that we put together look at these links (in order of how they were performed

I'm so Sorry but I love you-Big Bang