Monday, December 26, 2011

Korean Christmas

     I was honestly thinking that this was going to be a pathetic Christmas since I am away from home for the first time during the Holidays. Christmas is my favorite holiday because it is when I get to see a lot of my family together. Best of all, we make and eat lots of food...Mexican tamales, yum, ponche, yum! So yes, I was somewhat depressed for a bit, but then I though that I should make the best out of a bad situation.

    I spent Christmas Eve in Daegu with a friend, and let me tell you, Korean Christmas was not bad at all. We went to an Australian pub called Sydney's and we they had a little buffet set up. My friend knows the owners and they were super friendly, they even offered to lower the price for me because I don't eat meat.

    Anyways, the rest of the night was pretty awesome. We ate, drank, played games, met some cool people, and got free drinks from the owners and other new friends. I also did one thing I hadn't done in a while on Christmas, I stayed up 'til I saw daylight =P....oh the old days in Escondido when my cousins and I would have a fire and stay up roasting marshmallows and stargazing.

    I do have to admit that I did not make it through this weekend without crying. My mom sent me a text that did it for me. I also got an awesome gift from my lovely sisters hehehe. They made a Christmas music medley video and danced and sang like the silly people they are...I love it!!! Best Christmas present ever.

    On Christmas day, we went to look for dinner and omg, I had never seen this many people out and about on Christmas day. So for me, this confirms that Christmas is not that big here, otherwise they'd be home eating leftovers and watching movies with the family. It's ok, I don't blame them, I know not everybody celebrates it like we westerners do. And though there were more decorations in Daegu, it still did not feel Christmassy.

    When I got back to Pohang I stopped by my neighbor's, Matt, place to greet some of my other neighbors; they cooked dinner and other goodies, yum!

     I had to leave early-ish because the next day (today), I had work. Work after Christmas Day???! Whyyyy goooood whyyyyy!!?!!?!??!...I'm not a big fan of the grown up life at this point :/. But as I was walking towards my place, I remembered I had forgotten to prepare my power point presentation for today's lesson on shopping.   Waaaaaaa I had to stay up one more hour to do it. Oh man I was so tired today because even though I slept a decent amount of hours last night, I only had a couple of hours of sleep two nights ago. Needless to say, today's lesson went kind of bad. I had misspellings, I had different dialogues on my PPp than on the worksheets, and students were shy being the first day and all.
      All in all, it was a good Christmas, I had awesome people around me and delicious food, which is what Christmas is about for me. My loved ones know how much I miss them, but we know that there are many more Christmases to come ^____^ and I am looking forward to that!

Merry late Christmas everybody!

Counting the days til I go back to SD!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Winter Solstice Day!

      I take back my comment about badminton being boring. Since this week my co-worker and I have to desk warm, we got bored really fast so we decided to play badminton. At first I was whatevs about it, but let me tell you, it is freaking fuuun!! We renamed it "noisy badminton" though because both of us make ridiculous noises when we hit the little flying thing, Kristin in Korean, me in Spanish hahaha.
    Today is the winter solstice and Koreans have the superstition that evil spirits come on this day. So to ward them off, they eat red bean porridge, or something with red bean. Kristin explained it as red=scary color=no evil spirits.
   Since school is out, but we are stucked here deskwarming, lunch is not served. We are allowed to go off campus so today we went to a little restaurant to eat our red bean meal, we had red bean buksu (noodles). It tasted pretty much like frijoles de la olla, just add flour noodles and little chewy rice balls, so not bad at all, some corn tortillas would have complemented it much better lol. I could not finish the big bowl though, it was waaaay too much.
     Anyways, when we came back to school, we went to the gym to play badminton. Ten minutes in we heard noises. I asked Kristin if she had heard them too and she said yes, and then she added "somebody is watching us....but don't worry, we ate red bean, we'll be ok"


Sunday, December 18, 2011

A whole lot of goodness!

 It's been quite a week for me so bear with me on this one because I have lots to tell hehehe.
      I'll start with Wednesday. Nothing too exciting, but our school had a "party" for the staff. I put "party" in quotations because that's what they were calling it, party, but it was more of a boring-sports-compition afternoon. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy sports, but ping pong and badminton are not my cup of tea (maybe because I also suck at both?), I'd rather play soccer, baseball, foot-base (which apparently is famous here too), volleyball, etc.
      Teams were assembled by grade, so I was with the 4th grade teachers, event the principal got into the action. His ping-pong skills are actually pretty good; it was a bit intense to see him play. They also had clementines, soda, dry eel w/cabbage (the specialty of Pohang), and chicken as the party food. I didn't play because they only needed a couple players for each team and my group had already decided who would compete, but it was really fun just cheering for them hehehe. We got second place in ping-pong so we got a little gift.
party food! (?)

   I then went to E-Mart to find American snacks for my kids and guess what, I finally found Christmas lights!!! They were expensive, but who cares!? I need my place to feel like home, otherwise I'll feel sadder than I already am not being home for the holidays.

     On Thursday, I had a little Christmas Party with my after school class. We all brought snacks to enjoy while I played Christmas carols, they learned Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I told them about Christmas traditions, and when I told them about my Christmas tree from last year (I showed a picture), they could not believe their little ears when I said it was a real tree, not plastic. They were the cutest little things ever, seriously, they were amazed. When we wrote letters to Santa, two of them asked for a Christmas tree!!!! OMG, it totally broke my heart.


Tight budget calls for cheap decorations hehehe, but they loved drawing them

foooooooood, look at the choco cake!

    I didn't have plans for the weekend since I'm running low on money, I just thought I would stay in. So Friday after work I went to they gym, came home, and as I was having dinner, Joyan sent me a text asking if I wanted to go with her to Daegu, and being the awesome person she is, she said she would cover my bus fare...I was in! hehehe.

    So Joyan, Ana, and I made our way to Daegu. On the bus we met Rick, a fellow Pohang resident. We talked about our plans of hitting some bars and since he had lived in Daegu for a year, he offered to take us to a couple places. We started at a bar, which I forgot the name of, but had some great Mexican food and drinks. We ordered nachos and a pitcher of long-island tea....yum! We then headed to another bar where Rick was meeting his friends. We didn't stay long because Joyan wanted to meet her friends, so we went to a place called Underground (I believe?). There was a live band and it was OK for a bit, but Joyan's friends had moved to another bar called Old School (a hip-hop bar). Again we did not stay long, this time because we were not feeling the vibe of the place, it was a bit guetto. We then went on the hunt for dancing! We first found a place that had no cover for foreigners hehehe.


     We danced a bit, but Joyan suggested we check out Frog's. The place was pretty good, it had good music and a good atmosphere. We were probably there 'til 5am. Yes, that's right, here clubs stay open pretty much 'til the next day. By the time we left, there were still plenty of people dancing.
    We met up with Rick again to grab a bite. We went to a place where his friends were eating and ordered a dish with what we thought was only going to be sea food, wrong! =(. Whatever, I ate the contaminated food because I was super hungry and was not about to order something else. We continued with soju; and I believe this was the first time I have that much soju. We decided to call it a night (or day?) at around 9am.
I so don't remember taking this picture lol

     Rick suggested we sleep at a jimjilbang as the cheaper option. I have heard plenty about these before, and well, why not?! (and I'll also explain why people sleep here)

    36. Korean Jimjilbangs (coolest things ever btw)
    So these are communal bathhouses, separated by sex. I'll try my best to explain my experience, but unfortunately I did not get the FULL experience and try  I'll explain that in a bit (if you want more info or pictures, just google them). Anyhow, anybody that does visit Korea, has to try these, it's part of the culture.
     Bathhouses are pretty much that, a place to take a bath (since not many homes have bath tubs), plus other things like saunas.
     When you get there, you pay and you go to your designated floor. They give you a shirt and a pair of shorts to wear (yes, you have to wear these; they are comfortable, they are like PJs,). They also give you a towel and a locker so that you can store your stuff. The first thing Koreans do when they get here, is they go into the huge bath tub (which is pretty much like a pool) and scrub their bodies like there is no tomorrow. The ajumas scrub, scrub, and scrub. You can also take a shower here at the available showers. And yes, everybody is naked....scrubbing naked. Well, this is the part I didn't do because we weren't there to do that, we were there to sleep.
    Now, if you're asking, "wait, I thought these were bathhouses, not hotels." Yes, they are not hotels, but  you can sleep at the communal (mixed sex) sauna's/sleeping rooms, which is where people go after taking a bath (and no people are not naked here, everybody wears their sexy orange PJ-looking-things). This the coolest thing ever. There are different rooms with different temperatures (ranging from really hot to cold, as in ice cold!), so you can sleep/rest/chat anywhere you want, some of them have TVs too.
   On this floor, there was also a restaurant, a little snack place, a gym, a manicure place, and a massage place. You have to pay extra for those of course, but isn't that amazing?!?! You can spend the whole weekend here and it's like a little vacation! You can do whatever you want, like us who didn't take a bath, just slept and showered after. Like I said, if you're on a budget when traveling in Korea, jimjilbangs are your best bet if you don't mind sleeping on the floor, but you do get a blanket and a pillow =). We paid around 9,000 won (~ $8)....and no reservation needed hehehe....Europe and its hostels have been demoted! Here's the link to the one where I stayed, it's in Korean, but you get the idea.
   You do have to be somewhat comfortable with your body because like I said, even if you only shower, you'll be naked in front of other people of the same sex, and you'll be surrounded by naked people. For me, I guess since I kept thinking "it's normal," I felt pretty good =P
Anyways, that's all for now.
Two more days of teaching at my school, plus four days of English camp and then, San Diego!!!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bulguksa, Lunar Eclipse, and dumpster diving

     This past weekend Chai-Kyu (my "handler") invited me to go to Gyeongju. I was super excited because everybody who has gone has said that it's really beautiful and a nice town. Gyeongju was the headquarters for the Silla Dynasty, so it is filled with historical buildings, museums, tombs, temples, art, etc.

      Bulguksa temple is in the UNESCO Heritage List.

     Chai-Kyu also invited another teacher, Soojin (who is part of my Teacher's class on Fridays) and her husband. Soojin's husband, Mr. E, speaks really good English, is a social studies teacher, AND is a certified tour guide. You know what that meant!...private tour guide muahahahaha.
Chai-Kyu, me, and Soojin

      We left Pohang at 10am and arrived at Bulguksa Temple at around 11. The temple grounds were kind of small, but we were there for about 2 and half hours. Mr. E explained soooo many things about the temple and Buddhism that it made the experience that much better. I had been to temples before, but I had not idea that they had such rich meaning behind them (well, of course I knew there would be history, I just didn't know anything about them).
Mr. E, me, and Soojin

      We then went to have a delicious Sambap meal and makgeolli, a rice alcohol drink. And for the second round we went to the Hilton Hotel for coffee. Oh man, in there it really felt like Christmas! I wanted to stay in there til Christmas hahaha. But the coffee was expensive!

finally, a nice big xmas tree!

my 9,500 won cappuccino

      That was pretty much it. Chai-Kyu had told me that we would do other stuff, but we didn't even go into town! Oh well, I guess I can go back on my own.
       I then found out that there was going to be a Lunar eclipse!!! Ana and I headed to the roof of our building to get a look of it. Man, was it cold! We did not want to be freezing the whole time, so we made hourly trips, starting at 8:30pm. By 11:30 it was pretty sweet! The moon was all red. I would've loved to have gotten good pictures, but my camera sucks so this is the best I could do.
by 9:30


      On Sunday, Ana and I met up with May at the Lotte Department Store in Pohang. I hadn't been there yet, so I got to explore the 9-story department store. I didn't buy anything, we just ate at the food court. Even though there was a "Premium Sale," everything was super expensive! Ugh! Gosh, do I miss the mall!!!!!!
      On our way back home, we saw some furniture out on the side of the road. It looked in OK condition so we thought we would take some of it hahaha. We had to make two trips because I wanted a cupboard, which was pretty hefty. We had to walk about 3 blocks and it was freezing outside!
      Having worked in a restaurant, I knew I had to bend my knees to lift, but I was wearing jeans....yup, my jeans ripped!!! I looove those jeans!! waaaa =(. But oh man, you should've seen us trying to carry this stuff! It was hilarious...simply because we felt silly haha. And then when we got to the building, the stupid door would not stay open for long, so the door closed on us half way!...elevator door!
     So I got a cupboard and a coffee table, and Ana got two rectangle wooden looking boxes, which I guess she can stack to use as shelfs. We just have to wipe them clean with some of that wood cleaning stuff. Thank goodness it's winter and bugs are dead, so no need to be scared of creepy crawlers popping out.
     Ana said that sometimes during Lunar year (which is coming up soon) and Chuseok (in September), Koreans buy new furniture so they just throw out their old stuff. Guess I will be having more dumpster diving adventures soon muaahahaha. I mean, why buy stuff if this is not my permanent home?

   By the way, here are my other X-mas decorations I have in my apartment. My skills as an amateur arts and crafts geek came in handy hehehe.

I made a 3D star out of paper...all you need is 6 sheets of paper, scissors, and a stapler!

 I bought origami paper and cut out stars and little circles to make this pattern to put on my wall.

And I also made snowflakes from white paper. Here is the finished product...yes, now it feels like Christmas!!

Oh em gee, 6 days left of school!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Night night!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The list continues!

34. Napkins.
      I think when Koreans travel to the US they might think that we Americans waste so much paper. So the topic of this item on the list is napkins, why!?...because napkins are almost nonexistent here in Korea. At my school, for example, there are no napkins available at the table. Kids wipe their mouths with the hands and so do adults. And take into consideration that a lot of Korean food has some kind of sauce so it can get a bit messy. There are two TPs hanging by the two exits (along with mirrors), so when students and staff leave the cafeteria, some of them grab a few squares and wipe their mouths.
     At some restaurants there are napkins, but don't expect a nice thick napkin that will get you through the whole meal. The napkins they have are super thin and are the size of a TP square. The times I've gone out to eat with Koreans, they don't use them too much, and when they do, it's at the end of the meal. I almost feel weird having a bunch of them crumpled next to my plate.
     I've also had a couple meals in Korean homes and they didn't offer napkins. I hate using my hands to keep wiping the sides of my mouth in front of people!
     And also, don't expect to find a big pack of napkins at the local supermarket. I've actually haven't seen any. The only ones I've seen and bought are those big paper towel rolls.
     Mely, you would not survive a meal here in Korea hahaha.
Napkins and the service button
35. Call service buttons.
      I should've mentioned this earlier because when I saw it, I thought it was one of the most amazing things in the world. This relates back to the item about the amazing costumer service in Korea by the way.

       So when you go to a restaurant in Korea (almost ALL restaurants have this), you take a sit and a waiter will most likely come by to give you a menu and take drink orders. When you are ready to order, you do NOT wait for the waiter to come by, what do you do? You push this wonderful button and voila, a waiter comes running to your table to take your order....and I mean the waiters RUSH to your table. Need a refill? Push the button. Need more ketchup? Push the button!
       I sometimes still forget that the button is there because I'm not used to such amazing invention, so I'll be waiting for the waiter to come by like an idiot haha. But seriously, this thing should be made available in the States. We would not have to wait to ask for more bread and I bet lazy waiters would get way more tips if they respond to it they should be.

The double rainbow that greeted me on Friday morning =)

ice tube = ais tiub buuaahaaahahaha

My first Korean pizza to go...not bad, but it had a weird sweet kick to it

I went shopping to Olive Young, a store similar to CVS, and since I spent almost 50,000W, they gave me a free goodie bag...nice!

My Christmas tree is up! The holidays are here!

Night night Korea...good morning SD!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Random stuff

         I don't have much to say, so I'm just going to post some pictures of random stuff. I do have to say that I got sick and I've been on Korean meds since Tuesday. What the doctor gave me is not bad, but what the school nurse gave me tasted like crap >.<.
         I probably shouldn't have gone to Daegu last weekend, I was feeling tired, but I did not want to reschedule with Will, AJ, and Julius. And then Monday morning, I knew my record of not-getting-sick had broken (that would be 2 years). I've gotten the sniffles, but nothing too serious. But oh man, on Monday I felt like crap! I taught my classes anyways, but of course, my throat got worse. I went to the nurse and she gave me some capsules and some syrup like stuff. The capsules weren't bad, but the syrup yuk!! On Tuesday, I taught my classes again, and my last bit of energy was quickly drained. Chai-Kyu saw me and said she would take me to the doctor. We went to pediatrician clinic near my house...yeah a pediatrician hahaha. She said it's not worth it to go to the hospital because it looked like I only had the common cold and the pediatrician would prescribe the same stuff as the hospital. He actually spoke pretty good English so I had no trouble explaining my symptoms. So 10 mins and $6 later ($4 for the visit and $2 for medicine....oooh I got to use my Korean medical insurance for the first time hehehe), I was off back to work because it was still before 4:40pm. Since it was barely 2pm. Chai-Kyu, my "handler",  said  I should go to the nurse's office to take a nap. I was expecting those small little beds they have in the US, but to my surprise there were 2 heated twin size beds waiting for me! Pillows and blanket included.  On Wednesday, I don't teach so in the morning I finished some lessons and then I went back to the nurse's office to take a nap....damn that bed was cozy!And so today, I was still not feeling great, so Chai-Kyu suggested I show a movie to my classes and she even forwarded "Gulliver's Travels" with korean subtitles hehehehe.
I now have forks at my casa...yes, I've been using chopsticks and spoons these last 2 months!..I am a pro now =)...but for french toast i neeeed forks!

soju cocktail....slushie and alcohol? I'm in!

My traditional korean breakfast at Julius' house

AJ, Julius, Hoi, and me...I hadn't seen these guys since 2 yrs ago in SD!!!

Will, Julius, Hoi, and me in Daegu!

In front of Julius' parents' restaurant

One of my students drew this...and they say younger generations don't have a grudge anymore...

this was our Thanksgiving dinner (on 11/24)...shabu shabu

Jared and the waitress became friends lol

me and Ana

our Thanksgiving dessert

...and hot cocoa

For some reason Koreans are not big on post cards, so I made my own =)

On Thanksgiving, I called cried of course =(...and Bambino recognized my voice!
Korean Mr. Clean!

no, your eyes are not deceiving you, strawberries are 14,000W (~$13) each little box!