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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dirty Seafood restaurant & Korean Humor


The floors, the walls, the tables were covered in grime. A cockroach climbed up the side of the toilet bowl the other day, when I was peeing at Suwon Station, but it didn't compare to this.

I had passed the restaurant a hundred times on my way to and from work and never once considered eating there. I guess when I told Chung I wanted a cheap meal, this restaurant came to mind!

It was too late to flee when we saw the prices on the wall. Our table was already spread with water, fish, vegetable dishes and Soju by the time we saw 30-35,000 WON for a platter. Yikes. Not the modest cost range we were after.

The place was sticky hot and filled with people, ash dropping off the end of cigarettes, babies bounced on their father's knees after midnight. Two of Chung's friends joined us later on but it was initially just us. His friends don't speak a word of English. I gestured with my hands and enunciated well!

Although I doubt I'll ever connect to Chung the way I do to my friends in Canada, we're comfortable around each other. I feel like I can ask him anything, which is important when you're on the other side of the world, burning with questions.

The Korean sense of humor is different. Chung told me a typical Korean joke as I ate raw white fish so chewy it wouldn't dissolve in my mouth. There was a fish tank about a foot from us and we were told our fish was pulled from it only a couple of hours earlier.

As you know, Koreans have black eyes. This is the joke: Korean men are sparring. One motions like he has a straw between his lips and is going to poke the other's eyes to drink his INK. ...... He was nearly on the floor laughing.

We made plans to go to Suwon's amusement park (more like a fair, I think) before it gets too cold. And in the summer, we're going to take Chung's car to a nearby beach.

Chung likes to talk about politics and war, which is great for me. He spent his last two years in the army and saw so much horror that it's an inescapable fascination. He doesn't like to think his friends died for nothing.

On another note, I know Koreans consider their 9 months in the womb to be a year but I didn't realize everybody turns one year older on New Years! No wonder the Korean New Years celebration is so big! It's Birthday & New Years all in one! In Korea, Christian or not, New Years seems to get more emphasis than Christmas.

On New Years, Chung's family, and most, travel to visit grandparents and other extended family. Christmas, youth generally get together with friends and drink but unless they're romantically involved with someone it's not a big deal.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Do Asians think all blonds look identical?

Friday is the start of a whole new term. It was sad to say goodbye to my students but many are returning to advance to a new level.

I was showered with gifts! I got a chandelier-like pair of earrings from a girl named Jenny and a tangerine from a student who says she has seen me around school and is "so excited" to have me as a teacher starting Friday. That girl earned herself an 'A'!

Charles, a 16 year old with a budding mustache, bought me a cup of Soya milk from the vending machine. I got a handmade origami bird from a little boy named Kevin, and cake from Paul- a student I named after my uncle Paul!

What happened to the good old fashioned APPLE?

I went out with Chung Lim Jang on Sunday night. I told him I wanted to go somewhere cheap so he led me towards a seafood restaurant beside my school.

We were at an intersection, waiting to cross, when Chung's eyes got big. "Your friend, your friend!" he shouted. He hasn't met any of my coworkers so I couldn't imagine who he meant by "my friend." I turned to see an Irish girl at my right, holding the hand of her light-haired boyfriend.

I haven't seen many whites since my arrival in Korea so it was also startling for me to see a couple more blonds in town. I stared for a moment, then turned to Chung. "You thought she was Camille?" I asked. My Canadian friend Camille has long black hair and lives 2 1/2 hours from Suwon!

I asked him why he assumed the girl was my friend. He said, because she looks exactly like you!" I glanced at her thinking, "does she??"

I have to admit that before I moved to Korea I coudn't distinguish between Chinese, Japanese or Koreans. Hwan warned me not to offend Asians by confusing their race. I certainly wouldn't want to call a Korean a Japanese!

Chung's eyes flicked between me and the other girl like she was my long lost twin! I think I saw his tonsils. The truth of it is I was a little insulted! The white skinned blonde experiences prejudice... no, racism! Okay, so it's a stretch.

Restaurant tale to come...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Korean Bird Flu Outbreak

New Bird Flu Outbreak

Read the full Chosun.Com news article here.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Cheap Korean Food I LOVE

KIMCHI
In Korea, almost EVERYTHING comes with a side dish of spicy, fermented cabbage.


KIMBAP
You can get a whole role at a restaurant (about 10 pieces) for $1.00 CAN.


Korean "Toast"

MMM, buy one of these sandwiches (serious comfort food) for $1.50 CAN. at a Korean street vendor near you. I recommend "Issac's."

Ask any of my students what toast is and they describe the above: bread with egg, cheese, salad dressing, ketchup, cabbage, pickles and ham. This sandwich, named "toast", is so popular that the kids are shocked when I tell them toast, back home, is toasted bread.

P.S: Don't worry, Jewish friends. I order it without ham ; )

Work and Play

Silkworm pupa we were served at the bar
See: "PLAY"

WORK


What's it like to teach in a Korean English Second Language (ESL) school?

First of all, consider the competitiveness of the Korean educational system. Kids attend school Monday-Saturday from approximately 6AM-11PM. They get a dinner break between school and E.S.L. training, but that's it. Students sleep, on average, 5 hours a night. I try to go easy on them. The younger ones have a natural urge to play, so I make sure to fit a game into every class. Children are children!

At the bar tonight, Chung Lim Jang was telling me about his experiences at school. To this day, it's acceptable for teachers to beat thier students. Teenage boys who fall asleep in class are forced to do pushups on their fists as a teacher slams their backside with a baseball bat. Female students are struck with a ruler.

Illness isn't recognized. Children can be choking on a horse and are expected to attend school, weary and contagious. My student, Jean, was shocked when I suggested she go home during class. I felt awful. It was 9:30 at night, she was obviously sick with the flu and should have been in bed.

The students' togetherness creates a strong sense of community, especially since most eat dinner with friends, not family. Girls are friends with girls and boys are friends with boys. It's the confusionist influence. When I tell my classes that I have male friends, they can't quite wrap their minds around the concept. Korea is such a male dominant culture and sexuality is taboo. The kids can't imagine being friends with someone of the opposite sex. To them, it's dangerous territory. And no, it isn't just their age. I'm Chung Lim Jang's only female friend!

By the time students end elementary school, they're streamed: University bound and delinquent. Even my youngest students (around the age of 8) can list the Korean Universities in order of academic hierarchy. Every parent wants their kid to make it to the University of Seoul.

The ESL classes are grouped in 3 month terms. I took over at the end of the my classes' second month: October, so I have to say goodbye to my current classes and hello to new ones at the end of next week. Today I submitted my first batch of REPORT CARDS. If you hate paperwork, a hogwon is the perfect place to teach! The total sum of my paperwork includes daily lesson plans, small notes about the children's progress, and final report cards- only a letter grade for each student.

All of the teachers arrive at the school one hour before classes start. We're paid for the preperation time. The job can be stress-free if you secure a teaching position at a stable hogwon. Hogwons are businesses and many close within a few months of opening. I made sure my school had been around for a solid 8 years.


PLAY

Chung Lim and I went out again. Every conversation I have with the guy deserves taping! I've always wanted one of those miniature tape recorders. The night was fascinating. As we drank our beers, the bartender, who guessed I was from Russia, handed us a steaming stone bowl of worms. I couldn't help but figure she did it to shock me. MMMM, nothing to settle the stomach like a rancid bowl of slimy brown things. As soon as one touched my tongue, I reached for a napkin.

I wanted to be brave! I just needed the SURVIVOR audience: a few million viewers and blazing camera lights. It was wholly my choice and I feared the taste of my dinner, so I opted out. Wah. Baby. Yeah yeah.

Chung Lim told me about "Rice Brother": a former member of the Korean mafia who makes violent movies, available online. He also has something to do with the Korean Internet gaming industry, if I have my story straight. I'm going to look into him tomorrow.

Anyway, I guess Rice Brother was a celebrity in 2004, but his fame has since faded. In one of his movies, he flashes his phone number. This past weekend, Chung Lim cold-called him! They made a dinner date in Seoul, Sunday. I only understood about 30% of what Chung Lim was expressing, but I think he was trying to tell me that Rice Brother has a good heart underneath it all, and is loyal in character.

A post to come!!

I got answers to a few questions like, "why do so many people wear masks, on the street?" Chung said it's to refrain from spreading viruses like colds, but mainly to avoid exposure to the pollution. In Seoul, where the pollution is a big problem, you see masks everywhere.

I miss you, clean Canadian air!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What it's like to get an E-mail from a Korean ; )

To:"Eva Karrin"
Subject: Funny last weekend?
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 22:58:02 +0900 (KST)

Hi Eva .. Maybe This time ... you Sleep Mode -_-;; zZzZ ~ HAHA

Funny last weekend ? i hope you funny ..

I think You live in korea life Very grow up ~~ HeHe last we meet you want learn korea language ..

I buy it Easy korea Language -_-;; (Nevermind only 1$~ 2$ )

um.. i'm last weekend i be criticized by a baseball -_-;; ( My finger )

um .. i'm so happy .. ( R: you tumble to korean life grow~~~ )

um ... i always thank you ( you say ME korean first friend hehe ~~ :)

we go out again soon?

Two... Three... Five....

I thought there was something strange about my hogwon: private school's elevator. The number 4 is considered unlucky because it sounds like the Korean word for death. Hotels rarely have a fourth floor and hospitals never do!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

We're going to be on T.V.!


It's around midnight and I just got back from Seoul, South Korea. I went with a fellow Canuck: Camille, who lives in Gunsan. She travelled almost 4 hours each way, just for a day in the city! Big thanks out to her!

Seoul's interactive Subway map is amazing. Google it. Type in your departure and arrival locations to get the quickest route. But if it's your first time using the metro system, give yourself ample time. Both Camille and I arrived an hour later than estimated.

Camille wanted to buy her family "authentic" Korean gifts, so we met at Yong-gak: a traditional shopping area. If you want paper lamps, decorative chopsticks, little satin bags and gaudy jewelry, that's the place to go! We visited an Andy Warhol themed mall and looked on as Koreans danced in traditional costume. There was also Buddhist-inspired architecture to admire.

Seeing a face from home must have whetted our appetites for "America" because we're guilty of eating McDonalds AND T.G.I.F. Fridays! We were on our feet all day and starved. I've developed a taste for Korean cuisine, but Camille doesn't like spicy food so the picking's limited!

We only saw two areas: Yong-Gak and Myeong-Dong. Myeong-Dong is a hot spot. The streets were absolutely packed with people. It was dark by the time we got there. The tower was in clear view & there were stores everywhere like American apparel, Calvin Klein and The Body shop!

The highlight of the day, in my opinion, was getting interviewed and filmed. As Camille and I were videotaped, people on the street took our photos! We were asked: "What is the relationship like between parent and child in Canada? Could you see yourself living in Korea long-term? What are cultural differences you find shocking? What constitutes 'friendship' in Canada?" and, "do you think you could develop a close friendship with a Korean?" It was so much fun! I hogged the limelight but Camille stole it back when they asked if we stay in touch with our siblings now that we're living in Korea.

One strange thing we saw on the street were people holding 'FREE HUGS' signs! The first guy was dorky so we surmised he was only lonely but the next girl shook that hypothesis! ... We want to know: Who is their employer??

... Those of you awaiting photos, keep on waiting. I'm paid on the 15th for the preceding month and I didn't even arrive in Korea until October 27th! No Canon for me... yet.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Frustrations: Money, Men & Teaching

Hurray! I just got notification. My blog has been accepted to: http://korea.banoffeepie.com/: The Korean Blog List. The above photo was borrowed from a blog called 'Shapshots of Korea.' So cute!! If you're considering Korea as a vacation or job destination, the list is a great resource.

Today was frustrating. I schlepped a good hour to a camera shop only to discover the school hadn't deposited my pay cheque! I felt like an ass at the cash register. I couldn't even use my Canadian debit card because it isn't valid here.

I stopped into a restaurant before walking back home. There was a man in his fifties sitting one table over and I felt his eyes on me as I ordered lunch. He got up, whispered something to the waitress in Hangul and plopped himself in front of me.

From his man purse (these are socially acceptable in Korea) he pulled a Hangul-English dictionary. "Hello," he said. He was wearing small, round glasses and his pin-straight hair fell over his eyes, to his chin. He kept fussing with it. I wanted to hand him a pair of scissors.

To my utter shock, he had cancelled my order and decided on a meal of seafood for the two of us! Some nerve! I wanted the beef and vegetables I asked for but didn't fight it as the waitress loaded our table with seafood. She couldn't understand me, anyway.

I picked at my clam shells and allowed him to make a fool out of himself, nervously searching for vocabulary. I wondered why he happened to have a dictionary on him. He picked out words like "where" "are" "you" "from", "where" "is" "your" "apartment," like it was his life's vocation.

I didn't want to feel like I owed him anything so I gave him the two bills I had left (2,000 Won, or $2.00 CAN.) Remember- Korean food is substantially cheaper than Canadian eats. I left him eating his food and threw his business card in a trash bin outside.

On my way home, I saw a vendor selling fresh apples- rare in Korea. He took a knife from his pocket and sliced off a piece. It tasted sweet like it was just plucked. I tried to barter with him and give him the change in my pocket (less than a dollar) for one apple, but he didn't take. He was selling small bags for $5.00.

Then I taught. My students were more unruly than usual. I had to play their game. Two boys insisted on stealing each other's coats and hitting, kicking... so I took their jackets and squeezed into them. They were astonished as I stood at the front of the class, teaching in 2 layers of children's coats. I got the silence I wanted.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New Cameras, New Languages

I can't wait to buy my camera tomorrow but I'm excited about something else. Eating lunch today, I looked through the window at shops across the street, covered in Hangul. I considered how the city will open up when I learn the language. I'll be so much more self reliant. I'm sure there's also a need for English/Hangul translators if I ever get that good.

Thanks to a comment on G'Dog's site, I found a fantastic learning tool: http://www.langintro.com/kintro/first.htm

I've already memorized a few letters of the Korean alphabet! ... The webmaster is right: "It's easier than you think!" Why not? I have the time.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Top of the Hill

The best part of moving to a new city, err... continent is getting to explore! I left late morning, map in hand, to find the Suwon fortress. I walked for hours, saw parks overgrown like forests and almost got run over by swerving motorbikes.

The fortress I was looking for: Hwaseong Fortress, is a fortified wall constructed by King Jeongjo who was (unsuccessfully) attempting to make Suwon the nation's capital. The wall was also intended to guard the tomb of his father. We're talking 1796.

Ask any Suwon native and they don't think much of the fortress but it's a tourist trap- maybe the only reason tourists visit "Happy Suwon."

I couldn't find the wall but I had the bright eyes of someone in Paris, anticipating their first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. I pointed to my map and asked for directions but everyone sent me in opposite ways! I kept circling. It was like the twilight zone.

I did see some things that made my heart swell. The streets here are dirty and strewn with garbage, but even the garbage has a story to tell. Beer bottles dropped in foresty areas, grocery bags splitting at the seams with brown vegetables and cans say something about those discarding.

There was one moment in particular that struck me. Korea, as you know, is mountainous. I walked up a steep, narrow road cluttered with houses. My legs ached as I walked. Nearing the top, all I could see was the summit and mountains in the distance. There was an old man on a motorbike, balancing bags on each handlebar. His bike roared over the hump and he was gone.

I walked to the top and someone looked out from his balcony and bowed his head: the Korean hello. I said, "the view is beautiful," but he understood nothing. His wife came out to look.

I kept walking.

I was reluctant to find my way home and prepare for classes!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Painting the Town, Squat Toilets

(SQUAT TOILETS)

You know you're in Korea when November 11th is Peppero Day, not Remembrance Day. Korean children and lovers exchange chocolate coated cookies, as Canadians remember fallen soldiers. (I wore a poppy in my heart.)

After a day of sightseeing with a colleague, my friend Chung Lim Jang and I got together. I asked him to meet me at my apartment because I was having trouble figuring out the control knobs on my wall. He set me straight. One turns on the gas stove, one is to control the temperature of the apartment. The next (numbered 1-7) is to program sleeping hours; at night the heat periodically turns off and on to save electricity. The final one controls water temperature. (I cursed the my cold shower last night.)

Chung also read my mail, which turned out to be the former tenant's phone and hydro bills. Finally, looking up from my rice cooker's manual, he told me how to turn out fluffier rice. He wanted to make it clear, though, that rice-cooking, and cooking in general, is a woman's territory in Korea, not a man's, and I had better ask a female colleague for advice. "That's traditional," I said, smiling.

As we were on our way out the door, he reminded me that I'm to remove my footwear at other people's houses. Part of it is to refrain from trailing in dirt (like in Canada) but it's mostly because of the heated floors; you might as well feel the warmth through your socks.

We went to a cozy restaurant 2 seconds from my house. The exterior is glass and wood, the lighting campfire-warm. I passed it every night after work and saw tables of young people talking, smoking and laughing. I wanted to join them so badly!

He ordered a delicious meal. The main dish was rice with black beans, cabbage and kochi-chung, all blanketed in soft, runny egg. It came with side dishes of brown seaweed, spinach, kim-chi (as always), small octopus, cold fish soup and so on. My pallet is more experimental than it was when I arrived 3 weeks ago. In fact, I think I'm more experimental. With the meal, we drank a Japanese liquor that tasted like desert wine and went straight to my head.

The toilet was an experience. The owner of the restaurant took a liking to me and hovered over our table throughout the meal to make sure everything was alright. When I asked him where the bathroom was, he ushered me outside to another building. The night was cold. I climbed a concrete flight of stairs and was faced with SQUAT TOILETS. I had heard of the "phenomena" before, but conquering one is another story! I had to pull down my pants and balance ever so precariously over the filthy pit. I won't go into details but my mission was accomplished. It should be an Olympic sport. I peed.

The conversation was GOOD this time. Chung had religiously studied English. The disconnect originally experienced can be reduced to the language barrier.

He opened up to me. When he joined the army 2 years ago, he left a girlfriend behind. I asked if he was sad about it. This lead to a conversation about a fellow soldier who committed suicide when his girlfriend broke up with him. Chung saw shocking things in the army: a soldier who drank acid, explosives set off unexpectedly, dead friends. He had to travel to Seoul and give regards to the Mother and Father of the suicide victim.

When you finish your time in the Korean army, society considers you a man and you have to act the part. I asked him if emotions are valued in Korea. He said 'inner strength' means wearing a shield in public. Only with CLOSE friends can you admit vulnerability.

We laughed a lot. Miscommunication can lead to hearing some fairly absurd things! I used chop sticks, asked him about taking classes at the University, must-sees in Korea, and whether we could sing Karaoke soon. He actually broke into song at the table, showing me his new sound, one he had been practicing: "vibration!"

Again we went to a bar, but this time to one a block from my apartment. He told me China is home to an even bigger drinking culture than Korea. Koreans are opposed to drinking without food- it's practically unheard of. So get this! He insisted we order something... ok ok who am I to refuse? He went to the counter and returned with a bowl of sugared water, cherry tomatoes and canned peaches. Two spoons. I've never eaten something so bizarre with a mug of beer.

My night ended with a real breathing, moving, speaking Joshua Levy on web cam! He stopped by a Future Shop after work this week and bought his new toy. It was so fun to wave hello and hear Ryan on speaker phone when he called to say he was outside... They were going to a movie and I got to watch Josh brush his teeth and lace his running shoes. Technology is so weird. I felt like I was right back in Montreal again... even suggested Josh bring along the webcam so I could see the movie!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My Sweet Market... and Empty Pockets.

The sun beat down as I explored my neighbourhood. I heard there was a market near my house but didn't find it until today.

Uncleanly as the street vendors may be, I bought a $1.00 shish kebob of what I think was barbecued pork. It was brushed with orange sauce and grisly with fat- surprisingly, not bad!

The market was chock-full of booths warm under netting, with tanks of live fish and other seafood for sale. I was tempted by fresh clementines and tomatoes, battered shrimp and $5.00 pajamas. Fruit and vegetables are costly because of the land scarcity: lack of farmland. Expect to pay $4.00 for a handful of apples... that said, leafy goods ARE cheaper in local markets than supermarkets.

I got a lot of stares at the market. It's the same deal in residential areas where locals hang laundry and tend to their gardens; you receive less attention at department stores or... Starbucks! I've learned to combat the leers with eye contact and a warm smile. Although it annoyed me at first, the truth is that even I stare when a foreigner walks by! I've only seen an African American and two white guys, so far, but I'm pretty sure my mouth was gaped open! It's Sesame Street's influence... 'which one of these things is not like the others!?'

I wore a hat outside because the sun's strong lately. Apparently this November is warmer than usual... many women carry umbrellas. Sunglasses are rare.

I had two incidents today:
1.) I ran out of money.
2.) I got ... recruited?

I stopped into a nearby bank before work. After getting Internet set up, paying damage insurance at the apartment, buying a work desk, groceries and other necessities, I'm down to a measly 15,000 WON or $15.00 CA in cash. I'm not sure I can survive on that until next Wednesday: pay day!

Solution? Withdraw money from my Canadian bank account, right? Wrong. Apparently my Scotia debit card is considered a "credit card" in Korea. The bank teller instructed me to try the card at a store, but assured me it would NOT work in an ATM. I set off to the nearest convenient store where I picked out a chocolate bar for my co-worker, 'Esther' (yes, someone chose that English-name for the poor Korean girl.) I owed her an apology. She's in charge of closing the school, nightly, at 10. Considering most of my classes END at 10, I'm the last one to go, racing to tidy my classroom and gather my things. She has to wait.

My card didn't work at the convenient store. I had to fish wons out of my pocket. When I got to work, I told Jacques about my little problem. He got the attention of my boss who wrote out the address of the Korea Worribank at which I now have an account. She told me to have someone from home wire money, but it's going to take a few days. I feel badly borrowing money from anyone here because I'm not a "mix friends & money" type. This sort of thing makes me uncomfortable and it's not like I know anyone THAT WELL after 2 1/2 weeks.

If anyone has a solution, let me know! !

In other news, I was recruited. My co-worker, Jacques, is skeptical, but as I was leaving the convenient store for work, a man in a business suit stopped me on the street. He asked me where I was from. "Canada," I said, grinning. He told me he was the principal of a school & had a daughter in need of tutoring. Great pay. The thing is that it's illegal to work at a Hogwon and tutor on the side. You could make a ridiculous amount of money that way- like 60-70,000 (with paid accommodations!) There are government officials who go undercover and try to catch you in the act. Jacque's advice was to refrain, just to be safe. I think I will.

The kids in my classes were so cute today. My favorite, Kevin, who I teach one on one, told me I might have eaten shish kebobed dog at the market, not pork. I kept pointing to my stomach and saying, "you're telling me I might have dog in THERE? Noo.... Kevin... dog inside my stomach!?" He laughed really hard and said, "no, pig pig," through giggles.

One of my classes played Pictionary, as a reward, and when I told one child to draw 'the summer', they drew a FAN and an air conditioner. The other students guessed it in no time! Korea MUST have unbearable summers... very humid.

I was saddened when one of my teenage students told me it was his birthday on the weekend but didn't get to celebrate it because he was in a fight with his parents. He's such a great kid. He's keen and diligent, though reserved. I told the class I was going to throw him a birthday party next Friday (I'll have money then & be able to buy cupcakes or something for the 7 students in the class.) You need a birthday party- you need to be celebrated, when you're 16.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Octopus, English Names & Getting a Life

'Korean age' is one year older than 'Canadian age.' Koreans consider their 9 months in the womb to be a year, so when my students say they're 16, they're only 15. I've wondered why they act so young. Asian culture has a lot to do with it but one year makes a big difference when you're their age.

In class today, two of my students offered me snacks. It was an excuse to eat in class, as much as a goodwill offering. One of the 'treats' was a bag of banana flavored puffs like Cheesies. The other snack had a distinct fishy smell to it. When the girl held it up to me with her fingers, I couldn't help but be astonished by the "legs" and say, "is that.... dried octopus?" It was, indeed, at only 800 WON, or one Canadian dollar. She devoured it like a chocolate bar... Buy one at a convenient store near you!

A strange thing about teaching Korean children is if they don't have an 'English' name, it's your job to name them. Lately, I've done a lot of level-testing with potential students; I should have figured they'd end up in my classes. I named one 'Paul', 'Amber', 'Lindsay' and 'Kimberly'. When a weary child approaches me at the beginning of class and says they're new, I choose whatever comes to mind. It could be a hideous name & suddenly they have to respond to it. Bizarre.

I resent admitting I have a routine. I found a great place to eat lunch for 2,000 WON or $2.00 CA. I walk in the door and they know what I want! I've struggled, one too many times, with Korean menus: generally a piece of paper with Hangul food listings. This waitress automatically brings me spicy soup with noodles and pieces of egg, and Kimbob: sea weed wrapped around rice, carrots, egg and an unknown tropical fruit.

I eat lunch out and buy enough supplies at Home Plus to make dinner: olive oil, butter, bread, vegetables, rice etc. It was thoughtful of the school to buy me a brand new rice cooker when I got here.

Life is good. I have a couple of pseudo-friends, teaching is fun and not at all stressful. But I want more! The teaching alone isn't going to satisfy me for the year. Apart from experiencing the culture, doing a lot of reading, (attempts at cooking), and sight-seeing, I'm looking into taking classes at Ajou University which is nearby to my house. My plan all along has been to return to school with the money I save. A couple more classes might give me a head start.

Also, Josh and I have decided to work on a joint project. I completed a course on Front Page Web design. Josh is currently enrolled in a night course focused on building/marketing a website. We'll fight over the writing portion but he'll focus on getting traffic to the site and making it user-friendly. I'll be in charge of implementation & its overall appearance. The focus will be the work of my Mother: Canadian artist Pam McKinnon.

When it comes to graphic design schools/companies, it's all about your portfolio so it'll be adventageous to have something to show when the year's through and I return to Canada. Plus, it feels good to have a joint project with Josh. We have something more to talk about than how our lives are completely different, and oceans apart! Long distance isn't easy.

P.S: I get paid next Wednesday and will be able to buy my one luxury: a digital camera. If anyone has brand advice, I'd appreciate it! I don't know much about cameras. Suwon is home to Samsung but I heard their cameras aren't the best quality.

The blog will be more interesting when I can show you around my city & eventually travel out of it and explore the rest of South Korea, journalling with photos. I have to see Camille, who lives 3 hours away from me. As for China, I have a friend in Hong Kong: Justin and a friend in Shanghi: Kyle, so I'll hopefully get around to visiting them.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Eating Squirrel. Korean B.B.Q. Date Tonight.

Jang Lim Chung said, "I respect what you want. You want our food or do you want me to search for Western food?" I told him I wanted an authentic Korean evening so he hailed a cab and took me to a famous B.B.Q. restaurant in Suwon. When we walked through the door, a woman in a white apron told us to remove our footwear.

The tables stood a foot and a half high and there were pillows for chairs. We sat cross legged, across from each other, and grilled raw beef on coals in the middle of the table. The waitress kept bringing us small dishes of food to compliment the meat.

We drank "Soju." It's a popular drink in Japan and Korea with 20 to 40% alcohol content. Drinking is a big part of Korean culture.

There were families surrounding us at tables and the older women, especially, enjoyed watching me struggle with chop sticks and choke down Soju when Jang told me exactly what I was eating. When one woman left, she nodded at Jang as if to say, "good man. Teach that Canadian girl about our culture. Teach her good."

Koreans, like most Asians, respect their elders. When Jang Lim Chung and I drank shots of Soju, we looked each other in the face because we're considered equals, but when taking a shot with an elder, it's respectful to turn your head.

Jang did a lot of talking tonight. He brought along a palm pilot with Hangul/English translation. We also had a pad of paper that was covered in scribbling by the end of the night. He told me about the influence of confucianism in Korea, and about his time spent in the Korean marine. He still sends food to guys in the army.

He had done his homework and kept repeating the phrase, "I promise I won't touch your privacy." He learned through our worldwide web that American women pride independance and privacy. He wanted me to know that he wouldn't be an intrusive friend.

We ended off the night by going to a bar. It was similar in appearance to any dingy bar you'd see in small town Ontario. We ordered a pitcher of Korean beer & I was shocked when Jang pointed to the menu and asked what I wanted. It's customary to eat when you drink, whether or not you've just had dinner.

Everytime a glass was poured, it bubbled over with foam and the bartender rushed over with napkins. We were set to watch an 11:00 movie but I was tired with all of that alcohol and food in my system so I thanked Jang for the nice evening and started my walk home.

He was insulted when I refused to let him walk me. He said it was dangerous but I didn't feel like I needed to be protected.