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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.

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