Category: Korean food


Thursday, February 17:  My two closest Korean friends are two women I see regularly at Byeokjin Elementary School in Seongju.

Julie Moon and Kim Dong Hee

Julie Moon and Kim Dong Hee

Julie Moon, me and Kim Dong Hee

Julie Moon, me and Kim Dong Hee

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. :-)

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. 🙂

Kim, Julie and me in front of Byeokjin Elementary School

Kim, Julie and me in front of Byeokjin Elementary School

Kim Dong Hee is a 40-something woman who has never been married.  She teaches first grade.  Her English is the best I have ever heard in Korea, with virtually no trace of the typical Korean pronunciation problems.  She has lived abroad and takes a great interest in the outside world; this is very unusual in Korea. She is also one of the kindest and most gentle souls I have ever met.  Outside of school, about once a month, or sometimes more, we go out near my home in Daegu, either to Sydney Street Pub or to an Italian restaurant for pasta.  Unlike most Koreans, she isn’t attached to her mobile phone; she doesn’t even have text messaging enabled.   She doesn’t use Facebook and she barely uses email.  She’s an old-fashioned lady, but one with a huge heart and great generosity.

Kim Dong Hee

Kim Dong Hee

Julie Moon is married with two children and is the English teacher at both schools where I teach.  Like me, she travels between both Byeokjin Elementary and Chojeon Elementary, so I see her in both places.  When I first meet her, she invites me to attend church with her, but with over an hour commute by train and bus to her church each way, I find it simply will not work.  Besides, I’m not that much of a church-goer anyway.  I love it on the days she comes to Chojeon especially, since I hardly have anyone to speak with there; hardly anyone at Chojeon speaks English except for Coffee-J.   She’s a wonderful teacher, lively and fun and able to motivate her students with fun games and songs.

Julie Moon

Julie Moon

I have been so blessed in Korea to have these two amazing women as friends.  🙂

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Monday, December 13:  Alex sleeps in while I schlep into work today.  Again, he visits the DVD bang during the day.  In the evening we go to Lotte Cinema to see The Tourist, with Angelina Jolie & Johnny Depp; it’s quite cute.  We have an exciting dinner at Mr. Pizza afterward, where we are the last customers of the night.

Tuesday, December 14:  Alex goes to Chojeon with me, where one of Coffee J’s 4th grade boys plays the flute for him.  Alex thinks Little Miss Jailbird is quite a character and he likes her edgy personality; she’s the girl who constantly insults me and wears the gray and black striped knit pants (see my previous blog: insults korean style).

In the evening, I expose Alex to the samgyeopsal and noraebang experience with Anna, Seth, Maurice, Myrna, Lilly and Ben.  Samgyeopsal consists of thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat (similar to uncured bacon). Usually diners grill the meat themselves and eat directly from a grill. It is often dipped into a spicy pepper paste and wrapped in lettuce leaves along with other vegetables.  Noraebang, literally a “song room,” is similar to what we Westerners know as karaoke; it’s different in that a group of friends rents a room for an hour or two by themselves, and the public is not involved (as in Western-style karaoke).

Maurice, Ben, Lilly, Seth, Anna and Alex eating samgyeopsol

Maurice, Ben, Lilly, Myrna, Seth, Anna and Alex eating samgyeopsal

the thick slabs of fatty bacon that are the main staple in samgyeopsal

the thick slabs of fatty bacon that are the main staple in samgyeopsal

Anna :-)

Anna 🙂

Alex tries samgyeopsal

Alex tries samgyeopsal

At noraebang, Alex wears dreadlocks and belts out songs along with the rest of us, losing all his inhibitions.

Maurice, Alex and me heading into noraebang

Maurice, Alex and me heading into noraebang

Ben, the masked man, and Alex in his crazy wig

Ben, the masked man, and Alex in his crazy wig

Myrna belts out a song

Myrna belts out a song

Alex sings a serenade in his dreadlocks

Alex sings a serenade in his dreadlocks

Wednesday, December 15:   Tonight, we go to my neighborhood Italian place for dinner, visit an outdoor Asian market near my house, and then try a different DVD bang where we watch The Time Traveler’s Wife, which happens to be the first book I read when I got to Korea in March.

Thursday, December 16:  Tonight, we go to downtown Daegu and eat fat juicy hamburgers at Gorilla Burger.  Later that night, Alex, prone as he is to making exaggerated sweeping statements, says, “This is the best December I’ve ever had in my lifetime!”  This is so much in character for him; I remember when he was a little boy  and he’d meet some random kid at a soccer game and he’d say, I just made a new best friend today, Mom!

Saturday, August 14:  This evening, a gang of us went to see the Samsung Lions vs. the Daejeon Eagles at the baseball stadium in Daegu.  The night was hot and sultry, one of the most miserable nights since I’ve been in Korea.

Heading to see the Samsung Lions

Heading to see the Samsung Lions

We sat in the stands with the other Koreans, clothes sticking to our bodies, sweat soaking our hair and faces.  I never have cared anything for baseball, but the experience was a fascinating cultural grab-bag; I always love people-watching and seeing baseball Korean style was different, for sure. Especially the fans.  Anna, Seth, Kathy, Maurice, Suzanne, Carly, Shihwan and Shin were all in attendance.  I took a few pictures, and then my camera battery died (so irritating!). Maurice had our pastor’s camera, which I used to snap a bunch of photos.

field of Korean dreams

field of Korean dreams

Anna, Kathy and me in front, with Suzanne and Carly behind

Anna, Kathy and me in front, with Shin, Shihwan, Suzanne, Carly & Maurice behind

Suzanne, Carly and Maurice

Suzanne, Carly and Maurice

Shin and Shihwan

Shin and Shihwan

in the stands at a Korean baseball game

in the stands at a Korean baseball game

Shihwan, me and Maurice

Shihwan, me and Maurice

Alas, no hot dogs at this ball game.  I ordered a take-out of mandu, or Korean dumplings, which I ate in the stands with chopsticks.  Not exactly the baseball game fare I’m used to.  It mattered not; I love mandu!  Some of us also ordered fried chicken, which the Koreans have in recent years taken a great liking to (along with pizza and pasta).

Chicken, anyone?

Chicken, anyone?

The game gets very exciting towards the end and the Korean fans become very boisterous!

Korean fans

Korean fans

Korean baseball fans

Korean baseball fans

the Samsung Lion mascot

the Samsung Lion mascot

Anna, me and Carly with the field behind

Anna, me and Carly with the field behind

me, Carly and Anna with some balloon palm trees

me, Carly and Anna with some balloon palm trees

Even though the evening is sweltering, we still manage to have a good time experiencing a bit of the Korean baseball world. 🙂

Wednesday, July 21: Today I leave for Turkey.  It will be a long trip.  Mr. O told me yesterday afternoon that the principal at Byeokjin said I could take the day off today!! Then the guy from customs called from Incheon and told me I could pick up my package at the airport today for a steep customs duty of 72,000 won!!  Since I have the day off, I’ll take a bus to Incheon at 1:00, get there at 5:20, pick up the box, then wait around at the airport till my flight leaves at 11:55 pm!  Last night, Kathy was so sweet and picked up my bus ticket for me at Dongdaegu… I would have had to do that myself if she hadn’t done this.  I owe her so much for this favor, which took a big burden off of me!  Anyway, today it no longer feels like things are conspiring against me in my trip. 🙂

Tuesday, July 20: Why is it that when you’re getting ready to travel it seems everything is conspiring against you?  It’s just like the process of buying a house; people who have gone through purchasing a home say they feel like they will never go to closing.  Today, I was expecting a package from home which contained a debit card to replace mine that has expired.  The box also had some things I really needed for vacation that I wasn’t able to find here in Korea.  The package didn’t come because they held it up in customs in the Incheon Airport in Seoul.  I have had three other packages from home (none of which was urgent) and they have never held one up before!  I will be in Seoul at Incheon tomorrow, but the place is not right at the airport and I will be pressed for time.  So the package and I will pass each other going in opposite directions tomorrow!   In addition, I worked hard to prepare for all my summer camps so I would be ready upon my return home to dive right in; suddenly today one of my co-teachers told me one of the lesson plans (which I was told had to be a 40-minute plan) should be 3 hours long!!  So now, when I return, I will be stressed right away trying to complete two more lesson plans.  Then my friend Jayne writes me from England to tell me that Turkish airplane companies are going bankrupt and stranded Brits are having to pay double to get out.  Why, why, why?  Ok, this is where I need to learn to BREATHE ^o^……

We went to Sydney to celebrate Ben’s birthday tonight, but I left early because I ate too much cake and felt incredibly fat!!

Lillian & Ben at Ben's birthday celebration at Sydney St.

Lillian & Ben at Ben’s birthday celebration at Sydney St.

Xee, me, Seth & Anna at Ben's b-day

Xee, me, Seth & Anna at Ben’s b-day

Seth & Anna at Ben's birthday party

Seth & Anna at Ben’s birthday party

Monday, July 19: Winding down the first semester at school.  Today was my last official day of classes.  I played Jeopardy and Hangman with the kids:-)

Sunday, July 18: For the first time since I’ve been in Korea, I was able to talk by Skype to my friend Ed from the State Department back home.   He’s a foreign service officer and is applying now for his next post abroad.  We share a love of foreign lands, and a common experience at the State Department ~ I was in charge of the UN delegation to the 2007 Middle East Peace Conference in Annapolis (& he was in charge of the Africa delegation) …. We so wanted to share a bottle of wine, but as it was midday for me, I couldn’t imbibe…  I had to pack for my trip:-)

Saturday, July 17: I went with Kathy to Sugar Joe’s, a laid-back bar near Kyungbook University’s North Gate, where we chatted and  listed to live music by Akooztik Coxwell.  I’m so happy to have found this place, recommended by Kate, an English teacher at the university, who I met while having my hair straightened at Frigo.

Friday, July 16: Chojeon Elementary students went on a field trip to SpaValley, a huge theme spa with a water park, bade pool, hot spring, & steam room.  The place was inundated with screaming and squealing kids.  The teachers were relegated to the cafeteria, but I basked for an hour in the hot tub and sauna.  Later we went to the Daegu National Museum, where the kids did all kinds of hands-on activities.  Meanwhile, since I had no duties, I finished my excellent book, The Piano Teacher, and dreamed of Hong Kong!

on the bus to SpaValley ~ the Chojeon 4th graders

on the bus to SpaValley ~ the Chojeon 4th graders

this little girl brought a whole suitcase of snacks

this little girl brought a whole suitcase of snacks

My 4th grade students

My 4th grade students

the back-of-the-bus gang

the back-of-the-bus gang

Heading into the Daegu National Museum with one of my co-teachers

Heading into the Daegu National Museum with one of my co-teachers

me in the entrance to the Daegu National Museum

me in the entrance to the Daegu National Museum

Thursday, July 15: ~~This afternoon was one of my loveliest here in Korea.  My friend Julie, who is my Korean English co-teacher at both of my schools, took me to her hometown of Wegwan for samgye tang, a ginseng chicken soup: a game hen-size chicken, stuffed with jujube (Asian date) garlic, persimmon, and glutinous rice.  Julie says it’s an “oriental medicine soup” and is often eaten in summer to lessen the effects of the heat.  Before dinner, she insisted on stopping at her local hospital so I could get physical therapy on my knee (since I hurt it recently at yoga!!).  We waited about 10 minutes, I paid about $3.50, and then had an hour of various heat treatments, suction cups, and exercise, which, miraculously made my knee feel a lot better. 🙂  Most amazing was how I felt the whole time with Julie.  She is so easy-going and so sweet.  She made me feel pampered, peaceful and thankful.  I so cherish her friendship and kindness!

Julie Moon and her son at dinner

Julie Moon and her son at dinner

samgye tang ~ yummy:-)

samgye tang ~ yummy:-)

~~Mr. O and I no longer speak to each other during our 45 minute commute.  I guess this silent treatment came about after I cut him off the 3rd time he tried to tell me how the men eat very spicy dog meat in summer for “stamina.”  Possibly it was after I cut him off when he tried for the 2nd time to have another excrutiatingly painful conversation about Lehman Brothers.  Anyway, it’s funny b/c I wished that he would just stop speaking.  Now he has, but it’s not an amiable silence.  This morning, he started a little passive-aggressive behavior, putting on a very loud English language cassette tape that might help him improve his English.  I suppose he was hoping conversations with me might help him.  Listening to this English tape, I now know where he got the expression he uses constantly with me: “Have you got it?”

Wednesday, July 14: I take my shower in the dreaded Korean style sink-shower: a portable shower head over the sink.  The water drains partially into the sink and the overflow into a hole in the floor.  Oh how I miss my baths!!

the Korean style sink-shower in my bathroom

the Korean style sink-shower in my bathroom

Tuesday, July 13: In U.S. schools, teachers are never to touch students.  Here, that rule is a little murky…  In fact, the children seem to have no concept of personal space.  Today, in the 10 minute break between classes, about 9-10 3rd graders crowded around my desk, telling me their Korean names and asking me to repeat them, & teaching me Korean words for classroom objects.  They cheered and clapped whenever I got it right. I can’t believe they were trying to teach me their names, which I still don’t know after nearly 5 months!!  Why can’t they just use ONE name?? Even in the U.S., I would never remember someone’s 1st, middle and last name!! ~ Meanwhile some of the 10 were playing with my hair, rubbing my arms, and touching my clothes.  I’m always taken aback by this…I feel like I should push them away and say Don’t touch!  As a Westerner, to me it’s very strange.  But is it to them?  It seems like a natural part of their culture.  I kind of wish we weren’t so uptight about this kind of thing in the U.S.  All over Korea, you see on the streets girls holding hands, boys holding hands.  Hmmm… don’t know quite what to make of this….

Monday, July 12: A night at Sydney St. Pub to celebrate Kathy D’s mother’s birthday.  Her mom bought a bunch of visors to take back home to her friends.  Reminds me of the countless “ajuma parmas” (old ladies with dyed-black hair and permanents) I see on the streets ~ they wear these atrocious visors, as do the middle-aged women.  Yikes!  It’s scary 🙂

Kathy, Seth, Patrick, me, and the birthday girl, Kathy's mom at Sydney St.

Kathy, Seth, Patrick, me, and the birthday girl, Kathy’s mom at Sydney St.

Anna and me

Anna and me

Kathy's mother and Kathy

Kathy’s mother and Kathy

Sunday, July 11: At Agape Church, where I have become a regular, my friend Maurice, a Kenyan theological student, encouraged me to fill out a membership card.  I did.  Little did I know I would have to stand and be introduced later in the service.  The choir sang a welcome song to me, hands outstretched & palms open.  Wow!!  In the sermon, the preacher encouraged us to have a “heart of evangelism;”  for an example of how lost souls need the gospel in their lives, he told the story of a person who cut her tongue with scissors.  Very upsetting…. According to an Economist article dated July 8, 2010: “The never-ending push for achievement [in Korea], however, also has a dark side: depression is a serious problem, and the recorded suicide rate—around 22 per 100,000 people—is the highest in the OECD.”  I see this push for achievement evident in the schools, where students spend countless hours in study….sadly kids can’t be kids in Korea. 😦

Saturday, July 10: A fruitless day of shopping in Daegu.  I am continually amazed at the ugliest array of clothing on the planet.  The salespeople stay on you like flies on fruitcake.  They have no concept of “I’m just looking!”

Friday, July 9: Coffee J told me about Jesa, a type of family reunion in honor of dead ancestors.  The entire family meets once a year in memory of the death of a grandparent.  This celebration can apply to as many as 5 generations ~ that’s a lot of family reunions (!!);  it’s an assured way for the family to keep in close contact. I like this – something like the Day of the Dead in Mexico.  We need something like this in the US!

Thursday, July 8: While walking to Sydney St. for a couple of beers, I was almost run over by a guy on a motorcycle driving on the sidewalk, as they always do.  He had a stack of business cards in one hand and was flicking them onto the pavement as he careened along.  Everyday, the shopkeepers must come out and sweep up all the business cards that have been strewn on the street by countless motorcycle-riding advertisers.  I wonder if anyone ever goes along the street and thinks: Wow! I must pick up one of these business cards so I can do business at this place!!

Wednesday, July 7: At the street crossing, I am yelled at by one of the ajumas who stands there every morning with a flag, giving pedestrians the okay to cross the street (…as if the walk signal isn’t enough!)  These ajumas wear yellow sashes, huge ugly visors or hats, masks, long sleeves, and gloves even in the heat of summer.  She yelled at me in Korean because at the Keimyung Gate I never wait for the walk signal and just cross.  There’s NEVER any traffic at that hour going into the university!!  I just ignored her.

A self-appointed police "ajuma parma" at the Keimyung University East Gate

A self-appointed police “ajuma parma” at the Keimyung University East Gate

Tuesday, July 6: My Korean English co-teacher, Julie, and I split up the third grade class we have on Tuesdays because there are 29 of them and they are a bunch of hooligans!!  However, we found that when the teacher split the class in two, she happened to put all the rowdiest kids in one group and the best-behaved kids in the other.  We have now dubbed the two groups: “OH MY GOD!” and “OH MY GOOD!”

Monday, July 5: At yoga tonight, the instructor has us doing an extensive array of kneeling exercises.  I can feel my knee crack, but do I heed the sound? No…. and now I think I may have set myself back by months on the healing of my knee!  And this right before my vacation to Turkey…..

Sunday, July 4: Ben makes tacos and Seth, Anna, Xee, and I go to Duryu Park for a 4th of July picnic.  Then we go to Camp Walker in Daegu to watch some pretty pathetic fireworks.  Anna and I both comment that there are some rough-looking dudes on the army base and Seth says it’s the first time in Korea he’s felt like someone might pick a fight with him.  ~ Earlier in the day, I went to the hospital to visit Kathy and had to make my way through throngs of hospital-gown-clad patients walking aboEditut outdoors dragging along their urine and IV bags; some were smoking!  I felt like I was in the midst of a bunch of hospital escapees…. 🙂

Xee, Seth, Ben and me at Duryu Park, 4th of July

Xee, Seth, Ben and me at Duryu Park, 4th of July

Coronas on 4th of July

Coronas on 4th of July

Xee, me and Anna at Duryu Park

Xee, me and Anna at Duryu Park

Duryu Park

Duryu Park

Ben and Anna

Ben and Anna

Xee at Camp Walker

Xee at Camp Walker

Fireworks at Camp Walker

Fireworks at Camp Walker

The fireworks at Camp Walker, an army base in Daegu

The fireworks at Camp Walker, an army base in Daegu

Saturday, July 3: My first haircut in Korea.  It took me about 2 hours to find a hair stylist who was recommended to me.  When I found him, he told me I could come back at 3:30 (it was 1:00).  I found another place I heard did hair-straightening, Frigo, so I figured I could get my hair straightened and then go back to the 1st guy for the haircut.  I spent the next 4 hours having my hair straightened, then I went ahead and had them cut it (since I missed the first appointment).  The whole process cost me 65,000 Won, or about $58!

Friday, July 2: At Chojeon Elementary, there is only one throne-type toilet, and it happens to be in the men’s bathroom.  I use it unabashedly.  When Coffee J first asked me why I used the men’s room, I said because women are built to sit.  Men stand; this toilet should be in the women’s room!!  Now, none of the adults say anything, but when the kids see me go in there, they love to pound on the door and run away; sometimes they turn the light off from outside, leaving me in the dark!  I don’t care… I steadfastly continue to do what I must do:-)  I will only use the ubiquitous squat toilets when there is no other choice and I am absolutely desperate!!

This evening we meet at Seth and Anna’s house for dinner and a Bible study.

Anna, Seth, Maurice, me and ??

Anna, Seth, Maurice, me and ??

me, Anna and ??

me, Anna and ??

Thursday, July 1: Kim, the Korean 1st grade teacher at Byeokjin, today tells me that she wants to take me to her favorite hair stylist to have my hair cut.  This hairstylist will apparently recommend the best cut for my hair and face. Then she mentions she notices that I never wear makeup.  (I do!) This is so typical for Koreans to comment about your appearance, even if it’s derogatory.

Wednesday, July 14: One sultry summer evening, my Korean friend Julie Moon takes me out with her children to eat the miraculous chicken soup known as samgyetang.

Samgyetang is a Korean soup, which primarily consists of a whole young chicken and Korean ginseng. The dish’s name literally translates as “‘ginseng chicken soup” in English.  It is believed that this soup can cure and prevent illness or physical ailments.  Samgyetang is traditionally served in the summer for its supposed nutrients, which replaces those lost through excessive sweating and physical exertion during the hot summers in Korea.

eating samgye tang with Julie and her children

To make samgyetang, a whole young chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice and boiled in a broth of Korean ginseng, dried seeded jujube fruits, garlic and ginger.  Other medicinal herbs may also be added.

Many Koreans enjoy it on three specific days in summer: “Chobok” (초복), “Jungbok” (중복), and “Malbok” (말복), which Koreans believe to be the hottest and most sultry of the year. (Wikipedia: Samgyetang)

Julie and her son at the restaurant

Julie and her son at the restaurant

Julie and her two children

Julie and her two children

Julie's daughter and me

Julie’s daughter and me

accompaniments to samgyetang

accompaniments to samgyetang

I have to say I can’t admit to feeling miraculously healthier after eating this soup, but maybe since my health is generally good anyway, it doesn’t make a noticeable difference! 🙂

Saturday, May 8:   On Saturday morning, my South African friend Buyiswa, better known as “B”, and I ventured to Andong for the weekend.  I planned the trip and invited B along.  I found a great cheap hotel for us to stay in; written up in my trusty Moon Handbook, it said “the chic Hotel California, in the center of town, is much smaller, newer, and more of a boutique hotel.”  I sent her the link, which shows a very modern and clean room; sadly, this link has since been removed because the Hotel California is now known as the Andong Hotel  (Official Site of Korea Tourism: Andong Hotel (formerly Hotel California)).  We were both very excited b/c it looked so good and was cheap besides.

B in front of the hotel california in andong.  You can check out but you can never leave....

B in front of the hotel california in andong. You can check out but you can never leave….

My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night…..
And I was thinking to myself,
‘This could be Heaven or this could be Hell’

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
‘Relax,’ said the night man,
‘We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!

~The Eagles “Hotel California”

I left my apartment at 9 am Saturday morning, took the subway to Dongdaegu Station and promptly went to the express bus terminal across the street.  The next three buses for Andong were full, so I bought a 7,300 Won ticket for the 10:37 bus.  It’s ~100 km to Andong, so the trip was about an hour and 50 minutes. B arrived in Andong before I did, and checked in to the hotel.  I called her from my bus and asked how was the hotel.  She said, it’s okayyyy….I’ll let you judge for yourself.

The place was deserted at the front desk and room 501 was like a sauna.  The air was dead and stifling from the lack of air conditioning and the decor was like a cheap honeymoon hotel in the Poconos…. dark silky bedspreads, little ruffled curtains over the beds, cigarette burns on the yellow velour couch.  The room seemed clean but a cheap and tired version of its bygone self.

We tried to find the proprietor to have him check our air conditioning, but he was nowhere to be found.  We stood at the front desk for some time, calling into the vacuum.  Finally, we gave up and left, dreading the return to our stifling room.

We caught a taxi to Hahoe Village, which is about 25 km out-of-town, because B wanted to see the mask dance at 2:00 — this at a cost of 25,000 won!  The mask dance was in session when we arrived, and as there was standing room only, we stood.  I found the dance pretty monotonous.  It went on for an hour, with various characters in masks performing some skits which I couldn’t understand because it was all in Korean.  One guy came out playing a town drunk, I think; he had the audience laughing their heads off.  Laughter is infectious, so I laughed along as the guy’s antics were perfectly ridiculous.

the mask dance at Hahoe Village

the mask dance at Hahoe Village

Mask dance

Mask dance

Mask dance

Mask dance

Mask dance

Mask dance

Mask dance

Mask dance

After the mask dance, we ventured to a little area where there are a bunch of totem poles.  Many of them have either huge penises, penises as noses, or multiple penises.  This was a great photo op!!  I heard later from my co-teacher Coffee J that Koreans believe these kinds of statues and carvings serve to protect communities from dangers.  They are quite ubiquitous throughout the country.

At Hahoe Village

At Hahoe Village

Totems

Totems

totems with penises at Hahoe Village

totems with penises at Hahoe Village

Penis envy at Hahoe Village

Penis envy at Hahoe Village

me with the totems at Hahoe Village

me with the totems at Hahoe Village

B with the totems at Hahoe Village

B with the totems at Hahoe Village

me playing totem

me playing totem

We then take a walk through Hahoe Village.  Hahoe Village is home to descendants of the Ryu clan of Pungsan and is well-known for its traditional houses. Birthplace of renowned scholars of the Joseon Period such as Gyeomam Ryu Un-ryong and Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong, the village became even more famous after Queen Elizabeth of England visited on April 21, 1999.

Hahoe Village (translated as “Village Enveloped by Water”) gets its name from the Nakdong River, which flows around the town’s perimeter. The village sits in the foothills of Hwasan Mountain, an offshoot of Taebaek Mountain that rises up to the east. The center of the village is populated by large tile-roofed houses belonging to the Ryu clan, adding their own unique charm to the surrounding thatched roofs.

Hahoe Village, along with Yangdong Village in Gyeongju, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List under the category of “Historic Villages in Korea” on July 31, 2010 (Official Site of Korea Tourism: Andong Hahoe Village (UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE)).

rice paddies

rice paddies

another totem in the village

another totem in the village

B takes a rest ^-^

B takes a rest ^-^

I take a rest

I take a rest

Hahoe Village

Hahoe Village

me at Hahoe Village

me at Hahoe Village

Hahoe Village map

Hahoe Village map

After Hahoe, B and I took another taxi to the Andong Dam.  Completed in 1976, it’s the 3rd largest dam in the country.  The view from the top of the dam was amazing and we wandered leisurely across the top until we reached a pavilion on the other side.  We then realized we were going to miss the next bus down, so we hurried back across the dam, only to see the bus zoom by, leaving us stranded.  Wandering out to the road, we started walking down toward town (too far to walk!!) and hoped for a taxi.  Alas, no taxis ventured past!

The view of the river from the top of the Andong Dam

The view of the river from the top of the Andong Dam

The view of the river from the top of the Andong Dam

The view of the river from the top of the Andong Dam

me at Andong Dam

me at Andong Dam

a viewing pavilion atop Andong Dam

a viewing pavilion atop Andong Dam

me in front of the viewing pavilion at Andong Dam

me in front of the viewing pavilion at Andong Dam

We came up a restaurant with two totem poles and a sign on a rock saying “Pub.”  We fell in love with the little totem guys, took some goofy pictures, then went into the restaurant (called Jungle Gym); I ordered a beer and B a non-alcoholic drink, and we sat on the patio at a picnic table.  The waitress called a taxi for us, and we headed back into town.

B and our two totem friends at the Jungle Gym Restaurant

B and our two totem friends at the Jungle Gym Restaurant

me at Jungle Gym restaurant

me at Jungle Gym restaurant

In town we ate a huge meal of Andong jjimdak, a steamed chicken dish which is meant for an army.  B and I tackled what we could but left a lot behind.

Andong jjimdak – a huge portion

B preparing to eat Andong jjimdak

B preparing to eat Andong jjimdak

the waitress at the restaurant

the waitress at the restaurant

Back at the Hotel California, we finally found the elusive proprietor and he informed us there was no air conditioning.  So… we opened the window and put on pajamas…and surprise!! the room was actually quite comfortable.  When it came time to go to sleep, B wanted to close the window.  I said, B, it’s too hot!  We can’t close the window!  She said, But I’m afraid someone might come in.  I said, B, we’re on the 5th floor!  How is anyone going to get in?  She looked carefully out the window.  I said, Don’t worry, I’ll sleep on the side nearest the window and I’ll protect you if by some weird chance someone comes in the window!

Monday, March 15: I teach at two elementary schools in rural Seongju County, but I live in the city of Daegu. So… each day I have about an hour commute each way to work; luckily I’m able to carpool with some of my fellow teachers.  Otherwise, I’d have a horribly inconvenient trip by city bus and then by rural bus which could take me 1 1/2 hours and 10,000 Korean won/day.  The teachers offered me the option of carpooling with them during my first week.  I think it may have been a temporary offer, but now, much to their dismay, they are stuck with me; I’m like the guest they can’t quite shake, the visitor who is overstaying her welcome.   I’m playing dumb as long as I can….

Welcome to Seongju

Welcome to Seongju

Carpool #1 to Chojeon Elementary (M, T, F): I ride to work three days a week with three funny guys: my co-teacher Coffee-J, Mr. Yun, the PE and head teacher, and Mr. Sun, the 5th grade teacher.  During the entire drive, they talk together animatedly in Korean, laughing, making hand gestures, cracking crazy jokes; it’s high jinx.  Despite the fact that I can’t understand a word they’re saying, I find myself laughing along as if I understand their jokes.  I want to belong to their little group, but clearly I don’t.  Being the only woman and having very limited Korean speaking abilities, I mainly stay quietly amused in the back seat.

Coffee J, Mr. Yun, and Mr. Sun

Coffee J, Mr. Yun, and Mr. Sun at Chojeon Elementary School

I don’t know quite what to do with myself.  Some days, I simply fall asleep when my mind wanders off into an imaginary land where Englishy is spoken….inside my own head. (Koreans add “y” to the end of many English words: Englishy, lunchy, clothies, etc.) Sometimes I pull out my Korean flashcards and mutter words incorrectly to myself until one of them overhears me and corrects my pronunciation. (Odee, Yogi, Chogi – Where? Here. There.)  Other days, I stare absently out the window at the miles of vinyl houses where the yellow melon is grown. Other days I just can’t keep quiet and I start yapping to Coffee-J in English, probably taxing the poor guy’s mind first thing in the morning.  When I do that, of course, Mr. Sun and Mr. Yun become the outsiders, as they can speak very limited Englishy.  I don’t like to do this too much as it disrupts their camaraderie and may get me ousted from the carpool.  That’s something I DO NOT want to happen.

This past Friday afternoon, Coffee J and I got behind a slow-moving vehicle and he impatiently tried to get around.  He said, “What do you call this, this slow-moving car?” I said, “Hmm… I guess you’d say he’s pokey.” He said “porky? like the food?” I said, “No, p-o-k-e-y, pokey. Not a food!  You’d probably call him a slowpoke.” He said, “Oh, ok, a slow-pokey! That’s funny!” Then he kept saying that word all the way home.  “Oh, another slow-pokey. Haha!”

Tuesday, March 16: Carpool #2 to Byeokjin Elementary (W, Th) : My other carpool is with Mr. O, the 2nd grade teacher at my other school.  He is also my “manager” at Byeokjin.  I was excited before I met him because Coffee J said Mr. O has a Ph.D. in English.  However, Mr. O speaks very limited Englishy!!  As a matter of fact, hardly anyone at Byeokjin speaks Englishy; I honestly have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing at that school!!  Apparently Mr. O got his Ph.D. in English many years ago and, like many who study foreign languages, learned to read and write but not to speak.

Mr. O

Mr. O

The first day Mr. O picked me up, Coffee J met us in his car at the pick up spot.  Coffee J and Mr. O got out of their respective cars and Coffee J introduced me to Mr. O.  I promptly got in the front seat of Mr. O’s car, but first I had to move his briefcase, his phone, and his jacket to the back seat.  It happened to be snowing that day, and Mr. O drove very nervously and slowly to Byeokjin.  I could tell he was quite on edge, between the snow, trying to speak to me in his very poor Englishy, and having a strange woman in the car with him.

On Friday, I was back in my regular carpool with the Chojeon guys.  Coffee J’s phone rang and there was a very loud voice on the other end.  Coffee J held the phone away from his ear and then thrust his phone into the air so everyone in the carpool could hear what the other party was saying.  The three guys were laughing their heads off, but I was clueless as usual. After he hung up the phone, Coffee J said, “That was Mr. O.  He called to say that the next time you ride with him, he wants you to sit in the back seat. He can’t concentrate with you in the front seat and he feels very nervous!”

What???

The next day, I dutifully got into Mr. O’s back seat when he picked me up.  I figured since he wanted me to sit in the back seat (despite the fact that a perfectly good front seat was available!!) that I could just mind my own business in the back seat.  I planned to busily occupy myself putting phone numbers into my new Korean phone, looking over my lesson plans, reading emails on my blackberry.

Surprisingly, Mr. O talked to me non-stop.  He told me a story that went something like this: “I don’t like autumn.  It remembers me of my girlfriend in college.  She was rich and liked to eat (some kind of food I didn’t understand). She was the brother of my wife.  OK? You understand?”  There was some other stuff about the girlfriend eating a lot of some kind of food.  I tried so hard to understand what he was trying to tell me.  Did the girlfriend get fat eating all that food?  Did she leave him or did he leave her because she got fat?  Did he meet his wife through his girlfriend’s brother??

Vinyl houses for growing the yellow melon

Vinyl houses for growing the yellow melon

a typical rainy winter day waiting for the carpool on the main road from Daegu to Seongju

a typical rainy winter day waiting for the carpool on the main road from Daegu to Seongju

I patiently tried to process his convoluted tale.  Then Mr. O said, “By the way, I talked to Mr. Kim (Coffee J) and he told me you are a lot of fun, that you like to drink alcohol and soju.  So one night, I want to drink alcohol with you!”  Huh???  Now that’s an experience I can’t wait for:-)

Monday, March 29: Today, I’m informed by Coffee-J that our carpool is going out for dinner and drinks tonight after work.  This seems to always be the way things work in Korea.  No one asks if you might have other engagements; they simply announce some plan and expect you to follow along.  Usually, because I’m a foreigner and hardly anyone speaks English, I’m always the last to know.

Tonight we go out to a Korean restaurant in Daegu and eat bulgogi.   On this outing, it’s just the Chojeon car pool teachers; Mr. O is not included.

Mr. Yun and Coffee-J, making a toast with soju

Mr. Yun and Coffee-J, making a toast with soju

Bulgogi is made from thin slices of sirloin or other prime cuts of beef.  Before cooking, the meat is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper and other ingredients such as scallions, garlic, onions or mushrooms.

Bulgogi is traditionally grilled, but pan cooking has become popular as well. Whole cloves of garlic, sliced onions and chopped green peppers are often grilled or fried with the meat.  This dish is sometimes served with a side of lettuce, which is used to wrap a slice of cooked meat, often along with a dab of ssamjang (a thick spicy sauce made of soy bean paste, a red chili condiment, sesame oil, garlic, green onions, and optionally brown sugar), or other side dishes, and then eaten together. (Wikipedia: Bulgogi)

Mr. Yun, Coffee-J, me and Mr. Sun at our bulgogi dinner

Mr. Yun, Coffee-J, me and Mr. Sun at our bulgogi dinner

As always at any Korean gathering, the meal is accompanied by huge amounts of beer and soju, a distilled South Korean beverage traditionally made from rice.  It tastes similar to vodka but sweeter (Wikipedia: Soju).  There are always some bottles of Fanta also floating around.

Me and Mr. Sun

Me and Mr. Sun making a toast with soju

In short order, with all the soju and beer going around, everyone is quite drunk.  We laugh a lot and I feel like these carpooling co-teachers of mine are becoming good friends.

Mr. Sun and I have a race to see who can drink our soup the fastest

Mr. Sun and I have a race to see who can drink our soup the fastest

Mr. Yun doesn't speak a word of English, but he's always a jolly fellow

Mr. Yun doesn’t speak a word of English, but he’s always a jolly fellow

After dinner, we go to noraebang, where we all have a grand time belting out songs, both Korean and English.  Crazy times!!

me, probably singing Hotel California, always my song of choice! :-)

me, probably singing Hotel California, always my song of choice! 🙂

me and Mr. Yun singing in the noraebang

me and Mr. Yun singing in the noraebang

Tuesday, April 27: Today, I’m informed once again that we’re having a carpool party, this time including Mr. O from Byeokjin Elementary.  After work, we head to a restaurant between Seongju and Daegu.  As always, the meal includes a lot of beer and soju and as always, there are lots of laughs and high jinx.  This is typical Korean culture that I experienced too many times to count!

Coffee-J's face always turns bright red when he drinks

Coffee-J’s face always turns bright red when he drinks

me holding a bottle of soju

me holding a bottle of soju

Coffee-J with chopstick teeth

Coffee-J with chopstick teeth

the typical Korean pose with the V-sign

the typical Korean pose with the V-sign

Take one down and pass it around, 99 bottles of soju on the wall :-)

Take one down and pass it around, 99 bottles of soju on the wall 🙂

a pose with bottles of beer and soju

a pose with bottles of beer and soju

March 14, 2010Coffee-J:  I could write a book about him!  He is simply AWESOME!  He is my Korean co-teacher and his real name is Kim Jun Hyun.  He told me to call him Coffee-J because he LOVES coffee.  Finally he admitted most westerners botch his name, calling him “Hun.”  He said at school I should call him Hyun; he made me repeat it several times to make sure I got it right.  So now, to his face, I call him Hyun.  When he’s not around, I call him Coffee-J.

Coffee-J at the school teacher dinner

Coffee-J at the school teacher dinner

Like all native English teachers in the Korean public schools, I am paired with Coffee J as my Korean co-teacher; he manages me while I am here.  The co-teacher helps me with everything from getting situated in my apartment, to getting the elusive “alien registration card,” to getting internet and phone.  He is my main source of communication with everyone who doesn’t speak English.  In the elementary schools, this means most of the staff, including the principal and vice-principal.  As my co-teacher, Coffee-J gives me my schedule, co-teaches his 4th grade English class with me, provides me my textbooks and other materials, and helps me with basically anything I need help with.  Right now I have a toothache, so I’ll need to ask him how to find a dentist.

Coffee-J at Chojeon Elementary

Coffee-J at Chojeon Elementary

As an English major in college, Coffee-J’s English is very good.  He’s been the driving force behind getting English teachers in Seongju.  He has been working toward this for three years and I am the culmination of his efforts.  I feel a lot of pressure to meet his standards for the vision he has.  He loves the English language, loves English literature.  And he can spout off more English idioms than any native English speaker I have ever known!

In discussing how many Korean won I should contribute each month to the carpool, he said, “We need to have a heart to heart.  Let’s just call a spade a spade.”  He asked how much I think is a fair amount.  “Fair is fair,” he said.  This is how he talks.  One idiom after another.  This is such a high level of English speaking….unheard of in Korea!

Coffee-J sings "Top of the World"

Coffee-J sings “Top of the World” at one of Chojeon Elementary School’s noraebang sessions

I told him that he is the man with the plan!  He gets things accomplished in record time.  In one Friday afternoon, he found Myrna and me apartments in Daegu.  On Saturday, we had all our furniture bought and delivered.

Coffee-J, Myrna's co-teacher and Myrna buying furniture for our apartments

Coffee-J, Myrna’s co-teacher and Myrna buying furniture for our apartments

On Sunday, he took us for a shopping spree in E-mart to purchase necessary household items such as dishes, pots and pans, drying racks, hangers, etc.  This is a man with reams of self-confidence and assertiveness; he knows how to get things done.

In gratitude for all the work it took for them to get us settled in, Myra and I treat our wonderful co-teachers to samgyeopsal at What?  Samgyeopsal consists of thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat (similar to uncured bacon). The meat, usually neither marinated nor seasoned, is cooked on a grill at the diners’ table.  Usually diners grill the meat themselves and eat directly from a grill. It is often dipped into a spicy pepper paste (Wikipedia: Samgyeopsal).

What? ~ a Korean restaurant in our neighborhood

What? ~ a Korean restaurant in our neighborhood

Myrna and I treat our co-teachers to dinner at the restaurant What? after all their hard work.

Myrna and I treat our co-teachers to dinner at the restaurant What? after all their hard work.

Coffee-J is married with two children, 6 and 10.  He is happily married, but he also has that yearning to be free.  He wants both worlds and straddles the two to the best of his ability.  He likes to be in the company of westerners, but he has his Korean guy pals with whom he drinks soju frequently.  And on weekends, he is faithfully at home, being a good father and husband.

Coffee Jay & Sunny: I don't think she's pretty.  But I like her.

Coffee-J & Sunny: “I don’t think she’s pretty. But I like her.”

At dinner one night, Coffee-J asked our fellow carpooler, Mr. Sun, what he thought of Coffee-J’s wife.  Mr. Sun said she is very beautiful.  Coffee-J said, “I don’t think she’s pretty. But I like her!”

Saturday & Sunday, February 20-21:  During the first weekend of our orientation, EPIK introduces us to a bit of Korean culture by taking us to Jeonju and the historic Hanok Village.  We visit Buddhist temples and historic buildings.

me, freezing in Jeonju

me, freezing in Jeonju

B in Jeonju

B in Jeonju

Myrna

Myrna

We learn how to play Korean drums.

Me taking Korean drum lessons

Me taking Korean drum lessons

playing the drums

playing the drums

Myrna plays drums

Myrna plays drums

We go outdoors, where we watch another impromptu street performance and then congregate for group pictures.

??, Myrna and B

??, Myrna and B

??, Myrna and me

??, Myrna and me

Korean dancer

Korean dancer

The EPIK group

The EPIK group

Then we rotate through a variety of rooms where we do little arts and crafts projects.  I feel like I’m in 3rd grade again. 🙂

Me making some weird little character out of string

Me making some weird little character out of string

B's little person

B’s little person

Then some of us don animal costumes and do dances on stage.

some of our group dances in Korean animal costumes

some of our group dances in Korean animal costumes

We eat lunch in cold Korean restaurants.

Lunchtime with me, Tarren, B and ??

Lunchtime with me, Tarren, B and ??

Me, Tarren, B and ??

Me, Tarren, B and ??

Lunchtime in another icy cold Korean restaurant

Lunchtime in another icy cold Korean restaurant

Bibimbap

Bibimbap

And we visit the historic Hanok Village.

At Hanok Village, Alyssa and me

At Hanok Village, Alyssa and me

B in Hanok Village

B in Hanok Village

Me at Hanok Village

Me at Hanok Village

Hanok Village

Hanok Village

Snacktime

Snacktime

roasting yams

roasting yams

We join in a crazy Korean street dance with some wild-looking performers.

dancing on the streets of Hanok Village

dancing on the streets of Hanok Village

fun-loving Korean dancers

fun-loving Korean dancers

More dancing on the street

More dancing on the street

Crazy times

Crazy times

Korean fun

Korean fun

Dancing in the streets

Dancing in the streets

More dancing

More dancing

We visit the historic grounds of Gyeonggijeon and its bamboo grove, where lovers have carved their initials into the bamboo.  Gyeonggijeon was built to preserve the portrait of King Taejo Yi Seong-gye, founder of the Joseon dynasty.  Originally Gyeonggijeon was a gigantic building with many attached buildings, but it lost half of its land during the Japanese occupation.

me in a bamboo grove

me in the bamboo grove attached to Gyeonggijeon

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