Saturday, June 27, 2009


Last night was my first real noribang experience. I have been in a noribang in the Irish bar we go to, but that is a big fancy room and isn't like a normal noribang.

We were in Shinchon last night, a city past Hongdae (our normal weekend hangout). It's another college town, and the streets are lined with restaurants and bars that are all lit up like Vegas. We went to one bar called Oregon Trail. It was designed after the old fashion computer game that most people played in 2nd grade at school. When you walk in you have to walk through a covered wagon. I'm not sure what kind of Korean person decided to design a bar around the game Oregon Trail....

Jenn in Shinchon at a dart game. I played and won a heart pillow that says LOVE. This was not from last night, but it is a picture of Shinchon anyway.

We went to another bar that had roof top seating, so we hung up on the roof for awhile. There were fire pits up on the roof, and I bet on chilly nights it's an awesome spot to drink. But it's been SO hot the last few days, and a fire is the last thing we wanted!

We decided to go to a noribang in honor of Michael Jackson dying. Noribangs are so easy to find, there is at least one on every street! The one we went into was in a basement, and we walked down and there was a woman at a desk, we paid her, and she led us down the hall into a private room about the size of a bathroom. There were benches around the outside, and a table with ashtrays and two microphones and some books of songs. We were the only people there I think, because all of the rooms looked empty. There was a window going to the hallway that was frosted, but you could still kind of see into other rooms. There were no windows to the outside and no lights in the room. There was a TV on one side of the wall that printed the words, and in the background they played these really strange video clips of animals and just random scenes, like a car driving by, and kids playing on a playground. It had nothing to do with the song that was playing.
We sang so many Michael Jackson songs, and some others of course. I'm not sure how long we were there, but when the timer ran out we bought another half hour. I don't know how much the first time was, but the half hour was 8,000WON, or about 8 dollars. We had no idea what time it was until we walked out of the basement noribang and saw that the sun was up and very bright. It was about 6am. It was a great night of drinking and singing in Shinchon!

I've been learning a few more Korean phrases and words from my Korean friend. He's been teaching me some words and useful phrases that I've written down and been memorizing. I can pretty much get around easily with my Korean. The biggest problem is my pronunciation. Many times Koreans have no idea what I'm saying in Korean and I have to say it over and over again. Also I know how to ask questions(How much? Where is...? Can I have....?) But I don't usually understand the answer very easily. I guess with more practice I'll get better.

On Friday we went on a field trip to an English Village in PaJu, another city in Korea. The village is supposed to be a replacement for parents who want to send their kids abroad to learn English. I thought it was lame, and not like America at all! It was set up kind of like Disney land, with small buildings on fake streets. No one was really around to talk to the kids, so it was pretty much just walking around the fake town. We watched some play in English, and then went home. The kids seemed to have fun, but I don't think there was anything really very Englishy about it.
Here are my kids listening to a speaker talk about English speaking countries.

My kids eating their lunches. Every kid had kimbop of course!!!

The gate into the English Village.

In customs the kids were asked questions, (What is your name? How old are you? What is your favorite color?) and then got their fake passports stamped.

Before we entered the village the kids ago to go through 'customs.' It looked like an airport.

PaJu, the city that the English Village is in, is very close to North Korea. The highway we took to get there runs along the Han River and leads to North Korea. On the way home I noticed that there was barbwire separating the River and the highway, and every few minutes there was a look out tower, and all along the fence were spot lights that would light up the edge of the river. I thought it was so strange that the river was so heavily guarded, so I asked my Korean teaching partner and she said they are looking for spies who come from North Korea on little boats and try to get to the highway. We even saw an army man in one of the look out towers holding a big gun. Pretty scary!!!

I got a new couch for my apartment last week! I ordered it from a Korean/English website called Gmarket. It's pretty awesome. It's light purple, and it folds down into a bed. Since my family is coming soon, I was going to buy an air mattress, but then I figured the couch is only a little bit more expensive, and is way more useful than an air mattress that I'd never use again. It cost 150,000 WON, including delivery. I will take updated pictures of my apartment soon and post them. I don't think I've put up pictures since I moved in!!!

Oh I went to another soccer game a few weeks ago. It was South Korea Vs. Iran. It was a tie game. Of course I was in the bathroom when the only South Korean goal was scored, but I was able to hear it! We didn't buy tickets ahead of time, so when we got there we had to wait on this HUGE line for tickets. We got the cheapest tickets, but since there were a lot of empty seats, we were able to move down to the more expensive area to watch the game.

Tae Han Min Gook! (Go South Korea!)

Dan and Adam, two of my coworkers, eating meat on a stick.

On the way home from the game, Liz was running to the subway, and she tripped on one of those reflection bumps in the road, and she fell on her hand and knees. I thought she was being a baby when she kept saying she was hurt, but I went with her to the doctor the next day, and she fractured two of her fingers, and the doctor said she would probably need surgery and pins to heal it properly. We had to go to the emergency room, but we had our boss Danny with us so he could translate for her. While we were there we saw a dead body wrapped in a blanket on a stretcher pushed through the waiting room. Liz got a cast, and she had to go back this past week to get it checked on again to see if it healed correctly or if she would need surgery, and luckily it looked OK so she has to wear the cast for a few more weeks. She is from Canada, so she was annoyed when she had to pay about $150 for the emergency room visit. That is cheap compared to America, but in Canada it's free so she was shocked.
Pictures of my apartment will be coming soon!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Deokjeok Do

This weekend I went to an island in Korea called Deok Jeok Do. It was Liz's birthday and she really wanted to go camping, but we couldn't find anywhere to rent tents, so our plan was to go and rent a minok, which is like a motel, but there are no beds.

We left at 7am on Saturday morning because had to go to Incheon to catch the ferry to the island. Incheon is another city in Korea that is about an hour and a half away on the subway. We had a few situations on the subway that made us late, but we finally got to the ferry terminal and we thought we would just make it onto the 9am ferry, but then we found out the ferries were all booked until 12:30 going to the island we were supposed to go to. After Liz's boyfriend talked to the person at the ticket counter, they were able to get us on the express ferry to Deokjeok Do at 9:50, so we took that. The ferry took only 1 hour. We didn't have a reservation for a minbok, so we were hoping there would be someone at the ferry dock that was trying to rent a room. On the ferry there was a part of the boat that said 'Priority Seating.' There were no seats, it was just an area with high walls and a wooden floor. It looked like a playpen, except that there were old men and women laying on the floor sprawled out. I wanted to take a picture of it but I thought it would be rude since they were old and disabled. When we got off the ferry there were tons of ajimas(old Korean women) who were cutting up and selling fish.

Here is the ferry we took. Just kidding, this was just a beached fishing boat we saw.
They were able to fit all 10 of us in the mini van on the way to the minbok.
This stage was on the ferry. With all of the lights we were expecting some kind of show. I was looking forward to a good magic show but we got nothing.....

We found an Ajishee (old Korean man) right away who took us to his minbok on the other side of the island in his van. We rented two rooms for $100 and there were 9 of us. The minbok was in a two story old Korean house and there was only one other family in the minbok with us.
Right out of our minbok window was a rice field. I think this is the kind of place my doctor at the travel clinic told me to avoid because malaria lives here........

This is our minbok. Very Simple. In the corner you can see our blankets/beds stacked up...

This is the road to our minbok.

After putting our stuff in our rooms, we went to find some lunch because we were starving. There were only two restaurants close to our minbok-one was playing music and the other wasn't. We went to the one playing music. The menu was stranger than the kind of Korean restaurants I've been to, but we ordered a few things and shared it all. One of the things was kimchi chigay which is a kimchi soup that I've never had before. It's a pretty popular Korean dish but I didn't like it. It was spicy and sour tasting. We also had this really good chicken stew with potatoes and onions in a spicy sauce. Lunch took over an hour to make, which we didn't expect, but finally we ate.
We ate at the hoppin restaurant.

After lunch we headed to the beach that was very close to our minbok. It was very empty, and I was expecting tons of people to be there because it was a beautiful day and it was also Memorial Day in Korea. We laid out on the beach for awhile, and then the boys went and got some fishing poles from the store. The fishing poles were just long, skinny bamboo sticks with a string and a hook on it. There was no reel. We sat on some stairs and fished for awhile. There was one tiny fish that one guy caught, and also a few people caught crabs that grabbed onto the worm and were pulled up.

The beach

Greg, Liz, and Dan fishing.

View from where we were fishing.

After fishing we headed back to the minbok. Each person was in charge of a meal, and Allen and Christie(Greg's friends) started cooking dinner. They made a really good Moroccan soup. While dinner was cooking we played some cards, and then went to collect fire wood. We asked the ajima where we could buy wood, and she said you had to just go find it in the woods, so went and collected a bunch of dead logs and small trees and brought them all back to the Minbok, but when we got back there were a bunch of ajishees standing outside telling us we couldn't have a fire. We didn't understand there reason for not allowing a fire, but we took the wood down to the beach anyway.
For the camping trip I tried my second attemp at a vodka(this time I used soju) watermelon. I tried once on Block Island and it didn't work, and the one I made for the camping trip with soju didn't really work either. The soju didn't get soaked into the whole watermelon, only the very ton. So one half of the watermelon was very soju-y and the other half was just regular watermelon. It was delicious anyway.

After dinner we went to the beach and found an open fire pit(we think the ajishees were saying we could only have a fire in the fire pit, not on the sand) and started a fire. We sat around it talking for awhile, and some other foreigners came over and joined us after awhile. Graham crackers do not exist in Korea, so one of the guys we went with made homemade Graham crackers that were sooo good! We had chocolate and marshmallows and made delicious smores.
Many people kept walking past us on their way to the ocean with buckets and flashlights, and we thought maybe they were clamming. But then some old ajimas came up to us and they were cold and wet and wanted to warm up by the fire. They had a bucket with them filled with these tiny crabs they found on the beach, and we were looking at them, and all of the sudden one of the ladies threw on the grate over the fire and threw about 5 crabs on the grate and walked away. We weren't sure how long to cook them for, and I'm pretty sure we cooked them too long. They were sooo small that there was almost no meat in them, so I think the women must have boiled them down to a crab soup or something. But we ate the ones she threw on the fire for us and they were pretty good.

On Sunday morning Jamie and I were in charge of breakfast, so we made some french toast. After breakfast we packed up and the man from the Minbok drove us back to the ferry and we left the island. It was a great trip and I'd like to go back and maybe try a different island!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Field Trip and Baseball Game

On Friday the preschoolers went on a field trip to a cucumber farm!!! It was outside Seoul, of course, and it took about 45 minutes to get there. Here are some of my kids on the bus.

This is Julie K.(The same girl I almost lost in the first few weeks of school. I found her in the bathroom.) In the background is Laura relaxing on the bus ride....

This is Han-Bi.

This is Allie, Albert, and Christina. All of the kids wear hats on field trip day.

We got a little lesson on how to pick cucumbers. You have to twist them ten times and never pull them! And we were only allowed to pick big cucumbers, although some of my kids didn't know what a big cucumber was so in our bucket we had many cucumbers that were more like pickle sized. The kids had to wear gardening gloves when they were picking the cucumbers. Another class had two kids bring in wool mittens instead of gardening gloves. I guess their parents didn't know what they were for when they sent them in with their children... They looked so funny picking cucumbers in winter mittens.

After we picked cucumbers for about 10-15 minutes in a boiling hot green house, the kids had to line up to get their pictures taken. The kids were all hot and whinny and the last thing they wanted to do was wait around to get their pictures taken. Another teacher had the idea to bring a spray bottle full of water, so while they were waiting for their pictures I was spraying the kids in the mouth with water from the bottle. They loved it and it kept them occupied for a long time!
These were the posed pictures that every class had to do. The kids really don't look happy but I promise they had a good time!!!

Amy, Allie, Coral, Julie, Julie K., Kayla, Justin, Alvin, Han-bi, Michael, Tony, and Cherry

These are the girls from my other preschool class:Christina, Alice, Sally, Laura, Lucy and Mi-Jin.

And the boys.... Albert, Daniel, Andrew, Alex, Jake, and Alexander.

We went on a tractor ride, ate lunch, and then went back to school. I love field trip days!!!

On Saturday Liz, Jamie and I went to this island in Seoul called Yeouido. It's only a few subway stops from us, and we were planning on renting bikes and then having a picnic, but when we got there were found this nice little floating convenient store with picnic tables, and we just hung out there and drank some beer and played cards for a really long time. Liz is babysitting a dog that belongs to one of the girls who worked at the school that was contaminated with Piggy Flu, so we took the dog with us to the park. (Liz just found out that the girl is getting fired because she left the country and now isn't allowed back in because she has to be in quarantine. So Liz might be babysitting the dog a bit longer because the airline said that it's too hot to ship the dog in the normal cargo area, and the owner isn't allowed in the country.)

The dog looks a lot like Riley, but is smaller and VERY well behaved out in public! She doesn't jump up on anyway or try to pull away. She lived in New York City before Seoul, so I guess she is used to being a city dog. Even on the subway with tons of strange people and new smells, she was just laying down relaxing. It was so cute, every time the train stopped or started she would slide on the floor and Liz would have to slide her back towards us.
Here is a picture of Liz and the dog on the subway.

On Sunday we went to a Baseball game. The stadium is so close to us, it only cost us 5,000WON($5) in a cab. We got there super early because we didn't know if the tickets would sell out and we wanted good seats and it was a beautiful day. The tickets were only 9,000WON($9) and they weren't assigned seats. I'm not sure how games in America are, but the field is divided in half, and one sides cheers for one team, and the other side cheers for the other team. Since we didn't know either team, we just found good seats, and then we figured out which team we were cheering for.
We were sitting right above the dugout on the side of the Heroes. At one point someone came around with a box full of those sticks you blow up, and bang together to make noise. They said the name of the team on them. The beer was very reasonably priced, it was 2,500WON for a car of mekjew(beer).

Baseball fans in Korea are CRAZY. Everyone was so into the game it was unbelievable. Every time the Heroes were up to bat, 4 cheerleaders and this man who called the Spirit Conductor, would come out and lead the fans in cheers. The Spirit Conductor wore a baseball uniform and white gloves(which reminded me of a crossing guard), and he had a whistle and he was so animated and would get so into the cheers. He had these whistle blows for each chant, and all the fans knew what to be cheering. Just like at the soccer game we couldn't understand what everyone was chanting, but we just made up our own words and banged our noise making sticks together. When the other team was up to bat they had their own cheer leaders and Spirit Conductor to lead their chants.

This is the Spirit Conductor....

During one of the breaks in the game, they had a pizza eating contest. There was even a foreigner in it, but we think he was European. He lost.....

At another time in the game this Hite truck just pulled out onto the field and was driving around for no reason. Hite is my favorite Korean beer so I was excited to see the truck!

We were eating popcorn at one point during the game, and Liz offered the some to the young Korean couple sitting next to us, and they were grateful, and then later in the game they handed us a shelled egg. Liz took it with some confusion, not really knowing what to do with the egg, and then guy laughed, and smashed the egg against his head to crack it. It looked like a hard boiled egg, except that it was a dark brown kind of transparent color, and then inside wasn't yellow, it was brown. Since the couple gave it to us we couldn't NOT eat it, so we all took a bite until it was gone. It was really really gross and tasted nothing like a hard boiled egg. Luckily we had beer and popcorn to wash down the gross egg taste. This morning I mentioned it at work, and someone said it is called a 1000 year old egg. It's basically a rotten egg soaked in some gross things and left for a long time. You can read about it:
That has by far been the strangest ball park food I've ever heard of!

The baseball game was SO much fun and we will be going back for sure every Sunday!