Tag Archives: good days

Khristmas in Korea

I wish I could say that it began to look a lot like Christmas starting from two months ago, as it would back in the States, but that was not so. I did, however, begin to see a hint of Christmas-themed merchandise being offered at the beginning of November at Costco, but that was essentially the extent of it. That’s not to say that Christmas was conspicuously absent. I’m just saying that you had to look for it and mainly focus in on the shopping malls. As for Christmas carols, I did see one “choir” made up of 3 people; they were outside singing for a church function. Oh yes, and one of the neighborhood coffee shops has a playlist of Korean-sung Christmas songs (some rather badly and one reminds me of a Korean William Hung). The truth of the matter is that Christmas was brought from abroad and even then, it’s seen as more of a couple holiday rather than a family-oriented one.

HOWEVER, let me give you my rendition of it through snippets of modified Christmas carols (two, to be exact) and pictures illustrating said rectified lyrics…

I’ve been dreaming of a White Christmas,
But it’s no longer a dream here!
Where the treetops glisten and couples are kissin’,
Amidst a sheet of snow…

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Mama’s Pie

I was visiting one of my friends in the city earlier today and she told me about this cute little mom-and-pops place that sold pies. There are some things you can’t really get in Korean and authentic, North American pies are one of them (unless you make a trip to Costco). It’s a nice little place off the main road and around a 5 to 6-minute walk from Timeworld Galleria in Dunsan-dong by the name of Mama’s Pie (and yes, it does bother me how the name suggests “Mama” only has one pie). There’s also a really nice-sized terrace with some seating and tables offered, topped off with umbrellas to fend off the sun’s harmful rays (un-pictured).

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PC Bang: The Continuation

This is in continuation of my previous post on PC bangs.
You can say it’s a basic how-to/instruction post (with pictures) on how to register for an MMORPG game at a PC bang, focusing on Aion because that’s what I decided to play since after 4 years, I apparently forgot my log in information for WoW. >.>;

Since the first time I went to a PC bang, I went an additional two more times. I was so obsessed (I don’t want to admit it but that’s the truth) with playing a MMORPG that the second time I went, I spent a good hour trying to figure out how to register on a MMORPG to be able to play at a PC bang. it appeared to be a bit more complicated because I was foreign on top of how I didn’t know that much Korean. When I finally figured it out, I was in heaven. I had spent some time the night before registering on the Korean site for Aion because I was sure that I would end up playing on a Korean server. Before long, I got to the screen to download the game onto my laptop. Following my previous experience with WoW, I decided this was not a good idea for either my laptop or me. I decided to wait until my next trip to the PC bang.

I clicked on the MMORPG game icon on the main screen at the bang, and signed in on the pop up of Aion’s official page. Then, I saw this other button I could click. You’re supposed to register on another step with your registration number. No matter what, it wouldn’t accept my registration number, so I decided to do some googling. After all, there had to be other foreigners out there who encountered the amazing PC bang and needed to get their online gaming fix, right? Right. ๐Ÿ™‚

I finally came across a post on waygook.org – a site/forum dedicated to foreign English teachers in Korea. (“Waygook” means “foreign” in Korean; “waygookin” means foreigner.) This helped me out a lot. I would tell you exactly how I finally got my Korean Aion account completely set up, but you can pretty much just click on that link if you want. All you need to know is that you need to (1) make an account on the Aion site (2) make another account on the I-pin site (3) have your phone handy because they’ll either call you or send you a text with the password/code that you have 2 minutes to enter [yes, they really do count down] and (4) you enter your I-pin log-in information into the Aion site under your account and you’re ready to go!

My third time going to the PC bang (which is, interestingly enough, the next day after my second trip because I kept on thinking about Aion), I decided to bring my camera and take some pictures of my computer station. I didn’t want to appear so obvious so I didn’t take shots of the entire establishment, but who knows? ๐Ÿ™‚ Perhaps one day in the future… As it is, this is a good enough preview of what to expect.

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PC Bangs

I heard about these so-called PC bangs, or PC rooms/internet cafes, long before I set foot in Korea. I used to love playing PC games, see. Perhaps this was to make up for the fact that my parents never let me play video games so when I got my first laptop, I played the heck out of it. ^^ Not the point. Anyway, I also took a Korean popular culture class my last semester in college just for fun. ^^; Anyway, I guess I still love playing them but I have no time… but mainly because I get really obsessive over it. (I suppose I would have time if I could play for merely an hour or two.) Same with dramas – I have to finish it as fast as I can. I don’t know why because it’s not like there’s a life-or-death situation looming over my head if I don’t finish the 16+ episode drama before a certain day (usually the third), but if I don’t finish it, I literally can’t do anything else. Well, I can, but I’ll be rather distracted. Hence, once I got that full time job at the restaurant and now that I’m over here teaching, I haven’t truly played any games, whether they be MMORPG’s or strategy games.

Once upon a time, I was an avid WoW player (Yes. WoW.) and I even dabbled in Starcraft for a while. This was back in 2007, the second semester of my first year in college. Or was it the end of my first semester in college? Either way, it was back then. I only played for a month and a half, after which I stopped because I didn’t want to pay the $15 per month, but it still nagged at me. Also: it consumed my life. My laptop’s video card couldn’t take the graphics of WoW, but that didn’t stop me. My roommate would let me borrow her laptop to play (she had gotten me into it) into the early hours of the morning and then even a mutual friend would let me borrow his on campus to play. If I wasn’t in class, I would head straight back to my dorm to continue. At the end of my 6-week stint, I had 3 characters under my account with the maximum level of around 23 for all three of them. It could have been worse, but it was bad enough.

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A Taste of India

I don’t eat meat. I don’t like spicy food. It’s funny how one of my favorite ethnic cuisines included Indian back in the States, though I suppose the fact that Indian food is vegetarian friendly helps as well and as long as I had a cup of water at my side, I was safe. It’s also funny how I chose to live in Korea. Well, I finally visited an Indian restaurant in Daejeon last night while meeting some friends and their friends; they had come down from Chungju.

I was so excited.

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Gwangju for Chuseok

This post has taken a long time to be written, but I finally found the time!

For Chuseok, the Korean version of Thanksgiving, my friend and I decided to take a day trip to the fourth largest metropolitan city in Korea, with Daejeon being the fifth largest. If you didn’t know, it’s Gwangju. The city’s to the southwest of the country and when my Co’s first heard of it, they told me it was a horrible idea. Why? Traffic sucks during Chuseok, when families tend to get out of the cities to visit their families and have huge get-togethers, especially if you’re traveling south. In fact, this was what my head Co told me:

Last year, my brother came down from Seoul to visit and he fell asleep on the bus. When he woke up, he was still in Gyeonggi-do*! It took him almost six hours to get to Daejeon**.
* Gyeonggi-do is the province surrounding Seoul
** It normally takes around 2 hours by train to get from Daejeon to Seoul

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Ingeobbang: Sign of Winter

The other week, I saw these curious stands popping up at intersections in my neighborhood. They were orange and had these plastic covers around the stall itself – usually clear – and there were the hangeul ํ‘์Œ€ ์ž‰์–ด๋นต* (heukssal ingeobbang) scrawled across the top. To translate, it’s basically a fish pastry with a sweet bean filling encased in a thin wheat and glutinous rice flour dough. What made this place even more special is that there’sย ํ‘์Œ€ (or black rice) included in the dough so it comes out slightly golden but with a grey-ish undertone. I broke down one day and got three for 1,000 won. What makes this even better is that they come in this bag:

There’s nothing better than eating fish (to me, it’s eating fish) and knowing that the bag the fish was in (and therefore the fish themselves) were telling me to be happy. But they’re seriously very cute – and good! I actually got them two days in a row because the first time I got them, I forgot to take pictures. But it’s dangerous! The stall is on my route home from school, so I pass it once a day at least, and when I exercise self-control, my nose can smell the delicious scent of it cooking in the metal molds. It’s heavenly. ^^ It’s a good thing that it’s too early to be open when I’m walking to school every morning or I can imagine I’d gain weight fast.

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Gyeongju, Ulsan, & the 6th Graders

About a month ago, I was invited to go on a school trip with the sixth graders. I was merely told that it would be sometime in September over a couple of days. Well, the time came near and I found out the exact time and date five days before it came, which is fairly normal. However, this was when I also found out that the person who asked me never asked my coteachers. I had assumed they had spoken as the Korean teachers converse like buzzing bees and I got used to being left in the dark. Apparently, this is the one time someone decided to go straight to me, which is a nice feeling, but also means I have to deal with the fact that these three days of school trip means I don’t teach for three days and my coteachers that I teach with those days are left to teach alone. I felt bad… but not too bad. After all, it’s not like we’re all really close and I’ve pretty much given up trying to gain a relationship with them that’s more than coworker.

The first few impressions I got from the trip were interesting, but there was a definite theme. From a student and throughout a majority of the trip that dealt with Korean history and culture, there was an anti-Japanese vibe that was present. This was obvious when one of my better students, who’s a little quirky and slightly more mature for her age, came up to me and asked me if I heard of some Korean place of some historical significance. I replied in the negative and she said that it was once very beautiful – but then the Japanese came and burned it down. She then concluded that that was why all Koreans (yes, she said all) hate the Japanese. When the head homeroom teacher told me some background stories of sites, it was always because they were preventing invasion from invaders – “especially the Japanese”. (I’m sure “the Chinese” would have been included as well if I weren’t ethnically Chinese, haha.) Then you have my 5th grade co-teacher who loves Japan, the Japanese, and their language, but that’s another thing entirely.

Anyway – to the location. We took a roughly 3-hour long bus ride down to Gyeongju (๊ฒฝ์ฃผ), a city near the southeast coast of South Korea. It’s a smaller city and isn’t listed as one of the metropolitan cities, like my home city of Daejeon is (though, granted, Daejeon is the smallest Korean metropolitan city), but it’s a cute little place. It’s predominately known for the wealth of Korean culture and historical artifacts and sites that are present as well as the fact that it served as the capital of the Shilla (์‹ ๋ผ)ย Kingdom. This makes the city a very appropriate setting for a school field trip. In fact, throughout my three days away from teaching, I learned a bit about Korean history as well as the many other students who came with their schools to the same sites my school visited.

I got to school at 7:40 am and we left the school with a line of five charter buses; one for each class and as we have five 6th grade classes, there were five buses. I stayed with the head 6th grade homeroom teacher and so I sat in the first bus. Once we arrived, our first stop was up a mountain with our ultimate destination being a temple – Pulguksa, to be exact, but let’s not get too far ahead. When we got to Gyeongju, we went straight towards Mount Toham (ํ† ํ•จ์‚ฐ) and went to Seokguram (์„๊ตด์•”), which is host to a famous, historical grotto in which a stone sculpture of Buddha lies. It’s rather beautiful, but no pictures were allowed in the grotto. However, I did get some shots of the surrounding area.

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F <3 I

It all started on a normal day, as these things tend to go.

I was walking to taekwondo and suddenly, I feel something vibrate in my bag – it was my cell phone. Who in the world would be calling me at this time, I thought, but it all made sense when I looked at the caller ID. Two days earlier, I went on a business trip to a nearby elementary school, around a 20-minute walk away from my own school, for a meeting regarding Hermes camp. It’s an English camp during the vacation sponsored by the city and various native teachers are recruited for it. Like most things in Korea, things are usually done last minute and, unsurprisingly, I’m usually the last one to find out which makes it really last minute for me. I was required to go to my kids’ class and then right afterwards, I was told that I should “probably go now” since I planned on walking.

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Where’d My Arm Go??

This last Wednesday, when I had my fifth graders, I was teaching the boring section of storytime. All four parts of it all coalesced into one 40-minute class period. It’s rather boring and the coteacher wasn’t sure how it would go as this is her first year teaching English. I was given the task of teaching the class as the main teacher and she walked around the classroom and disciplined if needed and translated, but it was fairly straightforward. I just felt bad because I knew it was a boring lesson and I’m sure they did as well.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, the 5-1 class is my worst class. No, there are some pretty good students in there, but the trouble kids are in there too and sure, they give me a hard time, but I expect it. No, they also give the coteacher a hard time and that’s saying something. Within the past two weeks, they’ve gotten better to handle and more of them listen to me, but they’re still the worst. I like them out of class, but when they’re supposed to listen to me, it’s always a step away from being a complete nightmare. The good thing was that the class largely read the story with me, even the one kid from taekwondo who took to quizzing me on Korean vocabulary, which I welcome… out of class. However, ten minutes into class, there was a commotion and my coteacher was heavily berating one student; he makes up one of the trouble students in addition to the taekwondo one. My coteacher apologised to me first for interrupting and then to everyone (including me) because we would not be playing a game. Then she spent the next ten minutes scolding the kid in front of the class and I took to taking a seat to wait it out.

As usual, they were a little less rowdy after class resumed, but they could tell I was a little less enthusiastic; I like game time because usually when they’re having fun, it means I’m having fun too. In that class, there’s this one boy who everyone targets. He’s a little chubby kid but he acts younger than them, always complaining and whining and crying and he has this gas problem. I treat him like I treat my younger students, but everyone in his class teases him, punches him, kicks him, blames things on him… Well, it turns out that boy knew that everyone stayed away from him – he apparently has a version of the ‘cooties’ that applies to all genders – so the boy had written on his desk that the “cootie boy” sat there. He wanted to see the reaction of other students who sat there; would they change desks, reject it, do nothing? My coteacher saw it and then it commenced. I don’t blame her and I totally understand and I also condone it (probably would have done the same if they understood English), carrying a class by yourself, especially when you have to make sure you speak clearly and slowly and loudly really takes a toll on your vocal cords, so a part of me welcomed the break, but I wanted the game – I’m sure we all did.

At the end of class, we all bid farewell and I saw some students lingering. Of note were some girls. Then they came up to me. It turns out that she was drawing a picture of me and it was really cute. โค

Except for how she forgot my left arm.

I pointed it out and she got completely apologetic telling me she didn’t even notice and she thought she had drawn it and it went on. She quickly sketched one before she left, but that… that made me feel a little better. haha. On the other hand, she was drawing in my class? I’ll just take it as her time management during the 10 minutes of let’s-listen-to-the-teacher-scold-our-classmate.

Sure, my students have drawn pictures of me before, but usually on the board or table so it had to be erased. This time, though, it’s on a piece of paper. lol…