Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Going out with a bang!

Today was the last day of the "Meal on Wheels" service for me. From here on out I am in charge of making my own dinners. I cannot express my gratitude enough to those folks that so willingly fed me for the last two+ weeks. I don't know how I would have gotten through the first two weeks of school while on crutches and fixing all of my meals. That being said, I am thrilled to be able to start preparing my own dinners again. I don't often go this long without cooking, and although I am a bit slower I am looking forward to reclaiming a bit more independence. This time next week (or even tomorrow) I might be really missing the worry free dinners.

What was the last meal in a series of amazing food you ask? Bangers and mash. Yum.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The penpal dinner and getting back to 'normal'

Today, Sunday, flew by. I didn't do any work Friday or Saturday, and here I sit Sunday night with so much left to do. I started my Sunday early with great hopes. I puttered around doing this and that as I woke up. I decided to watch some TV while I had breakfast and found myself watching a series of TV segments I would have never glanced at if I were in the states. I caught the end of an episode of Sex and the City and then wished another one would come on. I then moved to MTV and watched about 2 minutes of a Justin Beiber video. I kept telling myself I was wasting my time but it took me a while to actually change the channel. The last segment in my stellar lineup of morning TV was Yo Gabba Gabba. I was so memorized by the dancing characters. Their message was so good, "I tried it and I liked it." At least that portion of my TV time was a good lesson to hold on too.

After TV time I made some progress in organizing my bag and creating a to-do list. Then I started on the list and reviewed about 8 of the 30 student papers I promised I would review before tomorrow morning.

Next came church. Although Mass is usually short and held in the middle school I was gone for about an 1.5 hours. It was pouring and my neighbor was nice enough to give me a ride. It was still raining when Mass ended and she had to do some things in her classroom so I waited. I could have made it home, but I would have been soaking wet and wouldn't have saved more than a few minutes of time.

Lunch followed Mass. I had left over green chicken curry and a tossed salad while listening to the rain fall. It was only after lunch that I seriously got to work. I worked for the next several hours and managed to cross two things off of my list of five.

Dinner this evening was the much anticipated PenPal bulgogi dinner. Most of the new folk, their families, the administrators, and all the old folk that had acted as our pen pals for the last several months met, loaded into the buses and drove to the restaurant (~40 minutes away.) We were treated to a lovely dinner at a very nice restaurant. We started with an individual plate of appetizers (tossed salad, a yogurt and fruit salad, and some sort of vegetable soup), then the bulgogi (finely cut meat grilled on your table in a broth and with onions), all the normal sides (kimchi, pickled radish, cashews in something, and a shrimp soup), then we had bibi....? (a bowl with rice, meat, vegetables, mushrooms, and more), ending with cookies and tea. After dinner we were bussed back (~20 minutes this time) and I was in my house by 8:45pm.

Then I began prepping for Monday. I started by making my lunch. I grilled some chicken on my Foreman and built the best salad I could create with what i had. I am so excited at the thought that I will have my "normal" lunch tomorrow for the first time this school year. This salad lacks some of the fancy things I added in Baltimore (tortilla strips, strawberries, asparagus) but it has the basics (pine nuts, feta, grilled lemon pepper chicken, onion, carrots, cucumbers, pepper, and romaine). To give myself a little treat I cut up some almonds and threw in some dried blueberries. I am hoping this will start me back to the good-ish eating habits I had developed before my move(s).

Now that it is 10pm I think I will pack up my things and start early tomorrow. I am looking forward to my Skype date with the family in the morning. I am going to have breakfast with my family, although I will be the only one eating.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Down the hill I went

Today my buddy and I ventured off the hill. She for band aids, I for deodorant. We made it down, we bought many things, and neither of them were band aids or deodorant.

The exciting part was that I can and did make it down the hill. My school is located near the base of a mountain. We are about 4 blocks up this mountain and refer to the school campus as "the hill". The journey is quite steep and it took me a while to make it down, but I did! After making it to the bottom we journeyed the normal 10-15 minute walk to the grocery store. It took us longer as I was hobbling along with my crutches. Once we arrived at the store, a little damp from the rain showers we ran into a few other teachers and were offered a ride back up.

My buddy and I went through the store picking up this and that. My building is getting together on Friday for a potluck dinner. I volunteered to bring meatballs, but was unable to find the ingredients I needed for the recipe so I have decided to bring ropa vieja instead. I also was able to get most of the fixings for my normal lunch salad. I can't wait to get back into a normal routine.

The ride home was a God-send as I was beat by the journey to the store. My buddy brought most of the groceries upstairs and I was able to find a place for everything in no time. I have realized over the past few days that I can be a neat person if I have limitless space. In fact, when I have a place for everything I find that I am not leaving things here and there. My personal space has never been so organized for so long. If Gina and I were still competing for a neat room I would be going strong for the 4th week. I derive a great amount of satisfaction having an uncluttered space. Granted I have it easy as I don't actually have to do any of my cleaning (thank you Vhida, my housekeeper.) I find that I am still behind in my lessons, but I am making progress.

My buddy and I both have appointments at the hospital on September 9th so we are going to make the journey together. My principal has authorized and arranged for us to have a driver from the school take us to the hospital for our appointments. We will take a taxi home from the hospital, but it is nice to know we have a ride there.

I suppose I should stop procrastinating on my school work. Maybe just a little snack first....

Friday, August 27, 2010

Foot update and a beach retreat

I went to the doctor's this week. It was the shortest appointment I have ever had. I was in and out in under 5 minutes (I'm sure glad it happened in person rather than over the phone). Basically I was told it was a clean break that should heal fine without surgery. I go back in two weeks to have my cast removed and to have another X-ray. At that point they may put a new cast on or tell me I am good to go.

I just returned home from the Junior retreat which took place at the school's beach lodge. The lodge was different then what I imagined but very nice. The room I slept in had a handicapped bathroom. Too bad I didn't pack any shower stuff as I figured it is hard enough to shower here.

The retreat went well. I think it was more about bonding as a class than personal reflection and growth. We watched The Blind Side (with Korean subtitles). The sad part was being so close to the Yellow Sea and not getting in. I decided it was too much effort to get down to the beach, across the gravel, and to the water just to dip the toes of one foot in. I will be going back to the same lodge in two weeks, hopefully cast free. I will experience the Yellow Sea then.

Monday, August 23, 2010

China times ahead

I didn't think my job could get better, but it did. I have been selected as one of two teachers from the high school to attend a conference in China next month. If all goes as planned (although how often does that happen?) I will be in China for just over two days for the conference, then I'll take a train to Hong Kong for a few days with another teacher, followed by a long weekend in Seoul.

It is getting late, and as usual I am further behind in my school work than I want. I have a PowerPoint to finish before going to bed in a few minutes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My first full week of school an of being in a cast finished without incidence. Nothing huge to report about the rest of the week so I'll let you into my weekend fun times.

Saturday the school led a bus tour of Seoul. We drove around the city and heard a lot of tales and were given several suggestions. We then went to the Seoul Tower (think Eiffel Tower). A tower over 750ft high that looks out over Seoul. It was a nice view, although it would have been better if it had been a clearer day.

After the Seoul Tower there was more of a bus ride then we were taken to the "foreign" part of town and explored a little down there. The group I went with had lunch at a Thai place. The food was OK, but not spicy enough for me. I took a taxi home with a few of the other ladies.

Up next was a shopping trip to Costco. It was still crazy and full of people, but as I wasn't on a time line I didn't feel quite as rushed. I picked up a few things that I am sure will tide me over for months, including peanut butter and jelly (the current lunch of choice).

I was so tired from all that I did during the day I just watched TV Saturday night. I find that I am watching shows here that I would never have watched in the States simply because they are familiar and in English. A prime example would be Sex and the City. This morning I watched most of two episodes while having breakfast.

Today after Mass I went to Outback with two other teachers. I had been looking forward to an Outback cheeseburger but when I got there and looked through the menu I realized they didn't serve cheeseburgers. This Outback also doesn't serve Bloomin' Onions. Can you imagine? Well, I settled for a steak and fries.

This afternoon I was invited to watch a soccer game on the field at my school. I watched for about an hour before deciding it was just too hot and I needed to get some work done. That was an hour ago and instead of doing work I chatted with my neighbor and updated my blog. I am good at a lot of things, and procrastination is one of them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

And so it began

School is well underway as we have finished our second day of teaching. Here are the highlights:

Day 1 -
- Assembly - like most other high school assemblies, but it started with a meaningful prayer
- Homeroom - Made it through that, barely. I wasn't too focused on homeroom as I was behind in my preparations for my first period class.
- Bio 1 - 55 minutes flew by. I know we talked about the syllabus, textbooks, and science, but I am not sure on the finer points. We also planted beans. Yea!
- Planning period - in the blink of an eye that was over
- IB Bio Year 1 - A small class of juniors that are so eager and knowledgeable that I am going to have to work hard to keep them satisfied. These are the kids that want to learn so much that it can be a struggle keeping up.
- Lunch and planning - a lovely end to a first day

Last night's dinner was a taste of home, sauteed chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, and chocolate chip cookies. Thank goodness my buddy came over to help me polish off the cookies and to have some working times.

Day 2/My birthday!
- Up early (5:00am) to get ready. I Skyped with my folks, had Frosted Flakes (Korean style) and iced coffee for breakfast. What a great start to the day!
- In my classroom by 7:10 am so plenty of time to print off the last of my materials for the day and to modify the PowerPoint presentation.
- IB Bio Year 2 - A class of seniors unsure about me in the beginning but I think I won them over by the end. They are concerned, and rightfully so, about the change in teachers halfway through their program. I have a list of topics they want to review in depth before April.
- IB Bio Year 1 - A large group of juniors, some excited and ready to go, some just making it by. This will be a dynamic (code for diverse interest) class.
- IB Bio Year 2 - Another group of seniors, by this time in the day I was the one just making it by. More on them later.
- Lunch - it seems most of the science department brings their lunch to school and we eat together in the science office. Unlike my last school, we are all sharing classrooms and are the department piloting a shared office space. A small classroom was turned into an office with 9 cubicles. I never thought I would have a cubicle as a teacher, but so far it is OK.
- Assembly - Today there was a memorial service for a student that passed away over the summer. I didn't know the young man, and from what people were saying about him I missed out. It was a difficult hour for the school, but I think it brought some closure to a number of students.
- Plan period - again, it went by so fast that I don't even know what I did.

At the end of the day, once classes were over the science department sang to me and we had brownies. These were some of the best brownies that I have had in a while and it was nice to be surrounded by so many caring and like minded people. My old school was amazing, but it seemed that we never had time to see any of the other teachers. With this shared office space I think I will be seeing a lot more of my colleagues.

The greatest gift I could have given myself was hiring my adjumonie. Today was her first day. I had written out a list and felt terrible asking for so much. I came home excited to see my recycling taken out from my airlock/mudroom. As I came further into my apartment I was amazed at all she did for me. My place is immaculate! My laundry was washed, some dried and folded, some hanging on my rack air drying. I panicked for a moment when I couldn't find my sheets and my bed looked unmade, only to realize that the comforter I was using as a mattress pad was simply being used as intended and my bed was in fact made. I don't know how she did all she did in 4 hours, but I am relieved and grateful.

I hope to fill the rest of my evening with a nice dinner (potato chowder, salad, and fruit), some lesson planning, textbook reading, and working on Kelan's blanket.

When I spoke to my brother earlier this week he asked if I had made the right choice. I am glad he waited two weeks and I hope he asks again later in the year, but without hesitation I was able to answer, "Yes!" Tampa is home, Gainseville a great place for college, Cleveland a year I learned a lot about myself, and Baltimore full of great friends and an amazing start to teaching. I don't know what Seoul is yet, but I know it is the right place for me now.

Random: The spell check on this program suggested Knoxville for Gainesville. It made me chuckle.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 3 of my life on crutches

Today was my first day to work post accident. It started out less than great when I overslept by and hour, but I made it to school with time to spare. Today was orientation/registration day. In the morning the new students wandered around the school with their buddies getting a feel for SFS. In the afternoon the returning students started to filter through with their schedules in hand. I met a few parents and several students throughout the afternoon. In between students I was able to get a lot of things done for the start of school tomorrow.

We met as a science department again and ironed out our grading system for IB tests. One more thing checked off what seems to be a never ending list.

My new school has been more caring and supportive than I can imagine. A "meals on wheels" thing has been set up for me, with people that I don't even know signing up to bring me dinner. A number of people I have spoken to during my day sympathized with me and gave me pointers on how to get around on crutches. My new buddy however has been more helpful than can be described. She has basically rearranged her life to help meet my needs. I have never met a more selfless person, I am so lucky to be in such a supportive environment while in such a state.

I have an appointment with an orthopedic next week, I hope I will have better news.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

One day down, 27 to go

Officially, I have been casted for one day of 28. A pretty good start.

Catholic Mass is held in the Middle School here and I went. The journey was tougher than I thought it would be, but at least I made it happen. It was a good test run for tomorrow. Due to the heat, humidity, and the amount of effort it takes me to crutch around I was a hot mess when I arrived. At least now I won't feel bad about not going to the gym for the next month, I will be getting more than enough exercise simply getting from my house to the school.

After church everyone was so kind to me. The community is really helping out and I cannot say how grateful I am. I was given a ride home from church, dinner is being prepared for me, and some groceries are being picked up. It is a relief to know that while these next few weeks will be trying, people will be there to support me.

Now on to the fun stuff- first day papers (I'm giving my second years a pre-test on the first day...)

Oh Rebecca!

I knew that I would fall while I was here in Seoul, more than once too. I just didn't imagine I would fall so soon, or with such results. On Friday morning I got up ad went to the gym with my buddy. We had a grand time. After that I was at my desk early getting stuff done. Followed by breakfast, and meetings. After my IB meeting I decided to pop into guidance to get a head count as instructed by my principal. I walked into the office with my sights set on Bev, not on the step down into the office. Well, I missed it and hit the ground. It hurt, my body and my pride. Usually I pop up and shake it off. Well, I popped up, but I couldn't shake it off. My next step was the nurses office. They wrapped it up, gave me some pain pills, told me to change out of my flip flops and to see the doctor the next day if all wasn't well. I managed through the rest of the day limping around and telling my tale.

I slept fitfully Friday night and was still in pain when I woke up Saturday morning. I got myself to the clinic and told them my tale. They sent me for an X-Ray and then told me it was broken. Turns out the bones of your toes are about as long as your fingers and I broke my little toe near the base. This means I will be in a cast and on crutches for 4 weeks.

It is now Sunday morning, I spoke with my folks and told my silly tale. I wrapped the tops of my crutches with some towels and have been getting around my apartment with moderate success. Sleeping last night was a challenge but it happened. Today I will leave my apartment and make my way to Mass which is held in the Middle School. I took something similar to a shower with my casted leg propped up on a drawer next to the tub. I hope that I get the hang of this very soon so that I can keep up with my students. Tuesday is the first day of classes, that isn't too far from now.

Good news: Only 27 more days with this silly thing on (hopefully).
Bad news: My armpits hurt.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Coming home to my own place

Life is quite busy here at SFS. This morning I was at my desk around 7:15am and I made it home around 5:00pm. It is nice that I live about a 4 minute walk from my desk to my front door, but I can see where that may be a bad thing too. It seems that this week my entire life has been about work. That can only last so long.

In other news, I am getting my act together for at least one class. This school really emphasizes collaborative efforts when teaching the same subject. There are three of us teaching Bio 1, so this afternoon the three of us ironed out the syllabus and the first day of class. We are going to plan two weeks at a time, so there are only three more classes to plan for in this cycle. One of these teachers, Stephanie, was here last year and taught this very class. She did the majority of the work for this first unit, and I have absolutely no problem going with everything she has suggested. As I get to know the climate of the school better I will make adjustments and speak up, but we have been seeing eye-to-eye on everything so far.

I have yet to really tackle the IB courses I am teaching, and that won't happen tonight. Perhaps tomorrow morning when I have cleared my head again or maybe just this weekend.

I currently have french fries in the oven and will heat up some sloppy joes. Healthy, I know, but good for right now. Coming home to my own place means that everything is as I left it, and there is no one to touch base with. I thought I would get online and see who was around for a quick "Hello, how was your day?" but it is 4:15am. Not even my dad is up yet. Oh well, it is a good time for some personal reflection, right?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Faculty retreat

Today was the faculty retreat. To start I was able to sleep in until about 6:00am which was nice. During my morning time I video chatted with Gina (my former roommate), messaged Christina (my former roommate) and started to read the faculty handbook.

The retreat was about 40 minutes away and we were bussed there. It was a lovely facility and while the retreat was different than what I was expecting it was still very nice. The faculty was supposed to read the book "The Jesus Creed". I say supposed to because I somehow missed out on that memo. Lucky for me the retreat was more of a series of lectures so my lack of preparation went unnoticed.

I was able to borrow a screwdriver from another teacher and finish securing my TV to the base. I had a dinner of leftovers while watching the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in English with Korean subtitles. I have a lot of channels and but as expected most of them are in Korean. I am sure that I will eventually figure out the ones that show English programs. So far I have found Oprah and a Queen Latifah movie.

Tonight is dedicated to reading the documents sent my way and starting on my first day handouts. Talk about fun. I might even go crazy and put away clean laundry.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Adjumonie, swimming, and sharepoint videos

Today was a long and full day.

My newest habit of waking early naturally is still going strong. This morning I awoke around 5:30 am unable to go back to bed. So, what did I do? Cleaned up my kitchen, straightened my hair, and called all of my former roommates looking for some morning time. Gina was confused enough by the number calling her that she answered out of curiosity and we had a lovely conversation.

With my newly straightened hair and a so-so iced coffee I headed off to breakfast and a morning of meetings. The first segment of meetings were school-wide and were helpful. The second set of meetings was supposed to be with our mentors although mine turned into a department meeting. Lunch was really tasty fried chicken with honey mustard sauce and white rice. Not as healthy as I would like but darn good.

The afternoon was not fun. We watched over 2 hours of video tutorials on using SharePoint (educational technology). Some of the information was helpful, but most of it was common sense to me. Sitting 'engaged' but not active for that long was a real test for me.

After the meetings were over my day improved. I met with my new adjumonie (house keeper) to discuss my needs and expectations. Basically I am looking for help with basic cleaning and laundry. My adjumonie will be helping me for four hours a week and I am really looking forward to it.

I also had the chance to do some swimming which was lovely. The pool is huge compared to my parents pool and the pool at my gym in Baltimore. I love the facilities and I am looking forward to the start of faculty morning lap swim which will start the middle of next week.

After swimming Allison ( the choir teacher) came over for dinner. She helped me to finish off some leftovers and we had a lovely visit. After Allison left my new buddy, Myleah, came over for some chocolate and girl time. While she was there my TV was delivered.

Before I knew it, it was time for bed. Another day passed with no work done on my classes. Crunch time is almost upon me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Faculty meeting fun

Today was the first day that the whole faculty was gathered together. We started with breakfast. There was fresh fruit and cinnamon rolls. As I had eaten yogurt with homemade granola for breakfast I just had coffee. After breakfast we all gathered in one of the 3 theaters on campus for devotions and school wide messages. The devotion was inspiring and energetic. In addition to a spoken message we sang several songs. I knew two of the songs that were sung and followed along to the others as best as I could. The words to the prayers and the songs were projected on a screen on the stage. After the devotional there was a morning of speaking by the administrators. Mostly good stuff that everyone needed to hear. Before lunch a staff photo was taken. It reminded me of taking club photos in high school.

During the lunch break I came home and took time to book my flight home for Christmas. I was told that I should book a flight early because near the holidays flights out of Seoul can fill up. It took a little longer than I expected, but I am very happy to have my holiday trip booked. I will be in Florida a little over two weeks. I hope that I'll be able to make it up to Baltimore in that time, but I'll have to see who will be around.

After lunch of Bulgogi and rice there was a presentation by the school nurse. The school has a full time nurse and two EMT's on staff. They are available during the school day. We are lucky however to have a huge teaching hospital a few short minutes away on foot. The hospital has an international clinic that is very familiar with the school and takes good care of us. The school also presented us with instructions on what to do if we need medical help after the clinic is closed and they gave us a letter to assure payment that we can present to the hospital should anything go wrong with our credit cards. It is nice to know that in an emergency I will be well taken care of.

The last meeting of the day was our divisional meetings. The high school faculty came together for the first time. The other high school teachers seem great and I am very excited to get to know them. The meeting was loads better than the last two years of faculty meetings. It is nice to have a principal that can fully and efficiently articulate his thoughts.

The newbies had another shopping trip lined up at the end of today. We visited two used furniture stores and a food market that is similar to a farmer's market. In the second furniture store I found a used microwave that was about 50% less than I had been seeing. I quickly purchased it and arranged for delivery. The food market was good and after many hand gestures and a few words I came away with a small selection of fresh fruit.

This evening I dined alone in my almost presentable apartment. I whipped up some sloppy joe's, rice, and corn. It was not a meal I would serve anyone aside from my former roommates and myself. The sloppy joe's turned out very very sloppy, but very tasty. I now have enough left overs for the rest of the week.

I am happy to say that I am feeling more at home each day and my shopping list is getting shorter. The things left on the list are things I would like to have but can survive very easily without.

One week from tomorrow classes start. I have a lot of work to do between now and then so don't be surprised if these posts become shorter and fewer in number.
Bah! Pandora is not available in Korea.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Family times, Peter Pan, a market and more

Today was not the restful Sunday that I hoped it would be.

Per my new routine I awoke around 6:30 and got to work on getting things sorted out in my apartment. I put things away in the kitchen and ironed for about 3 hours before heading off to church. Catholic Mass is held on campus in one of the theaters. Unfortunately I didn't get the memo that it would begin next week. Another new family also showed up not knowing there was no Mass. The five of us decided that we should have coffee and a treat so we headed off to Peter Pan.

Peter Pan is a lovely bakery a few blocks from my school. There are dozens of treats to try and a lovely selection of bread. Each one of us selected a pastry and had them cut into little bits so that we could try several of them. Although some were unique, all were good. I also had the opportunity to teach this family some of the Korean that I had picked up during my Korean lessons. Knowing milk in Korean is helpful when getting coffee.

After consuming most of the treats it was decided that we would brave the city to go to a large Korean market. It took 1 bus and 3 subways, but we made it without getting lost. Not knowing what I was getting into I assumed it would be a farmer's market. In reality it was a massive flea market. Upon first look it seemed like a street of booths, most of which weren't open. We decided to go down a flight of stairs to see a few more booths when we realized it was a maze of streets lined with booths. I ended up buying two pairs of socks, a hat, and some food storage containers. On our way back to the school we decided to stop for lunch at Starbucks knowing we would find something we would enjoy. It was a lovely morning and made me realize that I can successfully navigate public transportation here, which is a great feeling.

A few minutes after returning home I once again went down the hill. This time however it was to purchase some electronics. At the base of the hill there is an LG store. I feel that I will benefit from having a microwave, a camera, and a tv. After much internal debate I decided to get the TV so that I can relax and crochet when I want to. We ran into another couple from school that had done a great deal of comparison shopping and with their notes we were able to have them reduce the price of the TV we were all interested in by about W50,000 (roughly $45.00). So, I purchased my first adult TV today. It will be delivered on Tuesday. Now I need to find a DVD player that will read my DVD's.

I puttered around my apartment for the rest of the afternoon and made my first real dinner. I made pasta with "rose sauce" (that I think is very much like a vodka sauce), grilled chicken, and a side salad. I called my apartment buddy (we share a landing so I made her my buddy for when we go out in big groups) and another new science teacher. My buddy wasn't available but Colleen joined me for dinner. We ate, talked, and enjoyed ourselves.

Following dinner all of the new high school teachers had dessert at our principal's house. It was lovely to sit around and chat with the other new teachers over decaf coffee and more goodies. It was a great way to end the week of new teacher orientation. Tomorrow starts the week of orientation for the whole school. I am looking forward to meeting about 150 new people.

Miso, the Oregon Trail, and a street fair

The production last night, Miso, was beautiful. Miso is the story of two young Koreans in love and the challenges they faced. Most of the production was dancing to live music. There were a few times when a narrator sang bits of information, but as it was in Korean I haven't the slightest clue what was said. The music and dancing were amazing. It looked like the female dancers were gliding around the stage.

After the production 6 of us decided to grab a drink in Sinchon (I spelled it wrong yesterday). We set out with no particular place in mind and simply picked an alley. For a point of reference someone compared Sinchon to Times Square. It isn't quite as big, but there are lots of flashing lights, busy alleys, people, and vehicles. The first thing that I noticed was that once off the main road in Sinchon there were carnival games EVERYWHERE! As with most carnival games guys were trying to win stuffed animals for various ladies. It was just so weird to see so many game booths down every alley.

We ended up at a bar called the Oregon Trail. It was dark and somewhat dreary. The group of people near us were sharing a yard of beer that was being dispensed by a crazy contraption that had ice contained in the main tube to keep the beer cold. It was quite impressive, although from what I tasted wasted on low quality Korean beer. Once settled we reviewed the menu (an English version with photos) and ordered our drinks. Jack Daniels seems to be the available whiskey of choice here, which is good for me. In addition to the standard drinks of beer and cocktails we also ordered soju, the Korean version of saki. It doesn't taste any better, but I have experienced it. We also ordered some appetizers. We ordered a lovely fruit platter and a potato platter. The fruit platter had pineapple, melon, apple, banana, grapes, tomatoes, an orange, fruit cocktail, and something that was tasty, but that I had never seen before. The potato plate was a combination of all things good. There were tater tots, waffle fries, regular fries, and seasoned fries. These wonderful things were served with ketchup and honey mustard. Needless to say there was nothing left over. Also, we were given bowls of little puffed treats. Apparently these treats are often served for free at bars here in Korea. These treats tasted like fruit loops. We had two rounds of those.

On our way to catch a taxi we passed a photo booth shop. A little shop with 4 photo booths big enough to hold groups larger than 6. We went it and had a blast taking silly pictures. After we finished with the photos (six in all) we had the opportunity to photo shop them. While I didn't participate in that portion there was a great deal of fun to be had adding special effects to the photos (such as stars and crowns). It was only once they printed out that I realized each photo was the size of a stamp and was actually a sticker. Can you imagine the fun stickers like those would be to put on student work?

All in all it was a memorable first Saturday night in Seoul.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The E-Mart and manicures in Shincon

The title pretty much sums up my morning and afternoon. A few of us went to the E-Mart which I will compare to Super Target for lack of anything else. It is a store with 8 floors, each a different department. I walked out with trash cans, a toaster, a slow cooker, some spices, tomatoes, trivets, and more. It was the best shopping experience I have had thus far. Not too many people there as we arrived as the store was opening. It also helps that I have had a lesson on Korean manners and some important phrases.

Upon returning from shopping I literally dropped my stuff in the front door and met up with my friends to get manicures. We walked through Yonsei University into Shincon and sought out a place to get our nails done. The first place we went was booked for hours but was in a mall with many familiar stores (Lush and the Body Shop to name two). The second place was able to help 3 of the 5 of us right away. My new friend Allison and I took to the streets for some lunch. After much walking and debating we ended up at 7-11 as we wanted something to grab and go. Allison had the last ham and cheese sandwich. I had some cheese and "peanut cream" sandwiches. They were little pockets of white bread which I thought would be filled with peanut butter. There were filled with a peanut flavored cream. It looked like I was eating Marshmallow Fluff sandwiches. They were quite good after I got over the sight of the cream.

The lady that did my manicure knew a bit of English, and I know a bit of Korean so we were able to exchange a few words. After all was said and done the manicure was W10,000 which is less than $10.00. I hope that I can find my way back there next week for a repeat.

Allison and I made our way home by ourselves despite a few missed turns. The fact that my school is located above the largest hospital and university in the area is a huge help.

Tonight we will be going for dinner and theatre. I believe we are having dinner at On The Boarder. We will also be taking the subway for the first time. I can't wait to figure out the Subway system. Tomorrow we may be going to Itewan, exciting times.

Friday, August 6, 2010

CostCo and a night on the town

A lot happened today. We were introduced to the staff, we learned about Korean culture, we met with the head of our divisions, I received my teacher's edition Biology text, we went to CostCo, and then had dinner 'off the hill'. Some things were more successful than others but all taught me something.

A little background on my school. I am teaching in a foreign school in Seoul. I live on campus with a the majority of the staff and their families. The staff ranges from young singles (like me) to near retirement married couples. There are at least 8 married couples that are new this year of the 35 new teachers. My school is situated on a hill in the Northern portion of the city right above a university. Above my school is a mountain. Part of the temptation for some folks is to stay safe and secure on the hill and only venture our when necessary. Some of us that are more adventurous decided to have dinner out tonight. It may have helped that we had two ladies fluent in Korean and a guy that has been living in the area for the last 11 years.

After a crazy shopping expedition at CostCo we came back, unloaded our goods and set off. We ended up at a 24 hour joint that had an English menu posted on the wall in addition to the Korean menus. I ordered gubap, a dish similar to sushi in that it is stuff rolled up in rice and seaweed. I ordered a vegetable gubap and a beef gubap. The table also received an assortment of kimchi and dumplings. As I had eaten some very spicy kimchi (fermented vegetables) at lunch I avoided the kimchi tonight. I enjoyed my gubap very much, but each roll was twice the size of a roll of sushi from the States. My dinner was less W 4,500 which is less than $4.50. I was able to try a bite from some of the other dishes. My favorite was a pork and sweet potato cutlet. It was breaded, fried, and served with a sweet sauce on top. It was amazing. Koreans also seem to really love their sweet pickles so I ate the ones my friend was served with her pork.

After dinner we wondered around a bit and stopped in a corner store for some ice cream. I had the Korean version of a Drumstick and it was a wonderful end to a full day.

Tomorrow the girls are going for manicures and then we will be going to dinner and theater in the city. We will be taking the subway for that adventure.

MY apartment is coming together. I have been doing a little every evening, and a good bit in the mornings. This weekend should get most of it situated. A few trips to my storage unit and I will be mostly clutter free, for a while at least.


In about 3 minutes I will be heading off to the CostCo in Seoul. Yesterday I bought stuff based on the pictures on the front. That gets to be very tricky yet adventurous. Today I am planning on getting a microwave, tv, and a mattress pad. I hope I don't go overboard like I did yesterday. I will be here for two years, I don't need everything this week.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 1 in Korea

I made it to Seoul. About 30 hours of traveling and 3 delayed flights I arrived in Korea very late Monday night. An administrator from the school was there to meet me and another teacher that arrived on the same flight. We piled into a van and drove about 40 minutes to the school. I wish I could tell you what the city looked like an night but I was too tired to look.

Once making it to the school and gettig all of my bags to the apartment I managed to call home, eat some Pizza Hut pizza, shower and make my bed before going to sleep.

I'm slowly getting settled and adjusted over here. I have a lot of space in my apartment so it is just a matter of putting my things away logically. I have an apartment that while small is more than enough for one person. My bedroom has windows on two sides and it is only big enough for my bed and a night stand. There are 4 sliding doors made of wooden frames and paper that seperate my bed from my study and the biggest closet I have ever had.
Today (Tuesday) went well. The medical at the hospital was good. The doctor in charge of the international clinic is American although born and raised in Korea. All the staff speaks fluent English and is very nice. They made the physical go very smoothly. The clinic is a short walk through Yonsei University. It took about 10 minutes to get from the school to the clinic which is part of a large hospital with an excellent representation. We also stopped at the Starbucks in the hospital. I had a little taste of home with my iced white chocolate mocca.

I went to the embassy as well today to start the paperwork for my Korean drivers liscense. I don't know how much I'll be driving but I want to have the ability to if needed.

 We also went to a market here. I bought some carrots, peppers, peanut butter, sugar, and soap. It was expensive but close. We will be going to CostCo later in the week and I'll stock up there. The market was playing American music (Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, and Frank Sinatra to name a few.)

Everyone here is very nice and welcoming. I have been meeting the administration and all of the new teachers. While the majority of the teachers are American there are several from England, a handful from Canada, and a few from France. A number of these teachers have taught overseas at other schools. It has been fun to hear their stories although I don't know how much I retained. I might have to hear it all several times before it sinks in.

Although they say it is monsoon season there was no rain today. It was hot and humid, just like home.

Some things are different, but I think I'll do nicely here.

Pictures to follow once I find my camera and start taking them and then acquire a computer.