Sunday, August 31

I Love Korea (vol. II)

It was Chloe's birthday on Friday.

She's the one in the tiara. Her mom brought in that enormous cake from Tous Les Jour, along with party favors, fruit, crackers, juice, chicken nuggets, cookies, and a frappuccino for me. All the kids brought Chloe presents wrapped in shiny pink paper.

After work, I hurried to the bus stop and caught the bus, then the subway, to Osan, where my new friend JR took me flying! Normally, he flies enormous helicopters, but he took me up in a tiny two-seater that looked like nothing more than a jalopy with wings. He even let me steer. Korea at night--beautiful from the air.

Yesterday, I met June's friend Kyoung-Tae in Seoul, where she showed me the performing arts center (I plan to see the opera or the symphony or ballet or something while I'm here). We had some traditional Korean food called bibimbap. They give you rice in a big bowl and a plate of vegetables that you scrape in with it and stir it around with some spicy red paste. I also had a little bowl of bright pink water to sip from a spoon--kimchi water.

Kyoung-Tae is the most adorable, spunky Korean girl I've ever met. She's lived in Switzerland and India, and she can walk for three hours in high heels. She taught me important phrases like Who, What, When, Where, Why, How Much, Would You Like to Dance, and Bug Bite.

This is us in front of Korea's national flower at one of the many palaces within Seoul.

There was some sort of festival going on downtown. The vendors in the tents sold things like dried, flattened fish and tentacle-y things.

This is a landmark that my co-workers tried to explain to me before--a pink and blue spiral seashell, they said:

Later on Saturday, I went back to Seoul (Itaewon, more precisely) for salsa dancing. That makes a total of five or six hours of commuting in one day. But, for me, dancing is always worth it.

Today, I'm resting. Tuesday, my new classes begin.

Wednesday, August 27

She Walks Like a Duck...

A group of high schoolers still in their uniforms passed me and Emily in a hall tonight. "Hi," said one boy with thick black eyebrows. He translated a bit of the menu we were looking at as he passed. Following his friends out the door, he turned around and, with a raise of his eyebrows, told us, "you are very beautiful, okay?"


It is interesting to me that when you see a white person here, you may assume that he or she speaks English, and I would say your assumption proves true about 99% of the time. Whereas, if I were in Denver, I would never assume that an Asian-looking man spoke Chinese or Korean or Japanese. Nor do I even find it safe to assume that a Latin-looking person in Denver speaks Spanish.

Canny Village -- field trip!

Buses and partners and uniforms, ah to be in kindergarten. Today, we visited a children's recycling museum...thing. Ahem - Canny Village!

Meet my morning class:

Meet Canny:

The girls entertained themselves with a hand-clapping game on the bus.

T-Shirt Bliss

This is the t-shirt I bought for two bucks yesterday.

But, Never

And the back:

Fly in the
face of mind
Somebody is an indefinite
pronoun used in a sentence:
I don't know who did it"

I laughed all the way down the street with my purchase.

Tuesday, August 26

I Love Korea (vol. I)

I love Korea. There is an office/art supply store around the corner from my school where just this morning I bought notecards and a spiral notebook, the first for organizing scenes, the second for writing on the bus/subway. Here is the notebook:

It says "Color is very subject matter of art. I fell in love with Black & White, it contains all colors."

The store also has a groovy selection of stickers, which are somehow very appealing to my new elementary school teacher self.

Monday, August 25

Mostly because I find it terribly amusing, and they play the video about twenty times a day:

This is Lee Hyo Ri, rather Fergie-esque in my opinion.

Sunday, August 24

It All Looks Familiar

June has graciously volunteered to help me learn Korean, so long as I promise to correct her English grammar.

She and I spent Saturday having Vietnamese food and looking
around Insadong where they sell many traditional Korean things. Performing on the street was a traditional drum group. They stood in a circle and one danced around the middle.

Then I was off to Itaewon for Salsa, Round II. Spent a while looking for the place because we had trouble finding it last week and cruised the main drag a couple of times, so everything looked familiar, but none of it was right. Anyway, the entrance is just a breakaway into the storefronts with a set of stairs and a stand-up sign with four lines of print. Nowhere on the sign does it say Caliente, or Salsa, until you reach the third floor. This is what the signs above the entrance on the street look like. Hopefully I'll find it on my first try next week.

Inside the bar, everyone was preoccupied with the baseball game. Korea against Japan I'm pretty sure. When Korea won, there was much clapping and hugging and, finally, dancing. Some of them remembered me from last week. And man can those Korean boys dance!

Friday, August 22

Ruffled Red Umbrella

Last night I wandered the streets of Gangnam under my little red umbrella, bumping spokes with the thronging masses. There is something wonderful about umbrellas here--little bits of individuality to hover above the sameness of every dark brown head. Some are straight, black and imposing, some flowered and ruffled and girly, some with curved handles, some with collapsible handles, some with polka dots and some with plaid, some steepled and spired, and some with sunny blue insides. But the one I want everyone to see has pink polka dot hearts and a red ruffle:

Yes, about last night. Ahem. I found directions on the internet to another salsa club in Seoul, well, in Gangnam. I know it exists, because I found YouTube footage of people dancing in it. However, the directions failed to give an exit number for the subway station. I came up whatever exit I pleased and found a cluster of young men, my prejudice being that the youth are more likely to speak English than the aged. "Do you speak English?" I asked apologetically. One of their black umbrellas turned around to reveal a pleasant young Korean man who said to me in a flawless English accent, "Yes, actually." I had to find Black Angus, as it was the only landmark in my directions, and he managed to find a young couple who knew where it was. I walked there, then followed the rest of my directions, "go down that alley, take your first right, walk about a block and take a left, you'll see the sign in black and white." You won't. Because I didn't.
But, I wandered the little neighborhood until I was tired of being rained on, and headed back to the subway for the hour long return journey to Jukjeon. I don't, however, count it as a loss, because on the way home, another young man wearing thick-framed glasses and some sort of shiny brown shoes looked over at me and said, "hi." With that introduction, and the subsequent revelation that he wants to study English literature, we decided to become friends.

I thought I might visually introduce you to some of my co-workers:



Clockwise from the left: Jacob and Kristin (from Denver), Angela, Emily, Me.

Wednesday, August 20

what's up with Korean Pop Groups?

Imagine MTV, but even more repetitive, and with even fewer genres of music represented. That's the station I play while I get ready in the morning. Koreans must really love their boy bands and their girl groups. I tried to find a pretty typical picture of each for you:

The lime plaids are the Wonder Girls, and the blue ties are Dong Bang Shin Ki. Yeah, they always look that androgynous. Sometimes more so. Don't get me wrong, they have great voices, and choreographed dance moves. And some groups play with stuffed animals and children. Solo artists are, as far as I can tell, devoted to ballads. When I'm really lucky, they throw some English rap in the middle of the song. I love it.

Finally feeling better. Probably 92%.

Tuesday, August 19

Foreign Doors

Every time I walk up to the doors of my apartment building, I am reminded of similar doors in Germany and in Italy. The metal mailboxes line one side, spewing junk mail and, just today, a Korean tract. I would never trade my experiences of passing out tracts, but I feel an odd distance from such a vivid memory. The windows, too, all white and sliding; everything about them says "foreign country" to me.

Well, I have taken all but two doses of my medicine in little packets, and am feeling marginally better. I was glad I only taught kindergarten today, though.

If anyone is interested in reading a killer children's book, I would recommend Dear Mr. Blueberry. It is one story in all of the hundred I've probably read since last week that really sticks out to me. In fact, it inspired me to want to write a children's book. Perhaps with my lovely writing partner, Ms. Anna, who has had a lovely idea for a story.

Monday, August 18

Sick in Bed

Saturday night before dancing I had a stomach ache that still wasn't gone Monday morning. In fact, it seemed to have located itself in the lower right section of my abdomen, so I was concerned it might be appendicitis. Anyway, had a supervisor take me to the doctor who gave me an ultrasound and, after digging the little viewer into my stomach until I wanted to cry, declared the possibility of appendicitis was very small and promptly left the room, not to be heard from again. I waited there, uncertainly, until a nurse came in and gestured me quickly out. How was I supposed to know? My supervisor took me down to the pharmacy and vaguely explained in his broken English that I wasn't to take cold water, nor milk, nor fruit, and I was to take a little packet of pills after each meal.

Not until today have I felt so lost in Korea. Never did the differences, or the language barrier, seem any big obstacle. Until I wanted to know what the hec was going on with my own body, and could not communicate on such an intrinsic level, I hadn't feel like a "stranger in a strange land."

The silver lining, however, is that I am very well cared for by my supervisors, who sent me home to rest, and took me to buy porridge on the way. I am also well cared for by my new friends here who texted and called to check up on me.

I will be back to teaching tomorrow morning (as I am positively sick of lying in my bed after two days), and I hope to be feeling considerably better.

Saturday, August 16

Salsa in Seoul

Remember how I double checked to make sure there was salsa in Seoul before I would commit to this move? (By the way, remember how it was the second of July when I said, I might like to go abroad? And it was the seventh of August when I stood in my stark little apartment with the hand held shower nozzle over the sink? Yeah, still wrapping my mind around that one a little bit.) So, last night I went salsa dancing!

Caliente, in Itaewon. Took about an hour by bus, then cross the street, take a right by Dunkin' Donuts, hike the hill, left on the main drag, ask the nice Latino boys eating empanadas from a street cart where the hec it is, then climb four flights of stairs in the middle of a strip. Pay six bucks and walk inside the tiny bar that's piping bachata, merengue, reggaeton, and salsa. Aqui esta! Thank god. I think I'm going to love Seoul.

It was a paycheck week for the army boys, so the bar was full of em. Emily and George sat at the bar for a while, couraging up. Once I got one dance, I didn't have to sit the rest of the night, only head back to the bar once in a while to check on my friends, who met a fellow English teacher from Miami. He had taught Latin dance for a while and is now touring the world, a few months teaching English in each place. He's my new best friend. He watched while a little mustachioed man I was dancing with reached out and tugged me to his chest, where I shoved off of him with both palms. When the song was finally, finally, over, I went and stood by the English teacher, facing the window so I could laugh it off. He took my hand and led me to the floor. "I'll make up for it," he said.

By the end of the night, I had some wicked blisters. They're still all bubbly today. But other than that, my new gold shoes are great!

Catching Up

What's happened so far?

The highlights:

-- 8/7 Jordan arrives in Seoul. Wonders what the hell she's gotten herself into.
-- 8/8 First day of work (observation). Jordan
meets her Korean supervisors, the other teachers (10 besides herself), and glimpses the kids in her class. Jordan eats goose egg in a cold soup that also includes floating watermelon. That evening, she goes to Jake and Kristin's apartment (they are also Denverites) to hang out with the teachers and get chicken and beer.
-- 8/9 The group goes to Seoul to watch Dark Knight on IMax. They are the only ones who laugh in the right places.
-- 8/11 Jordan's first day of teaching. See picture in upper right. The stickie notes are the Korean alphabet, numbers, and phrases; the polka dotted lilac bedspread courtesy of the supervisors; and the television is playing Korean cartoons as Jordan thinks she might pick up the language that way.

The kids are challenging. Jordan falls into bed at 7:30pm.
-- 8/13 By now, Jordan is implementing the recommended sticker policy as reward and
punishment, and the kids respond well.
-- 8/14 Jordan tries to explain "sour" to her kindergarten class, but can't think of a good example. She makes a fish face instead. "Sour is when you eat something and your face puckers up like this." Her clever student says, "Teacher, a lemon is sour." Jordan thinks she loves teaching kindergarten.
-- 8/15 Korea celebrates its independence from Japan! Jordan and Emily decide to take the Seoul City Bus Tour, but the bus is not running due to street closures. So Jordan and Emily take themselves around Seoul (who needs a dumb bus?). Particularly, to Gyeongbokgong Palace. See below.
Jordan tries bulgogi (thin strips of meat) and gimbap (like sushi, except the meat is cooked). Jordan also eats the aforementioned tiny dried fish, and has a few sips of the tepid soup that
tastes like water from a fishbowl. .

First Blog...Ever

It is unfortunate that I was too lazy to pursue setting up this blog before I got here, as it is a most unquestionably convenient way of telling the masses in stupefying detail every inane foible of my day to day life.

Thought I'd start out with this lovely picture (courtesy of Emily) of me eating a tiny dried fish and an insanely spicy stuffed...pea pod? There you go, Daniel. No dog, as of yet, but a tiny fish, head and all. Proud?

More to come later, I have things do, dances to dance, Korean to learn. Oh, god.