Sunday, December 26, 2010

Some Big News!

I guess I should get straight to the point: Danny and I have some big news... on Christmas Eve we accepted another year-long position teaching English here in Korea! (Haha, I bet a lot of you thought I was pregnant, didn't you? Sorry!) Yeah, I know... what are we thinking? Well let me explain our thoughts and hopefully it will help put you, and Danny and I, more at ease because we are still not sure what we got ourselves into.

Christmas Eve we accepted jobs teaching at Andong National University. We will no longer be at our boys high schools but instead teaching different students at a place called the English Village. Basically it is an intensive English program that students will come to for 4 days and learn English in a kind of "camp setting". We aren't really sure of all the details but we know that we will teach different students every week (also like camp), and my favorite part, we will only have 4 day work weeks! Oh yeah! (I find it ironic that we left jobs at a camp to come to Korea and get into another camp setting... God has a sense of humor I think ; )
Again, Danny and I have mixed feeling about this next year. We are excited about the possibility of being able to travel more, save more money, and spend more time in this carefree lifestyle, but of course we miss our friends and family. Especially during the holidays it is hard to be away, so I know that it will be even harder to be away for another year, but we feel like this is the right thing to do, so here we are! I hope this next year we will have more visitors (wink, wink) to help us not feel so far away from home. ; ) Just a thought. Anyways, I'll share more info about this crazy decision in the future, but for now we are excited to see where God takes us in this next adventure.
I thought I would just add some random pictures onto this post to give you a little glimpse of things that we will be seeing for ANOTHER year. Good times in Krazy Korea!
Here's a traditional looking mask that we see often being in the city that holds the annual Mask Dance Festival
The cutest harmony's (grandmothers) ever playing the Korean game Yunnori.
Koreans love to get decked out to go hiking... fashion is important even on a mountain!
The cutest Korean harl-a-boji (grandpas) playing Chang-gi (Korean chess) by a park. You can tell I have a thing for the old people here... I just think they are so cute!
Lotus lanterns at a temple.
A lady making tdeok (Korean rice cake). She's got to have some awesome arms muscles to do that!
A Korean symbol shaped like a bird that is everywhere that is supposed to protect the village or house.
Koreans are the masters of side dishes!
Barefoot is not just a comfortable thing here, it is a requirement in many places.
We'll definitely be seeing a lot more of this: a view of the river from a bridge in Andong.
Again, for a shameless plug, you too could see all of these wonderful sites and more when you come to visit us! Oh yeah! To conclude all of this, I think the lesson I am learning in life right now is that things never really turn out the way you think they are going to. Who knew that Danny and I would live in Korea for 1 year, let alone 2! I guess you and we will just have wait to see what other adventures are in store for us here in Andong! Until then, have a very Happy New Year and don't forget us!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas in Korea!

Living in a foreign country during Christmas is a new thing for us this year. Of course we want to be near our friends and family, but since that cannot be, it was my goal to get some Christmas spirit in our tiny apartment. I knew that we would feel even futher away from home if we didn't have any Christmas decorations...which explains our Christmas tree:

Say hello to a real "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree"! Actually, I have to confess that it isn't a tree at all, but a branch that I found in a large pile of pruned branches and decided that it looked enough like a tree to me. The branch was chosen after I finally figured that paper scissors and a plastic knife wouldn't really do the job of cutting down an actual tree.

Danny say's it looks like it is always windy in our house since our tree is always leaning to the right, but I think differently. I feel like the tree is trying to say something to me. It's saying, " Hey guys... I am leaning over because I want to be your shelter from the Krazy Korea storm going on outside. I know you are missing home so I'm reaching out my branch to you so that we can be joined in the Christmas spirit! Yes, I know that you have to hold me up with string because of my shape, but don't be fooled, I am strong and am here to save Christmas!" Who knew a tree could say so much, AND who knew a Korean tree could speak English! Wow... amazing.

We had to find random things to be our Christmas decorations since Koreans don't really sell Christmas things until a week or two before Christmas. (Also, you might say we are cheap, so 1000 won ($1) decorations will do just fine.) Danny used a lovely jump rope to look like a candy cane string, cut out awesome snow flakes that look like tribal symbols, and bing, Bang, BOOM we've got ourselves a white Christmas!

I made some garland out of popcorn and paper, we got some lights, collected a few random ornaments, used my scarf as a tree skirt and topped it all off with a foil star. Presenting... Our KOREAN CHRISTMAS!!!! Ta DA!!!!

I have to say I'm rather proud of this even though it causes some teasing and laughing to go on at the tree's expense. It has served us well though and definitely done the job of creating some Christmas spirit. However, I do think that Danny will be secretly happy that I won't force him to listen to Christmas music non-stop on the 26th ; ) We miss you all and wish we could be with you. Merry Christmas to all of you and I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating the birth of our savior!

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." ~ Luke 2:8-11

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Danielle's "Ruvery" School

Today is the day I finally tell you about teaching in Korea. It's funny that I haven't really mentioned much about our teaching experiences even though that is the reason we are here. I guess there were just too many other things to talk about like apples and trains and food but now is the time and it's going to be glorious! Today will be about Danny's school and then maybe in a few weeks we'll talk about my school.

Before I get into the specifics at Danny's school, let me explain why school in Korea is really different. I'll try to give you a short list of why:
1. They rank high schools like they rank universities at home so Danny's is not so great (#4 out of 5) and mine is the best one in the province. (I know I am very lucky.)
2. Most high schools are seperated girls and boys
3. There are only 3 grades in high school: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. They call them that but basically they are the same at sophomores, juniors, and seniors... we only teach 1st and 2nd graders though.
4. They go to school 6 days a week, Monday through Saturday. Yuck. Thankfully we only have to teach M-F but regular teachers are in school for long hours
5. They also go to school from about 8 am to 11 pm at night. WHHHHAAAAA????!!! I know before you fall off your chair, let me break it down, even though it doesn't make it any better... The students get to school and usually have "supplementary" class before real class starts at 9. Then they have class till about 6 pm. Then they have "optional" study time from about 7-11pm which isn't really optional time at all. On Saturdays the schedule is a little easier because they only have to be in school from 8-2pm so that makes it ok...NOT.

Some of the following pictures are from my (Danny) school's Sports day. Most Schools have one or two sports days a year. We've mentioned before that Koreans don't do anything half heartedly and sports day is another example of that. Each homeroom class had banners and T-shirts professionally made.
Here is a picture of my adopted group...for the day.
In the Morning one of the third graders in this class said he wanted to trade shirts with me, so of course I did, but being that he has the typical body shape of most Koreans and I of most westerners my shirt was snug for sure.
Here is one of my coteachers with some of his third grade homeroom class. Since Koreans are crazy about brand name thing, most of the teams were named for a famous fashion brand in Korea. This was team Kappa.

At the end of the days games was the awards ceremony, which I found to be particularly interesting because winning teams were not given metals or ribons, or even cash prizes. The winning teams were given huge packs of toilet paper.
Since the bathrooms at the school don't have toilet paper, it can be a precious commodity and I have suspicions that the students even use it as some sort of currency, like cigarettes in prison.

Here I am with my main coteacher and the reson why this post is called Danielle's ruvery school. Here are the resons:
1. On the day that I was picked up by my coteacher for the first time in February he called me Danielle, (Korean pronunciation of Daniel). I explained to him that Daniel is my legal name but that everyone calls me Danny. Something was lost in translation, or he decided that I didn't know what I was talking about, so from that day on I have been referred to in my school as Danielle.
2. Benny is my coteacher's name and he refers to all of his students as his "ruvery students." Koreans struggle to pronounce the letter "L."

One day a few months ago Katy came by my school to visit since she had never been. Being that I teach in an all-boys high school, they don't see females too often...Plus Katy is HOT!!! That's right I said it. My wife is hot. So as you can see there are heads poking out of a majority of the windows all with the intention of sneaking a peak at the celebrity female that Danielle teacher is married to.

Every day the students clean the school from 3:00-3:20. That sounds like a great idea right?...well in theory, yes.
But try to picture 500 high school boys cleaning anything well...Yeah. The school is not filthy, but I wouldn't call it clean either.
These are the brooms/mops that I often see my students dragging down the hallways with them. As you can probably imagine those bristly plastic sticks at the end of the broom really do a dynamite job of cleaning in the hands of a 16 year old boy.

Here I am in a stairway at my school that where I have had to get used to ducking as I pass by multiple times a day. Contrary to the stereotype, Koreans are not all that short, but apparently a very tiny person constructed the stairways at my school.

My school has an English Only wing that I teach a few classes in each week. Most schools have some sort of classroom like this. The Korean school system does not spare any expense on these rooms. Mine has a big flat screen tv. An interactive computer screen and surround sound.

And here I am teaching one of my first grade classes. They all look so attentive in this picture, but don't be fooled by the innocent look. This year I've learned that it doesn't matter if they're from the U.S. or Korea. Teenagers are teenagers and these students can be trouble makers for sure.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Touring Seoul and the Lantern Festival

Danny and I really like going to Seould because there is so much to do. Recently we went to the Seoul Lantern Festival which was amazing. Handmade paper lanterns were all over a river that goes through Seoul and we wanted to see what it was all about.

The lanterns were really amazing and really intricate. Below is a latern that depicts an old folk story told in Korea.

This is a lantern showing Koreans traditional wedding clothes. They look so happy on their special day! ; )
And do I have to explain this lantern? Basically this latern represents FREEDOM! Go Mrka! (That is Danny's way of spelling America :)

There were lanterns everywhere and it was really beautiful!

Our friend JP came with Danny and I and explained some of the stories that the lanterns represented. This lantern of a tiger smoking a pipe had the most interesting story I thought. So in America we usually start stories, "Once upon a time..." but our friend JP told us that in Korea they start stories, "A long time ago, when tigers smoked pipes...". Isn't that interesting? There are certain things about your culture that you don't really think about till another culture does things differently so maybe now I will start my stories the Korean way to spice up my bedtime stories! ; )

That weekend we also walked around Insadong which is becoming of of my favorite places in Seoul. Insadong is the artsy, souvenir, and boutique sort of place in Seoul. It's fun to walk around and look at all of the art and there is also plenty more to see.

I had put a picture of this guy walking around. He is playing a traditional Korean symbol that Danny has renamed "the death symbol" basically if you traded this guy out with a 4 year old child banging on a pan, the child would probably sound better. The noise is sooo loud and sooo horrible but somehow Koreans think it makes beautiful music. They really need to rethink their traditional music because let's just say it's not going to get to the top of the music charts.

In winter, you can buy these delicious treats on the street called ho-tduck. They are amazing pancake type things filled with cinnamon and sugar and fried to perfection. Make sure if you are in Korea that you eat one because they are magic.

I loved this scen when we walked by. This is just a perfect picture of old Korean men. They are so cute and they often wear fidora or golf hats. I may be creepy, according to Danny, but I just have fallen in love with watching Korean babies and old men... that does sound a little creepy as I typed it out. ANYWAYS, old Korean men just have a classiness that has been lost in America. I only hope that Danny has a cane and a cute hat one day just like these guys. Good times and Seoul!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Danny and Apples...AGAIN!

Well, hello there friends and family. It's me Danny. Most of the time you get Katy's commmentary on these blogs but Katy really wanted me to give my insights into these pictoral scenes.

It's kind of becoming a running joke that I am becoming the "apple guy" in Andong (and I don't even eat apples) and I would tell you otherwise, but I'm truly afraid that it is actually becoming true.

The following ridiculous situation is proof.

One day a few months ago during the yearly Andong Mask Festival, we were walking around when we saw about a dozen men walking through the grounds dressed to impress and looking like they were on a mission, so of course we followed suit.

They stopped in front of a large apple stand and were being handed white gloves and scissors, obviously for some important

apple ribbon cutting ceremony type thing...?

Katy was joking with me that I should tell them about how I am a local apple model and grab some gloves to join in on the ceremony. After all I am kind of a big deal around here now.

But, I laughed it off telling my wife that she is crazy (and she is).

But just then an older man wearing traditional Korean clothing started to gesture for someone to to come over.

After some confusion (as is usual for me here) I discovered that he was gesturing for me to come over and would not take no for an answer.

So I came over and was handed my gloves and scissors and told to cut the ribbon with the rest of the important men in attendance. Asking why? or what it was for? would have been a silly and unimportant question, so I cut away and smiled for the many cameramen photographing this momentus occassion.

There we all are. Each of us men an apple official in our own respect.

After I cut the ribbon, I shook some hands told everyone thank you for coming and tried to get the heck out of there, before I was forced to eat them all with my new brotherhood of fellow "applelites."

Next came Katy, who was not about to be forgotten in the days honorable roles.

Here is "The Man" choosing her to be a rice cake cutting official.

If I had to do it so did she and let me tell you she performed her role with talent and pride.

It was a cake made of rice (as most things are here). And to say it was a large rice cake would not do it justice...No this thing was huge. Those are whole large apples pressed into it. Look at her. It's like she was born for this moment. Most of those guys aren't actually even doing anything. As you can see their hands aren't really on the knife, but Katy, Katy's holding it full on, like the pro that she is.Yet another adventure in our apple filled lives in south Korea.

It's a Korean Thanksgiving!

This year, because we were away for Thanksgiving, I got it in my head that we should host a large Thanksgiving potluck in Andong. Danny laughed at me because of it, but I thought I would rather have a feast with a bunch of people then no feast at all. So the plan was to invite all the foreign teacher's we knew and have them each bring something and eat...and eat some more. Danny decided to make mashed potatoes for his contribution. I wanted to take this picture because doing anything on the ground is now called "Korean style". So you can see Danny was mashing these potatoes full on "Korean style"... I don't know if that is because we don't have counter space or because he is turning into a Korean. : )
I made grilled pork loin, which if I do say so myself, was delicious. I should have taken an after picture because raw meat isn't quite as appetizing, but oh well, you can imagine. Garlic, spices, garlic...mmmmm.
We hosted the party at our church in a random room. The church was so nice to let us have it there because when I entertained the idea of 20+ people coming to our tiny apartment, I knew that was a bad idea. Below is a picture of our friends Paul and Jennifer who also are in our Bible study:
We had a lot of space and tables so we can get a decent spread. I was really impressed by how much people brought. Here's some of the rare finds that I never expected: deviled eggs, baked ziti, macaroni and cheese, hummus, caprese salad, and pumpkin pie AND whipped cream. (Just a side note that whipped cream is really rare to get because a can of RediWhip is about $14 a can... not exactly affordable) I was surprised that I went for maybe 3 helpings of hummus and 2 slices of pumpkin pie. Oh yeah, I was full.
Danny got a lot... and then went back for more.
We had about 38 foreigners at the dinner and somehow we still didn't run out of food!
This is the after picture of Danny and our friends Seth and Anna:
(I see a food baby in there Danny!)
One thing that I did (that was maybe kinda nerdy but I didn't care) was do Thanksgiving trivia, sort of like a pub quiz. I think I might carry on this tradition because I thought it was great! There were a few random rounds, a fish or fowl round, and "finish this song round". Overall, I thought it was fun to celebrate Thanksgiving with some other Americans and nonAmericans. (And we also got a can of whipped cream out of the deal so that was AWESOME!) Being away for the holidays can be kinda sad, but I am determined to have make some fun Korean holiday memories. Christmas, here we come!