Wednesday, March 31, 2010

5K in Korea

This weekend we felt really in shape when we participated in the 5K run in Andong. We had to get up early on our weekend, so really, that was harder to do than then 5K. It was my first race so I was excited to see what it was like and weren't disappointed! We arrived at the university stadium to see serious Korean runners all around us preparing for the run. There was also a 10K and a full marathon going on that day, but I didn't want to show everyone up so I just did the 5K (yeah right).
In the middle of the stadium, I was amazed by the hundreds of people doing organized stretching as a man yelled different commands from a microphone. I don't know if we could ever get a group of 10 people this uniform in America, let alone hundreds. A lot of people were pretty excited that foreigners had taken the time to come run the race, but it was another moment where I became extremely aware of being the minority among the masses.

We ran with a group of EPIK teachers, like our friends Garry and Monica who came from Pohang (a city about 2 hours away). We felt awesome as the race started and we ran out of the stadium to "Eye of the Tiger" being blasted on a almost felt like home! Danny and I were lucky enough to get numbers for the race thanks to some of his fellow Korean teachers helping us to get organized. One of them saw Danny pass him in the race so somehow by Monday the rumor had spread that Danny had won the race! He quickly had to tell his school that he didn't in fact win the race, but we still felt like champions!

After the race, we received medals and water and these little cake things that looked like faces with a cream filling and then in proper Korean fashion, the craziness began. It feels normal to see mascots walking around, and usually you expect some sort of big headed animal, but Koreans like to be a bit different so they had vegetables and fruit walking about. I luckily got a picture with these melon heads and it made me feel great because it reminded me of my nephew, Dante...I love ya little guy!

Danny became good friends with the mascots as well and found that he couldn't stay away from the gigantic mushroom walking around.
There were booths handing out all kinds of free stuff outside the stadium, but my favorite part was the 4 or 5 large barbeque pits grilling a large quantity of beef and pork. It was some of the best meat I have had, but I was amazed that people said, "Let's get up early on a Sunday, go run a marathon and then gorge ourselves on meat!"

Danny had found a few of his students in line waiting to eat their weight in pork, and whether or not he had won the race, they were very impressed that he came out to run among the people. Come to visit just so you can have the feeling of being famous like we get most days. All in all it was a great day, and we hope to do it again.
P.S. On a side note: our fish Kitty had a close call last night. Our friend Sara found him floating on his belly but fortunately we were able to get him in some new water before it was too late. He seems to be doing good but your "Get Well Soon" cards would be very much appreciated! ; )

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Korean Obsession: No Rae Bong

We took our first train ride to Yeongju where we went to hang out with our friends David and Sarah and have our first run in with No Rae Bong.
I had heard about No Rae Bong on a travel show before I came to Korea, but I had no idea what it really was all about till we came here. No Rae Bong is Korean Karaoke... but if you imagine what American Karaoke is like and picture it in Korea, you have only skimmed the surface of No Rae Bong. NRB is a countrywide obsession and Danny and I live actually live above one. We can hear an old man singing his heart out 6 out of 7 nights as we fall asleep and let's just say he's no Billy Joel. That doesn't stop Koreans from singing though, they sing if they sound like Celine Dion or if they are tone deaf. Danny and I were lucky enough to have our first experience with NRB when we crashed the birthday party of a random Korean girl named Subin, and these are some of the pictures.
NRB is different than American Karaoke in a few ways. Most NRB places let you rent out your own room to sing your heart out, you really don't sing in front of a large group at all. They have a TV and a mic and you can sing with other people or rent it out on your own when you need a little music fix. I have heard of many Koreans going to NRB by themselves after they have had a hard day at work, or my fellow teachers like to go after a few bottles of Soju. I have asked the question, "Why do Koreans like to sing karaoke so much?" and this is the answer that I feel makes the most sense: they work long hours and live in a culture that is very "proper" and has a lot of hierarchy and history to it so KRB is one way they can let loose. They can melt all their cares away by singing "Oh!" or a Girl's Generation song. Just imagine all the serious businessmen getting into a N Sync song at home and you can sort of get the picture ; )

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Weekend of Firsts...

This is a weekend of firsts! To start, I am writing this post from the comfort of my own bed...awesome. We finally have internet and it is glorious. The next first that Danny and I experienced was going to the movie theater in Andong for the first time! We went to Lotte Cinema this Friday night to see Alice in Wonderland and it felt like we were almost at home because they had normal movie theaters, popcorn, and everything!

We had to take a picture of the other types of food that they serve in Korean movie theaters. The sign may look like they serve french fries and tortillas (which would already be a funny combination) but no, those pictures are actually fried squid tentacles and sheets of dried fish. YUMMY! Needless to say, we did NOT get those lovely treats but ate some popcorn instead.
Friday night is usually a popular movie night in the states, but in Korea, most people go out drinking or to the no rae bong (karaoke) so the theater was empty. (That is Danny and I and our friend Jennifer in the distance.) The movie was just the same as it would be at home besides the Korean sub titles at the bottom of the screen. It was great to go to see a movie and I think it will be the place to go when I just need to pretend I'm at home.

The third first that Danny and I experienced was...we are now pet owners! We have never owned a pet since we have been married(if you don't count the squirrel that lived in our walls in our apartment in Colorado Springs) and it is very exciting. We bought two fish today and Danny named his fish "Kitty" and I named mine "Chubs". We bought the fish from the nicest lady who owns a pet shop about 2 minutes from our apartment. She helped us get everything we needed and she must have liked us because she gave us a discount at the end of it all. (People are really nice to you when you are a foreigner most of the time, especially when they hear you are an English teacher.) Below: The one on top is Chubs and the one below that is Kitty. They are good looking fish, aren't they?

So we got the fish in their new home and I was so excited I stared at them for about 15 minutes. I think they like the ice bucket they now call their home. Kitty and Chubs now have a plant and teal and blue rocks and a prominent place on our kitchen table. We are really hoping we don't kill them and that we can take them home with us in a year in a jar hanging around our necks like Bob in "What about Bob". It's been an exciting weekend but who knows what can happen at Korean church tomorrow...oh the trilling life we lead! Today's word of the day has to be kum sa hum nee da (thank you) is a very essential thing to know!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jimdak = Awesome!

Paul, Jennifer and I going to our first Jimdak place...yum!
Everyone's shoes in a big pile outside the eating area in the restaurant.

Andong's famous JIMDAK! The plate of food is the size of a large pizza so it is a lot of food and 4 or more people can easily split 1 order.

A little while ago, we went to eat the food that Andong is famous for: Jimdak. What is Jimdak you might ask? Well it is tons of chicken, boiled with potatoes, carrots, peppers, and “glass” noodles (which are basically thin, clear noodles) and then covered in some sort of spicy brown sauce that will make you feel like your mouth is on fire. Strange food is everywhere in Andong, so when we tried Jimdak, I was a little worried about what it tasted like but thankfully I was pleasantly surprised. Jimdak is now the best Korean food I have had so far and I’m glad that there are so many places to eat it.
I am definitely getting used to eating Korean food ALL the time, and it is actually growing on me. Korean restaurants are a bit different though and I will tell you how. The majority of restaurants you will go to will make you take your shoes off before you climb into the raised room where the floors are heated and you sit on mats on the floor. It can get very uncomfortable if you have to sit for a long time, but most Koreans don’t ever seem to mind and they can do it for hours. Usually there aren’t any napkins at your table and if there are, then they are like tiny pieces of tissue paper that Americans would have a fit over. Also you only drink water out of tiny silver cups (Dixie size) and Koreans for the most part hardly drink any water at all…mostly just Soju (Korean sake). (Grandpa you would fit right in since you don’t like water ; ) Also there are usually scissors served with the food because the meat is in large chunks and the server needs to kindly cut it up before you eat it. Everyone eats out of the same bowls so there is no evil looks for double dipping or anything else to do with germs. I thankfully don’t mind that, but I know some people who would…wink, wink. One wonderful thing about Korea is that you don’t tip so when you see the price of a meal, that is literally all you have to pay so that is nice. But that also means that if you want something you have to call the server over and remembering how I would hate it when people called me over at my old job, it takes some time to get used to that. And finally, you usually get a cup of coffee at the end of your meal but this time it is about half a Dixie cup so they can be sure that I won’t over indulge myself. Oh funny Korea.
All in all, eating out is usually CHEAPER than eating at home, which I was very surprised about but sometimes it’s nice to know what you are eating, you know what I mean? Danny and I keep trying to find different places and we hope that we become “regulars” at a few. Come visit us and you can try JIMDAK too!
Today’s word for the day is…coppee which means, you guessed it, coffee!
P.S. Today I made my Korean Students choose English nicknames and one wanted to be Leonardo DiCaprio, one wanted Brad Pitt, and one wanted God. When I told him I wouldn't call him God and he had to choose another name, you know what he decided? ...Tim. That is a little less powerful, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Now we are teachers...but I don't feel any smarter : )

The view of the courtyard of my school, Andong High School. The brick building is where I have my English classroom. Oh yeah.

Danny standing in front of his school, Jung Ahng High School. Danny's Co Teacher asked him to "practice" walking to school before the first day so he wouldn't get lost. Needless to say we were successful.

Danny and I have officially be teaching for almost a week. Last week we were in school, but we were just planning for teaching this week so I am glad to finally get in the classroom. As I said before, Danny and I are both teaching at boys high schools so that has been interesting. We have had interesting experiences so far, and I hope that the kids will continue to be as entertaining. So far this is what we have seen in our schools:
Danny's school: The first day everyone was really excited that they had a native English speaker for the first time. The students told him that they loved him as he was walking down the hall and it's funny to think that would NEVER happen in the states. Teachers are a bit different in Korea because at Danny's school they all carry large sticks (drum sticks, bamboo sticks, etc.) or go around smacking kids upside the head with their hands if they have been bad. They never hurt the kids, it is almost like a joke between teachers and students to see how long they can go without getting knocked upside the head. Danny has often seen the students kneeling on their knees in a line, while a stern teacher talks to them about their bad behavior. In Korea, kids start school around 8 am and end classes around 10 or 11 pm! It is crazy that they have to stay as long as they do, and you would think that is enough but they also make them come in every other Saturday. Danny and I were both thinking you would have a riot if they tried to do something like that in America. We only have to work till 5 pm everyday, but other teachers stay literally all day long. CRAZY!
My school: I work at what is supposed to be the "best" boys high school in Andong. This is where the smartest kids come for school. I have been told I am beautiful and that students love me many times already, but don't worry little Korean boys are no contest to my man. I met my principal my first day and I have decided that he looks like a Korean Regis Philbin. I have since learned that he likes to drink Soju (Korean Saki) and sing no rae bong (karaoke), but so far I just see him as a serious guy. I work in a office all by myself which can get lonely, but I can get lots of work done so that is nice. My school is farther away then Danny's (his is about a 10 minute walk) so I have been getting a ride so far, but I tried to walk it this week and found out it takes 1 hr. and 10 min. to go to school...much farther than I thought. I hope to buy a bike this weekend to make the trip easier. All teachers eat lunch at the cafeteria (I was told it is very important for me to eat there so they don't take offense) and the food is pretty good. I of course have kimchi, and sometimes there is strange stuff (squid stir fry) and sometimes it's more normal. Every class is very high tech and has a projector and a ton of computer and sound system equipment which I found surprising. I know there is more, but I will leave that till another that is my school. Good times.
Everyday I learn something new at school and we both are trying to make friends with our fellow teachers, but that takes lots of time. I hope that our jobs will continue to be interesting and maybe we'll even learn to be good teachers. The word for the day is appropriately teacher: sun sang neem.

Now I will share with you the bathroom situation that I have to use at my school. Not exactly my favorite, but I'm getting used to it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Our Experience at Korean Church

Andrew and a random excited Korean who wouldn't let go of his hand.
Our group standing in front of Andong Church: Danny and I, a random Korean boy again, Jennifer, Paul, Helen, and Andrew

A random thing that we saw after church: this Korean flag was being put together out of post it notes in the center of downtown.

I have decided that the best way to deal with all the strange things that happen everyday is to laugh at them, and our first experience at a Korean church was no exception. Our new friend Andrew goes to a church here in Andong. He took us last Sunday and warned us about a few things, but left out some interesting facts that we found out after we had been there. There aren't any English speaking services in Andong, so obviously we wouldn't understand most of what was going on so sitting quietly and smiling was going to be our plan of attack. As soon as we got there though, we made quite a memory.

Everyone was very shocked as they saw 2 new foreigners walking through the door and they instantly began staring and coming up to us to share an eager "HI!" and then would run away. After some confusion, we finally got to our seats and the service began. We had to sign some sort of card for newcomers, but little did we know that in a few minutes they would make us stand up in front of everyone and they would proceed to sing a welcome song. As they called our names and we stood up, the whole crowd gasped in excitement to see two Americans at there church. That made us feel great, but then when the pastor anounced that Danny and I were married, another ever louder gasp was heard followed by cheering. Who knew that we were such famous people in Andong! (Why didn't we come here before?) They then sang the welcome song and all we understood was the part in English that said, "God bless you, God bless you," over and over but the rest sounded very friendly. ; )

The rest of the service was great even though I didn't know what the pastor was preaching on, but it was cool to be among other believers. We met a ton of other people after church and we think this will be where we go for the next year. (It doesn't hurt that the service is at 1:30 so we can sleep in either, wink.) A word for the day to help you in Korean church: hannah neem (God)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Our crazy little (and I mean little) apartment.

Livin' the Andong Life

Our days have been full since we got here…mostly with trying to wrap our head around the fact that we live in Korea. Crazy. But, we have been more than lucky, though to end up where we are and let me tell you why…
1. There is a great group of people here, even a few Christians, who have gone out of there way to welcome us. One in particular, Andrew, has made us feel so welcome by taking us on a walking tour to get to know Andong and to his Korean church. We have been able to hang out with them a few nights already and it really has kept us from getting lonely.
2. We have both got good schools to go to…everyone seems really nice, even though we can’t understand anything.(haha)
3. We live about 20 minutes walking distance from downtown where there are…drumroll…a PIZZA HUT, DUNKIN DONUTS, a few coffee shops, a MOVIE THEATER, a bunch of shops, and so much more! (you can tell what I’m excited about right?)
4. We know where the hospital is, just in case…don’t freak out mom.
5. We live above a convenience store that is in fact very convenient.
6. Any I’m sure many other reasons…YEAH!Andong is a great city to be in so just keep that in mind when you think about coming to visit. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) Another word for the day: Ohl my yeh yo? (How much is it?)

The awesome Andrew, another EPIK teacher from America, giving us newbies a walking tour of Andong.

Yes, you are seeing the delicious delicasies of Andong's market, dried fish in buckets as far as the eye can see!

Another site at the market...maybe we'll have to try cooking a ridiculously large octopus sometime.

Right before we had the most awesome pizza EVER!! It was still Pizza Hut but somehow it just tastes so much better here ; )

Walking around Downtown Andong.