Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Years and Happy 30th!!!

HAPPY NEW YEARS!  This year seems like it has flown by in a lot of ways and a lot has happened.  Danny and I lived in Korea, taught hundreds of Korean kids, traveled to Japan, Malaysia, and the US, ate countless bowls of rice and kimchi, and so much more.  Well, it's New Years, 2012, and it's time to celebrate!  This an exciting start to the year and a big day for Danny and I in many ways: 1) Danny and I are celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary... oh yeah!  2) In exactly 2 months we will be on a plane home...woop WOOP! 3) It's our sister-in-law, Melissa's, birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEL!) and 4) Danny and I will both celebrate our 30th birthday!!!

"Wait, wait, wait..." some of you might be thinking.  "How can we be turning 30 when we were born in April and October of 1983?!"  It's all due to the interesting system of Korean birthdays.  Let me explain... when a baby is born in Korea, they are already considered 1 year old.  The time a baby spends in the womb is considered part of their age, that is why they count that year. (Different but not too confusing yet, right?)  Here's where it gets really confusing... So Koreans all turn one year older on New Years Day instead of their individual birthday, so if you have a baby on December 31st, that baby is one year old.  Then the next day, New Years Day, that same baby will turn 2 with all the other babies born in that same year.  That means that a baby can be considered 2 years old when it is literally only 2 DAYS OLD! Crazy, huh?!  Hence the fact that Danny and I are 28 in western age and 30 in Korean age.  How old are you in Korean age?

Because of that crazy system, Danny and I both turned 30 Korean age along with all the other people born in 1983 as the clock rang in the new year.  Since it was such a big year, Danny and I decided to do it up right with a lot of good times and good people.

This past week, to celebrate our anniversary, my amazing husband took me to Seoul to see the sights.  We ate some awesome food, saw some cool art, and just enjoyed the city... even though it was FREEZING!  One of the highlights was going to the Seoul Museum of art.  An awesome photography exhibit of aerial photography was going on by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and I was loving it.  (It's there till March if you can make it.)

We also ate the best burgers I have had in Korea, and it is in the Top 10 of burgers in my life at the Smokey Saloon in Itaewon.  I'm usually not a huge fan of going to Itaewon since there are so many other great places to go in Seoul, but hitting up this burger joint and then going across the alley to a All That Jazz to see some live music is a place I wish I would have found a looonnngg time ago.

We haven't gotten to see any live music (besides the horrible death cymbal, and that's more like torture then music) so seeing a Korean sing old time jazz was a huge highlight.  All thanks to Danny's college friend, JP and Da Yeong!

After a great few days in Seoul, we rang in the New Year with some friends from our church in Daegu.  In an upcoming post I will tell you more about the hilarious Korea scavenger hunt we went on, but for now I will just give some highlights of the night. 

2012... Oh Yeah!

We ran all over Andong, went bowling, sang some No Rae Bang, at lots of great food, and literally filled our entire apartment with sleeping bodies.

We didn't know if it would be possible, but Danny and I fit 11 people in our tiny apartment for a weekend and nobody ended up smothered!  Good times! 

You can see 7 out of the 11 we had spend the night!

Over all it was a great vacation week and I'm sad that it's over.  Danny and I have many things to look forward to in the coming months, so I'm not too broken up, although I could use a few more sleep in days if you know what I mean : )

Well I hope you all have a fantastic start to your 2012, the year of the dragon, as well and take every opportunity you have to share lots of adventures with you best friend too!  No Regrets... 2012!!!

P.S.  Did I mention that I married an amazing guy 4 years ago?  Some of you might gag, but I'm going to say it anyways... I love you soooooooooo much Buddy, and I can't wait to see what adventures we will have in the next 4 or 40 more years!   You are the guy I can never get enough of, and I hope you know I love you with all my heart!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Have yourself a very Merry Christmas!

Here's just a little video of my cutest students ever to wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS!  About a month ago I started teaching 4 year old's English three times a week and this past week we were working on Christmas words.  They are so cute, I hope you enjoy!

And here's a little song for you...

Danny and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and hope you remember the real reason for the season!

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.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
~ Luke 2: 10-12

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Korean Punishment: what happens to the trouble makers.

Corporal punishment in Korea can be an interesting subject, especially when you aren't from Korea.  When I was thinking about writing about punishments students get here in Korea, I really wanted to make sure I wrote about it in the right way.  I want to make sure it is clear that Danny and I don't think hitting a student is ever warranted, however we know that because this isn't our culture, we have to realize that we can't go imposing all our thoughts into the Korean mindset. The first time we had to think about it was when Danny and I were interviewed for our first job teaching in Korea and we were asked how we would respond when seeing different kinds of punishment that we weren't used to.  In America you can't even touch a student let alone hit them, so we really didn't know what to expect.

Punishment to students has different degrees, and thankfully many laws have  recently been passed to start banning corporal punishment in Korea.  I won't be talking about punishments where there is contact between the teacher and student, just about the silly positions they are put into when they do something wrong.  Most punishments Danny and I have seen are more comically pathetic than anything.  Here are a few of the top ones seen in schools today...

Kneeling with hands above their head is a "favorite" for many students.  This punishment is one that we have seen a lot and it is usually accompianied by a very stern looking teacher busy scolding the students.  The students may also have to hold a position resembling the "downward dog" yoga pose.  Usually the students only have to do this for a few minutes but I imagine that if you are really mischievous you probably are gaining some toned arms in your school career.  I had to laugh that when we asked some students to "model" these punishments for us because they instantly got a defeated look on their face instantly like they've done it before.  Oh, boys.

Crouching down in a squatting position is also another common punishment to see.  You might think that boys are most familiar with all the usual consequences of wrong-doings, but these girls seemed to know just what to do when I asked them  ; ) 

I wanted to make sure my face REALLY said, "I'm sorry!"

Danny and I are really glad that we landed a great job at Andong English Village where there is absolutely NO forceful punishment done. The usual punishment we see going on (usually multiple times a day ; ) is the classic "standing against the wall, contemplating what you did wrong" position.  It's kind of a daily curiosity of mine to walk by the main office and see how many students are "enjoying" a little wall time.

The last and more comical one in my opinion is the "waddle" punishment.  I first encountered this sight last year as I was walking into to school in the morning.  Apparently students were late to class so their punishment was to waddle like a duck all the way to their classroom.  I feel in some ways that it is counter productive since it takes a long time to waddle, and they were already late, but again hey, who am I to judge?  I think I would choose this punishment if I had to just because at least it would get a laugh!

There is one thing in common with all punishments given to students, and perhaps you may have noticed it in all the pictures... students always keep their heads down and won't look you in the eye.  Coming from a culture the highly values eye contact, I think this is one of the most subtle and interesting cultural differences between western and eastern culture.

The "American" stare down.

As an American, I am very familiar with the phrase, "Look me in the eyes when I'm talking to you!" as I suspect many of you are as well, when consequences are being dished out.  We westerners see it as rude and disrespectful to look away especially when it comes to being punished.

Korea is not that way at all.  I had to laugh as we set up to take this picture of one of our students, Gabriel, as the "teacher" and Danny posing as the "student".  Gabriel perfectly embodied what a Korean teacher looks like when he is punishing a student: stern face, hands in the pockets, looking at the top of the offender's head.  It would be extremely rude for Danny or any student to try and have eye contact with their teacher at a moment like this, and that is still something we have to get used to.  If you try and correct a student, they will instantly look away, and because of my culture, I always want to tell them to look AT me!

Bad boy, Danny.
I think as time goes on, corporal punishment is disappearing from Korean culture, but unfortunately we know it still exists (from experience).  As many Koreans would agree, there are many things that need to be looked at and changed in their education system, and hopefully those changes will come soon.  At least Danny and I have learned that it is important to remember that you can't force your value system onto a country in which you are a guest, but it is also important for us to try to use our job as a chance to show these kids a fun and loving environment.  Kids will be kids and make lots of mistakes so consequences will always exist, however I think maybe loosing all the blood in one's arms can soon be replaced with different and equally effective punishments.  Let's just hope Koreans don't adopt their evolving punishments from the Wilson or Doerksen family... let's just say that a wooden paddle spanking wasn't fun either ; )

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Danny's Hotel's no Hilton.

I would say our job at the English Village is unique because we don't have to teach "normal" classes like many other English teachers.  I "normally" teach Yoga class, Bank, and Post Office and Danny gets to teach his own share of subjects: Grocery Store, Math, and Hotel class.   All of Danny's classes are fun (of course they are if you know Danny ;) and can produce interesting products... especially Hotel class.  Danny talks about parts of a hotel and then has students create their own hotel.  We have seen robot hotels, ghost hotels, chicken hotels and much more, but this week students seemed to be especially interested in involving Danny and I in their hotels. 

Here are some of our favorites...

Our lovely family and introducing our sweet children
Damy and Kamy!

Looks like there some lovin' going on by the pool...
and possibly someone might be drowning, we're not sure.

They wanted to make sure that we knew
who was stupid and who was cute... that's right!

I don't quite know what's going on, but I look like I'm rockin'
out on something and Danny has crazy hair.
 Some other hotels that needed "honorable" mentions or just to be shown because they are so ridiculous...

What a great name, right? 

Who wouldn't want to stay at the blood hotel?  It is even complete with a blood pool and a bleeding appliances! Yuck.

Wanna go for a swim? Ewwww.

This receptionist sure looks inviting at the "Kill Hotel"...

What a nice looking guy! Yeah right.

Danny was very impressed that even the lights where people who were hung from the ceiling.  It's really amazing what boys can come up with...

That hotel room is going to take a lot of cleaning up
after those guys get finished bleeding everywhere!

And at last the "Chicken Hotel".  The kids were cracking up with how similar "check-in" counter sounded like "chicken" counter.  Gotta love kids...

I bet you can guess which were made by boys and which were made by sweet innocent girls : ) Kids always keep this place interesting!  I don't know if we've ever had a boring week when it involves crazy Korean children.  We hope these pictures brightened your day and encourages you to look for more interesting places to stay next time you go to a hotel... just stay away from anything with "die" in the name ; ) 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas done the "creative" way...

I must say that I am in the Christmas spirit this year!  Even though it hasn't snowed here in Andong yet (tear) and they don't really decorate quite like America, I'm excited for Christmas to come.  I'm especially excited for the decorations that we put up last week, mainly our tree.  You can't buy Christmas trees here in Korea so you have to be creative.  Last year we used what some might call a branch for our Christmas tree, but this year we thought we'd try something different...

Last year's tree (I still love that Charlie
Brown branch!)

This year's tree. (In case you can't guess, that is
our mirror under all that goodness.)
Our tree is constructed out of felt and staples.  Not bad if I do say so myself : )  Before we decided on the crafty version, I walked around our neighborhood and briefly considered cutting down a tree from the yard across the street, but then I thought "tis' the season not to commit a crime"... thus our felt tree was born.

Who needs to spend a ton of money on decorations this season?  Not us!  I hope if you are away from home this holiday season, you too find a way to get some Christmas cheer.  Have a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving x 4!

Last year Danny and I got to celebrate Thanksgiving, but sadly it never included turkey.  However, this year we got to not only celebrate Thanksgiving Day but celebrate it 4 times and ALL included turkey!  AWESOME. 

At Thanksgiving #2... Dong Shin Church

Our first Turkey Day was spent with fellow "Andong-ians".  Thanks to our friend Erin, we started the season off right.  It's amazing how when its the holiday season, if you fit 20 people into a 300 square ft. apartment, it's not overcrowded but instead just nice and cozy :)

The next event was sponsored by our English church in Daegu, Dong Shin.  The food was organized and provided by the church and allowed over 200 lonely or hungry "waygookins" (foreigners) to enjoy a great turkey dinner.  One of the highlights, besides the food, was the replay of Danny's winning turkey call that got him the championship prize of 6 bagels last year.  The call might not exactly sound like a turkey to you, but if you've seen Arrested Development you will understand the genius of his interpretation.  Gobble, gobble.

Probably the last Thanksgiving where we'll see
kimbap and chopsticks :)

The third and fourth events were crazily enough on the same day.  You might think stuffing yourself silly two times in a row is overkill, but I say that it's just a warm-up for me. 


We started the day at our friend's, Taylor and Lindsey's, house and were truley impressed by the spread that presented itself.  In Korea, people may not have a grand dining room or huge table to eat around, but just being with good friends can give you a taste of home.  I think I was most impressed that day by the way Lindsey fit a huge turkey in her little oven and had about a centimeter to spare.  Impressive work for sure.

Around 4 pm we headed out to our 4th and final Thanksgiving feast to our friend's, Sarah and Pete's, house.  I have to admit that I was extremely excited for this one, not only because great people would be there, but Sarah and Pete are in the military and that meant that amazing AMERICAN delicacies would be there too.  This was the only meal that didn't have to special order a turkey... it's amazing what you can get from the wonderful world of the Commisary on the Daegu Military Base! Maybe some people wouldn't call green bean cassarole and delicacy, but here in Korea green beans and French's Onion Strips are hard to come by.  Oh it was good.  Highlights of the dinner were turkey (OF COURSE), sweet potatoe cassarole (Mmmmm...), green bean cassarole (are you kidding me?!), and Grandma Wilson's rum cake (I was pretty excited that it turned out... and that it had lots of rum in it ;)

That's right... #4.

All 4 Thanksgiving Days ended up great, but because of that, unfortunately I think that it will meal many an hour spent in the gym to recover... and I think the turkey coma might still be affecting us because man, Danny and I are tired!  (Or maybe it's just the psycho kids we've had all week... can you say A.D.D?)

The final Turkey Day at Sarah and Pete's magical home!
(It's just like America!)
Whether you were away from America or in the Land of the Free, I hope it was a great day of being thankful!  HAPPY TURKEY DAY!  Gobble, Gobble.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

When you have an "I Hate Korea Day"...

For the most part, Danny and I try to be positive and enjoy life as much as we can. I would say we do a pretty good job, but like everyone we have rough days. Sometimes it is tough to live in a foreign land so we have dubbed those bad days: “I Hate Korea Days”.

I’m not a fan of blogs that spend most of their times complaining about their situation so I try to see all the weird and funny things that happen to us as enjoyable or entertaining. However, when you lose your IPod in a taxi and can’t explain your problem because you don’t speak the same language, or when you find that all buses are sold out and you have to take a taxi for an hour to get home, I think it’s ok to have an “I Hate Korea Day”.

Because we all have bad days, and sometimes they seem especially hard when you are over 6,000 miles away from home, here are some suggestions to combat “I Hate Korea Days”…

1. Go see a movie: Danny and I feel like sitting in a movie theater and watching a movie is about as close as we can get to home for the small price of 8,000 won! As the lights go down and you see the opening credits, the only difference you can see is the subtitles flashing at the bottom of the screen… and they are easy to ignore : )

2. Go eat a good meal: I couldn’t decide whether to tell you to eat a Western meal to give you a taste of home (literally…buh dum chee) or to go eat Korean food so you remind yourself one great thing about this country… I guess you will just have to decide that for yourself. Danny and I just both love food so much that it can make any bad day better.

3. Walk through a Korean traditional market: (tip courtesy of my friend Gabi) Sometimes when I have an “I Hate Korea Day” I lump all Korean people into a group and villianize them. However when you walk through a market and see the sweet faces of Korean ajumas (old ladies) and cute old men in fedoras and smell the rotting fish, you can’t help but love Korea again!

4. Go sing some No Rae Bang: Nothing will cure homesickness like a good singing fest. Who cares if you sound like a cat dying a slow painful death… sing, and trust me you will feel better.

5.  Go see some good friends:  Nobody understands your bad days like a good friend who has the same problems.  Hang out, maybe vent a little, and then move on to something more fun... like going to the beach!

Now after some tips to help the bad days, but here are a few “don’ts” when it comes to “I Hate Korea Days”…

1. Don’t surround yourself with people who complain about Korea a lot… trust me once you start down that road, it’s hard to turn around.

2. Don’t lump all of Korea into one group and blame them all. Even though you may almost get hit by one bad Korean driver, that doesn’t mean that all Koreans are horrible people… even though I would say their driving techniques are in one word... interesting ; )

3. Don’t only hang out with Westerners. It’s much easier to feel a love for Korea if you actually hang out with its’ people.

4. And last… Don’t pack your bags too early. There can be days that you could literally buy a plane ticket and head home, but trust me it will get better if you just keep trying. Count to ten, go get a bottle of wine, and sing your heart out in No Rae Bang! Oh yeah!

If you ask anyone who lives in a foreign land, I’m sure they will all say that they’ve had an “I Hate China or Morocco or Canada Day”. (Who am I kidding, who could hate Canada?) No one is immune to homesickness or bad days, and our life is definitely not perfect here in Crazy Korea, but trust me, if you just try to take a deep breath and laugh at the fact that you were just told you look “really bad” to your face or that you were yelled at in a mysterious language… you will live a whole lot longer and for sure have more good days than bad. Remember that you can make it here and hopefully you’ll have too many “I Love Korea Days”.