Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Bittersweet Goodbye!!!

I feel like the last couple of blogs have been a little long, SO I am going to do a really sort post today in honor of our good friends, Jacky and Winston... or Wacky and WiWi as Danny likes to call them. This post in honor of them because this past Saturday, they got on a plane to move back to South Africa PERMANENTLY! Danny and I are really sad, but we are excited because at least now we have a reason to go visit South Africa. Here are some of my favorite memories with our good friends...

You think I was taking the picture from above, but I GOTCHA!!! Just a little illusion...

And some other good memories...

Danny being a weirdo in what was supposed to be a nice picture for Jacky's birthday...

These guys were my favorite animals to see in the park zoo that we went to for Jacky's birthday...
The wonderful Hippie fowl: I especially like the answers given for "habitat" and "characteristics"...
And lastly, WiWi being so loving to his wife by giving her a beautiful fake rose on her birthday...
We are very thankful to have made such great friends here in Andong and I'm excited for when our paths will cross again. We'll miss you Wacky and WiWi!! Have fun in South Africa, take care of baby Danny and save us a Gatsby!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Andong Market... a "Foodie's" Heaven!

I really enjoy Korea partly because I can pretty much guarantee that I can walk home with a funny story at least once or twice a week. Here is an example: the other day Danny and I and 2 friends from South Africa got on a bus to travel 2 hours to another city and the bus driver made it a point to walk to the back and forcefully tell only us, "NO HAMBURGERS!" Apparently Westerners are just known for bringing hamburgers wherever they go and making a mess! Anyways, that has nothing really to do with today's topic except to prove that Korea is full of funny experiences!

So today while I share what a Korean market is like, I will add in a funny experience I had while walking through the market. As you can see above, in a Korea market you can find lots of seafood, as well as different fruits and vegetables. This story highlights the lovely silver fish that you can see in the middle of the picture. While my family was here, actually, we were walking through the market one day, showing them the delecasies of Korea. All of a sudden, we got stopped by this gentleman:

He was a VERY friendly guy who was extremely excited to tell me that he was in the army and worked with different Americans while he served his country. In mostly Korean, and in a little broken English, I got the gist that he LOVES America and anyone who has to do with anything American...which is how I ended up with 2 of those silver fish in a bag. He liked me soooo much that he insisted that he buy me 2 fish (which is actually a really nice gift for a stranger being that the fist cost almost $10 a peice). I tried to tell him that I really didn't need the fish, but he wouldn't take no for an answer...which is why I later had to call my coteacher to help me figure out what to do with the fish.

Mrs. Byeon came straight over and proceeded to gut and behead the fish right in my kitchen sink. I called her really hoping that she would actually take the fish OFF my hands, but she also insisted with a lot of garlic, these fish would turn into a delicious meal.
As you can see I had the treat of watching fish guts spill into my sink as the fish watched me back, and I was still wondering how in the world I was going to cook these fish. Even though Korea is surrounded by a lot of water, most of Korea is not really known for having great or really fresh seafood. So there we have my funny market experience which will guide us into the real focus of this post: what a Korean market is really like.
Colorado is just catching on to the whole "farmer's market" thing so I have really LOVED being able to see food in a new light when it is sold at a market. Andong has "market day" every fifth day so getting fresh fruits and vegetables is easy to do. The street is packed with woman pulling their wire carts behind them and older Korean ladies (such as the one above) usually wearing any number of different flower or plaid prints and trying to sell off their week's stock.
I know there is no method to their madness, but really it seems like as the style of combining different patterns became more popular, older Korean ladies took it a little too far ; )

The streets is full of huge packs of garlic, never-ending piles of cabbage, and 10 different kinds of crazy looking mushrooms.

I feel like even though it takes a little more time to walk from stall to stall to buy my weekly fruits and vegetables, I love to see all the different things available and the colors of the whole scene are fantastic.

Things are truly seasonal in a "real" market so it seems like every week something has disappeared and a new, exciting food has replaced it. These yellow melons where everywhere this summer.

Like I said before, the fish isn't something that I am keen to buy because it isn't the freshest thing around. There are tons of stalls displaying their piles of fish, and let's just say the smell coming from them isn't always so appetizing.

You can see shark, octopus, crab, munk fish, sardines, and so many other kinds of seafood, but I think, by far the scariest fish is the long silver ones. I don't know their exact name, but their bulging eyes and sharp teeth kinda scare me!

Another interesting site in a Korean market is the dteok (Korean rice cake pronounced like "duck"). I only had experience with rice cakes you would get in the supermarket at home that are crispy and crunchy, but Korean dteok is totally different. These sticky masses of smashed rice covered in red bean or pumpkin or nuts is what they consider dessert. If my students have the option of a lollipop or dteok, they will almost always choose dteok. I still haven't found a love for them, but I've got another year to keep trying!

And of course the market wouldn't be complete without a large supply of every kind of kimchi imaginable!
Danny enjoys eating what I bring home, but I know that he doesn't enjoy walking around the market as much as I do. I have found that it has increased my "foodie" passion because it makes me feel more connected to the food I eat (yes, I know I'm a dork ; ). What better place to be a part of the community than in the traditional market!?

Of course there are definite perks to being able to run (or drive) to the grocery store... oh how I miss the cereal aisle, and being able to buy avocados, and the little mist machines that rain down on the produce... but for now I will be happy with my Andong market : )

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Katy's School: Surviving the World of High School Boys

Last time Danny told you a little bit about his school and now it is my turn. Even though Danny and I initially moved to Korea just to get the experience of living in a foreign country and traveling, teaching has become a big part of our lives here. Since neither of us had previous teaching experience, we weren't really sure what we were getting ourselves into and even though there have been some tough times, overall it has been a great experience. It has been interesting to see how differently they do things but I am starting to forget how different it is... "Wait, student's don't brush their teeth multiple times a day in America? Weird." Above is a picture of me teaching my "open class" which you have to do twice a year. The class is opened so other teachers or parents can come watch your class and evaluate you. It sounds scary but it's really not that bad.

Here is basically what happens in a normal class of mine: I first do a phrase of the day where I teach a slang word like "pound it, awesome, eat it, pick up line" and many others. It's fun to teach the students and then later here them using it when they speak. Then we teach the lesson about whatever the topic is that day: travel, habits, etc. (The boring stuff) THEN, I usually do a game. The students have so many other lecture classes a day, so I try to at least make my classes fun, and I've learned like many other teachers, that if you offer candy, the students will basically do anything for you! I like to use whiteboards for games and usually the most entertaining thing is when they get to choose their own team names. I've heard names such as "Penguins", "The Team of Father", the very creative "Team 5", or "Oops, Having a Baby (It may be Intended)". Obviously, I laugh everytime they make team names : )

Here are some pictures of my students. Above is my absolute FAVORITE class! They are really great guys who have a lot of fun but actually listen to me in class. (I will miss them) Actually, unlike Danny's school, most of my guys are really great. I only have 2 classes out of 12 that are really difficult so I feel very lucky. Like I said before, my school is the top high school in the area, so I think that's way the majority of my students are so good. Below are some other really nice students, who are also the trouble-makers, but you can't help but like them. From left to right there is Jagiya (which means honey in Korean), Obama, and Sponge Bob. They obviously got to choose their own names ; )

These are some of the guys from my favorite 1st grade class. Again, I think people have the idea that Asian students are perfect students, but that is far from the truth. Boys are boys so they like to do the same things as American students. I think it is funny that at the beginning of the year I thought they all looked the same: black hair, glasses, uniform, but now I can really see the difference is looks and personality in all of them. One kid, Kyle, has been a really fun student to get to know. He is one of those guys who wants to be one of the cool kids, but just isn't, and who has such a sweet personality. He wrote me a note for teachers day that I had to share:

I feel lucky to have formed a bond with some students so I will be really sad to say goodbye. These two guys are 3rd graders, and even though I don't teach them, they enjoyed coming to visit me every once in a while. The guy on the right I call "Stevie" because he likes to practice Stevie Wonder songs with me so I can help him with his pronounciation. When you teach, everyday is entertaining in some way.

Almost everything about the Korean school system is different than what I know in America, and that even includes lunch. It is almost "mandatory" to eat the lunch that the school provides in Korea. It would kind of be seen as rude if you don't want to eat their food so you have to get used to it quickly. Actually the healthiness and the quality of food is much better than an American cafeteria's so it's not that bad, but don't be expecting burgers and fries as an option.

You always get in the line and grab yourself a silver tray, chopsticks, and a spoon. The food that is always found on the menu is rice, kimchi, and some sort of soup. Other than that you will usually get various other dishes such as tofu, steamed seaweed, green onion pancake, spicy chicken, fruit salad, shrimp and fish salad, pork cutlet, and so much more.

Here is my tray after I filled it with a Korean lunch. From top right going clockwise you can see spicy pork in sauce, some sort of soup, rice with various greens to mix in, fried tofu with red pepper sauce, kimchi, and steamed sesame spinach. They also occasionally give you a little treat, and today it was a tiny bottled drink that I still don't know what the technical flavor is. Koreans think it is unhealthy to drink while you eat so if you get any liquid at all, it will be about the size of a shot glass.

I've actually started to enjoy lunch, and the fact that you get all of that food for about $2 a day is a pretty good deal if you ask me! Here's a view of the walk up to the school "restuarant" as my Coteacher likes to call it, and the dormitory... the horse kind of reminds me of my high school days at Lewis-Palmer... GO RANGERS... Woop, WOOP!

Here is a lovely view of my office. I think this will be the biggest office I will EVER have, and let's just say that those couches have given me a wonderful place to nap on the occasion. I am actually the only teacher who has their own office, and it's not because I am lucky, but actually because they didn't have room for me anywhere else. I am in an entirely different building than everyone else so it can get lonely, but for the most part I enjoy it.

Here is a picture of me and one of the English teachers in my school who I taught English to about twice a week in a teacher's class. His name is Chu and he is a character. At first I think he didn't really like me, but eventually I won him over by doing what I do best... teasing him. Who knew that these serious and sometimes intimidating Korean men melt as soon as you make them laugh? This picture was take then day I made tacos for some of the teachers. Tragically, Mexican food is not common in Korea so this was the first time that they had tried a taco! How did they survive without tacos?!

I think the most suprising blessing of this whole experience has definitely been the relationship I have built with my Coteacher, Mrs. Byeon. As a foreign teacher, you are automatically assigned a Korean teacher to help you with anything you need. These teachers can either been extremely helpful, which mine is, or not so involved which can make simple things like getting a cell phone or figuring out your school schedule quite difficult. Mrs. Byeon has honestly become like my Korean aunt. She is a believer, which gives us a great connection, and is always willing to help. She brings me vegetables from her garden all the time, she has taught me how to make Dakalbi, and she has taken Danny and I on family trips. I honestly think that Danny and I would have had a very different and not-as-great experience without her. Here I am with another teacher who I teach in my teacher's class, Mrs. Lee (on the left), Mrs. Byeon (in the middle), and me.

Well, that was a way-to-long post about my school, so I won't blame you aren't reading this part at the end. Overall, I have learned a lot through this experience, and I know that it has made me appreciate past teachers a lot more.
I guess in the end, the secret I have learned to being a good teacher is this: bribe people with candy and anybody will like you : ) Good luck to all of you who are forming the minds of the future!