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”.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Koreans: Always Entertaining

Danny and I have learned that Korean people have definitely adopted the saying, "Go big or go home!"  When Koreans decide to do something they go for with everything they've got.  Two examples that we experienced this week were right here on Andong University's campus.

Me posing with the election mascot.

This week, Danny and I were unassumingly walking to work when we noticed a large group of Koreans wearing matching jackets dancing around.  Although flash mobs are one of my favorite things, I realized that this wasn't a spur of the moment dance but that it was strictly to promote student elections.  In my university when people ran for student body they maybe attached their name to a lollipop and handed out fliers that said, "Vote for so and so", but here in Korea that isn't enough.

Elections here involve extreme chants, organized dances, sashes and professional grade campaigning.  Each candidate must want it pretty bad if they put this much work into trying to become president, but honestly I think Koreans will take any chance to show off their K-Pop (Korean pop music) skills : )

Another entertaining experience had to do with our boss' birthday.  The other Andong English Village teachers and I decided to get Rachel some flowers for her birthday and again it was "go big or go home"!  After doing some miming and humming of "Happy Birthday", we got the florist to understand that we wanted to buy a bouquet.  As she set out to make our bunch of flowers we didn't realize that we were in for an event.  The woman began grouping the flowers together, but it didn't stop at a simple bouquet.  First she got the flowers together... then she added some white fringe to make it fancy, but WAIT, THERE'S MORE!  Then came some ridiculous pink lace, green wrappings, and finally a huge bow that could have also been found on a brand new car that also would have been given as a gift.  After 15 minutes of hard work, what a masterpiece it was!

Dun, dun, dun, DA!

I felt like I was could have been leading the Rose Bowl parade with that bouquet, but again that is just how it is done here in Korea.  Danny and I would consider our style as more simplistic, which usually doesn't match up with the Korean way with their crazy wallpaper and their party trains and their floral print clothing, but as always Korea keeps us entertained!  Good times in Krazy Korea!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Pepero Day! 11-11-11

Today is November 11, 2011 or Pepero Day so let's celebrate!

Every November 11th, Koreans celebrate Pepero Day and since this year it is 11-11-11, it is a very special day that won't come again in our lifetimes!

Pepero are basically chocolate covered bread sticks that are a common sweet snack for Koreans. The only real association they have to November 11th is that they look like ones if you hold them next to each other, however somehow they made giving them away a national holiday.

Kids and couples will buy a ton of these treats and give them to friends, teachers, and significant others.  I saw these cute girls walking down the street with a ton of Pepero that they had collected from school and they were sweet enough to share and give me a box.

I heard this year that some schools banned Pepero from their schools because kids get so crazy, but even still, I saw everyone walking around with Pepero today.

A Pepero display at a local shop.
Maybe you are in Korea, or maybe your not, but either way go get yourself some Pepero and share some with a loved one!  I must admit though that us waygookins will have an easier time being in Korea, but your Mrkans probably can go get some Olive Garden bread sticks and melted chocolate and I'm sure you get about the same result ;)


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The "Corn Things"...yum

The title of this post may be a little strange sounding, and even though the upcoming information may not be life changing, I feel compelled to share it anyways. 

The "corn things" stand... in Korean it really says
"Daeli and Daeli" but we like "corn things" better.

I want to take this time to tell you about the "corn things".  Now, of course that is not their official name, but Danny and I have dubbed them the "corn things" and we can't change now. (Partly because I still don't know what they are actually called.)  The "corn things" are delicious sweet bread filled with custard and are baked in the shape of little ears of corn.

I don't think they are made with corn or really have anything to do with corn but there you go.  The "corn things" are one of the reasons why we enjoy going to Daegu so much.  Of course we love to see good friends and eat western food while we are in Daegu, but everytime we walk down the stairs to the Dong Daegu subway stop, I breathe in the delicious air of the "corn things."  Here is a video to show you what they are like...

The "corn things" cost about $2.50 and they are the perfect subway treat.  You bite into a fresh "corn thing" and in the center you find hot, delicious "shu cream" or custard in the middle. 

The delicious custard filled center...mmmmmm.

Danny and I always say that is one snack that we will really miss from Korea when we leave, which makes me consider jumping over the counter at the stand and stealing their "corn thing" making contraption.  Well now you know if you are ever walking through the subway in Korea and get a wiff of an addicting sweet smell, make sure you stop and get a bag of "corn things"! Mashisoyo!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Korean Saunas... nothing like them.

This past weekend, Danny took me to one of the best saunas in Korea so I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you all about Korean saunas.  Saunas (pronounced "sah-oo-na" here) is a huge part of the culture.  A while ago, when most people didn't have showers or baths in their houses, people would go to a public sauna to get clean, and still today it is some Koreans main place to take a shower. 

Whenever you see this glowing sign,
you know a sauna is close.

When I imagine saunas, I used to think of hot rooms you could sit in wearing a bathing suit or towel, that make you sweat all of the water out of your body.  Although there are steam rooms in saunas, now I think of a large room filled with tons of showers and naked people.  You will usually also find different pools of various temperatures because Korean think that it is good for your health to go from 100 degree water to 50 degree water and back again...yikes.  Koreans apparently don't feel self conscious being naked in front of strangers, however my first time at the sauna was a little nerve racking.  I was one of those foreigners who tried to carry around the tiny towel to cover myself... I must have looked pretty silly.  It really isn't as akward as some of you might imagine, and it doesn't take long to get more comfortable with your birthday suit. 

Here is how a sauna works...

The women's outdoor pool at Spa Land.
(naked people not included)

1.  You get naked and walk into the main shower area.
2.  You start the long showering process and are usually given a pink "scrubbing" towel to exfoliate yourself.
3.  You shower for a loooooooonnnnngggg time... you should get really clean because they don't want  you to be dirty at all when you go to soak in the common pools.
4.  You head over to the pools to relax.  If you can, try each pool and see if you can handle the temperature.
5.  Soak till your hearts content or go in a steam room for a while.
6.  Take another shower to rinse off.

And there you go.  You are a sauna expert now!

In addition to saunas are jim-jil-bangs.  A jim-jil-bang is the common area that you can walk around in a sauna, and it is also where men and woman can hang out together.  Most saunas that have a jim-jil-bang is where you can stay the night if you are looking for a cheap place (about $12 a night) to sleep but be warned that you will probably be sleeping next to strangers on the floor.  You will also be given funny looking pajamas to wear in the common area... boy are they hot... but you can't keep them, sorry.  Here we are with our good friends Gabi, Sarah, Greg and Pete...I think we look a little like prisoners if you ask me:

I have pictures only from the jim-jil-bang area because that is the only place where people are wearing clothes (duh), although I wish I could show you more about the actual sauna part...  NO, not so you could see naked people, but so you could get a good picture in your mind. 

A great place to take a nap.

For my birthday, Danny took me to Spa Land in Busan, which is one of the nicest and biggest saunas in Korea. (Warning: most saunas aren't as nice as this one so don't expect too much.)  The sauna area is pretty large with about 10 different pools, but I go for the jim-jil-bang... it's amazing!  You get to walk around and explore about 20 different rooms with 20 different temperatures from a charcoal room to a salt room, which are all supposed to help you in different ways. 

You can lie around on comfortable mats, take a nap, or even go into the "relaxation room" where everyone gets a lounger with their own TV.  There is also a movie room, an oxygen bar and a spa connected for all your massage needs.  You can wear a bracelet that is not only a key to your locker but a little device you can scan in case you want to buy any drinks or snacks while you are relaxing.  Often you will see couples sharing some cuddling time together because they might not have anywhere else to do that.

The TV "relaxation room".

One of my favorite parts was the foot pool.  It felt so nice to dangle my feet in hot water and it made me feel more relaxed then I've felt in a long time.

Well even though some of you might still think, "I will never do that!"  I would still suggest trying a Korean sauna.  Even if you don't walk away with a free pair of weird pajamas, you can at least say that your sauna experience was "Good for health" (said in a Korean accent).  Have fun enjoying Crazy Korea with nothing but your birthday suit!