Korean Street Food: Dongdaemun

Check that out.

A hotdog wrapped in french fries. Now you can have your cake and eat it, too.


March 4, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

One (sprained) hand in the air for universal health care.

I got hit by a bus.

It’s true.

The event occurred Tuesday afternoon at an intersection near my school, approximately 50 yards from my apartment building. Ecstatic to be escaping the confines of my cold classroom, my grubby little munchkins, and the frustrations of teaching 50 children that actually have no intentions of learning, I pranced home two and a half hours early with a definite pep in my step. And then I got hit by a bus.

I can’t tell you how it happened, aside from the obvious. My life didn’t flash before my eyes. There was no deer-in-the-headlights look. I never saw it coming. I stepped out onto a crosswalk, heard a loud thud, and then realized that I was on the ground a couple of feet away from a bus while an audience of Koreans looked on in horror. Remarkably, I walked away from the scene of the accident unharmed. Not the smartest decision I’ve ever made but let’s chalk that up to shock and adrenaline.

I later went to the hospital to have a few aches and pains checked out and x-rayed. I saw the doctor who very kindly wrapped up an ankle and a wrist and sent me away with a prescription for some pain killers. 10 minutes and 5,500 KRW ($4.95) later, I walked across the street to a pharmacy to get $1’s worth of pain medicine. My co-teacher even treated me to a sympathy dinner afterwards, which remained largely untouched due to my inability to use chopsticks with my left hand. But that’s beside the point. I got hit by a bus and it only cost me $6 and two day’s worth of hobbling around like an old lady. Beat that, America.



(Apparently this is a really common occurrence here. Come visit me. You, too, could have the opportunity to share in this once in a life time experience. Free some-what clean housing available.)

January 28, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas…


Merry Christmas.

December 24, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

A series of Tos and Fors

To anyone who checks this blog on a quasi-regular basis:

I have failed you. My apologies. I’m not even sure I’m averaging a post a month right now. Let’s change that. Korea’s a fascinating place. I want you to learn more about it. Consider it my December 14th resolution. Since I’m not making it on New Years, there’s a better chance I’ll keep it.

To the people who regularly (and irregularly) keep in touch through emails, skype, facebook messages, postcards and other forms of snail mail:

There is nothing better than waking up or coming home to a piece of America. Let’s get real- this time difference thing is a killer. It’s made keeping in touch far more difficult than I ever could have imagined. It’s also served as one of my biggest frustrations. It’s definitely a top candidate for causes of homesickness. But know that it’s always the highlight of my day to hear from you, especially when it’s full of wonderful details of your life. Thank you. I feel the love. And a special thanks to my favorite Aunt Bonnie who made me a killer hat. It’s awesome, and most importantly- warm.

For the people who want to know about my job:

Who would have ever thought that I would be an elementary school teacher? Certainly not me. But I am. And I enjoy it, at least for right now (most of the time). And apparently, I’m good at it- atleast by Korean standards. Every foreign teacher has to be reviewed by the City School District. Our classroom is observed, our lesson plans are scrutinized, and our students are interviewed. Then we’re given a grade from A to D. I received an A. Finally, validation that I’m doing something right. It’s amazing what a little recognition can do to one’s confidence levels. Other than that, the school year’s just about finished. Final exams were last week. My 6th graders are no longer cute elementary school students. I’m ready for a vacation. 8 more days of students, T-minus 11 days until I’m sitting on some beach in Thailand drinking a fruity alcoholic beverage with a little umbrella sticking out of it.

To the people wondering about what I did for Thanksgiving:

I worked. And then I took a half day and played in Seoul with my parents who were in town for a long weekend. We ate Korean food. Squid pancakes, tteokbokki, and rice wine. I bought a five pound bag of frozen cranberries on Saturday. Hopefully, I’ll get around to making some cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes in the near future. I’m sure it’ll go real nicely with a side of jalopenos.

To the people concerned about North Korea:

Kim Jong-Il’s going out with a bang. Don’t be.

For the people who are interested in the ongoing battle between Hilary and the Korean language:

I think the Korean language is winning right now, although it’s not for a lack of effort. 2011 just might bring night classes at Seoul National University. As fair warning, certain Korean words have infiltrated my English vocabulary, along with an annoying tendency to almost grunt in acknowledgement frequently during someone’s story, perhaps as a replacement to the English equivalent of “uh-huh”.

To the people worried that I’m lonely or have no friends:

 That’s silly. They’re lovely people. Come on over and meet them.

For the people who want to know about things like the weather:

It’s cold and unfortunately, that’s not changing any time soon. The high tomorrow’s 27 degrees. I saw my first real snow on Wednesday. There was a light snow a couple of weeks ago when the parents were here but this one was like a down pillow exploded outside of my classroom window. I think I was more excited than my students. That is, until I had to try to walk on the icy sidewalks the next day. Lord have mercy, I think I just might get that cast I always wanted.

Alright, that’s my current life in a nutshell- now for the daunting task of filling you in on the past 8 months. Stay tuned.

December 14, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

A tiny little picture of a monumental occasion

Ladies and gentlemen, my baby brother graduated today.

I can’t believe over a year has passed since I walked across the same stage, praying that I wouldn’t be the fool who tripped, although that could have been the highlight of the event. Let’s face it. Graduation ceremonies are boring. I passed the time by texting with my brother, reading the newspaper, and playing games on my iphone. Although I was not physically present for Sean’s big day, I was hoping to be able to return the favor courtesy of FSU’s live internet stream. I set my alarm clock, put some money on Skype (for sending text messages), and anxiously awaited a two and a half hour ceremony.

It didn’t happen.

I miscalculated the timing. Oh darn.

Luckily, FSU posted the marathon of name calling later in the day and I was able to see a pixilated version of my brother walk across the stage. I think he might have even gotten a haircut for the event. Isn’t he so cute?

Congratulations, Seany. I’m proud of you. Have a wonderful time celebrating. You did it!

December 11, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Notes from an igloo

Hyperbole- noun.

1. Obvious and intentional exaggeration.

2. An extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, such as “to wait an eternity”.

Just to be clear, that’s not what this is.

Many of my co-workers have unknowingly taken on the role as personal weather forecasters. I’ve found that a couple of the teachers know some English but are too embarrassed to speak with me. Talking about the weather gives both of us a chance to mumble a few words foreign to our native tongues and breaks up the monotony of bows and smiles. Yesterday, I was forewarned that it might be a good idea to take the extra 10 seconds in the morning to put on socks. Tomorrow will be chilly.

By 10:38 am, I’m already on my third cup of tea. There’s still a layer of frost adorning my classroom windows and an unfamiliar tingling sensation gradually numbs my fingers as they brush across the keyboard. Each exhale puffs more smoke than a magic dragon. In the interest of full disclosure, there’s also a good chance that I’m wearing an entire load of laundry right now- long underwear, a long sleeved shirt, two sweaters and a peacoat, stockings, leggings, jeans, a hat from my favorite Aunty Judy, and a scarf. My 5th graders affectionately christen me with a new nickname, Snowman Teacher. Fourth period later changes it to Snowwoman Teacher in the spirit of being politically correct, a fad which apparently extends across the ocean to Korea.

I’m learning that chilly means temporarily relocating to the middle of Siberia. Language barriers can be so inconvenient sometimes.

Friends and family, I know you’re mocking me right now and I want you to know that it’s Ok. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: there’s no heat at my school. Yeah, that’s right. Budget cuts.

The windchill’s 33 right now. Winds are registering at 20 mph.

Baby, it’s cold outside.

And inside, too. I’m certainly not in Florida anymore.

It’s time for another cup of tea.


November 11, 2010. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Foreigner’s Day

Irony is a live and well here in Korea, as am I.

I meant to blog about this earlier but… yeah.

Saturday marked the 9th anniversary of September 11th. While Americans around the world remembered the tragedy, Korea lightened the mood by declaring it “Foreigner Day.” And nothing says “foreign” like a soccer game, a pint of beer, and a hotdog for 10,000 won (currently $8.60). Unfortunately it poured all day long so my foreignness went unappreciated. So it goes.

September 15, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

No need to call PETA, it’s just Korea

Koreans love their dogs.

Although, it’s true the older generation still loves to eat them. They’re the primary ingredient in Bosintang, or dog soup. Apparently the protein’s supposed to be beneficial in helping Koreans overcome the summer heat. It’s also believed to give men a little extra stamina in the bedrooms. Or the brothels. Prostitution is alive and well over here and very, very prevalent.

But I digress.

My generation, along with half of my parents’ generation, is anti-dog soup because they’re the perfect accessory a la Paris Hilton and the craze to tote around five pound dogs in your purse. Koreans also love to dye them. Yes, dye them.

Reason #453890 why I love Korea

If I had a tail, I’d dye it pink, too.

August 21, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

No more teachers, No more books.

Hello, my friends and family. I apologize for the blog neglect but never fear, I’m back, anxious and eager to provide you with glimpses of my new life.

Summer vacation officially begins on Tuesday. Unlike America, this is not an end of the year celebration and I will not be returning to new classes of charming little fifth and sixth graders. The Korean school system begins around March. The first term ends around mid-July for six weeks and picks back up again for a winter semester at the beginning of September. It’s a bit fuzzy after that. I believe January is a month of winter vacation. The students return to school in February for 16 days and then receive a week off for spring break before beginning a new school year around March 1st. I mentioned it before in my teaching post but once again, the dates are approximate because each school determines its own calendar. I have a few friends in the area who begin summer vacation today (lucky ducks).

Needless to say, I’m ready for a break. My kids are driving me crazy. My co-teacher is driving me crazy. The curriculum is driving me crazy. Maybe I’m just going crazy. Which could be true. Here are a couple of video clips I’m forced to make my students watch and worse yet, ask them questions about.

Yes, children, this is how we clap in America.

I like holding green onions like a sword, too.

Call me old fashioned but I tend to wait until the second date to ask about the room-especially if the Australian sounds like an American.

I bet you wouldn’t be too surprised to learn that the English curriculum was developed entirely by Koreans. It was never even proof-read by foreigners. Lord have mercy, if only you could see the teacher’s manual. No wonder they have to fly inexperienced native speakers to assist in the classrooms.

July 16, 2010. Uncategorized. 2 comments.

If only I had a penny for every wrong I’ve made in Korea… Committing faux pas #6398545.

I got in trouble at school today. It appears that I have offended the Korean moms. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to recover- this is serious business.

The day began like any other. I show up to my classroom fashionably late and commence my morning routine of turning on the electrical equipment, opening windows, and preparing for first period. My co-teacher enters the classroom and we exchange our obligatory script-like formalities. I recite my new Korean sentences I memorized the previous night and she responds by detailing the responsibilities of a crossing guard in broken English.

Confusion is an understatement.

Five minutes later, she’s still going on about crossing guards and I’m still trying to figure out why. She grabs a marker and starts drawing pictures on the dry erase board to further illustrate her explanations. Apparently, I’m missing the point. No kidding. I finally tell her we have crossing guards that do the same thing in the United States, too, but in neon instead of high heels.  She’s baffled.

And then the truth comes out. Apparently a couple of Korean moms TEXTED the principal and told him I didn’t understand the crosswalk system, that I must wait until the crossing guard (aka Korean mom) blows her whistle before I can transverse the narrow one way alley and enter my school.

I kindly explained that I always mind the crossing guards in the presence of children but that as a 25 years old (Korean age), I am fully capable of  walking the 10 feet to the entrance of my school without a whistle and a flag.

My principal brought it up again at lunch. I will now wait for the whistle and apologize to the mothers.

I wish they taught this stuff in college.

June 30, 2010. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

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