Posted by Jordan
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My family has a long standing tradition of reading Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol aloud every year, sometime in December. It's quite a good tradition, so we decided to continue it... with Mathew, by fishlight. We ordered pizza, made some fresh-out-of-the-juicer apple cider, lit our fake fire (and some real candles), and had a very good time.

Party in Jeonju

30 Nov 2008
Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

Yesterday, Jordan and I had the pleasure of being invited by my co-teacher Ms Park to her home in Jeonju. We met her and her carpool at my school around 12:30 (since all the Korean have school on Saturday for some reason, apparently they just have clubs on Saturday). Jeonju is about an hour drive from Gunsan and there are three teachers, including Ms Park, who share the commute everyday. We got dropped off at Ms Park's new apartment (very large) and then left with her daughter for lunch. Her daughter is currently in the midst of applying to Seoul National University (the Harvard of Korea) and if she gets in, Ms Park is going to have a big party. I have it on good authority that the daughter (her name was never disclosed) is very smart, always at the top of her class, so I guess she has a good shot.

We went to lunch in the downtown at a Vietnamese restaurant. At first we thought she was taking us to a "vitamin house," but eventually figured out that she meant Vietnamese. I guess foreigners like Vietnamese food (we like it quite a lot) so she took us there. Jeonju is about twice the size of Gunsan, and so has luxuries like Vietnamese food. We had some very tasty noodles and dim sum (although dim sum is Chinese....) and then took a little walk around the downtown. We have become very curious since visiting Matthew and now Jeonju to find our downtown because everywhere we have visited has had very nice pedestrian only shopping districts with lots of exciting things. So one of these days we must venture out and see if we can find the Gunsan downtown.

Eating Out

The day was completely freezing despite having started out as a warm day, so we hustled through our next tour of the traditional village in Jeonju. It was a very cute place with lots of traditional houses filled with shops, restaurants and museums, as well as some really old buildings that were once the spiritual capital of the Joseon dynasty. The first king of this dynasty came from Jeonju, so it has a bit of fame. It was really cold though, so we hurried back after a little tour to Ms Park's house.

Jeonju 20

She had just moved apartments about a week ago, but her home looked remarkably organized, and she gave us a pleased tour of her very large apartment. It makes our apartment look like tiny place. I also saw the kimchi fridge, where the family keeps their year's supply of kimchi. Apparently all Koreans have a kimchi fridge, I don't know where ours is, and since it's kimchi making time, they are all full to bursting. At dinner we were able to taste both fresh kimchi and fermented kimchi made by Ms Park's mother, which was much better than the stuff we're served at school. Apparently over 20 seasonings go into the kimchi when it's being prepared, so there's a big range in taste. Since Jordan liked the kimchi so much, we were sent home with a large quantity of our own to put in our normal fridge, since we don't have a kimchi fridge. The phenomena of kimchi is quite amazing. Who would think that there would be a whole race of people completely addicted to eating at every single meal spicy, fermented cabbage. If you told me I had to eat spicy, fermented cabbage at every meal for the rest of my life I would think it was a severe punishment. But to the Koreans, a day without kimchi is like a day without air, unthinkable.

Ms Park had determined that she would teach me how to cook like a Korean, so I helped her with dinner. Although many of the things seemed to have been premade by her mother and we just dumped them into a pot. So, I guess I have to convince my mom to come over and start making things so that I can cook like a Korean. We made a tasty chicken stew, and some beef bulgogi (which I think is a mushroom sauce). I also made a salad and we roasted some hot dogs (which I think were just there for me and Jordan, but there was so much food we could hardly eat it). The highlights of the dinner were probably either when I started flinging food around with my chopsticks (despite my normal ability to eat like a normal person with them) or when Jordan thought the teapot full of Soju (watered down vodka) was water. Jordan also proved his manliness to everyone at the table by eating the hot peppers that Mr Park was eating (we call him Mr Park because he was never introduced to us beyond being Ms Park's husband, and I don't actually think women change their name upon marriage here, but for want of something to call him we call him Mr Park). After eating the first spicy pepper, Ms Park had to find the even hotter peppers in the freezer, to give Jordan the ultimate test. Luckily for me, I think being a girl keeps me from having to partake in such manly contests, as no one but Jordan thought I should taste the pepper. And since Jordan puts on such a good show with his pepper eating, I didn't want to ruin it by having a panic when I ate one.

Ms Park had invited over her English teacher friend as well, so we passed a very pleasant evening discussing many different things, from Michael Jackson and Obama, to the phrase "who cut the cheese" (which apparently Jordan has never heard, please tell him this is weird). All the English teachers here like talking to us because we are very easy to understand (thanks to our Midwest upbringing I always tell them) unlike the newscasters on CNN whom they can't understand. It was a very nice, relaxing evening, aside from my flying food, and Ms Park has determined that next time we come we will spend the night in her extra bedroom and we will teach her to make pizza.

This is a secret video that Jordan took of the cooking excitement while loafing on the couch.

To see more picture from the trip, visit the album at flickr.

Visiting Chungju

26 Nov 2008
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

This last weekend we decided to go visit Matthew Fisher in Chungju, instead of cleaning our apartment, or buying bookshelves for our apartment... or setting up picture frames in our apartment. Or crafting floral arrangements for our apartment. The trip started out a bit, well, painfully, as the stomach issues which I had been dealing with the night before (I'm not sure my system agrees with any amount of Soju, as both times I've had it I've felt ill the next day) cropped up as soon as we got on the bus, but all things ended well.

Chungju Visit

As you can see on the map we traveled northeast, traversing about half of the width of Korea, and roughly a third of the length. The bus trip took about 5 hours total, which included many stops and a short layover; a straight shot by car would probably be under two hours if you didn't hit traffic in the cities. We returned by train in about 4 hours, with two layovers. Both trips were about 18,000 Won a person, which, with the currency doing so poorly at the moment, translates into $12.50 USD.

Photos from our trip can be seen in the slide show below, or by visiting our flickr album.

We got in Saturday afternoon and spent the night at Matthew's, on our camping mats. Chungju is beautiful (nestled by mountains on all sides), so we had a nice walk around the place. One of the highlights of the trip was getting to play board games and drink gingerale with a couple of Matthew's expatriot friends (one of whom is of course named Matt); I had been on boardgame withdrawal for several weeks.

Anyway, here's a little video from our walk. The free exercise equipment appears to be a standard Korea lakeside feature.

Dinner With Landlords

16 Nov 2008
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

Last night our landlords took us out to eat; a very nice family with two boys aged five and seven. They took us to Mr. Pizza in the new downtown area of Gunsan. The food was delicious: we had Kimchi and Seafood spaghetti, all-you-can-eat salad bar (which included crab), and a deluxe seafood pizza with crab and other goodies overflowing the crust.. All the waiters at Mr. Pizza wore headbands with crabs bouncing around on little springs, and the place's motto was interestingly "Love For Women"... we never figured out why. After the dinner we took a walk down Gunsan's beautifully-lit pedestrian bridge (crosses over the lake that is near our house). Check out the pictures of the bridge in our photo album.

Bridge Night Lights 01

PS: One of the interesting things in Korea is that you are expected to share, even at restaurants, which means that they've got no problem with two people sharing one all-you-can-eat salad bar dish, or a free-refills glass of Cola (they'll bring you two straws!). I'm sure my dad would think this was great; if he were here I could see him ordering one dish and one glass of Coke for our family of six to share.

I Do Love Miss Doo

03 Nov 2008
Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

Today begins the first week of real school for me.  Last week I was just going around introducing myself and not really doing a whole lot.  Today I actually had to teach something.  It has so far been quite easy.  The school wants me to teach pretty much directly out of their (somewhat sketchy) textbook.  So last week I learned what page we were on in order to read through the page we covered today.  The only tricky part proved to be that some of the questions are in Korean, which of course means nothing to me.  Ms Park, my co-teacher said, "it's okay you can guess what it means." Of course when I did that and determined the question to be "which statements are true" she informed me that I was wrong.  The question, it turns out, was which statement is false.  

Despite my inability to guess exactly, the lessons today have gone quite smoothly.  Monday and Tuesdays I have first years (seventh grade) with Miss Doo.  Miss Doo is definitely my favorite teacher.  She never leaves me standing awkwardly at the front of the class, she tells me what to do, she lets me leave early to go have a rest.  She just rushed in during lunch to turn the somewhat flimsy pictures I had prepared for class into a real, laminated teaching tool.  So I will feel extra prepared for this afternoon's class.  

The students were surprisingly quiet.  After my experiences last week, I was ready for the worst.  But they were quiet while we, the teachers, were talking and they dutifully repeated after me as I read through the lesson (Our Hopes and Dreams).  When it came time for the group work, some of them were more or less on task, or at least appeared to be when I walked by them (although I expect they had just grabbed the book and started saying the phrase we were working on, "what does your father do," in order to appear like they were busy).  Between Miss Doo and I we did eventually get them all to write down various hopes and dreams.  From my rounds it seems that most student's fathers are businessmen, while their mothers are housekeepers.  The students themselves ranged from wanting to be an astronaut to nothing, including a couple singers, a baseball manager, a fashion designer and an astronomer.  

I have one more class and then a conversation class this afternoon with a few "specially selected" students.  I haven't done this yet, so I'm not sure what to expect.