Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hello? Is anyone (still) out there?

Wow! It's been a while since I've posted. So long, in fact, that I decided to start a whole new blog. There's an Evil Jenniferteacher out there (not to be confused with Evil Jen), so I couldn't just move over here as Jennifer Teacher. (Note: Actual evilness unproven. Mostly she just has my name.) My *plan* is for this to be a new and improved blog, so 2.0 seemed about right. By new and improved, of course, I mean old and unimproved-- the regularity and enthusiasm for blogging I had in the early (and mid) days of the original blog.

A lot has happened since my posts petered off into nothingness. I won't bore you with the details. I'll just say that most, if not all, of it has made my life happier. If you want to catch up on my daily, or at least weekly, life in the last year or so, you can read about how I've spent most of my weekends and some of my mid-weeks here.

I've just gotten back from my summer holidays, and, unlike my most recent post promising holiday highlights and photos, these will actually get posted. I've written an absurd amount, so I need to pare it down to a length that won't make readers fling themselves out a window to escape.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fireworks and Football

I realize I haven't written about my awesome trip to Thailand to see Stephanie, but those photos are at home, and my students are taking standardized Korean tests all morning, so I've got a bit of free time. Sure, I've got some journals to mark, but that's not nearly as fun.

This past weekend, Craig and I headed down to Pusan (Busan if you're new to Korea or Fusan if you're really old) for the FA Cup final between Suwon and Pusan. I didn't get around to booking the tickets until mid-week, so left with the choices of 7am or 10:20am, I went with the latter.

We got into town around 1:30 and headed toward our Saturday destination: Gwangalli Beach, which was having a fireworks festival. After the longest cab ride I've ever had that didn't begin with me taking the wrong bus to parts unknown, we arrived at a strip of sand which seemed to have been named "beach" by the same folks that have labeled every hill in Korea a "mountain". At any rate, we were ready for lunch and could see the ocean, so some seafood seemed in order. I was cold, of course, so I wanted soup.

So, the local Nolbu Budaejjigae seemed a decent choice. I don't eat spam, so budaejjigae wasn't an option (to me, anyway, I think Craig was game). Fortunately, they had dak kalbi with seafood. Not soup, I know, but warm, delicious, and containing seafood, so it met our requirements. It turned out to be a great choice. There were mussels, shrimp, and baby octopi aplenty. I went for the first two and generously saved the cephalopods for Craig. I have agreed to try san nakji with him, but no need to rush things.

Once we'd eaten until we were ready to hibernate, we braved the cold once more in search of a room. The one place we'd looked at before lunch had posted a sign announcing they were booked up. Fortunately, one street back from the beach was all yogwans, so we were confident we wouldn't be sleeping on the sand. As soon as we saw some people standing on a roof, we knew where to check next: the Hilton/ Hill Top (depending on which sign you read). They had a room, and so we were set. Of course, once we saw what our (by which, I mean, Craig's) 100k had bought, it wasn't much of a mystery why they still had rooms available.

Yep, that's a round bed. See that thing that looks like a mattress pad? Under there was enough hair that it looked like someone had cleaned their brush. We slept on top of the covers.

After our eventful morning of sitting on the train and eating lunch, we were ready for a little rest. So, in the early evening we set out to find a place to sit and enjoy the fireworks. Since people had already been staking out their territory before we had lunch several hours earlier, we thought we might have a fair task in front of us. As it turned out, most places had reserved all their good seats. So we ended up at a "beer garden" (the sidewalk in front of a bar that had been roped off and set up with lawn furniture) which was offering their tables for 150k at the lower level or 200k on the deck. We went for the lower level, and this is what we got:

Well, that plus one more pitcher of beer. Yes, that's two glasses you see. I helped Craig by having half a glass of beer. I live on the edge, I know. I hope he doesn't think I'm a lush now... Being a more adventurous eater than I, Craig tried a bite of the dduk kalbi (my kids complain bitterly when they have to eat it at lunch, so I wasn't too tempted, even with the honey mustard sauce). One bite was enough for him, and we picked at the fries until they were nearly refrozen in the night air. We ended up leaving the soju in our yogwan fridge-- something to help the next occupants overlook the standard of housekeeping. The Pepsi and Cider we left behind, because who would even drink that for free?

After a couple of hours, it was time for the main event: fireworks. By this time, the beach, the road, and the sidewalk had been filled to capacity to the point that the entire waitstaff was standing guard pushing the rabble out of the roped off area. Meanwhile, we sat in comfort (I was even lent a blanket by the bar).

After a pitcher or so of Korea's finest ale, I don't think Craig was feeling the cold as much as I was.

The fireworks were launched from barges literally right off the coast, probably less that 100 yards or so from the beach. They were also launched quite low, so most of them seemed to be right over our heads. We had planned to meet another group of people, but at the last minute, they decided to watch the show from Haeundae Beach. I haven't had a chance to confirm my suspicions that the fireworks were not nearly so spectacular from even that short distance.

It's kind of dark, but you can see the ropes the hoi polloi are jammed up against, as well as how low the fireworks were. From my seat, I missed some of them completely, because they were aimed to line up under the bridge right off the coast.

The grand finale seemed a little like someone had a look at their watch and realized they had run over time. All in all a good show and a good time was had by all, or at least the two of us, with chairs, food and drink, room to breathe, and a blanket. :-)

The real reason we had gone down south was for the FA Cup final, which didn't start until late Sunday afternoon. So, we whiled away the morning with some cultural pursuits, namely the Pusan Museum followed by a stroll around the UN Cemetery. As it turned out, it was UN Day or some such, and we arrived just as a group of important-looking military officers were gathering for a ceremony.

If we'd stayed longer, we might have seen a 21-gun salute. We left just as they were playing the Korean national anthem, and headed to our final destination: the soccer ground.

Since the World Cup and the many new facilities built for it, the host cities mostly have at least two soccer stadiums (stadia?) now. We had a bit of luck and arrived at the correct one on the first try. Upon arrival, we were offered free tickets. After seeing Seongnam for free earlier in the week, I was feeling a bit spoiled and happy to be a foreigner.

After not meeting up with the other group the night before, I was looking forward to seeing them at the game. About five minutes after kick off, I got a panicked call from my coworker which I could barely hear over the announcements and cheering crowd. I thought I heard, "My friend is dead. He's coughing up so much blood." I later learned that one of the guys in the group had had more than his share of refreshments and in his haste to get to a bathroom, he tried to jump across a partition and fell several stories. He survived, but needless to say, they spent the game at the hospital, where he is now recovering.

Our outing was much less eventful. We had also planned to meet up with a guy Craig sometimes goes to matches with-- you know, ones he wants to watch with someone a bit more knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the game. He arrived late, though, and ended up on a different tier than we were on. So, despite initial plans to watch the match with ten other people, we ended up on our own.

We headed back to the station after the awarding of the various medals and the cup and I got home with six hours to spare before my school day started.

Edit: I'm not sure why the photos suddenly disappeared, but I'm trying to fix it.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

It has been brought to my attention (repeatedly) that I haven't updated my blog since May. I would say I've been busy, but really I haven't been busier than usual.

The semester came to a rather rushed conclusion, filled with field trips, "experiences"-- to use the Korean teachers' lingo, and swimming and dance lessons. I have some video of the latter which I may post, if I get around to it.

I stayed here for the summer and it was pretty quiet and routine for the most part. As I *may* have mentioned, I live in an old house with "creative" wiring. So, I don't have AC. Summer in Korea is hot and humid and fans don't always cut it, even for cold-natured freaks like myself. So, a fair amount of my vacation was spent reading at Starbucks. I live on the edge, I know.

Mama and Anne came to visit and that was fun. We read at Starbucks together for a week. :-) They missed their flight out, because it was outrageously overbooked, so we made it to Insa-dong and they did a little shopping. Since I was able to stock back up on socks with pictures of crap piles on them, it wasn't a wasted trip for me, either.

The night they were supposed to leave, I stayed out all night. Mama tried not to seem shocked. Hehehe. I felt like a middle-aged rebel.

That was pretty much the high point of my vacation: shocking my mother.

I also did a lot of other stuff, that I would normally think about doing, but then punk out at the last minute. I've been seeing someone for three months now and he not only makes plans (which I'm good at), he does them (which I'm not so good at). If you want to read about all of the baseball and soccer games I've been to, look here. He wrote about the 17 km coastal hike which I managed to both survive and enjoy, too. I will admit that my favorite part was the hotel room with a giant window overlooking the beach, though.

Sorry this is such a boring post, but four months is a lot to cover, so Cliff Notes it is. At this point I should probably make my usual promises to post more regularly... I will at the very least try to get a couple pictures posted.

I haven't been knitting much. I've been into lace lately, and I need peace and quiet to knit it without making a ton of mistakes, so no subway knitting for me. With Craig living all the way across Seoul, that's a lot of knitting time that I haven't been able to make use of. I got an iPod Touch on my Chuseok holiday in Thailand and I've been watching TV instead. Yes, highly productive use of my time.

I suppose I should follow up this post with one on my trip to Thailand. I probably will... I signed a lease yesterday on a fine home in HBC aka the foreign ghetto, so I should write a little post with some photos so you can see how charming and cozy it is. I think those are the proper real estate euphemisms for old and small.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Why I Love Korea #295

You never know when you'll be treated to a bit of street theater.

This morning, I was on my way to work, just a blah Monday morning, when I came upon today's surprise performance: an ajosshi fight. When I came around the corner of the grocery store next to my school, I saw the dwarfish, slightly slow man that sweeps the delivery area pulling a man in a suit off a delivery driver (OK, I'm not sure he was the driver, but there was a truck and he looked truckerish). The man in the suit was clearly walking his very young daughter to her bus stop. He started to walk away, but then changed his mind and came back to yell at the guy for a bit. If I were Karl, I would have stopped to record it, but they were yelling and being pulled off each other and I have kids to teach.

I have to say, seeing that girl, I felt a bit robbed. My dad was a golden gloves champ, but I never got to see him stop on the street to fight some random guy. Hmmm... my family is campaigning to get me to move back home, maybe I can negotiate something... but I digress.

My point is, even on a drizzly Monday morning, you never know what to expect when you are out and about in Korea. Maybe you'll see a group of teenage boys waiting for the bus with their arms around each other looking like they are posing for a hair product ad. Maybe you'll see a group of ajjumas fighting to be the first in a shop when it opens. And maybe, if you're lucky, you'll see a dad in a suit get pulled of a much-larger working class guy by a slightly oversized dwarf. :-)

Happy Monday!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Blades of Blood

is a new Korean film starring that guy with the vampire canines that does all of the commercials that Jang Dong Gun doesn't do. I'm sure he has a name, but I just think of him as "Teeth."

Anyway, it was a historical drama from the time of Lee Sung Shin. Usually, I only hear about him and what a godlike man he was, what with the turtle ships and all. This movie only mentioned him in passing and focused on the political drama going on at the time. So, I that was my favorite part. I'm not sure what percentage of the movie was historically accurate (the political stuff, I mean, not the main plot lines), but it was good. There was a completely unnecessary storyline with a gisaeng, but I'm sure someone thought the movie could use a pretty face.

Spoiler alert: the movie has a very depressing ending and there is a lot of blood (first decapitation happens within about the first 5 minutes. Notice I said "first.") Overall, I'd recommend it, though.

It's showing at Yongsan CGV with subtitles and presumably select other locations have subtitles, as well.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

No Sleepy Sunday for You!

Promptly at 7:00 AM the heavy equipment got rolling. When I got home last night, an excavator had been parked for the night on the side of my house, but it was too dark to get a good shot. So, I'll let today's photos of my gate and from my gate suffice. Note: objects are exactly as close as they appear.

In order to actually go through the gate, I've got to step over all of the rusty pipes being replaced. Hopefully, they will take those with them today... I didn't get a picture this morning, but when I went out, there was an open pipe coming out from under my bathroom. Nice-uh. I can only hope that it is the shower drain, and that it has now been attached to something.

Monday evening update: The pipes are laid and covered with dirt. Hopefully asphalt will follow tomorrow. The heavy equipment and pipes are no longer surrounding my house, but the workers are still here. They were yelling at the teenage girls to stop talking so loudly as I walked up the street on the way in from work. Pretty rich coming from men using jackhammers and excavators at 7AM on a Sunday. I also noticed that a small chunk of the side of the house has been knocked out. Fortunately, it's just cosmetic. And not my property. :-)

Saturday evening update: After a short period on Friday during which I was trapped in the house, because a ditch had been created, equipment was blocking the gate, and safety lines had been erected to prevent crossing the ditch, had I been able to catapult over the gate (since I couldn't open it). My landlord to the rescue: he came and yelled at the construction guys and they poured the cement and covered it with dirt within about two hours.

I'm not sure what they got done today, because it pretty much looks exactly the same. I did see worshipers trying to leave the temple next door this morning faced with the same ditch. So, the workers are slowly moving down the street, but they can't possibly be done, so I'm not sure why they moved on.

I've also noticed that other houses had larger chunks knocked off the bottom edge by the excavators. I wonder if any of them will get compensated...

Tomorrow, I'll try to get a shot of the street as it currently looks. Due to the widening, the electric poles are now in the middle of the street. Nice-uh. I've seen too many concrete barriers get taken out by cars trying to get on (or off) the sidewalks to think that those skinny little poles are long for this world.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Open Class survived, now on to Field Day

Last week, I had Open Classes for the parents to observe me in action. For the past while, I've had increasing issues with the chattiness of the class. Of course, for the Open Class, you might have thought they had taken vows of silence. The other 4th grade teacher and I had planned what we thought the parents would like to see: reading, speaking, and writing in one class. The reading was limited to phrases (the students were given cards with phrases on them to hang on the wall to match to the correct category) and the writing was a group effort on the board. The speaking was a non-starter. No one wanted to risk making a mistake in front of their parents. Later, my partner teacher told me that the parents would have liked the kids to play a game. Seriously? I don't recall playing too many games in elementary school, and am pretty sure my mother wouldn't have taken that as a sign of good learning going on if she had come to observe.

That was last week. This week, we will have a Field Day on Saturday. All day. 8:30-3:30. To "prepare", we are taking the first 90 minutes of school each day this week to practice. The students have to stretch and then practice the prescribed cheers and hand jive. The stretching is clearly a routine they know well, which is a good thing, because when we got started yesterday, I found out that I was supposed to lead my class. I "led" by watching what my students were doing. The students also had to practice a relay race which was run by two teams made up of one boy and one girl from each class. There are about 20 classes. By the end, I felt like I was watching a marathon.

Tomorrow, the kids have midterms, so I won't have any classes. One of the moms will come to proctor, so I just have to sit here quietly. Next week, we only have a full day on Monday. Tuesday, we have Children's Day ceremony, then the rest of the week off for Children's Day.

I like time off as much as the next person, but I've got a lot of material to get through this year, and I'm already skimming over most things far more than I would like.