November 30, 2008

I worked through most of October: the post-Silleuksa YES programs

The 4th Program (our second): Sports Day

From the left: Sue-bin Kim (now a friend of ours), Ms. Park, Me, Jihye (John's co-teacher)

This time at Yeoju English Stars we simply went to a local elementary school and played sports with the kids all day long. I thought it would be lame but I ended up having a ton of fun goofing around with the kids. Not to mention the excellent company - we were with a group of people who had become our friends and also some of our favorite Korean English teachers (including my co-teacher this time!) I'd say the highlight was listening to John and Billy commentate on the final event of the day, a "mission relay" race in which the groups raced each other around a giant "track" completing tasks at each station they encountered. At my station, I made little kids get dizzy and then carry a cup of water and dump it it in a bucket a few yards away. This was not my idea but I kind of wished it had been - the little kids looked like the drunken Korean men I see around all the time. Hahaha! But whenever I was waiting to instruct the kids, I was laughing, too: Billy is ridiculous! He got up on the mike and did not stop talking for the entire relay. Eventually John joined him and it got even funnier. They started asking each other questions like, "Billy, do you think the weather will play a factor in this race?" And Billy answered, "John, that is a great question. I wish I had thought of it. Maybe we can get someone down on the ground to answer that for us....Hey Mya! What's the weather like down there?" Haha....that was the most sense Billy made, I think. The rest was just actually ridiculousness. For example: "I don't know that you could call this a relay, John. It's more of a....a, um, I mean I guess it is a relay."

Earlier we tried to teach the kids how to play American football, with limited success. However, it did give me a chance to bond with one of my students (I think he was the only one from Daeshin in the program). His name is E Ju Ho, but we all know him as T.O., after the professional football player. The kid rocked at the game! He was so good! Now he signs all his papers T.O., which is kind of adorable.

We also had the opportunity to enact a devious plan to give our friend Rob a nickname we had concocted days earlier: Lob the Lobster! The best part about this nickname is that it works at least 2 ways. The first is making fun of the Koreans because they cannot say their r's unless they're supposed to be pronouncing an "l". The second is making fun of Rob because he dropped a game-winning touchdown pass despite having been a tight end on the Bills practice squad. Oh man it was too good: he now has a lobster claw hand gesture to go with his fancy new nickname.

The 1st Annual YES English Festival

Okay, the long and short of this is as follows:

Every single foreign teacher in Yeoju had to come up with an activity to do in a booth they would be given for this festival. The luckier of us 1) were given more than twenty minutes to figure out what we were going to do and 2) didn't have our brilliant ideas shut down by our co-teachers more than twice.

Then, they wanted a performance out of us. Since it was to be held in mid-October, we ordered a bunch of Halloween costumes and put on a fashion show and did some skits. I was a bunny rabbit, and John was Batman.

It ended up being a decent amount of fun, despite the fact that, due to co-teachers with a decidedly "can't do" attitude, my idea of finger-painting devolved into playing word games and John's idea to make slime eventually became a water balloon toss. And, I actually enjoyed hopping across the stage like a big goofball. When John's turn came around, he carried a South African he had just met across the stage. I kid you not, there was a resultant photo opp. with Batman after the show. Haha, ohhh John.

John and one of his pets having fun at his water balloon booth.

Alex and her co-teacher, Sojung.


Me as a bunny, before I made my bunny ears.

The legendary John as Batman. Oooh this lady made me mad. Who does she think she is? Hahaha.

Two of my pets. The first is the infamous T.O. (real name: E Ju Ho), a first grader, and the second is a third-grader, whose name I always forget.

It's the teacher's turn! I taught some other English teachers how to play Halli Galli, which was one of the games at my booth. The Korean sitting on the left is Gwak Juhwan who I've mentioned previously. He teaches at Daeshin High School and has been an invaluable friend to me at work. Next is Marcelle, the South African who teaches English at John's High School, and then on the right there is Wilber (yes, with an "-er") who teaches English at Daeshin High School. If you're wondering about the toilet paper, you should know that often Koreans will carry it around with them. That's because it's not uncommon to find a bathroom with no toilet paper at all, plus they use it instead of tissues.

...And one more for the road!:

The 5th Program: Gyeongbokgung

My group and me outside the throne room.

Gyeongbok Palace is the royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty and it's located right in the heart of Seoul; that is, if Seoul had a heart. There's no real downtown to Seoul. There are just different areas named after notable streets. (oh man, it occurs to me that this is pretty ironic considering Koreans don't use street names - they use landmarks) But the point is, it's this giant palace hanging out in the midst of a metropolis.

To be honest, this program was a bit of bust. We were all busy and tired when we very hurriedly planned it, and then it was raining and freezing cold on the actual day. But the palace was amazing, and I was working with a co-teacher who loves to take pictures so now I have some action shots of John and me teaching. Hooray!

Still in the middle of Seoul.

John, teaching away.

The gate.

The throne room.

The party house.

Outside the palace complex and next to the National Folk Museum of Korea. Cuties!
A screen displayed inside the museum. Beautiful, huh?

Jewelry for your hair.

Dragons and phoenixes....awesome.

Alex on the bus. Also awesome.

And now YES is over until next fall! It's too bad, really - we had fun and made extra money - but it's nice to have our weekends back.


One random weekend John and I didn't have any plans so we decided to see a little more of the country. We picked a place called Cheongju, a city in in the middle of Korea, where a martial arts festival was supposed to be going on. When we got there we found out the festival was actually in Cheonju, a place I was deathly afraid we'd end up because the Koreans have such a hard time understanding our mispronunciations. Haha, funny how things work out, eh? Anyway, after spending 2 hours trying to find the city bus terminal so we could get to downtown (it took that long because we were following a map that didn't make any turns out the city bus terminal doesn't really exist), we finally found some people who told us that there is no bus terminal besides the one where we were and that a taxi ride costs the same as the bus, anyway. HA!

The taxi took us to the major shopping area of the city where we walked around observing all kinds of interesting things on our hunt for a place to eat. (please see "Funny Korea" entry) We didn't find a restaurant, but we DID find some Americans! If you're wondering, often times foreigners will say hello to each other when they see one another here because foreign strangers outside of Seoul are such a rare occurrence. Anyway, it was this really nice girl called Heidi who was showing a newbie around town. Incidentally, they were on their way to dinner.

We ate at a place called Kraze Burgers (aka Expensive Mediocre Burgers) and learned that Heidi only had three weeks left here in Korea. I think it was strange for both parties to meet someone on opposite ends of the journey. Heidi was sort of thrown back to her first few weeks when she was just starting to figure things out but was nowhere near feeling comfortable; whereas we had a glimpse of the future as we listened to someone who'd been here for a year reflect out loud on her time in Korea. We could see ourselves a year from then: comfortable with our situations in Korea, and sad to leave, but incredibly excited to go back.

The four of us (the newbie came with, too) went out for some drinks afterward. Heidi took us to the major foreigner bars where we drank Western beers and played foosball.....what a trip that was! It was our first time in a place that reminded us even remotely of home. It was a good time, and the best part was that Heidi had a place for us to sleep so we saved some money and another experience at the jimjilbang. Plus, she gave us some recommendations for what to do the next day since the martial arts festival was a no-go (and showed us where to pick up the bus!!)

We ended up at a sweet fortress in the outskirts of town and then made a quick stop at nearby low-budget zoo (had to get my tiger fix). It was a gorgeous hike around the ancient wall and in general a really great way to spend a Sunday - maybe even greater than watching the tail end of a martial arts festival.

Check out the pics:

A view of the city. This street is just off the big shopping area. Aren't the lights cool? Look how far down they go!

Here's a part of the cool fortress/wall we walked around. The roof-dealy is one of the gates into the fortress.

The fortress was a short walk from the park entrance. I felt the need to hang on this tree (who wouldn't?) and John thought it was a good photo opp. I don't know, I think I look pretty awkward. Haha.

On the wall...

Different people, same gorgeous view.

Here it is again, just a bit down the trail:

Classic. This is one of my favorite photos ever.

One of the gates. John dramatically opens the doors, and I graciously see you out. (In real life, those doors can't be moved.)

Posted as per John's request. This is a classic Korean canine - itty bitty, dirty, and wearing clothes. haha oh man. love it.

Dad, John thinks you'd like this picture, so it's on here.
I think it's pretty cheesy. I haven't looked this 90s since I was in middle school and it actually was the 90s. But enjoy!


I set up that sweet shot above, and John thought of this awesome action shot. Good team effort, I'd say.

We found these plywood cutouts at the gate at the end of our journey and had some fun with them.

The Zoo:

First, we were all excited about getting to see some tigers and stuff. Then, we saw how bad of a zoo it was and it made us sad. We still had no problem enjoying ourselves for a while, though.

(That's me putting on my sad face.)

A big grizzly putting on his grizzly-face.

And then John putting on his ridiculous-face!

Less dignified than a monkey....More intense than a leopard. Bahahaha, I will cherish these photos forever.

Then the way the animals were kept really started to get to me. Those cages aren't very big, and there are FIVE tigers in there. FIVE.
Do you see the expression on my face? Can't even smile properly. That might explain why I nearly exploded on the bus ride back to downtown. The bus was absolutely packed, as in, to the point where the bus couldn't allow any more passengers. So almost everyone was standing up, holding onto the rail up top and trying to be as small as possible. Everyone except this one guy - this one older Korean man who was between me and the rail, and who I was pushed up against. He had both his hands on the rail, spread wide apart, and was standing at arm's length from it not trying to be small at all. Additionally, he actually moved backwards away from the rail and into me at one point in the ride. I was mad enough that he was being so inconsiderate, but when he moved his body up against mine so much that we could have been snuggling had we been horizontal, I nearly lost it. I was angry already, but I got just plain upset when he was touching me so much that I felt violated. Gah. It still makes me angry to think of it. Poor John had to deal with my rather perturbed self all the way back to Yeoju.

November 26, 2008

Funny Korea!

Here are some images of things that keep us going during the dark times:

Bathroom signs in Shannon and Billy's apartment building. What exactly are they trying to do here? Get behind the sign?

Lotteria is the Korean McDonald's (even though there's McDonald's here, too). This is a glorious burger wrapper. Injoy!

John's favorite new socks. This is only a taste of what they sell in large numbers on the sidewalk.
On the left there is a ghost panda complete with cape and jack-o-lantern, and on the right is a badass monkey pimped out with his bling.


Juice I got from a vending machine. See the little white squares in the sky? Those were in the drink, too.


There's my nametag!


These are nothing more than giant-headed mannequins we saw in Cheongju.

A clever ruse.......discreetly sticking a Negro Modelo on a Corona ad....sheesh.

Why is there a suit of armor in McDonald's?

Dig that bandana-under-the-hat look.

Yes, it IS a couple wearing matching sweatshirts. Couples wear the same clothes all the time here, actually. And the men wear man purses.


aHAHAHAhaha are you serious!? This is at Yangmoon-san, where I went with John and some of his teachers/vice-principal for a short hike.

You don't even know......there are so many even funnier things we don't take pictures of. Oh wait, sorry Uncle Joe! I mean: "of which we don't take pictures." heehee.