Wednesday, December 30, 2009

High School

I used to think high school was really, really hard. My Freshman year, Mrs. Coyle told us we had to write a five paragraph essay, I thought, "Oh, what agony! Who could ever write a paper that length?" I moaned; I kicked my feet; I complained constantly; I completed it. Looking back, I think this experience was why I later had to write multiple 20 page papers and an eventual thesis (which, I might add, can be checked out of the Graduate Theological Union's library for no cost for all of you people who are salivating over a chance to adore my writing for 80 and some odd pages...the line forms behind...well, me. Oh, you've read it? Wow! Wasn't it great?)

My point here is not to brag about my accomplishments, (but isn't it funny how I still managed to sneak them in there? That's a little trick I've picked up.) but to compare my high school experience with those I have noticed here in Korea.

High school is intense. Nothing like High School Musical, which is surprising seeing as HSM is so similar to U.S. high schools... Korean high school students go to school early in the morning, and they stay until 9 or 10 p.m. They go to school two Saturdays of every month. Many of them study English, Japanese, and Chinese. Also, can you imagine studying Korean history?! I think U.S. history is hard enough, and that's only a few centuries! Korean history goes way back. Imagine learning about a few thousand years of history. And then retaining it.

In their senior year, all high school students have to take a college entrance exam that is epic in every sense of the word. They study for months. Their score decides where they can go to college, which then influences where they can get a job. Wow. That's a lot of pressure.

So whenever your loved ones complain about how much homework they have, tell them the story of the Korean teenagers who have to dedicate their lives to school. I like to bring it up to David every time we talk. I figure it helps make him culturally aware, while also sending a subtle and silent clue that he should stop complaining. (He never reads this blog so I think I can be frank. But now Mom's going to show it to him. Shoot.)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Birthday cake

I told Chin-Hwa all I wanted for my birthday was a birthday cake. I said not to bother with silly Christmas gifts--birthday. Focus on the birthday.

I then gave him a recipe that was "easy" because it started with a cake mix. Then I told him he had to make four layers, put frosting between each layer, and top it with a chocolate "ganache." He was intimidated at first, but we ended up with a lovely result. The cake was rich, creamy, and delicious. Chin-Hwa even put birthday candles on top. He tried to make a 2 and a 6, but its up for interpretation...

It is hard to be away for Christmas, but I guess this will be my year to see if they celebrate Christmas outside of Omaha. At least I know I will be well fed!

When I get emotional about being away, there is one YouTube video that can cheer me up:



Wednesday, December 16, 2009


The other day I told Chin-Hwa that I'd been sick with a cough for over a week. He told me that sicknesses will stick around longer now that I'm "getting old."

Wait. I'm old now? What? I'm the picture of youth! I still wear jeans to work occasionally! I'm still trying to figure out how to shave my legs! I use Facebook. I can write an email and even send it successfully. I don't think I'm old; I'm just tall for my age.

But Chin-Hwa is not alone in his statement. Kids at work love to guess my age. Their favorite little game is to guess I'm a million just to see my reaction. After I congratulate them for knowing a number that is so huge ("Wow! You know the word for million!") I make a disapproving face. They love it and giggle every time. The sad thing is that when I tell them how old I really am, they seem to gasp in fright. "I've never met someone so old, Miss Jackie! My mom is younger than you!" Thanks, kids. Thanks.

I have been forgetful lately...perhaps it is early onset age-related brain farts! And it does take me a long time to get started in the morning without my parents and my aunts and uncles are this way. (Anyone who's been at Ponca in the mornings could tell you this.) Maybe my love of High School Musical isn't enough to cut it. Maybe I'm a fogey. I didn't even try to dress up for Halloween this year. And I have been known to make disparaging remarks regarding "teenage fashions." I don't own Ugz and I'm not even sure how to spell the word! No young'un could get away with such things. The good news here is that I can start keeping a stash of hard candies in my bag and hand them to kids as I see fit. And I can talk about my old uphill walks to school. This might not be so bad.

I guess I'd better go tell Nickie she's getting old, too. Twins for life.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


You probably think ramen noodles are fodder for poor college students and unhealthy teenagers. Me, too, friends. However, in Korea, they've jazzed up Ramen, even to the point where Chin-Hwa and I actually went out to eat it. I know, it sounds crazy, but it was still one of the cheapest meals we could get at 5000 won per serving, which is about $4.25.

When we got to the restaurant, I couldn't help but smirk. I thought, "Hello, Korea? Yeah, didn't anyone tell you that ramen is not fancy? No. Not fancy. Put those large fancy bowls away. Hide the frills. Chopsticks? Are you serious? Ramen cannot be dressed up and passed as actual food." I felt like I was in on something and that the restaurant would have no choice but to soon acknowledge that I was right and they were wrong. That's how things usually go, right?

For one of the first times ever (No, really. I'm usually right. Ask Chin-Hwa.), I was wrong. The ramen was well cooked, served with actual vegetables, not the dehydrated bits that come in ramen packets in the U.S., and the meal was filling. I almost didn't mind being wrong. Almost. For proof, here are some pictures. I've also included some other pictures you might enjoy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

We don't live in filth

Now that we have a camera, I wanted to share some pictures of the apartment. Click on the link below to see the pictures, and please forgive me for taking so long!

Now you can go about your lives at ease, knowing we don't live in filth.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


We put up the Christmas tree!

I am in holiday bliss.

Chin-Hwa is humoring me, as any self-respecting holiday hater would. He even took a picture by the tree to commemorate our first Christmas together:

Yep. Still in love after 5 months.

We bought the tree at a small Korean toy shop. The lights are so hot they feel like they cannot be approved by any sort of fire code, but they sure look beautiful. The tree is so fake it's laughable. The trunk is merely another pine branch that is straight and fastened to the base. But what isn't fake is my holiday joy. Yes. I am that cheesy.

We also got a digital camera so we could join this millennium. Look for more pictures to come soon!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Shopping in Korea

Korea really has some things figured out. Fact one: Most of the apartments have heated floors. When my feet are warm, I am warm. Also, heat rises. Thus, Korean builders are super smart. Fact two: flavored milk. I can find milk in chocolate, strawberry, banana, coffee, and other assorted flavors I haven't been able to decipher yet. I used to hate milk and think it made my stomach upset, but now I cannot resist it. Dairy farmers know how to market. Fact three: SHOPPING CART ESCALATORS.

Here Chin-Hwa and I were, shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Shopping on Black Friday in Korea is nothing like shopping on Black Friday in the U.S. For one thing, Koreans don't know they are supposed to be shopping like mad. (You would be surprised at how much this changes the shopping experience.) Anyhoo, we found a bus that took us straight to E-Mart. It was here I made my fateful discovery: an escalator that would carry my cart. This escalator was magical: I could not roll the cart back or forth while on the escalator, but the moment the wheels hit normal shopping ground again, I was free to roll. My mind was blown. I found this picture on the web to help give you all a visual. I have no idea who this man is, but I can tell that he and I share a certain fascination with the magical cart escalators. He even seems to say, "Look! No hands!"

What is also important in this story is that E-Mart had multiple floors, thus explaining the need for an escalator. Let's just say I walked away with some wonderful Christmas presents. And a renewed faith in the creative capabilities of humankind.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


We have had our first snow here in Dongducheon, and it was beautiful. Every snow gets me excited for Christmas, but first I have to deal with Thanksgiving...

Now, first, I need to get one thing straight: Thanksgiving is an American holiday. This should make sense once you stop to think about it, but you might be surprised at how often this question is asked. Thanksgiving is as American as Black Friday shopping and the 4th of July.

What this means for me this year is that I have to teach on Thanksgiving. This isn't all bad, as it will give me a chance to tell the kids about the holiday. I figure there are two very different ways I could go about teaching Thanksgiving traditions: first, I could go with the typical grade school style story and tell them that Christopher Columbus was a savior who discovered America. Then, years later, the grateful Native Americans helped the nearly starved Pilgrims through a difficult winter by providing them with food. However, I could also go with the more interesting post-colonial take on Thanksgiving. I could tell the kids that Christopher Columbus was a pretty big jerk who brought the Native Americans smallpox, alcohol, and some story about how he had discovered the place which they had been inhabiting for centuries. This would be a more difficult story to get across with their limited English, but I do feel it is the more accurate tale.

Neither of these options answer the questions that my boss and the kids really want to know: Why do you eat turkey? (Um, it tastes good? Maybe because the Pilgrims could hunt it? Benjamin Franklin couldn't make it the national bird so we decided to consume it in mass quantities?) What's with caramel apples? (They taste good? Seriously, I have no other answers here. I might make up a fable about the naughty apple who fell to her sticky death, much to the joy of nearby human onlookers.) What's with pumpkin pie? (Again, it tastes good. However, the kids were able to try some pumpkin pie last year and they thought it was horrible. I can't get past that. I think they must not have smeared enough whipped cream on it.)

Tomorrow is the big day and I'll let you know how the teaching moment turns out. I'm also going to google caramel apples to see if I can find anything on their history.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Obama and Kimchi

I apologize to all of my eager readers who probably wake up every day, wondering why their favorite blog has not been updated. No, no, it's okay. I know I'm important.

Many things have happened on this end, ranging from events that are completely American to events that are completely Korean.

First, and most importantly, Barack Obama came to visit South Korea. His Korean leg of the trip was more of a glorified layover from his time in other countries in Asia, but we'll take it. What is even more impressive is that someone in the Army must have seen Chin-Hwa's famous Sesame Street appearance because Chin-Hwa was asked to represent Camp Casey by being one of the 40 or so soldiers who get to stand behind Obama. We don't have a camera and I was not present (wah wahhhhh), so the best picture I have is pathetic to say the least. If you look at this picture you can see Chin-Hwa in the upper left hand corner. (He's the Korean guy) I can only laugh at how we have this one lame picture to commemorate this momentous occasion, and I can also assure you that we have since purchased a new digital camera from Ebay so this will never happen again. The picture is also online.

While Chin-Hwa was hobnobbing with famous American people, I have been spending time with non-famous Koreans. My boss, Jae, invited me along to her mother-in-law's house to make kimchi. Kimchi is a Korean dish with a very distinct taste and smell. It is difficult to describe, but it is basically cabbage that is pickled in a spicy red sauce. One might compare it to spicy sauerkraut. You can also make cucumber kimchi or various other vegetables, but cabbage kimchi is perhaps the most famous. The kimchi process was amazing to watch. When Jae and I arrived, her mother-in-law and mother-in-law's two friends had already begun making the pickling sauce. They had dumped shredded turnips into the largest bowl I have ever seen (really. I could have bathed in this bowl if I had felt so inclined, which I rarely do upon first meetings). They were adding various sauces and spice. All Jae and I had to do was sit at nearby smaller bowls and put the sauce on the cabbage. We wore gloves so as not to stain our hands with the sauce (it stains like crazy. Even Hints from Heloise would find it difficult to get out these stains) and proceeded to turn 30 heads of cabbage into kimchi. The women spent their time gossiping in Korean, which was entertaining even though I had no idea what they were saying. By the end, they told me I was a wonderful kimchi maker (oh, stop, really) and I felt like I had participated in a true part of Korean culture.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Immaturity is all inclusive

Although I've realized that there is no upper age limit for immaturity (I've never seen my dad laugh as hard as he did when he watched Ace Ventura being birthed out of the rhino's butt hole in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls), I had assumed that there was a lower age limit. I HAD assumed there was a lower limit. Past tense. Sweet Wendy, my innocent looking eight year old student who is missing so many teeth she has to eat from the side, has blown that theory out of the water (she's the same insightful little girl that hypothesized that poop is a solid in an earlier science class).

Here I was, teaching diligently as ever, when Wendy, Jasmine, and I reached an inconspicuous page in their new reading comprehension books. It was about a day on the beach. How picturesque. I had Wendy read out loud and I couldn't stop giggling because her pronunciation of the word "beach" sounded like another closely related word (I never said I wasn't immature myself) when we reached the matching section of the lesson. And there it was. A visual that would be the source of so much giggling that Jasmine had to place her forehead on the table. A visual that would send the girls rolling in the classroom. A visual which I would have to pretend was not hilarious.

A shirtless man.

Keep in mind this picture was a man throwing a net into the water. His swim trunks reached well past his knees, which is a strong contrast to the speedo epidemic that has hit Korea. His hair was unkempt, but not in an overtly sensual way. His measly stick arm covered half of his chest. The drawing was nothing more than a man enjoying a day at the beach in his sensible, middle-age appropriate swimwear. Unfortunately, the artist had included a slight line on his chest to insinuate chest muscles. I thought nothing of the man's near nudity until Wendy pointed to it and said, "He's got ... um .... " She either edited herself or she hasn't learned the word for boobs yet. My innocent take on the illustration washed away like a sand castle too close to the water.
Wendy then proceeded to accentuate the "chest muscles / breasts" in her book while Jasmine looked on and laughed appreciatively. Their laughter got louder until, finally, I couldn't resist. We laughed until I caught my breath and got my wits about me, told the girls that the picture was of "chest muscles," and asked them if they liked starfish. After all, eight year old girls are easy to distract.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Today I have been reflecting on some of the ways life has changed since I've moved to Korea. Some changes are large, while others are small. Here are a few that came to mind:

1. There is a man in my bed, and sometimes he's not wearing pajamas. TMI? Perhaps. But a large change nonetheless.

2. I have to care about the metric system now. When I was in grade school, a few of my teachers told me we would be using the metric system in the U.S. by the year 2000. ("Ooh!" I thought, "The future! How exotic...") By the time 2000 rolled around, I was relieved when the metric system didn't come to pass because I had forgotten all of my conversions. Now, my past has come to haunt me as I have to convert the temperature to metric each time I want to cook something. I also have to remind myself that 20 degrees Celsius is a nice day, not a freezing day.

3. I can't eavesdrop. I never realized how much I love drama from strangers until I could no longer understand what they were saying. Eavesdropping is now my primary motivation behind learning Korean. However, I am comforted by the fact that there have been times I've been able to eavesdrop based on body language alone, like the time on the subway when a woman was hitting a man repeatedly with her purse. He seemed apologetic; she wasn't having it; I loved every minute and stared openly.

4. I live in the future. Yes. I am fifteen hours ahead of the central time zone now that daylight savings time is over. The future is good, friends. No flying cars yet, but there are really cool cell phones.

5. I am really, really tall. I'm used to being taller than Nickie (hahaha thank you late blooming growth spurt!) but not the tallest woman around. I think it makes me more intimidating to my students, which is always a plus. However, it means chances of finding pants that fit are smaller than ever.

6. I am surrounded by Koreans. No, really. Surrounded.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Well friends, it is that magical time of year...Halloween. And even though no one in Korea celebrates, my fellow teachers and I figured out a way around this. That's right: we brought our students to the Army-sponsored Halloween party. What a collision of worlds.

The kids talked about the party up until we got there and have been talking about it ever since. Their favorite part? The candy. Duh. They're kids. But they also enjoyed the other assortments of free food, which makes me think that they will all be ready for college before they know it. This picture was them at the party. The men in the back were some of the soldiers who volunteered/were told to help escort the kids.

I will miss having trick or treaters, but I feel lucky that I was able to celebrate with the students a few weeks early. I will not miss all of the college students in Berkeley who viewed Halloween as an ideal time to start streaking. Silly kids.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oh the things you learn after marriage...

I have been battling quite the cold over here in Korea, and Chin-Hwa has been taking care of me dutifully, despite the fact that I sneezed so hard yesterday that I blew a huge, discolored snotty booger onto his pants. (Love me?) After having three days together, we started to run out of conversation topics, such as, "Did you poop today?" or "How's your snot's consistency?" so we started to talk about Sesame Street, what seemed to be a natural progression of things.

You will never guess what happened next.

Chin-Hwa revealed that he has BEEN ON SESAME STREET!!!!!!! Dear Lord! I couldn't believe it, so I made him prove it to me. Sure enough, we went to the Sesame Street website and looked up the video "Blueberry mouth." There he was, the nine year old version of Chin-Hwa, munching on one of nature's candies. Not only was Chin-Hwa on the video, but so was his mother, Chong-Suk, and brother, Matthew.

Please note my surprise. Chin-Hwa revealed this as if it was normal, as if every child had a chance to be on Sesame Street. NO, BABY. YOU HAVE LIVED ONE OF MY CHILDHOOD DREAMS.

I'm not so sure whether to be proud or whether to edit myself into a cooler Sesame Street video and then tell him about it one day, out of nowhere. "Oh, you've never met Steve Martin? Yeah, I talked to him for a long time once on the set of Sesame Street. We were discussing the merits of early Greek philosophy. He argued that it was important, and while I had to agree with him, I also stated the importance of some of the postmodern thinkers. I was six. Nickie was there. Yeah, I still get Christmas cards."

Please check it out. His family is the one Asian family. He's wearing a Key West t-shirt and his mom is sporting a beautiful, early 90s style perm.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Word From Jackie's Better Half...

***A note from the editor: I have given (yes, given) Chin-Hwa a guest spot on the blog. I did not censor his post, but I would like to note that many of his stories are hyperbole. With that in mind, please enjoy***

For those of you who have not had the privilege to behold my skills as a Michael Jackson impersonator (I can do the moonwalk), my name is Chin-Hwa. I am Jackie's "poopy pants" (there's no backstory to that nickname, I promise you). If you thought that you were going to be bored to tears by another one of Jackie's "look-at-me-I-live-in-a-foreign-country-and-you-should-envy-me" entries, you are in for a treat. I will be guest blogging every now and then, and all of you will realize how much wittier and funnier (and maybe a bit more arrogant) I am than she.

For the last 2 months, Jackie has been bragging about how she has a large following on her blog. I got a little envious of Jackie's rockstar status, so I thought that I too should give into a little narcissism and share my thoughts (because everyone should care about what is on my mind). One observation that I am reminded of daily is how much living in Korea is totally different from anything that she has experienced (yes, even more than California). Aside from embarrassing me in front of my fellow Koreans with her gross lack of cultural knowledge, constantly getting lost within a few blocks, always asking me if Koreans celebrate Halloween and Valentine's Day (for the record, they do not), and making just about every stereotypical generalization about Koreans, Jackie has shown herself to be pretty resilient when it comes to dealing with immense changes.

Her ability to adapt to another culture may not come as a surprise to you. Some of you still have this image of Jackie as this progressive, liberal, cultured, and cosmopolitan person who can wield chopsticks like my family of the Far East. I mean, she certainly seems like your average liberal: openly supports LBGT issues, is an ardent feminist, loves black people (especially Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, and Barack Obama... in that order), and is all about recycling. However, the fact that she is from the midwest is no more apparent than when she is navigating through the streets of Korea. She stands out like a sore thumb (and not because she is blonde and ridiculously good looking either, although I wonder about those oggling stares that she gets from the Korean men...) for reasons beyond her appearance. She has the constant look of amazement of a tourist... you would think that would go away after 2 months. She asks questions such as, "Do Koreans ever eat with forks?" or "Do all Koreans own the latest gadgets?" I am a little disappointed because I thought that California would have at least taught her how to use chopsticks (the old waitresses like to chuckle a bit and hand her a fork as she struggles with the chopsticks).

I realize that my standards for her to become fully assimilated into the Korean culture (every Korean mother-in-law's dream) are quite harsh. I mean, she is making great progress in learning Korean (she knows how to say "Don't do that!" and she uses that phrase often). So I should look on the bright side and thank whatever deity exists (or doesn't exist) that Jackie is living with me and has the opportunity to experience Korea.

This will not be a cultural immersion as it is a cultural drowning (sink or swim, poopy pants)....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oh you crazy kids

I have been at my job for a few weeks now, and I am starting to get the hang of teaching grade school age children. One of the things my boss had asked me to do was teach the kids some science while having them practice their English. She figured that this would force the kids to learn some new vocabulary. As an added bonus, it brought me back to St. Bernard's style physical science, which was why the kids and I were talking about solids, liquids, and gases.

I had been talking to them about states of matter for a while, only to see many blank stares and some feeble attempts at communication. I was pretty sure that I wasn't getting my point across. I again asked the students, "What are some examples of solids?" when sweet little Wendy yelled, "Poop!" I thought I had misheard her--perhaps it was some sort of accent? Maybe she was sneezing? I asked her, "What, Wendy?", to which she replied, "POOP!" She had a huge smile on her face and there was no mistaking that she knew exactly what she was saying. I could do nothing but laugh, and the other students laughed right alongside. At least I know they finally got it. If only they had made the leap and said that farts were gases...

Friday, October 9, 2009

My brush with fame?

Today I was walking through Hyehwa (the university/theater district in Seoul metro) with my friend April. We were rounding a street corner when a woman stopped us. She was giggling and spoke very clear English. She introduced herself as a student from a nearby university and asked if I would answer some questions. She had a partner who asked April the same thing. Now, I love to talk about myself so I was happy to fill out a questionnaire.

My interviewer handed me a sheet of loose leaf with ten questions written on it. Her handwriting was impeccable. She asked questions ranging from my name, to my first impression of Korea, to my favorite Korean food, to my motive for being in Korea. She also giggled at all of my answers for some reason, including when I said that bulgogi was my favorite food (it is a tender spiced beef that is delectable). Again, this humor went right over my head, but I guess my inherent humor must shine through my facial expressions. Feeling fresh, I asked her how she could tell that I knew English. She looked embarrassed for a slight moment, but quickly recovered with a giggle and said that April and I looked like "foreigners." Safe answer. I wold have just said that I looked really tall, blond, and white.

She concluded her interview by asking if she could take a picture with me. I have to please my public, so I agreed. She threw up a peace sign and took a picture with her phone.

April and I ran into her later and she waved like we were long lost friends. I felt famous through and through, thanks to a random university student who is working on a school project of some sort...

Monday, October 5, 2009


As Chin-Hwa learned during his medic training, you don't get any smarter in an emergency. You had better know your stuff before an emergency comes because adrenaline is not intelligence producing. I had this fact in mind before he left for training this month so I asked him what I should do in case of emergencies. What I was told was disconcerting to say the least...

If one has an emergency in Korea, one has to dial 119. That's right: 119.

The odds of me remembering this in case of emergency? About zero. How can I act against years of 911?! I'm pretty sure I would not remember this important, yet subtle, number change if I was bleeding profusely or choking.

In an effort to comfort me, one of my friends informed me that on base, you can call 911 for emergencies. I guess my best solution then would be to have an emergency, such as frizzy hair day or soy milk shortage, and make the half hour walk to base so I can call 911. I've got my fingers crossed that I will not have any emergencies!

Thursday, October 1, 2009


It is Thursday, October 1, and all of the kids at work are a twitter. Why? Because Chuseok is coming! Chuseok is on the third of October.

What is Chuseok? Well, whenever I ask a Korean person what Chuseok is, they tell me it is like American Thanksgiving. However, since there was no friendship forged between Native people and pilgrims that later led to the massacre of the Native people here in Korea (that I know Korean history is lacking), I looked it up on Wikipedia for more information.

It turns out that Chuseok is a fall harvest ritual. It is customary for people celebrating Chuseok to return to the home of their ancestors and have rituals to remember them. This picture is of the traditional food people eat on Chuseok. Since I do not have Korean ancestors, for me this means everything is shut down starting tomorrow and until Tuesday. There will be a ton of traffic and the subways will be packed. I was advised to not travel unless absolutely necessary due to the long waiting times. There are lots of Koreans here with places to go!

Chin-Hwa's family is celebrating Chuseok, but because he is out training and I do not know Korean, (conversation would be decidedly short-lived) we will not be celebrating with them. However, do not be sad because I will instead be playing games with some of the women I have met here. Do you think Army spouses would care for Settlers? We're about to find out...

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Hike

Yesterday I went on a hike on Mount Soyosan. ("-san" means mountain in Korean. I do not know what "Soyo" means, so let's just assume it is "Mount of Soyo" and call it a day.) I went with Candice and Anna, two women I've met here. Although Candice assured us that the whole mountain was an "easy" hike, we elected to stay on the cement path and only go up a little bit. I get nervous when I'm too high up mountains, mostly because I'm not used to them...

We began our climb and passed many people in various states of hiking gear. We even saw one woman wearing three inch heels, which seemed so impractical I had to stop from pointing. I was wearing thin tennis shoes myself, so I didn't have much room to talk.

Eventually, we came to many flights of stairs. We took them, and on the top was a Buddhist temple. The temple was beautiful--it had lots of candles and the ceiling was lined with paper lotus flowers. There was also a golden Buddha at the front of the temple and a few people inside praying. It was breathtaking, and only one of a few Buddhist temples I've seen in my life.

I'm looking forward to going further up the mountain but this was a lovely way to start off. Here is a picture of the mountain that I found online. My digital camera from 2000 finally died, so I'm waiting to buy a new one so I can take my own pictures to share.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some quick facts...

1. Movie theaters in Korea have assigned seats.
2. When you press the door close button in an elevator in Korea, the door closes. Right away. Koreans do not have time to waste in elevators apparently.
3. Army commissaries (grocery stores) do not have tax, but they do have something called a surcharge, which seems to function just like a tax.
4. Dunkin' Donuts is hip here. People have business meetings and dates there. I'm enjoying having a Dunkin' Donuts that is closer than the one in St. Joe's, MO.

I start my job tomorrow! I'll be teaching English to kids who are in kindergarten to fifth grade. It should be interesting to say the least!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Korean Kindergardeners

Yesterday I had a chance to sit in on an English class for Korean kids. I've been thinking about taking a job at an English academy so I wanted a chance to see how it was done. The kids were adorable, but scared to death of me.

First off, they all chose English names for their English classes, which reminded me of my high school French days. (I was Jacqueline, so not too exciting, but still. There was the girl who chose to be known as Etienne and learned half way through the year that it was a boy's name) The first class had two little girls, Rosie and Sunny, who giggled every time I talked to them. When I showed them where I was from on the map, Rosie whispered into Sunny's ear and they both laughed... apparently they have heard talk of the Midwest.

One of the boys in the class was named David. I told him that my brother's name was David and they all thought that was hilarious. I mean, who in their right minds would name a child David?!Then, a boy named Max met me and pulled a Simpsons book out of his bag. He, too, started cracking up about this (maybe I have three fingers?). Max also talked about his new Lego set. He built a remote control car out of Legos. Somethings really have gotten high tech.

Overall, the day proved to be an interesting entry into childlike humor and how one teaches English. I'm leaning towards taking the job, mostly so I can see what was so darn funny!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

One month and counting

Well, I have been here for one whole month already. Wow! I have had some lows and some highs. Here are a few of them as I reflect back:
1. Not being able to order at restaurants. Wah wahhhhhhh
2. Calling Chin-Hwa crying because I couldn't figure out how to turn on the stove.
3. As a general rule, Army administrative red tape is always silly.

1. Arriving at the airport to Chin-Hwa.
2. Slowly learning how to read Hangul.
3. Making our apartment feel like home.
4. Water park! Speedos! Babies in swimming outfits!
5. Indian food in Hyehwa, a college neighborhood near where we live. Although I like Korean food a lot, it was nice to have a change of pace.

Here's to more adventures! Oh, and the start of the new Gossip Girl season and ANTM cycle...some things never change.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

On Being Blonde in Korea

One comment I heard many times in the days leading up to my departure date for Korea was that the Korean children might stare and want to touch my hair. People who had never even been to Asia were assuring me that it would happen and told me to be prepared.

While I have attracted many stares (being ridiculously good looking is hard) it wasn't until Saturday night that I had my first hair touch. Chin-Hwa's cousin Ji-Bin, a lively four-year-old girl, was the first to ask to touch my hair. Actually, she didn't ask and actually, she really just put her hands in it and moved them all around so I looked like I was stuck in a windstorm. She also laughed uproariously. Then, she caught a glimpse of my Hello Kitty phone bauble and asked me for it. I had no idea what she said so I put the phone away, unaware. She then started bawling and ran to her mom. Chin-Hwa translated her request and asked that I give her the Hello Kitty. Since I am mature enough to give things to others, I only whimpered for a short while before releasing the toy. Once she had it we were best friends again. Four-year-olds are fickle.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Husker love

Friends. Every Korean who is fashionable has a Major League Baseball cap (there are more Oakland A's hats here than there were in Oakland) and at least one or two t-shirts with English writing on them. Although this is trendy, I'm not so sure that every one who is wearing an English shirt knows what the shirt says. For example, I have seen a man wearing a shirt that says "New York Mental Institution" on it with an inmate number on the back. Do you think he really knew what that meant?

Anyhoo, the other day I was eating at a restaurant that was on the second floor of a building and next to a window. I was people watching when I noticed that one man was wearing a Nebraska Huskers football shirt. I started waving frantically and pointed to my shirt, as if to say, "Dude! I'm with you! Go Huskers!" despite the fact that I was not wearing a Huskers tshirt of my own. He did not/chose not to understand me and walked away shaking his head.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Water Park!!!

As a native Nebraskan, I don't have much experience with water-related activities such as skiing, boating, surfing, etc. Therefore, I become inordinately excited when I get to go to a water amusement park, and yesterday was my day!!!
The park was much like Oceans of Fun, my water park of choice (due to lack of other options), except with lots more Koreans. Here are some observations from the day:
1. Speedos are in. It does not matter if you are in good shape or bad shape. Men in Korea who were wearing speedos at the Caribbean Bay water park yesterday chose to accessorize their speedos with an air of confidence. They thought they looked good.
2. Korean babies are cute enough, but a Korean baby in a bumble bee swimsuit is almost too cute to bear. I had to avert my eyes because I started tearing up.
3. Many Korean women wore sheer zippered hoodies over their swimsuits. They are difficult to describe...and they seem to have no real function at all, aside from making people look fantastic.
4. There was beer at the concession stands. I chose not to partake because drunken swimming never seems like a good idea.
5. The locker room choices were written in both Korean and English. We were to choose between "Outdoor Lockers" and "Super fantastic fancy indoor relaxing lockers." We went with the super fantastic lockers...who can resist such advertising?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Feminism and FRG?

Is it possible to be both a feminist/independent woman and an Army spouse?

Yesterday I attended my first Family Readiness Group (FRG--the army loves acronyms) meeting. I was told it would be an opportunity for Army spouses to get together to discuss the comings and goings of their spouses' company (group of soldiers). I was excited to meet some other spouses, although I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The meeting was literally an informational meeting about our spouses' upcoming days off and activities. The only adult man present was 1st Sergeant Moore, who was helping lead the meeting. I was the only woman there who did not have a child who was also present. Most of the women demonstrated a remarkable ability to multitask as they would hold their children on their legs, feeding them a bottle, while eating a sandwich. The meeting was not about the people in the room, but about our spouses and children where applicable.

There is nothing wrong with being a mother or a wife, but there is something wrong with letting those become all that one does. And so far, it seems as though the army base here is set up so that these roles are all that are available for spouses (I have yet to met a male army spouse). There are many reasons for this: it is difficult to find a job due to limited opportunities as well as Visa restrictions; life in Korea is expensive, as is childcare, so one spouse must stay home; there are not many educational resources on base; etc. I am hoping that these are first impressions of the life of an Army spouse and that more will come to light, but I'm not sure that is the truth.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Right now there are 5-6 older Korean men in my apartment. They are doing somehing to my fridge. They tried to explain it to me--first in fast Korean, then in slower Korean, then in some sort of ape-like sign language. I still don't understand. Luckily, they smiled reassuringly and seem to have at least a small knowledge of what they are doing.
OK, now they are pounding. They seem to think that they should remove a section of wall from the apartment. Should I be worried?
They have covered the floor in cardboard. Geez, this might get messy.
Dear Lord! They took a knife to the wall! What the deuce? Mylanta! I hope they clean it up because I don't know if my new Swiffer WetJet can handle a load this large (no, Swiffer is not paying me to advertise).
I would never know if this is legitimate or not. I'll just have to trust and hope I'm not getting an accidental window or something. Yikes.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dental Hygiene

It is not unusual to see a group of toothbrushes in a restaurant's bathroom. Why, you might ask? Well, some people in Korea seem to bring their toothbrushes everywhere so they might brush constantly. Yesterday, I was in the women's restroom in the mall and a group of giggly young women came in and had a veritable toothbrushing party. I felt left out and plaque-y.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Beginning observations

Here I sit, gainfully unemployed and full of ideas. Here:
1. Taxi drivers in Korea think that running red lights is a good way to pass time.
2. The subway is air conditioned.
3. Cell phone baubles are really popular here. The fact that I don't have one yet makes me feel naked somehow!
4. Why hasn't the U.S. switched to the metric system yet? It makes so much sense!
5. Asian babies find my blonde hair mesmerizing, as they should.

Monday, August 17, 2009

International Flights

I arrived at SFO three hours early and gathered in line at the Singapore Airlines ticket counter. I was the only white person in line, which was a mere precursor of things to come. I boarded the airplane hours later and I was pleased to discover that I had my own personal television. Then the flight attendant started giving me things--a hot towel; headphones; a pair of socks and a tiny toothbrush. During the flight, she would continue to function as Santa Claus as I was provided with snacks and two (!) meals during the 13 hour flight, which was a far cry from my Southwest days. I even got a glass of wine with dinner, and she thought I was strange for asking if it was free.
The descent into Incheon airport seemed to take forever. We were flying through a ton of clouds and my first sight of Korea was an island and some mountains. So it looked a lot like Not like Nebraska at all. Chin-Hwa and some of his family members met me at the airport and we began our two hour car trip home. Pictures of the apartment will come soon!