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...