Friday, January 30, 2009

Why teach?

We finished up at the Palgong Training Center yesterday. While I'm happy I get to sleep again, I will definitely miss these idealistic teachers. Korea has a pretty bright future if they represent the direction this country is going.

Dear Diana,

Thank you for giving us a great time thinking about and learning writing. It was a short time, but your class reminded me of the pleasure of writing.

Your first warm up subject--"What is writing for you?"--was the most impressive one to me. I really like writing, but I've never thought about what writing means to me because I've never thought I am a (professional) writer.

But your warm-up question made me realize that I am also able to be, no, I am already, a writer. And I was happy writing my essays and introduction that I knew that you're gonna read my writing so carefully and make some comments. And it also [made me] realize again that it is the most attractive thing in writing -- there is someone who cares about my writing and is interested in my writing.

I hope I'll have a chance to share this happiness with my students. Thank you again for giving me (us) this great chance.

From, [name redacted]

Edited only for minor grammatical errors.

Maybe I done some good this time around. Just maybe.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gyeongju in Winter: A little history...

Monday was 설날 (Seollal, or Lunar New Year), one of two major Korean holidays (the other being 추석/Chuseok). I thought it might be fun to head out to Gyeongju, the ancient 신라/Silla capital for a daytrip and some sightseeing.

I have been to Gyeongju twice before, once for the World Expo held every three years, and another time with Se Jin and her brother. And you could count the MT to the coastal region of Gampo, but that's almost like a whole other city. Although Seollal is the one day a year in Korea where a lot of businesses are closed, we figured a historical town like Gyeongju, which refers to itself as the "museum without walls" should have some stuff happening to keep the foreigners entertained. We were not disappointed.

Sarah and I met at the bus station and bought our tickets (less than 4,000 won) in the morning. All the other folks who wanted to come were sick or hung over, so we set out to explore the downtown historical sites around Gyeongju on foot, armed only with a map, cameras, and fifteen layers of clothing to fight off the winter chill. These historic areas are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 2000 (Korea boasts eight sites; I have visited half of them at this time).

The first stop was 대릉원 or Tumuli Park, a park with many large excavated burial mounds, including Cheonmachong, a mound that had been hollowed out and set up like a museum so that we could see what was actually inside these large grass hills. It reminded me a little of Bullo-Dong Tomb, but with much bigger mounds. I guess these guys were more important.

Wow. That's a big mound. (And notice my "new" winter coat, which I hadn't bothered to photograph for this blog until now.)


The park itself was lovely, even with the brown-dead winter grass.


I learned that the double-mounds (the ones that look like boobies) are for a king and queen buried together. Also, they are not simply grassy hills. Inside, at the center, is a wooden coffin with the laid-out body and certain ornamental gifts, such as weapons, jewlery, and pottery, for burial (many of these were on display at the National Museum). Around the coffin are laid a thick layer of stones, piled in the mound-shape. Then there is a clay layer put over the stones to hold the shape. Then finally, the dirt covers the clay and grass grows over it, producing the exterior "grass hill" effect. Very interesting.

We then moved on to some other nearby sites of interest:

Cheomseongdae: The oldest observatory in East Asia. With no entrance but the one lone window.


Gyerim Forest, or the place of weird, creepy, twisty trees. Some famous legend is supposed to have been born here.


Seokbinggo, an ancient Ice Storehouse located along the Northern wall of the remains of Banwolseong Fortress


At this point, one of our friends who couldn't be roused for morning travels, had made his way to the city of Gyeongju. Sarah and I were hungry, so we figured we'd walk back to the bus station to pick him up and find somewhere to eat in the more modern downtown area.

One small problem with this plan: On the biggest family holiday of the year, restaurants are not open! Not even "24 hour" kimbap shops! We walked around for about 30 minutes in the cold, looking for somewhere to eat. We were starving. Finally we got the brilliant idea to flag down a cab and ask him to take us to a Lotteria (a Korean fast food place resembling McDonalds), as we assumed one would exist in Gyeongju. We were wrong and finally I just told the confused cabbie to take us back to the historic areas where we had seen some touristy restaurants that looked open. About a block and half later, we passed a McDonalds--our savior! I HATE McDonalds, but I have never in all my life been more happy to see one. And the best part is that McD's in Korea serves a shrimp burger, so I could actually eat more than french fries and ice cream.

I'm not proud of this moment: I was so hungry, I ate two shrimp burger "set"s (how Koreans refer to combo meals).

Re-energized by the craptacular food, we headed out to Bulguksa, a temple that in combination with the Seokguram Grotto is also a designated UNESCO site. I had already seen the temple, so I was more interested in the grotto, but my companions hadn't seen the temple and we would have had to hike a mountain to get to the grotto, so instead we meandered around the large temple grounds.

One of the famous pagodas in the temple interior. The other was undergoing restoration, but they let you climb up on the scaffolding to look at how the restoration process was coming along, so that turned out to be kind of interesting.


Finally, Rick was too tired to continue, so he headed back to Daegu as Sarah and I caught a bus to the free National Museum (I'd been there before, but museums are always re-visitable). They were hosting some of the traditional Seollal games for children on the lawn of the museum, which was cute. Although they allowed pictures (no flash) in the museum, I was too tired to take any. So you'll just have to go there yourself to see all the cool stuff from the Silla dynasty.

After we exited the museum, it was dark outside. But we decided to take in one final site that was well lit up. Imhaejeonji (sometimes the lake is called Anapji) was the grounds of an ancient palace. Some of the structures have been restored, but there are models of the original structure inside these few pavilions. It would be quite impressive if fully restored.

The lighting and ambient traditional music made for a very romantic mood on the large lake with lit-up islands and a pretty walking path.


Exhausted, we headed back to the bus terminal and then to Daegu for Mexican food, wine, and girltalk.

Be sure to check out the complete album:

Downtown Gyeongju / 불국사


I can't wait to go back to Gyeongju in the spring to check out the flowers and other sites I didn't get to experience!

Nominated?

Someone, I think it was Danielle, nominated me for this Korean Blog Award thing (Klog) over at the Hub of Sparkle. I've been nominated the category of "Happiest Korea Blogger, 2008." I'm not sure that's always appropriate, but I do feel happy most of the time, and I kind of like it that someone out there sees me that way.

Go right now and vote for me!

If you read other Korean blogs, you can vote for them, too. I think you can skip categories if you don't know any of the blogs.

Some of my other favorite Korea blogs are nominated as well, such as Ask a Korean, I Got Two Shoes, Big White Barbie Does Busan, and Chubbo Chubbington. (Some of my favorites were also passed over, such as dollop of solipsism, Chris in South Korea, and Amanda Takes Off... poo to that!)

I think what Rob is doing for Korean bloggers is a good idea. I know he's put a lot of work into it, and I want to thank him. However, if you read the comments post on the original nominations post, I agree with Melissa that the nominations are a bit... incestuous. But I am grateful for the opportunity to peruse some new reading material. If I find one I like, I'll let you know!

Skiing Sunday.

High1 Resort, Sunday 3 p.m.

The wind screams and beats at the skis and snowboards outside our tiny glass cable car, suspended several tens of meters above the mountain. For a moment, I think we will be blown into the cars descending on the left. The angry, swirling snow finds its way in through the tiny cracks of the gondola car. Even though the glass protects us better than on the metal lifts, we are covering every spare inch of skin with scarves, hats, hoods, and gloves.

Se Jin pulls a scarf up across her nose and mouth. "I am a criminal!"

As we approach the top for this, our last run of the day, all the way down the length of the mountain, I realize we are the only people in view without goggles or sunglasses to protect our eyes against the gusting blizzards and winds. It wasn't snowing earlier.

Suddenly, I'm very, very scared. "You know, if you want, we can just take the lift back down the mountain." Looking at the return cars, I notice that several skiers and boarders have elected this option.

"No," says the criminal Se Jin. "I want to do it."

The top is cold. Freezing. And windy. I can barely see.

As we start down the slope, the wind carries us across the path as much as the slope pulls us down the hill. Se Jin stops at the side because she can't see very well. Frost forms inside my nose as I breathe.

"We have to keep going," I shout. "If we stop now, we'll freeze."

Se Jin nods, blinks into the flurry and the wind and keeps going.

Finally, at the bottom, we return our skis and head for a much needed hot chocolate before climbing back on the tour bus to Daegu.

***

Se Jin and I took a tour with 경상 tours for about 80,000 won all-inclusive (rental equipment, bus, lift tickets) all-day trip to High1 in Gangwondo. High1 is my favorite ski resort in Korea. The mountain is huge and has lots of different paths you can take. However, it's much further from Daegu than Muju, the place I went to teach Min Gi over Christmas.

We had to catch a bus at 4:40 a.m., so we stayed overnight in a downtown jjimjilbang (찜질방), a Korean public bath with areas for sleeping. For about 5,000-7,000 won, you can relax in the public bath, have a massage in the massage chairs, and sleep on the warm floor overnight. The public bath part is pretty awesome because you can scrub yourself thoroughly clean and then soak in a hot tub or sit in a steam sauna.

There is one catch: you're naked.

Public nudity (gender segregated) in Korea is much more common in shower rooms and the like than in the U.S. and many foreigners feel uncomfortable at first. Especially because the staring that happens regularly on the streets of Korea gets worse when your huge boobs are on display. Friends of mine have been felt up by old women in the bath houses. When my little sister visited, we kept getting approached by ajummas in the public bath at the jjimjilbang and asked rather invasive questions about our bodies. Thankfully, she didn't understand the words, even if she did understand the looks. (And I've heard for the foreign gentlemen there is an open, somewhat aggressive, comparing of packages as rumors abound that Asians are on the smaller end of the phallus size racial distribution, which can make men act strange). However, if you can get over the emotional hangups about being naked and stared at, then the places are quite relaxing.

The sleeping areas are usually co-ed, so you have to wear clothes (bummer, right?). Unfortunately, since we were downtown on a weekend night, there were a lot of people being loud and drunk and turning on and off lights while we tried to catch a few zzz's, so it was a little less than restful. We slept more soundly on the luxury 3-hour bus ride the next morning.

Se Jin and I skied a lot of the beginner runs in the morning. Then, we met Samson and Gwen for lunch because they were staying out there for the whole holiday weekend. That was nice. After one low-intermediate run where Se Jin fell down, she decided to take a break, so I headed out to the upper-intermediate, low-advanced slopes at the top of the mountain. By the last run of the afternoon, it had begun snowing and my legs were on fire.

However, Se Jin and I both wanted to do one more long run down the mountain. A beginner slope, technically, but the conditions made it quite difficult.

When we got back to Daegu, we had a lovely dinner at my favorite downtown Italian restaurant and bid farewell. It was a great day with my big sister!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Camp Swing It 2009!

January 16-18 I attended Camp Swing It in Pyeongtek, Korea (a city a little bit south of Seoul). Eleven hour to hour and a half long workshops and two awesome dance parties later, my legs felt like they were going to fall off. But... I was a much better dancer. This weekend, back in Daegu dancing, a lot of leads commented on my improvements, and that felt really great.

I learned a lot from some amazing lindy hop teachers:

Peter Loggins and Mia Goldsmith taught workshops on Balboa, Bal-swing, and historical pieces from the Savoy Ballroom.


Kevin St. Laurent and Emily Hoffberg focused on techniques related to leading and following well, as well as ways to dance easier to fast music.


Mikey Pedroza and Nina Gilkenson who taught a lot of techniques they learned from Frankie Manning (whose hip operation kept him from appearing himself at the camp, sadly).


Italian lindy hoppers Vincenzo Fesi and Isabella Gregorio taught a variety of moves and techniques in a way where they broke everything down in well-paced practice sessions.


I feel so grateful for the opportunity to study so closely with these folks for the weekend. At camp, in addition to dancers from other parts of Korea, I also met dancers from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, and Shanghai. I learned a ton and my interest in swing has actually increased from the exposure. I'm looking forward to more events like this in the future!

The lovely gentlemen who organized this fantastic event, Kang Seok Kim and Min-Q


Many thanks to the organizers. I can't wait for 2010!

Friday, January 23, 2009

I won!

Taekwondo last night was game night (after the warmup).

We played a game where you stand side by side, facing opposite directions. You hold the inside hand and then when someone says "go," you try to knock the other person off balance using just your connected hands. The first person to move their legs, loses. I played this game before and was not good at it because I didn't understand. Now, I beat everybody I played last night, including one girl (not one of the four I blogged about before, a newish yellow-belt high school girl who is freakishly strong) who creamed me in arm wrestling last week (I beat almost everyone else I played in that, too except one high school boy). Woo Hoo!

We played a game I don't understand, still. You stand facing each other and try to push the other person off balance by just slapping at their hands. It didn't make any sense at all. I looked around. Most people went off balance going in for the slap. Maybe next time I'll get it. Anyhow I lost that one about as often as I won.

The last game was the strangest, and in some ways the most fun. We sat on the floor with our knees up and feet on the floor, hands clutched behind the knees. By scooting on the floor and using mostly our legs, we had to knock the other person over (off balance). I was STELLAR at this game. Years of leg wrestling my brother when we were kids helped for the strategy, and then as a foreigner, I had the distinct advantage of having the widest butt in the room (both proportionally and, I think, literally). No one could knock me over. When I took out the strongest kid in the class (a third grade HS boy who is about 6'3", has a 4th degree black belt, and always wins these kinds of games), the whole class cheered.

We play a lot of games--various forms of dodgeball, soccer, relay races, Korean chicken fighting (very different than what we call chicken fighting, and a lot more fun and probably less dangerous)--in addition to sparring and regular training. It's interesting because I've learned (not dreadfully surprising, as I'm an adult and most of them are teens) that brute-strength wise, I'm probably one of the top five in the class. However, my balance, strategy, and speed suck and I often lack that competitive edge required to take out middle schoolers. I feel bad doing so most of the time. I should work on these things.

It helps now that the kids will actually go for me. At first they were afraid to really try. Now most of them don't hold back. It's good for me.

Also, because it was the last night before the long holiday, Kwanjangnim and Dongap Sabeumnim gave us little pockets (traditional style for hanboks) and 1,000 won. They also took the high school and university kids out to a noraebang. I was invited, and really wanted to attend, but Leah's goodbye party was scheduled for last night, so I couldn't go this time. Next time, I will go. And I'll bring my camera to the studio one of these days.

Things I am excited about:

1) Two more ski trips before winter is out, now paid for. One day trip on Sunday with Se Jin and one weekend trip with Adventure Korea in February (Sarah is also attending this one).

2) Day trip with the girls to Gyeongju on 설날 (Lunar New Year).

3) Going to Vietnam for 11 days in February. Chào, everybody!

4) Blues/musicality dance workshop in the first week of February.

5) The Best Birthday Present Ever: Anne, my best friend the world over, is coming for the week of my birthday. This is AWESOME. Too bad I can't take time off work. But she'll still have a great time in Korea. I am certain of it.

6) Kwanjangnim mentioning 2단 test... That means it's getting a little closer. Maybe late spring/early summer.

7) The mud festival. I didn't go last year because I was in a lousy mood for lots of reasons. This year, I'm going.

8) Three and half weeks home in August (pending contract renewal). Family, friends, sailing, camping, hiking, DC... lots of stuff. Best part? Min Gi is coming, too!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Good Day. Bad Day.

Good Day.

Finally found a volunteer opportunity at a girls' shelter for teens from abusive families. I met five of the six young ladies yesterday. I'll be teaching them English for an hour or two a week. They are sweet and excited to meet a foreigner. I also met the university student volunteers at the center who seem like awesome, idealistic young folks. I'm so excited about this!

Bad Day.

I had agreed (happily, on Tuesday) to write a letter of recommendation for one of my students from the writing class. She called while I was on a date with Min Gi (and a little bit tipsy) to say she needs the letter by tomorrow. Great.

Good Day.

Talked to Dad and Mom.

Bad Day.

Missed talking to Anne by 30 minutes.

Good Day.

Went to the office to print out my teacher-students' essays for grading, edit the newspaper, and give the rec letter to the student. Got a lot of work done.

Bad Day.

The USB disk drive with MOST of my teacher-students' essays on it is broken. Kaput. Finito. I called Min Gi in a panic. He says maybe they can recover the files, but it will probably take a few days (which I don't have because the final class with my students is after a four-day national holiday this weekend). Panic and shame set in.

Good Day.

Bought light bulbs so now I can see in my bathroom again.

Bad Day.

I can't find my last stick of deodorant. I had it two days ago. It has disappeared.

***
Little things have been affecting my mood so drastically these days. I'm so annoyed by my endless ups and downs that I made a lot of plans today to do fun things. I'm excited about this. It will distract me from the un-fun things.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Exhaustion, Stress, Luck

I'm tired. I'm stressed. And I'm insanely lucky.

I've been go-go-going the last two weeks (hence the infrequency of blog posts) because I started teaching Korean English teachers at a training facility on Palgong Mountain. Though the teaching part is not too demanding (4-5 50 minute classes each day), two factors have this workshop severely impairing my ability to get a decent night's sleep.

First, it's about an hour and a half to two hour bus ride away from my house. So I'm averaging about 3.5 hours commuting time. It is difficult to sleep on buses (it usually just makes me more tired). I'm lucky that I can read most of the time, so I've also finished all four books in the Twilight series now (it definitely got better as it went on. The last book was actually quite well done--thanks, Sarah!). This is very draining, so until last night I hadn't recovered the energy to go to taekwondo. However, the center is beautifully situated with gorgeous mountain scenery out every window. I will bring my camera next week.

The second part is a hell of my own making. We were allowed to choose what topic we wanted to teach (there are six native teachers and the students rotate through each of our workshops so that we see each set of 9 students 6 times each). Of course I picked writing. I love writing, and I love teaching writing. However, the aspect of teaching writing I do not always enjoy is the volume of student writing you have to read and thoughtfully respond to. This was my main cause of stress as a teacher back in the U.S. I actually really enjoy reading and responding to student writing, it's just stressful when you have a time deadline and lots of students (here 54; in America I usually had 150-170). To understate it, this grading has been time-consuming.

I have tried doing some grading on the bus (you know, kill two birds with one stone), but it's difficult. Writing more quickly makes me nauseous than reading, so I have to move at a snail's pace. And I can get easily distracted. And it makes riding the bus an even more energy-draining experience.

All this aside, having now adjusted to the stress of it (of course with just two days next week remaining in the workshop), I'm really enjoying it. Most of the teachers are young and enthusiastic. Their level of English is generally very high. They are excited to try writing because it is the most-neglected area of English study in Korea (many English majors never had to write more than a handful of essays in English during university). Some of them are exceptionally thoughtful, creative, and intelligent. It is a pleasure to teach this kind of student. They are also very grateful for my comments (unlike kids in the U.S. and their parents). It's exactly what teaching should be.

I hope to do it again next year!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Reminder.

Travelling back to Daegu from Seoul, we didn't have seats on the train. We were tired and cold and finally some seats in the dining car opened up. We settled in to read and nap. My companion was feeling ill and not in the best mood when an older Korean man sat next to her and began speaking quietly to her in Korean. I was reading my book, and he was speaking softly, so I didn't hear much, but I caught "영어 배우고싶어요. I want to learn English."

My friend didn't understand. She doesn't speak much Korean, but I figured he'd get bored and go away. He wasn't being rude, just speaking to her about his fervent desire to learn English, so I returned my attention to my book.

All of a sudden I heard her say "됐거든! Don't say another word. [This expression is a little rude. It's usually used as a joke among friends. Saying it to an older person in Korea is almost unthinkable.]" I was flabbergasted. He walked away quickly.

She seemed angry and upset. "I know you understood more of that than I did. What was he saying?"

"He was mostly talking about how much he wants to learn English. Why did you say '됐거든' to him? That's pretty rude to an old man."

She looked a little embarrassed. "Oh. I thought I heard him ask, '얼마요? How much?' [White girls in Korea are often mistaken for prostitutes]."

"Oh." I would have just left it at that as she was feeling a little sick and didn't really understand the language, but this has happened to her before, and I felt sad for the man because he had seemed to me like a nice guy. A little lonely (enough to approach random foreigners and speak to them in Korean when very few foreigners in this country bother to learn even the most basic parts of the language), but nice. "You know, hon, he was probably just asking you about private lessons, if he did say that. It makes more sense in the context of the other things he said."

She felt really bad.

I tried to lighten the mood by joking that he'd be unlikely to proposition someone on a train anyhow. Train station--yes. Train--no.

Then the old man returned with a snack he'd purchased from the bar, apologizing profusely. We both felt so bad about the earlier misunderstanding that even though it was an unappetizing Korean-style snack, we each ate some, looking happy and grateful and assured him it was ok.

He stayed on my side this time, so I could hear him better. He said he felt bad because he must have offended her for her to have said, "됐거든." I explained that my friend didn't know Korean very well, so she couldn't understand what he was saying. He continued to apologize to her for about a minute and repeated to me what he'd said to her. As I had inferred, it was mostly about how he doesn't know English well, but he really wants to learn. He knows Chinese (and apparently passed the level 3 exam which is kind of a big deal), so he really likes studying languages. However, his old age makes it really hard to learn new languages. I translated.

His lonely desperation was mildly irritating when we were both so tired from the long weekend, and my pal was a bit sick from the stop-and-go motion on the train, but he was just so happy that we now understood. He talked to me for a good 30-40 minutes.

I learned that the man lives in Busan. He's 59 years old. He told us about his wife. A little later she wondered where he'd wandered off to, so she showed up and gave him a look of exasperation (I'm guessing we're not the first foreigners he's ended up in random conversations with). He offered to buy us beer (we declined--my friend even explained, in Korean, that her tummy hurt). He offered to help me learn Korean and gave me his handphone number to send questions. He offered to help if we had problems in Korea. Or if we needed a guide in Busan.

He then repeatedly explained what a happy day it was.

This incident reminded me of a few things.

First, I'm so used to comparing my Korean level with Leah and William, that I've forgotten I'm actually pretty good at it. I can communicate effectively in controlled situations, (like one-on-one with both of us making an effort to understand each other) and I understand a hell of a lot more than I used to. My speaking is still babyish and slow, but improving rapidly.

Second, we should try to reserve judgment because people usually mean well. We've all had some bad experiences in our lives, but sometimes those of us living in foreign countries where we don't understand the language and culture are apt to make more mistakes of understanding than others. Don't let the 1% of sucky people out there cloud your expectations for the 99% of really sweet, awesome people in the world.

Finally, learning the local language (and learning it beyond the basics) is extremely helpful. I refer you to my list I made a little over a year ago. I believe it still holds true.

Everything worked out well here in the end, but situations like this sometimes contribute to hostile foreigner-Korean relations. I don't like to embarrass my friend (really the poor girl was sick and tired and grouchy... she wasn't entirely herself and her contrition was sincere), so I didn't include her name here, but I think she would agree with me that this incident is a good example for us all.

Go in peace...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bridal-ed.

Korean wedding halls are sweetly scented, elegantly decorated, completely impersonal bridal factories. You're lucky if you can get through the whole ceremony and requisite pictures without half your friends and family abandoning you for the already overcrowded (usually mediocre) buffet. Or without the next lovely bride's party shoving you out the door because they're on the schedule for 2 o'clock. (Your ceremony was set for 1, but didn't actually start until 1:36 because you were patiently waiting for Mr. and Mrs. 12 o'clock to take 3,000 photos with all their college buddies... Of course your stylist spent the whole time freaking out over all the possible disasters that could befall your rented dress or poufed-up hair with two perfectly curled tendrils down the sides of your cheeks.)

I went to a co-worker's wedding last weekend. The highlights were:

The lily flower arrangements (which were part of the hall's decor) and...


the bride (because I know her). Notice the ridiculous size of the dress and crowd around it. Also note her stylist crouched on the floor, arranging the train as she walks.


This place scared the bejesus out of me. To understand, read William's less biased recounting of the events of the day. It was a very typical Korean wedding.

So many people in my life right now are planning weddings. I would say "getting married," but it's not the joining of husband and wife idea that's been nibbling away at my sanity these days. You see, getting married is something I absolutely know that I want to do one day.

However, planning a wedding is something I'd rather avoid. At all costs. Seriously, at this point I might just fork over a wad of cash to AVOID having a wedding. It seems like such a hassle. Even the most normal, non-bridezilla types, such as Amanda, are struggling to make all of the details fall into place for their "special day." It's a nightmare (sometimes literally).

Trouble is, I love my friends and family. And I know most of them would want to see me have a wedding. Or at least see the pictures from one. And maybe one day my and future-husband's children might think it's sweet to look at the old photos of their folks all dolled up saying pretty promises to each other in front of some folks they care about. Come to think of it, that doesn't sound half bad to me.

It's just the whole disgusting INDUSTRY of it. It may actually be worse in America where people pretend their wedding isn't just like everyone else's who read Modern Bride's most unique wedding ideas article.

So here's the plan, folks. I'm not going to have a "wedding." I'm going to have a camping trip to a public beach. With a little vow-exchanging ceremony in the water so we'll have something to take pictures of for posterity. You're welcome to come if you'd like. We'll get drunk and dance after the ceremony. No present required, just pitch in for the booze. It's like a wedding MT! Now there's something Korea isn't likely to see again...

(Sadly, you think I'm kidding about this.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ice-capades...

Yesterday, Min Gi and I took a trip out to Biseulsan, a mountain to the south of Daegu. I went there last year for the ice festival and was eager to return for some more ice and hiking. We ended up going to a different part of the ice park than I went to last year, so I got to see some different activities.

Here we are, ice park behind us.


It was a lot of fun, although very crowded near the ice formations as all the young families in Daegu decided their children needed to play on the ice.

...And then of course we decided to play.

I'm going to kill you with my ice dagger!


Min Gi takes the mature route.


Look we found a log swing that wasn't crawling with 8-year-olds! Woo-hoo!


Check out the complete album:
Biseulsan/Ice Festival


After that, we went hiking a bit, although since it's winter, we decided it was too cold and we didn't have time to make it to the peak. We hiked up to this neat ancient Buddha statue and to an open space for praying. We then went on a little off trail adventure and got filthy before deciding we were being stupid and didn't have enough daylight left to "rough it" quite that much (the crazy hiking ajosshis we followed a bit though, they were fine, I'm sure). We talked a lot and nearly froze to death on the walk back to the car. It took me about 2 hours to thaw out.

In the end, we crashed pretty hard after dinner. But it was a fine winter weekend.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

He cooks, again...

Min Gi wanted to make curry last night, because he knows I like it so much. He ended up also making a Korean-style omelet.

Amazing.


You should really be able to SMELL the awesomeness... It was a fantastic night.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Day 1 of 15.

Went to work today to give a joint presentation with William to the incoming first-year high school students. We planned most of it last week when classes were being cancelled up and down and all the teachers were just showing movies anyway. It was pretty fun, actually.

I shouldn't brag, but I really love my job. Public schools totally rock over hagwons for break times (though there are other things that I plan to blog about soon that are much more difficult at public schools).

Over January and February, I have to work 15 days total. For nine of these days, I'm being paid a little extra because it is a camp fee (although I have to be at a bus stop at 7:00 a.m. in the bitter cold, so I consider this just compensation). Although only seven of these days are "official" vacation (for which I will be in Hanoi, Vietnam), and I've been asked to do some proofreading/writing for the student paper, I'm generally "free" for a couple months.

This is lovely.

I would spend a few days skiing or just hauling around Korea or even sneak off to Japan or China, but right now I have some personal and financial goals I'm working on. So I'm trying to use my time to my advantage (and not spend too much money). For example, yesterday I met up with my language exchange partner, Sung Mi, for about three hours (she's on a college break and going to America for an internship in March, so she's really keen to study a bunch this break) to study Korean. I'm also cooking again, and remember how much I love it! I'm catching up on books I've meant to read and getting started back on my master's degree stuff.

I hope everyone has as lovely a break as I am having! I won't have much stress again until next Monday when I have to wake ridiculously early to teach English teachers about writing in English. That's a redundant-sounding sentence if I ever heard one.

Stay warm, folks.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pictures of a Lazy Weekend.

My cats take over my bed.


Here is the evil 사자. Can't you see her plotting?


Perfect Princess, looking regally perfect.


My Christmas present from Min Gi. They have bells that jingle when you walk in them. We took turns wearing them and running around the apartment driving the above-pictured felines insane.

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