Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas in Korea
There are Christians and Catholics along with Buddhists and several other religions here . So they celebrate the holiday and say "Merry Christmas" (which sounds exactly the same in English and "hangul" (korean language); they don't even add an extra vowel sound at the end. But when we took this photo, everyone said, "CEESE - A" ! There's a dancing santa outside one of the local pubs singing "jingle bells" and "yellow rose in Texas" (which is conveniently right outside Mike's apt. and he's FROM Texas!) Mike was Santa for our hogwon! He says I owe him a big one. He loved it though, knowing full-well the great impact he made on the adorable children at Little America. He came in during our Song and Story festival shouting "HO HO HO" and the kids were shocked b/c they expected one of us teachers to be santa. As soon as I came in that morning the kids asked, "Nicole teacher SANTA?" I replied, "Do I look like a BIG FAT MAN?" They said yes. Hmmm. Then they thought it would be Dan teacher. Dan, Greer, Taunia, and I were all in the room when Mike came in so the kids were amazed to see it was the REAL SANTA!!! He's loud and boisterous (perfect) but I heard him whisper something special to EACH kid, telling them about the elves up north & calling the girls princess. He took a couple hours out of his day to sweat in a big red suit up on stage and call each child up to receive their gift. Most kids gave him hugs, a few even gave him kisses on the cheek. He enjoyed the time as much as the kids b/c his hogwon (like most) wasn't doing anything special for the holidays. Little America always puts together elaborate celebrations. **************************************************** Our directors even held a teacher's party after the kiddies went home. There were lots of dead animals on the grill (ya know - cow, octupus...) and a SOJU tower. These boxes of the infamous Korean liquor were displayed on the buffet table. Greer and I were amused by the words on the box claiming soju to be "voted the best spirits in the world in 2001" Yeah. But it DOES raise our "spirits".

Saturday, December 24, 2005

So many cliches and songs don't make sense until you've had an experience with which you can relate. I always thought, "If you love something, why would you let it go?" I understand now. And I understand the whole "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all", which I used to think was absurd.

Glad I can't relate to :

"Life's a bitch and then you die."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Girls Night Out = me dancing like a wild child while other girls cry about boys. Life's too short for that. This was a happy gals only photo.

Occasionally, I go out in Daejeon. I don't like most "foreigner bars" or "Western bars" because I feel like I'm in a meat market. I actually had a guy tell me this weekend that he doesn't like "Korean girls". I told him he was in the wrong country. Some advice for you men: if you're ever hitting on a female and feel the need to say, "I probably sound really pathetic right now." ... YOU DO!!! I've now officially heard that line in 3 countries. Usually, I start the conversation with "I'm not telling you my name, I'm not giving you my #, and I'm not sleeping with you." Then end the conversation with, "I'm not playing hard to get; I'm NOT INTERESTED!!!"

When I do go out, it's with these girls from Canada. They are a blast. Lindsey (the other girl with a drink in hand) is throwing a Christmas party at her apt. and I'm having a New Year's Eve bash. (solar) It just dawned on me that we won't be watching the BALL DROP on my t.v. but we're trying to set up nori bong (like Karaoke) and there will be lots of pizza, beer, and soju.

About 15 of us are going to the GREAT WALL for "Chinese New Year". We get time off from teaching for the Lunar new yr (Jan. 30th) so we've signed up for a 3-day package to China.

Tonight is the VIP party at a new sports bar opening up downtown. Some guys we know are opening it friday (under a Korean's name b/c you have to be Korean to own a business in Korea) and they want to know what we think about the menu. I love it already, they have VEGGIE BURGERS and VEGGIE LASAGNA. I don't think those items EXIST in Korea at the moment.

The 2 bars we currently go to (downtown) are
J ROCK and the ZOO BAR.
Here we are playing QUARTERS with the owner of zoo bar, "Dragon". My hometown friends would find it interesting that the 100 won coin is m
uch easier to bounce than U.S. quarters. Lindsey and Heather

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mr. Rogers ("won't you BE my neighbor?")

Remember that quirky old man on t.v. singing to the little puppets on the train? My mom always loathed him for some reason and in high school, my physics teacher told me he grew up as Mr. ROGER's actual neighbor (and Mrs. Rogers I'm sure) . He was friends with their daughter and discovered later in life that there were allegations of Mr. Rogers sexually abusing his daughter. Interesting.

Now - a - days, nobody really knows their neighbor. You live next to the same families for YEARS & don't even know what they look like. Well I've met a couple of my neighbors under awkward circumstances and I'd like to share these moments with you:

Sharing an apartment with some of my best friends while attending the University at Albany (SUNY). Somehow it was never named #1 party school in the U.S. while we were there ... I find that hard to believe.... but it was the year before I started and a couple years after I graduated. Well I like to throw parties, but I usually know just about every person there and NOTHING bad ever happens b/c I keep a good crowd of quality people in my court. Usually there's always one really drunk obnoxious person dancing on the furniture and creating a scene (me).... but the cops never get called and no one goes to the hospital. So, we have this one party and it turns out GREAT because everyone shows up, EVEN Dwight who is the coolest person on the face of the earth and has blessed me with his presence at 2 of my parties now. Then these 2 "freshmen" show up. Most of us were in our last year (ya know, our 5th year) and it was obvious they hadn't come with any of my friends. But I was in my happy stage of drunkenness and decided to let them stay. One of the kids lit a cigarette in my kitchen, some of my friends looked at me (eyes widened) then looked at him like it was gonna be his LAST cigarette. I feel stongly about cancer sticks. So does my asthma. So I told him off like the freshman he was and threw him in the back yard w/all the other smokers. Shortly after, someone came in and said, "Nicole, your neighbor is pissed. I think you should go talk to her." I went on the back porch and there was an old lady on her back porch in her night gown and curlers. I tried so hard not to laugh.
She said, "Do you know what's going ON in your back yard?"
"No, what's going on?"
"They're drinking BEER!"
I said it was ok b/c everyone was old enough but if my friends were being too loud I'd bring everyone inside.
She said "I saw people NECKIN' back there too!"
I said "OH MY GOD!!!" (at the fact that she'd used the term 'neckin' )
"YEAH!!!! I saw it with my own eyes!"
I turned to my friends and said, "Which one of you was NECKIN??????? GET IN THE HOUSE!!!! NOW!!!" Everyone went inside and the woman and I exchanged smiles as we shook our heads and went into our homes. KIDS these days.

The other week I met my old lady neighbor in Korea. First of all, I live on the 4th floor; all the foreign teachers are put on the 4th floor because the # 4 is bad luck in korea. Much of the korean language was based on Chinese and the chinese word for "death" is very similar to the Korean word for "four" .... so they avoid that number like the plague (or death). If you go into an elevator, the floors are listed: 1 2 3 F 5 6 and so on. "F" stands for FLOOR because most signs are in English, though most Korean people can't read English.
SOoooooo. I'm on the TOP floor and there's this couple that lives downstairs from me with a daughter about my age. We all share the same balcony to hang our clothes on and one time they stole my rags (but I'm not angry about THAT). The balcony is right outside my door and I always put the puppies out there to do their thing (b/c we don't have YARDS here). I clean it up with a plastic bag and if it's pee, there's a drain and the balcony's cement. Shut up, it is not gross. So one morning I put the pups out and they poop and the old lady goes out there before I do. And she bangs on my door like the sky is falling. I open the door & she yells at me in Korean, pointing at the poop and all I understand is "EGO" "EGO" "EGO" !!! (this this this) I clean it up while she's yelling, then she smiles very pleasantly and bows. So now I avoid her like the number 4. Then the other night I woke up from the mother & daughter fighting. Usually, I never hear a peep ... but they were really getting into it. My puppies were running all over the bed and whining. Kogi's like me and growls when she's scared. Then I heard something big and loud smash on the ground (like a t.v.) then something bigger & louder. The screaming reached psychotic level and things kept slamming to the ground for about 30 seconds until the father intervened. Thank goodness. They could've killed eachother and there's nothing I could've done. I don't even know the # for police and if I did, I don't speak Korean. Besides.... the cops here are smaller than ME and don't carry weapons. One time I saw a line of police walking down the street and the last 2 were HOLDING HANDS! It's very common for men to hold hands here, or women, but COPS!? Check out the cartoon characters they post to intimidate the bad guys.

I stole this photo from my co-workers. I will be stealing more to share with you in the future. They started a great blog, but I know most of you are too lazy to check it. In case I'm wrong, their blog is www.livejournal.com/users/mmm_kimchi

Check out what THEIR neighbors leave outside their door. (below) They actually go upstairs and hang their fruit to dry right outside their door. We don't know why everyone here dries their fruits & vegetables this way... til there's nothing left basically. But at least my neighbors dry theirs on their own floor. And our balcony. Oh, did I tell you my first time "meeting" the couple below me? I woke up early one morning to the wife CRASHING into an SUV parked in front of our apt. The husband went downstairs & fought with the other husband, no police came. Then he tried driving the car backwards but it was STUCK in the SUV. Giving both women and Asians a bad reputation in the world of drivers.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

ANOTHER JOKE (sorry, but it's funny)

A Red Sox Fan, a Braves Fan, a Rockies Fan, and a Yankees fan were all climbing a mountain one day; they were all talking about how loyal they are to their teams all the way up the mountain.

When they got to the top, the Rockies fan says, "this is for the Rockies " and he jumps. Then the Braves fan says, "this is for the Braves" and he jumps. Now only the Red Sox fan and the Yankees fan are standing on the top of the mountain. The Red Sox fan decides that it is his turn, so he says "This is for the Red Sox!" and he pushes the Yankees fan off the mountain.....

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Got a joke sent to me via email today; this about sums it up:

Three men were sitting together bragging about how they had given their new wives duties.

The first man had married a woman from Alabama & bragged that he had told his wife to do all the dishes and house cleaning in their house. He said that it took a couple days but on the third day he came home to a clean house and the dishes were all washed and put away.

The second man had married a woman from Florida. He bragged that he had given his wife orders that she was to do all the cleaning, dishes, and the cooking. He told them that the first day he didn't see any results, but the next day it was better. By the third day, his house was clean, the dishes were done,and he had a huge dinner on the table.

The third man had married a New York girl. He boasted that he told her that her duties were to keep the house cleaned, dishes washed, lawn mowed, laundry washed and hot meals on the table for every meal. He said the first day he didn't see anything, the second day he didn't see anything, but by the third day most of the swelling had gone down and he could see a little out of his left eye. Enough to fix himself a bite to eat, load the dishwasher, and telephone a landscaper. Got to love them New York girls

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Kogi and Dempsi

My 3 month old puppies are getting big very quickly. When I saved them from becoming a Korean Dish, they were only a few weeks old and could fit in the palm of my hand. Lots of love & food will do that to an animal.

I've posted an ad "free to good home" and 3 people responded already. I'm a tough cookie though and the new owners will have to literally provide a "good home". For now, they are healthy & happy. They sleep in my bed and cuddle with me most nights. They're terrified of grass, but it snowed for the 1st time Sunday and they thought nothin' of it. They're kinda backwards like that: they can sit, give a paw, and wait to eat a snack until I say "ok" (even if I'm touching the snack to their lips).... but "come" "here", "come here", "Yogi",...... you'd think I was speaking a foreign language. Yes my pups are bi-lingual. I say "let's go" or "Kaja". I say "Don't do that!" or "Hagima". (teaching little kids will make you learn such phrases quickly). I also alternate b/t English and Korean newspapers for their cage. They're learning. Just like their mamma.

oh, boy is holding boy (Dempsi) and girl is holding girl (Kogi)

Sunday, December 04, 2005


A plethora of hogwans befoul Korea. A hogwan is a small, privately owned school designed to teach children a special skill. And a substitute daycare since there is NO form of daycare in Korea (not even babysitters). Kids here attend multiple hogwans in addition to their public school. It appears that most are English hogwans, hence the plethora of foreign teachers from Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, ect.. I didn't expext there to be so many teachers, nor did I have a clue that this has been going on since the 70's. However, English isn't the only priority in South Korea; my students also attend CHESS hogwans, Tae kwon do & other fighting styles, Calligraphy, dance, piano, Japanese or Chinese, and so on. I don't assign homework because some kids are falling asleep in my classes. In fact, I once took a child out of my head teacher's class and set her in an empty classroom to sleep because she was so tired she was crying. This deeply saddens my co-workers and I but there's nothing we can do about it on a large scale... knew I wasn't changing the world on this trip.
However, the result of this "cram school" system is a bunch of incredibly intelligent children. My students amaze me every day with the comments they come out with. And so I must share a few:
"LITTLE AMERICA" is the name of the hogwan I teach at. The classrooms are named: Oxford, Stanford, Cambridge, Berkeley, Brown, MIT, Yale, Harvard,.......... and my classroom is "The White House". (which means insane asylum in Korean according to the kids). Well the youngest group of kids is in Berkeley (5yrs old in Korean yrs. - 4yrs old in Western yrs.) Apparantly I have the next Rain Man in this class. "Chan" is a genius. I held up picture cards b/c I wanted the kids to say "apples" and "oranges" and "shoes"...... and the BIG one...... "caterpillar". I hold up the picture card for oranges and say, "What's THIS?" Chan immediately replies "17 oranges". The back of the card said 17 but there was no way for him to see it. Just to make sure I held up another card and covered the # on the back.. "Eleven oranges". I got tingly all over and held up more cards. Sure enough, he called out how many items were on each card. Eerie. So I told the korean teachers and they said, "Yeah, he likes math." I explained that he counted each group in under 2 seconds and they said he might go to the hogwon that shows you pictures with dots and have you memorize the image as a number. The kid hasn't even been on THIS PLANET for 5 years. What the hell?
Then there is my Harvard class, in which the students are 6 or 7 and very good at English. There are only 3 boys in this class. All very unique characters. It's the first class I teach every day, and I usually teach them Science. Here's what starts my smile every day:

(coloring pictures)

Hans: Why you is coloring hair orange?
Me: Some people have orange hair.
Hans: Your hair is yellow.
Me: Yes. In America, people have many different colors of hair.
Hans: And skin. (puts his arm next to mine) why you is this color?
Me: In America, people have many different skin colors too.
Jaime: Yes, some children skin is brown. I read a book!

Me: (reading science book) "Where does water come from?"
Jaime: (mocking me) "Where does water come from?"
I look over and his legs are crossed as he's sitting poised, with his shoe perfectly balanced on his head.
Hans: Where DOES water come from?
Me: Andy, why don't you read it so we can find out.
Andy: "Water comes from rain and snow. It lands in ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans....."
Me: So Hans, where does water come from?
Hans: rain
Me: And....?
Hans: God.
Hans: God gives me water.