Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I love Wednesday

I have yet to have a bad Wednesday since I arrived in Korea. That is probably jinxing myself but whatever. Here is why Wednesday, and this particular Wednesday, is fabulous.

My kids have gym from 10 to 10:20 which not only means they get to run around and burn some energy (and god I wish they had it everyday) but I get a TWENTY MINUTE BREAK! I can read the newspaper and drink coffee and just relax. Then I have one 20 minute class instead of a thirty minute class before they go off to gym, followed by another 10 minute break. One more twenty minute class and then lunch with my 6 year old kids. An easy morning makes the afternoon classes fly by and everything just a bit cheerier. Having time to have extra coffee probably has something to do with how perky I am on Wednesday but we'll pretend it's because I got to sit quietly and read my newspaper.

That is why Wednesdays in general are wonderful but here is why this particular Wednesday was fabulous.

The book I'm reading on the way to work, Burmese Days , by George Orwell has a main character that I thought might commit suicide, die of cholera or get murdered right before the end. However the book just made a surprising (though wonderfully believable) turn for the better and he might live for the next 30 pages! Death, even literary death, before my second cup of coffee is just too depressing. Of course, I could be wrong and he could die tomorrow on the way to work but I'll keep my fingers crossed. (No spoilers please!)

We have a substitute teacher for a month who is from the Congo. Apparently, my kids went home and said something along the lines of 'Mom! It's multiculturalism! He's from a different country and his skin is a different color! Isn't that great?!' Apparently, my entire month drilling multiculturalism into their heads worked. My supervisor (and the moms) were Thrilled that they learned and understood such a big word/concept. There is actually quite the debate in Korea about whether or not multiculturalism should be taught in schools. Korea is an extremely homogeneous society and the argument is that teaching differences will create strife, etc. However, I discovered that while kids thought differences were weird at first, they found the differences interesting and exciting. This lined up with my own view point of course but it is fascinating to see how different cultures approach the subject. My main line, behind every cultural lesson was even though we eat different food, say hello differently (and so on and so forth) everyone is the same on the inside. Everyone gets happy, sad, angry, frustrated, tired, hungry and thirsty. In a world with nuclear weapons, what could be more important than teaching multiculturalism? Maybe it was simplified for a 6 year old ESL student but it doesn't make the idea any less meaningful.

Anyways, continuing my wonderful Wednesday.
After work I decided to get my dinner to stay instead of take out at the local kim bap place. For 3,000 won (a bit more than 2 bucks) I not only got the 2 rolls of kim bap, I got a hot cup of soup, kimchi, this yellow fruit thing (no idea what it is but I love it) and some sort of nut dish. YUMMY. They also seemed pleased and amused that I was studying Korean while I ate. Not to mention mumbling the days of the week to myself. (Today is Wednesday. Yesterday was Tuesday. Tomorrow is Thursday.) That or they thought I was insane.

For those of you who don't know what kim bap is:
Imagine sushi except that inside is ham, egg, crab (cooked), carrot, some brown root thingy that is yummy, that yellow fruit (actually, it could be a vegetable, I'm not sure which), water cress and rice all wrapped together with seaweed. AND some pictures so you can see it (from when I got take out).

It might sound a little weird, but trust me, it's fantastic. The only thing better than kim bap is warm, freshly made kim bap.

Onwards with my day!

When I walked into the coffee shop for my language exchange, I saw another American chatting away with them in Korean! Our faces lit up with surprise and delight at seeing another foreigner in a pretty much Korean only neighborhood. Not just another foreigner but someone smart, interesting, and intellectual! We had a great conversation about nothing in particular and exchanged phone numbers and promised to meet up to talk some more in the near future. Making a friend when you aren't expecting to is an energizing and uplifting experience. I definitely walked home smiling and promptly treated myself to 6,000 won worth of new marking pens in fun colors that I don't really need but felt like getting.

For the language exchange I actually remembered the words I had studied and didn't feel like a complete idiot. (7 days of the week and the three sentences above---it took me one week to get that down, spelling and all. Korean is slow going for me without formal classes or studying.) Then after the lesson, my language exchange partner's wife said that her friend had seen me teaching in the cafe and wants me to give English lessons to her middle school aged kids. 2 kids, once a week 40,000won. I don't charge 50,000 yet because I don't have a full year teaching experience and 40,000 is the going rate for someone like me. However, the best thing is that I'll probably get another recommendation from her friends if I do well. The best thing is that it's a local lesson--no travel time. I make enough money to live comfortably and still save money here but not quite enough to live comfortably, save money and make debt payments on my college loans. So by taking just a couple students a month I can pay off my loans and put aside money for my first apartment or whatever in the states. A few days ago I picked up a lesson, through a friend, teaching basic Spanish once a week to a coworker's wife who regrets losing her high school Spanish. I tried to talk her out of it because I'm not fluent but she insisted she really just wants basic Spanish and a female teacher and can't find one in Korea. I'll have to prepare more for lessons when we get into grammar so I don't make any mistakes but it won't be too hard. Spanish is very easy for me, especially after French.

This weekend I'm off to a theme park/resort called Everland with a bunch of friends and friends of friends. I know I'm going to Indonesia next month but for 50,000won (40 bucks or so) for everything but food, drinks and shopping is too good of a deal to pass. The cheapskate in me told me not to go. The realist looked at my budget and told me I was stupid if I didn't go. I love being invited places and actually being able to afford to go without breaking the bank. It sucked in boarding school and college when I tried to even avoid conversations that might end with invitations to things like this. Not to mention I was loathe to abandon my studying for a weekend. Studying is important and vital to life! Right. Well what clinched the decision is that I want to see more of Korea, not to mention a spa and resort sound great right about now with the cold weather settling in...

I promise to take more pictures. I have received a lecture on how the best blogs have lots of pictures and bloggers take their cameras Everywhere. I will try to actually charge my camera and keep it in my purse. Next to my notebook, book, Korean notebook, wallet and pens. So much for trying to cut weight eh? Do not tell me to lose the books, it is a futile endeavor. My mom herself has given up--she just refuses to hold my bag while shopping (or ever for that matter) when I am trying to find my size. She has a valid point. The bag is heavy. In the states I also carry around a Nalgene full of water. To be fair, if my friend's bag weighed as much as mine, I wouldn't carry it for them either.

To make up for my lack of pictures the past couple of months, here are a couple of pictures of one of my favorite Korean snacks, dried squid. Yes, dried squid. You know you are going native when you walk down the street and realize you are craving dried squid.

However, in the same store where I get my dried squid I also buy sour gummy worms so it balances out the going native bit, right? Whatever, Koreans have the right idea, their food is delicious!

I may not post again until Monday, unless something interesting happens before I go away for the weekend. And then there will be PICTURES. Or you may lynch me. Online. Or something.

(Every sentence fragment started with a conjunction was just a giant 'Nah nah nah nah' to every teacher I've ever had. Mental me totally stuck out her tongue too. Just in case you were wondering.)


Nancy K said...

You would never have tried this in the states! (the squid) You are much more adventurous away from home.

Chris said...

That amusement park-ish place sounds fun! A welcome break I bet.

Still am astonished at how inexpensive food is there.

Josh said...

i think i might see if i can find some of your dried squid snack next time i go to the korean food market.... it's like 5 min from my house....

Alex said...

In response to Mom's comment (Nancy K):
Living in a foreign country puts you in a different mindset. Also, the strangest things I tend to eat get offered to me by Koreans, like the squid, the first time I try them and I feel it would be rude to say no.

Chris: Food is cheap to eat out so why are groceries so expensive? None of the expats can figure this out except that wholesale discounts must be great.

Josh: You totally should find some dried squid at the market--it is SO FREAKING TASTY! It's a good snack to have around, like beef jerky or something.

Josh said...

is it uber-salty?

Alex said...

No, not Uber salty though I imagine some varieties are.

Josh said...

expect more posting and pictures!!!! :-p